Friday 25 June 1999
Mr Speaker (The Hon. John Henry Murray) took the chair at 10.00 a.m.
Mr Speaker offered the Prayer.
Mr SPEAKER: I acknowledge the presence in the gallery of Col Fisher, a former member for the electorate of Upper Hunter.
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
ELECTRICITY SUPPLY AMENDMENT BILL
PAY-ROLL TAX AMENDMENT (FURTHER RATE REDUCTION) BILL
PUBLIC FINANCE AND AUDIT AMENDMENT (CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS) BILL
Debate resumed from 24 June.
Mr BROWN (Kiama) [10.03 a.m.]: I am pleased to support the 1999-2000 budget brought down by the Treasurer, the Hon. Michael Egan, on behalf of the New South Wales Carr Government. It is the first State budget to be delivered since I was elected the member for Kiama, and I hope future budgets will be as favourable for the people of the Kiama electorate as this one has been. It is often said that the Illawarra misses out on much of the Government’s funding because the region consistently returns Labor members to this place as its representatives. That is a fallacy, and this budget makes a lie of that claim. This year more than $35.6 million will be spent on projects in the Kiama electorate alone. Furthermore, the Kiama area will share in the allocation of almost 60 per cent of the total roads budget for capital works and maintenance to rural and regional areas across the State. As we have come to expect from this Government, the budget is fair and balanced. It is a continuation of sensible economic management, a great feature of Labor governments of this State.
I place on record details of funding for programs in the electorate that I have the honour to represent. The Government is delivering on its commitment to consolidate and upgrade Kiama Public School. An allocation of $1.9 million towards the next stage of the project has been made available from the total cost of $5.5 million. The consolidation of the school will allow for more sharing of resources, greater access to information technology and better facilities. The project should be completed by 2001. This is good news for the people of my electorate and further evidence of the Government’s drive to ensure families in the Illawarra and South Coast receive their fair share of education funding.
This budget provides a record $6.9 billion overall funding on education to improve literacy and numeracy skills through new teaching programs, statewide testing and intensive remedial programs; to improve the condition of schools by providing an extra $15 million for maintenance programs; to provide 115,000 new and replacement computers, cabling and additional Internet connections to schools; and to expand the Technology in Learning and Teaching program to train more teachers in the use of computers in the classroom. The Carr Government's commitment to education, through one of the Government’s most dedicated Ministers, the Hon. John Aquilina, is a strong sign of a true Labor government. There could be no better investment in our future than investing in our children through education.
I am pleased that the Government is honouring its commitment to establish the Illawarra Advantage Fund, which will help create new jobs and boost economic growth and confidence in the Illawarra. The fund will improve the Illawarra’s chances of securing further investment in information technology and telecommunications to add to the $80 million investment recently announced by Nortel Networks. The establishment of the fund, together with the relocation of the Superannuation Administration Authority to Wollongong, which will create an extra 300 direct jobs, is a clear sign that
this budget is serious about providing economic confidence for people in the Illawarra.
The Carr Government will spend more than $30 million on transport and roads in the Kiama electorate. I welcome that serious commitment to transport. Our communities need better road links and transport facilities, and I am delighted that the Government has ensured a very generous share for my electorate. It is necessary for many families on the South Coast to use the Princes Highway to travel to and from work, and the road is essential in providing fast and safe passage for trade and tourism. It is pleasing that a total of $33 million has been allocated in the budget for major works on this priority road as part of the Government’s $380 million upgrade commitment. The project, like many others across the Illawarra and South Coast, is creating many jobs in construction and related industries.
The budget provides funding to enable the Government to fulfil its promise to improve rail services to the Illawarra and South Coast, with $4 million being allocated for the electrification of the rail line between Dapto and Kiama. The project is due for completion by 2002-03 at a total cost of $44.6 million; it will improve travel times and service reliability. This investment in public transport will increase accessibility and decrease travel times and will ensure more people use public transport. The $700,000 to be spent on a feasibility study into a high-speed rail link between Sydney and Wollongong, as well as the $80,000 to be spent on planning and detailed design work for the Oak Flats interchange, should boost the confidence of local business to invest in the Illawarra.
Overall, the budget provides a balanced, affordable package that will deliver to Kiama and surrounding communities better and safer roads and improved transport connections. This and other recent initiatives repay handsomely the confidence that constituents of the Kiama electorate have invested in this Government. Other capital works projects that I have not yet mentioned include: $120,000 to upgrade the local sewage treatment plants; $3.1 million towards the $97 million North Kiama bypass; $1.2 million to repair main roads, alleviating black spots that have taken so many lives on the Princes Highway over the past few years; $200,000 for improvements to the intersection of the Princes Highway and Rose Valley Road, as well as $88 million for the Minnamurra and Dunmore cycleway.
A government’s priority is to ensure that no members of the community are left deserted and destitute. Looking after the needs of struggling families is a core function of governments. This Labor Government has continued to give priority to needy families, as shown by the commitment to modify homes for disabled people and the $9.3 million to improve homes in disadvantaged areas of the south eastern region.
It is great news that there is a record budget of $1.5 billion for more police, especially front-line police, in regional and rural New South Wales. The local community of Kiama will gain from increased police numbers, better access to technology for smarter policing, more safety equipment and improved capital works. The Government’s commitment to smart policing using technology will help ease the tyranny of distance across the State, giving police in regional areas, such as in the electorate of Kiama, better access to police and criminal information.
The budget will also create jobs. In the Government’s first full year it will deliver on one-third of the Carr Government’s commitment to increase police numbers by 2,110. Faster response times and the freeing up of desk-bound police for front-line duties will continue with the budget allocation of nearly $8 million for the police assistance line. I acknowledge the Government’s commitment to policing. The Government is continuing to work with police and the community to make New South Wales safer.
The budget also provides for increased health services in the Illawarra region, with $9.7 million being spent on health facilities - $6.7 million on the continuing rebuilding of Hickman House, which is attached to Wollongong Hospital. The budget consolidates the hard decisions taken by the Government in its first term and sets the foundation for solid achievement for the State and the people in the Illawarra and South Coast during the next four years. I support the budget.
Mr WEBB (Monaro) [10.12 a.m.]: In speaking to the Appropriation Bill and cognate bills and in response to the budget let me first state that the budget is indeed a Labor budget. Massive and unwarranted expenditure in the Sydney and metropolitan areas continues the imbalance that has preceded today. The ambiguity of the budget documents confuses critics and misleads people in relation to expected expenditure items. To demonstrate this I ask a question of the Minister for Small Business, and Minister for Tourism regarding the major works category, new works, gateway visitor information centres, various, 1999-2003, $2 million budget allocation 1999-2000, $500,000.
Is the pre-election commitment, confirmed by the Government recently, to allocate some $330,000 to the Eden Gateway Visitor Information Centre included in this line item? If so, I congratulate the Government on making this money available; it will go some way toward helping the devastated community of Eden recover from the pending closure of the tuna canning factory. It is less than a week away. If the answer is indeed in the affirmative, then why hide the item? If the moneys are not available in this budget, I condemn the Government. The local community is suffering to an extent that few others are. Imagine the impact if some 200,000 Sydney employees were given six weeks notice of the loss of their jobs.
The commitment by the Government of an additional $20 million to 2006 to continue the restructuring of the native forest industry is a negative in more ways than one. Firstly, it ignores the vast expanse that is available to the industry for value-adding and the resultant productivity gains. Secondly, with retraining, it means that many once active and productive members of the industry pack up and leave with their families for the big smoke, or at least out of Monaro. More people will leave towns such as Eden, Bombala, Nimmitabel and Cooma. Because of pending further wilderness areas, which will quarantine Badja State Forest areas to the east of Numeralla, the Cooma hardwood sawmill is due to close on 28 July next. So more people will be moving out of country towns, and out of the electorate.
I also question the major works expenditure of $5 million for the relocation of the Environment Protection Authority head office in Sydney when the Minister for the Environment abruptly refused to even consider remedial work in the Molonglo downstream of Captains Flat to clean up previous contamination and carry out works to prevent or at least minimise future contamination. I believe that the Government has an obligation in this matter. Requests by the local deputy mayor and community for attention were ignored by the Minister.
On the other hand, I congratulate the Government on providing an additional $20 million over the next four years to boost the rural fire services tanker replacement program, allowing for an additional 185 tankers worth some $25 million in 1999-2000. But I must say that this is long overdue. There are many functional vehicles more than 35 years old on front-line duty each summer out in rural fire brigades, mainly on the other side of the lumpy bits, doing their job. I know, as until recently I was the captain of a volunteer bush fire brigade that had two vehicles more than 35 years old. My brigade area adjoins and covers a national park.
Like most volunteers in this situation, we are continually concerned about the understaffing of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and its lack of firefighting resources, particularly in the light of its insistent opposition to properly controlling the fuel build up and carrying out timely hazard reduction, prescribed burning. The proposed extension of the wilderness declarations will mean that some of the assessment areas will also cover vast areas of privately owned freehold and leasehold land. The implications of the locking up of incredibly large tracts of land, largely excluding human activity, without cognisance of the historical uses, the productive uses or the cultural values of the areas, is downright irresponsible.
It ignores the cumulative knowledge and experience gained over almost two centuries in managing and utilising the wonderful attributes and natural beauty offered. The National Parks and Wildlife Service will not be able to control weed infestation, blackberries, serrated tussock, African love grass and St John’s wort, or wild dogs, feral pigs or other fauna, native and introduced, that are running out of control. Along with the very real threat of fire, all these in time sooner or later will decimate many features and the natural value of park areas - at great cost to our society.
Furthermore, the policy of excluding all but those fit enough to bushwalk, or in some areas mountain bike ride - which in many cases damages the track more than horses - denies the areas to most of our population, and indeed many of our visitors. In fact it denies most Australians, who just happen to own the parks and so-called wilderness areas, the definition of which is questionable to say the least. Many of the areas involved are currently accessed by tourism ventures that have been permitted access. The operations of most of these ventures have virtually no impact on the bush. In fact, they have very important roles in educating people about the bush and traditional activities. At the same time they keep people in employment and produce cashflow in rural and remote areas as well as in the delivery pipelines in the tourism areas.
The massive increase in the budget of $58 million over four years to manage the new parks and reserves covering more than 700,000 hectares will be wasted and a burden on all of us if the concerns that I and others have raised are ignored or not addressed. Many rural areas just cannot survive if there are further wilderness declarations. Whilst I am delighted to see the line item in Budget Paper No. 4 in the portfolio of the Minister for Health, Department of Health, major works, $418,000 to complete the relocation of the Cooma ambulance station, which will be very good
for the Cooma area, I despair about the omission of any reference to the relocation of the Queanbeyan ambulance station, which is currently in temporary premises that are hardly suitable for the staff and completely unsatisfactory to serve the city of Queanbeyan, which has a population of almost 30,000.
The station services the Federal, Kings and Monaro highways. Queanbeyan is the only inland city of its size in New South Wales without a permanent ambulance station. Regrettably, Queanbeyan has also missed out on an allocation of funds to enable the construction of a ring-road, as promised by the Government four years ago, which would greatly assist the community, small businesses in the main street and the council, and would revitalise and stimulate the central business district. The allocation of funds for major and minor works should not be based on population alone. The social costs are great of ignoring the provision for nurse training and minor plumbing works needed for the installation of currently available haemodialysis machines in a room at Cooma Hospital.
The impact on people who are forced to access the dialysis service in Canberra three times a week is incredible, particularly the couple in their seventies who live on the other side of Cooma. Quite a few others in need of haemodialysis in Monaro and in the Bombala area, including recently a young girl, are currently required to travel to Canberra for that service at great personal cost and hardship. They would welcome a Cooma-based haemodialysis unit. Unfortunately, there is no reference to any such funding in the area health budget.
The Government claims to have a social responsibility and conscience; however, it ignores the calls for help of many people. Allocations of funds specifically identified in the budget for my electorate include $3 million for repairs to Perisher Waste treatment plant and $2.693 million for road maintenance and reconstruction in Kosciuszko National Park and the vital remediation of the Alpine Way. When the Alpine Way is completed at the end of 2001 the Snowy Mountains will be fully open to visitors from the south, particularly those using hire cars, which are currently prohibited on gravel roads.
The Alpine Way will almost be an all-weather gateway to New South Wales. It will provide enormous tourism potential for the Snowy Mountains area and the State. It will benefit visitors and guests coming into this State from Victoria. I congratulate the Government on providing funds for those vital works. Two nights ago the Snowy Mountains Tourism Association dominated the 1999 awards for excellence in tourism. It was voted the best tourism association in the State. Many people, young and old alike, in the Snowy Mountains area won awards for trout fishing and tourism ventures.
I hope that funding will be made available under the numerous "various" categories in the budget to improve health and education, policing and roads. I have been unable to find any reference in the budget to the funding necessary to commence the Bombala softwood mill. Perhaps it is hidden in the "various" categories of the State Forests major works budget in the portfolio of the Minister for Agriculture, and Minister for Land and Water Conservation. The project is desperately needed to assist the Bombala community in a value-adding and job-creating environment. When the Government honours its commitment to provide that vital infrastructure, private investment will follow.
The resource is already in the Bombala area but, regrettably, it is being trucked out in the bark by a Tasmanian firm straight to Wollongong and shipped out of the country. A softwood mill at Bombala will add considerable wealth and value to that product and it will provide employment opportunities for people in the Bombala area. When the Eden multipurpose wharf is completed in a couple of years time that value-added resource can go out from Eden harbour. That will reduce damage to New South Wales roads and add to the wealth of the local regions of Eden and Bombala. It will also provide jobs and contribute to the coffers of the State Government.
At the moment dental services in Queanbeyan are inadequate, and payment by the area health service is not expedient to the providers of such goods and services. I have not been able to find anything in the budget by way of commitment from the Government to address those anomalies. No mention is made of a commitment to reduce waiting times for medical procedures. No funding has been allocated to provide adequate transport service options for country people or viable public transport bus lines and connections. The cost of a one-way trip from Jindabyne to Canberra on the only public resource available is $84. That is hardly suitable.
Something should be done also to provide viable taxi services. Taxi owners, although they are able to recoup some of their expenses through advertising on their vehicles, have unrealistic replacement schedules to meet. Funds are needed desperately to address many of the problems that the Monaro people encounter in their daily lives. Most
of those problems were identified by me and by others prior to the State election but, unfortunately, they remain in the impossible or too-hard basket in the offices of Treasury. I urge the Government to put in the hard yards and to make decisions with a social conscience.
Mr Hazzard: You’re wasting your time with this lot.
Mr WEBB: But we must not give up hope. We must continue to urge the Government to take all steps necessary to remedy the problems of honest, hardworking country folk who, compared with their city cousins, are at a disadvantage. Their needs have not been addressed and nor has the balance been altered in their favour in this budget.
Mr MOSS (Canterbury - Parliamentary Secretary) [10.27 a.m.]: The healthy state of the New South Wales economy were adequately summed up in the opening remarks of the Treasurer. He said that the Government was in surplus again, that New South Wales had gained 75,000 new jobs in the last 12 months, that debt and liabilities were going down and that our unemployment rate was the lowest of any State in Australia. It is obvious that the New South Wales economy is in very good shape, and for that the Government should be thanked.
I shall begin my contribution by referring to specific portfolio allocations. In this year’s budget, health heads the list for expenditure, with education coming a close second. Both areas are demand driven and are, therefore, prime responsibilities of government. I salute the Treasurer for focusing on those priorities. The problem that arises when a government provides expert services in public health is that quite often those services become so popular that they find it hard to cope with demand. The Leader of the Opposition confirmed that very point in this Parliament yesterday when during question time she claimed that people were being turned away from the accident and emergency unit of Canterbury Hospital.
In a sense the Leader of the Opposition was not wrong. The distinction is that people are not being turned away because of any irresponsible action on the part of this Government, but rather because the accident and emergency unit at Canterbury Hospital has become so popular that people travel from all parts of Sydney to receive treatment there. People who would ordinarily go to a general practitioner for treatment are overanxious to try out that new state-of-the-art government facility, and that is precisely the reason why the accident and emergency unit at Canterbury Hospital is finding it hard to cope at this time.
As community services expenditure is really the only area in this budget that has been queried, I shall refer briefly to that item. This year expenditure on community services has been increased by $53 million. In total, over the last five years the Labor Government has spent an additional $445 million - almost half a billion dollars - on community services. That averages out at almost $100 million each year, which is an incredible achievement. Expenditure on law enforcement has been increased by $110 million. Of course, a large proportion of that amount will be geared towards the recruitment and training of additional police officers.
In this regard our efforts are paying off. I should like to give one example. The Campsie local area command in my electorate has just revealed that crime in that command area is at a three-year low. In fact, the latest crime trends and statistics for the Campsie command area reveal large decreases in stealing, break and enter, assault and vehicle theft, which has experienced a 50 per cent reduction over the past three years. The commander for Campsie local area command, Superintendent Morris West -
Mr Watkins: A great leader.
Mr MOSS: He is indeed a great leader. Morris West’s move to the Canterbury area was my gain and a loss for the Minister for Fair Trading. Morris West attributes this success to a number of factors, including a strong emphasis on community consultation. He also claims that the Police and Public Safety Act - for which we can thank this Government - has had a huge impact, with Campsie command conducting more knife searches than any other command in New South Wales. That is precisely why assaults are down. That is another tick for the Labor Government, which gave the police powers to search for knives and other weapons.
Twelve months ago the Campsie command area was ranked 14 on the New South Wales crime trend chart, and today it is ranked 24. I know that a lot of factors have contributed to this dramatic improvement, but I believe the major reason for the decrease in crime is the fact that over the past four years this Government has placed an additional 29 police officers in the Campsie area. It is obvious that the provision of additional police officers means that security patrols in known hot spots, foot patrols and pushbike patrols can also be increased. That is a great achievement of this Government.
I emphasise that this success has occurred despite the fact that the Campsie police station, which is the area command’s headquarters, is inappropriate for the needs of police and is poorly located. I am already on record as supporting a new police station at Campsie, which can be achieved at no additional cost to the Police Service as the station is currently located on a site which could be sold for approximately $3 million. Campsie police are pulling their weight in reducing crime, and this spurs me on to pursue the issue of new accommodation. Campsie police deserve a new station, which in turn will go a long way towards further improving our law enforcement initiatives. I have no doubt that a new station will be achieved by this Government in the not too distant future.
The big win in the area of transport in my electorate is obviously the continuation of the M5 road, commonly known as the M5 East extension. This year’s budget includes $13.7 million for Canterbury alone for work on the M5 East tunnel from Bexley Road to the airport, which will create hundreds of construction jobs and benefit local businesses. This spending is part of a $273 million allocation for the project next financial year. The total value of the project is $750 million.
The M5 East extension is the largest project ever undertaken by the Roads and Traffic Authority. In fact, it is bigger than the Anzac Bridge. This vital 13-kilometre road project will significantly improve access between south-western Sydney and the major industrial and commercial areas of South Sydney, the airport and Port Botany. Another area of expenditure connected with the road about which very little is known is the fact that on the open sections of the road a bicycleway will be constructed adjacent to both sides of the road, and in this budget $150,000 has been allocated to commence that project.
On the issue of public housing, this year the Government will spend massive amounts on the maintenance of existing housing stock in the Department of Housing’s southern region, which takes in the Canterbury electorate. That demonstrates that this Government does not merely concentrate on housing people but that it is serious about maintaining a high standard of public housing accommodation. The sum of $3.5 million has been allocated in the southern Sydney region for external and internal painting and other repairs; $7.97 million has been allocated for special projects, including security, replacement of roofs and windows, plumbing and other engineering works; $350,000 has been allocated to modify homes for disabled people; and $5.13 million has been allocated to improve homes in disadvantaged areas.
In addition, public housing tenants will have access to a 24-hour hotline to report on repair and maintenance matters. In total, $12.6 million is being made available for repairs and maintenance in the southern region. That funding will be expended on improving the living conditions of individuals and families in Department of Housing accommodation in the Canterbury electorate. Again we have this Government to thank for its attention to that. A big win for the Canterbury electorate in this budget is the funding that has been allocated to the creation of the Wolli Creek Regional Park. The Wolli Creek Regional Park will be our closest regional park to the city of Sydney.
It will consist of large tracts of natural bushland. In total, the park will take in 80 hectares and will run for approximately 3.5 kilometres from Bexley Road to Tempe railway station. We have this Government to thank for providing land for the park. Had the M5 East road not gone underground, the opportunity would not have existed for the Wolli Creek Regional Park to be established. The park will extend along the former road corridor that was established some 45 to 50 years ago for the M5 East. But now that the road is going underground we can establish this regional park. It will be very similar to a national park but less formal, in that regional parks are oriented towards families and recreational purposes.
In total, nine stakeholders are involved in the land that takes in the park. Those stakeholders include bodies that own portions of the land, bodies that rent portions of the land, and bodies that have easement rights over the area. I congratulate the former Minister for the Environment and honourable member for Wentworthville on the role she played in bringing together those nine stakeholders so that all the land could be consolidated into one parcel. Thanks to the former Minister’s efforts we are now at a stage where the park can be established. In total, $7 million is to be spent this year on the Wolli Creek Regional Park, together with two new regional parks in the Blue Mountains and Newcastle.
A plan of management and master plan are currently being drafted for the Wolli Creek Regional Park. It is pleasing to note that the community will soon take part in an extensive round of consultations, including liaison with focus groups and a survey of local residents. From these processes both plans will be finalised and adopted; they will guide the future management of the park and the kind of facilities to be provided. The community is very keen to get behind this project. It has fought long and hard to save Wolli Creek from being developed into a road. The Government has not only prevented the road from proceeding through
Wolli Creek but is now providing a bonus with the creation of this new regional park.
I could speak for hours on the benefits my electorate will receive from this budget. Canterbury has gained an additional $16,000 for new equipment for the local State Emergency Service; $95,000 has been allocated for major improvement works along Bexley Road; and $140,000 has been allocated for additional street lighting in Canterbury. Any budget that does not increase taxes but reduces them has to be regarded as a good budget. Over a four-year period tax cuts will amount to $2.6 billion. A budget that phases out the $43 third party levy and reduces payroll tax from 6.85 per cent to 6 per cent by the year 2002 is a good budget. Of course, a budget that transfers 14,000 government jobs away from departments and agencies in the cities to regional New South Wales and in turn spends $2.4 billion of its capital works funding - 41 per cent in rural New South Wales - has to be regarded as an excellent budget for the entire State. I congratulate the Treasurer on what is, once again, widely regarded as a true Labor budget.
(Wakehurst) [10.42 a.m.]: Before commenting on the budget in the perspective of my local electorate and also the various portfolios I serve as shadow minister, I state that I know that any budget should be directed at improving the lot for families. It is important to acknowledge in this House some of the activities that affect the growth of families. I acknowledge a wonderful event experienced on 21 June by Gary O’Rourke, who worked with me when I was Chairman of Staysafe, and Natasha O’Connor, when their daughter, Isabelle, was born. Isabelle weighed just under 10 pounds at birth and on behalf of the New South Wales Parliament I congratulate Gary and Natasha on the birth of their wonderful new daughter. The Minister for Fair Trading, and Minister for Sport and Recreation agrees, he said "Absolutely".
The northern beaches electorates of Davidson, Wakehurst and Pittwater, represented by Liberal members, and Manly, temporarily represented by an Independent, have been left out in the cold by this Government. For as long as I have been interested in politics I have never seen a government that has excelled in and elevated the art of pork-barrelling more than this one. The Labor electorates are being pork-barrelled. This morning I listened to the honourable member for Canterbury reeling off the millions of dollars allocated to his electorate.
And the $95,000.
And the $95,000 to upgrade Canterbury Road. In the past few days I have listened to various Labor members gleefully listing a criminal level of pork-barrelling. Millions of dollars are going into Labor electorates. They forget, or do not care, that all New South Wales taxpayers are entitled to a fair share of the budget pie. The net result is that the northern beaches for the fifth year in a row have been left out in the cold - and it is very cold. As a result, the electorate of Wakehurst has received very little. Modest amounts which do not even touch the average resident have been allocated to the area. Some money, about $900,000, was given to the Academy of Sport to assist people with disabilities in their sporting pursuits. I support and welcome that, but only a small proportion of the population will benefit.
The people of Wakehurst would like to see other services improved. The honourable member for Canterbury said that his electorate has been allocated 29 new police in the past four years. At least I now know where half of the police went from the northern local area command, which lost more than 60 police in the past 4½ years. We know that half of our loss has gone to Campsie police station, and good luck to the people of Campsie. How that actually equates with any sense of equity I do not know. police officers in my electorate have been put under enormous pressure; they do not have the numbers to do their work. At the same time, they are being forced out to do what amounts to statistical exercises all too often. The Commissioner of Police, who now receives a salary of $420,000 a year - which would have bought quite a few police for the northern beaches - is interested in reducing the crime rate.
On the northern beaches we have witnessed an increase in many areas of criminal activity. That equates with a dramatic reduction in police numbers during the same period. I am not sure that sending police out to conduct knife searches in an area which traditionally does not have a great problem with people carrying knives is a sensible exercise. It sounds to me more like a statistical exercise. I am not saying that that should never be done, but statistically driven policing and the Government’s attempts to justify that by saying it has introduced wonderful public safety laws are highly questionable. In my area allegations have been made that police time, which is limited, has been wasted in some statistical games.
The services provided to the community by hospitals in my electorate are under review, and indeed threat. Currently, a review is taking place which has received plenty of public coverage, but I am concerned about today, this week and next week. Last Saturday week, although the Government has said nothing publicly about this, I understand that
for 24 hours the accident and emergency units were closed to ambulances at the three hospitals accessible to residents of my electorate - Mona Vale, Manly and Royal North Shore. That information has come to me through contacts within the hospital system. The Government is close-fisted about that information, and that emphasises that right now people on the northern beaches are not getting the sort of health services they require. Our hospitals are simply unable to cope at present Therefore, in whatever review takes place and whatever the outcome, we must not accept fewer facilities than we already have to care for the people on the northern beaches.
I am disappointed that not one word in the budget relates to the Collaroy hospital site - a site which, for nearly 100 years, has been used for medical care, primarily for children. More recently, while it has been managed by the Department of Community Services, it has also been used for people with disabilities. It came as a great shock to me and to the local community that the Department of Health, behind the scenes, has been negotiating to try to sell off that land and obtain rezoning approval for it. On behalf of the northern beaches community I invite the Minister to visit the northern beaches area and the Collaroy hospital site to establish what has been going on. The Minister might be able to review the decision of the Department of Health to sell off that land. He might also hear from the many northern beaches residents who are desperate for the provision of increased respite care.
A large group of ageing parents - some of whom are now in their seventies or eighties - have been looking after children with disabilities for many years. They do not believe that this Government will provide any respite care services in the northern beaches area. If the Minister for Health were to visit the area, talk with some of those people and visit that site, he might see his way clear to ensuring that the Collaroy hospital site will continue to be used for the good of the community by providing health services, respite care and disability services.
The Minister might accompany me and the honourable member for Manly on a visit to Manly hospital - which obviously affects both the Wakehurst and Manly electorates - and he might accompany the honourable member for Pittwater on a visit to Mona Vale hospital. I am not trying to give the Minister a hard time just because he is of a different political persuasion; I am trying to ensure that health care and hospital services are not decimated by a remote Minister or a Government that does not care about the northern beaches area. I will give the new Minister for Health the benefit of the doubt and I hope that he will visit the northern beaches area in the next few weeks to inspect these facilities.
There is no allocation in the budget for roads in my electorate. I listened with interest to the speech made earlier by the honourable member for Canterbury. I would have been happy if I had received an allocation of $95,000 to fix up the roads in my electorate. The honourable member for Canterbury said that an amount of $95,000 was not very much for major roadworks, but people in the northern beaches area would be happy to receive any budget allocation for roadworks. My electorate of Wakehurst did not receive any budgetary allocation for improved transport facilities to the peninsula. In 1995, prior to the change of government, a section 22 committee, comprising numerous community representatives, spent many hours over many months trying to determine the best way of improving the transport system for the peninsula.
The Government was elected in March 1995 but that committee did not meet again until September of that year, and only after pressure from the then member for Manly, Peter Macdonald, the honourable member for Davidson and me. The committee finally met and that was the end of it; the section 22 committee was executed. I have seen nothing in any of this Government’s five budgets that has given people on the peninsula any hope for improved transport. A number of views have been expressed about the Coalition’s proposal for a tunnel and dedicated busways. At least the Coalition tried to come up with some options. Prior to the last election there was a high level of commitment and sincerity, and a considerable amount of time was spent addressing those issues. It now appears as though transportation on the peninsula will never be provided.
Schools in my electorate are falling apart. Maintenance programs are non-existent. Schools in Wakehurst have been classed as category one schools - the most serious level for the provision of maintenance. Apparently, there is no money in the budget for the northern beaches area. There are holes in school playgrounds and every day children are falling over and hurting themselves. The Minister for Education and Training and this Government have an obligation to look after kids in the northern beaches area, just as they have an obligation to look after kids everywhere else in New South Wales. They should get serious about doing that before someone is seriously hurt. If someone is seriously hurt honourable members opposite should hang their heads in shame.
In essence, this Government has done nothing for the northern beaches area. This Government’s term in office has been a long, cold period for most people in my electorate. It is sad that the Government is prepared to sink so much money into Labor electorates. It is not being fair and equitable. I deal now with the more general aspects of the budget. I note that, in the first few months after the election of the Carr Government, Mr Egan addressed a group of economists and said that he could not understand how he had became Treasurer as he knew nothing about accounting or the economy. This budget is the fifth budget in a series of budgets that owes more to the strong economy of New South Wales, put into place by a State Coalition Government and supported in the last few years by a Federal Coalition Government, than it does to any actions of the Carr Government.
Essentially, under Premier Carr and Mr Egan, we have ridden the good times in Australia and we have seen the Carr Government riding along on the tailcoat of a booming economy. The response to this budget was such that it did not make the front page of one of Sydney’s two newspapers. Percy Allan was briefly quoted by the Premier in question time this week. The Premier would be well served to remember that this State - compliments of Bob Carr and his merry band of men and women - is the highest taxed State in Australia. Percy Allan, in the words quoted by the Premier, acknowledged this when he said:
In recent years New South Wales has put up taxes while other States have cut theirs. As a result New South Wales in the past year probably overtook Victoria at the top of the tax totem pole.
This high taxing position is true. Australian Business
, in a pre-budget submission to the New South Wales Government in May, noted:
New South Wales is Australia’s highest taxed State. New South Wales State taxes, fees, fines, as a percentage of State output, is nearly 7 per cent, according to data from Access Economics.
also noted that this compared to 6 per cent Australiawide and said:
Moreover this Australia wide figure overstates the average level in other States because of the very heavy weighting of the New South Wales economy in the Australia wide calculation.
That means that in most Australian States that figure is at or below 6 per cent. So the starting point for the 1999-2000 budget in New South Wales is that New South Wales is the highest taxed State, and it has been through the good times over the last few years. A few short years ago other State economies were way behind New South Wales. I remind honourable members of the situation in Victoria and Western Australia under Labor governments and the fact that they were basket cases in recent years. Those States have cut and pruned to strengthen economic conditions and to build strong economies capable of being insulated in the event of an inevitable cyclic downturn. Steve Burrell from the Sydney Morning Herald
noted similar concerns when he said:
The Government cannot rely on the miracle economy forever. Some hard decisions should have been taken in this budget while the good times are still rolling.
Despite the estimated surplus of $214 million, the reality is likely, yet again, to be far from that prediction. The one constant in Mr Egan’s budget has been the disappearing surplus. He has worked out that he can say what he likes at the beginning of the fiscal year and, in the end, the media and financial commentators will be focused on the next year, without holding the Carr Government accountable for its failure to attain its forecast surpluses. This forecast is based on the most bullish and, one might say, almost fanciful, economic indicators. It is based on projections of growth staying above 3.25 per cent, and this the Government says will combine with falling unemployment.
It would seem that a 3.25 per cent growth rate is extremely bullish and optimistic - even fanciful, as I said earlier - when one considers that the Premier has rightly said on a number of occasions that the Olympic building schedule is ahead of time and largely complete. That seems to defy the economic concerns of a potential downturn in the share and property market and a decline in the degree of business confidence. One prudent and sensible course for this Government would have been to address fundamentals - to address the issues in the economy that could provide insurance for the future of New South Wales.
Turning from general economic factors, I note that the Government’s budget in my portfolio areas of corrective services, housing and Aboriginal affairs has failed to address a number of fundamental election promises. There have been no substantial increases in a number of important areas in the housing portfolio. This has occurred at a time when, under the arrangements for the Home Purchase Assistance Authority, there has been an estimated downturn of $14.2 million to $11.3 million this current financial year. The Home Purchase Assistance Fund has been reduced from $73 million to $62.4 million. Those reductions should have been picked up in other areas of the budget.
In the area of new housing stock some commentators have determined from the rather confused figures in the budget that there appears to have been a reduction of $100 million in the allocation for the supply of new housing, even though more than 100,000 families in New South Wales are waiting for public housing assistance. This Government has committed very little to new housing supplies, or nowhere near enough. The fact that it has reduced the housing allocation by $100 million, on some estimations, is a source of great concern.
The extent of the problem is emphasised when one sees that the budget refers to the building of 12,402 new homes, and in the coming year there will be 12,091. If 100,000 families are on the waiting list, it will take 10 to 12 years to even begin to address their concerns, without any other families being added to that list. There is a dramatic need for the Government to address some of the fundamental needs of the homeless in the lead-up to the Olympics. No major additional funds have been allocated in this budget to address the concerns of homeless people. The situation is urgent. The Government has responded to the concerns of commentators by simply saying that it is monitoring the situation in regard to the homeless. This Government claims to have a mortgage on social justice, but homeless rates are already increasing dramatically because of the Olympics. Property rentals around Homebush and the Olympic corridor are increasing dramatically.
There is no evidence of that.
There is evidence. If the Minister goes out and sees what has been happening, and talks to real estate agents and looks in their windows, he will find that rentals are going up. That is typical of this Government and its new Ministers. They stick their heads in the sand and pretend it is not happening.
It is not related to the Olympics.
It is, and the Minister does not care about the people he purports to represent.
They want too much beach volleyball.
Yes, they want too much beach volleyball; that is all they are interested in. They love going along to sports nights and so on but they do not look after the people who need to be looked after. I ask the Government to put more money into public housing, looking after families in need and addressing some of those urgent needs. I have been bitterly disappointed with the allocation for corrective services. Next to no money has been put into rehabilitation programs. Rehabilitation programs have been shown to reduce recidivism by between 10 per cent and 36 per cent. People can rabbit on as much as they like about John Lewthwaite and others who should have stayed in gaol, but people who come out of the prison system should have full exposure to rehabilitation programs. I ask the Government to get on with that in the future.
Why has the Government cut the excellent violence prevention program at Long Bay? The Minister told me it was because of refurbishment. People in his department say it was a purely financial cutback. Who is telling the truth? I suspect in this case it might not be the Minister. The Minister should reinstate that program. The Government has been coasting on issues relating to Aboriginal affairs. It has done absolutely nothing to increase job skills or drug and alcohol programs within the Aboriginal community. It has done nothing to address after-school and pre-school care. The Government must do something for the Aboriginal community. It will not be allowed to pose for the next three years. The Aboriginal community, and others, are fed up with the Government’s failure to address the needs of our first Australians. [Time expired
(Tamworth) [11.02 a.m.]: I will speak only briefly to the budget, as I touched on some issues during debate on the matter of public importance yesterday, in particular country allocations. I would like to look at the budget in a slightly broader sense and perhaps refer to the allocations to country areas, and specifically to the electorate of Tamworth. From an economic perspective the Government has delivered a reasonably responsible budget in fiscal terms. The delivery of a surplus and the attacks on payroll tax, land tax and revenue sources must be applauded.
Having said that, the Government is slipping in various areas, in particular in country areas. In broad economic terms the delivery of a surplus by any Treasurer in any government is an indication that the State is not going backwards. Improvements could be made in a number of areas. As the honourable member for Wakehurst said, it is obvious that the Government has been blessed with a booming property market which has taken care of many of the revenue problems that hounded previous governments and made it difficult for them to deliver surpluses.
The payroll tax reduction must be acknowledged. We are engaged in a very painful process in the removal or reduction of payroll tax. Payroll tax is an insidious tax on employers; it is an anti-employment tax. We have argued this matter for a number of years. We rant and rave in this House about the role that the Government can play in the creation of jobs. The reduction is pleasing but it needs to be much greater to have any lasting impact on the creation of jobs. Country New South Wales in particular has great problems in attracting larger employers because of the payroll tax burden they face.
Some years ago I introduced legislation into this place to remove payroll tax from value-adding agricultural industries. That issue has not been addressed by Parliament, and I ask the Minister for Regional Development and the Premier to revisit it. If they are serious about driving private sector investment in country areas, they must consider the impediments to it. One of the very real impediments on industries that are adding value in agriculture is payroll tax.
I referred yesterday to my concerns about the budget, and in particular the capital works allocations to country areas. I reiterate some of those concerns. Over a number of years my involvement with the country summit process has been to try to get some objective measurement of where the money is going, particularly in capital works allocations. I am sure most honourable members have spent many hours looking through Budget Paper No. 4 to see what allocations were made to their electorates. That budget paper shows that out of the $5.2 billion program for capital works, the government sector, the budget sector or the taxpayer-funded sector of the budget is $2.7 billion.
I am embarrassed.
The Minister should be. I am almost emotional raising this issue in the House. Yesterday in this Chamber the Minister for Transport was highly delighted with the $20 million he was spending on high-intensity lighting at about five Sydney railway stations.
Do you want something for Tamworth?
We can talk about that later. Is the Minister aware that in the taxpayer-funded sector of the capital works allocation, the total allocation for new works in 28 electorates in country areas is just under $20 million? That excludes road funding, because of the Federal overlay. Yet the Government is prepared to spend $20 million on high-intensity lighting at five railway stations. Inland country New South Wales, which comprises 16 electorates, received an allocation of $10.9 million for new works. That amount excludes funding for roads. The 12 coastal electorates received new works funding of $9 million. I note that the members representing the electorates of Port Macquarie, Lismore and Coffs Harbour are in the Chamber.
Does that include the gaol on the North Coast?
The honourable member for Port Macquarie refers to an allocation of $3 million for a gaol that has not yet been located. I am referring to new works funding for this year, not for the never-never years. In this year’s budget $3 million has been allocated for a gaol - site unknown. The electorate of the honourable member for Port Macquarie received $949,000 to complete stage two of Camden Haven High School.
Read it again. The school has been allocated $6.1 million for completion to the final stage. You are referring to the completion of stage one.
The budget papers do not indicate that. The honourable member should look at the allocation in 1999. He is referring to works in progress; I am referring to new works. However, the honourable member makes a valid point. Country New South Wales has 30 per cent of the State’s population and 90 per cent of the land mass, and is represented by the Independents and, supposedly, by the National Party. Yet it has received 7 per cent of the budget funding for new works. Funding for works in progress and new works totals $187.925 million, including the $6.1 million that the honourable member referred to. That represents a 13.2 per cent proportion of the budget allocation for new works and works in progress in the State. So 30 per cent of the population gets 13.2 per cent of the cake.
An analysis of the figures reveals that in 1991 country electorates received 17 per cent of the capital works budget. That was our best year. In 1992 the allocation dropped to approximately 13 per cent, the same level that this Government has currently reached. It was reduced to 10 per cent in the last Coalition budget, remained at 10 per cent for the first year of the Labor Government in 1995, and then fell to 8 per cent in the horror budget of 1996, when all the money went to the Olympics. Since then the allocation has been climbing. Last year it was 12.8 per cent; this year it is 13.2 per cent.
You have omitted road funding.
I will get to road funding. There has been a great deal of debate in this Chamber about the impact of country Labor on a resurgence in country areas. Such an impact is definitely not reflected in the figures. I note the presence in the Chamber of the honourable member for Murray-Darling. If country Labor is serious about addressing the problems, it should examine the process and ensure that future budgets reflect an upward trend in funding allocation to country areas. At the moment we are getting smoke and mirrors; it only looks as though things are happening. In overall economic terms, this is a responsible budget. But the money flows are being stifled, as they have been for a decade under governments of both persuasions.
Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong.
As the honourable member for Coffs Harbour says, the money goes to Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong. The honourable member has referred to roads. Each time I raise this matter and refer to the figures the Premier says that I have not included road funding. The Leader of the National Party has also said that on a number of occasions, and I am sure the Minister for Roads will say it in a moment. Another matter the Government will bring into the analysis to muddy the water is the public trading enterprise sector. But the $2.6 billion allocated in the budget for that sector is not taxpayer-funded, it is related to fees and charges.
It is a nonsense to say, as the Coalition Government did in 1992, that $100 million for a power station in the Bathurst area, for example, is a budget allocation for the benefit of the people of Bathurst. Those sorts of assets are now funded by charges and fees. When analysing the equity in capital works funding we have to compare the taxpayer-funded portion of the capital works budget, $2.7 billion, and the allocation to country people. I am not suggesting that country electorates should receive 30 per cent of the funding every year, but there has to be some degree of equity. There must be a subjective overview of the process.
I encourage country Labor - of which the honourable member for Murray-Darling is a member - to take an objective view rather than a political view in regard to funding allocations. Country areas have missed out for many years, and they are still missing out. The honourable member for Coffs Harbour referred to roads. If we include Federal funding, as this budget does, of the $989 million that has been allocated for new capital works, country New South Wales received approximately 30 per cent. A great deal of that money is Federal funding. So 90 per cent of the land mass of the State gets 30 per cent. On a population basis 30 per cent could be considered equitable. I am sure that the Minister for Roads would argue that it is equitable. What does that do to the overall equation? Federal funding for roads represents 30 per cent of the cake compared to other taxpayer-funded items such as police stations and hospitals.
What does it do to the overall equation? It could be 18 per cent. The true indicator is road funding, of which 38 per cent is allocated to rural areas. If we remove the Federal contribution to that funding, the result is a State contribution of only 15 per cent. However, if we give everybody the benefit of the doubt and include road funding, the slice of the cake could lift to 18 per cent. Therefore, 30 per cent of the population living on 90 per cent of the land receives only 18 per cent of the cake, and I do not believe that is equity.
If future governments are talking about looking after country areas, they should seriously look at equity in the budgetary process. I congratulate the Government on trying to pay off the Olympics as we go. It is a bold step, but it will not leave a legacy for other governments and generations. We could forgive the Government for not providing decent allocations in 1996 because a massive amount of money was allocated to the Olympics process, and this year it is well down at $235 million. Country New South Wales should have a fairer allocation than it has received in this budget. I know that the Minister for Transport loves gardens and parks and I point out that $14.5 million was allocated to the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust to restore some ponds and plant trees. A few hundred thousand dollars has been allocated for roadworks.
How is my park?
Scully Park is doing quite well, but it needs funding. Scully Park in Tamworth was named after the Minister’s great-uncle. The budget allocates $14.5 million for parks and gardens in Sydney, $19.9 million on new capital works in country New South Wales and $20 million on high-intensity lighting. Those comparisons indicate that 28 New South Wales electorates, which represent 90 per cent of the land mass, have not received a fair allocation of capital works funding. I could refer to many other areas in regard to funding allocations, including the issue of homelessness, which was
raised by the honourable member for Wakehurst. Tamworth has an excellent operation, which receives little government support. With a little more support a lot more could be done.
(Port Macquarie) [11.22 a.m.]: I am pleased to follow the honourable member for Tamworth in the budget debate. If ever a speech highlighted the weaknesses of the Independents, it was his speech. We look forward to winning government in 2003. As members who represent country electorates we look forward to getting our hands on the Expenditure Review Committee [ERC] and doing something decent for country and regional New South Wales.
Why didn’t you do it last time?
The honourable member for Tamworth asks why I did not do that last time. Because I was not here last time. I have only been in Parliament for three years. If we compared the average age of members of political parties, the National Party would be the youngest in this place. I and many of my new colleagues look forward to getting our hands on the budget. We look forward to joining the ERC process and doing something decent for regional and rural New South Wales. What does the honourable member for Tamworth look forward to? More speeches about mathematics in regard to population size and geographic areas, and attempts to draw equations that are relevant to country New South Wales! That will do nothing for regional New South Wales.
This is about getting in and doing something decent within the political process and within the political parties - it is a two-party system within a Westminster system. That is when we will see something happen for regional New South Wales. The honourable member for Tamworth mentioned Camden Haven High School. The quirkiness of his argument seems to highlight that he wants the Government to spend more money on what will be a completed project! I congratulate the Government on its actions regarding Camden Haven High School. Hopefully that worthwhile project will be completed at the end of this year, or early next year, to take students at the start of 2000.
The quirkiness of his mathematics seems to suggest that the honourable member wants the Government to spend more than is necessary. All those who spend taxpayers' money would hope that projects were completed in a prudent and diligent way. That is happening with Camden Haven High School, and I congratulate the Government on that. The Government needs to keep an eye on its strong commitment to finish the project by the start of first term 2000. The mid North Coast has had a lot of rain this year and I have heard that the project is behind time. I hope the Government works hard to meet the completion time.
Kendall Central School, which is the old school that services the region, now operates with more than 30 demountable buildings. That is totally unacceptable. When it rains the kids must have lunch in these demountables, and in anyone’s terms that is unacceptable. I would like to comment on staffing allocations for the Camden Haven High School. Over the next 12 months significant staff issues need to be addressed. The first of those relates to the transfer of the principal. Kendall Central School principal was recently informed that she will not be transferred to the new high school because of the size and formula of allocations associated with the transfer.
I trust that the Government will keep a close eye on staffing at that school, particularly in regard to the transfer of the principal, and will handle it carefully. I am a great supporter of Kendall’s principal, Carmel Thew. I hope that the work she has undertaken for education in the Camden Haven region is recognised and supported as the transfer is made to Camden Haven High School. The budget for my electorate has really been a reannouncement budget. The budget reannounces things such as the high school project and many highway initiatives. In regard to the Pacific Highway I -
Congratulate the Government.
Whilst we certainly support what is happening with the highway and look forward to an invitation to the opening of the Bulahdelah mountain bypass, which will be of significant benefit to local communities on the mid North Coast, business and local communities are salivating at the opportunities that will result from the opening of that bypass. It will mean significant benefits such as faster and safer trips to Sydney. This bypass will open up our region to Sydney and to many business opportunities. Many of us seem to chuckle every time the Minister comes up the highway, does his photo shoot for every local newspaper, claims credit for the project as a State-only project, and then is not seen for six months.
I hope that the Minister treats this project, which I consider the most significant of all highway initiatives, in a bipartisan fashion and gives appropriate credit to the Commonwealth Government and to the local members representing the areas which the highway passes through. We
will watch the project with interest. The budget also reannounced Port Macquarie health centre. Last year it announced spending of about $340,000 or $350,000. The amount actually spent for that 12-month period was $1,000. This budget has simply reannounced the refurbishment of the Port Macquarie health centre.
Upgrading of the Port Macquarie health centre was used heavily in the political campaign leading up to the State election in March. Yet only $1,000 in 12 months was spent upgrading that centre. In hindsight I agree with the Government: it is spending $1,000 on the Port Macquarie area. I hope that the Government spends $350,000 this year and delivers for the Port Macquarie community and the mid North Coast. The announcement that has caught the attention of everyone on the mid North Coast is the new $42 million gaol facility to be built somewhere between Taree and Grafton, to be completed by August 2002. The economic benefits of such a project are widely acknowledged. In the construction stage 800 jobs have been estimated, and Corrective Services will provide 120 long-term jobs.
But there are also the pros and cons of the social impact of a gaol to be considered. Since the budget was handed down the local community has had wide-ranging and mixed reactions to the project. The Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce is very supportive of it, and most people who look at it from a business point of view would be supportive of it. However, it must be acknowledged that due to lack of information the community still has concerns about the social impact of a gaol. I call on the Government to provide much-needed information about the social impact of a gaol on a local community and also to provide information as to what process will be used to implement it.
Although most of the other capital works line items in the budget indicated where they would be sited, the Government shrewdly left the site of the gaol in general terms. Lack of knowledge about the precise site is creating a horserace between all the local councils; it is also producing broad community interest, support and anger. The sooner the Government recognises that fact and provides the community with that much-needed information, such as whether crime rates increase or decrease around a prison, and whether local police numbers will be increased, the better equipped members of the community will be to determine their concerns.
Local police are already stretched to the limit. We need to know whether extra services and benefits that go hand in hand with a gaol facility will be provided, for example, extra police and much-needed mental health services, which are already at breaking point. Changes to public sector jobs throughout New South Wales will have a local impact. I am keen to sit down and talk to my local government agencies, in particular the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and Land and Water Conservation, which are already talking about significant job cutbacks at a local level.
Any such cutbacks in a smaller community, such as the mid North Coast, have widespread implications. When I was first elected, the regional Roads And Traffic Authority office was moved from Port Macquarie to Grafton. Although only 20 or 25 jobs were lost, the implications for the broader community were significant. There was a great deal of concern in the community about the impact of those job losses on services. I certainly support cutbacks to payroll tax. I also support apprentice opportunities resulting from payroll tax deductions. I would have liked much more funding for that exciting and bipartisan initiative. If, in the next 12 months, the Government regards that initiative as a winner I hope it throws a lot of resources behind it. Apprenticeship opportunities are desperately needed in New South Wales, particularly regional New South Wales.
I support the comments of many of my colleagues that we would all prefer to see payroll tax cuts brought forward to give businesses the injection of life they so desperately need, particularly in regional New South Wales. I noted with interest the comments in the budget from the Minister for Sport and Recreation that regional sport would be a priority this year. We are all aware of Olympic spending in Sydney. However, the capital grants line item for regional sporting facilities shows a further wind-back of regional funding. Last year the Government budgeted $4.9 million, but spent only $4.4 million. This year it has budgeted $4.3 million. Who can tell what the Government will spend this year in meeting that budget target?
It is totally hypocritical for that Minister to say in the budget that regional sport will be a priority this year and then for the figures to show that funding is being wound back. Numerous numbers of projects have not got off the ground. Numerous projects cannot get off the ground or are hamstrung because they cannot get any money or because they are getting only dribbles of money from the Government. The Government could do a lot more, particularly when one considers the facelift that sporting facilities in Sydney are receiving, and general construction in the Sydney area.
Regional New South Wales has a perception problem with the Olympics and Olympic spending. I am sure that various forms of research would support that. One would think that a government in tune with what is happening in regional New South Wales would recognise that problem and deal with it. All we are talking about is just over $4 million. It is not a lot of money. The Olympic Velodrome in Sydney is a $30 million project. Yet the allocation for regional sporting facilities to fund the broader area of New South Wales is less than one-sixth of a construction project for the Olympics in Sydney.
If the honourable member for Tamworth wants to talk about figures, this is a great example that he should be shouting all over regional New South Wales. Regional sporting facilities are getting the crumbs from the table, and they are becoming fewer and fewer. I would hope that actions speak louder than words for the new Minister for Sport and Recreation. Having stated in the budget that regional sport is a priority for the next 12 months, he must deliver a change to regional sporting facilities funding. I do not know why he would say in the budget that it is his priority for the year when the budget figures clearly show that it is on the decrease. I shudder to think what will happen in other areas of sports funding.
I was interested to read in the budget that for the first time the Waterways Authority will get its hands on consolidated revenue. What is supposed to have been a self-funding body since 1995 will, for the first time, increase its expenditure by 6.2 per cent to deal with the costs associated with the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Waterways has been successfully self-funding until now. Unfortunately this is another backdoor raid on the State’s finances to pay for the Olympics. There are numerous Waterways projects on the mid North Coast. One great example is the Waterways Authority vessel - it has patches all over it. A new Waterways vessel is desperately needed. Most honourable members would have seen the boat when it was involved in the rescue of two yachts that were stranded on the Hastings River bar. The damage the vessel sustained in that rescue has exacerbated the need for its replacement. It is fortunate that the Minister for Transport is in the Chamber. I highlight the point that funding for the Waterways Authority has been raided by Consolidated Revenue. I will be interested to see the details of next year’s budget. I will also be interested to find out whether the Waterways Authority will return to being a self-funded authority, or whether it will remain within the ambit of Consolidated Revenue.
I endorse some of the priorities announced by the Minister for Fisheries which included share- managed fisheries. I certainly support that concept, and I am sure that the Opposition generally also supports it. This is a case of actions speaking louder than words. The upper House is presently considering a disallowance of regulations applying to a restricted fishery. I hope that the Minister has the interests of the broader commercial fishing industry at heart and recognises the benefits of share-managed fisheries. I also hope that he will do everything possible to support that industry and that the management plans that have been mooted for so long will come to fruition. Not one plan has been presented for any sector of the commercial fishing industry to date. It is about time this Government got on with the job of delivering support to the commercial fishing industry.
In conclusion, let me state that as far as the electorate of Port Macquarie is concerned the budget is simply a restatement. Although some projects, such as the high school, highway upgrading and the Port Macquarie health centre, are welcomed by my electorate, the gaol is a project that all the people of my electorate will be watching with interest. Much more information is needed on the planning process that is being undertaken. I hope that the Minister for Corrective Services will visit my electorate to brief the local community on what is intended in relation to establishment of the gaol.
To my mind, the next four years will be a three-point test for this Government in relation to local health services. The first test will deal with the enormous dental health service problems in the local community of my electorate. General treatment waiting lists are now longer than five years. I do not believe that the Minister for Health has yet commented on this issue. If he follows the trend of the former Minister who attempted to sheet home the blame to the Commonwealth Government entirely, I, for one, will be very disappointed. The next test will be in relation to mental health services. My electorate is still waiting for five additional mental health workers, including the much-needed adolescent mental health worker. I understand that there has been a breakdown in administration, but I hope that the Government will address that issue as well as the much-needed funding for Port Macquarie Base Hospital. My electorate is experiencing enormous growth. It is time the Government recognised that and dealt with it appropriately.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Mills):
I acknowledge the presence in the gallery of the former member for the electorate of Bankstown, Mr Doug Shedden.
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
ELECTRICITY SUPPLY AMENDMENT BILL
PAY-ROLL TAX AMENDMENT (FURTHER RATE REDUCTION) BILL
PUBLIC FINANCE AND AUDIT AMENDMENT (CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS) BILL
(Manly) [11.42 a.m.]: When I consider the impact of the budget on my electorate of Manly, it brings to mind an old Hollywood character who acted in 103 movies. The most famous scene he played was in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
. He was the person who was on the bomb as it dropped from the B52.
What a great scene.
It was a great scene. Unfortunately, he died of a brain tumour in 1983. I wonder whether any honourable member can tell me his name. The name of the actor was Slim Pickens, and when I read the budget details for Manly, it occurred to me that slim pickings were what we were getting. North of the harbour, including my electorate of Manly, has received very little assistance from this budget. My electorate is entitled to a fair share of the budget allocation for schools, hospitals, public transport and other infrastructure but has not received it.
There are some noticeable absences from the budget such as the $2 million redevelopment for the Harbord Public School, which will not eventuate this year as no funding has been provided. Although a maintenance budget of $220,000 a year is available for Manly High School and a further $300,000 in advance of a land sale, I would have preferred more front-ending of the maintenance funds for which I have been lobbying. Manly Vale Public School will receive $175,000 for a new canteen. However, more funds than that are required because the library and administration areas need work. Funding for stage two of the noise attenuation works at Burnt Bridge Creek has not been forthcoming. Residents have to live with constant traffic noise and for a long time have been asking for work to alleviate that, but they will be disappointed.
I am pleased that the Minister for Transport is at the table because, as the member for Wakehurst mentioned in his speech, transport was a big issue in the recent election campaign. My electorate has a serious deadlock issue on the Spit Road through to Mosman Junction. Significant improvements need to be made in the provision of public transport, especially an improvement in the movement of buses through the deadlocked area.
At North Head, the Government is considering offering a lease for 45 years of a great heritage site, which is the quarantine station. It is a shame that a greater allocation of funds could not be made to the National Parks and Wildlife Service so that it could continue to operate the site and avoid the need for privatisation. That is an issue that will be making the news during the next few weeks. I think it is sad that the National Parks and Wildlife Service has not received the funding that it deserves to retain that site. On the plus side, the Government is committed to the ferry upgrade and the ongoing works for the Manly interchange. It has committed funds for traffic management and road infrastructure works. The Manly bike plan has been allocated $30,000.
The Premier has indicated that there will be further funding provided to address the outcomes of the Drug Summit, and I welcome that initiative. There is a lack of support services in my electorate to meet the needs of adolescent drug-users and their families. There are no centres working specifically with young people who have drug and alcohol problems. The Government should address that problem by providing appropriate funding. Generally speaking, the Government’s response to the Drug Summit should include increased funding for detoxification and rehabilitation services to meet the huge unmet demand for treatment. I congratulate the Premier on the Drug Summit and on his statesmanlike conduct. I hope that the Government will live up to its promise of providing more funding to address drug problems.
From the perspective of the bigger picture, in my view the budget is a businesslike document with appropriate gestures towards fiscal rectitude, but it is also a budget that is without much soul. It has been shaped against the backdrop of eight years of sustained low inflation, and increased national and State growth. This reflects well on structural reforms that successive governments of both political persuasions have undertaken. Australia’s economic performance during the Asian meltdown has been little short of remarkable. To give an idea of the
economic growth rate of New South Wales, I refer to Budget Paper No. 2, page 2-11, table 2.4, which shows that in 1988-89 outlays were $12 billion and receipts were $13-odd billion. Comparable figures for 1999-2000 are $22.4 billion for outlays and $25-odd billion for receipts which represents a doubling in growth over a ten-year period. That reflects the way in which this State has grown and the expansion of the general economy.
Sustained growth has provided the Treasurer with a great deal of leeway in framing the budget. It is disappointing that this has not materialised into provision of more funding for socially important areas such as education, health and welfare. The allocation for education of $6.5 billion represents an increase of 1.7 per cent. However, in the real world, public education is suffering. It has become the cinderella of the education industry. In my electorate, almost 30 per cent of schoolchildren attend private schools. This remarkably high figure reflects that parents who can afford it are sending their children to the schools that offer better facilities and a higher status than that of public schools. If the Government continues to underfund public schools relative to private schools, we will end up with entrenched social stratification in a society that has always prided itself on being egalitarian. In relation to welfare, the revised allocation for the Department of Community Service for 1998-99 indicated total expenses of $951 million. The current budget allocation is $920 million, which is a reduction of $30 million. The Council of Social Service of New South Wales stated:
The Department desperately needs more and better supported foster carers for children and young people. Yet in the budget foster care payments are stringently capped.
The disability area is also affected, as is the number of houses that will be available for people on public housing waiting lists. The budget papers show that the Government is set to rake in $840 million from club and hotel gaming. That is a lot of chips. On a per capita basis we are the poker machine capital of the world. New South Wales is becoming something like a giant set from Muriel’s Wedding
. To derive a large amount of revenue from such a source is a questionable way of raising revenue.
Indeed, I wrote a submission to the Industry Commission during its study of the social impact of gambling. My particular concern was the issue of drink gambling. We invite all sorts of social problems when we have a State government relying on revenue from such a source. Another area of concern is hospital services in my area. The Northern Sydney Area Health Service is undertaking a review of hospital services at present. I am concerned that this review should not be used as an excuse for failing adequately to fund Manly hospital. The hospital must not be allowed to run down to justify any possible changes which may occur down the track. The budget does not give any hope in this regard.
The Treasurer in his Budget Speech said that 85 per cent of the total revenue and infrastructure budget for the Olympics has been spent and paid for. In 1998-99 the construction cost to the budget was $485 million, and that will drop to $254 million in the next financial year. By the time it is all paid up the Government will have funded well over $2 billion for the Olympic Games up front. Some people may consider it virtuous to pay for the Olympics up front so that the State is not saddled with a longer term debt, but I question the push to have it paid for up front.
We will enjoy the Games and feel proud of Sydney being showcased to the world, but the up-front payment for the Olympics infrastructure, which will be of benefit to future generations, amounts to intergenerational inequity. If public schools, hospitals, community services and the environment are suffering from funding shortages as a consequence of the Olympics push, the funding priorities are wrong. I cannot see why the costs could not be carried over a longer time frame so that more funding could go to higher priorities such as schools and hospitals now. That is an important issue.
Why should the present generation carry the burden of the push to get the Olympics infrastructure paid for now when that infrastructure will benefit future generations? Why should the present generation suffer that impost? It is an issue of velodromes and butter; one cannot have both. There is less butter because of the infrastructure costs. In summary, Slim Pickens is alive and well in Manly. Overall, there should be more funding in health, education, transport and community services. If the Government does not increase funding for some of these vital areas New South Wales is at risk of becoming more of a class-based society.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Mills):
I acknowledge the presence in the gallery of the Federal member for Batman, Martin Ferguson, and the Federal member for Banks, Daryl Melham. I also acknowledge the presence in the gallery of the former member for East Hills, Pat Rogan, and his wife, Eunice.
(East Hills) [11.55 a.m.] (Inaugural speech): I congratulate the Premier on leading the Labor Government to such a conclusive victory in the March 1999 election. I congratulate those re-elected members and the new members elected to the Legislative Assembly. As we have seen in the past few weeks, the quality and calibre of those new members of the Government will ensure the commitment to Labor principles and policy, and therefore good and progressive government for the people of New South Wales for the next four years.
It is a great honour and a privilege to be an elected representative in this Legislative Assembly. It is an honour afforded to only 93 people of the population of New South Wales. The Labor Party retained the seat of East Hills with 68.3 per cent of the two-party preferred vote. The Liberal primary vote fell below 20 per cent - the lowest recorded in the seat of East Hills since its creation in the 1950s. I am acutely aware of the responsibility that goes with being a parliamentarian. My task in this place will be to represent faithfully the 60,000 people of the East Hills electorate; to put their concerns to government, demand answers to their questions and seek our fair share of resources from those available to the people of New South Wales. I will announce some of our share detailed in the 1999-2000 budget at a later date.
I am cognisant of the fact that as an elected member of this House and of the Government of New South Wales I am equally responsible for the good government of the whole State. This is an appropriate time to acknowledge the outstanding service given to the Australian Labor Party and the East Hills electorate by my predecessor Mr Pat Rogan. Mr Rogan was first elected in November 1973 and retained the seat until his retirement at the March 1999 election. Pat’s dedication and commitment to our local community exemplifies the spirit of public service that should be the most important aspect of any citizen’s desire to seek election to Parliament.
Mr Rogan’s contribution to our electorate saw, among many achievements, the duplication of the railway line to East Hills, the improvement of Davies Road and the constant fight to raise the quality and amenity of our natural border, the Georges River. Pat Rogan’s efforts in uncovering the real life horror story that was the former Chelmsford Private Hospital and his fight on behalf of its victims will never be forgotten. Pat was the driving force behind the building of Padstow TAFE, and I acknowledge that in the 1999-2000 budget more than $300,000 has been allocated to upgrade hospitality facilities at the TAFE.
After Labor’s defeat in 1988 Pat Rogan was given the task of rebuilding Labor’s support in our traditional heartlands of the Hunter, Newcastle and the Illawarra. As shadow minister for minerals and energy he rebuilt Labor’s credibility in those regions. It is to be regretted that Pat Rogan was not elevated to the Carr ministry upon Labor’s election in March 1995, an honour he thoroughly deserved. I also acknowledge the vital role of Pat’s wife Eunice. Everyone who knows Eunice respects her for the support she has given Pat and her friendship to all.
The electorate of East Hills that I represent now contains nearly 13,000 voters who were previously in the Bankstown electorate. Doug Shedden, the former member for Bankstown, also retired at the 1999 election. Doug was a very popular local member for more than 12 years, and I place on record the appreciation of the Labor party and the electorate for his efforts.
While only one person gets elected to each seat in the Legislative Assembly, hundreds of people play a pivotal role in the election of that member. An inaugural speech offers a unique opportunity to try to thank many of those people. I thank my wife Linda Downey for her love and continuous support since we met at a Banks Young Labor Association meeting in 1973. Tony Nicod, who I think is in the gallery although I cannot see him at the moment, drove Linda to that meeting, and I thank him for that.
To my daughters, Gemma and Breanna, who have never known their mother or their father not to be actively involved in the community, I thank you for the fun and love you bring to me each day. I also thank Linda’s family and her friends for the support I have always received. The day the Federal Coalition announced it was considering using the Holsworthy region of Sydney as a 24-hour international airport, Linda and the girls organised a petition against this stupidity and set up a table in Panania to gather signatures. For more than 18 months Linda led the fight of the Bankstown branch of the South Western Community Alliance against the proposal. What began as a loosely formed group of inexperienced political advocates from Bankstown, Holsworthy, Wattle Grove, Liverpool, Sutherland and other affected areas quickly developed into one of the largest and most talented local residents action groups of all time.
I thank all of those who were involved in the anti-Holsworthy campaign. I congratulate them on their ultimate success when the Federal Government finally abandoned its proposal. The anti-Holsworthy campaign reinforced my belief that active local campaigns can still upset the best-laid plans of governments and their unlimited funds. I wish to thank the members of the ALP branches who chose me to contest the recent election as the Labor candidate. The rank and file preselection system is one of Labor’s great traditions in New South Wales. If the Opposition embraced that preselection system it would choose better candidates who were more in touch with the desires and needs of our community. Preselection voters from nine suburban ALP branches - Georges Hall, Condell Park, Yagoona, Central Bankstown, Milperra, East Hills, Panania, Revesby and Padstow - were involved in the process. This thorough electorate-wide process means that ALP candidates can approach any public election brimming with confidence.
The redistribution led to the Padstow Heights area and much of Padstow suffering the unkindest cut of all: being excised from God’s country of the East Hills electorate and placed in the wilds of the new Menai electorate. Of course, it has not all been bad news. Those constituents and ALP members played a key role in the victory of my colleague Alison Megarrity in Menai ensuring sensible, compassionate and energetic representation in this Fifty-second Parliament. Congratulations, Alison. To those Labor supporters who letterboxed pamphlets, organised shopping centre tables, did prepoll work, organised postal votes applications, distributed how to votes and erected signs - and, of course, in the Labor tradition, gave the time voluntarily - I express my sincere appreciation.
Despite the obvious risks involved in naming individuals whose support was critical, I will take that risk and apologise to anyone I inadvertently omit. I say "Thank you very much" to the overall campaign directors - Councillor Dick McLaughlin, Baden Kirgan - and the branch campaign directors - Jill Armstrong, Justin Lee, Councillor Grant Lee, Dale Berrier and Mayor of Bankstown, Ian Stromborg, Michael Clunne and Rick Faulkner, Terry Raper, Carmel York and John Rodwell, Hans Mortl, Vince Smith and Tony and Judy Moynham. My campaign office was staffed nearly every day since late January. I want to thank Shirley O’Neil and Peggy Downey, who brought order to original chaos and, with Allan Winterbottom and Bob Downey, were at the office almost every day for eight weeks. Jan Walliss, Nancy Bainsbridge, Betty Hardy, Brendan Kavanagh, Bruce Johnstone, Bill Heard, Ray Ashton, Matt Ashton and Howard Bush gave their time and efforts unceasingly as well. I wish to publicly acknowledge Dick Boulten, whose almost unhealthy obsession with delivering pamphlets saw me as the political beneficiary. I also want to thank Sue Ashton for months of childminding.
Having said that in the ALP we depend primarily on the support of local branch members, I want to acknowledge the assistance I received from Daryl Melham, the Federal member for Banks, and Michael Hatton, the Federal member for Blaxland. Daryl Melham is well known to everyone on this side of the House and probably loathed by all those on the other side - not all of those who are physically on the other side of the House at the moment because most of them are members of the Government, but he is probably loathed by a couple, and I do not mean any disrespect by that.
They are all lefties.
Well, we need everyone we can get. I am certain Daryl is admired and loved by our indigenous people, whose interests he has vigorously championed as shadow minister for Aboriginal affairs, while the Federal Liberal and National parties have sought to take Australia back to the 1930s in their treatment of our original inhabitants. I look forward to Daryl Melham’s elevation to a Cabinet led by Kim Beazley at the next election. I thank him also for his attendance here today. I also thank the members of the extended Melham family, who have accepted me as a cousin since I have known them.
I would also like to publicly thank Martin Ferguson, the former President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions [ACTU] and the Federal member for Batman, for the unconditional support he has given me for as long as I have known him. He is also in the gallery today. I thank him for his attendance and wish him well in his hope of becoming a Minister in a Beazley-led government in Canberra. His brother, Laurie Ferguson, apologised for not being here today. He is probably out signing up a few more members and could not make it.
Or selling tickets.
Or selling raffle tickets, as we all know. I first met Laurie 25 years ago when he was selling raffle tickets outside our economics tutorial. Our friendship has endured over that time. We have always been on the same side and I thank him for his support. Honourable members will recall, of course, that their father, the Hon. Jack Ferguson, was the Deputy Premier during most of
the halcyon days of the Wran Government. Victory has a thousand parents; defeat is an orphan. I need to also acknowledge the support that Revesby Workers Club has given to the ALP in our area and the club’s commitment to assist in so many worthwhile organisations in the area. I thank the President, Norma Smith, the board of directors, the management, staff and members of the club for that support.
I congratulate the Carr Government on introducing civics and citizenship education into the secondary school curriculum. We in this country traditionally have been underwhelmed by the political process. We have taken our democratic institutions and our participation in them for granted. Many regard the process of voting at elections as an imposition. I shall now briefly tell the House how I became interested in politics and how I regarded the unequal application of politics in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The eastern suburbs of Sydney and the northern suburbs had their elite schools, their beaches and, most importantly, their incomes and shares. They did not really need buses or trains; they had cars and beaut roads. In Sydney’s west and south-west we had dirt roads, no traffic lights, no kerbing and guttering. The toilet pan was changed every week by a brown-collar worker - the dunny man. These things angered me.
When the Coalition introduced conscription in 1965 to help prosecute the Vietnam War, the sheer hypocrisy of our conservative opponents was revealed. Having had conscription twice rejected by the Australian people in World War I and only accepted in World War II when Australia was threatened by Japanese invasion, the Federal Coalition introduced registration for conscription for all 20-year-old youths without a referendum. Back then, how old did one have to be to vote? Twenty-one! Today I still find that quite shameful. Australia’s youth were old enough to die for the country but not old enough to vote in the country!
In the 1960s the Liberal and National parties effectively turned their backs on young Australians deliberately to attract a base of older, secure and conservative voters in this country. It is a divisive strategy that the Howard Government persists in today and that the Opposition is still wedded to in New South Wales. Young people have traditionally supported the ALP since the 1960s and will continue to do so. For it is only Labor that genuinely offers equity and fairness for all. The ability to reach out and offer our fellow citizens a hand is a basic tenet of our beliefs. Of course, having sent our soldiers to Vietnam, the Coalition eventually turned community anger against that war to anger against the men and women who served there and ignored the plight of veterans when they returned. I was glad that several weeks ago this House placed on record its support for Vietnam veterans.
It is a privilege accorded to very few to be an elected member in this place. To represent the electorate of East Hills is a special thrill. I have only ever lived in that area. My father’s connection with the area goes back to the 1930s when my grandmother bought a block of land on the Georges River at Picnic Point. My father, Gordon, built our family house after the Second World War. I want to thank my parents for imparting values that were not especially radical over 30 years ago: hard work, honesty, helping others and getting involved in the local community. I attended Panania Public School and Picnic Point High School, where I might add, for those interested in trivia, that the present Speaker, the Hon. John Murray, was one of my teachers.
As I pointed out to the Premier at a social function, John taught me economics and that is why I am standing here today with a master’s degree in history. Thank you, Mr Speaker. I used to call him "Sir" then; I had better call him "Sir" as well as "Mr Speaker"! When I attended the University of Sydney other students could not understand how I could sing the praises of a co-educational government high school - I still do, as I taught at the same school that I attended until March this year. It was there that I met my mate, Gary Delaney, and I want to acknowledge the friendship of Gary and his family for nearly 35 years.
In 1971 I made the exciting decision to join the Australian Labor Party. I joined and remain a member of the Panania branch. I want to acknowledge the great support I have received from the branch members at Panania. In 1977 I was elected to Bankstown Council. I was a councillor from 1977 to 1983 and 1987 to 1995. The 14 years I spent serving the people of Bankstown included three terms as deputy mayor. I have noted that many of the new members of this House and others - like yourself, Mr Speaker - have a local government background. Those who give their time as local councillors are rarely appreciated by many in the community, the Parliament and the bureaucracy. When the Coalition changed the Local Government Act in 1993 it gutted the powers of councillors and sent councils down the "yellow brick road" of privatisation, the user-pays principle, contracting out, rationalising services, and downsizing staff.
Honourable members, why should a council make a profit building a new library and lending
books or videos to citizens and students? Why should a council make a profit looking after a park used for cricket or football by our youth? Should Steve and Mark Waugh be billed retrospectively for the use they had of Bankstown council’s ovals in the past? Should council bill the Australian Cricket Board for its share of the 1999 World Cup spoils? Where does it stop? With the new Act of 1993 Bankstown council set up new organisational structures. Council dismissed its senior officers and put on newly contracted officers. The council had to have a "mission" statement. It needed a "vision". If there is one word I hate to hear it is "vision". It is usually used to justify a change, usually for change’s sake.
However, in the 1990s if you did not have a "vision" or a "mission" you were not a team player. You were a "barnacle on the ship of progress". I reject this! As a student of history I fully realise that change is often necessary and often inevitable, but it is not always so. The changes to local government have not improved the delivery of services to local residents. They have merely increased the middle and senior management of councils and their salaries while shedding hundreds of jobs in councils where the actual work is done - at the grassroots level. Hopefully, the spectre of privatisation will fade as a result of the Coalition’s heavy election defeat in March.
I want now to discuss a matter that has been close to my heart for nearly 25 years. I refer to public education in New South Wales. I acknowledge that the Carr Government has made a great effort to improve the quality of public education in New South Wales since 1995 - for students, teachers and parents. The 1999-2000 State budget has increased funding for education and training to a record $6,929.9 million. The nightmare years in education endured after the 1988 Coalition victory in New South Wales are gone, but they not been forgotten. The pay rise agreed upon in the 1997 award has gone some way towards rebuilding the status of teaching. The education system is still in need of reform. Teachers deserve a real increase in salaries. They deserve to work in better teaching environments. Our students deserve to learn to their potential and our schools need to focus less on solving society’s problems and more on education. [Extension of time agreed to
I am amused by the title given to this place: the bear pit. The most rowdy of question times I have seen here so far are poor imitations of many classes in period eight on many afternoons in many high schools. Many former teachers who have made the transition to this Chamber are saying, "Hear! Hear!". It is certainly a promotion for me to come from teaching to being a member of Parliament. Being a politician might be only just a little above being a car salesman but I will take it. A teacher shortage is looming. The average age of a high school teacher now is 48 - at least 30 years older than the students. The teachers with the greatest expertise are the ones who will resign or retire in the next seven to 10 years.
We are advised by bureaucrats that there are thousands of potential teachers available and on waiting lists just itching to begin their craft. These figures do not tell the real story. They include people who are "qualified" to teach but who have not taught a lesson in a school since they graduated. They simply have not bothered to get off the list. They include teachers who are doing blocks of relief for teachers on long service leave or other extended leave, and therefore they are not available for daily use. In addition, most casual teachers are loath to travel any great distance to do a "one-off" day at a school, especially one that we might euphemistically call a "difficult school".
While most casual teachers are dedicated and well informed on their subject area, they have no guarantee that they will teach their subject that day. Moreover, many students see a period with a casual teacher as a "free" period, and the behaviour of the class is often deplorable. Little or no education of value is learned. What students do learn to do is to misbehave. The casual learns to give that school a miss next time, and the deputy principal has to continue making dozens of calls to cover classes. It is somewhat ironic that I am now on the list as a qualified casual teacher. It is possible that on any day a deputy principal could ring me to ask whether I could come in to teach at any government high school in New South Wales.
You will have to get a pair.
The honourable member for Bathurst reminds me that I will have to get a pair. Clearly my duties here prohibit teaching duty.
You will lose your seat.
That is the very point: I would lose my seat if I took up the offer. The very people who put my name on the list perhaps should be aware that a member of Parliament cannot teach without losing his job. I am pleased to note that the marks needed to enter teaching courses have recently risen. But senior teachers no longer advise their better students to become teachers; they actively discourage them. Indeed, it might be said
that any student who is intelligent enough to become a teacher is smart enough not to. Teachers are expected to control and educate up to 30 students in a class at a time, yet many parents have little or no control over their children at home. With high youth unemployment, the decline of apprenticeships and the end of the "dead-end job", many young people can look forward only to the work for the dole scheme. What are we saying to our youth when our generation is working for an income - we hold down a career - and they are working for the dole?
I know that resources are finite and demands are infinite. However, we must find more resources to assist the genuinely troubled students in schools. Too much time is taken up in disciplining a dozen students constantly and educating the other several hundred in the school inadequately, or perhaps even inadvertently. We must recognise that the cycle of bad, violent behaviour, suspension, parent interview, back to class, bad behaviour again, longer suspension and so on does little for the student or the family concerned and only wastes more valuable time teachers could use educating other students willing to learn.
There are precious few places for troubled students to go to. They remain at school to cause continued disruption and increase the lack of morale of staff and fellow students, and they lower the prestige of the school in the eyes of the outside community. It is surely time to fund a counsellor at each school, particularly high schools, to assist teaching staff with students with great emotional problems that make learning and indeed social interaction impossible for themselves and others. I believe that access to TAFE courses for year 10 students may go some way toward alleviating this problem.
Time does not allow me to propose detailed solutions to all of the problems facing our schools - and even with my ego I do not believe that I could do that - but time will have to be found soon by those responsible at the Federal level because the drain of funds from government schools to non-government schools is an outrage. In today’s Sydney Morning Herald
there is an article on this issue. I have not yet had a chance to read it. The headline refers to government schools being the bad losers again.
If there is one thing I want to do in this Parliament it is to constantly, without being boring, raise the issue of education. New South Wales is not getting its fair share from the Federal Government and it knows that. Every time a government student leaves a school $1,000 goes with him. Yet when schools gain students nowhere near the same amount is brought in. It is an outrage. It is not the fault of the State Government; it is clearly the fault of the Federal Coalition Government. It has decided to privatise the education system. If we do not find time to solve these problems in the very near future we will not have any time left to do it.
The present Federal Coalition’s financial arrangements with the States for education are a transparent attempt to destroy the government school system in Australia. I will say more about this at a later date. Might I conclude by saying that the electors of East Hills did not vote for me in appreciation of what I have done in the past; they voted for me in anticipation of what we will be able to do in the future. I hope to do as much good as I can in this place and as little ill as possible. I would like to dedicate this speech to my mother, Gwen, who passed away four years ago after a long illness. I am sure that she would have been proud to see me here in this place today.
Mr Speaker, I also thank you and other members of the Parliament, the staff - who have been so helpful - the Whips, Ministers and backbenchers. I thank them for their attendance in the Chamber today and for staying to listen to this speech instead of catching planes out of Sydney. The other newly elected members from both sides of the Parliament and I made a pact to listen to every speech that each one of us made. I thank them for their support. I hope that my time here is successful for the electorate of East Hills and for the Labor Party.
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
ELECTRICITY SUPPLY AMENDMENT BILL
PAY-ROLL TAX AMENDMENT (FURTHER RATE REDUCTION) BILL
PUBLIC FINANCE AND AUDIT AMENDMENT (CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS) BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
(Hornsby) [12.21 p.m.]: I join with other honourable members in congratulating the honourable member for East Hills
and other members on the inaugural speeches they have made either today or in the past few weeks. We welcome them to the Parliament and wish them every success in serving their communities. I particularly wish the honourable member for East Hills every success in serving his community well for four years. We welcome him to the Chamber.
The honourable member for East Hills mentioned education and I should like to make one or two remarks about that before I comment on my shadow responsibilities for community services and how the budget affects my electorate of Hornsby. Members will obviously be aware of my former role as the shadow minister for education. I hope that the honourable member for East Hills will continue to raise matters relating to education in the Parliament in a non-partisan way. He has pointed to many real and serious problems in the education system, problems about which there was much debate across the Chamber between myself and the Minister for Education and Training during the past four years.
In all honesty I believe that the Government does not have the will or the policy framework to address the fundamental, deep-seated problems that are present in our education system. The honourable member for East Hills mentioned one or two of them, but those problems include particularly the nature and status of the teaching profession. He mentioned the average age of teachers and their morale. Many of the problems relating to those matters can be resolved only by serious structural change.
As a member of this Parliament I strongly advocate a re-examination of the way education is structured in New South Wales. I will continue to do so. I firmly believe a much stronger focus on the early years is needed, particularly incorporating pre-schools and school education in the early years. Community-based solutions are needed that draw together all those involved in early childhood education. They should have a common purpose and a common policy of making sure that children are given the best possible start in life.
The curriculum and the way in which it is delivered in those most formative years needs to be looked at. That includes educating people before they become parents because the upskilling of parents in the support of the cognitive development of their children is the single most important thing that can be done to ensure that those children are successful at school. I believe that in New South Wales a proper program of middle schooling must be started from year 5.
It is no good the Minister for Education and Training talking about starting middle schooling at year 7. That is another way of describing junior high school, and is an attempt to justify his decision to separate senior high schools and dress up junior high schools, which will be the worst of all places to work. The honourable member for East Hills is concerned about period eight on Friday afternoons, but what will it be like when a school only has students in years 7 to 10 and there are no senior student role models to provide peer support and cultural examples of good models of learning within the school?
I believe that middle schooling needs to operate from years 5 to 9, or perhaps from years 5 to 10. The current models need to be thoroughly researched. Our schools need to work more co-operatively across the middle years. For me middle schooling does not mean building new schools; it means providing co-operative links between primary and high schools within a particular area to create middle schooling programs which have teachers working across the different sites to deliver a more unified curriculum to the middle years. There also needs to be a much more flexible approach to senior schooling, including many more vocational and community options for students, who these days are young adults and need to work in many different modes; they require different outcomes from their Higher School Certificate.
This is the first time I have addressed a budget as the honourable member for Hornsby. Previously I represented the electorate of Ku-ring-gai. I am proud to be the honourable member for Hornsby, an electorate which stretches from Brooklyn - in fact, Dangar Island - in the north to Westleigh and Thornleigh in the south. The electorate stretches from the Bobbin Head Inn and Halvorsen Boats Pty Ltd in the east across to Berowra Creek in the west. I am sure the House will be pleased to learn that Halvorsen has recently signed a new contract with the National Parks and Wildlife Service that enable the company to continue operating there.
The area has incredible natural beauty. The environment is an important part of the reason people live there. The electorate is an area of great diversity, and an increasing number of people of Chinese background are moving into the area, where a great deal of development is taking place. It is an area in which many families have lived for a long time. Many people I meet moved there as young married couples 50 or 60 years ago. One couple recently had their seventieth wedding anniversary at a nursing home in Turramurra in my former electorate of Ku-ring-gai.
People move to the electorate of Hornsby and stay there; they want their children to grow up there. Despite all of the promises of the Australian Labor Party during the election campaign, it is clear that the needs of the electorate of Hornsby are not being met by the current Government. I will focus on some of those needs and on the deceit of the Labor Party, the promises made during the election campaign not having been honoured. In doing so, I draw the attention of the House to a document produced by the Carr Government after its recent budget entitled "Meeting our Commitments 1999-2000 State Budget". The footnote of the document reads "Achieving more for your family".
The Government is not achieving more for the families of Hornsby. That nine-page document contains 274 Labor Party commitments made during the State election campaign. According to the Labor Party every one of those 274 commitments has been met. The budget contains a number of general commitments and a great many specific commitments to individual electorates. How many of those commitments were made to the electorate of Hornsby? Not one of the 274 commitments was specific to the electorate of Hornsby, yet in this document the Government claims it has met all of the commitments it made during election campaign.
The Treasurer said in his Budget Speech that the Government had met all its commitments in this budget and that it had provided funding for the program it outlined to the people of New South Wales during the election campaign. If that is the case, what did the Labor candidate for Hornsby in the election campaign offer? What were his commitments? Whose commitments were they? When he said that he was the officially endorsed Labor candidate for Hornsby and ran from one end of the electorate to the other making specific commitments, were they made on behalf of the Australian Labor Party? Of course they were, because he was the endorsed candidate.
The Government claims it has fulfilled the long list of commitments in the 1999-2000 budget, but why are the commitments to Hornsby not on that list? Why has not one single, solitary commitment made by the Labor Party to my electorate materialised in the list of commitments that the Government now admits to publicly as being Labor’s election platform? The only conclusion that honourable members can draw is that Labor’s campaign in the electorate of Hornsby was a complete deceit from start to finish. The people in my electorate are very angry about that.
Labor said to the people of the Hornsby electorate, "Make Hornsby a more marginal seat and you will get funding from governments. You will get funding from the Labor Party." Because of a number of factors - one being that many of the promises that the Liberal Party made, in particular the promise about electricity privatisation, caused great concern in my electorate and other electorates - we ran a very bad election campaign across the State. That has been acknowledged publicly by the Leader of the Opposition and others, and I am happy to accept responsibility for my part in that. It was a bad campaign, the tide was going out and the Government was very clever - but the Government was deceitful. It was deceitful across the State of New South Wales and it was deceitful in the electorate of Hornsby.
Despite the fact that, for those reasons, we contributed to the swing against us across the State and in the Liberal Party, some people in my electorate made a judgment that they wanted to change their vote because they believed the rhetoric that if they made the seat of Hornsby more marginal it would receive government funding. They believed promises that were made on behalf of the Government by the Labor candidate for Hornsby. However, I repeat, none of those promises appears on the official list of promises distributed this week by the Carr Government - promises that it said it made to the electorates of New South Wales, all 93 of them, and promises that it says were met during the election campaign. So Labor’s promises to the Hornsby electorate - if they were ever serious promises - have evaporated.
The people of my electorate and I will be working together over the next four years - as we have during the past four years - to try to get our genuine needs recognised and funded by the Government. It is all very well for the Labor Party to come along in the last three months before an election and say, "Guess what? We have suddenly discovered the electorate of Hornsby. We have suddenly discovered the needs of its schools. We have suddenly discovered the need of Cowan for sewerage. We have suddenly discovered the need of Westleigh for traffic improvements. We have suddenly discovered the need of the environment to have the sewage treatment plants upgraded. We have suddenly discovered the need of the hospital to have additional funding so that the maternity unit meets fire safety standards."
It is all very well for the Labor Party to suddenly discover all of these things from January
1999. But, at the end of the day, on 27 March 1999, when it was clear that Labor had not won the seat of Hornsby, that was as far as its commitment went - if ever it was a serious commitment. It is clear that the Australian Labor Party candidate for the Hornsby electorate was making up wild promises as he went along. By contrast, every single one of the commitments I made on behalf of the Coalition to the electorate of Hornsby was not only my personal commitment as the local member but was a funded and approved commitment on behalf of the Liberal Party and its Coalition partner, the National Party. Every one of those commitments was funded, and every one of them was achievable upon the election of a Coalition Government.
It is with deep regret that I acknowledge that we did not win the election. Why? Firstly, because we could have, and would have, delivered on every one of our commitments to the Hornsby electorate; we would have improved life for the residents of Hornsby; and we would have improved the infrastructure for the people of Hornsby. Indeed, in my other role as shadow education minister, we would have had a great crack at improving the education system to address the problems referred to earlier by the honourable member for East Hills - problems which are not being met by his colleague the Minister for Education and Training. Our personal commitments to the community were funded and costed.
What were they?
I will tell you what they were in a moment. As shadow minister for education and training, I personally had signed off on every one of the commitments that my colleague was making around New South Wales, and the shadow treasurer had approved every one as part of our forward capital works program. The same cannot be said of the promises made by the Australian Labor Party to the people of Hornsby.
I should like to refer to a couple of promises made by the Labor Party but not delivered in the budget. A promise was made to improve commuter car parking at Berowra railway station. In fact, the candidate offered multistorey commuter car parking. However, the Government’s budget allocates no funding whatsoever for multistorey car parking at Berowra station. The Australian Labor Party gave a commitment to improve commuter car parking at Hornsby railway station. However, the budget provides no funding for parking at Hornsby railway station.
The Labor candidate gave a commitment to improve the intersection of Duffy Avenue and Chilvers Road in Westleigh. That is a critical intersection for the development that is about to take place at the Ormond site, the former juvenile justice centre that, just months before the election, was sold by the Australian Labor Party to a developer for medium density housing. That developer now has plans before council for 150 or 170 homes in that area. It is a large development that will have a substantial impact on traffic and other urban density issues in Westleigh, and will also impact on Thornleigh.
It is absolutely critical to the people of that area that the upgrade of the intersection of Duffy Avenue and Chilvers Road and the railway bridge over Duffy Avenue, which joins up with Pennant Hills Road, is funded and the work completed so that traffic flow is improved before the Ormond site development is completed. Members of the Coalition, my predecessor the honourable member for Northcott, in whose electorate this area is, and I as the Liberal candidate have been pointing that out to the Government for a number of years.
During the election campaign the Labor candidate for Hornsby discovered the issue. I was present at a public meeting when he said, "I have spoken to Carl Scully, the Minister for Roads and Transport. He has told me that there is $600,000 from the State Government available after the election for the work to be done on this intersection. It is a joint-funded project, its cost is $1.2 million, and the State Government’s component of $600,000 is ready to go." The figure was in excess of $600,000. My recollection is that it was $670,000 but in the literature he mentions the figure $600,000. In an open letter titled "It's Time to Secure Westleigh's Future", dated 21 March, the Labor candidate said on behalf of the Australian Labor Party:
Recently I approached the Minister for Transport, to seek joint funding between the government and the Council to address [the intersection and the rail bridge]. Once elected, I consider it my priority to immediately facilitate the upgrades of these two bottlenecks using State resources matched by Council's Section 94 contributions.
It is clear that that was a specific promise to the people of the electorate of Hornsby. Where in the budget is funding for the intersection referred to? It is not there. We rang the Roads and Traffic Authority. In fact, as an aside, we rang the person referred to who is nominated at the back of the budget papers as the agency’s official representative to take inquiries. When we rang we were told, "I’m sorry, I can’t answer your question because I have to refer every question to the Minister."
What is the point of having an agency contact listed for members of the public or members of Parliament to find out more about the Government’s commitments, if every question has to be referred to the Minister’s office? We are in a State of secrecy. Why does the Government do that? It does that to enable the Australian Labor Party to continue the deceitful way in which it governs the State of New South Wales.
That promise has not been funded. Another promise was the provision of sewerage facilities for Cowan. The people of Cowan have voted that from 1 July they will not pay the septic tank levy. Although they were promised that sewerage facilities were a priority, there is no provision for it in the budget. Other commitments have not been honoured. I repeat: Not one single funding commitment given by the Australian Labor Party to my electorate has been included in the budget. Over the next four years I will work with the people of Hornsby on issues of extreme importance, including the upgrading of Hornsby hospital and making sure its future is secure. The hospital should have a new maternity unit and a mothercraft unit. The hospital needs new acute care facilities and wards need upgrading. The future of the hospital on its current site must be secured.
Local schools need increased funding. Mt Colah Public School needs an upgrade and a hall, schools at Hornsby Heights and Berowra need halls, the school at Brooklyn needs toilets, the school at Normanhurst needs a play area, and other schools need increased facilities. We need to make sure that train stations get the security that has been promised and that staff are not taken away. We need more police in Berowra, but the Government has decreased police numbers in Berowra in the past 1½ months. We need to stop the expansion of traffic on Pennant Hills Road. The sewerage treatment plants need upgrading; sewerage must be provided to Cowan and nearby areas. Labor’s septic tank fees must be abolished; there must be no tax on any owner-occupied home; we must prevent the hard waste recycling at Mount Ku-ring-gai and repatriate that site for recreational use and for the environment.
The Kangaroo Point development must be stopped and only the Carr Government can do that - it must honour its promise to do that. Berowra Valley must be protected from further development. My electorate needs better youth facilities, including skateboard ramps. The Nightride bus must be extended to Hornsby Heights and Berowra. New commuter car parking needs to be provided at Berowra and Hornsby stations. A multilevel car park is needed at other stations. I look forward to working with the community to make the Government honour its commitments over the next four years. [Time expired.
(Murray-Darling) [12.41 p.m.]: Honourable members, and particularly the honourable member for Tamworth, would realise that over the past several days a challenge has been issued for me and other members of country Labor to state its position with respect to the budget. Now, as when I delivered my maiden speech, not one member of the National Party is in the Chamber. At the opening of this session of Parliament it was clearly established that Labor is the natural party for the bush. According to statistics that is the case, as I have said. Labor has 49.24 per cent of regional and rural New South Wales seats and our three good Independents have 8 per cent. The National Party has only 38.8 per cent; the worst result that the National Party has had since 1971.
This result has been achieved with a swing of more than a 10 per cent increase in Labor’s primary vote in the bush since 1988. In each of the next three budget sessions I will revisit the point that country Labor will deliver, and must deliver, for the simple reason that the National Party cannot. The people of the bush remember with great clarity the rape and pillage that occurred in the years 1988 to 1995. We remember the loss of the Silver City Comet Train, railway lines being torn up, and services closed down willy-nilly across much of New South Wales. We recall the closure of government offices and their relocation back to the city. We recall the massive loss of employment from the railways and the Roads and Traffic Authority.
Another reason that the National Party will always fail is that quite clearly it is being run by the North Shore Liberals. The agenda of the National Party is determined by the North Shore Liberals. I will quote from the very boring speech of the very boring Leader of the National Party at the very boring conference held at Port Macquarie last weekend. He said, "We are done with being cajoled into sharing policies which betray our Party ideals and which distract from our purpose." That is an admission that the National Party is run by the Liberals; that its agenda is not the old agenda of the Country Party, as it was then known. Its agenda is quite inseparable from that of the North Shore Liberals. The editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald
on Wednesday 23 June stated:
The speech given by the NSW National Party leader, Mr George Souris, to the party’s State conference at Port Macquarie sums up what is wrong with the NSW Nationals. "There will be no pussyfooting around with the Independents
and Labor stooges, no quarter given to One Nation and green groupings . . . No more going soft on drug laws, no more watering down of our opposition to indulgent and selfish gay rights laws." This alarmist rhetoric was matched by a conference motion to investigate low-interest housing loans available to Aborigines. The party Mr Souris wants to lead, it seems, is one mired in reactionary politics. It will have prejudices rather than policies. It will look backwards to a world that never existed. It will ignore the realities of the life in the bush at the beginning of the 21st century.
Such a party has a limited chance of survival, as the last State election result suggested. The Nationals recorded their lowest primary vote since 1971.
The editorial concludes:
Unfortunately, State Nationals have replaced economic protectionism with intellectual protectionism. They favour tubthumping rhetoric over values. With such a closed-minded attitude, the party faces a bleak future.
This is the story from this Sydney establishment, this is what can be picked up at the Union Club, this is what the establishment of Sydney is saying about the National Party. What does the National Party say about itself? It cannot deliver, but certainly bush Labor will, because the National Party’s membership is deserting it. Its membership has declined from 53,000 to 8,000 - what a reduction in membership! As I asked earlier, where is that membership going? It is coming across to bush Labor, which will deliver.
The Minister for Local Government recently gave an explanation for why that is occurring. He said it was the Black theory of evolution. I will correct that: it is the Black theory of extinction! The challenge faced by the bush, which country Labor will address, includes a lot of matters associated with traditional industry. I referred to wool, mining, and the traditional industries that are facing massive problems in sustaining employment levels in farms and mines.
Populations in small towns are decreasing. Traditional industries no longer employ the number of people they used to employ; and on top of that we have this ridiculous competition policy promoted by the Federal National Party which has led to problems with selling lamb to the United States of America. We have declining populations in most small towns. We can talk about why people go shopping in regional centres and about the disasters of the banks. Approximately 13,000 bank branches closed across Australia between 1990 and 1998 - 411 in regional and rural New South Wales.
The people in Ivanhoe have no bank. The people in Wentworth now have a bank because they did a deal with Bendigo Bank Ltd after Westpac heartlessly decided to pack up and go. We have massive problems with respect to the Wik decision and with respect to land tenure. Investment in rural and regional New South Wales has gone to Victoria, simply because the 10-point plan might not address the lease in perpetuity provisions, depending upon what happens to the appeal to the Full Bench of the Federal Court in October this year. Unfortunately, lease in perpetuity provisions exist only in New South Wales, and because there is uncertainty people are investing their money in Victoria.
We have massive problems from the competition policy. Over the last few days we have debated matters relating to the supply of fresh milk to children living the country. Schoolchildren in Ivanhoe are not being supplied with flavoured milk during recess periods as a result of problems arising seven years ago. Competition policy, which is driving members of the National Party silly, has resulted in flavoured milk from Victoria being sold in New South Wales. Yesterday in debate in this Chamber I congratulated Dairy Farmers on delivering milk to Bourke, Nyngan and Cobar. That transport subsidy will be continued. But problems are being experienced by Murrumbidgee Dairy Products. That company said that it will continue to supply milk to Hay, but not to Ivanhoe. We are still trying to resolve that problem. Schoolchildren and families living in country New South Wales must not be deprived of the delivery of fresh milk. We are looking for solutions.
I congratulate West Darling pastoralists on leading the way in the sheep industry by importing South African fat tails - sheep that do not need to be shorn. South African fat tails generate many more dollars than merinos do. We are actively promoting alternatives to traditional industries that are winding down and becoming inefficient and ineffective - whether because of world policy or other reasons. I am sure that this initiative will encourage the Minister for Agriculture to implement policies in the bush to sustain bush operations. Broken Hill is an important tourist area. In Broken Hill alone there are more than 1,100 equivalent full-time positions in the tourist industry.
Pasminco now employs 650 people, whereas in 1986 it employed 4,600 breadwinners, let alone other staff. In 1986 Pasminco produced 2.2 million tonnes of concentrate, and the irony is that, as a result of mechanisation, Pasminco is now producing 2.8 million tonnes of concentrate a year, with a reduced work force. The tourism industry in the Murray-Darling area and throughout New South Wales is going a long way towards picking up the losses occasioned in the traditional industries to which I have referred.
I cannot conclude my speech without referring to irrigation. Irrigation will play a major role in the salvation of regional and rural New South Wales because it is becoming more and more efficient. However, the National Farmers Federation and irrigators are not able to reach a common position on policy. The four major irrigation groups in western New South Wales - cotton irrigators in the north, rice irrigators in the south-east, asparagus, orange and grape irrigators to the south, and tea-tree and potato irrigators in Lachlan - are meeting in Broken Hill to try to reach a common position to ensure that our most precious resource, water, goes further. Country Labor will do the job. Members of the National Party had an opportunity to resolve these problems, but they were dominated by North Shore Liberals and they went wrong. People in regional and rural New South Wales cannot afford for that to happen again.
Earlier the honourable member for Hornsby referred to election commitments. I do not know what went on in Hornsby, but I know what went on in western New South Wales. Not only has Country Labor delivered on all its promises, but the Carr Government has been magnificent as it has done more than just honour its commitments. It allocated $1.2 million in the 1999-2000 budget for a brand new, multipurpose hall at Hay - a facility that has been sadly lacking for years. This multipurpose hall, which is now in the planning stages, will be available for use by the entire local community, which at present does not have a civic centre or public hall.
The Government has allocated $245,000 to refurbish Broken Hill TAFE; $1.8 million to improve the Silver City Highway between Broken Hill and Tibooburra; $475,000 for a brand new divisional headquarters for the State Emergency Service [SES] at Cobar. The land for that project has only just been bought. The SES is highly regarded by people in regional New South Wales and in Sydney because of the help it gave those who suffered damage from the recent hailstorm. One item that has been allocated, even though it was not promised, is $450,000 for a major upgrade of Broken Hill fire station.
The Government has also allocated $50,000 for additional improvements to the recently renovated Cobar fire station; and $8.1 million to improve the Balranald electricity supply. People in Balranald cannot progress without this investment; there simply is not enough power available. The Government has also allocated $80,000 to upgrade the Moama-Echuca Bridge; $385,000 for the Barham Bridge; and $190,000 for the Curlwaa Bridge. The Government has also allocated $100,000 for training resources and assessment processes for the Elura mine; and 19 full-time and casual jobs will be created with the brand new, low security gaol at Ivanhoe.
This Government has not forgotten the farmers. Full marks go to country Labor, as the National Party did nothing in this area. The West 2000 program has received a budget allocation of $3 million. Of the order of 203 pastoralists in the Balranald-Wentworth-Central Darling-Broken Hill area are on the special circumstances list. That is a tragedy for many fifth generation families and it is one of the reasons why so many former National Party people are now supporting country Labor. People in the Western Division will receive woody weed control grants of up to $10,000; interest rate subsidies of up to $150,000; debt restructuring grants of up to 80 per cent; individual training grants of up to $3,000; and rabbit ripping grants of up to $5,000. Funding of $2.35 million has also been allocated to combat soil acidity problems and a further $3 million has been allocated for the salt action program. The Government has not forgotten the grazing sector. We will support it, work with it, and work for it.
Roadworks in the Murray-Darling electorate this year include: $900,000 for repairs to the Murray River Bridge at Robinvale; $1.6 million for Sturt Highway repaving; $55,000 for Mid-Western Highway repaving; and $380,000 for Cobb Highway repaving, which will complete that road. That road will be fully bituminised from Booligal to Ivanhoe. Other roadworks include $232,000 for repairs to the Narrandera-Mossgiel Road; $500,000 for the replacement of Salthole Creek Bridge, a single-lane bridge - the last single-lane bridge on a major highway; $150,000 to continue the operation of Speewa ferry; $200,000 for the repaving of the Mitchell Highway; and $1,653,000 to repair the bridges to which I referred earlier.
The Carr Government, through country Labor, has honoured its commitment to the mining industry in Broken Hill. It has allocated half a million dollars to match the half a million dollars from Pasminco, and it is now up to the Federal Government to put in another million, post-restructuring and following the mine closure in 2006. Police will no longer be responsible for escorting prisoners to and from courts; the Department of Corrective Services will now have that responsibility. In Murray-Darling the Government is allocating $4.89 million to housing for external and internal painting and repairs. It is allocating $310,000 for special projects, including fire prevention upgrading, security and replacements
works, and another $300,000 to modify homes for disabled people. These are just some of the housing initiatives contained in the budget. The Government is contributing $8.5 million to improve homes in disadvantaged areas to an agreed standard. A total of $421,000 has been allocated for home and community care schemes in various towns. In addition, $144,500 has been allocated for infrastructure services for the Waterways Authority.
I conclude by referring to the wonderful hospital currently being constructed in Broken Hill, due for completion in September. That project is on time and under budget. The Government is contributing another $6.9 million to this project. This new 88-bed hospital will include an emergency unit, state-of-the-art operating suites, a community health centre and a public health unit. I have demonstrated to my good friend the honourable member for Tamworth that country Labor is delivering in the bush. We are going to do better. We are going to make sure that the National Party never gets off the hook. We will be talking in this Chamber about the Black theory of evolution for the next four years.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Brogden.
[Madam Acting-Speaker (Mrs Beamer) left the chair at 1.01 p.m. The House resumed at 2.00 p.m.
SURVEY (GEOCENTRIC DATUM OF AUSTRALIA) BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Granville - Minister for Information Technology, Minister for Energy, Minister for Forestry, and Minister for Western Sydney) [2.00 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
Australia has taken a national decision to change the mapping datum used in Australia. That change will affect everyone who uses mapping, spatial data or co-ordinates of latitude and longitude. The aim of this bill is to define the new datum, called the geocentric datum of Australia [GDA]. A datum is a mathematical model of the surface of the earth on which mapping and co-ordinate systems are based and is fundamental for describing where things are in relation to each other. As the words imply, "geocentric datum" is a datum which has its origin at the earth’s centre of mass. The key advantages of the GDA over Australia’s current datum are that GDA is totally compatible with satellite-based navigation systems such as the global positioning system [GPS] and with major international geographic information systems.
The current mathematical model in use in Australia - the Australian geodetic datum [AGD] - was designed to best fit the Australian region. The GDA is designed to model the whole planet. Retaining the current Australian system in an international environment where positioning, navigation and information systems relate to a global earth model is becoming increasingly inefficient and difficult. The use of a globally compatible co-ordinate system within Australia is now inevitable given the rapid increase in the use of GPS technology in the land transport, aviation, maritime, defence, emergency service and community sectors. A number of Commonwealth agencies, including defence, aviation and maritime industries, have already adopted the geocentric datum. The longer we stay with the existing system the more difficult and expensive it will be to convert to GDA.
The proposed legislation is the product of recommendations made by the Inter-governmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping [ICSM], which comprises the Surveyor-General of New South Wales and his counterparts from all Australian jurisdictions, New Zealand and defence. ICSM has recommended that Australia convert to GDA by the year 2000 and has provided the new co-ordinate framework to enable this to happen. The Surveyor-General of New South Wales proposed the adoption of GDA for all government agencies from 1 January 2000 in line with commitments by other jurisdictions. This proposal was endorsed by the New South Wales Government late last year.
Adopting a geocentric datum allows for a single standard for collecting, storing and using geographic data. This will ensure compatibility across various geographic systems at the local, regional, national and global level. This is the main reason that the GDA will form the basis for the Australian spatial data infrastructure [ASDI], which provides the infrastructure to manage Australia’s key spatial data sets. Adoption of a geocentric datum will also provide a range of benefits including providing direct compatibility with global positioning system [GPS] measurements and mapping or geographic information systems [GIS] which are based on the geocentric datum; minimising the need for casual users to understand datum transformations; allowing more efficient use of organisations’ spatial data resources by reducing the need for duplication and unnecessary
translations; helping to promote wider use of spatial data through one user-friendly data environment; and reducing the risk of confusion as GPS, GIS and navigation systems become more widely used in business and recreational activities.
Adoption of GDA does not mean that positions on the earth’s surface will move; rather, the geographic co-ordinates or latitudes and longitudes used to describe the position of objects will vary by about 200 metres in a north-easterly direction because of the different models. The actual size and orientation of the change will vary slightly from place to place. It should be possible to convert existing digital spatial data to GDA where the datum of the original digital data is known. Raster or image data such as remote sensing images may need to be treated differently and the suppliers or developers of this data will be consulted on any transformation issues. It is estimated that about 30 per cent of all geographic information is still held as paper maps. Much of this information may not require conversion. All organisations will require individual strategies for paper-based products. Some simple strategies for existing paper-based maps may involve the placement of warning stickers or stamps alerting the user to the change.
Part 2 of the bill provides a mechanism for defining in mathematical terms the geocentric datum of Australia. The proposed legislation also empowers the Surveyor-General, as the Government’s chief adviser on surveying and mapping, to amend or replace the datum from time to time and to specify systems to be used in map projections in connection with the datum. Map projection systems provide a means of describing the earth’s three-dimensional curved surface in the form of a two-dimensional map and the grid co-ordinates that are used, such as easting and northing and geographic co-ordinates, which are latitude and longitude.
To remove ambiguity and for consistency, the Government, through the Surveyor-General, needs to specify official map projections to be used in New South Wales. Legal boundaries are generally defined by physical features or marks on the ground. These boundaries, such as State borders and land titles, will not change, though the co-ordinates of them may. There are some minor exceptions to this general principle in the mining sector. Some boundaries may have been defined by co-ordinates in terms of the AGD. These boundaries will not change, although the co-ordinates will be different when converted to GDA. In some cases, boundaries have been defined by co-ordinates without reference to a co-ordinate system. In these instances, the physical location has always been uncertain and this will remain.
Part 3 of the bill deals with regulation-making powers allowing the Government to make regulations giving effect to this legislation. Schedule 2 of the bill deals with amendments to various Acts - the Mining Act 1992, the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991, the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1982 and the Survey Co-ordination Act 1949. Under the Mining Act 1992, amongst the range of titles granted are exploration licences and assessment leases. There are presently about 780 exploration licences, 180 exploration licence applications, one assessment lease and 19 assessment lease applications in New South Wales. Exploration licences and applications for those titles are granted and applied for in respect of areas of land defined as units. The same can apply for assessment leases and assessment lease applications.
To describe the system briefly, New South Wales is covered by parallels of latitude and meridians of longitude. "Unit" is defined in section 370 of the Mining Act 1992. A unit is an area bounded by one minute of latitude by one minute of longitude. Each unit is approximately three square kilometres in size. The datum used for the latitudes and longitudes is set out in section 371 of the Mining Act 1992 and refers to the Australian geodetic datum 1966. This bill provides that section 371 is to be replaced by a new section referring to the new geocentric datum of Australia. This will mean that latitudes and longitudes, and therefore "units", will move approximately 200 metres to the south-west.
Schedule 2 of this bill sets out in detail how all exploration licences and all applications for exploration licences, which are defined by reference to units, will shift to the south-west by approximately 200 metres. This will occur on the commencement of the appropriate clause. The same will apply to assessment leases and assessment lease applications where they are defined by units. Officers of the Surveyor General’s Office and the Department of Mineral Resources have been involved in the development of this provision. The movement of all licences and applications on a nominated date is the desirable course to take. It will overcome the need to keep two sets of maps - one on the old system and another on the new system.
This approach will also overcome the considerable difficulties which would otherwise arise of having some titles on the new system and some on the old and the associated problems of being able to ensure that boundaries of licences and applications do not overlap. However, it is recognised that some licence holders may have located valuable mineral deposits within their licence areas adjacent to northern and eastern boundaries.
For this reason, paragraph 5 under the heading "Boundaries of exploration licences" and paragraph 3 under the heading "Boundaries of assessment leases" have been specifically included in proposed schedule 6. Under those paragraphs the holder of an exploration licence and assessment lease may apply, within 90 days after the commencement of the section, to the Minister for Mineral Resources to have the licence or lease restored to the whole or a specified part of the land excluded.
Of the 780 exploration licences, it has been estimated that in perhaps 20 to 30 cases licence holders may seek a restoration to an original boundary. Similar amendments are being made to the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 and the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1982. There are presently 27 petroleum exploration licences and two petroleum exploration licence applications under the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991. There are presently no licences or applications for the coastal waters offshore of New South Wales under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1982. The bill will amend section 6 of the Survey Co-ordination Act 1949, requiring all surveys carried out by or on behalf of a public authority, other than surveys carried out in accordance with the Surveyors Act, to be made in accordance with the geocentric datum of Australia.
No private organisation will be forced to change. Individual State government policies may require State agencies to comply with the GDA at least for the transfer of data. As always, individual organisations will be based on a co-ordinate system they require - AGD or whatever. However, as others change to GDA, it may become increasingly inefficient to use project-based co-ordinate systems where external data is required. Adoption of this bill will see Australia and New South Wales well placed to take advantage of emerging global technologies and related standards.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Fraser.
GAS SUPPLY AMENDMENT (SAFETY) BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Granville - Minister for Information Technology, Minister for Energy, Minister for Forestry, and Minister for Western Sydney) [2.18 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The prime purpose of the Gas Supply Amendment (Safety) Bill is to amend the Gas Supply Act 1996 to provide for improved safety regulations for gas appliances and gas installations. In particular, the amendments will give us the ability to make regulations regarding the safety of gas appliances at the point of sale and the maintenance, operation and replacement of gas appliances and installations. In addition, the bill will resolve an anomaly by extending the power to make regulations to cover flues attached to gas appliances. These improved safety provisions are part of the Government’s ongoing and comprehensive program of reforms to the gas industry.
The aim of the reform program is to introduce a competitive market in natural gas in New South Wales that is of benefit to consumers. Competition in the supply of natural gas will benefit gas consumers, as well as the wider economy. At the same time, the Government is ensuring that customer safety is not compromised. The Carr Labor Government began the gas reforms with the Gas Supply Act 1996. The Act saw New South Wales become the first State in Australia to provide access to third parties to gas distribution systems, removing major barriers to entry for new market participants.
New South Wales is alone amongst the mainland States of Australia in that it has no known commercial deposits of conventional natural gas and no commercial production of gas. Most of the natural gas sold in New South Wales is produced in the Moomba fields in South Australia, and distributed to customers through networks owned by a single operator and sold by a single associated large retailer. This situation is now changing because of the reforms put in place by the Carr Labor Government. In September 1998, the interconnector pipeline connecting New South Wales with Victoria was completed. The interconnector was built because access to existing markets for new supplies of gas is guaranteed by the Government’s gas reforms. Since the Carr Labor Government was elected, a growing number of rural and regional centres have become part of the New South Wales gas grid, including Forbes, Parkes, Narromine, Dubbo, Wellington, Culcairn, Henty, Holbrook, Walla Walla, Howlong, Corowa, Mulwala, Tocumwal and Finley, as well as the Blue Mountains.
Pipeline construction work is currently under way or planned to bring gas to Lockhart, Tumut, Gundagai, Batlow, Adelong, Gilgandra, Dunedoo, Coolah, Gulgong, Mudgee, Coonabarabran, Gunnedah, Werris Creek, Quirindi, Tamworth, Narrabri, Moree, Temora, Cooma, Bombala, Jindabyne, Berridale and Tweed Heads. In addition to new centres being supplied, the reforms the Government is putting in place are opening up the market to retail competition. In fact, New South
Wales is ahead of all the other States and Territories in opening its market to competition. From 1 July 2000, all gas customers in the State, including households, will be able to take advantage of competition in the gas retail market. The Government has pursued these reforms in order to provide benefits to customers in the form of greater customer choice, lower prices and improved quality of service and supply.
In this changing gas market, a high priority for the Government continues to be ensuring the safety of gas customers. There are a number of safety requirements imposed on gas network operators and retailers under the Gas Supply Act 1996. The Gas Supply (Safety and Operating Plans) Regulation 1997 requires gas network operators to develop and implement independently audited plans for the safe operation of their gas distribution systems. Gas network operators must demonstrate that they have considered all possible hazards to their systems. They must put in place provisions and emergency procedures to minimise any potential danger. Gas retailers are required, as a condition of their authorisation or licence, to develop and implement a consumer safety awareness program to make sure that their customers are informed on the safe use of gas.
The Gas Supply Amendment (Safety) Bill builds on these requirements. The bill extends the scope of the regulation-making powers of the Gas Supply Act and removes an anomaly contained in the Act. In addition, the bill amends the objects of the Gas Supply Act to include the promotion of the safe use of gas. The bill amends the Gas Supply Act to provide for improved safety regulations concerning both gas appliances and gas installations. A gas installation comprises the piping, fittings and controls in a customer’s premises - that is, the link between the reticulated gas supply and the actual appliance. The bill does not impose any new requirements, but simply gives us the ability to make regulations regarding the safety of gas appliances at the point of sale, and the maintenance, operation and replacement of gas appliances and installations.
In addition, the bill will resolve an anomaly by extending the power to make regulations to cover flues attached to gas appliances. The Gas Supply Act’s existing regulatory powers do not cover the safety of gas appliances at the point of sale. As a result, a person may legally obtain an appliance which has not been certified as safe. If the appliance were faulty, or designed for a form of gas other than that supplied, and if the appliance were then to be connected to a gas supply, a serious accident may occur. The bill will broaden the scope of the Act to provide the power to make regulations prohibiting the sale of unsafe appliances. The bill is consistent with the Australia and New Zealand Minerals and Energy Council agreement, to which New South Wales is party, that there should be common safety arrangements for gas appliances. The bill will bring us into line with most other States and Territories that already have the power to regulate the safety of gas appliances at the point of sale.
In order to adhere to the agreement, New South Wales needs to be able to ensure that only gas appliances properly certified in respect of safety can be sold. The bill is consistent also with the requirements of mutual recognition agreements. All jurisdictions party to such agreements need to have appropriate regulations covering the sale of goods. If they do not have such regulations, then regulations in other jurisdictions could be ineffective. To ensure the effectiveness of legislation as it affects gas appliances in Australia and New Zealand, New South Wales needs to be able to introduce appropriate regulations covering the sale of gas appliances.
Responsibility for the safe use of gas appliances lies with the owner or occupier of the premises where the appliance is installed and used. Some gas appliances may not be properly maintained or may be installed in places with poor ventilation, such as bathrooms and under kitchen sinks. This presents a significant safety concern. A specific example is the old-fashioned type of water heater often installed above the bath. In New South Wales, these have not been certified for connection to gas systems for many years. Nevertheless, there still are many such units in service and their safe operation may be compromised in the event of poor maintenance or back draughts. In certain circumstances, they may cause fatalities.
As I pointed out, the maintenance of a gas appliance is the responsibility of the owner or user, regardless of whether a specific law says so. Even so, it is desirable for safety legislation to be able to require gas appliances to be maintained in safe order or even removed from service if maintenance is no longer feasible or does not ensure safe operation. This will assist the industry with its public awareness campaigns aimed at the users of unsafe appliances. The bill covers this. When appliances are found to be unsafe and there is no satisfactory alternative, they would need to be disconnected. If such a regulation were found to be necessary, then it would be phased in over a reasonable period.
It is intended that enforcement of any new regulations based on the new provision would be through existing arrangements. For example, gasfitters would be required to notify the network operator of appliances which are unsafe, and network operators already have the power to enter premises to disconnect such appliances. New regulations concerning potentially unsafe appliances would initially apply only to the old-fashioned water heaters in bathrooms that I have mentioned, not other gas appliances. Extending regulations to cover other gas appliances will be considered only if, and when, they are found to be a problem. As with gas appliances, responsibility for the maintenance and safe use of gas installations lies with the owner or occupier of the premises concerned.
The safe use of gas, at times, can be as much related to the safe operation of the pipes and fittings connecting the appliance to the gas supply source as it is to the appliance itself. It is therefore prudent to extend the Act’s regulation-making powers to include the installation, alteration, maintenance, repair, replacement and operation of gas installations. An additional matter that the bill addresses is an anomaly in the Act’s definitions. The bill resolves this by including in the definition of "gasfitting work" the connection and disconnection of flue piping. The effect of this will be to require that such work be done only by an appropriately qualified person, as is the case for other gasfitting works.
Let me emphasise that the bill amends the Gas Supply Act by enabling improved safety regulations concerning gas appliances and gas installations to be made. It is intended that any new regulations made pursuant to the new powers under the Gas Supply Act will be developed in close consultation with all stakeholders to ensure they are practical and cost-effective. The details of the approach to be taken will be developed as part of the consultation process and any new regulations will be subject to the usual regulatory impact statement and public consultation processes. I emphasise that the New South Wales Government is strongly committed to improving safety in the community. These amendments to the Gas Supply Act demonstrate this commitment. We are creating a safe and competitive gas market that benefits New South Wales gas consumers. As the gas market becomes increasingly competitive, the Government will ensure that the safety of gas customers will not be compromised. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Fraser.
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
ELECTRICITY SUPPLY AMENDMENT BILL
PAY-ROLL TAX AMENDMENT (FURTHER RATE REDUCTION) BILL
PUBLIC FINANCE AND AUDIT AMENDMENT (CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS) BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour
(Pittwater) [2.30 p.m.]: I would like to refer to two areas in particular. Firstly, matters concerning the electorate of Pittwater and, secondly, matters that affect my responsibilities as a shadow minister. Before doing that I express my disappointment at the way in which the Government has put the budget together. In many ways the budget reads differently this year. Significant changes have been made to the ways in which Government trading agencies declare their dividends. In previous budgets each agency declared its dividends individually. For instance, Sydney Water would declare its dividend as a line item in the budget. However, in this year’s budget the Government has lumped trading enterprises together in categories. Rather than outlining specifically the Sydney Water dividend, it has been lumped with waste and water. It is now impossible to know from the budget papers exactly what dividend is expected from the Government. For instance, this has been demanded of Sydney Water by the Treasury.
Overall staffing numbers for agencies have been taken out of the budget. In general there are fewer details on general budgetary matters. It is the prerogative of Government to frustrate the Opposition to the best of its ability so that it is harder for the Opposition to take the Government to task on budgetary matters. That may be the politics of it, but the reality is that it is harder for the community to compare approaches, staffing numbers and programs from year to year. It is with some disappointment that I speak to this matter today. It was made clear that this is a very good Labor budget. When the Treasurer delivered his budget address on Tuesday as a guest in this House he made it quite clear that he was proud of the fact that
it was a great Labor budget. It is interesting to note that the Minister for Western Sydney is in the Chamber. For all I can see it may be a good budget for western Sydney, but it is a terrible budget for the northern beaches.
It gives nothing to the northern beaches. The budget has very little for any community projects, or any projects at all. If I recall, the word "Manly" was mentioned only once in the Budget Speech, and that was in reference to a 10-year program to update JetCats and ferries. No other specific projects have been mentioned for the northern beaches. I would like to address some of the concerns of my community that I have raised continuously since my election just over three years ago. Firstly, I note that the Government has not allocated additional funds for the upgrading of Mona Vale Road. The last seven kilometres of Ring Road 3, which extends from Terrey Hills to Mona Vale, is a two-lane road, one lane each way. At Terrey Hills it becomes a four-lane, divided road. With two exceptions it is a divided road all the way through, and past the Olympic facilities. But at the very end, in Pittwater, it becomes an absolute goat track.
During the last eight years 12 deaths have occurred on that road, the majority of them around the Baha’i temple at Ingleside. Honourable members may recall a tragic accident that occurred in June last year at the corner of Emma Street and Mona Vale Road at Mona Vale that resulted in the deaths of two people. After those two unnecessary and tragic deaths, the Government finally came to the party and announced $4 million worth of funding for the upgrading of the intersection of Mona Vale Road and Emma Street, and for upgrading work at the Baha’i temple at Ingleside. That had not been done in the third quarter of last year. The Emma Street works are almost complete. The Government, as it said it would, has purchased the house. It has relieved the parents of one of the victims of the burden of owning a home in a very dangerous position.
The Government has upgraded the corner and moved the telegraph pole, which will make the corner safer. The next stage is the upgrading of Ingleside. We have seen very little action there. There has been no turning of the first sod. That is where the majority of the 12 deaths in the past eight years have occurred. I and the community of Pittwater are still waiting for some action on the upgrading of that section of the road. We have not yet seen the Government deal with the long-term traffic issues associated with Mona Vale Road, particularly the climbing lane out of Mona Vale Cemetery, which is a terrible traffic bottleneck for people trying to get out of the northern beaches to go across Sydney for work or school. Motorists caught behind a bus or a truck have their daily travel time increased by 15 or 20 minutes. That happens on the half hour every half hour, up and down Mona Vale Road, and more frequently during peak hour.
It is an unacceptable, ongoing situation. I would be happy to sit down and talk with the Minister about long-term plans for Mona Vale Road. After many requests I was pleased that the Director of Roads agreed to meet me. At my request we were joined by the General Manager of Pittwater Council on site to discuss an upgrade. But it is quite clear that the Government is baulking at the necessary funds to upgrade the road. It has gone far beyond a community issue, because the road is used on the weekend by people from all parts of Sydney who come to enjoy the beautiful northern beaches. Weekdays are worse than weekends because daytrippers come to the northern beaches to enjoy that beautiful part of Sydney. They are just as much victims as the community of Pittwater. I again call on the Government to come back to the table to talk with me, Pittwater Council and the community to start the long-term work on the upgrading of Mona Vale Road.
It was a commitment of my party at the last election to upgrade Mona Vale Road. It involves expenditure of $30 to $40 million, but it is necessary expenditure and it is long overdue. I call on the Government to come back to the table and start negotiations on the plan. I would now like to refer to lack of funds allocated for the upgrading of schools in Pittwater. Some of the nine primary schools in Pittwater are bursting at the seams. Avalon primary school has an enrolment of 890 students, which is very large and much larger than the community would expect of a school on the northern beaches. Narrabeen North and Narrabeen Lakes primary schools have much smaller enrolments.
Many of the schools are very functional. Because they were built in the late 1960s or early 1970s they have good facilities, but schools at the southern end of the electorate, such as Narrabeen Lakes and Narrabeen North, have very old buildings. In fact, most of the classrooms at Narrabeen Lakes primary school are 1940s demountables that look like something out of a World War II movie. Narrabeen North primary school has similar facilities. The southern end of the Pittwater electorate misses out on necessary facilities.
It is important that I mention Warriewood valley which will be the site of 1,500 new homes over the next 10 years as a result of a land release. That is expected to result in an estimated population of 4,600 and, clearly, literally hundreds of children will be attending Narrabeen north and Narrabeen Lakes primary schools. Presently, those schools do not have adequate facilities; for example, neither school has a hall. I know that Narrabeen Lakes school has entered into negotiations with the Department of Education and Training for the construction of a hall but, apart from that, those schools have been ignored for far too long. I ask the Government to put on its agenda the upgrading of those schools in Pittwater.
The Government’s proposal to close Mona Vale and Manly hospitals and replace them with a new hospital in an area lying somewhere between those two hospitals - possibly Dee Why or Frenchs Forest - is not supported by the people who live in the electorate of Pittwater. They are absolutely and immovably opposed to any plan to close Mona Vale hospital. I make it clear to the Government that there will be no community support for that proposal - none at all. I do not know what community support would be like for the closure of the Manly hospital.
Mona Vale hospital is only 35 years old. It stands as testament to the community spirit in Pittwater. The bricks and mortar have been provided through the hard work of many people in the local community, particularly the chair of the Pittwater Combined Hospitals Auxiliary, Mrs Cora Adcock, OAM. Mrs Adcock has been chair of the auxiliary for more than 30 years and the hospital exists today largely because of the community effort that contributed to its construction.
What will the Government say to the people who live north of Mona Vale - in areas such as Bilgola Plateau, where I live, and beyond - when they have to drive past the Bilgola bends and Mona Vale hospital to get to a hospital at either Dee Why or Forestville? The roads along that route and others in my electorate have not been upgraded to provide quicker access for people who will have to use the proposed new hospital. I remain opposed to the proposal because I am not convinced of the need for it, and I do not think I ever will be.
The Government should understand that any plan based on the current review will be focused purely on medical purposes. I appreciate the reasons for that, but the Government must recognise that it cannot build a new hospital without taking into account the lack of community infrastructure in the surrounding area. This proposal for a new hospital is an attempt to cut the budget of the Northern Sydney Area Health Service, to reduce overheads, and to reduce the recurrent expenditure of Mona Vale and Manly hospitals. The proposal has not been driven by health care needs: rather, it has been driven by funding requirements and cuts. As good as the new hospital may be, the Government proposes to build it, completely disregarding the lack of local infrastructure and the other needs of people who live in Pittwater.
I conclude my remarks on local matters by expressing my disappointment that the Government has not taken up my request for the establishment of a Pittwater harbour manager under an arrangement similar to the one which resulted in the appointment of a Sydney Harbour manager last year. I point out that Pittwater is the second largest inland harbour in the city of Sydney and has a very large boating community. It is also a commuter watercourse and in excess of 1,000 people live on the western foreshores and on Scotland Island. The Government has put absolutely no effort into examining the issue of the need for a harbour manager.
This is a great Labor budget, but it is a terrible budget for the people of the northern beaches and appalling for the people who live in the Pittwater electorate. Yet again, Liberal electorates have been ignored and punished. I really do not know for how much longer communities such as Pittwater, Wakehurst, Davidson and Manly will be able to put up with being ignored by this Labor Government and with being punished simply for voting for a non-Labor member. It is an appalling state of affairs.
I turn now to examine issues associated with the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning [DUAP], Sydney Water and youth affairs. I note that significant changes in this year’s budget will affect the DUAP through the transfer of community housing to the Department of Housing. The overall budget has been cut from $300 million to $16 million, which makes it difficult to make comparisons. Significant restructuring of the department’s programs has also taken place. I note that, and appreciate that it will probably be easier next year to make comparisons and ascertain whether the department operates in accordance with budget priorities.
I am pleased to note that, after considerable pressure was applied by the Coalition and local councils, the Government has backed down on its plan to transfer the Area Assistance Scheme [AAS]. I note that the Government has increased the department’s allocation for the scheme. The
Government set an agenda to transfer the Area Assistance Scheme out of the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning. The scheme’s planning agenda would have been given to the Department of Community Services, which would have taken local councils out of administration of the scheme.
The Government revealed that it had plans to cut the AAS budget and absorb its general programs into the Department of Community Services so in the longer term we would not have been able to successfully assess the programs. Now the Government has backed down and DUAP has retained the programs. That is a source of considerable satisfaction to not only the Opposition but also local councillors and local mayors.
I am concerned about the effects in the longer term of legislative reform to Part 4 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and its consequent effects on the operation of the DUAP. Although the Coalition supported the legislation, some members expressed concern about the style of the reforms, and I was one of them. The main concern now is that although a year has gone by, local councils throughout Sydney have been very slow to take up these reforms and implement them. The Government may use the big stick of State environmental planning policy to force councils to comply. I point out that failure to comply indicates a need for consideration of the reasons why. Do we need councils to adopt a culture shift to enable them to adopt these reforms? Why are councils unwilling to adopt these reforms? Is it because the legislation is not working in practice as was intended?
In my capacity as the shadow minister for Sydney Water, I realise that the northside storage tunnel continues to be an absolute disaster for this Government. Last year the budget allocation under capital works was $300 million and this year it is $430 million. In a period of 12 months, there has been a 40 per cent increase. Many of the key environmental impact projects associated with the tunnel have been removed, so it is costing more and delivering less. Moreover, it is quite clear from the budget papers and from the minimal information the Opposition was able to obtain that the completion date is now 2001. This Olympic project will not be completed until the Olympic Games are over, which is an appalling state of affairs.
Many good people put their name to that project such as David Harley, the Chairman of Sydney Water, and Ian Kiernan, the founder of Clean Up Australia. They put their credibility on the line to support the Government’s project initiative, and they, as well as many others, have been let down by the Government’s failure to properly complete the project on time and within budget. This project remains a disgrace. The total expenditure on the tunnel of $430 million is more than the annual expenditure for the entire Sydney Water Corporation.
I also express concern about staffing cuts. The general budget of the Sydney Water Corporation rightly does not appear in the budget papers, but I am aware that the Sydney Water Board is considering a reduction in staff of 25 per cent or 1,300 staff members. This is the Government’s response to the water crisis. Honourable members should note that it is not a response in terms of services but a response that simply comes down to a reduction in the budget, a reduction in staff numbers and a reduction in services. The Government has responded to last year’s water crisis in an appalling manner.
We also see those proposed staff cuts through the prism of the managing director of Sydney Water, Mr Alex Walker, who has just expended $139,000 on refurbishing his office suite. In that climate there is much community concern about the Government’s administration of Sydney Water. In addition, we have yet to see the full cost of the Sydney Water crisis. It is disappointing that the Government has failed to release a separate youth affairs budget statement. The Government has produced a separate Western Sydney Budget Statement but it has failed to do the same for youth affairs. When the Government came to power in 1995 it abolished the position of Minister for Youth Affairs and has simply rolled it to an assistant to the Premier.
(Ryde - Minister for Fair Trading, and Minister for Sport and Recreation) [2.50 p.m.]: The 1999 Carr Labor budget is excellent news for the people of Ryde. I am pleased that the first budget since I became the member for the new seat of Ryde starts to deliver on the commitments that I made for the area in March. The Carr Government will spend almost $26 million on new capital works in Ryde over the coming year. This will benefit the whole community with improvements to public services and the boost it will provide for the local economy.
Industry figures show that for every $1 million of construction 15 jobs are created. This is great news for local suppliers and building workers. Ryde will get its fair share of the highest ever education and training budget. This shows the Carr Government’s commitment to improving educational opportunities and facilities in New South Wales. Local schools and training institutions will see their facilities improved.
In March this year I promised an upgrade to Denistone East Public School. This year $516,000 has been made available for the first stage of this project, which will cost more than $1 million. This much-needed upgrade will include a new hall, administration block, canteen, toilets and classrooms. The playground will be improved and a covered outdoor learning area will be constructed. It is expected that the first stage will be completed towards the end of 2000.
A further $104,000 has been allocated to continue the improvements to the catering and restaurant training facilities at Ryde TAFE which commenced last year. All up, $500,000 will be spent on upgrading this facility, which is recognised as one of the top training facilities in Australia. Each year graduates gain employment locally, across Australia and overseas in the hospitality industry. The budget sees the start of the $3 million new community health centre at Ryde Hospital. This will be a fantastic addition to local health services and will build on the new mental health facility about to be opened at Ryde Hospital.
Public transport facilities in the seat of Ryde will be improved as a result of the 1999-2000 budget. The $1.4 billion Parramatta rail link will commence. Two new rail stations will link the west to the north. More people will be able to get out of their cars and onto public transport, with the positive effects of improved traffic flow and better air quality. Local railway stations will also be improved. Denistone station will get a security upgrade and shelter, and security at Meadowbank station will be improved.
New high-intensity lighting will be installed at the railway stations at Denistone, Eastwood, West Ryde and Meadowbank and in the car parks at West Ryde and Meadowbank stations as part of the Government’s security upgrade of the 301 CityRail stations and other transport facilities. The full gamut of transport facilities in Ryde will be improved. An amount of $210,000 has been allocated to the Meadowbank cycleway over the John Whitton bridge. The honourable member for Drummoyne has had a lot to do with that project, and I thank him for his support in getting the project up and running. This project will link the Parramatta valley cycleway with the Ryde to Botany cycleway, improving safe cycle access across Sydney.
The Ryde community will have significantly improved cycling facilities for local families, bicycle enthusiasts and children. Safety at the Meadowbank ferry wharf will be improved by the installation of closed-circuit television at a cost of $27,000. I am delighted to advise that the $2.1 million ferry wharf at Kissing Point is due to be completed by the end of this year. The amount of $100,000 has been allocated this financial year to commence the $500,000 upgrade of Eastwood police station. The local community and Gladesville and Eastwood police will also gain from a massive capital injection of more than $21 million on new technology to vastly improve police investigations, management and communications across the State.
The Carr Labor Government’s fifth budget is my first budget since I became a Minister so I shall say a few words about my portfolios. New South Wales consumers receive a fair go in the 1999-2000 fair trading budget. This year almost $5 million will be provided to the Department of Fair Trading to carry out investigations into large-scale scams, rip-offs and misleading behaviour in the marketplace. In addition, tenancy advice and advocacy programs will receive $4 million, and almost $1 million will be spent on programs to assist families facing financial hardship.
Other important aspects of the budget include $118 million to run the Department of Fair Trading and its programs and activities relating to consumer advocacy and protection; a $4 million boost to the Bathurst economy following the decision to relocate the New South Wales Registry of Co-operatives, including its 40 staff positions, to Bathurst, fulfilling a key election promise; $21 million for the 23 fair trading centres across New South Wales; $1.4 million to ensure that goods and products meet safety standards; and $6.28 million for the Register of Encumbered Vehicles, a service that informs buyers of second-hand cars if money is owing to finance companies on the vehicle.
That means that consumer protection, financial counselling services, tenancy advice, consumer tribunals and fair trading centres all feature in this year’s budget. This budget promotes fair trading’s core objectives - value and fairness in the New South Wales marketplace. It will deliver fair trading services to areas where they are needed the most, such as regional and rural New South Wales and western Sydney, and to the most vulnerable consumers. The sport and recreation portfolio budget has increased to $79.9 million. This will ensure that the Government’s focus on community participation in sport and recreation activities, particularly in rural and regional areas, continues.
The major highlights include $950,000 to build an international centre for athletes with a disability, with a further $840,000 to be provided in 2000-2001; $1.5 million to develop regional sporting
facilities through the regional sports facilities program, fulfilling an election commitment; $3.95 million in capital works projects, including $1.7 million for remediation of the shotgun range area at the Sydney Academy of Sport; and $16.7 million for community sport and recreation organisations across New South Wales. Other major aspects of the sport and recreation budget include $3.5 million for the New South Wales Institute of Sport; $1.9 million for the State Sports Centre to maintain and upgrade facilities, including improved airconditioning; and $28 million to the Department of Sport and Recreation regional offices, centres and academies.
Department of Sport and Recreation offices are located in Sydney, Wollongong, Newcastle, Lismore, Tamworth, Orange, Wagga Wagga and Gosford. The two academies of sport are located at Narrabeen in Sydney’s north and at Lake Jindabyne, at the winter Academy of Sport. The three regional academies of sport are in western Sydney at Parramatta, south-west Sydney at Liverpool and the far west in Cobar, which I recently visited. The Carr Labor Government is providing support for community sport and recreation activities as well as those elite athletes preparing for the 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Most of the facilities funded through the capital works program are in regional and rural New South Wales. This means that apart from providing sporting and recreation opportunities they will also generate significant jobs in the construction sector. In conclusion, this is a good Labor budget - one that delivers for my constituents in Ryde and for the people of New South Wales.
Mr D. L. PAGE
(Ballina) [2.59 p.m.]: I welcome the opportunity to make a few brief comments on this budget from the perspective of my electorate of Ballina on the far north coast of New South Wales and as Opposition spokesman on land and water conservation and forestry. This budget could best be described by the people in the Ballina electorate as a budget of betrayal. It should have promised much but it delivers nothing. The former Minister for Health gave a written promise that the Mullumbimby hospital would be part of the capital works program for construction in this term of office. That promise has not been fulfilled.
This is an urgent matter because the hospital has a problem with asbestos in the roof. Two years ago experts from the Department of Health said that the asbestos problem could be contained for four years. That means that in two years the hospital will have to be closed. The Government promised that would not happen without a replacement being available. However, try as I might I cannot find anything in the budget papers relating to this project. Shame on the Labor Government! The people of the Brunswick Valley are disgusted. I presented a petition containing 4,000 signatures from people in that area - the area has a population of only about 4,000 or 5,000 - but it has made no difference. I have spoken about this matter in the House many times. The residents of that area, including those in the health field, understand the importance of the project.
I was disappointed in the comments of the New South Wales Farmers Federation about the health budget. Those comments show that the federation has not even looked at the budget papers, because there is little increase in recurrent expenditure for country New South Wales. In fact, I have been told by people at the local level who are in a position to know - and the budget figures do not deal at that local level - that country New South Wales will not receive any increase in recurrent expenditure, despite the fact that the Northern Rivers Area Health Service already has an underlying deficit of $3 million. This will result in a significant reduction in health services.
The Government proposes to reduce the number of beds at Mullumbimby hospital from 30 to 10. People love to visit that wonderful town of Byron Bay, and services are needed for both local residents and tourists. But the Government proposes to reduce bed numbers at Byron District Hospital to 15 and close inpatient services during the peak holiday period. That situation is totally unacceptable to my constituents.
During the last election the Government promised that it would build a new high school in the Brunswick Valley, yet there is no reference to that in the budget. The Alstonville bypass project has been on the books for many years and every year a small amount is allocated for the design, planning and land acquisition. Although this is a $25 million project, only $950,000 has been allocated, despite both sides of politics endorsing the project. The Labor candidate in the last election, Sue Dakin, said that the Government was committed to the project and would allocate $22 million to ensure that the bypass was built, yet only $950,000 has been allocated in the budget papers. That will only keep the planning process ticking over.
Those funds have been diverted to other projects, probably in the Tweed or Clarence electorates, which are Labor electorates. This budget significantly advantages Labor electorates and disadvantages Coalition electorates. That is totally
unacceptable. The people who elected me, as a National Party member, to represent them have every right to an equal share of the cake, particularly as I won with a significant majority and those Labor members won by only half a dozen votes. Across New South Wales considerable funds have been allocated to Labor electorates, with little going to Coalition electorates.
The Minister for Local Government, Minister for Regional Development, and Minister for Rural Affairs likes to talk about the wonderful things the Government is doing for regional development. Only $20 million has been allocated for new projects in country New South Wales, yet this budget is worth billions of dollars. That shows how much this Government cares about New South Wales. People should not believe the rhetoric about the Government’s concern for country people.
The North Coast has a population growth of 3 per cent and, like many communities, needs more police. Despite the Government’s talk about providing additional police, last year there were 16,986 equivalent full-time police officers and this year there will be 16,971. That is a reduction of 15 police. Yet every day the Government and the Minister for Police trumpet the idea that New South Wales will have extra police. The budget papers do not reflect that.
The budget does contain one positive element: the continuing commitment to funding for the Pacific Highway. That commitment has been given by the Federal Government and the State Government, and I commend them for that. A number of projects are under way in my electorate and in the not too distant future motorists will be able to join the Pacific Highway at Bangalow and drive on a two-lane divided highway all the way to the Queensland border, indeed, right through to Brisbane. That will provide cheaper transport costs and, most important, it is hoped that by separating traffic the high level of accidents, particularly on the Burringbar Range and other areas to the south, will be a thing of the past.
The allocation of $3 million for the Ballina bypass is reasonable as that project is in the early stages. Also, $500,000 is an appropriate amount for the Bangalow to St Helena section because construction is not yet ready to start. The Ewingsdale interchange at the turnoff to Byron Bay from the Pacific Highway is a nightmare, particularly for motorists coming from Byron Bay turning north to go to the Gold Coast. During busy times it can take an hour to get onto the Pacific Highway. A separated intersection is currently under construction at a cost of $16.4 million, jointly funded by the State and Federal governments.
The allocation of $5.6 million for the Tandys Lane deviation, another project further to the north, and $4.1 million for the Brunswick Heads to Yelgun project, just north of Brunswick Heads, are appropriate, because they are in the early stages. The Yelgun to Chinderah project - the big daddy of them all - which will provide an alternative route to the Burringbar Range involving funding of $150 million and the $29.3 million allocated this year should result in some real construction work. Another commendable allocation is the funding of $270,000 for the completion of the living skills centre at Ballina.
I refer briefly to my shadow portfolio. The Government has increased user charges. Water charges have increased 30 per cent, which is higher than the consumer price index, yet the number of services provided by the department will be cut. Last year staff numbers were reduced by 45, and according to the Government’s own figures this year another 45 jobs will go. That will result in a decrease in services.
What the Government is really doing is charging more and delivering less. That is consistent with what I was saying earlier about the difference between the Government’s rhetoric in relation to country areas and reality. They are quite different things. When the Government introduced its so-called water reform process a few years ago it said that $117 million would be spent over five years. Some of the policy objectives are admirable but some are being introduced too quickly, with a negative impact on the productive sector. This is in the cause of achieving environmental flows. Notwithstanding the problems - and they are real - the claimed allocation of funds for the water reform process would average $28.5 million a year, yet in this year’s budget only $10.9 million has been allocated for water reform. I am concerned that the water reform process is consistently and increasingly being funded by water users having to pay increasing charges. There is a 30 per cent increase in this budget, a very significant increase on top of other water charges. Since the Carr Government came to power water charges have increased by 300 per cent. Water users are paying in a very big way.
The Government talks green and prides itself on being in touch with environmental issues with the new national parks and so on. It thinks that by creating national parks it will automatically produce a good environmental outcome. That is not
necessarily the case if the parks are not managed. I agree that there should be cleaner water but the Government is not providing the necessary funding. This is the third year in a row that the amount allocated to country town water and sewerage systems has not increased.
The Coalition Government, in its last year of government, put $75 million toward country town water and sewerage systems. One of the first things Labor did when it was elected was cut funding by 33 per cent - a major cutback - to $50 million. The funding has been maintained at $50 million a year for the past three years. The Government claims it will provide $200 million over four years. This means that the Government is locking itself in to providing $50 million each year for the next four years. Anyone who knows anything about economics and money knows that there will be a real decrease over the next four years, because inflation will eat away at the funds.
Old sewerage systems in country areas flowing into river systems are a major problem for water quality. Yet the Government will provide only $50 million a year over the next four years, a real cutback. State Forests is a government trading enterprise so the only figures in the budget relating to it concern the community service obligation in the vicinity of $15 million. It would make life much more interesting if the dividend required by Treasury were explained in the budget papers. GTEs are increasingly being asked to provide bigger dividends. In many cases their ability to raise revenue is reduced. For example, about half the resource that was formerly in State forests has been locked away in national parks. State Forests now cannot get enough revenue from logging royalties. Therefore, its revenues are down and the only way to deliver the extra dividends Treasury keeps insisting on - it was $12 million last year - is to cut staff.
A memo I saw prior to the delivery of the budget stated that State Forests staff will be cut by at least 200 people to meet the dividend demands of the Treasury. It would be helpful if the contribution of that organisation were noted in the budget. In the interests of transparency the contributions made to Treasury should also be noted so that people have an idea of the net contribution by that government trading enterprise to the total budget. I am concerned about what is happening to State Forests. Obviously, many country communities have done it very tough under the Carr Government through the loss of resource, closure of mills and so on. The cut of 200 people in State Forests comes on top of the restructure in State Forests which concluded last year, with 76 people losing their jobs. Roughly 1,400 people are employed in State Forests, and 200 out of 1,400 is about 15 per cent. Treasury has to find the money from somewhere because it is $45 million to $50 million over budget on the Olympics.
And all the new national parks the Government has created.
Mr D. L. PAGE:
That is right. The budget contains no increase in health funding and no extra funding for education in my electorate. I can only conclude that the blow-out in the Olympics is a factor. It may not be the only factor but it is certainly a factor. From my electorate’s point of view it is totally unacceptable. To conclude, this is a budget of betrayal to the Ballina electorate. The only good thing in it is the continuation of the funding of the Pacific Highway projects. Apart from that, it is a completely disastrous budget.
(Bligh) [3.17 p.m.]: I have looked at the budget to see whether it provides equity for the inner city or whether it continues the Carr Government’s trend during the Fifty-first Parliament of abandoning the inner city while placing increasing demands on existing services, facilities and infrastructure. I have to agree with the honourable member for Manly, who concluded that for his electorate this budget was slim pickings. For my electorate it is slim pickings as well.
While this Government’s urban consolidation policies have encouraged increasing numbers of people to live in the inner east, it has failed to guarantee a sustainable, safe and livable environment. There has been no commitment to renewing the city’s ageing infrastructure. I am disappointed that the Carr Government has rejected the proposal to undertake a social audit, because there is an urgent need for an independent study into the needs of people across the State to identify where limited resources for health, education, community services and infrastructure should be targeted.
I do not believe a single member in this House could responsibly disagree with that. Until this occurs funding will continue to be allocated based on political pressure and political priorities rather than as a rational and transparent response to genuine need. Many members have talked about genuine need and the lack of resources in their area during this debate.
As a longstanding representative of an inner city electorate I have consistently warned the Carr Government about serious issues facing my
electorate which will worsen without adequate and timely action. I would like to remind the House of the nature of my electorate. Bligh has the greatest number of people in the State who are mentally ill, who are living with HIV, who are drug and alcohol addicted and who are homeless. It has very substantial numbers of Department of Housing residents, an increasingly aged population and growing numbers of women with breast cancer. With Eveleigh Street and Springfield Mall Bligh has two of the States top drug and crime hot spots. It also includes two of the top entertainment and tourist precincts, Kings Cross and Oxford Street; Australia’s most used parklands in Centennial Park, the football and cricket stadia; and the soon to be opened Fox entertainment and retail complex.
Bligh will host four Olympic events as well as many cultural activities. Bligh was also devastated by the April hailstorm - Australia’s worst ever natural disaster. Bligh is subject to unacceptable crash risk and noise pollution from jet paths over Australia’s most densely populated area. In April the hailstorm cut a swathe of destruction through Redfern, Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Paddington, Woollahra, Elizabeth Bay, and Darling Point with hailstones smashing roofs in virtually every house in some streets. Residents continue to live with the effects of this hailstorm and will do so for many months.
I commend the work of the New South Wales Fire Brigades and the Bush Fire Services who worked tirelessly to cover roofs. But for the future we need a better storm warning and disaster plan for Sydney. This budget should implement measures for a proper disaster plan, which would have enabled faster comprehensive damage assessment by street-by-street inspections and air surveys. I welcome the expected increase of about 760 more police officers statewide in June next year, the first stage of the Government’s plan to add an additional 2,100 front-line police by the end of 2003.
It is vital that that urgently translates into an increase in police on the streets in the high crime areas in Bligh. As honourable members know, on most sitting days I submit to this Parliament petitions from the Bligh community calling for a permanent uniformed police presence and an extension of community-based policing to increase safety in homes and local streets. Fear of crime is high, with residents and business people victimised by predominantly drug-related property crime and street violence, harassment and intimidation.
Recently I met with business operators in Oxford Street, an area affected by crime and violence in that important entertainment precinct. We fear worsening problems with the opening of the Fox entertainment complex with its 24 licensed venues later this year. While Olympic improvement projects are being rushed to completion across the city, Oxford Street has been overlooked. I have repeatedly called for increased police resources for the Kings Cross and Surry Hills local area commands that are currently stretched to the limit.
In the March election Redfern, Darlington and Chippendale were added to my electorate. In this budget the Government appears willing to continue to turn a blind eye to the plight of those areas despite serious crime and drug problems, ongoing traffic and development issues and major social issues facing the most significant urban-based Aboriginal community in this State. No provision has been made in this budget for the desperately needed new police station for the Redfern local area command. Police operate effectively in grossly inadequate facilities with 130 staff cramped into an old building they have outgrown.
Based on the intensity and severity of crime problems with which it has to deal, Redfern is a grade one local area command, the same ranking as Kings Cross, which recently received a $2 million upgrade to its facilities and increased area. The problems of Redfern surely rank with those of Strathfield and Waratah, which have been funded this financial year. I call on the Premier to instigate a properly resourced and effective place management project in the Redfern-Darlington areas.
I again urge the Premier to find adequate funding. Drug dealing in The Block, and drug-related muggings, hold-ups and violence in surrounding areas of Redfern, Darlington and Chippendale place the areas on a par with Kings Cross and Cabramatta yet they have not had comparable resources to deal with the problems. It is vital that the project involve key representatives with the authority to allocate resources and direct action from the Premier’s Department, police, local government, health and Aboriginal affairs.
I also urge the Premier to ensure the future of the Kings Cross place management project and the Woolloomooloo crime prevention and safety initiative for at least another 18 months beyond the Olympic Games in 2000. The Woolloomooloo crime prevention and safety initiative is an example of the important work of the Kings Cross place management project. It has been instrumental in improving safety and security in Woolloomooloo, a community formerly under siege from juvenile crime related to alcohol and drug abuse.
Early intervention strategies and mentoring programs for children and adolescents have contributed to a decrease in alcohol abuse, drug abuse and crime. It is essential that that initiative continue its work for another 18 months, enabling the establishment of long-term strategies. While the pressing need should be a sufficient cause for action, the Government must act urgently if it does not wish the intense crime and drug problems in Redfern and Kings Cross to be black marks on its Olympic agenda.
Redfern, with the largest urbanised Aboriginal community in the State; Kings Cross, a major tourist destination; and Oxford Street, one of our most important entertainment retail precincts, will surely be under the spotlight for the Olympics. It was the tragic picture of drug abuse in Caroline Lane that stimulated the recent Drug Summit. I am sure the Government would not want to see another such image to hit the international media in the lead-up to the Olympics, and the situation currently is really quite volatile.
I commend the Government for the recent Drug Summit and urge it to not back away from the recommendations for a comprehensive health-based approach to drug use in conjunction with a permanent police presence to deter dealing and trafficking. I welcome the budget’s $21.3 million for the new drug services and harm minimisation measures over four years on top of the current $70 million per annum. Particularly important is $9.7 million statewide for new drug and alcohol treatment services and $2.8 million for an expanded home detoxification program.
That funding is clearly not adequate for the task of providing the needed increase in the provision of treatment, rehabilitation, education and research. I am concerned about the deferral of a large proportion of this expenditure until 2001-03. The services are urgently needed now. The Government has indicated that the Drug Summit initiatives will be funded from the surplus in the Treasurer’s Advance. I urge the Premier to dig deeply to stem the escalating social and financial costs for policing, health and community services caused by the city drug crisis.
The persistent law and order, get tough on crime policies of this Government have resulted in an explosion in the State’s prison population, with more than $130 million being required for capital outlays on new prisons. The Minister for Corrective Services has attempted to dress it up as job creation in corrective services but it simply reflects a failure up until now to address the causes of drug-related crime and the inadequacy of prevention and early intervention programs. I hope the outcome from the Drug Summit will address those issues.
I remain committed to defending high-quality health services in the city against Government cutbacks designed to grab everything possible from the inner city despite increasing population densities and social needs. While our community campaigns have protected St Vincent’s Hospital, which is now undergoing renewal and expansion, maintaining the Sacred Heart Hospice and retaining community-based services at Rachel Forster, there continues to be a pressing need for improved access to treatment for homeless people with mental illness or drug and alcohol problems.
Increasingly, homeless people and other marginalised people are dropping off the edge of service provision, and restructuring which focuses services solely on mental health issues fails to account for complex social factors these clients face. While the funding boost in health by more than $300 million to almost $7 billion is welcome, I am concerned that community health, mental health and other non-acute health services appear to get very little of these funds.
I welcome the allocation of $264 million for new public, community, crisis and Aboriginal housing, and the $190 million to upgrade existing housing. However, I am concerned that almost none of that funding is for the city. Every day my office deals with people knocking on my electorate office door who are homeless or are living in inadequate accommodation and are seeking help because the Department of Housing is unable to help them. Affordable housing in the inner city is becoming increasingly scarce.
Boarding house redevelopments continue. They are being turned into backpacker hostels and strata titled apartments and that is resulting in continuing evictions of tenants. I have seen economically disadvantaged long-term elderly tenants sold down the drain by the local council, the Department of Housing and Land and Environment Court judges. The trend continues with pressure from the Olympics and yet the Government has taken no action other than allocating another $251 million to the Olympic venue infrastructure. I ask about priorities and values and what sort of society we are creating.
There is an acute need for more supported accommodation for the most vulnerable groups. It is unacceptable that savings of at least $1.4 million will be made for restructuring the Ageing and
Disability Department without funds being used for more disability services. Although the Department of Community Services has overspent its budget in the last financial year by attempting to meet the escalating demands on its essential services, it is now facing financial cuts of $30 million in 1999-2000 with disability services, foster carers and child sexual assault programs losing the most. However, I welcome funding to establish the Office of the Children’s Guardian and programs to implement last year’s child welfare legislation.
Despite this budget dressing up the old news that land tax rating will be reduced from 1.85 per cent to 1.7 per cent, the discrimination against some of my constituents continues. I repeat that land tax on people’s homes is simply wrong and it should be removed. While funding for public transport services across the State has increased, it continues to be outstripped by roads funding. We should be promoting the use of public transport and seeking to get private vehicles out of the inner city, but the Government continues to build more and bigger roads. That is clearly out of line with the expectations of the community, which supports increased spending on public transport infrastructure to make the system comprehensive, effective and safe.
The limited improvements to public transport in the inner east are welcome, including bus priority measures and the continuing upgrade of Central railway station, particularly measures for increased safety. However, that will provide little comfort for residents of inner-city suburbs which have expanding populations. Those residents stand in lines 15 and 20 deep for infrequent peak-hour bus services, such as the 302 service, which were barely adequate 10 years ago. With persistent rumours of significant fare increases and inadequate services there is little incentive for people to use public transport. The promise of innovative and new bus and ferry services is of great interest to the people of Woolloomooloo, who are looking for an allocation of funding for the ferry service to Woolloomooloo, as promised by the Minister for Transport.
Work continues on the Eastern Distributor despite the angry distress of local residents about noise, vibrations, dust, air pollution, sleep disturbance, road diversions, traffic chaos and property damage. Local residents remain concerned about inadequate funding for local area traffic management to stop toll avoidance after the completion of the tollway. With estimates for all traffic management measures costed at $8 million, the total allocation of $5 million in this budget does nothing to allay those fears. Residents have endured years of assault from the airport tollway construction, a project costing $730 million, and I call on the Government to deliver the promised improvements to safety and amenity on local residential streets.
No funding allocation appears to have been made this year for the proposed cross-city tunnel - not even for an environmental impact assessment, which is vitally important to amend the limited and environmentally inappropriate proposal put forward last year by the Roads and Traffic Authority. Sydney deserves the implementation of a project to resolve east-west traffic congestion and provide the opportunity for a pedestrian-friendly William Street boulevard between the city and the important tourist destination of Kings Cross. I have persistently called upon successive governments for a co-ordinated traffic and transport strategy for inner-eastern Sydney to address the causes of the inner city’s intolerable traffic chaos.
Therefore I welcome the funding allocation of $100,000 for the Woollahra traffic study. Funding is now needed for the work in other inner-eastern council areas, work that will culminate in a co-ordinated strategy to be implemented in the long-term to address the problems. In the absence of an integrated strategy, this budget continues the trend of providing a mixed bag of funding which affords some benefits but fails to address the core issues. It is unacceptable that the Government is putting more than $10 million into new works for the Sydney Cricket Ground and Sports Ground Trust, ranging from video scoreboard replacement to the upgrade of corporate and members’ facilities, while leaving unaddressed the consequences of the trust’s major events on the local community.
Crowds as small as 20,000 can gridlock the area for hours when a game finishes, but the Government is still not committed to a public-transport-only policy for the area and continues to abuse precious inner-city parkland by encouraging and allowing car parking on it. Despite the $3.2 million event bus station, which was opened in January this year, Moore Park continues to be used as a car parking lot, and traffic from the sporting stadia continues to clog the city and the region. No provision has been made to meet the predictable impact of up to four million visitors a year to the Fox entertainment complex. The local community has long sought the extension of light rail to Moore Park and Randwick to address these problems. Where is the long-awaited feasibility study which
remains locked away in the office of the Minister for Transport? He was obliged to undertake the study under the conditions of the construction of the Eastern Distributor.
While $6.6 million in funding has been allocated to new works for Centennial Park and Moore Park, the projects have been around for years and include blood money from the construction of the Eastern Distributor. This funding for special monuments is no substitute for adequate, ongoing funding which could end the unacceptable commercialisation of our parkland by projects such as the appalling McDonald’s restaurant on Moore Park - a threat which is still hanging around three years after the community resoundingly rejected it. In line with urban consolidation policies, the Government should be promoting open space and recreational opportunities to accommodate the increasing number of residents living in high-density apartment blocks with limited access to open space. These parklands are used by more than 5 million people annually and are a vital lifeline for people living in high density housing.
I welcome the $204,000 in funding for a cycleway from Darlinghurst to Mascot as a promising sign for the future. Historically, bigger and better roads lead not to easier transport, but to more and more vehicles clogging those roads. I am told that expenditure of $100 million a year over three years would give Sydney a comprehensive system of safe, attractive, usable cycleways. Compared with the $750 million being spent on the Eastern Distributor, it should be clear that a much greater financial commitment could be made to the future of our city environment and its people. Bearing in mind the expected surplus of $382 million this year and a predicted surplus of $214 million for 1999-2000, the Government could reasonably have been more responsive to the pressing social and infrastructure needs of the inner city. Too much is being spent on the Olympics and not enough on community services, public transport, affordable housing and basic facilities.
(Murrumbidgee) [3.35 p.m.]: I wish to indicate my agreement with one or two the comments made by the honourable member for Bligh. The first relates to drugs. One of the recommendations unanimously endorsed at the Drug Summit was that funds be allocated for drug rehabilitation and detoxification. In my electorate of Murrumbidgee there are no drug detoxification or rehabilitation services. I believe that only nine beds are available in the Greater Murray Health Service, and those are used for alcohol rehabilitation. I would dearly love the budget to have greatly expanded the resources allocated to drug and alcohol rehabilitation. I am sure most other members of the House feel the same way. Unfortunately, that does not seem to have occurred.
The drug problem in our society is a massive one. If any recommendation was completely and utterly supported by those at the Drug Summit and, indeed, by the entire community it is the need for funding for education and rehabilitation. The one moment at the Drug Summit when I fully appreciated the enormity of the drug problem and the importance of that funding was when one of the delegates made the point that for every drug user who is turned away from a rehabilitation or detoxification centre a drug user is turned back towards a drug dealer. Those words indicated to me the urgent need for further funding.
I agree also with the comments of the honourable member for Bligh about mental health funding. I note that today’s Sydney Morning Herald
carries a lengthy article about the youth problems. One of the important issues raised in the article is mental health. As one of the few members of this House who is under the age of 30, I can certainly identify with the age group referred to in that article. My peers and the young people I have spoken to over the years, particularly around the time of the Drug Summit, agree that mental health is a massive problem for young people and that the size of the problem, which causes suicide and homelessness, is grossly underestimated because the despair that many young people feel is not evident. I would like a great deal more money to have been allocated in the budget for mental health. I ask the Government in the next budget, or even before the next budget, to focus a great deal more attention on mental health, particularly the mental health of young people.
With regard to the budget generally, I now turn to the allocations for road funding and capital expenditure on health for the Murrumbidgee electorate. It is disappointing that no new capital projects were announced for the electorate of Murrumbidgee, or for the surrounding electorates. I believe that is an opportunity lost for New South Wales and for Australia. I can proudly say that the Murrumbidgee electorate and south-western New South Wales are absolutely booming. The region has some massive industries. The Ricegrowers Co-operative has an annual turnover of $700 million, there is a huge citrus industry, a vegetable industry, and a very large dairy industry which will be looking for fairly substantial investment in the near future.
The town of Moama, which is not exactly in my electorate but is very close to it, is the site of an oil refinery. Some people might find it strange that there is an oil refinery in the middle of Australia. A and G Industries, a company from Griffith, makes wine tanks and it is about the only company in Australia that does so. The company employs many people, and this major industry produces a great deal of income. However, the company also pays a large amount of tax. The lack of funding in this and previous budgets - and, I fear, in future budgets - for infrastructure is an opportunity lost. If the Government supported country industries it would benefit from reduced unemployment. Welfare payments and the social consequences of unemployment would also be reduced. The Murrumbidgee electorate has a low level of unemployment. However, it also has low levels of drug and alcohol abuse, which is terrific.
The State and Federal governments would certainly reap a dividend from supporting those types of industries with road and rail infrastructure. Yesterday in a private member’s statement I noted that there was a difference in the approach taken by the New South Wales and Victorian governments. The Victorian Government aggressively encourages industry to set up in rural Victoria, and it is doing very well. It is attracting great industries, particularly agricultural value-adding industries such as Cedenco Tomatoes. It is tragic that New South Wales has lost these value-adding industries to Victoria. They create the secondary-industry jobs which are so important to the future of Australia. Unfortunately, New South Wales is left with the sole task of supplying the raw product to the Victorian industries. That in itself is important, but New South Wales would dearly love to have those industries.
As one travels along the Murray River it is evident that the towns on the Victorian side are much bigger. That is because the Victorian Government has worked aggressively to attract rural industries. Echuca is absolutely booming and Moama, which is on the river flats, is doing well, but not as well as Moama. I would like the Government to support the towns and industries on the New South Wales side of the river. Not many electorates are like Murrumbidgee, where the residents of the southern half of the electorate are "Victorian". New South Wales has an opportunity to supply products, goods and services to Victoria. The people in the southern parts of my electorate read the Age
, play Australian rules football and watch Victorian television programs. Not many people in Tocumwal could name the Premier of New South Wales, but they certainly know the name of the Deputy Premier of Victoria. It is amazing. The residents of the northern part of my electorate read the Sydney Morning Herald
, play rugby league and watch Sydney television.
Rural New South Wales lacks road funding. I ask the Government, as a favour to electorates like Murrumbidgee, not to announce 10-year programs. I refer specifically to Action for Transport 2010. In the announcement of that plan the Burley Griffin Way between Griffith and Yass received only one allocation of funding, and that was for the Illalong bypass, which is now three-quarters completed. The towns of Griffith and Leeton appreciate that allocation, because that road is a vital transport route. However, the announcement is not new; it was made three or four times three or four years ago. The problem about announcing that 10-year program is that it indicated to my electorate that nothing will happen for the next ten years. An announcement of a one-year plan would at least let us live in hope that next year we might get some funding. The councils in the Murrumbidgee electorate are extremely concerned that over the next 10 years there will be very little, if any, additional funding for roads.
I understand that funding has been made available for a feasibility study to be carried out into the opening of the Tocumwal to Narrandera railway line. I hope that feasibility study goes ahead and produces a positive result. Rail infrastructure is important to rice growers and to other industries. Rice growers make the most use of the container terminal in the port of Melbourne. They certainly use rail transport a great deal, and we would like to have some of that rail infrastructure in the Murrumbidgee electorate. The budget allocated very little funding for rural schools, particularly small rural schools. I regard that as another opportunity missed. Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Mayrung Public School when it received an award from the education department. It was terrific to see 60 adults and 30 children at the award ceremony.
Small schools have parental and adult peer support. To digress for a moment, I would be interested in having a study carried out on children from small rural schools, those with 30 students, which have parental and adult peer support. I would like to have those schools compared with schools such as those at Deniliquin, Griffith or Leeton which have 600 students, 30 to a class, who do not have the same one-on-one support from adults and teachers. I wonder how those children would develop as functional members of the community, how many would go to gaol, how many would become drug users, how many would become
members of Parliament, and how many would get married and have enjoyable lives.
To sum up, the budget is an opportunity lost, but that opportunity is still there. I will always welcome good news announcements in the Murrumbidgee electorate - it is a good news electorate. It is an area of high employment and is different from most National Party electorates, which have high unemployment. If the Government was fair dinkum, it would allocate funding for rural capital works and infrastructure. That would encourage people to move to the country. The Murrumbidgee electorate does not have the same social problems as the densely populated areas. The Government will receive an economic and social dividend from support of electorates like Murrumbidgee.
(Kogarah) [3.48 p.m.]: I commend the Carr Labor Government’s 1999-2000 budget, which delivers on the major issues concerning the people of my electorate of Kogarah and demonstrates that the Carr Government not only understands, but also is sensitive to, the needs of my community. During the campaign the people I doorknocked and spoke on railway stations, and the countless community surveys I received indicated concerns about education, law enforcement, health, roads and jobs. People told me what they needed the Government to do for them to continue to make our local community a great place in which to live. After listening to what they had to say we carefully put together a number of commitments addressing these issues. We did not make big spending promises, nor was there any election pork-barrelling. Unlike my colleagues on the other side of the House, our commitments to the people of Kogarah were affordable and achievable.
I am proud to stand in this Chamber today and speak to a budget which delivers on the commitments we made. I am pleased to report to the people of Kogarah that in the areas of education, health, law enforcement, roads and jobs, this is truly their budget. Health care in my electorate is, of course, centred on the St George Hospital, located in the Kogarah central business district. It is a hospital with a long and proud tradition of providing the finest standards of health care to the families of our region. The people of St George have a strong attachment to their local hospital and during the election campaign they let me know of their desire for continued improvements to make sure that this hospital remains one of the best in New South Wales.
The budget delivers on five major projects to be undertaken at the hospital. The hospital will benefit from a $4 million day surgery unit, which will cost $1 million a year to run and will be constructed within the existing hospital building. It will significantly cut waiting times and will be extremely popular with both patients and surgeons alike, as it will avoid the inconvenience of full hospitalisation. The type of procedures offered will include skin cancer removal, endoscopies, laparoscopies, ear, nose and throat surgery and cataracts. Day surgery involves the latest in medical technology and is much less invasive than other medical procedures. This means that patients will recover faster and will be back with their families and friends sooner.
Another great initiative delivered in this budget is the redevelopment of the Calvary Hospital - a joint initiative, with the Carr Government contributing almost $20 million. The new Calvary Hospital offers enhanced comfort and privacy for local families needing palliative care and specialist facilities for geriatric care and rehabilitation. The redevelopment will result in the construction of 53 single bedrooms and nine four-bed rooms. All rooms will have en suite facilities and will be fully air-conditioned. The new geriatric in-patient facilities include specialist rehabilitation beds, a gymnasium and therapy equipment. Calvary Hospital has been in operation for over 30 years. It is operated by the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary, whose charitable works contribute to the fine reputation and community support that the hospital enjoys.
As the hospital is located in the heart of Kogarah’s busy central business district, parking is at a premium. To address this problem the Carr Labor Government has allocated $3.5 million for the construction of a new 580-space car park. Plans for this car park have recently received council approval. An amount of $8.2 million will be spent on a new psychiatric admissions unit at St George Hospital, with a further $10 million being provided for a state-of-the-art education centre.
Law enforcement was another key issue in the Kogarah electorate, and the electorate overwhelmingly supports the Carr Government’s initiatives to crack down on crime. This has been achieved with the Government’s bold plan to reform the entire New South Wales Police Service and the introduction of tough new penalties in relation to gangs, knives, drugs and car hoons, all designed to make our community safer. Since the election of the Carr Labor Government in 1995, the size of the
Kogarah local area command has increased from 88 officers to 175. Those officers deserve the best facilities; that is why $5.2 million has been allocated to build a new world-class Kogarah police station. The tender process is already under way and the police are contributing to plans and designs for the new station. The new Kogarah station will streamline all administrative duties, co-ordinate intelligence and help get more police out on the street. This also achieves the goal set by the Carr Government to have more police on the beat, preventing crime and protecting our community.
During the campaign I spent a lot of time talking to local rail commuters, and one of the biggest issues was the availability of commuter parking. It has been a long-term goal of the Government to encourage public transport use through better service times and improved station and train security. The commuters of Kogarah need a free all-day commuter parking station; somewhere safe where they could leave their cars to travel to work by train. Initially, there was a lot of community debate as to where that car park should be located. The Minister for Transport and Roads, the Hon. Carl Scully, and I, in consultation with the local community and rail commuters, found a suitable location. It required an extra $2.5 million allocation from the original budget allocation of $4.5 million.
As the member for Kogarah I am pleased to say that $7 million has now been delivered and the people of Kogarah will get their car park. It will have 400 spaces and will be built at the southern end of the Kogarah railway station. It will be open 24-hours a day, seven days a week and operate free of charge, and it will come complete with the latest high-intensity lighting and security cameras. I am also proud to announce that new high-intensity lighting will be installed at Carlton, Allawah and Bexley North stations and at Bexley North car park. This is part of the Government’s security upgrade of all rail stations and car parks.
Traffic congestion is a major issue in the electorate of Kogarah. On average, 65,000 cars and trucks travel through the St George area on a daily basis as it is a feeder to the western suburbs, the Illawarra and the city. The former Coalition Government, due to poor planning and neglect of the St George region, allowed the construction of the M5 to finish at King Georges Road. Since the completion of the M5 the residents of Bexley, Rockdale and the entire St George area have had to put up with trucks and other heavy vehicles roaring down their local streets on a daily basis. It is severely affecting local business. The size of the vehicles and the constant stream of pollution has presented many health and safety risks to local residents. The Carr Labor Government’s M5 East project, costing $750 million, is the single largest roads project ever undertaken by a government. When it is completed in 2002 it will not only correct the short-sighted planning of the previous Coalition Government, it will also remove large and dangerous vehicles from suburban streets. I am proud of this project. My commitment to the people of Bexley was to ensure that the M5 East was built and I look forward to its completion.
The Carr Labor Government continues to be the education Government. Carlton Public School will receive a $1.7 million upgrade. This includes a new two-storey building to house the library and administration. The development application for stage one has already been approved by the local council. Carlton Public School has received $3 million for a new administration block and $100,000 for a new covered outdoor learning area. Carlton South has also received two specialist reading recovery teachers who are ensuring that no student is left behind. I take this opportunity to commend the Carr Labor Government for its reading recovery program, computers in schools and the $50 back-to-school allowance. The significance of these initiatives cannot be understated. They are having a direct impact on local students and families and they are providing better educational opportunities for the St George area.
The construction of these projects, including the M5 East, will lead to a boost in jobs. The M5 East alone creates more than 3,000 jobs in construction and supply. These jobs are a vital boost to the local economy, with small businesses and suppliers able to take advantage of on-site works and to seek employment in the major government construction projects. Earlier this year the Carr Government made a number of commitments to the people of Kogarah: to deliver new jobs, improve local services and attract new investment to the region. This budget delivers on all fronts. But there is always more to be done. I welcome the delivery of the Carr Government’s election commitments in the 1999-2000 State budget and I assure the families of my electorate that I will continue to push for a fair share of State resources for schools and transport funding for Kogarah and St George. I commend the bills to the House.
(Davidson) [3.59 p.m.]: I register my disappointment with the recent budget and in particular its lack of compassion and equity. It is interesting to contrast the benefits to my electorate of Davidson with those to be received by
the electorate of Kogarah. I do not begrudge in any way the resources that the people of Kogarah will benefit from, but I make the simple and stark point that by comparison Davidson received nothing in this budget by way of capital works improvements.
Despite the political complexion of the various electorates, people in all electorates deserve and are entitled to receive a fair share of taxpayer resources, services and improvements. Davidson received nothing like the funding for the day surgery centre, the police station, the commuter car park, the school upgrade and the upgrading of safety lighting at stations that Kogarah received. That underscores the enormous inequity in this budget and shows the parochial approaches that have been adopted by the Treasurer and the Premier. The budget is underscored by a policy of geographic bias. I would like to have seen funding for commuter parking at a station on the North Shore line. One of the major problems in the Ku-ring-gai part of my electorate is congestion in local streets in peak periods, particularly around railway stations.
The provision of commuter parking would go a long way towards alleviating some of that congestion and would increase the number of people that would patronise public transport on the North Shore. I would also have liked to see funding for some park and ride facilities in the Warringah part of my electorate. A logical site for that would be in the vicinity of Wakehurst Parkway and Warringah Road, where the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] owns a substantial parcel of land that would lend itself to such a facility. Express buses could go from that point to other points on the North Shore and beyond.
It is essential that bus bays are introduced progressively along our arterial roads, predominantly Warringah Road. We will only see a reduction in congestion and avoid the minor delays that occur, particularly along the forest area of the electorate, by allowing cars to pull out of the main traffic stream on Warringah Road and allowing the traffic to flow. Again I register my disappointment that the Minister for Transport has failed to commit funding to allow access for the disabled to Chatswood Station. It is not as though I am asking for a great deal. Chatswood station is one of the main transport connections to the rail system for people in the forest area.
Chatswood station is the only station registered as having easy access, but to date funding has not been provided for it. One can gain access to the ticket office by way of an elevator but cannot then get from the ticket office level to the station. It is an inadequate facility for the disabled and for women with strollers and young children. I have always seen the intersection of Forest Road and Warringah Road as a key transport node on the peninsula. It has some special attributes which cause it to be widely considered for other purposes. There is considerable land in this vicinity - the RTA land I mentioned, Department of Housing, the former Health Department and the ABC studios land - which has been identified for future sale. Given that this is more or less in the middle of the peninsula, this could be a potential location for a new district hospital.
Over the past four years we have seen a progressive winding down of resources and services at Manly and Mona Vale hospitals, which currently service the peninsula. My concerns and the concerns of my fellow peninsula MPs have been registered on many occasions. It seems clear that the Government is committed to continue to wind down resources and those hospitals will not be able to sustain services. If there is a move to one hospital on the peninsula, much more discussion is required about its location. I do not subscribe to the view that it should logically be in Dee Why, because of the difficulty of access for those north, south and west, because of the traffic and the signalised intersections along Pittwater Road. A new hospital should go in the centre of the peninsula in the area I have just outlined.
I do not say this to suggest that we should move to a single hospital, but if it is going to occur the community should ensure it gets a state-of-the-art hospital and all the facilities and services it is reasonably entitled to. I make it clear to the Minister for Health and the Government that if there is going to be a move in this direction it should not be preceded by an ongoing whittling down of services at Mona Vale and Manly hospitals. If a hospital is built in this area and it satisfies the needs of the quarter of a million-odd people who live on the peninsula, only then could there be any justification for reducing services at the existing hospitals. Both Manly and Mona Vale hospitals provide a convenient service to the people in their immediate areas, but they are not convenient to the people who live beyond those areas.
The Parramatta-Chatswood rail link, which is proposed to service the Ku-ring-gai section of my electorate, would give the people of Davidson access to the rail network. I am pleased to see this move but I register my frustration and concern that only $26 million has been allocated for the program this year. It is a $1.4 billion project, and with that sort of funding it will be about 50 years before the rail link
becomes a reality. It is similar to the eastern suburbs rail line, whose funding was eked out for decades after the initial planning. I register my grave concern and disappointment with what I believe is a lack of morality by the Government in its cuts to disability services. Many people in my electorate, and I am sure in other electorates, have family members who have developmental, intellectual or physical disabilities.
Respite care and other services provided for the disabled are crucial to allow them to lead reasonable quality lives. Probably since the dawn of time, respite care has never had adequate resources, but it borders on immorality to see cuts in the disability services budget when there is a crying need for more respite care. I find it unbelievable that the Minister for Community Services, who defends her position on disability services, has not been an effective advocate for these people. She is either completely naive about those who face disabilities or she is uncaring and unable to deliver additional funding in this most crucial of areas. Disability services were cut in the budget by some $33 million, or 8 per cent. I find that completely unbelievable.
I refer to Bear Cottage, which is a hospice for ill children. That project, which is located on the Manly peninsula, will provide a service to the benefit of all of Sydney. That service has had difficulty becoming a reality. For a number of years it faced significant obstacles from Manly Council until the Government finally flagged an intention to intervene unless the council allowed rezoning of the land. The project is now progressing steadily. However, I find it extremely immoral that the Government has claimed the funding of approximately $6 million for Bear Cottage as part of its own budget. That funding came wholly and solely from the communities of New South Wales by way of fundraising activities and donations.
It is despicable that the Carr Government incorporated that funding in its capital works program, thereby implying that it has been supportive of the project. I know that many people on the peninsula share my view. The Bear Cottage project is proceeding with little help from the Government but with significant help from a large number of hard-working and committed people. Those people should get all the credit and none should be ascribed to the Government. As many honourable members have said, the drugs areas received a modest amount of funding. An average of $5.5 million will be allocated over the next four years, in addition to the $70 million allocation for treatment and rehabilitation. There must be a substantial increase in funding in the intervention, treatment and education areas. I am sure that many honourable members would share that view.
In response to the recommendations of the Drug Summit, the Treasurer said that he would be drawing upon the $240 million in the budget surplus and the $120 million in the Treasurer’s Advance to fund the resources that are desperately needed in this area. As the honourable member for Bligh said, if the Government is seriously committed to addressing the drug problem a substantial portion of the pool should be utilised to increase the drug budget. Although I query whether $70 million is the real baseline figure, it is clear that a tripling of the budget is the only way to address the problem. Whilst that might seem a strong aspiration, I believe it is a reasonable one.
On the issue of policing, as the shadow minister for police said, there has been a reduction in police numbers. I do not know where the Police Service resources are being allocated, but there has been a substantial reduction in resources on the Manly peninsula and northern beaches over the past four years. The increase in crime rates elsewhere in the State is more than matched on the peninsula. We have a substantial juvenile problem, with gangs roaming the streets and being involved in vandalism and graffiti. Those problems have increased significantly over the past four years as a result of a lack of police presence in the area. Police in the Manly-Davidson patrol and on the North Shore do the best they can with the limited resources that are available by the Government. But unless police are given adequate resources, it will be impossible to substantially reduce the crime rate in my electorate.
I am most disappointed that a greater degree of equity has not been demonstrated by the Government in recognition of the fact that people right across the State, in all electorates, voted for the Government - even in the electorate of Davidson. Even though the number of people in my electorate who voted for the Government was less than the number who voted for me, those people are entitled to be acknowledged and shown compassion by being allocated the same resources and services that are provided elsewhere in the State. I hope that we see an improvement by this Government over the next three years, after a disappointing start to this Fifty-second Parliament. If not, its deficiencies will be addressed after 2003.
(Northern Tablelands) [4.14 p.m.]: A significant amount of debate has occurred since the Government brought down the budget. I have been quoted in my local media as calling it a "steady-as-you-go" budget. I
acknowledge allocations of funding in my electorate for the next stage of Armidale hospital, the next stage of the Inverell emergency department and phase one reconstruction work for the road known as Thunderbolt’s Way. I am pleased that the many election promises about funding the reconstruction work have been honoured in this budget. I also acknowledge funding of $500,000 to complete a new library at Newling Public School in Armidale. The community has received that news very well. I acknowledge the funding to upgrade the library and to construct an open learning centre at Glen Innes TAFE and to provide open learning facilities at Armidale TAFE. They are a few of the areas that received budget funding in my electorate. Obviously, I would have liked to have seen funding for many other items that were not included in the budget. The Minister for Police is well aware of my views about Armidale police station.
From a health perspective, the requirements of the New England Area Health Service are enormous. I could rattle off a list that would take up my allotted 20 minutes. A new hospital is needed at Armidale, which the former Minister for Health said had the second-worst hospital in the State. Whilst the area has received other funding allocations, it is well and truly overdue for a new facility. I will continue to push for a new hospital throughout this Government’s term. Also, I would have liked to have seen in this budget the abolition of the health debt in New South Wales. Not enough debate has occurred about that debt. Many of the area health services carry a substantial debt.
From meetings with various officers of the New England Area Health Service and an examination of the figures I know that expenditure continues to exceed revenue. That means that the debt, which at last report exceeds $18 million, is growing and there is no reasonable expectation that it will ever be repaid. That will continue to apply downward pressure on health services. We are all aware that there is an increase in demand for such services. The people of the Northern Tablelands will suffer and unreasonable demands will be placed upon the staff because the area health services are having difficulty getting the funding they need to ensure an appropriate level of service.
The Treasurer described this budget as a true Labor budget. From a country New South Wales perspective, it could be described as a true Labor or Coalition budget. As my colleague the Independent member for Tamworth said, the average capital expenditure, excluding roads from taxpayer-funded revenue, over the last four years was approximately 11 per cent. In the previous four years the Coalition Government performed only marginally better with a rate of 13 per cent. I agree with the honourable member for Murrumbidgee, who said that if the Government was serious it would have allocated far more resources, and it has lost a tremendous opportunity to do so in this budget.
I urge the honourable member for Murrumbidgee to look at the figures. There is no mortgage by this Government on paying lip service to country New South Wales. According to research by Independent members, it has been a constant theme throughout the past eight years. Each time a budget is handed down or whenever a speech is made about country New South Wales, we hear that this is the best allocation of funding since Federation and that there is a serious commitment to regional New South Wales. When we tease out the facts we see that country New South Wales is getting more of the same, and I believe that will continue.
If the New South Wales Government wishes to turn around the fortunes of country New South Wales, it must do so by targeting growth and by creating incentives to relocate industry and jobs to the regions. I could spend 20 minutes talking about the various line items that should have been funded in the budget from a Northern Tablelands perspective, but the people of Northern Tablelands will continue to get up and perform. They contribute when the contribution is necessary. Government has a responsibility to ensure that incentives are put into place. I do not believe this Government, its predecessor Government, or the Government before that did their fair share. I assure the House that country people need the support of government and will respond accordingly.
I can say generally that Government members, obviously, support the budget and Opposition members raise concerns about it. As I said earlier, the truth is that the figures in this budget are pretty much the same as in past budgets. It would be wonderful if both sides of the House joined in supporting regional New South Wales. It would be a common interest to do so. It will not be done by tarring the odd road and applying a band-aid measure for hospitals. Growth needs to be targeted by bringing the population out of the metropolitan areas and locating them in the regions. That will assist from a budgetary and environmental perspective when considering all of the statewide training issues involved.
We must keep saying, and I intend to keep saying, that the problems with country New South Wales are the solutions to the metropolitan areas. These issues must be considered statewide and not
just the country versus city rhetoric, and vice versa, perspective of the past. Country New South Wales is screaming out for development. I do not know of a community leader, decision maker or community organisation that is not prepared to partner the State Government, the Federal Government or the private sector to locate industry and help communities to grow in the regions.
We do not need the breadcrumbs after the loaf has been allocated around the regions. The honourable member for Tamworth eloquently outlined statistics about receiving funding of some $13 million for new capital works for all of country New South Wales, but an enormously larger amount was allocated to upgrade high-tension wire around the transport system. It simply is not good enough. Whilst I could pick out specific issues within my electorate that should be funded, it is important to target growth generally. I am happy to make available to any member of the House the information I have about that. We should assist country New South Wales to grow. This budget has delivered more of the same. It will not deliver growth in the regions. I would like to see further incentives - not only taxation incentives but also partnerships - to help regions, jobs and populations grow to assist the whole State of New South Wales.
(Rockdale) [4.23 p.m.]: In presenting the budget to this House the Treasurer said:
New South Wales is immensely stronger than it was just four years ago.
This budget aims to make it even stronger.
It is a budget that achieves more for our families and achieves more for our State.
Like the four budgets before it, it is every inch a Labor Budget.
It is a responsible Labor Budget from top to toe.
I fully endorse those comments. I am proud to be a member of this New South Wales Carr Labor Government, which is delivering on all fronts for the people of this great State. Indeed, this is the fifth budget of the Carr Labor Government and, like its predecessors, it reinforces the base from which the Government is able to deliver services to the New South Wales community. This budget implements all the Government’s election commitments, it lifts capital works spending considerably, and it reinforces and underpins Labor’s social priorities. In fact, more than $800 million will be provided over the next four years to implement the plans we presented to the electorate in March this year. The largest area of expenditure in the budget is in health. I should like to quote some aspects of the health budget referred to by the Treasurer in his Budget Speech:
Recurrent expenses for health and hospitals will total $6,972 million, an increase of more than $300 million over last year’s budget.
A further $449 million will be invested in new health and hospital assets.
Total health and hospital spending this year is equal to $1,162 for every person in New South Wales.
The Budget provides substantial funding over the next four years for new services . . .
Some of those allocations include: $12.5 million to expand respite and other support services for families in need; $4.5 million to enable diabetics to receive needles and syringes free of charge; and $9 million to build new day surgery facilities at Westmead and St George hospitals. Other major health and hospital expenditures during 1999-2000 include: $12.9 million on the redevelopment of Calvary Hospital; $2.3 million to commence the $79 million redevelopment of Sutherland Hospital; and $9.4 million for the St George Hospital Education Centre and Psychiatric Admission Centre. Whilst referring to the health aspects of the budget, and particularly to hospital facilities within or near my electorate, I acknowledge the commitment, care and dedication of all doctors, nurses and staff generally of our hospitals, especially those at St George and Calvary hospitals. Through my family’s personal experience over recent years we know what wonderful facilities our hospitals are, due to the efforts of those who work in them.
The Government’s fifth budget continues to deliver on our commitment to provide quality education, training and employment opportunities in New South Wales. The recurrent funding for the education portfolio has increased since 1995 by $1,192.8 million, an increase of 22 per cent. This budget provides a record $6,929.9 million. This will enable us to continue to improve programs, resources and, in particular, facilities for our students and staff. This year we will begin building eight new schools and will make major improvements at 102 other schools and TAFE campuses, in addition to providing $128 million for school maintenance and an extra $10 million for airconditioning.
Some of the highlights for the education and training features of this budget include: $5,175.6 million in recurrent funding for schools, which is an increase of $153.2 million, or 3 per
cent, on the 1998-99 budget; $1,480 million in recurrent and capital funds for vocational education services including TAFE New South Wales and adult and community education; $288 million for capital works for schools and TAFE; $128 million for improving the condition of school buildings through the school maintenance program; $10 million for airconditioning of schools and demountable classrooms; and $87 million for literacy and numeracy in schools, including $2.1 million to introduce initiatives under the literacy and numeracy plan.
Who wrote this?
The National Party could benefit from such a program! Further highlights include: $95 million for the Computers in Schools program to provide new multimedia computers, cabling and Internet connections; $645.4 million for equity programs in schools, including special education programs for socioeconomically disadvantaged students, Aboriginal students and students from non-English speaking backgrounds; $23 million for school students’ welfare and anti-violence programs; $16 million over four years as payroll tax rebates for employers of first-year apprentices - that has been praised all round during the budget debate by members from both sides of the House - and $415 million for non-government schools.
One major issue my Rockdale electorate office deals with is public housing. The waiting list for the most popular categories of housing in the St George zone is close to nine years. The Carr Government is to be complimented for the job it is doing with scarce resources, particularly under the constraints caused by the Commonwealth’s decision to change funding arrangements.
In 1999-2000 the Government has budgeted to spend $213,000 on housing units at Arncliffe and $1,508,000 on units at Rockdale. Community renewal plans for the Rockdale electorate are amongst the key features of the Government’s $550 million housing budget. The Carr Government’s priority is to ensure that speedy assistance is provided to those in greatest need by diversifying the range of available housing solutions. It is important to note that an additional 5,500 jobs will be added to the pool of jobs across New South Wales through this budget’s initiatives. Further, funding for improvement works in rural and regional communities will rise by 74 per cent in the coming year, up from nearly $30 million to nearly $70 million. The Rockdale electorate falls within the southern Sydney region of the Department of Housing.
Projects for the region in 1999-2000 include $3.5 million for external and internal painting and other repairs; $7.97 million for special projects, including fire upgrading, security, replacing roofs and windows, rewiring, plumbing and other building and engineering works; $350,000 to modify homes for disabled people; and $5.13 million to improve homes in disadvantaged areas to an agreed standard. In addition, a total of $12.6 million will be made available for repairs and maintenance in public housing through the 24-hour maintenance call centre or through client services teams. The Carr Government’s 1999-2000 housing budget is about meeting our commitments, particularly to the people of the Rockdale electorate.
The Government will spend $148.5 million in Rockdale supporting thousands of local jobs. Capital works projects include funding to commence work on the $3.5 million redevelopment of St. George School, which is a facility for young people with disabilities. This is great news for them and their families. Other projects include $34 million for construction of the new southern railway line; $110 million for construction of the M5 East Motorway; $1.2 million for major works along The Grand Parade; $400,000 for major works along Rocky Point Road; and $160,000 for additional street lighting.
The budget also provides more than $2.6 billion of tax reductions, including cutting payroll tax from 6.85 per cent to 6 per cent by 1 July 2002, which will boost economic growth and create new jobs. Other tax reductions in the budget include a removal of the Greiner Government’s $43 million registration levy for business vehicles and all private motorists, as well as a reduced rate of land tax. The budget adds further to the program of improvements to transport and roads in the Rockdale electorate. In the coming financial year the Carr Government will spend more than $115 million on roads in my electorate. Through this commitment the Government is delivered on its promise to fully fund a range of major transport and road projects outlined in Action for Transport 2010, which is the 10-year construction timetable unveiled by the Government last year.
Our community needs better road links and transport facilities, and I am delighted that the Government has ensured a fair share for my local area. The budget includes $109.5 million for the continuation of the M5 East project. A total of $234 million has been allocated to build the M5 East this year, with a total cost of $750 million. The tunnelling work now under way is a major part of the overall M5 East project which is creating hundreds of jobs for workers and will have a flow-
on effect for local contractors. The Bexley to Mascot cycleway, which has been allocated $350,000, will provide an off-road cycleway parallel to the tunnelled section of the M5 East. New road pavement works on The Grand Parade have been allocated $1.2 million, the Princes Highway has been allocated $867,200; Rocky Point Road $400,000; and Forest Road $136,000.
The Rockdale area will benefit from the Government’s massive upgrade of security at all 301 CityRail stations across the network, with local stations to be fitted with security cameras, high-intensity lighting and help point emergency intercoms My electorate has six railway stations, and, with the imminent finality of the construction of the new railway station at Wolli Creek, it will soon have seven. It will be a tremendous facility for our district. The Government will also continue funding two security guards on every CityRail train after 7.00 p.m., an initiative that has been welcomed throughout my local community. The rail-bus interchange is a project totalling around $8 million.
Preliminary talks between the Department of Transport and Rockdale City Council are currently under way. Their initial focus is design issues, particularly impact on local traffic flow. Obviously there is a need to plan the project in a manner that maximises access and egress for public transports passengers, while causing as little disruption as possible in the area for traffic, business and the community generally. Once these issues have been resolved and revised, plans will be drawn up. There will be a period of community consultation before the final design to ensure the best possible outcome. The bus-rail interchange at Rockdale will complement all the other transport improvements currently under way in my electorate and neighbouring areas.
The budget also gives a $7 million funding boost for three new regional parks, which the Government announced this year. During the next three years the package will fund improvements in Wolli Creek Regional Park in Sydney’s inner west, Yellomundee Regional Park at the foot of the Blue Mountains and Blue Gum Hills near Newcastle. It is
timely that the honourable member for Canterbury is at the table. Wolli Creek Regional Park forms the boundary between the electorate of Rockdale and Canterbury on the western side of the Rockdale electorate. The honourable member for Canterbury and I have been vocal and active advocates for this very outcome, which I am so proud to be associated with. The project was announced earlier this year, but the budget has put the dollars to it.
The Wolli Creek Regional Park will be a big winner in this year’s budget in recognition of a long and hard battle by local residents who fought to have it formally protected. Local residents were fortunate to have local residents such as the honourable member for Canterbury and me. Local politics tend to promote a degree of competition between different community groups, sometimes even a degree of distrust, and the Wolli Creek project was no different. Nonetheless, they all worked towards the same goal. Each, in their own way, has been a strong advocate for the valley.
I would specifically like to refer to Col Taylor and his wife, Sasha, who were associated for so many years with the Friends of Wolli Creek, and Tony French of the Wolli Creek Preservation Society. Perhaps they did not see eye to eye on the fine detail of the project, but they were certainly as one in their genuine and well-founded concern to see this wonderful piece of Sydney preserved. This budget consolidates the State’s sound financial position and underpins the continued delivery of State services. I feel privileged to be able to support it wholeheartedly.
Motion agreed to.
Bills read a second time.
Motion by Mr Whelan agreed to:
That this House at its rising this day do adjourn until Tuesday 29 June 1999 at 2.15. p.m.
House adjourned at 4.40 p.m. until Tuesday 29 June 1999 at 2.15 p.m.