Mr Speaker (The Hon. John Joseph Aquilina)
Friday 12 March 2004
took the chair at 10.00 a.m.
offered the Prayer.
THOROUGHBRED RACING LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
Mr NEVILLE NEWELL
(Tweed—Parliamentary Secretary) [10.01 a.m.], on behalf of Mr Grant McBride: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to amend the Thoroughbred Racing Board Act 1996 and the Racing Appeals Tribunal Act 1983, to address the matters raised in the statutory five-year review of the Thoroughbred Racing Board Act. Additionally, the bill provides for a change of the name of the New South Wales Thoroughbred Racing Board to Racing New South Wales, and a change of the name of the Act from the Thoroughbred Racing Board Act to the Thoroughbred Racing Act. The change of name was requested recently by the board to bring its formal name into alignment with its adopted usage of Racing New South Wales. The formal change of name will be accompanied by the renaming of NSW Racing Pty Ltd, the company which represents the three codes of racing in its dealings with TAB Ltd, to a name which will avoid confusion with Racing NSW.
Accordingly, the bill principally arises from the requirement in section 53 of the Thoroughbred Racing Board Act that there be a review within 12 months of the fifth anniversary of the commencement of the Act. Such reviews are a standard part of modern practice which envisages a regular review of legislation. Honourable members will recall that following the recommendations of the Temby review, legislation was introduced in 1996 which transferred the control and regulation of thoroughbred racing from the Australian Jockey Club to the newly created New South Wales Thoroughbred Racing Board. Essentially, the controlling body functions were transferred from the Australian Jockey Club to the New South Wales Thoroughbred Racing Board to overcome the perception of any possible conflict of interest, and also to provide greater industry representation in respect of the membership of the body responsible for the governance of the thoroughbred racing industry in this State.
The five-year review was conducted during the latter part of 2001 and the review report was tabled in Parliament in June 2002. Twenty-two submissions were received following a public invitation to participate in the review process, which was limited to whether the policy objectives of the Act remain valid and whether the terms of the Act remain appropriate for securing those objectives. The statutory five-year review requirement was an opportunity for interested parties to comment on the operation of the Act, and to propose any improvements. The review report concluded that the existing structure and composition of the Thoroughbred Racing Board should be retained. The review report also recommended certain amendments to the relevant legislation.
Taking the legislative proposals in the bill in turn, they relate to the following matters. Schedule 1 to the bill proposes amendments to the Thoroughbred Racing Board Act. The first matter dealt with is the change of name from the New South Wales Thoroughbred Racing Board to Racing New South Wales. The second matter dealt with relates to the Thoroughbred Racing Board’s registration and licensing functions to ensure that persons so registered or licensed are, in the opinion of the board, fit and proper persons to be so registered or licensed. Persons in that category essentially include a trainer, jockey, stablehand, bookmaker and bookmaker’s clerk. As a result of submissions to the review process, the relevant provision has been strengthened so that a person with a criminal conviction will not be registered or licensed if, in the opinion of the board, the circumstances of the offence concerned are such as to render the person unfit to be so licensed or registered. For example, persons with a non-spent conviction involving sexual assault would be given close scrutiny by the board if they were involved in a workplace that included young persons.
The third matter dealt with in schedule 1 relates to the membership and functions of the Racing Industry Participants Advisory Committee. The RIPAC, as the advisory committee is known, is a statutory body established to advise the board on industry policy and strategic direction. At present one of the members of RIPAC is a person nominated by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre to represent consumers of racing and betting services. The proposed amendment provides that the Public Interest Advocacy Centre should submit three nominations to the other members of RIPAC to select the consumer representative. The proposed amendments further provide for improved communications between the board and RIPAC by requiring recommendations made by RIPAC to the board to be tabled at the next meeting of the board; requiring the board to respond in writing to those recommendations; and requiring the minutes of any joint meeting of RIPAC and the board to be circulated among the members of both bodies.
These proposed amendments arise from the review process and are in the nature of minor but necessary improvements to the operation of the relevant parts of the Act—a finetuning of the Act, if you will. The fourth matter dealt with in schedule 1 clarifies that the board has a right of appeal to the appeal panel against various decisions of a racing authority. For these purposes a racing authority consists of the stewards of the board, a race club or a regional racing association. At this stage it is appropriate to indicate that in New South Wales there is an independent two-tier system of appeal for persons aggrieved by decisions of a racing authority. The initial body is the Appeal Panel constituted under the Thoroughbred Racing Board Act, and headed by Peter Capelin, QC.
A further appeal is possible to the Racing Appeals Tribunal constituted under the Racing Appeals Tribunal Act 1983. The current tribunal is His Honour Mr Barrie Thorley, who is an eminent retired District Court judge, and the acting tribunal is Mr Justice Wayne Haylen, QC, from the bench of the Industrial Relations Commission. The intention of the proposed amendment is to permit the board to appeal where, in its opinion, there is a need to express its views as to the consistency of penalties. For example, the circumstances where the board may wish to lodge an appeal include where a charge against a person for contravention of the rules of racing is dismissed, or where a penalty is inconsistent with that imposed in earlier similar cases. I will deal later with the similar proposed amendments that provide the board with a right of appeal to the Racing Appeals Tribunal in relation to decisions of the Appeal Panel.
The fifth matter dealt with in schedule 1 relates to the nature of appeals to the Appeal Panel. The proposed amendments clarify that a hearing by the Appeal Panel is in the nature of a new hearing, and that fresh evidence may be given on the appeal. The proposed amendments also set out the powers of the Appeal Panel to determine the appeal and make it clear that the Appeal Panel may vary the decision appealed against by substituting any decision that could have been made by the racing authority that made the decision appealed against. Schedule 2 to the bill proposes amendments to the Racing Appeals Tribunal Act 1983. Essentially, the Racing Appeals Tribunal is established to hear appeals against decisions of the Appeal Panel and decisions of the board.
The first matter dealt with in schedule 2 to the bill clarifies that the board has a right of appeal to the Racing Appeals Tribunal against decisions of the Appeal Panel. Further, under the Thoroughbred Racing Board Act some decisions may be appealed against and heard by a regional association instead of the Appeal Panel. The proposed amendments to the Racing Appeals Tribunal Act make it clear that those decisions may be appealed against to the tribunal in the same way as decisions of the Appeal Panel. Such a right of appeal would be provided to the board or any other aggrieved person. The intention of the proposed amendments is the same as that for the corresponding proposal to enlarge the right of appeal to the Appeal Panel. It is to permit the board to appeal where, in its opinion, there is a need to express its views as to the consistency of penalties.
The second matter dealt with in schedule 2 mirrors the proposed amendments to the nature of appeals to be heard by the Appeal Panel. The proposed amendments clarify that a hearing by the tribunal is in the nature of a new hearing, and that fresh evidence may be given on the appeal. The proposed amendments also set out the powers of the tribunal to determine the appeal and clarify that the tribunal may vary the decision appealed against by substituting any decision that could have been made by the body that made the original decision. There are compelling reasons for the proposed revisions to the appeal structure. His Honour Mr Barrie Thorley, sitting as the Racing Appeals Tribunal, and the Thoroughbred Racing Board have argued strongly for them. I take this opportunity to quote a passage from one of His Honour Mr Thorley's judgments as the Racing Appeals Tribunal:
However, before leaving this appeal I again record that there is, in my opinion, a need to amend the legislation to ensure that this tribunal does have the power to increase penalties in cases that come before it, whether or not any specific appeal be lodged to that effect.
I reiterate also the recommendation made in a previous case that a right of appeal be conferred on the Thoroughbred Racing Board to appeal against the inadequacy of orders made either by the Stewards or the Appeal Panel.
Without that power there could not be said to be any true accountability within the Thoroughbred Racing Board itself.
The third matter dealt with in schedule 2 to the bill amends the Racing Appeals Tribunal Act so that the powers of the tribunal to compel witnesses to attend hearings and produce documents are set out in the Act rather than in the regulations to the Act. Similarly, provisions in the regulations relating to the service of instruments are considered to be substantive matters and are transferred to the Act. The fourth matter dealt with in schedule 2 to the bill provides for the Minister to be able to appoint a third person to act as the tribunal. At present the Racing Appeals Tribunal Act allows the Minister to appoint one person as the tribunal and a second person to act as the tribunal during the illness or absence of the first person. The proposed amendment makes it clear that the appointment of the third person may be made at any time, including as a standing appointment, as long as the third person acts as the tribunal only during the illness or absence of the second person. The proposed arrangements have been requested by the tribunal to assist with the management of casework. I believe that the bill represents an appropriate update of the provisions of the Act that flows from the consultation process associated with the statutory five-year review.
The Carr Government acted early to establish the Thoroughbred Racing Board as the independent non-government body responsible for the governance of the racing industry in this State. That initiative has been well accepted, and the proposed refinements contained in this bill respond to changing needs over time. I note that it is now the practice that all bills will be scrutinised by the Legislation Review Committee. The committee's obligations are set out in the Legislation Review Act 1987, and I believe that this bill does not contain any provisions that fall within the areas of interest to the committee. The bill does not contain any provisions that make rights, liberties or obligations unduly dependent upon insufficiently defined administrative powers or upon non-reviewable decisions. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr George Souris.
FAIR TRADING AMENDMENT BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
Mr NEVILLE NEWELL
(Tweed—Parliamentary Secretary) [10.17 a.m.], on behalf of Ms
Reba Meagher: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
This bill builds on the previous amending legislation passed by the Parliament in July last year, which, among other important reforms, strengthened the enforcement powers under the Fair Trading Act 1987. The bill has a similar focus in that it aims to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of Fair Trading compliance and enforcement activities. A new section 9A will be inserted in the Act to clarify powers currently inferred by the Fair Trading Act and the Department of Fair Trading code of practice and make such powers explicit and transparent. These provisions will facilitate the exchange of information between the Office of Fair Trading and other agencies, subject to privacy considerations. The powers to disclose and receive information will be limited to investigative, law enforcement, licensing, disciplinary and complaint-handling functions, as well as probity assessments and reference checks and similar information to protect the interests of consumers.
The Commissioner for Fair Trading will be empowered to enter appropriate agreements regarding the release and exchange of information and to refer matters to, and receive matters from, other law enforcement and regulatory bodies, and to undertake joint investigations. In terms of trading, we live in a borderless society. Now, more than ever before, there is a need for co-operation between agencies, States and other nations in order to give the consumers in New South Wales the protection they expect from this Government. Technology has acted to increase the speed and coverage of major scams and government needs the power to prevent and respond to those scams. I am, of course, mindful of the legitimate concerns about privacy considerations in respect of personal information.
The Fair Trading Privacy Code of Practice, gazetted on 30 June 2000, currently provides relevant exemptions from the information protection principles of the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998. The bill is consistent with that code of practice and will facilitate interagency co-operation, reduce duplication between agencies and enhance efficiency in law enforcement functions. The enforcement powers under the Fair Trading Act will be further enhanced by a new section 19A, which will allow an investigator, having reasonable grounds for believing that a contravention of the Act has occurred, to apply to an authorised justice for a search warrant to enter any place, search for and seize anything that the investigator reasonably believes will provide evidence of a contravention.
My colleagues in this House might be surprised that investigators do not already have such powers, which would appear essential for the enforcement of laws that set out to protect consumers from being defrauded by unscrupulous operators. Hardly a week goes by without news of a scam that has been uncovered by the Office of Fair Trading, or its interstate counterparts. These powers are being added to the statute since current powers under the Act do not reflect the reality of the marketplace. The Act requires a two-tiered approach where, initially, investigators can enter premises but can only inspect and make copies of documents and inspect and buy goods found on the premises. This is essentially a provision used in the past to test the seriousness of any matter.
Clearly, most businesses today use computers and this is not recognised in the current drafting. Any evidence stored in a computer could disappear before the investigators returned. The loss of computerised records is a critical concern for the Office of Fair Trading. I will give an example of the inadequacy of that approach. In an application to the Supreme Court for injunctions and other orders against the first internet-based pyramid selling scheme operating in this State, orders were sought requiring the defendant to deliver up a personal computer to the Office of Fair Trading for computer forensic examination. The court refused to exercise its discretion to make the order on the basis that the Office of Fair Trading had no powers to seize articles, and the Office of Fair Trading was denied the opportunity to look at the scam program being used by the promoter.
These provisions are not only aimed at computerised records. In another example of the need for these provisions, a trader was subject to a compliance program under which toys and specified other products were required to be removed from sale and tested to the appropriate Australian standard. However, examples of unsafe or non-compliant toys were subsequently detected in the defendant's stores. On one occasion the defendant refused to sell the item to an investigator and the powers in section 19 were rendered ineffective. It is clearly not appropriate for enforcement powers to be reliant on the co-operation of the trader under investigation, as this could effectively subvert the operation of the law.
The bill, therefore, will enhance the capacity for investigators to prevent scams and the circulation of dangerous goods by operators whose intention is non-compliance. The proposed powers to seize evidence of a contravention of the Act are to be subject to the requirements of the Search Warrants Act 1985. In addition, the Office of Fair Trading will be required to return anything seized for evidentiary purposes to the owner, if it is no longer needed for evidence, unless it is unlawful to possess it. A new part 5D also aims to make compliance activity more effective, as well as give greater certainty to legitimate businesses. I refer to the replacement of the current provisions that prohibit pyramid selling with provisions drafted on behalf of all States and Territories as well as the Federal Government by the committee of the Parliamentary Counsel.
Pyramid selling is prohibited in all fair trading law. It is a sales scheme that concentrates on recruiting new salespeople into the scheme rather than selling products or services. It is often intentionally disguised as a multi-level marketing scheme, which is a legitimate business. The new provisions will make interpretation easier and enforcement more effective. They will be consistent with the Trade Practices Act and the Australian Capital Territory Fair Trading Act. The majority of the other States and Territories also have consistent changes on their legislative agendas. The benefits of consistent legislation are undeniable in our borderless marketplace. These amendments will further improve the effectiveness of the Government's efforts to ensure fair trading in this State. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Andrew Constance.
STOCK DISEASES AMENDMENT (FALSE INFORMATION) BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
Mr NEVILLE NEWELL
(Tweed—Parliamentary Secretary) [10.23 a.m.], on behalf of Mr David Campbell: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The Stock Diseases Act is the principal vehicle for protecting the health of farm animals in New South Wales. It is designed to help control and/or eradicate the spreading of stock diseases. The successful control of stock diseases is vital for a range of reasons, including animal welfare, environmental sustainability, regional and rural development and human health. The Stock Diseases Act is a crucial tool in protecting the future and reputation of our agricultural industries. Take, for example, the impact of ovine Johne's disease [OJD] on Australia’s multibillion-dollar sheep industry.
Since being first detected on the Central Tablelands in 1980, OJD has become a major industry issue—particularly in New South Wales, which has, unfortunately, been the most affected State. In January 2003 there were nearly 1,200 flocks in New South Wales with confirmed OJD. A six-year, $40-million national program was set up to provide a co-ordinated approach to dealing with OJD. Honourable members may know that the National Ovine Johne's Disease Control and Evaluation Program is set to conclude at the end of June 2004. This timing has given New South Wales producers and the State Government an opportunity to step back, re-examine the issue and consider the most effective way to manage OJD in the future.
This evaluation process has been difficult and, at times, divisive. But industry groups and the Government have worked together to develop a new approach to OJD management, which the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, the Hon. Ian Macdonald, outlined in September last year. The new OJD management approach is based on a risk-based trading system with a credit scheme to help improve information about disease risk. The changes that are the subject of this bill are a direct result of an independent review, the Bull review, which considered the ovine Johne's disease program in 2003.
A key recommendation was for the introduction of mandatory animal health statements for all sheep traded or agisted in New South Wales. These statements will provide crucial information to sheep buyers on a flock's OJD status. They will help producers make a more informed decision about the risks of animal disease. Under the Act it is already an offence for a person to make false or misleading statements about disease, and the risk of disease in livestock, in connection with the sale or disposal of livestock. However, producers can also suffer stock losses due to animal disease if areas of land have been contaminated by previous flocks. For example, livestock may have been leased to a livestock grazier, or stock may have been accepted on an agistment basis.
In order to help deter vendors from providing inaccurate information on animal disease status and risk, we need to have appropriate penalties in place for those who deliberately mislead others on these issues. The proposed amendments relate to the penalties for providing false and misleading statements in connection with the sale or agistment of livestock in New South Wales. They will bring those penalties into line with those in other States. It will also bring them into line with similar penalties relating to the sale of other goods in New South Wales. Stronger penalties will be matched with an information campaign to ensure that all sectors of the livestock industry are aware of the changes. This bill shows the Government's commitment to supporting primary producers in their attempts to self-regulate disease control in New South Wales, particularly ovine Johne's disease. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Andrew Constance.
CHILDREN (DETENTION CENTRES) AMENDMENT BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
Mr NEVILLE NEWELL
(Tweed—Parliamentary Secretary) [10.28 a.m.], on behalf of Ms Diane Beamer: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
This bill amends the Children (Detention Centres) Act 1987. It will allow a child arrested under section 50 (1) of the Bail Act 1978 for breach of a bail condition to be detained in the custody of a juvenile justice centre, or detention centre. Honourable members would be aware that it is far more desirable to hold such young people in a detention centre rather than in police cells, where they risk coming into contact with adult offenders. The bill will clarify the Minister's power to hold such young people until they are taken before a magistrate. The magistrate can adjudicate as to whether the juvenile has breached his or her bail. In circumstances where a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a person has breached a condition of his or her bail, section 50 (1) of the Bail Act authorises the arrest of that person, without warrant, in order to take him or her before a court as soon as practicable.
Section 50 (1) of the Bail Act does not create an offence. Breach of a bail condition itself is not an offence. As such, it cannot be dealt with according to the normal principles of arrest for commission of an offence. This section only allows a police officer to arrest a person in breach of bail. Once arrested, the person is in the lawful custody of the police officer. Just like adults, juveniles may be arrested for allegedly breaching their bail conditions. If the juvenile is arrested during the night or on weekends, they must be detained overnight or over the weekend pending a court appearance to re-consider their bail agreement. Under section 50 (1) they can remain in the lawful custody of the police during this time.
However, it is preferable that juveniles are instead detained in juvenile detention centres. As already stated, it is not desirable for young people arrested on suspected breaches of bail to mix with adult offenders. The Department of Juvenile Justice is in the most appropriate position to provide detention that is in the best interests of alleged juvenile offenders. Currently, under the Children (Detention Centres) Act, detention centres have the authority to detain "persons on remand" and "persons subject to control". A juvenile arrested under section 50 (1) does not fall into either of those categories. To resolve this ambiguity, the bill grants express provision for juveniles to be detained in Juvenile Justice Centres (detention centres) for breaching a bail condition. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Andrew Constance.
PARLIAMENTARY ETHICS ADVISER
Mr CARL SCULLY
(Smithfield—Minister for Roads, and Minister for Housing) [10.32 a.m.], by leave: I move:
Mr ANDREW TINK
That the appointment of Mr Ian Dickson as Parliamentary Ethics Adviser, as resolved by the House on 5 December 2003, be extended for a further four-month period.
(Epping) [10.32 a.m.]: The Parliamentary Ethics Adviser plays a critical role in providing advice to members of Parliament and, by extension, and on our behalf, to the Standing Ethics Committee. The Opposition has no problem at all with the extension of Mr Ian Dickson's appointment. The position covers a number of areas very important for members. I note from Mr Dickson's annual report to the Parliament, which was presented on 12 December 2003 that a number of issues are being discussed, including the ministerial code of conduct, the principal place of residence, and education sessions for members. Discussions also were held with the Office of the Independent Commission Against Corruption on conflict of interest and a range of other matters. It is obvious to all members of the House just how topical these matters are, and how important the general issue of ethics is to all of us.
One of the members of the Standing Ethics Committee is the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai. I want to put on record that I believe that the honourable member was attempting the other night to uphold the very best practices of the House by attempting informally to approach the person in the chair in relation to certain conduct that the honourable member had observed. I think all of us are trying to find practical solutions to problems. If we see an issue or a problem in the Chamber at a level which provides an opportunity to approach the Chair, I believe that is the right way to proceed, and that is exactly what the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai did.
It is a matter of great disappointment that the person who was in the chair—it was not your good self, Mr Speaker—did not act on what the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai put to him, because had the Acting-Speaker taken the advice of the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai and acted informally but effectively, there would not have been the problem that subsequently occurred. It is most unfortunate that subsequently, when the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai had no option but to raise the issue directly across the Chamber—in response, I might say, to some severe provocation—and to put in colloquial terms the essence of the problem, having tried earlier to explain it privately to the Acting-Speaker, he was upbraided for using unparliamentary language.
I think it would be fair to say that what the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai was trying to do—using words that any ordinary Australian would understand—was ram home a message that there was a problem, when plainly his private representations to the Chair had been unsuccessful and fell on deaf ears. I suggest that what the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai did was in the context of trying to ram home a message that he had already tried, quietly and privately, to put to the person in the chair at the time.
It is absolutely extraordinary that, as a consequence of the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai trying to get the message home, the honourable member for Tweed then objected to the language used by the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai. The issue was not the language. The conduct that the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai was complaining about was the problem, not the language. The language was a last resort that the honourable member was required to use precisely because the earlier messages that he had transmitted to the Chair and the Government were being completely ignored. So, as the problem remained and as the Chair remained deaf to the problem, the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai had to up the tempo, as it were, of his message.
What did he get for his complaint? The honourable member for Tweed—not acting on the message of the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai—objected to the stronger words that the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai was forced to use to get his message across. So the messenger became the victim and the Government and the honourable member for Tweed in particular were blind to the message that the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai was trying to give.
Incredibly, the honourable member for Tweed then informed the Chair that he took exception to the language used. He should have been taking objection to the conduct that was being described by the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai, rather than acting against the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai himself, the messenger. The Chair—I believe the very same Chair who refused to listen to the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai and in fact to take heed of the earlier message¯then said, "I name the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai.", and subsequently put him out for two days, because of the language that he used.
Every member of this House and anybody who has listened to the radio knows what ordinary people are saying. They are saying that the word the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai used might not be the sort of word that would normally be used in Parliament to describe the problem, but nevertheless it is a clearly understood word. It is understood very clearly by all Australians, it is in common use. Any reasonable person would say: If the member for Ku-ring-gai, having quietly tried to deal with the problem, could not get a response, then any ordinary person in this community would use that word—and probably a lot more, I might say, given the conduct that we saw demonstrated on television last night—to get the message across.
So what is the record of this Parliament in the last 48 hours, as we move to talk about the extension of the appointment of the Parliamentary Ethics Adviser? The glorious record of this Parliament is that a member was thrown out for two days for trying to do his duty quietly, then upping the tempo on a reasonable basis to say: Mr Acting-Speaker, the representative of the Government in the chair, you've got a problem; deal with it, please. If the matter had been dealt with in that way, none of us would be in the position we have been in during the past 24 hours. It is extremely regrettable that it has happened. Any reasonable member of this Chamber would conclude, having seen the tape if they were not actually present, that the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai tried to do the right thing by pointing out the problem. When the tempo of the message was upgraded, the response from the honourable member for Tweed was inappropriate. In those circumstances, Mr Acting-Speaker's order for suspension was just appalling.
The record still shows the bizarre outcome. The person who is out of the Chamber should be in, and the person who remains in the Chamber should be out. Every person in New South Wales believes that the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai should be present in the Chamber, with the thanks of people for trying to quietly draw attention to a problem, and the source of the problem should be out of this Chamber. The wrong person is out and the wrong person is in, and the right person should be brought back in and the right person needs to be put out. Yesterday the Opposition sought to reverse last Wednesday night's resolution of the House. The Leader of the House, who should set an example, should have been in this Chamber to accept the motion. I would have thought, based upon what we all now know, that the matter could have been dealt with as a matter of formal business without debate so that the resolution of the House could have been reversed on the voices to preserve the dignity of everybody involved.
I predict that we will not be able to get away from that resolution. We will come back to it time and time again and this House will repeatedly be faced with what has happened. Even at this point, that outcome is still avoidable if agreement can be reached. I understand that it is not within your authority, Mr Speaker, to decide the matter. The responsibility rests principally with the Premier and the Leader of the House. Yesterday the Premier acknowledged the problem and he needs to bring finality to the matter by saying, "I acknowledge the problem. We will quietly expunge the record of the House in relation to the suspension of the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai." If the Premier did that and it was agreed on the voices in this House, it could be resolved in 30 seconds flat and the record of the Chamber could be corrected. Unfortunately, yesterday the Premier underscored the problem not only by accepting that there was a problem that the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai was concerned about, but also by seeking to equate the language used by the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai with the conduct being complained about by the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai.
It is absolutely offensive for the Premier to equate the language used by the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai with the problem that the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai was trying to privately and quietly draw to the attention of the occupant of the chair. The Premier's conduct does not reflect any attempt on his part to understand what actually happened. If the Premier had reviewed the tape and understood what went on by seeing all the events sequentially, and if he were a fair man, he would come to the view that the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai tried to approach the Acting-Speaker. That is what the Premier would do if he were a fair man. Then, realising that the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai had been unsuccessful in quietly getting any result from his approach to the Chair, the Premier should have acknowledged the need for the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai to upgrade his language just a tad to try to get the message through. But, no, the Premier has not done that.
If the Premier has not seen the tape, he should do so, and then he should decide that the record of this House should be changed. But if the Premier has seen the tape, he should be severely condemned because, despite what he has seen, he is still attempting to equate the conduct of the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai with the conduct of the honourable member for Murray-Darling, which is truly utterly offensive. The honourable member for Ku-ring-gai did no more and no less than use language that anyone in New South Wales would have used in the same circumstances. There must have been people in every lounge room throughout the State last night using exactly the same word as the word used by the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai based on what they were seeing on television—or, I daresay, possibly even stronger language than that.
As the honourable member for Bega, the honourable member for Vaucluse, the honourable member for Wagga Wagga and the honourable member for Ballina remind me, the language complained of is used by Ministers of the Crown in this State. It is used by the Minister for Energy and Utilities, who is colloquially known on the Coalition side of the House on occasions as the expletive who should be deleted. His language is appalling. I have not heard one word of condemnation from the Premier of the language used by a Minister of the Crown when bullying and standing over the recently sacked Lord Mayor of Sydney when she held the position of Lord Mayor. The Minister used offensive language to stand over the head of an independently elected level of government—the elected body of the most important city in this country. The Minister used offensive language against the recently deposed Lord Mayor of Sydney, and not a word of reprimand was heard from the Premier. In contrast to that, the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai has been bounced out of this House for two days for using far less offensive language—for using language that I would describe as colloquially Australian English.
If parliamentary ethics are to be taken seriously and applied at a practical level, I believe that all honourable members want certain standards set and all members to help each other in trying to achieve those standards. Mr Speaker, I put it to you that that is what the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai was trying to do during his private approach to the Acting-Speaker. He was identifying a problem and quietly asking the Chair to help. The honourable member for Tweed should immediately have taken the initiative and shown some leadership by doing something to deal with the problem. Instead, it was left to the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai to draw attention to the matter in the manner he did perforce given the circumstances. It is disgraceful that the Premier is prepared to accept, without upbraiding, correction or censure, the language of one of his most senior Ministers but is prepared to let stand on the record of this House the suspension of a member who used language that was nowhere near as offensive. I have to say that ultimately the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai was using that language in the public interest. The same cannot be said of the Minister for Energy and Utilities when he spoke to the former Lord Mayor of Sydney.
It is extremely important that these matters be discussed. I believe it is critically important that the office of the Parliamentary Ethics Adviser should continue, although I believe that the Parliamentary Ethics Adviser has a great deal of work to do. One of the brighter points of the situation I have described is that the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai is a member of the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics. As a member of that committee who works with Mr Dickson, the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai was doing his job. The honourable member for Ku-ring-gai was acting precisely as a member of the parliamentary ethics committee should act by trying to quietly draw attention to a problem and have it resolved.
When the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai had no choice but to increase the tempo of his language he was removed from the House. The honourable member who drew attention to the problem was removed, but the person who was the problem remained in the House. The Premier, who accepts the most appalling language from the Minister for Energy without censure, is happy, knowing what the tapes show, to refuse to change the record about the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai being removed. The honourable member was removed for trying to do the right thing, but the honourable member for Broken Hill remained despite the fact that he was doing the wrong thing. The Premier now knows from the incontestable tape that the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai was trying to warn the Acting-Speaker quietly. He had no success, so he went further and used stronger language, and as a result he was removed from the Chamber.
The language used by the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai would have been used in many lounge rooms around the State last night when people saw the behaviour of the honourable member for Broken Hill. The honourable member for Ku-ring-gai's language was understandable given that he could not get his message across privately. This House should expunge his suspension from the record of the House and that should be achieved as a matter of formal business. I moved the relevant motion yesterday and I sought leave to have it dealt with immediately. However, the Leader of the House knocked me back. He and the Premier should get their heads together between now and Tuesday or, better still, before the close of parliamentary business today, and agree to the record being expunged. The honourable member for Ku-ring-gai should be invited back into the Chamber before the close of business.
We talk about ethics and appoint ethics advisers, but sometimes we must take situations into our own hands and recognise when a wrong has been committed and right it. A wrong has occurred, the parliamentary record is wrong and it should be corrected. If the Premier accepts appalling language from his Minister for Energy he should not complain about much more reasonable language used by the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai when referring to a problem that he had attempted privately to draw to the attention of the Acting-Speaker. We should all recognise that the honourable member initially tried to deal with the matter in an appropriate way and only when the Acting-Speaker was deaf was he forced to resort to stronger measures. He should not have been removed from this Chamber for doing so; he should be invited back with the thanks of the House.
Motion by Mr Carl Scully agreed to:
Motion agreed to.
That the question be now put (S.O. 96).
Motion by Mr Carl Scully agreed to:
That the House at its rising this day do adjourn until Tuesday 16 March 2004 at 2.15 p.m.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENTS
Mr PETER DEBNAM
(Vaucluse) [10.55 a.m.]: I again talk about a major concern in my electorate and in many other electorates: graffiti, and specifically graffiti on government property. I have raised this issue in this House many times in recent years and not only expressed concern about the Carr Government's lack of action but also highlighted the fact that we as a community must put more effort into encouraging an immediate clean-up. For a number of years I have organised an annual graffiti clean-up day that has served my local community well in spreading the message that the best thing we can do with graffiti is to clean it up immediately. Many people are frustrated that it almost seems impossible to catch the vandals who are maliciously damaging property. It has been acknowledged throughout the world that the most successful strategy to prevent further attacks is immediate clean-up. Whether that clean-up involves painting over the graffiti or removing it is irrelevant as long as it is removed within a matter of days.
The tags that appear in our communities can be traced back to individuals. At various times in recent years I have pushed a campaign to identify the tags and publicise them, and I have called for public information to identify the tagger. Those various campaigns have been successful and I will again push that approach in the next few weeks. It was sad that one of the first things the Carr Government did when it came into office many years ago was to withdraw the police resources used to identify tags across Sydney. As we all know, many of the individuals maliciously damaging property with graffiti do so across a trail of suburbs. It was always extremely helpful to communities and to the police to have a central resource to analyse the tags and track down the culprits, but one of the first things the Premier did to frustrate everyone was to withdraw those resources. We have suffered as a result and local police are now struggling to identify taggers.
Graffiti is being cleaned up in many areas. However, its incidence is epidemic in some areas. We must look at individual properties and ask whether the owner is doing the right thing. In most cases they are. As I said, the most successful strategy its to remove it immediately and that is happening. However, in other cases slum landlords do not give a hoot about the impact of graffiti on the local community. The worst culprits are the property owners who do not live in the area. Some of the worst offenders are government authorities, be they Federal, State or local governments. We must get the message through to everyone. I have frequently spoken to Australia Post and Telstra about graffiti on their properties. They are very large bureaucracies and it takes a while to get them to move, but they do respond eventually. We should also chase State Government bodies, such as EnergyAustralia. EnergyAustralia's most recent annual report contains a chapter entitled "Fulfilling", which states:
Fulfilling our responsibilities as an energy provider involves more than just maintaining a safe and reliable network.
It then goes on to refer to a number of issues. The corporation is an absent property owner in most communities. It has a large number of substations and properties in various communities around the State and it has a responsibility to work with those communities to remove graffiti. I have raised a number of instances with EnergyAustralia. Most recently, only two months ago, I raised the issue of its substation at the corner of Epping and Manning roads and asked for it to be cleaned up. We have not seen any action, but I am sure EnergyAustralia will eventually get to it. As at today, it is one of the slum landlords.
Mr BRYCE GAUDRY
(Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [10.58 a.m.]: We have heard a treatise on graffiti by the member for Vaucluse. As local members, most of us have regular communication with government and semi-government authorities, in particular EnergyAustralia. It has responded quickly in my electorate and I suggest that the honourable member continue to make contact with it. I agree that it is the responsibility of all authorities to uphold community values in the areas in which they are working. Obviously, removing graffiti is one of those issues for which they have responsibility. I am sure that he will be in regular contact with EnergyAustralia on that matter.
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES VOLUNTEERS
Ms NOREEN HAY
(Wollongong) [10.59 a.m.]: The stigma that surrounds mental illness ensures that in some cases it is extremely difficult for organisations to raise funds and gain support from the community for people with mental illness and their carers. Other illnesses, especially childhood illnesses, are more accepted by the community and are, therefore, supported more readily. I was extremely honoured to meet a small band of volunteers in my electorate who are passionate and incredibly dedicated to making our community a better place to live and to improving the outcomes for people who have mental health issues and their families. In the past two years volunteers have been involved in policy formulation, sitting on important committees, endeavouring to shape positive change in the delivery of health care services, supporting individuals in their life journeys, mentoring, forming and running support groups, guiding recovery, promoting mental health as a public issue, promoting prevention of mental illness, liaising with different groups and liaising with and making representations to politicians.
In my area the Consumer Carer Consultation Committee [CCCC] is the core committee whose members are mostly volunteers. The committee is growing in numbers and strength. The decision to form the Mental Health Week working party came from that group, and it has achieved incredible things. It has been graced with three awards, including local awards and the prestigious Mental Health Association award for community participation. To find a way to engage the community and the media in a positive way is no small feat for mental health advocates, but those volunteers have done so.
The CCCC members are working in conjunction with the New South Wales Consumer Advisory Group to formulate the Consumer and Carer Strategic plan, which will give guidance in consumer and carer participation both within the service and within the community. There are volunteers who have dedicated their time over many years: Peter Hutton, the people from the MIDDAS, Brett Gole, Yvonne Eman and Col Levy, and volunteers who have only joined the group in the past year such as Grant Ford, Jenny Malligan and others. The enthusiasm and knowledge of these is combined with the wisdom and perseverance of longer serving volunteers. It is a wonderful team.
The partnerships being formed with the community service clubs such as Rotary and Lions ensure that connection with the community is growing stronger all the time. Noel Causer and the Corrimal Rotary Club, Robyn Doherty and Bulli Rotary, and Dapto Rotary Club are braving the weather together. Wollongong, Kiama and Minnamurra Rotary Clubs have all been wonderful in the support provided to volunteers. I should add to this list the Kiama Lions Club, which was outstanding in its help during the tornado-like weather on the day the Fruitcake Family Fun Day was held. A magnificent team offers hope where there is often little acknowledgement of mental health issues.
The volunteers are endeavouring to ensure that an educated, caring community exists for all people, especially those with mental health issues. Until such time as the level of mental illness in our community is acknowledged more openly, a great deal of hope is founded in the volunteers. I have spoken a number of times about mental illness and the failure by us as a society to recognise its different forms. There is still a stigma that suggests that a particular group of people suffer from mental illness and that they display it in a particular way. Many mental health issues, particularly in males, develop in the teenage years. Because of the attitude of young men, who do not want to admit to having particular problems and do not want to seek help, the mental illness then deteriorates over a period of time. The symptoms of mental illness may not be recognised until people are in their late thirties or forties, but the problems certainly start early. I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the volunteers and ask them to accept my appreciation for all the hard work they do behind the scenes, both in the wards and in the community.
Mr BRYCE GAUDRY
(Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.04 a.m.]: I thank the honourable member for Wollongong for again bringing this matter before the House. Every one of us knows of people with a mental illness. We understand the need to better resource mental health issues in the community and we thank those people, such as the Consumer and Carer Consultative Committee, who spend time as volunteers servicing the day-to-day needs of those with mental illness. In the area of Newcastle, which I represent, groups such as Association of Relatives and Friends of the Mentally Ill, the Sunflower Club, the Schizophrenia Fellowship and the Kaiyu Clubhouse, service the needs of the Lake Macquarie area. They are all volunteers, and often they have suffered from a mental health disorder, severe or otherwise. They gather together to give assistance to those in their community who have a mental illness. The families and carers of individuals suffering from a mental illness are placed in a terrible situation. Those who give support should be congratulated, and the honourable member for Wollongong has done that today.
PRINCES HIGHWAY UPGRADE
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE
(Bega) [11.05 a.m.]: Today I again talk about an issue that has been raised on many occasions in this place by members who represent electorates on the South Coast. I refer to the Princes Highway. A fortnight ago today, having left this place to drive home, I was caught at the scene of a tragic accident on the Princes Highway at Twelve Mile Creek. Thousands of motorists were affected by the accident but, most importantly, two men were dead and another man was shipped off to hospital after what can only be described as another horrific Princes Highway accident. A week before another two lives had been lost north of Narooma on a Sunday afternoon. It is incredible that politicians are bickering about the upgrade of this road. I recognise the work that has been done by a journalist at the Illawarra Mercury
, Chantal Rumble, who has written article after article on this issue. On 5 March one such article stated:
Local, state and federal politicians have continued to bicker over who should be responsible for financing the upgrade of the integral road.
I do not intend to argue about that today. However, the bickering must stop, because lives are being lost. I ask the Minister for Roads to show some leadership on this issue. The most valuable thing I can do is put the case on behalf of the electorates on the South Coast for the necessary funding to be allocated to the Princes Highway. Here are the budgetary facts: The percentage of the total State's roads budget spent on the Princes Highway south of Kiama amounts to .0019 per cent. The State's total annual roads budget is $2.684 billion. The amount spent annually on the Princes Highway is $31 million, and that is for a period of 12 years.
The Minister for Roads has stated that the State Government is putting $380 million into the highway. That is over a 12-year period, which, as I said, equates to $31 million each year. The Government has also outlined a number of key projects that are part of that funding allocation. The North Kiama bypass is budgeted at $141 million—a combination of Federal and State funding. Some $62 million is to be spent on Bulli projects and $114 million at Oaks Flat. Those areas are north of Kiama. The total to be spent in the area is $317 million. That leaves $63 million over 12 years for the remaining 400 kilometres of the Princes Highway south of Kiama.
The figures equate to $5.25 million each year for 12 years on a highway on which crash rates are higher than on both the Hume Highway and the Pacific Highway. The Princes Highway south of Kiama is allocated only 0.0019 per cent of the State's total road program budget. During the past 12 months 30 lives have been lost on that highway: 17 south of Kiama and 13 north of Kiama. The fatality rate for the past 15 months, which equates to two deaths per month, is higher south of Kiama than it is north of Kiama, yet the State Government has allocated only 0.0019 per cent of the total roads budget to this area. Last week the Federal shadow Minister for Transport, Martin Ferguson, said on an ABC program that the Princes Highway is the ongoing responsibility of the New South Wales Government. It is also the view of the Opposition. The last thing we need is people playing games and politics with their responsibilities. Minister Carl Scully and Labor members from the South Coast should heed the words of the Federal shadow Minister for Transport and try to stop the carnage and loss of life on the Princes Highway. [Time expired
AUSTEEL PTY LTD
Mr JOHN MILLS
(Wallsend) [11.10 a.m.]: I wish to inform the House of the response of my constituents and many people in the Hunter Valley to the withdrawal by Austeel Pty Ltd of the project to set up a steel mill in the Hunter. On Wednesday the company pulled the pin on its proposal. The response has been at two levels. The good working people of the Hunter are determined to get on with work and life. They have experienced various other disappointments over many years, mostly from the failure of private companies to succeed in their enterprises, or as mines run out of coal. Industrial life in the Hunter is one of regular and frequent change, which leads to disappointment and the need for people to adopt an attitude that enables them to cope with such change. All the institutions, particularly the trade unions, are set up for change. This disappointment is just one of many in the cycle. An article in the Newcastle Herald
On the eve of a confidential arbitration hearing to settle the contractual dispute between Austeel and the NSW Government, Mr Palmer said he took the project out of Newcastle and NSW to save taxpayers a potential $1 billion in damages if Austeel won this week's case.
Clive Palmer said something similar on ABC radio the following morning: "We did not want to hit New South Wales taxpayers with a huge bill." My constituents' response was, "Pull the other leg, Clive." My constituents are disappointed because the project looked so good. As a person who worked in the steel industry for many years before coming into this place, I know that what Clive Palmer brought to the consortium was the options on a magnetite mine in Western Australia. Magnetite is a mineral that reduces the cost of smelting because it has only 1.3 atoms of oxygen per atom of iron to get rid of, whereas hematite, the more common iron mineral, has 1.5 atoms of oxygen per atom of iron. There is less oxygen to remove, therefore it is, per atom of iron, cheaper to smelt. It would take advantage of natural gas in Western Australia. The proposal was to bring crude iron metal around to the east coast and refine it in the steel plant in Newcastle.
The backers of the project in Newcastle were most impressive: Lurgi, a thoroughly respected German builder of iron ore and steel plants; Danieli, the Italian steel mill builder; the Industrial Bank of Japan, financial advisers; Corus, formerly British Steel, and the Dutch firm Hoogovens, mill operators; Thiess, the mining contractors; and Macsteel, a South African company contracted to buy all the product. I refer honourable members to the Premier's answer yesterday to a question by the Liberals as to why he signed a contract committing the Government to a $240 million investment with Austeel. He said that the Government would not miss any opportunity, if it looked reasonable, to secure investment and jobs for the State. His answer continued:
From the very start of discussions about Austeel we said we would do everything to facilitate the project but we could not deliver investors. That is a job for the proponent.
The Premier said that we could provide infrastructure and a development approval process, which is what we did. I commend Lewis for his cartoon in the Newcastle Herald
, which shows Clive Palmer driving away with BHP steel and Austeel in the scrap bin. I draw to the attention of the House the comments of Wej Paradice, the chief executive of the Hunter Valley Research Foundation, who, on Friday last week, before this week's events of pulling the pin, said to a meeting of Sydney's sponsors of the Hunter Valley Research Foundation, of which I was the host:
I am yet to be convinced the proposal itself is commercially strong [the Austeel proposal and the court cases].
He went on to outline how well the Hunter region is performing. Since the closure of BHP it has developed a vitality with small and medium businesses to get on with new jobs and new industry in the Hunter. [Time expired.
Mr BRYCE GAUDRY
(Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.15 a.m.]: I thank the honourable member for Wallsend for his cogent statement on Austeel and its spitting the dummy and walking away from arbitration that was set up for it in the agreement it signed with the Government. As the Premier said yesterday, the agreement was entered into on the basis of the support of all of the major international companies: Lurgi, Danieli, the Industrial Bank of Japan, Corus, Thiess and Macsteel. When the agreement was signed Austeel said it supported the project 100 per cent, but at arbitration the finances were not produced. As the Premier said yesterday, it was the job of the private sector to deliver investors; the job of the State Government was to provide the approvals, which was done, and to assist commercially with the development of infrastructure. Obviously, disagreements were dealt with in the terms of the agreement signed by the Premier and Austeel when the project was announced. This matter should be dealt with on the facts, which is what would happen at arbitration. Austeel pulled out, not by a pull-the-other-leg press release but because of its financial difficulties.
NORTHERN RIVERS CARDIAC SERVICES
Mr DONALD PAGE
(Ballina—Deputy Leader of The Nationals) [11.17 a.m.]: I draw to the attention of the House the need for better cardiac services in my electorate and the Northern Rivers area generally. Currently the Northern Rivers Area Health Service cannot provide diagnostic or invasive cardiac services to residents of the Northern Rivers region. It is unacceptable that a health area population of 256,000 people must travel elsewhere should they require specialised emergency cardiac treatment. Those requiring emergency cardiac treatment must be flown to hospital either in Queensland or Tamworth, the nearest New South Wales hospital with cardiac facilities.
As all honourable members are aware, in a cardiac emergency the time taken to travel to hospital can mean the difference between life and death. Currently the majority of Northern Rivers public patients requiring cardiac treatment are transported to Queensland-based public hospitals. Helicopter flight time to Brisbane from to Lismore Base Hospital is 50 minutes. A Northern Rivers cardiac patient's New South Wales options for the nearest public coronary angiography services are: Tamworth, with a helicopter flight time of 93 minutes, or Newcastle, with a helicopter flight time of 125 minutes. Those New South Wales options are rarely taken up over the Queensland options. On 2 March, in a letter to me, the Northern Rivers Area Health Service admitted:
Coronary Angiography treatment is time dependant and sometimes, given the distance from the closest Queensland Public Hospital service, results in Northern Rivers residents not achieving maximum benefits from this "Best Practice" approach to acute coronary syndrome.
I ask the Minister for Health to carefully consider the consequences of a cardiac patient not achieving those stated "maximum benefits" of the current Northern Rivers cardiac care system: not achieving the maximum benefits could be just code for "may well die"! In simple terms it could be the difference between surviving a cardiac episode or not. It seems quiet wrong that an entire region of this State should be relying on the hospitals of another State for acute cardiac care, when time is of the essence.
Residents of the Northern Rivers pay taxes to New South Wales Treasury, as do other residents of the State, yet are dependent on Queensland health services in the event of a severe cardiac incident. It is my understanding that Lismore Base Hospital has been identified as one of five rural sites for the development of diagnostic and interventional cardiac services. That promise, along with others in regard to regional health services, was made in the State Government's so-called Rural Health Plan, published in September 2002. However, whilst the promise exists on paper, the Minister has not been forthcoming with a specific time frame for the establishment of that service.
The Rural Health Plan gives a five-year time frame, but recently doubts have been raised by my colleague the honourable member for Lismore and, interestingly, the Labor candidate for the Federal seat of Page. They have questioned whether the State Government will be able to proceed with that commitment to upgrade the Lismore Base Hospital. It appears that the majority of the Rural Health Plan is falling by the wayside along with the rest of Country Labor's promises. This is not good enough. Northern Rivers residents urgently need upgraded cardiac services in their region. Interestingly, the Northern Rivers Area Health Service profile shows that Northern Rivers males are more likely to die from cardiovascular diseases than are males in any other part of the State. There are many factors that can contribute to that risk, including age and educational factors. However, regardless of the causes, that fact alone highlights the urgent need for better cardiac services in the region.
I refer now to patient support. Northern Rivers cardiac patients have less opportunity for close family support and assistance during their recovery if they are located in Brisbane or Tamworth. For many families it is beyond their means to travel and stay in private accommodation whilst their family member is recuperating. This, of course, is largely due to the stringency of the current Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme [IPTAAS], which cuts directly through my electorate for patients travelling to south-east Queensland hospitals.
To qualify for financial assistance in New South Wales patients must travel in excess of 200 kilometres one way for treatment, whereas in South Australia and Victoria, the distance is 100 kilometres, and in Queensland it is 50 kilometres. This means that some local residents, for example those living in Ballina, can receive reimbursement for health-associated travel to south-east Queensland whilst those living in Byron Bay cannot. If local cardiac services were available, obviously the IPTAAS issue would be less significant. It is the State Government's responsibility to deliver on its pre-election promise and to provide urgently needed cardiac services to the Northern Rivers region. I call on the Minister to reveal his plans for cardiac services in the Northern Rivers region and to fund them as a matter of urgency. For North Coast residents, because time is of the essence in many cardiac cases, it will mean the difference between life and death.
Mr BRYCE GAUDRY
(Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.22 a.m.]: I listened carefully to the cogent arguments of the honourable member for Ballina. Unfortunately, he could not resist taking this matter into the political arena. As well as continuing his supplication to the Minister, I ask him to contact the Prime Minister and the Federal Minister for health about the massive health cuts they have imposed, and also contact the Commonwealth Grants Commission about its approach to New South Wales, because those savage cuts have certainly impeded the State's delivery of the services that he called for.
Mr MATTHEW MORRIS
(Charlestown) [11.23 a.m.]: As honourable members would be aware, Professor Tony Vinson's latest report on community adversity highlighted Windale as a significantly disadvantaged suburb. Whilst I have a great deal of respect for Professor Tony Vinson, I must highlight an issue regarding his research process concerning Windale. It is true that the community of Windale is host to a large amount of public housing properties. However, it is also the only suburb in New South Wales that has its own postcode; it shares that postcode with no other suburb. The combination of a single-suburb postcode and public housing will continue to show Windale as a socially disadvantaged community.
Residents of public housing should not be viewed as different, or of less value. The public housing system in and around the electorate of Charlestown is working well, with many people re-establishing themselves, gaining greater education and jobs, and ultimately moving on from the public housing sector. That is a very positive outcome, as public housing has always been about helping those in times of need. I take this opportunity to recognise the continued efforts of the Minister for Housing and the Department of Housing for their continued support in relation to not only Windale but also a number of other suburbs in my electorate.
For many years Windale has suffered from stereotyping, which the community has worked hard to eliminate. I do not support that stereotyping and I assure the House that the majority of people in Windale are no different from those in any other community. In fact, the people of Windale are down-to-earth, genuine and caring people; they do not deserve the continued ridicule levelled against them by so many. On 10 March the
ran a large headline stating "Windale Tops List of Worst Suburbs". I consider such headlines to contribute greatly to the stigma placed on Windale; they are unworthy, unprofessional and simply not warranted.
That newspaper should be ashamed of its headline and I call on the editor to apologise to the community of Windale. It is clear that the editor is out of touch with the Windale community and does not recognise the implications of research based on a postcode alone. I note also that over the past three years the Premier's Department has assisted the community to help structure and implement a renewal program, to the point that the people of Windale recently formed their own community-based organisation. That group of residents will continue to have the support and assistance of the relevant departments. I place on record my continued support for that community organisation. I had pleasure in obtaining, and presenting to the community, funding of $25,000, which is the first instalment of $50,000 to be allocated over two years, to allow a range of community-based programs to be delivered to the Windale community.
The community-based programs range from literacy and numeracy courses through to parenting and job-seeking skills development. The community should be proud of its track record and commitment. However, I ask Professor Vinson to consider modifying his research methods, which reflect on Windale having its own postcode, because many disadvantaged communities are hidden in postcodes that run across a range of suburbs. The Windale community consists of good people and they should not, and do not, deserve to be singled out and treated as second-class citizens. For Windale to continue to grow and develop we must all stop degrading its people and instead recognise their needs and give them the support they need and want. Many communities across the State are in need and are not assisted by reports that do not explain the real situations or by degrading media headlines. The people of Windale are good people, and it is appropriate that we publicly acknowledge our support for them and our continued commitment to help them build and prosper. Unless the system of combining single-suburb postcodes and public housing is changed, Windale will continue to top the list of disadvantaged suburbs.
Mr BRYCE GAUDRY
(Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.28 a.m.]: I congratulate the honourable member for Charlestown on bringing to the attention of the House the difficulties facing Windale, a large Department of Housing estate with its own postcode, which is representative of matters referred to in the Vinson report. I had the pleasure of attending the fiftieth anniversary of Windale Public School with the honourable member for Charlestown. The celebrations on that day highlighted the enormous community support for this local school. However, what should be promoted are the efforts of parents and children to improve literacy and numeracy, as well as various programs involving the local university. This is a positive school community that is dedicated to improving the educational and social conditions of Windale. It should be congratulated on that, not denigrated.
Mr STEVE CANSDELL
(Clarence) [11.29 a.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House major concerns facing residential park tenants and relocatable homeowners in New South Wales. Residents are concerned about security of tenure and whether, if they are forced to relocate because of redevelopment or a change of use or sale of a residential park, fair and just compensation will be forthcoming. Once example of unfair and unjust treatment involves a park at Tweed Heads area that recently changed hands. Initially the park had 157 long-terms sites and 18 short-terms sites, with most of the long-term sites being occupied by long-term, homeowner residents. However, as a result of unscrupulous management, unethical practices, and undue pressure, only 50 of the 157 long-term home occupiers remain. The other sites are now used for short-terms crisis accommodation because the return to park owners on short-term rentals is up to $150 a week more for each site.
The unscrupulous park owner at Tweeds Heads is running a campaign to acquire the remaining long-terms sites by attrition. Homes cannot be sold on site and residents whose lives are made so uncomfortable and conditions so intolerable are given a pittance for their homes if they cannot relocate them. The financial losses they have suffered are significant. In an effort to squeeze out long-term residents, the park owner has filled neighbouring cabins with families that require Department of Housing crisis accommodation. He has placed large industrial bins in front of the homes of long-term residents and does not empty them for two or three weeks. One can imagine the smell that emanates from them! The park owner has also discontinued street lighting and mowing grass strips around the sites of long-term residents.
Long-term residents require protection; they should not be left to the mercy of unscrupulous and mercenary park owners. Many of them bought their homes in good faith, believing they would live out their lives as part of the local community. Unfortunately this is not so, and their torment and stress is having a negative impact on their health and wellbeing. It is my view that a social impact statement should form part of any development application to alter the use or redevelopment of a residential park. Further legislation is urgently needed to strengthen the security of tenure for homeowner residents so they are not evicted from their homes simply because land prices have escalated and some park owners wish to capitalise on that.
Proprietors of residential parks have a legal and moral obligation to ensure minimal inconvenience and financial loss to homeowner park residents in the event of any change. Many residents took on a heavy financial commitment to purchase a home in which they could live in peace and comfort. Indeed, it is not uncommon for a relocatable home in a good position to fetch prices in excess of $100,000. Oyster Cove Residential Resort at Yamba is a purpose-built park and prices for waterfront homes range from $140,000 to $230,000. However, through negotiation and conciliation, management and tenants have agreed on 20-year leases—a clear demonstration that only a minority of park owners are unscrupulous.
However, as members of Parliament we would be remiss to ignore the basic rights of these valuable members of our community who are being forced out of residential parks. As legislators we have the responsibility to ensure they receive legislative protection and the security they deserve. In conclusion, I reiterate my opening statement that residents must be given security of tenure, and, if they are forced, coerced or pressured to move through redevelopment or change of use, fair and just compensation should be forthcoming.
Mr BRYCE GAUDRY
(Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.34 a.m.]: As land values increase, particularly in coastal areas, many owners of residential parks have taken the golden opportunity to redevelop their park for profit. I accept that those who wish to live long term in a residential park deserve security of tenure. I am sure that the honourable member will continue to pursue this matter.
MORISSET PEDESTRIAN SAFETY
Mr JEFF HUNTER
(Lake Macquarie) [11.34 a.m.]: Last year I was pleased to join the school captains of St John Vianney Primary School in Morisset to officially switch on a set of new traffic signals at the intersection of Dora Street and Doyalson Street, Morisset. The project cost some $300,000 and was fully funded by the State Government. It followed on from previous safety improvements to the Morisset main street undertaken at the intersection of Bridge Street and Dora Street. Over a number of years the State Government has been committed to improving road safety in the Morisset central business district, and the signals have contributed greatly to safety improvements.
The signals have pedestrian phases to improve pedestrian safety for shoppers, local residents, and schoolchildren attending the local public school and Morisset High School. It has improved access from the side streets into the main street of Morisset. Community feedback has been positive since the installation of the traffic signals. At the time, the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] advised me it would continue to investigate additional safety improvements along Dora Street, especially for pedestrians crossing near the railway station, and to monitor the flow of traffic and, if necessary, adjust the phasing of the new traffic lights.
In February I was advised by the RTA of proposals to improve the pedestrian crossing near Morisset railway station and to install an additional pedestrian crossing at the station. I consulted with the community by writing to Morisset residents. I included in that letter a copy of the plan of the RTA's proposals, which include changes to the existing pedestrian crossing at Dora Street and the installation of the new additional crossing at the entrance to the railway station access road. These pedestrian crossings have been designed to improve safety for pedestrians crossing to and from Morisset railway station. The RTA proposes to move the existing pedestrian crossing in Dora Street five metres to the south of the railway station car park and to install new concrete kerb blisters on either side of the crossing to reduce the distance that pedestrians cross and make pedestrians more visible to motorists. They will also install some fencing along the footpath to direct pedestrians to the new crossing point.
These safety improvements are an important next step in improving safety in the busy main street of Morisset. They cost some $35,000, once again funded by the State Government and, as I said, the work follows on from the installation of traffic signals and further safety improvements at the intersection of Bridge Street and Dora Street. The RTA would like to start work this month. However, prior to that, community comment has been sought. I took it upon myself to write to all the residents of the Morisset area, particularly the mainly elderly residents who live in mobile home parks for whom pedestrian safety is much more important.
The feedback to the RTA has mainly been positive, with some helpful suggestions. I am advised by Mr Bob Sharp, the head of the RTA, that the RTA is taking on board those suggestions and making a few alterations to the plan. The RTA hopes to undertake the work next month and complete it by the end of April. I thank the RTA and the Minister for Roads for their ongoing support of the safety improvements in Morisset's main street. The Minister for Roads visited Morisset five or six years ago. He met with representatives of the local chamber of commerce and he walked the main street and saw the traffic problems. Not long after that visit he made a grant to Lake Macquarie City Council to undertake a traffic management study. Flowing from that, a number of improvements have been made along the main street of Morisset. I thank the Minister for assisting the Morisset community.
Mr BRYCE GAUDRY
(Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.39 a.m.]: I commend the honourable member for Lake Macquarie for the structure of community consultation he has undertaken to seek and gain improvements for Morisset's busy main street. The honourable member has highlighted the importance of the pedestrian crossing at Morisset railway station. The integration of rail transport, pedestrian traffic, and heavy vehicle traffic in that area, the growing importance of that area of Morisset as a commuter base for people travelling to Newcastle and Sydney, and the importance of the rail service to that area has brought together all transport methods, with an emphasis on safety, the provision of traffic lights and more effective pedestrian safe crossings. I congratulate the honourable member.
LIFELINE NORTH COAST
Mr ANDREW FRASER
(Coffs Harbour) [11.40 a.m.]: Today I raise the concerns of Lifeline North Coast (New South Wales) about its funding crisis. In doing so I highly commend Kath Lindsay, the General Manager of Lifeline North Coast, for a great job done in trying circumstances, and I commend her board members, who are all volunteers, and the counsellors of this vital service, who are also volunteers. These people have been operating in Coffs Harbour for as many years as I can remember, and the service they provide is vital. When I say "vital" I mean it in all senses of the word. Lifeline North Coast provides advice to people in times of absolute stress. Calls come from people with a range of issues, including family breakdown, domestic violence, drug, alcohol and gambling addiction, and the threat of suicide.
Lifeline North Coast operates on a shoestring. Average family incomes in its region were recently reported as being the second lowest in Australia, and competition for the charity dollar in the Coffs Harbour region is extremely tight, be it for the Westpac rescue helicopter, which is raising money at the moment, or any other of the myriad charities in the Coffs Harbour region. Last year Lifeline North Coast raised $50,000. It has a small staff—in fact, it has two paid staff—and a huge number of dedicated volunteers. Lifeline North Coast has the enviable record of remaining operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for the past 17 years. Last year it took 14,500 calls on the crisis line, and it is expected that, with a new subcentre in Grafton, it will take 19,000 calls in the next 12 months.
On 3 March I wrote to the Minister for Health and provided him with all this information because the board has taken a decision that if it does not receive funding within the next week it will close these vital services. As I said, Lifeline North Coast has only two paid staff. By comparison, Lifeline Brisbane has 330 paid staff and takes 35,000 calls a year. In the words of Lifeline North Coast, Brisbane Lifeline "takes twice as many calls with 150 times as many staff". That is incredible. Brisbane Lifeline is also closed one day a week. Lifeline Mid Coast, which is in Port Macquarie, has 20 paid staff and takes 6,500 calls per year. That is 10 times the staff for half the number of calls. So the efficiency of Lifeline North Coast is fantastic.
Lifeline North Coast needs $120,000 recurrent funding for three years. It is redoing its business plan to ensure that fundraising dollars continue to come in and to ensure that it has a future. Indeed, the only government money I remember Lifeline North Coast receiving was a one-off grant of $5,000—as Ministers are wont to do at the end of the financial year when there is a little budget surplus—back in the days when there was a surplus in health funding. I remember Ron Phillips giving a grant of $5,000 to assist Lifeline North Coast to relocate its office from point A to point B to save costs. That is the only time during my 13½ years as a local member that Lifeline North Coast has received any government funding. The sad part about this service is that Lifeline North Coast is used as a referral service by the Mid North Coast Area Health Service. In correspondence that I have forwarded to the Minister with a covering letter Lifeline North Coast stated:
Of particular interest has been the fact that in recent times, patients in Coffs Harbour hospital have actually been told to phone Lifeline when they have been depressed, and in need of someone to talk to. Calls have been received from distressed patients in their hospital bed, including from within the Psychiatric ward.
Getting psychiatric nursing staff and doctors on the North Coast is extremely hard. Indeed, it is difficult anywhere in regional New South Wales. So the hospital and the Mid North Coast Area Health Service see Lifeline as a vital service, not just an after-hours referral service. In June last year the relatives of a patient phoned my office and said the person was unwell and feeling distressed. They asked staff in the psychiatric unit of the hospital for assistance but were told to call Lifeline. I did not make that matter public or kick up a fuss. I tried to support both the hospital and Lifeline North Coast. The time has come for the Government to bite the bullet and give Lifeline North Coast funding to ensure it continues to operate successfully and provide this vital service to the people in the Coffs Harbour, Grafton and Nambucca area.
Mr BRYCE GAUDRY
(Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.45 a.m.]: I thank the honourable member for Coffs Harbour for his input today. Lifeline in the Hunter, operating out of Newcastle, does a lot of work, including, importantly, counselling at the point of need, whether it be in relation to a mental health crisis, drugs and alcohol or, in many cases, financial advice given to people who cannot manage their incomes. I found it unusual that the honourable member talked about massive staffing numbers in various Lifeline areas.
Mr Andrew Fraser:
Mr BRYCE GAUDRY:
In Brisbane and elsewhere on the North Coast. Perhaps all lifeline services on the North Coast could share resources; I am not sure whether that is available within the Lifeline structure. Certainly that matter has been raised with the Minister and I am sure that the Minister will be well aware of the issues raised by the honourable member for Coffs Harbour and his ongoing advocacy for this matter.
MENAI YOUTH ACTION PROJECT
Ms ALISON MEGARRITY
(Menai—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.50 a.m.]: Last week I was pleased to welcome the Hon. Carmel Tebbutt to my electorate to launch the Menai Youth Action Project, which is part of the Government's Better Futures Regional Strategy for south-east Sydney. The launch was well attended, with support from many young people from suburbs such as Barden Ridge, Alfords Point, Illawong and Bangor in the Menai area. Councillor Ken McDonell and Councillor Dawn Emerson from the Sutherland Shire Council were also present at the launch. They were great supporters of the project in its development stage. Dave Ackroyd, Manager Community Services, Sutherland Shire Council, was also in attendance. I could tell from his obvious delight that his commitment was also vital to the project's development, and I acknowledge his contribution today.
The New South Wales Government will spend $400,000 over two years on the Better Futures Menai Youth Action Project, which will assist vulnerable young people aged 12 to 18 years. As Minister Tebbutt explained on the day, the aims of the project are to keep young people connected to the community, develop the youth leadership program, and allow young people to plan and implement their own activities and programs, devise programs to help young people avoid drug and alcohol abuse and associated crime, engage young people in after-school recreational activities, improve community perceptions of young people, and improve transport options.
The young people in my community may live close to the heart of the largest city in Australia but they are isolated through lack of transport, lack of after-hours social activities, and lack of services. Those feelings were revealed in the survey conducted as part of the project's development. It found that 91 per cent of young people sampled identified drug and alcohol as the main problem in their lives. One in two young people felt pressured by their peers to become involved in antisocial behaviour. Vandalism triggered by alcohol is a problem. One in three young people wished there were more activities and programs to keep them occupied. As the Minister said on the day of the launch, these are sobering findings.
Better Futures is one of the Government's major strategies that aims to provide young people, such as those at Menai, with more responsive services and opportunities in order to ease the pressure on them. Importantly, the strategy works as a partnership between the Government and local communities. It recognises that local communities and young people are best placed to understand what needs to be done to deliver services and programs to meet community needs. Better Futures is about giving young people the opportunity to make the most of their lives and to stay connected to their schools, families and communities.
Initially six regions across the State received funding for the development of demonstration projects, and I am pleased to report that the Menai Youth Action Project was a recipient. As I said, it will receive $400,000 over the next two years and it must achieve certain outcomes to retain that funding. Those outcomes include healthy development, through participation in sport, cultural and educational community programs; safer environments for young people, looking at improving transport options; the development of leadership skills; increased use of and participation in community activities; and better support for young people in crisis. A key element of the Menai Youth Action Project is the development of youth participation and a leadership program for young people. The fulfilment of these objectives will allow young people to plan and introduce their own activities and programs and to be involved in the wider community.
A co-ordinator and a youth community development worker have been appointed to support the project. I acknowledge and support the efforts of Shire Wide Youth Services Inc. They seem to be coping well with the activities already under way. Those services will work with young people and listen to what they have to say. I understand that a youth consultative group has been established and that the young women's group is up and running. The partnership between local government and the wider community and State programs that are supported and developed by young people are essential ingredients in the success of State Government initiatives.
I thank everyone who has dedicated their time and energy to making the Menai Youth Action Project a success. I recently met some of the young people involved in the project, and I am certain it will produce positive outcomes for young people in my area. I look forward to being involved in the initiative in the next two years. The project includes Friday night cafe meetings and other groups that I have mentioned. I expect our wonderful public school network in Menai to send young people the message that this is a safe and positive way to spend their time and expend their energies. I am sure the project will have spin-offs and benefits for the wider community.
Mr BRYCE GAUDRY
(Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.54 a.m.]: I thank the honourable member for Menai for drawing to the attention of the House the Menai Youth Action Project, which is part of the Better Futures Regional Strategy funded by the State Government. Menai is one of the six regions to receive funding for such projects. The honourable member for Menai spoke of the great community need for youth projects and the fact that young people often feel isolated, disfranchised and uncared for. This project is obviously targeted at bringing the community and government together to encourage youth participation and leadership that will produce positive outcomes in the Menai area.
NORTHERN BEACHES BUS SERVICES
Mr BRAD HAZZARD
(Wakehurst) [11.55 a.m.]: I call on the Carr Government to deliver the much-promised new buses to the northern beaches. Buses on the northern beaches are burning, blowing up, and breaking down—anything but working. In fact, northern beaches buses on their daily routes look more like they are heading to a Viking funeral, not delivering local residents to their destinations. The Carr Government might be on life support, but the northern beaches buses are unfortunately closer to death than life. I asked a question of the Carr Government about the buses currently located at the Brookvale depot. The answer, which was provided recently, makes interesting reading.
I was advised that the total number of buses allocated to Brookvale depot is 186. The breakdown of that figure reveals that only 21 of those 186 buses—or one in nine roughly—are less than five years old. Some 124 buses are more than five years old—indeed, 103 are more than 10 years old. I compare the situation on the northern beaches with that of Newcastle, which has a wonderful new bus fleet that gets people where they need to go—as the honourable member for Newcastle, who is at the table, would know. The problem is that every time I raise this issue we get empty rhetoric back from the Labor Party, from Bob Carr, from Carl Scully, and of course their clones down on the northern beaches, David Barr and Peter Macdonald. It was only in the last election campaign that we had the Government putting out a community news sheet under the guise of one of its upper House members talking about new environmentally friendly buses. That document said:
The Carr Government has earmarked $9.7 million to purchase 35 more, environmentally-friendly Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses for the Sydney fleet.
Then we saw the spectre of David Barr doing his bit. He ripped into the Manly Daily
as quick as you could say "Jack Robinson" to back up his mates in the Labor Party, saying that:
Manly State independent MP David Barr said the 110 new buses would improve public transport on the peninsula.
Well, they would, if they ever arrive, David! You and Peter Macdonald have been spouting this rubbish for the entire time you have both been in office doing your Labor clone stunts. The bottom line is that every time David Barr or Peter Macdonald back this Government¯a Government that is on life support¯the Government uses the opportunity to walk away from its responsibilities to the people of the northern beaches.
The people on the northern beaches only have one form of public transport in and out, other than cars, and that is buses. We do not have trains. If the Government had any compassion or decency, or even a modicum of responsibility to all the people of New South Wales, it would deliver a reasonable bus fleet to the people of the northern beaches. I drove across Spit Road one night coming home from Parliament two weeks ago and I saw two buses. One was broken down outside the car park on The Spit itself, and at the top of the hill on Manly Road there was another bus broken down—two buses broken down in the space of one kilometre! This week we had another bus blowing up¯it effectively blew up on the Wakehurst Parkway. That bus burst into flames with passengers on board and blocked traffic right up the Wakehurst Parkway. So not only was there no bus transport on the Wakehurst Parkway, there was no car transport on the Wakehurst Parkway.
Peter Macdonald and David Barr have a fair bit to explain about all this, because they have been complicit in a cover-up on the northern beaches about our public transport. Every time the issue was raised we had Peter Macdonald, before the day of David Barr, coming out and saying that he supported public transport. And then we had David Barr out there regularly saying that he supports public transport. But what he does is that he simply accepts the empty rhetoric—in fact, I think he is complicit in the empty rhetoric—that comes out of this mob, this Labor Government, about the sorts of services that are going to be delivered.
If you look back on the history of Dr Macdonald you can understand why. Dr Macdonald got himself elected twice on Labor preferences—he is a Labor man through and through. He took election funds from the Labor front organisation, the Fair Go Alliance¯$2,000¯for his last little tilt at State Parliament. The last time he even engaged the services of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, whose representatives most Labor members are embarrassed to have turn up in their electorates. The most militant union in the State provided the on-the-ground troops and the posters on the walls. Peter Macdonald is Labor through and through. David Barr is Labor through and through. It is about time they started honouring their Independent badge and made sure that their mates on the Government benches in Macquarie Street delivered. Public buses are crucial. The people working in the Brookvale bus depot—the very fine drivers, mechanics and others—should not be put on stress leave, they should not be stressed out by buses constantly blowing up, burning and breaking down. It is time the Government delivered our much-promised bus services and new buses generally. [Time expired.
Mr BRYCE GAUDRY
(Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [12.00 p.m.]: I am drawn to respond to a couple of points made by the honourable member for Wakehurst. Listening to that speech, I thought the honourable member had written the Bible on empty rhetoric. He could also have written opening stanzas for Midnight Oil. I thank him for mentioning the 30 new low-line buses that are coming into Newcastle to provide easy access. Of course, that is 30 of a fleet. I am sure the honourable member has read the Unsworth report on public transport improvements, and there will be delivery of improved bus services when that is implemented.
Mr Brad Hazzard:
Point of order: Under Standing Order 138, in view of the Parliamentary Secretary's insight into these matters, perhaps he can tell us when the tender will be let for the buses for the northern beaches?
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr John Mills):
Order! That is a debating point rather than a point of order. There is no point of order.
Mr BRYCE GAUDRY:
I am drawn to discuss the fear factor. There is no doubt, listening to the honourable member railing against the former and present members for Manly and their effectiveness, that he is trying to damn them with faint praise. They were both elected as Independents with strong votes, so they are obviously delivering. The honourable member is somewhat disquieted by that. I thank the honourable member for bringing some lightheartedness to private members' statements.
BATTLE OF VINEGAR HILL BICENTENARY
Mr PAUL LYNCH
(Liverpool) [12.02 p.m.]: I draw the attention of the House, as have other honourable members, to the events surrounding the 200th anniversary of the Castle Hill rebellion and the Battle of Vinegar Hill. There is a quite significant Liverpool connection with those events. The Irish rebel who was generally purported to be the leader of the uprising, Joseph Holt, was one of the first European cultivators of Liverpool. As best I can determine, he was the first European owner of the land on which my home is located. There is also a long tradition of Irish rebels in Liverpool and there is an ongoing interest in Irish republicanism among the inheritors of the traditions of 1804. Events commemorating 1804 commenced on Sunday 29 February and continued until last Sunday, 7 March. I attended a number of those events—the Friends of Vinegar Hill commemoration on 29 February, the re-enactment on 7 March and the history seminar that was held on the afternoon of 7 March at which I gave a paper. I have been aware of these events for some time. They have been a long time in the planning, and I have gone to a number of meetings to help, in a comparatively minor way, with various events.
The commemoration has been a great celebration of an event that was largely airbrushed out of Australian history. These commemorations go towards re-establishing a radical past for Australia and also establish the non-English heritage of this place. The first of the events was the Friends of Vinegar Hill commemoration. I particularly acknowledge the contributions of Tomas and Christine O'Gliasain to the Friends of Vinegar Hill over a long time. They have essentially run that organisation. Also in relation to the events of 29 February I acknowledge the contribution of Shay O'Hara and Jim Smyth, both of whom, along with the O'Gliasains, are members of Australian Aid for Ireland, and who have had a significant role for some time in maintaining Irish republican traditions in New South Wales. On 29 February a new plaque was unveiled. Also present were members of the Wexford Senate. The plaque that was unveiled fixed an error in the previous plaque. The plaque that was erected a number of years ago acknowledged all the alderman on Blacktown council but did not acknowledge the rebels who were killed. That has now been remedied.
The re-enactment that occurred last Sunday at the Rouse Hill regional park was a spectacular event. I particularly pay credit to Barbara Gapps, the Deputy Mayor of Blacktown, who has been the driving political force behind all of these events. They reflect very well upon her and also on the Blacktown council and the other councils who have worked co-operatively to establish a quite significant event. Also present at the re-enactment was Anne Webster, the Consul-General of the Republic of Ireland and David Cremin, who is well-known to those of us who have an interest in Irish matters, who is originally from Limerick and who is now my Lord Bishop David Cremin—and sometimes referred to by other appellations as well. They were also present at the Friends of Vinegar Hill event on the weekend before.
On the Sunday afternoon a seminar was run by the Sydney branch of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History. This was chaired by Rowan Cahill and featured papers from four people—Associate Professor Andrew Moore, Peter Moore—who was associated with Crossing Press, and has been publishing books that I have been buying for longer than I care to remember—Bob Gould—a well-known bookseller from whom I have also bought a few books—and me. The historiography of 1804 is fascinating. For many years it was largely ignored by those who were purporting to write about Australian history. There is an argument that until Manning Clark wrote about it in 1962, basically no-one who wrote books on Australian history acknowledged it at all. Once people started writing about it one had to ask what it was they were saying. There has been a well-established tradition to treat the Irish rebels in a less than flattering manner—after all, they were only Irish and they could not have been serious.
There has been no real analysis by some of the historians who have been involved in writing about this incident. Manning Clark categorised 1804 as simply being motivated by revenge against Anglo-Saxons and not much else. An earlier Irish nationalist and largely Catholic tradition focused on the horrors of the convict system, and therefore all of these Irish convicts in a totally irrational way responded to the violence. Bob Connell, someone for whom I normally have a high regard, argued that because some of the Irish were better educated and had better experiences, they were less able to cope with the rigors of convictism and therefore in an irrational response to this situation rebelled.
Patrick O'Farrell, with whom I have many arguments of interpretation despite the impressive nature of his work, puts the inspiration of the rebellion down to "sentiment and hope, forlorn maybe". Lynette Ramsay Silver, who has written a book about it, harps on and on about the deluded Irish seeking a way to China across the Blue Mountains. These are all failures of historical analysis. As the best of the writers on these topics, Ann-Maree Whitaker, reminds us, modern scholarship should adopt a more analytical approach. There were specific reasons for the rebellion, largely provided by news of Emmett's rebellion. The rebellion here went a lot closer to success than most people concede. It was a rational endeavour carried out by rational people, and the historians ought to pay more attention to that.
WINDSOR ROAD UPGRADE
Mr MICHAEL RICHARDSON
(The Hills) [12.07 p.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House the problems being faced by many of my constituents and local businesses as a result of the upgrade of Windsor Road, Kellyville. The upgrade was something for which many people fought long and hard, and it was certainly needed. What is not needed is any unnecessary inconvenience and, in the case of local businesses, a loss of earnings. The latest upgrade under consideration is 2.6 kilometres from Old Windsor Road to Acres Road Kellyville, which is to be widened to two lanes each way by the end of 2006. The Roads and Traffic Authority's [RTA's] plan is to put a median strip down the centre of the road blocking off all right turns for westbound traffic apart from Samantha Riley Drive, which is already signalised.
Last year the RTA and Baulkham Hills Shire Council banned right turns into Acres Road and Poole Road, causing considerable loss of business to shopkeepers on the southern side of Kellyville shopping village. I have raised this issue in this place before. Local shopkeepers took up a petition carrying 1,600 names—an enormous number for a local issue—asking for the right turn into Acres Road to be reinstated. The matter is also going before the Baulkham Hills Shire Council local traffic committee next Monday. Opinion is divided as to whether a right turn should be provided into Poole Road as part of the upgrade although residents of Redden Drive were adamant that the right turn ban should remain. They reported cars travelling along this narrow, winding suburban street at more than 80 kilometres an hour. Some parked cars were even sideswiped. This has ended with the right turn ban.
West of Poole Road is Samantha Riley Drive, and just beyond it is a network of streets including Wilkins Cressy and Sirius avenues, created as part of the A. V. Jennings display village. These people have no way to access their homes other than to turn off Windsor Road, a manoeuvre that will be blocked by the median strip when the upgrade is completed. If one keeps travelling down Windsor Road one will come to Kellyville Pets, probably the best and best-known pet retail outlet in Sydney. Its owner, John Grima, has invested an enormous amount of time and effort in building his business up into the Sydney icon it is today. Right alongside Kellyville Pets runs a new road called Millcroft Way. Three or four years ago it did not exist. It now services or will service more than 200 homes plus a proposed new sports complex. At the moment vehicles can turn right into Millcroft Way to access both the estate and Kellyville Pets.
When the proposed upgrade is completed this option will be lost. Millcroft Way will be left out and anyone wanting to access it from the east will have to detour several kilometres. John Grima estimates that he could lose 40 per cent of his business simply because of the median strip. In August last year he received approval to upgrade his 6,000 square metre site as a pet shop, cafe and veterinary surgery, believing on the basis of correspondence with the RTA that a right turn into, but not out of, Millcroft Way would be permitted. It therefore came as a bombshell to him and to residents of Millcroft Way when the RTA said that it would not maintain the right turn in because it believed that it would impede traffic flow along Windsor Road.
One solution to the problem would be to join up the halves of a street called Phoenix Avenue, which is currently in two unconnected sections, and extend it to Samantha Riley Drive. Local residents and customers of Kellyville Pets would then be able to turn right into Samantha Riley Drive then left into Phoenix Avenue and travel along it to Millcroft Way. This would have the distinct advantage of also providing improved access to the residents of Wilkins Avenue, Cressy Avenue and Sirius Avenue, where the A. V. Jennings display village was located. On 6 February I wrote to Baulkham Hills Shire Council on behalf of Millcroft Way residents and Kellyville Pets proposing this solution. Council wrote back saying that it wanted to retain the right turn into Millcroft Way and that this was a matter for the RTA to determine. So we have a Mexican standoff between two levels of government that could well result in nothing being done.
Right at the intersection of Windsor Road and Old Windsor Road is Baulkham Hills Landscape Supplies, which is owned by well-known local identity Thomas Cann. Mr Cann has withstood the roadworks along Old Windsor Road with stoicism. He has put up with the partial closure of right turn access from Windsor Road into the access road to his business. He has endured the burning down of his office building as a direct result of an electrical surge caused by an RTA contractor. Now he faces not only the front of his property being resumed to provide corridors for the Parramatta to Mungerie Park transitway and the proposed train to Mungerie Park, but also a complete ban on right turns into and out of his business. This will cost him not just customers; it will significantly increase his costs as any of his trucks that have to make a delivery to the west will have to detour several kilometres by Samantha Riley Drive.
I have written to the Minister on behalf of Mr Cann, a good and generous local citizen, asking him to move the Baulkham Hills Landscape Supplies access road closer to Caddies Creek as part of the road reconstruction. A right turn bay would then allow right turns into and out of the access road, and I understand that there would be sufficient width in the roadway to accommodate the turn bay. Moving the access road towards the bridge would resolve the first issue, while the planned widening of the Caddies Creek bridge will resolve the second. Not only is Baulkham Hills Landscape Supplies a major sponsor of local community events; it employs 38 people. Yesterday the Minister for Western Sydney lauded the Government's alleged achievements in creating jobs in Western Sydney. Here are some jobs that the Government could save. I ask the Minister and the RTA to properly resolve these issues when considering the final form of this section of the Windsor Road upgrade and to live up to the promise of major benefits to the local community made in the RTA brochure about the upgrade.
Mr PETER DRAPER
(Tamworth) [12.12 p.m.]: Today I will speak about the small community of Dungowan in my electorate. I note the presence in the Chamber of the Parliamentary Secretary, the honourable member for Menai, who has a strong passion for small communities in regional New South Wales. Dungowan is a village of about 180 people about 20 minutes out of Tamworth on a main thoroughfare between Tamworth and the coast. That thoroughfare has some interest to the Minister for Roads because I have been knocking on his door regularly asking him to upgrade 13 kilometres of dirt road, which would make a huge difference to tourism and to access from Tamworth to the coast. Dungowan is a very proactive small community. While it has only 180 people, those people get up and have a go. It is quite inspirational to see the drive and initiative that the community exhibits. In 2000 Dungowan started a rugby league football side. It had not had one since 1953, as with many small regional communities that have experienced a population drift to the larger centres.
I was very pleased to be part of a committee that got rugby league happening again in Dungowan. In our very first year the Dungowan Cowboys made the grand final of the group 4 second division competition. We attracted just over 5,000 people to Dungowan to watch the football game. Roy Masters, a very well-known commentator on football matters, travelled to Tamworth twice. We had exceptionally good coverage in the Sydney Morning Herald
and were called the "Bunnies from the Bush", because at the time South Sydney was trying to move back into the National Rugby League competition. Because our first year was so successful the efforts of Dungowan inspired the young people and families of the district to get junior football going. I am pleased to report that there are now seven junior sides as well as the senior side—under 7s right through to under 12s. In a society in which rugby league apparently is dying we are quite a contradiction, and I am very proud to be part of that.
Dungowan is very proactive in other areas as well as football. Three weeks ago Dungowan held the Australian national camp draft finals. Dungowan has two camp draft events every year, one in February and one in September. They are a boon to the community, bringing in a lot of money. I am a member of the local progress association, which co-ordinates the camp drafts. Recognising my abilities and lack of abilities in some areas, I volunteered to work behind the bar, where I was quite effective. I was not going to disturb the competitors or upset the livestock by venturing much further than the bar. But I was on the correct side. Having done my responsible service of alcohol certificate course, I was pleased to contribute to the day. It was interesting. As I did not know a great deal about camp drafting, I asked the judge how one run scores 63 and another run scores 58. He explained to me, "When you turn up as a judge here on the Friday there are 750 competitors, 250 spectators and one judge. By the time you get to the final on Sunday afternoon there are 1,000 judges and one fool who does not have a clue what he is doing." I thought that summed up the situation well.
Dungowan has also started a Lions Club. In a community of 180 people we now have more than 20 members. Inaugural President Peter Blom is doing a fantastic job. Meetings are held in the Dungowan Tavern. We are very fortunate: the operators, Kevin and Tanya Smith, have been proactive in raising funds in the community. Every Friday for six years I went there to sell raffle tickets. We raised about $75,000, and that money went back into the four small local schools—Nundle, Woolomin, Niangala and Dungowan. The money went to the halls, the tennis club and a whole range of community facilities that have made a huge difference to the standard of life in a small area. I am very proud to live there. I must mention also Ron Hammond, the former president of the Nundle Lions Club, who was very helpful in getting our club going. He is quite inspirational. I encourage people who have the opportunity to go into Dungowan to watch a game with the Cowboys. It is a great place to be on a weekend. [Time expired
Ms ALISON MEGARRITY
(Menai—Parliamentary Secretary) [12.17 p.m.]: I thank the honourable member for Tamworth for telling us about the thriving village of Dungowan. I venture to say that there may be some members of the House who previously had not heard of Dungowan, but they have now. I hope the honourable member sends a copy of his speech to all 180 people of that village. They are recorded forever in Hansard
and the history of the Parliament. It is good to hear that football is undertaking a renaissance there after the break since 1953. That is a while between drinks, to use the honourable member's analogy about the bar. In an environment in which rugby league needs all the positive press it can get, it is good to see that it is being played in the right spirit and in the right way at Dungowan. What I took most from what the honourable member told us about the community is that it is just that: a community. It takes on a range of responsibilities and actions that improve the quality of life for everyone there. If only all our communities, big and small, across New South Wales had the same spirit and dedication to their local area as obviously the good people of Dungowan have we would have a much better State.
MRS ROBIN PHILLIPS TEACHER POSITION
Mr DARYL MAGUIRE
(Wagga Wagga) [12.19 p.m.]: I raise the concerns of one of my constituents, Mrs Robin Phillips, on whose behalf I wrote to the Minister for Education and Training. On 11 March Mrs Phillips wrote:
I wrote to Dr Refshauge in December 2003 concerning the fact that in 2002 I received a letter from the then Minister for Education and Training John Watkins MP congratulating me on being identified for appointment to a NSW public school in 2003 as I was one of the 1000 best new teachers. I never received that appointment and indeed was not even afforded what the letter from the Minister described as an appropriate offer.
The letter from the former Minister for Education and Training to which she referred stated:
I would like to congratulate you and offer my best wishes as you complete the final stages of your university studies. In becoming a teacher you have chosen one of the most personally satisfying careers available and the chance to make a positive difference to the lives and learning of our young people.
It is now my privilege and pleasure to offer you an opportunity for permanent employment as a teacher through the NSW Department of Education and Trainings' Graduate Recruitment Program. Through this program, 1000 of the best new teachers have been identified for appointment to a NSW public school [system] in 2003.
Mrs Phillips also stated in her letter:
Dr Refshauge replied to my letter in early February 2004 stating that a number of conditions needed to be fulfilled in order for me to be the next in line for an appointment as a teacher to any of the schools on my list of preferences. I can understand that priority is important and that schools should fill their vacancies with people best suited to their needs.
The Minister for Education and Training said in the letter to which Mrs Phillips referred:
Vacant teacher positions are filled initially by permanent teachers on priority transfer. Where there are no teachers seeking priority transfer, vacancies are filled from a mix of service transfers, employment from recruitment programs such as the Graduate Recruitment Program and the Permanent Employment Program and from teachers seeking employment.
Mrs Phillips said that the Minister's department declared that she was one of the best teachers in the State, but that no such conditions were outlined to her. She said that of the 10 graduates who were targeted in the Riverina she is the only one who has not been placed. She also said that the Minister for Education and Training said in his letter in early February that a manager of support would maintain contact with her and monitor temporary vacancies in Wagga Wagga on a daily basis to locate a suitable position for her in 2004. The manager of support is now the manager of staffing. His greater responsibilities have made contact more difficult. She said that she has had the opportunity to speak to the manager only twice in the past several weeks. On one of those occasions she was told that the numbers of schools and, consequently, possible positions would be known in mid-February. When she rang in mid-February she was told that something would be known in the next 10 days or sooner and to call again. After waiting for three weeks, she called but was unable to speak with the manager. However, on one occasion the secretary told her she was on the waiting list. Surprise, surprise! Mrs Phillips has been identified by a program and is desperate to work in the system. She has complied with all the necessary requirements. She wrote:
I try and stay positive, but I find myself sitting by the phone waiting for staffing to give me the common decency of letting me know what's going on and there is nothing but rhetoric …
In Wagga Wagga at the moment casual work is very rare; I have had 5 days work this term. If I was like other non recruited graduates I would just have to hope for the best …
Mrs Phillips has a family. She has had to use her savings and sell an investment property. She was of the understanding that having been selected as one of the 1,000 best new teachers in this State that she would be employed within the education industry. I have forwarded my correspondence to the Minister for Education and Training. We need this teacher in our school system. Will the Minister ensure that Mrs Phillips, identified as one of 10 best new teachers in the Riverina, has an opportunity to teach? Will the Minister intervene and find out what is going on, cut the rhetoric and help Mrs Phillips teach in a school?
Ms ALISON MEGARRITY
(Menai—Parliamentary Secretary) [12.24 p.m.]: I am pleased that the honourable member for Wagga Wagga has referred the correspondence to the Minister for Education and Training. A thorough investigation and explanation needs to occur. I will bring the representations of the honourable member to the attention of the Minister. I hope that he will receive a full and comprehensive answer for Mrs Phillips.
Private members' statements noted.
The House adjourned at 12.25 p.m. until Tuesday 16 March 2004 at 2.15 p.m.