The Speaker (The Hon. George Richard Torbay)
Wednesday 23 September 2009
took the chair at 10.00 a.m.
read the Prayer and acknowledgement of country.
Mr Speaker tabled, pursuant to the section 38E of the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983, the Performance Audit Report of the Auditor-General entitled, "Administering Domestic Waterfront Tenancies: Land and Property Management Authority, and Marine Authority of New South Wales", dated September 2009.
Ordered to be printed
NOTICES OF MOTIONS
Order! A trend has developed for members to give notices of motions that are lengthy, contain argument, unbecoming expressions, and which at times are given in the spirit of mockery. I remind members that such notices are out of order. In accordance with Standing Order 137 the Clerks are able to amend such notices under my authority to ensure they conform to the standing orders. However, if members persist in giving notices that are out of order I will rule them to be out of order and not published in the Business Paper. I remind members that a notice of motion should be a self-contained proposal and be drafted in such a way that the House is able to express a decision when the motion is moved. Members should avail themselves of the advice of the Clerks if they are unsure whether a notice is in an acceptable form prior to giving it.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Notices of Motions
General Business Notices of Motions (General Notices) given.
REAL PROPERTY AMENDMENT (LAND TRANSACTIONS) BILL 2009
Agreement in Principle
Debate resumed from 22 September 2009.
Mr JOHN TURNER
(Myall Lakes) [10.10 a.m.]: It is 21 years since I did any conveyancing and I was surprised when this legislation was introduced because I thought we would have moved past the point of requiring a legislative mechanism to allow the electronic lodgement of notices of land sales. I presume that the current system is that which applied when I was involved in conveyancing. We would finish the conveyancing and complete the blue forms, complete with carbon paper, and send them off. Certain practitioners were tardy in their completion of the forms, which detailed the procedures undertaken. It created problems further down the line for people who purchased and disposed of properties when the information had not been properly and promptly lodged. Therefore, this legislation is a welcome measure.
I have a few queries that the Parliamentary Secretary might address in reply. Notices of sale detail transactions such as the settlement date and sale price and provide the updated address for service of notices on the new owners. The information is used by agencies such as the Valuer General, the Office of State Revenue, councils, water suppliers, and the like. As I said, in the past the lodgement has been done manually. This legislation specifies that the registrar general may require a notice of sale to be certified for accuracy regardless of the method of lodgement. It appears that the notice of sale can be lodged prior to or in conjunction with the lodgement of details of a land dealing. I query the reference to "prior to" and am concerned about the legal implications.
The legislation also changes the emphasis in relation to liability for information not properly recorded in the notice of sale and exempts the registrar general from any liability under the Torrens Assurance Fund. I do not see any problem with that, but the responsibility for the practical aspects of lodging prior to or in conjunction with the lodgement and lodging electronically will be fleshed out further down the track. That is an untested area. This legislation is a step forward. As I said, I am very surprised that, 21 years after I did my last conveyance, we are only now dealing with legislation to provide for the electronic lodgement of notices of sale.
Mr GEOFF PROVEST
(Tweed) [10.13 a.m.]: The Real Property Amendment (Land Transaction) Bill 2009 will enable notices of sale of land to be lodged electronically prior to or in conjunction with the lodgement of land dealings such as transfers and other dealings that change the ownership of land and facilitate the Land and Property Information division's implementation of a new electronic system for the lodging of notice of sale forms. The legislation also specifies when the registrar general may require a notice of sale to be certified for correctness regardless of whether the notice is electronically lodged and clarifies when compensation may be payable from the Torrens Assurance Fund in relation to information provided in the notice of sale.
We in the Tweed deal with a large number of transactions because we are one of the fastest growing regional areas in New South Wales. Even as late as yesterday I have had in-depth discussions with leading real estate and legal professionals in the Tweed. They informed me that the real property database has been in use for a number of years, but that often the information on that system is up to three months old; that is, it is not updated until three months after a sale. That is causing a large amount of confusion, particularly for local investors and Queensland investors, who are investing in fabulous real estate in the Tweed. This legislation is a significant step forward. Notices of sale are still lodged manually and that involves significant manual data entry with the associated potential for error and delay. That problem was demonstrated in my discussions with local leading real estate operators.
The Land and Property Information division has developed a new product that will enable electronic presentation and lodgement of notices of sale. The new system has enhancements to assist with the accuracy of the data and will ultimately obviate the need for manual data entry. That is a positive step. I take on board the member for Myall Lakes' statement that it has taken some time for the Government to get to this point. However, this legislation is a considerable advance, particularly in terms of real estate sales and in providing clarity in the legal system. Confusion and delays have caused angst for purchasers and vendors in the past. I will not oppose this legislation because it is a significant step forward. However, it is a shame it has taken so long to get to this point.
Mr BARRY COLLIER
(Miranda—Parliamentary Secretary) [10.16 a.m.], in reply: I thank the members for Manly, Kiama, Port Stephens, Smithfield, Baulkham Hills, Davidson, Myall Lakes and Tweed for their contributions to the debate. The Real Property Amendment (Land Transactions) Bill 2009 amends the Real Property Act to enable the Land and Property Information division to accept electronic notice of sale forms through the department's website and via its existing network of authorised information brokers. A number of key features of the bill warrant repeating. The bill will enable the Real Property Act to provide that the notice of sale form may be lodged either manually or electronically, the information to be provided on the notice of sale form is to be certified as correct by the person completing the form, and the Torrens Assurance Fund will not pay compensation for losses resulting from information supplied on the notice of sale form except where the loss arises from transcription errors made by the registrar general.
I note that the Opposition supports the bill. In fact, the member for Tweed was most enthusiastic about it and noted the large number of sales in his electorate. The member for Port Stephens made a number of comments about the register. I note that he alluded to a particular case, although he did not mentioned it specifically by name. That case has been drawn to the attention of the Land and Property Management Authority. I will not go into the details of the case because it has been canvassed already in the other place. I remind the House that the Torrens Register is primarily a register of information relating to land. People interested in dealing with land can search the register to discover a variety of interests and attributes applicable to the land itself. The register is not to be used to discover personal information about another person. Accordingly, the amount of personal data on the face of the register is kept to a minimum so that privacy is not infringed.
To register a writ on a title, the creditor must present the writ for lodgement at the Land and Property Information division accompanied by an application listing the titles owned by the creditor. The application must include a statutory declaration sworn by a creditor declaring that to the best of his or her knowledge the debtor named on the writ is identical to the owner of the title on which the writ is to be recorded. Any person involved in litigation should use the procedures available through the courts to obtain details of a debtor's property. I note that it is the responsibility of the creditor and his or her legal practitioners—and their responsibility to their profession as well as to their client—to identify property assets owned by a debtor that may be used to satisfy a judgement debt through court proceedings.
The member for Port Stephens gave an example of how to beat the system. I suggest that if he knows anybody engaged in such conduct or has examples in his particular area, he should refer those to the Minister for Lands, and in fact I will draw the Minister's attention to that part of Hansard
where the member for Port Stephens outlined a way in which the system could be beaten. The member for Myall Lakes said it had been 21 years since he had done a land transfer or conveyancing, and he mentioned old system titles, although there are not many of those around these days, but I note that there was a Liberal Government in office from 1988 to 1995—
Mr George Souris:
We installed the Torrens system for Russia, no less. Are you about to say we didn't do something? World acclaimed.
Mr BARRY COLLIER:
The Torrens title system came into being in 1858 in South Australia and in 1863 in New South Wales. It is important to note some of the reforms to the Real Property Act that strengthen the Act's efficacy against fraud. The Rees Government has recently introduced reforms to ensure that in any forced sale of property by a mortgagee the home would be sold at not less than the market value. This protection will be comprehensive so that no matter what legal device a mortgagee uses to sell the property the market value should be achieved. The rights that people have in land represent a large portion of the wealth of the people of the State and it is important that we do everything we can to protect them. The Department of Lands registers approximately 3,000 land dealings every working day, representing billions of dollars worth of land transactions in New South Wales every year.
The Torrens title system provides for certainty of title to land by enabling people to rely on the accuracy of the Torrens register kept by the Registrar General within the Department of Lands, now Land and Property Information. Once registered, an interest in land cannot be set aside because of some defect in the history of the title. The principle of indefeasibility—and I am sure the member for Upper Hunter is well aware of the principle of indefeasibility, although he is not listening—brings stability to the land market and simplifies the conveyancing process. Indefeasibility can, however, prevent a landowner who has been deprived of an interest in land through fraud or error from regaining the interest lost. Where this occurs the deprived landowner will receive compensation from the Torrens Assurance Fund. The Torrens Assurance Fund underpins the Torrens title system and enables the State to guarantee land titles. The Government has taken steps to strengthen that protection. In a continuing program, the Department of Lands is enhancing the security features built into certificates of title to minimise the likelihood of the documents being used fraudulently. The member for Tweed is nodding his head in agreement.
We are cracking down on identity fraud to give further protection to landowners so that property owners do not lose their property due to fraud. Property fraud is most distressing to the innocent party and is often committed by relatives, friends or business associates of the property owner. We have tightened the obligation of lenders and witnesses to lending documents to ensure that they properly identify the parties to a mortgage and other land dealings. If the conditions are not met the mortgage, if forged, will not be enforceable against an innocent landowner. These changes aim to protect landowners from identity fraud and will require those issuing a mortgage to ensure that they have met minimum standards of identification of the borrower.
I am grateful for the point raised by the member for Baulkham Hills concerning the possible dangers of a time delay between an electronic notice of sale lodged in advance of the transfer of title documents relating to a sale. I believe the member for Myall Lakes also raised the same issue. In particular, he raised the issue of the possibility of fraud on the register occurring within such a time delay. I am advised that the prior electronic lodgement of the notice of sale is only brought into effect with the exchange and lodgement of actual property titles. This is a small but integral part of the State's commitment to a national electronic conveyancing system.
The electronic notice of sale [eNOS] form remains in the Land and Property Information database until the dealing is in fact lodged. The incoming dealing has a unique identification number, which matches the number stored in the database. The electronic notice of sale is submitted for a particular type of dealing—for example, a transfer or an acquisition. Once the dealing is registered the electronic notice of sale is deemed to be accepted and proceeds through the Land and Property Information systems to be distributed to end users. The electronic notice of sale does not alter any title details. The Torrens register is only amended by registration of a dealing in the usual way. The electronic notice of sale information is not available to any person other than the end user authorities.
The introduction of the electronic notice of sale form will streamline data flow and provide more timely notification of address for service of notice and other pertinent information to rating authorities and other agencies, which will improve the delivery of information and services in the State. For conveyancing and industry practitioners, the introduction of the electronic notice of sale will simplify and streamline the methods of notifying various authorities whenever land ownership changes. These reforms will continue the Government's commitment to ensuring the integrity and accuracy of land records held by the State, its agencies and authorities.
The member for Manly has asked me to provide more detailed information relating to cost savings against the budget. It is quite clear that these reforms will create efficiencies in terms of the processing time taken for the transaction. I am sure that, with his background in economics, the member will be well aware of the concept of opportunity cost and I do not need to say any more about that for his benefit. Exact amounts have not been estimated at this time, but I am advised that the Land Property Management Authority can get further details in relation to that in due course.
In relation to an issue raised by the member for Myall Lakes, all notices will be required to be certified as correct by the person completing it. The notice of sale is not a Torrens dealing. As a consequence, the Torrens Assurance Fund has not before paid compensation for issues relating to a notice of sale. The amendment specifically provides that the Torrens Assurance Fund will pay compensation for transcription errors made by the Registrar General. This is a new area where compensation will be paid.
For the benefit of legal practitioners, who often read Hansard
, I propose to answer a number of questions that have been raised. In relation to the first question—can electronic notice of sale be used to notify authorities of a change of address where there is no accompanying land dealing—the answer is no. The electronic notice of sale can only be initiated where a land dealing is proposed to be registered and will be acted upon only when a dealing is registered. Landowners will be required to notify the relevant authorities of a change of their address for service of notices in accordance with existing procedures.
In relation to the second question—will it be compulsory to lodge the notice of sale form electronically—the answer is no. The legislation required that a notice of sale must be lodged with all land dealings where the name of the registered proprietor of the land will change. Following the amendment to the legislation, the notice of sale can be provided either electronically or manually. The third question is: How will the introduction of eNOS be a step towards the introduction of an electronic conveyancing system? Lodgement of a notice of sale form is an integral part of the conveyancing process. At present the notice of sale is a manual procedure. The form is pre-printed and cannot be downloaded from the Internet. As a notice of sale must be lodged with all transfers of land, a system had to be introduced that would enable the form to be lodged electronically as a precursor to introduction of an integrated electronic conveyancing system.
The fourth question is: To whom does the Registrar General forward information contained in the notice of sale and why? The notice of sale form contains some private information, including names and addresses. The information contained on the form is dealt with in accordance with the privacy legislation, that is, the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act. There are, however, several Acts that require an owner of land to notify certain authorities of any change of land ownership details. This legislation allows notice to be given via the Registrar General. One such example is section 604 of the Local Government Act. Information contained within the notice of sale is given to the relevant local council, the relevant water board or water authority, the Office of State Revenue, the Valuer General and the Livestock Health and Protection Authority, if the land is within a rural area. This important legislation will make a real difference to land dealings under the Real Property Act. I commend the bill to the House.
Question—That this bill be now agreed to in principle—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bill agreed to in principle.
Passing of the Bill
Bill declared passed and transmitted to the Legislative Council with a message seeking its concurrence in the bill.
MAJOR EVENTS BILL 2009
Agreement in Principle
Debate resumed from 10 September 2009.
Mr GEORGE SOURIS
(Upper Hunter) [10.30 a.m.]: It is with pleasure that I lead for the Liberal Party and The Nationals on the Major Events Bill 2009. The Opposition will not oppose the legislation. Indeed, after discussions and negotiations with the Government and Minister, the Opposition will support government amendments that will be moved during the consideration in detail stage. The bill seeks to establish a single agency—like a coordinator general agency—to coordinate various government agencies that provide assistance with, collaborate on and contribute to a declared major event. The legislation does not create a single agency as such; it creates a single coordinating agency.
I have had the opportunity to consult widely throughout the community and particularly with stakeholders involved in tourism, business, chambers of commerce and major sporting venues, as well as shadow Ministers for, in particular, healthy lifestyles, police, transport, roads and planning. During that process I realised the various aspects of government that are covered in a bill of this nature, which seeks to create a coordinating agency. The lessons learned from hosting the Olympic Games in 2000 and the Rugby World Cup in 2003, the experience being learned as we speak from the World Masters Games in 2009 and the experience gained from hosting other events of some magnitude—although those three are of such magnitude that they warranted their own legislation—are included in the legislation. In theory, at least, should a major event deemed to be of such significance be won, this legislation will be invoked automatically.
I support the concept, but it begs the question: Should New South Wales host an event such as an Olympic Games or, perhaps a better example, a Commonwealth Games—which, prospectively, would be something we would aspire to—would the legislation be all that was necessary to stage such an event? Does the legislation include all the aspects and flexibility necessary? I note the legislation is invoked by the Minister in whole or in part by regulation. Will the legislation carry us into the future without the need for specific legislation should major world marquee events be staged in New South Wales? I am sceptical that the legislation would stand us in such good stead in the future. In other words, specific legislation would be necessary to deal with things that have not been contemplated and were not part of the previous experience, and not all of them would relate to security.
It is hard to imagine that the bill represents the final legislation that would provide sufficient powers to carry a major event in the future, but it is at least one symbolic step forward in the general major events battle around the world and among the States of Australia. It is an important statement to make. At last, perhaps, New South Wales has taken note of the incredible progress that has been made, particularly in Victoria, but also in Queensland and even in New Zealand in the world of major events. Indeed, Victoria, Queensland and New Zealand have Acts of this nature already. It is an important asset in the bidding process. It makes the statement that the State is serious about bidding for major events and is prepared to invoke whatever is necessary to ensure that the event operates smoothly and successfully. An agency can bid with confidence that that climate prevails in New South Wales, as it does elsewhere.
It is obvious that New South Wales lags behind Victoria in a significant way. Victoria takes a whole-of-government, whole-of-State approach to winning a major event. It is really an extraordinary experience. Victoria regards major events as the economic driver of the State. I credit a previous Premier Jeff Kennett with starting the impetus for major events. He created a focus, even a mindset, in Victoria towards the pursuit of a complete major events calendar that takes into account the seasons—the season applicable to conferences and conventions, the season applicable to sport, and the season applicable to major musicals and theatrical events, just to name a few.
The incursion of Victoria started virtually on day one of the commencement of the Carr Labor Government in 1995. It was not many days after the 1995 election of the Carr Government that New South Wales encountered its first loss at the hands of Victoria: the 500cc Motorcycle Grand Prix, which was such an anchor for western Sydney. It was popular not only in Sydney but throughout the State, interstate and internationally. It attracted many tourists and visitors to the State. It was a stimulus to the economy of western Sydney, but also to the whole of the State. That was the first loss. It kept on going after that.
Victoria has rubbed it in, particularly if we look at the way Victoria has locked away the Australian Tennis Open. It has done so twice. Even before the expiration of the current licence Victoria had locked away a future licence. The Australian Tennis Open has never been on the agenda for New South Wales. This State never knew it was available, never knew it came, never knew it went to Victoria, never knew it stayed there and never knew that it is so far out now that New South Wales can almost forget about contemplating holding the Tennis Open for many years.
Indeed, the same thing has happened with the Australian Football League [AFL] grand final. One cannot even imagine why this would be necessary, but this is in a way an indication of the mindset in Victoria: Major events are so important that even the AFL grand final has been locked away for literally decades—until 2037. One might observe from New South Wales that one could not contemplate an AFL grand final being held anywhere other than in Melbourne under any circumstances. I would probably have been prepared to say the same thing about a National Rugby League grand final. One could not imagine it being staged anywhere other than in Sydney. The importance of a Rugby Union Bledisloe Cup or a State of Origin match to Sydney and New South Wales is so obvious that I cannot imagine one would need to contemplate the prospect of losing these events to an interstate rival. Yet on a number of occasions some of them have been lost and all of them are up for bids, including the rugby league grand final.
David Gallop, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Rugby League, made the announcement at the launch of this season in the Domain, near Parliament House, that he had been in communication and negotiations with the Queensland Premier regarding the future staging of the Rugby League grand final. It is unthinkable that that is on the table and it is unimaginable that the Government has done nothing about it. It has not realised that this is a genuine threat and has not locked up the rugby league grand final. It has been eight or nine months since that was announced. What has the New South Wales Government done to ensure that the rugby league grand final is staged in Sydney for decades ahead, just as the Victorian Government has done to ensure that the Aussie rules grand final is staged in Melbourne for decades ahead?
Mr Paul Gibson:
We look like getting the Melbourne Cup up here.
Mr GEORGE SOURIS:
That would be a good one too. New South Wales has come off second-best in virtually every area in which there is a bid for a major event. I will mention three or four items in the world of theatre. New South Wales has lost virtually every musical or theatrical premiere season to Victoria. Looking at the current crop, the premiere seasons of Wicked
, Jersey Boys
, Avenue Q
and Mary Poppins
have been lost to Victoria. The last example, Mary Poppins
, was lost to Victoria after New South Wales had won the bid and it had been announced that the premiere would be in Sydney. Once Victoria heard that they could not believe they had missed out so they went all out to get it and in fact snaffled it from New South Wales. It was only when the people in Government here read it in the newspaper that they realised they had not only lost an event but also lost one after they had supposedly won it.
It is incredible that the focus on major events in Victoria is so great and that it is such an important matter when by contrast it is regarded as such an unimportant issue here. I remember last year Mr Ben Buckley, the Chief Executive Officer of Football Federation Australia, commented in the Sunday Telegraph
when the FIFA World Cup bid was being discussed, "New South Wales's lack of financial resources for Events New South Wales is a vital factor in the unsuccessful bid." That encapsulates the situation for New South Wales.
The bill is indeed a good and symbolic step, but unless it is backed up with a mindset, a focus and financial resources, and an understanding of the economic driver that a major events calendar represents, New South Wales will continue not to win major events and will languish. Indeed, it will lose them to very good operators such as we see in Victoria. Also, last year the Rugby League World Cup final was staged in Brisbane, not Sydney, and it was a success. It is not surprising that the other States, and indeed New Zealand, see New South Wales as overripe fruit ready for picking. They have been plundering New South Wales. The New South Wales Government is almost unaware of the losses it is sustaining.
Let us look at the vital area of conventions and conferences. Mr John O'Neill was appointed by the previous Premier, Mr Morris Iemma, to conduct a review. In that review, Mr O'Neill reported that New South Wales had lost 494 major conference events in the past four years because of inadequate convention and exhibition space, and it had cost New South Wales $218 million. What is the New South Wales Government doing about it? Nothing. Look at the budget. The New South Wales budget is reported as $85 million over a three-year period. If you divide that to get an annual figure, it is embarrassing.
On the other hand, the Victorian budget for major events is $69 million per annum. With that kind of firepower it is pretty obvious that whenever Victoria is bidding against New South Wales it has the resources to win. It was embarrassing to hear the current Premier gloating that Sydney had won the right to stage the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. It was a great battle, a great victory and the people of New South Wales should take heart; there would be rejoicing in the streets, and so on. I thought it was a very creditable victory, even though I understand that the set from the previous staging of the event belongs to New South Wales and a rival bidder would have to contemplate spending many millions of dollars to create a new set and a new venue.
But when I made an inquiry of Events Victoria I found out that it did not bid. It was rather devastating. It was pathetic that the Premier of New South Wales, Nathan Rees, was out there beating his breast and boasting about having defeated all comers for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo when in fact the State that would have won it, had it bid—if it had wanted to and set its mind to winning it—did not even enter a bid. Therefore, it is a very hollow victory indeed. If New South Wales is reduced to boasting about major events that it wins only when Victoria is not bidding, it shows the sorry state of New South Wales major events calendar under the current regime.
Conferences and conventions are a very important area. Once again I give credit to Jeff Kennett. There is a building in Melbourne called "Jeff's Shed". It was considered to be well and truly ahead of its time, but if members go to Melbourne now, next to Jeff's Shed they will see the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. It is quite an extraordinary and superb facility, thanks to the wisdom and foresight—and between $300 million and $400 million worth of commitment—of the Victorian Government. It is a major facility and it represents a major contribution to the Victorian economy.
The Entertainment Centre in Sydney is in receivership and whilst the opportunity exists the Government should consider whether the site should be redeveloped to create a world-class convention and conference centre, which we are crying out for in Sydney. The market for conventions and conferences is increasing exponentially. It is an important tourist driver. Delegates are usually professional, mature adults with spending power who can really drive the economy through a successful conference. I give one little example that Melbourne is looking forward to. Sydney could not even think about hosting this one.
Melbourne is looking forward to hosting up to 14,500 delegates—a pretty impressive number—for the upcoming World Diabetes conference. It is embarrassing that ClubsNSW must hold its annual conference at the Gold Coast Convention Centre in Queensland. I have attended the annual conference a number of times and I have seen the wonderful conference facilities there. The conference will be held on the Gold Coast next month and will continue to be held at that venue until the New South Wales Government is able to provide a decent convention and conference centre. New South Wales, and Sydney in particular, does not have the ability to stage a conference as significant as that of ClubsNSW. Certainly it has no chance of staging a conference the size of the World Diabetes conference, which Melbourne has won.
We have the prospect of at least developing the Entertainment Centre site, but we have not heard a word about that from the Government; it is not on the agenda. Everyone involved in tourism, promoters of major events and the business community are talking about it—that is, everyone except the New South Wales Government. We have a Premier without attitude, and that is a sad indictment. At least Morris Iemma had the vision to address major events by appointing John O'Neill to conduct a review and establishing Events New South Wales. However, since the arrival of Premier Nathan Rees there has been a complete stalling of commitment and total disinterest. Premier Nathan Rees does not get major events. He is totally reluctant to show the leadership so necessary in attracting and hosting major events.
The bidding process in Melbourne involves the target being lined up in a room. In the room would be the Commissioner of Police, the Director General of Roads, the Director General of Transport, the Director General of Health—a very impressive line up of firepower—and the Premier would walk in for the grand finale. I do not think the current New South Wales Premier has ever walked into a bidding process for the grand finale to emphasise the commitment of his State to the proper functioning of any major event. He has not even attended a board meeting of Events New South Wales. He has no idea about, no commitment to and no understanding of the importance of major events. Premier Rees is completely at sea in the world of major events. He was finally dragged reluctantly to the launch of the Crave Festival, which involved the Crave Breakfast on kikuyu grass set on real soil on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. He attended the breakfast on the third date, after twice postponing his attendance. He was waiting for the latest polling results. He did not want to attend if the results showed him in a very bad light. He is known around the traps as contaminating announcements; he wrecks them because of his own troubles.
Recently there has been confusion over which Minister is the lead Minister for major events and who has responsibility for them. The bill falls within the portfolio of the Minister for Planning. The Minister for Tourism is in charge of the World Masters Event 2009 and appears to be in charge of the Crave Festival. She was present for the launch. The Minister for Primary Industries in another place is in charge of another part of major events. Apparently the major events portfolio fits in neatly with agriculture—contaminating agriculture, I presume. Ian Macdonald has no idea or interest in major events except in some motoring events. He has carriage and responsibility for car rallies and V8 supercars. The Minister for Sport and Recreation is not involved and does not know that many major events include marquee sporting events; he does not get a guernsey among the Ministers who have a small slice of the major events pie.
One must ask the question: Is the bill being introduced by the Minister for Planning evidence of an extraordinary turf war that is well and truly underway inside the Government of New South Wales? The answer is yes, but the Premier of this State, Mr Nathan Rees, is sadly disinterested in this topic. He does not understand that major events will be an economic driver. He has no appetite or interest in the concept of brand Sydney. I am told that he is lukewarm on brand Sydney. I am also told that he has no advocacy skills; it is not a priority for him. What a contrast it will be when the Leader of the Opposition is the Premier of New South Wales. An O'Farrell Government will regard this issue as one of the most serious economic drivers for the State. It will be a pleasure to see that at last.
A trip that the Leader of the Opposition and I undertook to Melbourne showed how sadly deficient we are in New South Wales. For example, the New Zealand Prime Minister, Mr John Key, who was visiting Australia for the Bledilsloe Cup, commented on tourism. He said that tourism is New Zealand's most important industry. That is where "major events" fits. The Prime Minister of New Zealand carries the portfolio of Tourism. Contrast that with the current Premier of New South Wales. I bet he does not know that we are debating this bill today. He is relying on Events New South Wales to perform miracles for this Government, not that he would know anything about it. We can be thankful for John O'Neill and Geoff Parmenter, who are good people and well respected. However, they need the commitment and the involvement of the person who heads the Government in New South Wales to focus the State on major events. They are good operators but they are tied down by an indifferent and oblivious Premier. They are underresourced and have no commitment from the Government.
The bill requires further clarity with regard to the declaration of a major event. I have raised the issue with the Minister, who is not in the Chamber. She has agreed to amendments to strengthen the definition of a major event and the criteria to guide a Minister in declaring a major event. Therefore, I shall not comment further on that matter at this time. I thank the Minister for taking on board my concerns and agreeing to the amendments. The second issue relates to a clean venue. The bill does not sanctify a clean venue, in other words, a venue cleansed of its own sponsors. When a major event arrives, a bit like a travelling circus might arrive, it can operate only with a clean venue.
This issue came to the fore during the 2003 Rugby World Cup when the Australian Rugby Union had to pay venues considerable compensation for the loss of their sponsorship signage in favour of producing clean air space at venues—an important issue that has not yet been resolved. I do not think this Government realises that is an issue, as it certainly has not come to grips with it. A clause in a piece of legislation will not fix this problem because compensation issues are involved. If the organisers of that Rugby World Cup did not like Telstra Stadium because Vodaphone or somebody else was the major sponsor for South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby [SANZAR], which is the promoter of the Rugby World Cup, there might have been a problem. I do not think this piece of legislation would solve that kind of problem as compensation issues are involved.
Does this legislation create jurisdiction over air space? The bill refers to clean air space and to ambush marketing, et cetera. I would appreciate it if the Minister's representative is able to inform me about the legal issues associated with clean air space. What are the jurisdictional issues, vis-à-vis the Commonwealth, apart from other jurisdictional issues relating to clean air space? How would this bill create powers for the New South Wales Government to govern air space in and around a city where a major event might be staged? I would like to know the answer to that question.
The other issue about which I am concerned relates to the user-pays principle. In what way does this bill deal with use-pays issues and associated costs for a venue or an organisation staging an event at a venue? I refer, for example, to the costs of policing, public transport and other services. If the Sydney Cricket Ground were staging a major concert such as the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, or the famous and fantastic staging of the opera Aida
which was conducted there some years ago, the Sydney Cricket Ground and/or the promoters of the event would have to pay for additional policing, including policing well away from the venue. In the past, major events such as the Olympic Games did not charge the International Olympic Committee [IOC] an amount of money, nor did it invoice the IOC for the policing effort across Sydney and New South Wales that was involved in the staging of the Olympic Games.
There is a cherry-picking aspect in this legislation relating to the user-pays principle. Let me give members another example. A few days ago the Government granted—that was the word that was used—special event status to this coming weekend's National Rugby League preliminary final between the Bulldogs and the Eels. It will be a great day and it will be fantastic if 80,000 people turn up on that day. However, the word "granting" took my interest. I would like to know from the Government: What does granting that event special event status mean? Does it mean that the ANZ Stadium will be required to pay the customary $220,000 that it normally pays when it knows in advance and it can build that amount into the pricing of its tickets? Will it now retrospectively be paying the customary $220,000 that is normally paid to compensate CityRail and State Transit for the provision of public transport on the basis of a special event—the additional transport and the fact that people know their tickets carry with them the cost of public transport to and from the venue?
As the Government said, this was granted only the other day, so obviously this cost could not have been incorporated into the ticket sales that occurred weeks beforehand. I would like to know the answer to that question, which I hope is a good one. I hope that the answer is, "No, they will not be charged extra." As usual, the Government failed to anticipate this and, subsequently, it decided to grant special event status and to carry that cost as a community service obligation, given that the event has now become so significant. I would be interested to hear the answer to my question. I am concerned about another issue and I look forward to the comments of other Opposition speakers, in particular, the member for Manly, the member for Pittwater and the member for Tweed on this issue.
The Legislation Review Committee made some important and adverse comments about this legislation. The adverse comments to which I am referring relate mainly to the powers in the bill that relate to people who, in someone's judgement, are about to contravene the Act but who have not yet done so. These extraordinary powers—thought-police powers—are oppressive and trespass on individual rights and liberties. As I said earlier, I look forward to the contributions that will be made by a number of Opposition speakers. This bill might have a lot of flag waving and ceremony attached to it, but I hope the contribution I have made to the debate has pointed out a number of significant issues and problems that still remain in this bill.
I am thankful that I have been given an opportunity to canvass the conduct of the major events calendar of New South Wales under the current temporary regime. This Government has failed in its major events calendar. It has totally misunderstood the importance of a major events calendar—one of the drivers of the New South Wales economy that will lead to the Labor Government's forthcoming extinction in the next 18 months.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr John Aquilina and set down as an order of the day for a later hour.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Suspension of Standing Orders: Bill
Mr JOHN AQUILINA
(Riverstone—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.06 a.m.]: I move:
That standing orders be suspended to permit the introduction and passage through all remaining stages at this sitting of the Housing Amendment (Registrable Persons) Bill 2009.
As a result of statements that have been made elsewhere it is well known that it is the Government's intention to pursue this legislation through all its stages today. However, in order to accommodate the Opposition, and recognising the fact that Opposition members would have had limited time to peruse the bill as well as the Minister's agreement in principle speech, after the Minister introduces the legislation and presents his agreement in principle speech, the debate will be adjourned until 12.30 p.m. Debate will resume at 12.30 p.m. and continue until it has been completed.
Mr DARYL MAGUIRE
(Wagga Wagga) [11.07 a.m.]: I understand that there is a great deal of community concern about this important Housing Amendment (Registrable Persons) Bill 2009. I appreciate the fact that the Government has given us time to consider this matter by adjourning debate on the bill for a short time. The Opposition does not oppose the motion.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
I acknowledge in the gallery Sallyanne Atkinson, former Lord Mayor of the City of Brisbane.
HOUSING AMENDMENT (REGISTRABLE PERSONS) BILL 2009
Bill introduced on motion by Mr David Borger.
Agreement in Principle
Mr DAVID BORGER
(Granville—Minister for Housing, Minister for Western Sydney, and Minister Assisting the Minister for Transport) [11.09 a.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now agreed to in principle.
I am pleased to seek approval to amend the Housing Act 2001 to enable the Director General of the Department of Human Services or their delegate, on the recommendation of the Commissioner of Police New South Wales, to relocate registrable persons to alternative residential premises. This bill amends the Housing Act 2001 to enable the lease of the registrable person to be terminated by the Director General of the Department of Human Services or their delegate, and to require Housing New South Wales to make available alternative accommodation for the relocated registrable person. Tenants obviously have the right to quiet enjoyment of their home and an expectation to live in a community where their individual safety is not threatened or compromised by vigilante-style reactions to the presence of registrable persons. As has been demonstrated over the past week, this difficult situation affects us all—whether we are a tenant of public housing or a private resident. The social and moral issues this challenging situation has raised in the community simply cannot be ignored.
In order to protect the safety of other residents or the registrable person, or to maintain the quiet enjoyment of neighbourhoods, the Director General of the Department of Human Services, on the recommendation of the Commissioner of Police New South Wales, requires the discretion to terminate the lease of a registrable person and move them to more appropriate alternative accommodation. Such accommodation may be temporary or permanent. Housing New South Wales will retain an obligation to find alternative accommodation for the registrable person for the term of the lease. It is in no-one's interest for a registrable person to be wandering around the main streets of suburbs of Sydney and other cities and towns throughout New South Wales; nor is it appropriate for registrable persons to be sleeping in parks or under bridges. If that were the case, the police cannot and will not know their whereabouts. It is important that the police know the locality of registrable persons to ensure the safety of our children. The alternative accommodation will be subject to compliance by the registrable person with the terms and conditions under which alternative premises are made available.
Simply put, if an offender is on the Child Protection Register, the New South Wales Government will now have the right to move that tenant to alternative accommodation, whether that be in the private rental market or within the social housing system, and only in instances where there is a threat of physical harm or injury to that person or neighbours in the locality. In these circumstances the Department of Human Services considers that it is appropriate to seek an amendment to legislation other than to the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 to enable Housing NSW , on the recommendation of the Commissioner of Police, New South Wales Police Force, to act quickly to move a registrable person. To resolve these difficult situations, this bill gives the Director General of the Department of Human Services or their delegate the power to terminate the lease of a registrable person who is living in public housing on the recommendation of the Commissioner of Police.
The commissioner will be able to make such a recommendation in situations where he considers the presence of the person is creating a risk to their own safety or the safety of others in the community. Once a lease is terminated the registrable person must vacate the property. If they refuse to do so they can be removed by police. It is envisaged that this power will be used rarely, but it is important for this option to be available in situations of rapidly escalating public concern. In the case of Dennis Ferguson, who has been housed in a location that is, as I am advised, 500 metres from one school and 700 metres from another, no suitable provisions are applicable in the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 to enable Housing NSW to seek an immediate eviction order to move him against his will to alternative accommodation.
The current situation at this present dwelling is untenable for local residents who may rally and threaten his safety and, indeed, the safety of other people within a housing complex or the rest of the local community. This has been evident over the past difficult week. With the heightened attention this case has brought to the community over the past week also comes safety considerations for the individual concerned, as well as the other tenants in the complex and the community at large. As the Prime Minister has said, we are a nation of laws. We need laws to get us through this difficult situation and to provide some remedy. The New South Wales Government wants to ensure that everyone has a right to the quiet enjoyment of his or her home. It is intended that the operation of these provisions applies irrespective of the nature of the tenancy term—whether it is an existing fixed-term tenancy or a weekly or periodic tenancy.
No compensation shall be payable under any circumstances and neither the recommendation of the Commissioner of Police New South Wales nor the decision of the Director General of the Department of Human Services or their delegate will be subject to appeal or review. The amendments to the Housing Act 2001 will provide that the termination provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 do not apply to the termination of lease of the registrable person. It is intended that the new powers of the director general be delegated to the Chief Executive of Housing NSW. It should be noted that the accommodation of registered or serious sex offenders in private housing or community housing is not intended to be affected by the proposed amendments. I commend the Housing NSW staff, who have a tough job in assessing the housing needs of vulnerable people in our society. It is not an easy job. Sometimes they are faced with balancing both the social and morale dilemma when offering assistance. Housing NSW is a housing provider of last resort and with that comes certain obligations. I commend this bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Daryl Maguire and set down as an order of the day for a later hour.
MAJOR EVENTS BILL 2009
Agreement in Principle
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
Ms LYLEA McMAHON
(Shellharbour—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.17 a.m.]: Major events can be of enormous economic and social benefit to the State. The Major Events Bill 2009 will assist in attracting major events to New South Wales and will facilitate the holding of those events. The bill brings together standard provisions that have commonly been used in special legislation for major events held in New South Wales, such as the World Youth Day Act 2006 and the Olympic Arrangements Act 2000. By gathering together those standard provisions into one piece of legislation the bill will remove the need to enact special legislation every time a major event is to be held in the State. In addition, by using uniform provisions the bill will increase certainty, transparency and consistency in relation to the regulation of major events. This is important to both the community in general and to event organisers looking to hold events in New South Wales.
Some other jurisdictions also have enacted generic events legislation, including Victoria and New Zealand. The Major Events Bill 2009 is an important way for New South Wales to demonstrate its continued commitment to attract and stage major events in New South Wales. The availability of generic events legislation also will make New South Wales an attractive venue for event organisers, giving us a competitive edge in securing major events. The bill is aimed at major events taking place in New South Wales that are anticipated to be of a large scale with a large number of participants and/or spectators. The events can be of a sporting, cultural or other nature, such as international football matches, festivals or conventions. World Youth Day, held in Sydney in July 2008, is one example of a particularly large major event involving hundreds of thousands of participants and spectators. The Sydney 2000 Olympic Games is another example.
The bill is modelled on the provisions in special legislation enacted for World Youth Day and the Sydney Olympic Games. Typically, the event is likely to be logistically complex because of the attendance of a large number of participants and/or spectators, hence the need for government coordination of services in relation to road, transport, police and health. The Major Events Bill 2009 has many different provisions that may be applied to special events. However, those provisions do not have to apply to all major events. Instead the legislation provides for flexibility by allowing different provisions to be individually tailored, activated and applied to a particular declared major event by regulation.
Not all of the provisions of the bill will be relevant to every major event. For example, the bill sets out optional provisions for creating a special government agency to coordinate government support for an event. It will not always be necessary to create a special government agency, so the bill also allows for an existing government agency or an official to be designated as a responsible authority for that event rather than a new specially created agency. The Government's decision relating to which provisions will apply to a particular major event will be set out in the regulations made under the bill, along with the period for which the provisions will apply. The regulations will be made by the Governor with the advice of the Executive Council.
Parliament also has a role in making the regulations as either House of Parliament may, within certain time frames, vote to disallow a regulation. To address the issue raised by the member for Upper Hunter in relation to whether special legislation may still be required for some major events, I point out that the Major Events Bill 2009 will remove the need for special legislation altogether for some major events. But due to the circumstances of a particular major event, special legislation may still be required to address specific issues for that event. However, this bill will be able to reduce the number of provisions in special legislation that are required for particular events because at least some of the standard provisions in the bill are likely to be relevant to that event.
Other jurisdictions have enacted generic major events legislation covering some of the areas included in the bill. Victoria recently enacted the Major Sporting Events Act 2009, which incorporates three previous pieces of that State's legislation relating to ticketing, crowd management and aerial advertising for major events into one Act and also includes provisions relating to advertising, roads and modification of other legislation. Queensland has enacted provisions for major events or venues in a number of different pieces of legislation, including provisions for preserving safety for declared special events in the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 and controls on advertising in the Major Sports Facilities Act 2001 and Motor Racing Events Act 1990.
In addition, New Zealand's Major Events Management Act 2007 has provisions for controls on advertising and marketing for declared major events, including protecting event emblems and words. The bill before Parliament today is the result of careful consideration of previous New South Wales special legislation that has been enacted for previous major events as well as the legislation used by other jurisdictions. It will ensure that New South Wales keeps its competitive edge in attracting events to New South Wales and will be able to continue to provide coordinated government services to major events.
Mr GEOFF PROVEST
(Tweed) [11.23 a.m.]: The purpose of the Major Events Bill 2009 is to provide a template to facilitate the conduct and holding of major events in New South Wales. As the shadow Minister for Hospitality and Tourism, Racing and Major Events and member for Upper Hunter so eloquently stated, major events represent a considerable amount of additional income. However, we have witnessed the erosion of New South Wales's grip on major events over a number of years. Victoria now leads New South Wales in hosting major events. I am concerned, on behalf of my electorate of Tweed, about the number of events that are moving across our southern border to Victoria.
The bill will facilitate the coordination of the delivery of government services, including special transport services, and that will allow responsible authorities to plan, coordinate and integrate road and transport services. The bill has engendered a deal of discussion, and comments have been made that its provisions reflect legislation regarding the 2000 Olympic Games and World Youth Day in 2008. A major event that I wish to home in on is one that occurred recently and partly in my electorate, the World Rally Championship. When major events are held, government agencies are supposed to coordinate with local authorities over a lengthy period. In March this year when the Government confirmed that the World Rally Championship would be held in the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales, the member for Lismore and I convened meetings with the local police superintendent, the local ambulance superintendent and local business leaders.
We discovered that there was a distinct lack of information among key personnel in relation to holding the World Rally Championship in Lismore. Particularly noticeable was the failure of the Major Events Corporation to consult. What concerns me with this legislation is something I mentioned in my agreement in principle speech on the Motor Sports (World Rally Championship) Bill 2009, and that is the absence of provisions relating to consultation and preservation of the rights of people in the community. In many respects the rights of people have been bulldozed by the extensive powers of this legislation. While I recognise and applaud that major events have the potential to generate additional income, I also caution that there is potential for the creation of negativity in the community, if arrangements are not carried out in a proper manner. That can generate angst in the community and in some instances financial loss may be incurred by local people.
I urge the Government to include provisions for review to guard against the rights of individuals being adversely affected. With such powerful legislation and without a review clause, a government will be able to run right over the top of individual rights. There is no provision in the bill for review, even by a local authority. When the Motor Sports (World Rally Championship) Bill 2009 was being debated, the Opposition fought hard to enshrine in it a clause to ensure that a review would be undertaken within 12 months after the first event. With the exception of the Olympic Games and World Youth Day, major event contracts are rarely one-off arrangements. In the context of the need for review provisions, it is important to realise the significance of major events often involving multi-year contracts and the likelihood of critical terms being redefined with the passing of time. For example, as the shadow Minister has mentioned, it is possible that in subsequent events terms such as "major event" may be redefined.
I remind the House that the Government introduced part 3A of the environmental planning and assessment legislation to remove planning control from local authorities in relation to State significant sites. I foresee the application of a similar legislative device concerning the Major Events Bill 2009 and the definition of what is or is not a major event. Under part 3A, both six-pack unit blocks as well as multimillion-dollar high-rise blocks of units have been classified as State significant sites. Part 3A has been used and abused in its application right throughout the Tweed in determining what is and what is not a State significant site. The legislation should define what is a major event to avoid the possibility of adverse outcomes.
Another matter alluded to by the shadow Minister is the loss by New South Wales of conferences and trade events. For many years I worked in the club industry, and I was shocked when New South Wales lost the ClubsNSW convention, which attracted approximately 3,500 delegates each year for a number of years. ClubsNSW moved the conference to the Gold Coast Convention Centre because the Queensland Government invested heavily, in conjunction with Jupiters Casino, in developing a first-class conference centre. The New South Wales club industry is one of the largest industries in the State, and it is shameful that ClubsNSW holds its annual conference in a State other than New South Wales.
The Gold Coast SuperGP will be held shortly and will feature the Nitro GP and super V8s. While this legislation reflects Queensland legislation, it is all a little bit too late because New South Wales already has lost a number of events. The shadow Minister referred to the John O'Neill review of events. New South Wales has lost more than 400 conferences, and I believe that trend is continuing. Also, New South Wales has lost $218 million in revenue. The pursuit and staging of so-called major events is a major platform in the State's economy. One such social and economic event was the World Rally Championship. The World Rally was successful but unfortunately it was marred by protestors, which the member for Lismore reported to the House on a previous occasion. The World Rally produced a great economic benefit to our local area. As enshrined in the World Rally legislation, a review of the event will be undertaken within 12 months. We should not forget that we are in this House for the betterment of the people of New South Wales; we are not here to take away people's rights, which are intrinsic to their wellbeing.
First, we need to define "major events". I am pleased that work on that definition is currently being carried out because I can see the powers in this bill, similar to the powers in part 3A of the planning legislation, being abused, possibly to the detriment of the local people. Secondly, we need a review mechanism, whether it is with local government or the Minister, because the views of local people need to be taken on board in an effort to get a balance. People should not be steamrollered, as they were with the World Rally. I was in favour of the World Rally. What I was against, and what I spoke in this House about, was the removal of the rights of local people, particularly in the Tweed where we recently had a new democratically elected council. The rights of local people should be protected in legislation passed in this place, not taken away.
Major events are an intrinsic part of attracting people to an area. My area, like many other coastal areas, relies heavily on tourism. During the World Rally most accommodation places were booked out and most restaurants did extraordinarily well. The event created a lot of extra employment in the Tweed, where our unemployment rate is about 2 per cent higher and youth unemployment is about 4 per cent higher than the rest of the State. Attracting major events to our great State and, in particular, to the Tweed is a major part of this legislation. As I said, I would like the Minister to address two major concerns. First, what defines a "major event"? Secondly, there must be a review mechanism. Currently, there is no provision for a review. The multiple-year contract overrides the rights of the local people. I stand up for my local people, unlike other members of this House. Once again, I am 100 per cent committed to the Tweed.
Mrs KARYN PALUZZANO
(Penrith—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.33 a.m.]: I support the Major Events Bill 2009. Special legislation has often been enacted to facilitate the conduct of particular major events in New South Wales. Most recently this occurred in relation to the World Rally Championship. Special legislation was also enacted to facilitate the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, World Youth Day 2008, V8 Supercar motor racing at Homebush and the 2009 World Masters Games. Major events are varied, but I note that the legislative provisions necessary to support the events have essentially been the same. In particular, one provision in the Major Events Bill 2009 offers to event organisers advertising controls so that we might offer a clean venue.
I turn now to a clean venue in Penrith. Members have spoken about major events that occur throughout New South Wales. People usually focus on what is happening in Sydney, but major events are also held 52 kilometres to the west in Penrith. Penrith hosted three events during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. That meant that many thousands of people visited Penrith as spectators. The Olympic family came to Penrith, as did athletes and support people. We had to deal with traffic movements, the park and rides, and the actual events. It was the best Olympic Games ever. Many volunteers came to Penrith. During the Games I was a volunteer at the Sydney Whitewater Stadium, and 10,000 people came through the gate each day. My call sign was "rip one"—I had to take the tickets from people entering the event. Some 10,000 people watched the canoe slalom events each day, and they were a success.
Legislation is important because prior to hosting the Olympic events in Penrith we had to ensure that the event venues were clean. We had to ensure that the park and rides, Penrith railway station, The Northern Road, Mulgoa Road, and Sydney International Regatta Centre and Penrith Whitewater Stadium were clean. That required a lot of negotiation between the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and the local community. I was elected to Penrith council in 1999, and much of the organisation had already occurred. At that time council had to consider that the land on which Penrith railway station is situated is rail land but that the council also has care and control of common or Crown land. We had to negotiate what could be on the site. As members know, people had to use the park and ride to get to the event. Spectators was not allowed to walk to the Sydney International Regatta Centre or Penrith Whitewater Stadium. We had to ensure that the route to the event was clean, from Penrith railway station and through Mulgoa Road to the events.
Penrith has not stopped being a major event venue. Since the 2000 Olympics the world championships have been held at the Whitewater Stadium. Robin Bell became world champion for the first time at the Whitewater Stadium, and he has been successful at the Olympics since Sydney. The world dragon boat championship has also been held at the International Regatta Centre. In particular, the New South Wales and Australian rowing championships have been held at the International Regatta Centre. It should be noted that the International Regatta Centre is a world-class venue and Rowing New South Wales alternates the venue for the national championships; every second year they are held in Penrith. That means rowers from throughout Australia come to Penrith and use our roads, our parking facilities and our venue.
Also, numerous triathlons and cross-country races have been held in Penrith. The weekend just passed we had an international music festival called Defqon1. This international festival features music and laser lights. More than 15,000 people attended Defqon1 at the International Regatta Centre. Police reports show that the event was a success. Most of the 15,000 people travelled from Sydney to Penrith on public transport, and shuttle buses were available. The event in Penrith was the first event to be held in Australia by these international music festival organisers. The event was so successful that the organisers want to return to Australia.
Australia Day celebrations are also held at the International Regatta Centre. Some 30,000 people attend the International Regatta Centre and participate in Australia Day events. That local event is endorsed and supported by the New South Wales Government. It is mainly locals who attend that day. Approximately 30,000 local people arrive mainly in their cars or on shuttle buses. The transport management plan at that time is quite extensive. What other major events have occurred in Penrith? The shadow Minister mentioned the Rugby League World Cup grand final but failed to mention the Samoa versus Tonga match, commonly titled the local derby. There was lots of blue and red. It is one of the best rugby league matches I have ever seen. The crowd was magnificent and was welcomed by the City of Penrith. It was proud to host that match, as well as the semi-final that involved France. During World Youth Day the parish of St Nicholas of Myra in Penrith hosted pilgrims from Malaysia and mostly Canada, who were well received.
Why is it important to have a clean event? It is necessary to apply the provisions in controlling advertising and marketing to some major events in order to protect event organisers and sponsors from ambush advertising or marketing. Ambush marketing allows an advertiser to take advantage of media attention relating to the event where the advertiser has not contributed to or sponsored the event. The bill will also ensure that, where necessary, event organisers will be able to access clean venues free of advertising for a major event. The provisions will apply to a particular major event only if a regulation declares that it applies to the event. The advertising will be prohibited in areas specifically identified in a regulation or notice and will only apply during the specific period.
In relation to advertising on buildings and structures outside of major event venues and facilities, the bill does not affect existing advertising that was placed on a building or structure as a part of a person's ordinary activities, provided the advertising does not infer that the advertiser is connected with the event in some way. For example, the park and ride, Penrith, is quite close to the Museum of Fire, which was a large powerhouse building with a number of advertisements on it. It is good to know that that bill does not affect the existing advertising on that building. The provisions are based on similar provisions used during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and World Youth Day. Other jurisdictions—including Victoria, Queensland and New Zealand—have similar advertising controls to these provisions in the bill, which will ensure that New South Wales can continue to attract major events.
The bill provides some protection for the State and its employees and agents from having to pay compensation in relation to major events where they act in good faith. However, the bill does not affect the State's civil liability in relation to personal injury or death. The provisions may be required for some major events as it may be necessary to ensure that the State's financial exposure is not unquantifiable. The aim of the protection from compensation is generally aimed at economic loss claims that might be made as a consequence of business interruption. A similar provision gave the State some protection from civil liability in relation to World Youth Day. The bill does not protect event organisers from civil or criminal liability except in relation to proceedings brought in nuisance. In legal terms, "nuisance" essentially involves unlawfully interfering with the public's or a person's use or enjoyment of land. The bill provides that court proceedings for nuisance cannot be brought if the matter was done pursuant to the provisions of the bill or the regulations. Ensuring public safety is a major concern in the organisation and conduct of major events.
In the lead-up to World Youth Day a great deal of attention was drawn to a part of the legislation that related to "annoying" conduct, and there was concern that something as simple as wearing an annoying t-shirt might draw unfair or undue attention. The background is that in 2008 a regulation was made under the World Youth Day Act 2006 that allowed an authorised person to direct a person to "cease engaging in conduct that causes annoyance to participants in a World Youth Day event". Under the Major Events Bill 2009 it will not be an offence to wear annoying apparel or otherwise act in an annoying manner at a major event. There are no provisions in the bill that specifically prohibit annoying conduct. The bill does not contain an annoyance provision, and the Government does not intend to include one in regulations made under the bill.
It is important, however, to ensure public safety and enjoyment of major events. To this end, the bill contains provisions concerning safety and crowd management, including offences relating to dangerous, offensive or nuisance conduct. For example, clause 43 of the bill allows the responsible authority to prohibit the entry of persons into the major event if they are carrying a prohibited item, such as a firearm or prohibited weapon. A maximum court penalty of $2,200 applies to that offence under the bill. Clause 44 of the bill prohibits a person at a major event venue or facility from using indecent, obscene or threatening language, behaving in an offensive or indecent manner, or causing serious alarm or affront to a person by disorderly conduct. A maximum court fine of $1,100 applies to those offences. These offences were modelled on provisions contained in the Sydney Olympic Park Authority Regulation 2007 and are similar to offences already contained in the Summary Offences Act 1988.
Similar provisions may also be found in the following subordinate legislation governing specific venues or pieces of land: the Anzac Memorial (Building) By-laws 1937, the Centennial and Moore Park Trust Regulation 2009, the Parramatta Park Trust Regulation 2007 and the Sydney Turf Club By-law 1990. Such provisions are necessary to ensure that families, spectators and participants can enjoy a major event in a safe environment, undisturbed by threatening or indecent behaviour. This bill will ensure that New South Wales maintains a competitive advantage in attracting and staging major national and international events. For the first time Penrith attracted a music festival, which will make 15,000 people happy next year when it returns. The bill demonstrates the Government's continued commitment to attracting major events to New South Wales and providing for the safety and enjoyment of all participants. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr JOHN WILLIAMS
(Murray-Darling) [11.47 a.m.]: The Major Events Bill 2009 gives me the opportunity to talk about major events that occur beyond the electorate of the member for Blue Mountains and over the ranges that divide this State. The tour of the Murray River road cycling classic is certainly a major event for Victoria that is shared with four shires in New South Wales, which get the benefit of participating in it. Some of the legs of that classic go through New South Wales shires. The word back from them is that the event is definitely worthwhile. It boosts the economy and gives young people an opportunity to see first-hand world-class riders. The event has been held for 13 years and has gained momentum. In fact, international cyclists see it as a way to prepare for European tours that take place in our off-season. The event is well supported by the Victorian Government. However, it is an absolute and utter disgrace that the New South Wales Government did not provide financial support for the event. If appropriately supported, the tour has the potential to become a major cycling event in Australia.
I sent letters in this regard to the Minister for Gaming and Racing and the Premier, the Premier being a former cyclist. Having read that the Premier was involved in cycling events, I thought perhaps this issue would be close to his heart and he would be able to find some way of supporting this great event. Unfortunately, those representations fell on deaf ears. In fact, we had to hammer the Minister to get a response, as the event was ready to commence. As I said, no funding was made available. I start to wonder about the commitment of the State to what I see as major events.
Ms Noreen Hay:
Point of order: I remind the member for Murray-Darling that he is a member of the New South Wales Parliament, not the Victorian Parliament.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! What is the member's point of order?
Ms Noreen Hay:
Relevance to the debate.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! I draw the member for Murray-Darling back to the leave of the bill.
Mr JOHN WILLIAMS:
If Wollongong council had this event in the member's electorate, I am sure it would be pushing hard for it—if it were not distracted by other things or events taking place. They would have to ride around all those building remnants—
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! The member for Murray-Darling will direct his comments through the Chair.
Mr JOHN WILLIAMS:
The State Government needs to look beyond the Blue Mountains and believe that other very important events take place. If an event has some significance and if the Government is able to promote itself from it, it would certainly be Johnny-come-lately and hop on the shirt tails to promote itself. The tour of the Murray River road cycling classic has a great future. It has the potential for greater involvement in New South Wales, if the Government sees fit to offer its support and recognises that this may become an international event that would bring a great deal of benefit to Victoria and New South Wales.
Mr ROBERT FUROLO
(Lakemba) [11.51 a.m.]: In October Sydney will host the 2009 World Masters Games, which will bring over 30,000 people from more than 90 countries to compete at more than 70 venues throughout Sydney. This event will bring economic benefits to New South Wales, with an estimated $48 million boost to the economy. It will also bring social benefits, by promoting friendships between people from all over the world and participation in sport by people of all ages. These types of events involve enormous amounts of planning, coordination and logistical support from government agencies, including transport and traffic management, health, police and emergency services, crowd management and use of venues. In turn, the events bring increased international and domestic tourism to New South Wales, economic benefits, jobs and an enhanced international profile.
Among the provisions in the bill there are some limited powers relating to the modification of the application of a number of Acts. Where the provisions apply to a particular major event, the bill modifies the application of certain parts of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, the Local Government Act 1993 and the Protection of the Environmental Operations Act 1997 to that event. The responsible authority will have limited and temporary powers relating only to the major event period for that particular major event. In exercising those powers it is anticipated that the responsible authority will engage with local councils and the community. The purpose of the powers is to ensure there is a simple one-stop shop for obtaining some of the necessary approvals for activities related to the particular major event.
The responsible authority will be able to apply conditions to the way in which an event organiser carries out permitted activities including, for example, the hours of operation, noise, dust and other environmental conditions, and requirements concerning consultation, reporting and public safety. Any approval given by the responsible authority will be temporary in nature, as it will cease to have effect at the end of the major event period for the particular event. Any temporary structures that are still in place after the expiry of the major event period would then need to have been approved under the usual environmental approvals processes. Temporary works could include putting up traffic and other signs, fencing, and medical and rescue facilities.
It is also important to note that the bill does not contain any provisions modifying the application of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. This means that provisions governing, for example, national parks and threatened species under the Act will not be affected by the bill. In addition, the environmental assessment provisions under the Commonwealth Government's Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 will continue to apply to major events.
One of the features of the Major Events Bill is that it gives the Government the option of creating a new major event authority for a particular declared major event. However, not all major events will need to have a new government agency created for them. Often the Department of Premier and Cabinet will conduct whole-of-government coordination for an event. This involves bringing relevant agencies together on a regular basis to discuss planning and ensure the coordinated delivery of services for an event. The bill provides flexibility by allowing the Government to consider the particular circumstances and logistical complexities surrounding a major event and decide whether it is appropriate to create a government agency to coordinate government services for the event. In some cases it will be appropriate to create a special agency. In other cases an existing government agency or official may be designated as the responsible authority for the event.
Concern is sometimes raised over the power of event organisers in terms of land use. However, this bill does not allow an event organiser to take over public or private land. The bill does not affect the rights of private landowners in relation to their land. The bill does not affect the ability of event organisers to enter into agreements with private landholders for the use of their land. The bill does not allow the Government or event organisers to compulsorily use private land for events. In relation to public land, the bill does not specifically deal with the use of particular public land or venues.
Appropriate consultation with public venues will take place when planning a particular major event. In relation to community land managed by councils, the bill would allow local councils to approve the use of community land for major events where otherwise, for example, the plan of management for the land may not make it clear whether the land may be used for such an event. In general, the bill is aimed at removing unnecessary red tape that may prevent the use of certain land for a major event. This in turn will help in facilitating the economic and social benefits that major events bring to New South Wales.
The member for Upper Hunter asked a question regarding jurisdictional issues between the Commonwealth and New South Wales over the control of air space. For other major events, such as World Youth Day, New South Wales and Commonwealth aviation authorities worked in close cooperation to make sure that appropriate controls over the use of air space were in place and enforced. The same is true under the Major Events Bill. New South Wales will work with the Commonwealth Civil Aviation Safety Authority. The provisions in the bill ensure that there is potentially a large fine of $220,000 for contravening air space controls as a significant deterrent from committing such offences.
Further, the member for Upper Hunter mentioned clean venues and the adequacy of the bill regarding compensation. He said that the bill does not adequately deal with the issue where an event organiser requires a clean venue where advertising has been removed. Contrary to what the member said, the bill does deal with the issue in clause 62, which provides that compensation is not payable in respect of event-related matters that are authorised under the Act. The provisions can be applied where appropriate for particular major events and this covers the State or authority of the State.
The New South Wales Government supports an outstanding array of events showcasing Sydney as a global city, and 2009 has been an excellent year for events in New South Wales. Already New South Wales has hosted major international events such as Top Gear Live, the Vivid Sydney Festival, the V8 Supercars and recently the very successful Repco World Rally championships on the North Coast. Without a doubt, the largest event to be held this year will be the World Masters Games. Tomorrow marks one month until competition begins.
This year is a critical one for the tourism industry, especially in light of international travel deterrents such as the global economic crisis and the outbreak of swine flu. That has not deterred international competitors from registering for the World Masters Games, which will see nearly 30,000 people from almost 100 countries coming to join us for these games. Amongst them will be nearly 3,000 Canadians, six times the number of Canadians who travelled to Melbourne for the 2002 World Masters Games, more than 1,500 New Zealanders, 1,000 from the United States of America and more than 500 from Russia.
The World Masters Games is not the only celebration in Sydney during October. We will also stage the Crave Sydney Festival, a celebration of food, fun and Sydney's fantastic outdoor lifestyle. Crave Sydney will include Breakfast on the Bridge, in which there has already been an incredible amount of interest with more than 30,000 online registrations received in the first week of the ballot. The Seven Bridges Walk, Sydney Harbour Island Hopping and the Sydney International Food Festival are just a few of the other activities that are part of Crave. Of course, sport fans will also see a lot of action in October, with the National Rugby League grand final and the Socceroos versus Netherlands international soccer friendly being held in Sydney. At this point it is appropriate in my capacity as Mayor of Canterbury that I acknowledge the Bulldogs' challenge against the Eels on Friday night. No doubt the Bulldogs will teach those Parramatta boys a little about finals football.
It is estimated the 2009 World Masters Games will bring close to $50 million to the New South Wales economy. Much of this spending will occur in western Sydney, with the event's home at Sydney Olympic Park and most of the 28 sports competitions being held at competition hubs in Blacktown, Bankstown and Penrith. The New South Wales Government has committed $8.5 million to this event, as well as the provision of services such as transport, health and security for the games competitors and officials; this is quite a return on our investment. The World Masters Games highlights the capacity of major events to stimulate the New South Wales economy and, in particular, the State's tourism industry, which employs close to 158,000 people and contributes $27 billion to the economy annually.
It reflects the reason the Labor Government is working hard to actively pursue big-name events for the State. We know the benefits that major events can bring to New South Wales. Sydney is a premier international destination and New South Wales has a proud history of hosting major events. However, we want to make it even easier for New South Wales to secure events and that is why we are introducing this major events legislation. I commend the bill to the House.
Ms CLOVER MOORE
(Sydney) [12.02 p.m.]: Events help celebrate and enrich our city, bring the community together and contribute to our sense of identity and sense of place. When it comes to large-scale events, there is no question that Sydney does them best, as we should. As Australia's only global city, Sydney takes major events in its stride and its people always respond. Large-scale events require special provisions and short-term changes, and in each case there is a need to ensure that the right balance is struck between individual rights, disruptions to business and residential amenity, and public benefit. The Major Events Bill 2009 enables the Government to declare an event a major event, appoint a responsible authority to manage the event, and introduce specific and potentially significant controls, offences and changes to neighbourhoods by regulation. Under this bill any event can be declared a major event, as the proposed definition is very broad.
I was alarmed to learn that the proposed definition is so broad that an event currently hosted and managed by the City of Sydney, such as New Years Eve, Chinese New Year and the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras could be declared. The City of Sydney has the experience and expertise to put on fabulous events. The potential to apply this bill to the city's existing major events is unnecessary and could be disruptive. I acknowledge that it is not the Minister's intention to use this legislation for City of Sydney events. I have raised my concerns with her and discussed the issues. I have not had a response yet but I hope that the bill will be amended with specific exclusions to existing events, particularly New Years Eve, Chinese New Year and Mardi Gras, to give the City of Sydney certainty.
Other provisions in the bill have significant potential to impact upon the exercise of the regulatory functions of the City of Sydney, or any other council. There is no obligation on the responsible authority to ensure adequate planning and consultation with relevant authorities, such as councils. This could create confusion and a lack of overall coordination between different agencies, thereby undermining the State's capacity to hold well-run major events. The bill should impose consultation requirements on the responsible authority. In fact, consultation with relevant stakeholders and agencies, including councils, should be a requirement identified in the bill before an event can be declared major, a responsible authority appointed and controls determined.
The bill should also require the responsible authority to notify councils about road closures in their local government area in the same way that it is required to notify the Roads and Traffic Authority. Councils could be required to provide resources and assistance for major events, including the exercise of enforcement functions or the provision of safety and crowd management. This role could impact on councils' resources and the bill should clarify the responsibility for funding these additional resources. I have concerns about the significant controls, offences and changes to neighbourhoods that can be triggered by regulation with the declaration of an event as major. When significant powers are introduced there needs to be public discussion about whether they are warranted and in the public interest. This is a public matter and one of great public interest. Given how broad the definition of major events is and how significant the powers can be, including crowd management, airspace controls and exemptions from planning provisions, I am not convinced that regulation is the appropriate process.
Where these powers have been used for previous events, particularly where public land has been fenced and offences have been created, there has been understandable public concern and controversy, and some members of the community have been resentful of these extended powers. I share the concerns of the New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties that without the public scrutiny of Parliament, the community will have no opportunity to object to controversial provisions. This is particularly the case for the creation of offences and excessive commercial and airspace controls. Under this bill, regulations will not need to be introduced and explained by Ministers and can be introduced during the parliamentary recess, with an event taking place before Parliament resumes.
Provisions to bypass noise regulations are a major concern for my constituents. Many inner-city residents already live with noise from traffic, noisy vehicles, and entertainment activities, including major concerts in the Centennial Parklands and major sporting events at the sporting stadia. People live in close proximity to one another due to high urban density, and noise controls must be sensitive and appropriate. The bill enables a responsible authority to carry out activities that can cause significant noise disruptions, or other environmental disruptions, only after consulting with the Environment Protection Authority. The authority will be able to self-regulate its own noise controls, leaving residents with no safeguards against excessive and unwarranted disruptions.
The Sydney electorate is likely to be subject to future major events under this legislation if it is enacted, given it is home to the central business district hub, the Centennial Parklands and sporting stadia, and the Domain. I am a very strong supporter of events in the city, as I said in my opening remarks. I also believe that the community should be part of the discussion about which events warrant what level of control. I understand that New South Wales must be competitive in relation to events, but we need to get the balance right, and that is the role of Parliament.
Ms NOREEN HAY
(Wollongong) [12.08 p.m.]: World Youth Day 2008 was an outstanding success, proving the capacity of the New South Wales Government to successfully deliver major events of international significance. World Youth Day is the largest youth event in the world, rivalling the Olympic Games in attendance and logistical support. Crucially, World Youth Day 2008 demonstrated the importance of many of the provisions that the Major Events Bill will offer to event organisers and participants. The Major Events Bill 2009 will offer event organisers very similar provisions to those applied in the organisation and conduct of World Youth Day, particularly in terms of the coordination of New South Wales Government services.
During World Youth Day 2008 New South Wales Government agencies involved in the delivery of services included: the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care, the Department of Education and Training, the Ministry of Transport, New South Wales Fire Brigades, the New South Wales Food Authority, NSW Health, the Ambulance Service of New South Wales, NSW Maritime, the New South Wales Police Force, the Office of Protocol and Special Events, Department of Premier and Cabinet, RailCorp, the Roads and Traffic Authority, the State Transit Authority, Sydney Ferries, the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, the Sydney Olympic Park Authority, Sydney Ports, Tourism NSW and the World Youth Day Co-ordination Authority.
One of the most crucial features of any event is providing the transport services to enable spectators and participants to get to and from event venues without the need for private transport. During World Youth Day 2008 the World Youth Day Co-ordination Authority, the Roads and Traffic Authority, the Ministry of Transport, the State Rail Authority, RailCorp, the New South Wales Police Force, the City of Sydney, Randwick City Council and the Sydney Ferries Corporation worked together to develop sound traffic and transport plans to ensure the successful delivery of integrated traffic and transport services.
These transport services included: an integrated pilgrim transport pass allowing for flash pass entry to bus and rail services; free bus and rail travel within the Sydney metropolitan area for registered pilgrims, World Youth Day 2008 volunteers and World Youth Day 2008 staff and contractors; high-frequency rail services to transport more than 1.6 million passengers during the World Youth Day 2008 operational period; effective rail station management and on-train messaging; supplementary bus services on bus routes that catered for participant travel between accommodation sites, Catechesis sites and rail stations, as well as special event bus services; augmentation to existing bus routes for home stay, self-stay and general public attending World Youth Day 2008 events; an event workforce shuttle bus service on agreed routes; media shuttle bus services during the event; low-floor wheelchair accessible buses for transporting people with mobility restrictions between Central railway station and the final mass site; and rerouting of State Transit Authority services and deployment of way-finding or customer service staff.
Bus contractors provided operational support to a range of shuttle services, including media, workforce, pilgrims with disabilities, a charter coach set-down area and general public access to the Southern Cross precinct on Saturday and Sunday 19 and 20 July 2008. Traffic management plans resulted in the successful implementation of traffic management plans and traffic control plans for the Journey of the Cross and Icon from 1 July to 15 July and during the World Youth Day 2008 event week; special event clearways and bus lanes to facilitate traffic movement through the central business district and surrounding areas; robust pedestrian management plans that assisted in the metered flow to transport hubs from World Youth Day 2008 venues; the establishment of tactical pedestrian routes; and the effective management of critical intersections and road closures by the Roads and Traffic Authority.
NSW Health, the Ambulance Service of New South Wales and St John Ambulance provided first aid and medical coverage to World Youth Day 2008 event precincts, ensuring the safety of all event participants. The Ambulance Service provided 117 rostered crews. Of the 247 occasions of service provided, 91 people were transported to onsite medical units, two to St John Ambulance services, and 99 to hospitals. The other 55 persons were treated but not transported. The Ambulance Service also provided pre-hospital dignitary protection care, including motorcade support and a full-time designated ambulance for His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. NSW Health established onsite medical units at Barangaroo, Randwick Racecourse and Centennial Parklands, which were staffed by emergency and general practice medical officers, registered nurses, administrative support officers and public health officers. St John Ambulance worked collaboratively with NSW Health and the event organiser, World Youth Day 2008, to supplement the provision of medical services to World Youth Day 2008.
The New South Wales Police Force conducted Operation Angelus, the largest police operation undertaken in New South Wales since the 2001 United States terrorist attacks, with heightened vigilance awareness and a reliance on high-visibility policing as a deterrent to incidents and crime. The operation focused on crime prevention in the public domain at World Youth Day 2008 sites, papal accommodation sites and papal program activity locations. Airport services were also provided during World Youth Day 2008. The objective of these services was to ensure that all pilgrims and other international and domestic travellers using Sydney airport in July 2008 had a positive, safe and time-effective experience when arriving at or departing from the airport during the World Youth Day 2008 period of operations.
This objective was successfully achieved and assisted by utilising experienced operational staff at Sydney airport in the days prior to, during and after the World Youth Day event. A World Youth Day 2008 arrivals desk in the main public area provided a conduit of information to all pilgrims. A ground transport call-up system was implemented, along with dedicated ground transport pick-up areas for pilgrims, which minimised congestion outside the terminal buildings. The efforts of the agencies involved at the airport, under the coordination of Sydney Airport Corporation Limited, were instrumental in ensuring that the visitors to Sydney had positive first and last impressions of the event. The reception arrangement set a positive tone from the outset and the processes put in place for the departure period complemented this.
Over the World Youth Day 2008 police operational period of 1 July to 22 July 2008, New South Wales police managed crowds estimated to be almost two million. Strong liaison and cooperation between the New South Wales Police Force, RailCorp, the State Transit Authority and Sydney Ferries resulted in coordinated policing and security for public transport systems and infrastructure. New South Wales Fire Brigades conducted more than 700 inspections of pilgrim accommodation sites. No major incidents during the World Youth Day 2008 event period required an emergency response from the New South Wales Fire Brigades. Research commissioned by the World Youth Day Co-ordination Authority and conducted by Newspoll on the weekend following the departure from Sydney of His Holiness Pope Benedict found that 79 per cent of respondents thought World Youth Day 2008 was good for Sydney.
The research found that almost 69 per cent of those surveyed agreed at the time that it is important for government to fund these types of events. More than 80 per cent of respondents did not find World Youth Day disruptive to their personal routine and accepted the inconveniences of the event with a generosity of spirit, a desire to welcome guests to our city, and a justified pride in Sydney. The Newspoll research showed government communications about the impact of World Youth Day 2008 on Sydney to be effective, with 75 per cent of those surveyed agreeing that communication was good, and 84 per cent agreeing that the State did a good job of managing the event. Inside Story
was commissioned by the World Youth Day Co-ordination Authority to undertake research on pilgrims attending World Youth Day 2008 both before and after their visit. More than 4,300 pilgrims completed an online survey prior to the World Youth Day 2008 event, and more than 1,800 pilgrims responded after the event.
The post-event survey found that 81 per cent of international respondents would not have come to Australia but for World Youth Day 2008. Respondents nominated the most popular Sydney attractions as including Taronga Zoo, harbour cruises, Mary MacKillop Place Museum, Sydney Aquarium and BridgeClimb. Sixty-seven per cent of international people surveyed rated Sydney positively as a tourist destination, and 62 per cent were likely to recommend it as a holiday destination to others. Seventy-two per cent of international respondents rated Sydney highly for its transport facilities. Expectations about Sydney as a holiday destination were realised in most cases. Very few respondents—only 4 per cent—were negative about Sydney. In the pre-event survey Sydney rated as fun and exciting, multicultural, beautiful and offered variety in the eyes of potential visitors to World Youth Day 2008. Scores for these attributes increased in the post-event survey, with new qualities being added, including "stylish and confident, "safe and secure", and, "provides for my kind of holiday".
Two-thirds of all international and domestic respondents said they were likely to visit Sydney and Australia again within the next five years. Of the international respondents, 50 per cent expected to return for a holiday, 27 per cent would return to visit friends and family, 10 per cent would like to come back to work and 7 per cent would like to study here. These results from local and international event participants and Sydneysiders affected by the event show the importance of generic events legislation to event organisers and demonstrate the benefits for the people of New South Wales and the New South Wales tourism industry.
Mr MIKE BAIRD
(Manly) [12.20 p.m.]: For some time New South Wales has had an inability to secure major events. I strongly believe that this inability has been dragging the State down. Certainly we have a beautiful harbour and stunning beaches. We have the best city in the world, but we cannot sit back and expect major events to simply land on our doorstep. New South Wales must become competitive again. Sydney must get its zing back to secure major events. We have tinkered around the edges but we have done nothing to take the opportunity to promote this great city to the world. The current culture in this city, particularly accepted by the Rees Government, is that second best is okay. I digress to pay particular tribute to Events New South Wales for its positive work. I praise it for ensuring that the recent Layne Beachley Classic on the northern beaches went ahead. The Minister for Tourism, who has a passion for ecotourism, became involved when this women's surfing competition was in danger of not being held. To the credit of Events New South Wales, a compromise was found and it provided more funds to ensure that this event will continue.
Events like women's surfing are a celebration of some of the world's best athletes coming to our city to showcase to our children and the community not only our healthy lifestyle but also our athletic performance. At the same time the eyes of the world turn to our city when such events come to these shores. I certainly support the broad tenets of the Major Events Bill 2009 and what the Government is trying to achieve through it. In my discussions with the member for Pittwater specific concerns were identified in some clauses. He will address those particularly, but I share those concerns. However, I shall talk about the bill on a more macro level. We consistently hear from the Rees Labor Government that the Opposition does not have policy or vision. In relation to major events we do. The shadow Minister has articulated an intricate understanding of major events and the role they can play in this State. I certainly support him.
For this bill to achieve the biggest and broadest economic benefit for the State, government agencies and departments must work together to ensure that public transport is available and runs on time, traffic flows smoothly and policing is seamless so that every major event visitor to this State has a positive experience of New South Wales to share with others when they return home and in turn come back here. New South Wales is missing out time and again on the marquee events to draw people back to Sydney. The bill certainly is a move in the right direction and it brings us in line with Victoria, Queensland and New Zealand. Without this sort of legislation we have been behind each of those jurisdictions. Taking on the concept of securing large events for this State as a priority of government together with a culture of thinking big will provide the means for going forward.
In her agreement in principle speech the Minister for Tourism said that major events bring significant economic and community benefits to the State. I agree strongly. For too long New South Wales has failed to put its hat in the ring for critical and major events. I ask the Minister to consider two proposals as part of an overriding need to change the culture and structure of how we secure major events in this State. The first relates to facilities. Facilities attract tourists and conferences. The Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre is a critical strategic missing link in our push to secure major events. A report last year by Events New South Wales Chairman John O'Neill found that Sydney lost 494 events over the past four years due to inadequate conference and exhibition space. The resulting cost to the economy was calculated at $477 million a year or, in the great parlance of the Rees Government, it cost 3,000 jobs. On the release of the report John O'Neill said, "Sydney is a global city." We all agree, yet no coordinated strategy exists to capitalise on Sydney's strength to sustain and enhance it. The Managing Director of the Tourism and Transport Forum, Christopher Brown, said:
Sydney was losing the equivalent of one Rugby World Cup event every year because Australian and overseas event organisations were turning to Melbourne or regional cities such as Singapore, instead of Sydney.
It does not take a rocket scientist to work out that you need the right infrastructure to attract conferences and exhibitions. Part of an overall major events strategy is to go after the large events and conferences and bring them to the city. One consideration is for the Sydney Entertainment Centre to be an international conference and exhibition space and Homebush to be used as a domestic conference and exhibition space for regional New South Wales or within the country. Certainly, we need to be positioned so that we are not at a competitive disadvantage as we are in so many other indicators. Our infrastructure must be the best and we must have a culture of action and belief that Sydney is the best city and we are determined to show it to the world by attracting the best events.
The second aspect is that we need big events. Melbourne has the Melbourne Cup, the Australian Open, the AFL grand final, the Formula One and many Broadway productions that choose to open in Melbourne rather than Sydney. Comparing that list of events with what we have pursued in this State most recently, three come to mind. We had the powerboats, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and Brian Eno. I am not going to criticise Events New South Wales for securing those events because we need to start somewhere, but it is not hard to see that we are accepting second best. Whether it is budget constraints or the culture of Ministers in this State I do not know, but we need to think much bigger. The events are there for the taking. Melbourne got Tiger Woods. Whether one likes golf, Tiger Woods is a world identity who would have brought world attention to our city.
Other major events include the Commonwealth Games. Have we sought to secure the Commonwealth Games for Sydney? We have the facilities at Homebush. The Commonwealth Games would be a great event to pursue. Are we promoting the Sydney Marathon? We hear about the Boston Marathon, the New York Marathon and the London Marathon. Sydney holds various marathons, but we should coordinate them into a single marathon to create Sydney as the Asia-Pacific capital of marathon events. The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art has an outdoor sculpture exhibition every summer; people sit and look at it across Central Park. It does not take much to work out that looking across Central Park is no comparison to looking out over Sydney Harbour. We should pursue myriad events such as the world surf titles, the world triathlon championships and even the staging of the greatest symphonies in the world.
Why does the world have the Cannes Film Festival? Sydney should pursue holding a similar festival. When you believe that Sydney is the best city in the world and you follow that belief with action, all those attractions will find their way to our shores. Our State Ministers should take it upon themselves to promote Sydney and the rest of New South Wales to the world. Certainly, these sorts of events bring economic benefits to our State, but there is also the zing factor, which will benefit the New South Wales community when the rest of the world is enjoying what we already know is the best. I call on the New South Wales Government to start securing big events, to think bigger, to support Events New South Wales and to provide the infrastructure required to secure these events. If the Government does that, I believe that will not only create the economic benefits to which I have referred but will also restore Sydney as the place to be in Australia—the city with zing! With the Government's current major events strategy, we will not see any of that occur.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Rob Stokes and set down as an order of the day for a later hour.
HOUSING AMENDMENT (REGISTRABLE PERSONS) BILL 2009
Agreement in Principle
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL
(Ku-ring-gai—Leader of the Opposition) [12.30 p.m.]: A week ago, the Liberal-Nationals Coalition indicated support for legislation to provide powers that are set out in the bill. I did so last Tuesday against the background of a pledge being made by the Minister for Housing a day earlier that Dennis Ferguson would be evicted by the end of that day and the subsequent exposure the following day of the Minister for Housing's inability to follow through with his pledge. That was the latest cynical example of the Government's attempt at media management by trying to do anything and say anything to have damaging issues like the latest Dennis Ferguson episode removed from public view.
Presumably having been wound up by the Premier's media team, the Minister for Housing went into a press conference like some sort of Action Man, only to be revealed the following day as an inaction mouse. The Minister repeatedly has refused—both yesterday in the House and in estimates committee hearings last Friday—to reveal details of advice, if any, he sought from his department before he fronted up to the media conference eight days ago. It is simply incredible that the Labor Party would apply to this very serious issue its usual cynical political style. The seriousness of the issue in the eyes of the local community will be brought home to the Government and later during this debate by the member for Ryde and the member for Lane Cove, who have worked long and hard in association with their communities to ensure that this matter receives some form of appropriate resolution. They are members of Parliament who are acting as good community representatives. They have been doing what the Government failed to do until this week.
Despite all the huff and puff from the Minister a week ago last Monday, it is a matter of public record that Labor's tactics to try to use media management techniques to remove the issue from the news simply did not work. The controversy continued and community concerns escalated, heightened by the failure of the Minister last Monday to live up to the pledge that he made to have Dennis Ferguson evicted by the end of that day. Wednesday last week was set for a hastily arranged ministerial meeting that ended with no resolution. Friday brought estimates committee hearings that proceeded without any answers being provided. Sunday was when the Premier, Nathan Rees, held a press conference about an internal review, but offered no solution. Then late yesterday, when the word got around that the Liberal-Nationals Coalition would introduce a private member's bill to provide legislative power, in exceptional circumstances, to evict people such as Dennis Ferguson from public housing, at last the Rees Government started to move.
The Government convened a rushed Cabinet meeting to do what the Opposition urged the Government to do eight days ago. The Government introduced a bill to avoid the embarrassment of an Opposition private member's bill being introduced in the Legislative Council. As I stated last Tuesday, the Opposition recognises the need for the type of power provided by the bill and supports the provision of that power. As I also stated last Tuesday, the Opposition will offer bipartisan support for legislation to be passed. However, that was not announced by the Government—indeed, nothing had been said—until the rushed Cabinet meeting was held and the decision was made last night to introduce legislation, after the Government had been made aware that that was what the Opposition intended to do.
Given that this bill was introduced only an hour and a half ago, the Opposition takes the Minister's word that it will achieve the goal that has been set. More than a week ago, the public wanted the Government to achieve that goal by legislation which had been promised by the Minister for Housing but which he subsequently failed to deliver. The public was seeking legislative power to cancel public housing leases in instances in which community safety is threatened. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to take note of this specific Opposition concern. We seek definitive advice relating to the effect of clause 58B (2) of schedule 1, which states:
The Commissioner of Police may make a recommendation under this section only if the Commissioner considers that the presence of the tenant at the public housing places any neighbours in the locality or the tenant at risk of being physically harmed or injured.
To obviate the possibility of the Opposition moving an amendment to the bill in the upper House, the Opposition requires responses to the following questions from the Minister for Housing before the conclusion of this agreement in principle debate: Does new section 58B include children who may not necessarily be neighbourhood children but may be children who have been lured into the housing facility by a paedophile? Does the description of being at risk of physical harm and injury include the offence of grooming, which is one of the registrable offences under other government legislation?
The Opposition requires answers to questions about whether children per se and grooming will be covered by the legislation and may constitute grounds upon which leases may be terminated. If those provisions are not in the legislation, they constitute major omissions. In the spirit of bipartisanship, I urge the Government to include appropriate provisions in the legislation. When the issues are so serious, there should be no attempt, as so often happens on the part of the Government, to rush legislation through the Parliament, only to have it amended later when elements, or all of it, prove to be ineffective.
I make the point that this whole affair escalated because the Labor Party always approaches serious issues from a media perspective. At certain stages, inevitably such an approach will descend into farce. The farce was best epitomised last Friday when, after almost a week of inaction and proving himself powerless, the Minister for Housing said that everything would be okay because the other tenants in the North Ryde public housing facility were being offered the chance to move. We have a State Government which refused to do what should have been done, which was move a paedophile, but which instead wanted to move everyone else. It was just a demonstration of the farce that the Government allowed to develop out of a serious issue that had alarmed the community and required speedy action. The Government struggled with the issue because initially it preferred to run along the media path instead of examining the powers that could be available and should be applied.
Aside from those issues, there are other questions that require answers. The Minister for Housing refused to answer those questions during estimates hearings on Friday, but they are questions that the Opposition will continue to ask: What advice did the Minister for Housing seek before he told the media on Monday afternoon that Dennis Ferguson would be moved out by nightfall? Who gave him that advice? We want to know whether the Minister ignored departmental advice when he said that Dennis Ferguson would be evicted by the end of last Monday week. In other words, the Opposition wants to know whether the Minister for Housing deliberately misled the public when he fronted his press conference and without equivocation said that Dennis Ferguson would be evicted and moved out of the property by the end of that day.
The Opposition wants to know whether the Minister for Housing spoke to anyone in the Premier's office, or to the Premier, about the Ferguson issue prior to the press conference taking place last Monday when the Minister said that Dennis Ferguson would be moved out of the property by the end of that day. If so, what instructions, if any, was the Minister given by the Premier or the Premier's media advisers? The Opposition also wants to know how Dennis Ferguson managed to jump the public housing queue to occupy that public housing facility in North Ryde. We also want to know how many people are on the waiting list for public housing in the North Ryde and Ryde areas. People want to know why Dennis Ferguson seems to have been given the red carpet treatment by the Government in the lead-up to the lease being issued.
It is all very well for the Government to be wise after the event, but what is equally critical in this debate is not just to do what I suggested last Tuesday—give the Minister for Housing power in exceptional circumstances, such as those concerning Dennis Ferguson, to terminate a lease for the purpose of protecting the community's safety—but also to guarantee the public that the series of events leading up to the lease being provided, to Dennis Ferguson being given a head start on others on the waiting list for housing in the Ryde district, and to the five-year lease being entered into, will not recur.
We need to start learning from past mistakes. Even with those opposite in Government, we need to stop repeating mistake after mistake because it is better to fix the problem and ensure that we learn the lessons. The only way we do that is by getting the answers to those questions and by ensuring that a power like this exists—a power that we hope is reflected accurately in the legislation. In conclusion, I ask the parliamentary secretary to ensure that advice on the issue concerning children and the offence of grooming comes back to us by the end of this debate.
Mr PAUL McLEAY
(Heathcote) [12.40 p.m.]: I support the Housing Amendment (Registrable Persons) Bill, and I congratulate the Minister on bringing it to the House. The urgent work that has been done is sound and solid. The Minister in his agreement in principle speech raised a lot of technical points about this legislation. I will talk about some of the precepts behind the bill. This guy should be in jail. There is no good place for a person like this except jail. Some people are predators. He should be in preventative detention. Moving him is predicated on the presumption that there is somewhere safe he can go. In which street, house, community or neighbourhood should we quietly house repeat sex offenders? There is no right place in the community for them to be. No neighbourhood is the right place to introduce a proven threat to children. In my view there are only two proper answers: genuinely adequate supervision or preventative detention.
A third solution is capital punishment for child rapists, which would arguably save everyone a lot of trouble. However, the American experience suggests that the administrative burden of the appeals process and the irrevocable nature of prosecutorial mistakes make this a less desirable option, unfortunately. Child rapists do not generally seek the rehabilitation services offered in prison and they resist proper post-release parole. That is why the Carr Government introduced post-release monitoring for sex offenders. We need to revisit the unfinished reforms of that time and put preventative detention back on the table. In New Zealand preventative detention is essentially an indeterminate sentence of life imprisonment. It is a judicial sentence handed down to individuals who are tried and found guilty of violent or sexual crimes, such as sociopathic murderers or recidivist paedophiles, and it is likely that the offender will re-offend if released.
The incarceration is preventative in the sense that it prevents likely reoffending. It is an indeterminate sentence as it does not have a set end date. More than 50 prisoners in New Zealand are in preventative detention. Rehabilitation is a fundamental pillar of our justice system but unrepentant sex offenders have not earned back their freedom because they scorn rehabilitation. It should be remembered that another fundamental pillar of our system is the removal of danger. Prisons exist not only to rehabilitate but also to remove predators from our neighbourhoods. The only right home for unrepentant sex offenders is Long Bay jail. It suits some people to pretend that raping children is part of a complicated spectrum of social and sexual cultural paradigms, which should be debated. Claims by Justice Action that our society has "rules which empower only some—the loved, the beautiful and the rich" are utterly outrageous and offensive.
There is nothing complicated about child rape. It was wrong in ancient times, it was wrong when kings married their tiny cousins for political alliances, it was wrong yesterday to sell a bride in Afghanistan, and it is wrong in traditional cultures and we will not stand for it in New South Wales. My children deserve to be safe and free, as do your children. Their interests come first. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr ANTHONY ROBERTS
(Lane Cove) [12.43 p.m.]: I support the Housing Amendment (Registrable Persons) Bill 2009. I speak not only as the member for Lane Cove, in whose electorate this individual was residing, but also as a foundation board member of Bravehearts New South Wales. I commend that organisation and in particular the work of Hetty Johnston. A number of questions need to be answered, and I am sure they will come out as we probe and drill more deeply into this matter. After 12 months notice that this individual was coming to New South Wales, why was a plan not put in place? Why was this individual, one of the most heinous criminals and child molesters in this country, put in a housing block with 75 children in the surrounding area? Why did this individual's backyard look into the backyard of a neighbour with three young children? Why was this individual put into an area surrounded by schools and scout halls?
In the surrounding area are Ryde East Public School, which is a mere two minutes by car; Ryde Secondary College, four minutes; Our Lady Queen of Peace, five minutes; Holy Cross College, four minutes; Northcross Christian School, five minutes; Ryde Aquatic Centre, five minutes; the scout hall in Ryde Road, six minutes; and 1st East Ryde Scout hall, one minute by car, half a kilometre away, a nine-minute walk. Why was this individual placed in a position where he was able to continue his activities? I share the sentiments of the member for Heathcote that this individual belongs in prison. This individual belongs in prison for the rest of his life, to protect our community, because he has shown no remorse for the lives he has destroyed or for the lives that he could continue to destroy.
As the member said, we do not have in place a system similar to that in the United States to deal with individuals like this, but we must have a system that removes people like this individual from society once and for all, whether or not that includes developing more programs to keep them under permanent supervision. I cannot describe in words the angst, concern and upset in the community, with mothers in tears, fathers angry and fearful, and children upset because they cannot go out and play or have friends over because their parents will not allow them into the area where this monster was lurking. Good people on the Department of Housing waiting list who wish to move into this area because there are many parks and schools and it is a great place for children and grandchildren to visit are unable to get accommodation. Yet a decision was made to put this monster in the middle of the area. As I have said before, it is like putting up a reformed alcoholic in a pub.
Since this matter was brought to the community's attention, the police have done a magnificent job. I pay tribute to the Gladesville Local Area Command, led by Phil Flogel, which has been incredibly supportive of the local community. But police say that one issue with the child protection register is that they are not resourced to keep an eye on an individual like this, a monster, for 24 hours, seven days a week. It only takes half an hour for a child to be molested or murdered. I pay tribute to our local community, which stood up to be counted. I put it on the record that, like me and other MPs, people were subjected to threatening telephone calls and in some cases death threats by people who wanted to support this monster living in a community of children. I particularly single out Sean Killgallon, Sharleen Oppy and Robyn Smith, who have been fantastic. Two young people, Briana Kerslake and Jasmine Oppy, stood up and were a voice for the younger children in the area who were fearful for their safety.
I thank the media. The Opposition has driven the issue and said that it would introduce a private member's bill if the Government did not introduce legislation, but the media have played an incredible role in supporting the community, and they should be congratulated for that and encouraged to do so in the future. I pay particular tribute once again to our local police and to my colleague, the member for Ryde, whose electorate border is a mere 25 metres, a stone's throw, from this area. We have stood side by side with our communities and we will continue to do so.
This fellow has been moved on because of our wonderful, strong communities and strong leadership in our area. But our concern is: Where will he go? As the member for Heathcote stated, that is something that needs to be addressed. We cannot push this matter under the carpet. This fellow does not deserve to live in any community where he and his ilk can threaten our children. This individual has never shown any remorse for his actions. This individual, on release, committed similar actions again. This individual, from my experience with Bravehearts, will more than likely re-offend. We share the concerns of other communities he may go to, and we will support those communities in making sure this monster, this animal, is kept away from harming young people in the future. I commend the bill.
Mr NINOS KHOSHABA
(Smithfield) [12.51 p.m.]: I support the Housing (Registrable Persons) Amendment Bill 2009, which makes amendments to the Housing Act 2001 so the lease of a person listed on the Child Protection Register can be terminated. The two main purposes of this legislation are of equal importance. The amendments will protect innocent children and, at the same, make sure that offenders listed on the Child Protection Register are given long-term housing in locations in which they have the best chance of rehabilitation. For the record, not many crimes are more horrendous than sexual offences against children. The protection of children is of the highest priority to the Government. As a father of three children, I would do anything to protect my kids and, like most parents, I want them to be able to play outside in my local neighbourhood and I want to know that they are out of harm's way.
These amendments are intended to be used in exceptional circumstances. The Housing (Registrable Persons) Amendment Bill 2009 makes amendments to the Housing Act 2001 that govern the termination of a lease to persons who are registrable on the Child Protection Register who need to be relocated for their own safety or for the safety of their neighbours. This amendment to the Act will make a difference. Members of Parliament can look one another in the eye and say that we are protecting the rights and safety of our children. Housing NSW will make sure that it finds suitable long-term accommodation for relocated persons. This amendment allows the Government to have a safeguard that ensures the protection of innocent children and the rights of ex-offenders remain at the heart of the policy. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr GREG SMITH
(Epping) [12.53 p.m.]: I support the Housing (Registrable Persons) Amendment Bill 2009 but I suggest that it has drafting problems. New section 58B omits to refer to children, not just children of neighbours, who can be brought into public housing by a paedophile. The problem with the type of offender that this bill relates to is that so many of them have what is like an addiction to paedophilia. In my earlier career as a prosecutor I had the unfortunate experience of calling paedophiles as witnesses in an extortion case. When I asked one of those paedophiles why he behaved the way he did he said to me, "You probably have a wife and you think living with your wife is normal and sexual relations would be normal. I consider children to be the equivalent to a wife and I can live with them. I am kind to them and I keep them happy." When I spoke to a victim of that paedophile, unfortunately he said he was living there because he was on the street and because of fights in his home and his drunken de-facto stepfather. When you are on the street you either sell drugs to survive, you sell your body or you find a sugar daddy. He said, "I found the sugar daddy and he was kind to me." I thought how sad it is that things have come to that.
This legislation seeks to deal with an enormous problem that could have blown up earlier in relation to our own homegrown paedophiles but has not. Mr Ferguson is notorious. He has been on television for the past couple of years. He is easily recognisable and I am sure that the lady who raised the hue and cry recognised him from television. We learn that he has been out, with authority from a charity, selling toys, that is, little bees and flashing light pens that are attractive to children, in the Kings Cross area. Unfortunately, they are the things that attract street kids, and street kids and children from dysfunctional homes are the most vulnerable in our society. Unfortunately in my previous job my daily routine was to deal with requests for ex-officio charges, no bills, or further proceedings largely involving child sexual assault.
Academics have said that offenders who commit child sexual assault and sexual assault do not have a high recidivism rate. That is not true in relation to these types of paedophiles. The gangs that were investigated by the Wood royal commission exposed the fact that these people, particularly boy lovers, tend to have parties. At those parties video films are shown of what they do to young boys, and they find some delight in this. In the case I mentioned, that sort of film was used in evidence to show that the people involved also did that type of thing. They have a problem with paedophilia largely forever unless they want to cure it. Sadly, as I understand it in the case of Mr Ferguson, he has not undergone any sex offender programs and rehabilitated. So for two weeks he stayed in a four-star hotel in Elizabeth Street, Sydney, not far from Sydney Grammar School and near Kings Cross where he sold that material. He was then ensconced in a public housing area in Ryde where there are normal families both in and around the public housing, as the member for Lane Cove said, with lots of schools and other places frequented by children. New section 58B (2) of the bill states:
The Commissioner of Police may make a recommendation under this section only if the Commissioner considers that the presence of the tenant at the public housing places any neighbours in the locality or the tenant at risk of being physically harmed or injured.
The activities of paedophiles do not always involve physical harm. Sexual assault might not cause physical harm, and the offender might have a predilection for a type of activity that does not involve penetration, but it does great moral and psychological harm to the victim. I am worried that this legislation does not cover children who might be lured or brought into a flat. Paedophiles tend to lure people to get them under their clutches, to groom them. They give children lollies to be kind to them and take them to the movies, and that is how they get them in. This legislation does not cover that circumstance. They could not be called neighbours because clearly "neighbours in the locality" means people living in that area. If this man, or any other paedophile, went to Kings Cross or other places where lots of children are on the street, and brought them back to their public housing, those children are not covered by the legislation.
The Commissioner of Police cannot here make a recommendation under the law and, despite the clause that says one cannot challenge, obviously if these conditions were breached one would have to be able to challenge because the Act would not apply. I suggest that the Government consider a further amendment defining "child" as having the same meaning as it has in the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act 2004; defining "registrable" offence as having the same meaning as has a "registrable" person in proposed section 58A of the bill; and adding after the word "injured" in line 23 the words "or any child at risk of being a victim of a registrable offence".
I think that would clarify the situation and protect those children who could be lured into public housing. It would give the Commissioner of Police clear power to deal with someone who is attracting children to their premises. Grooming is a major aspect of how these people get children. They often have children staying with them or visiting them—in a sense they are consenting, even though they cannot consent because they are not old enough to do so. They get children in and may treat them well in every other way, but they use them for their own sexual satisfaction, which is the evil we are up against. We do not want our children to be preyed upon or to be corrupted morally and psychologically.
I am a very strong supporter of rehabilitation to cut down recidivism and to help our community generally. But there are some people who are not able or do not want to be rehabilitated, and unfortunately paedophiles often fit into that category. They think what they are doing is normal. They have a mental illness, in my opinion, which causes them to find children attractive rather than adults. A lot of them are very old when they are charged and dealt with and they are still trying to trap children in their net. That is why I am glad we are doing something about this problem. However, I think the community would be assisted if the Government considered the suggested amendments so that we do not have these types of people grooming children and bringing them into their units.
Mr ANDREW FRASER
(Coffs Harbour) [1.02 p.m.]: I support the Housing Amendment (Registrable Persons) Bill 2009, but I wish make a couple of points. First, in relation to the legislation—and I agree with everything the member for Epping said in relation to proposed section 58B—proposed section 58C says:
On termination of a lease under this Part, the Director-General must ensure alternative housing (whether or not public housing) is made available to the tenant.
I suggest that the alternative housing that paedophiles need is a long-term cell at Long Bay jail. Rather than considering ejecting from public housing, because of public hue and cry, tenants who have a history of paedophilia, we should examine the whole issue of paedophilia and sex offences in New South Wales. Recently I was visited in Coffs Harbour by a woman whose daughter had been raped by her grandfather on six occasions. He pleaded guilty to the offences in court last October and on no fewer than five occasions appeared before the court for sentencing. However, on each occasion he used the defence of not being fit for sentencing because of a physical ailment. Despite police prosecutors saying that he should be sentenced and that reports had been done, the court continued to allow this man to remain on the street. As a result, he stalked his eight-year-old granddaughter, who is terrified.
Thankfully, the girl's mother had also pressed charges against her father relating to offences committed against her as a child, and they were heard recently in court. As a consequence, I believe—without looking at the records—the court sentenced this man to a period of incarceration at a psychiatric institution at Long Bail jail until 18 December. There is no further sentence. This man pleaded guilty to six counts of sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 10 years—his granddaughter. It is alleged that he committed the same type of offence against his daughter, and who knows who else who has not come forward. Technically, this man is receiving medical treatment. Like the member for Epping, I believe in rehabilitation. But if this man is cunning enough to convince a court on five occasions that he was unfit to be sentenced and at the same time stalked his granddaughter and terrified her to the extent that her mother changed her school, we need to consider instructing a court to ensure that when heinous cases such as this come before a court sentences are issued and acted upon.
It is appalling that that man was on the streets for 10 months stalking his granddaughter. To have him now sentenced until 18 December is not good enough. He pleaded guilty. He deserves to feel the full force of the law to ensure that he does not destroy the life of anyone else. I note in the legislation that termination of a lease will occur on the recommendation of the Commissioner of Police. In this case the police prosecutor recommended that the man was fit to be sentenced, yet the court failed to act. I do not know how many other cases such as this are out there, but I know of a number of similar cases in my electorate where either the court was extremely lenient or the offender remains free on bail. That is appalling.
As I said, I support the legislation but I challenge the Government to commission a full review of child sexual offences in this State. We must ensure that when heinous crimes are committed the perpetrators do not go away, they do not get a slap on the wrist and they are not released like Mr Ferguson. I remember about 10 years ago when Ferguson was put into public housing near the airport. Once again, that public housing was within a stone's throw of a school and, again, there was public hue and cry. He was moved and, to my understanding, has been in and out of jail ever since. It is not good enough that the law allows this to happen. Parliament, as the body that makes laws in this State, has a right to protect our most vulnerable—our children—especially from crimes such as this. I put that challenge to the Premier and to the Attorney General.
When I rang the Attorney General to speak about the case I have outlined his office did not know that the man concerned had breached an apprehended violence order a fortnight before he returned to court, where the surety was increased by $2,000 and he was again allowed to leave on bail. I know that these events have split his family. But the reality is that the man pleaded guilty, so I cannot see why he was allowed to remain on the streets for so long. If there is one such case, how many others are out there? Why do we, as legislators, sit back and allow this to happen? We should act immediately.
We should make sure that before the House rises for the summer recess we pass laws that will empower, and I would suggest instruct the courts—even though I know about separation of powers—to take action immediately. We need mandatory sentencing and mandatory rehabilitation, to be assessed independently, for anyone who commits offences such as those committed by Mr Ferguson and others. I cannot name the person from Coffs Harbour because of a court order and in order to protect the young girl and her mother. I know who those people are, but the community does not—and that frightens me. I support the legislation, but we must go further.
Mr VICTOR DOMINELLO
(Ryde) [1.09 p.m.]: I support the Housing Amendment (Registrable Persons) Bill 2009. I acknowledge at the outset that the circumstances that give rise to this legislation are disturbing and, regrettably, have been compounded by the incompetence of this New South Wales Government. Without children there is no future, and if there is no future, there is no hope. As a society we have obligations to ensure that the strongest possible safeguards are in place to protect the welfare of our children. People who commit sexual crimes against children break arguably the most sacred bond that a civilised society has—a bond not to harm our children.
These crimes are so offensive that they destroy not only the lives of the children and families affected but also our very faith in the human form. Perpetrators of sexual offences against children are often punished with long periods of custodial sentence. However, punishment alone for an extended time is not the answer, as I personally believe that anyone who desires to violate a child sexually must have a profoundly disturbed and haunting mental disorder that requires a lifetime of rehabilitation and supervision. This Government must cut back on its spending on spin and allocate more resources to education, rehabilitation and mental health to ensure that our children are protected in the first place.
I will go through the sorry circumstances of this case, which demands close scrutiny. On 21 July 2008, more than 15 months ago, the then Premier, Morris Iemma, issued a statement in which he said, in relation to Mr Ferguson potentially coming to New South Wales, that Mr Ferguson would not be welcome. "I would not welcome a person like that in New South Wales at all," he told reporters. He said that the Government would look at "what action that we have at law" to try to stop Ferguson moving south. The Government has had a long time to work out what it could do to prevent from coming here somebody with Mr Ferguson's history of serious child sexual offences, history of not being repentant, history of not undertaking rehabilitation, and history that shows he will be a risk to our society and our children in the future.
What steps did this Government take in light of that history to prevent somebody such as that from coming to this State? On 14 September—that is, Monday last week—we became aware through the media that Mr Ferguson had been provided with housing in Ryde. On that date I wrote a letter to the Premier, the Minister for Housing, the Minister for Police and the Attorney General seeking urgent responses to questions that are of significant gravity. I asked:
1. When did Mr Ferguson move into the Ryde location?
2. What were the considerations in determining that the Ryde location was a suitable site for Mr Ferguson to be accommodated? Particularly given the high concentration of families and primary schools within the area.
3. Was the fact that the Ryde location is within approximately 1.5km from 5 primary schools a relevant consideration in determining the suitability of the Ryde location?
4. Was the fact that the Ryde location is close to a number of local parks a relevant consideration in determining the suitability of the Ryde location?
5. What alternative locations were investigated and did any of these locations have the same degree of proximity to schools and or parks as the Ryde location?
6. Since being accommodated at the Ryde location, what steps were taken, in terms of, for example, additional police surveillance, to ensure the safety of the community?
7. When will Mr Ferguson be re-located?
8. Why has your government's position changed to the position adopted by Mr Iemma's government?
9. What steps has the NSW Labor Government taken to investigate "what action that we have at law" to try and stop Ferguson moving south?
10. Were the findings of the Government's investigations published? If so, when and by whom?
I concluded the letter by asking for an urgent response, preferably by no later than 4.00 p.m. on 21 September 2009—that is, within a week. I thought that was an appropriate time frame for a response, given the magnitude of what was taking place and given there were hundreds of residents forming a large body of concern in the area. On that day, Minister Borger, to his credit, accepted that it was an inappropriate location for Mr Ferguson in the first place and said he would take steps to have Mr Ferguson evicted by the end of that day. Eviction is a unilateral concept: it means the Government has the power to evict. There was no suggestion in that press release that the Government did not have the power because the word "evicted" was used.
On Tuesday 15 September we heard that the Government did not have the power to evict Ferguson. Then began the sorry tale of Government apoplexy, with the Government not knowing what to do. Meanwhile, very concerned mums and dads were anxiously waiting each day for the Government to demonstrate what it would do to help this community on arguably the most important issue we will ever deal with in this Chamber—that is, looking after children. On Wednesday the Premier called a high-level meeting, no doubt with important bureaucrats from a whole range of departments, to work out what they could do about this issue. Thursday and Friday passed and still we heard nothing. The community's anxieties were increasing by the day. On 21 September, I still had not had a response to a letter that posed 10 questions that I thought could, and should, have been answered very quickly, and certainly within seven days. I wrote another letter to the Premier, the Minister for Housing, the Minister for Police and the Attorney General. In that letter I said:
I refer to my letter sent by facsimile on 14 September 2009 concerning the matter of Mr Dennis Ferguson.
I note that given the gravity of this matter I requested a response by no later than 4pm today. It has been reported that on 14 September 2009 you hosted a high level crisis meeting concerning the issues surrounding Mr Ferguson's housing arrangements.
Regrettably, I have received no communication from you despite the obvious distress in the community.
Your silence on this matter is causing further community concern. Please provide me with your written response to my letter dated 14 September 2009 by Wednesday 23 September 2009.
Thankfully, I got a response from the Department of Premier and Cabinet on 22 September 2009, which in my view is damning. It reads:
Dear Mr Dominello
I refer to your letters of 14 and 21 September 2009 regarding Mr Dennis Ferguson.
I am advised that the Minister for Housing, the Hon David Borger MP has instructed Housing NSW to undertake an independent investigation into the details surrounding Dennis Ferguson's tenancy.
As you would be aware, the Minister for Housing has stated publicly he does not believe Ryde is an appropriate location for this person.
Until the Government has the details of this investigation it would not be appropriate to provide further comment on the decisions made about Mr Ferguson's tenancy.
I am advised that an agreement has been reached for his relocation which has seen him temporarily moved to another location and is effective until the Government has found a longer term solution.
The letter continues without providing any specific answers to the 10 questions that I asked. I wrote back immediately to the Deputy Director General, Department of Premier and Cabinet, and I asked a further six questions. I commenced the letter by stating:
I note that the Minister has instructed Housing NSW to undertake an independent investigation into the details surrounding Mr Dennis Ferguson's tenancy.
Given that Housing NSW was the Department responsible for granting Mr Ferguson the 5-year lease, how can it be said that the investigation will be independent?
As you would appreciate this issue has caused significant distress across NSW.
It has caused significant distress in our local community in particular. The letter continues:
The community requires assurances that errors displayed in the NSW Government's handling of this matter are never repeated. Accordingly I request answers to the following questions:
1. Who will conduct the "independent" investigation?
2. What are the terms of reference of the investigation?
3. When will the investigation be completed?
4. Is Mr Ferguson currently listed on the NSW Child Protection Register?
5. Is Mr Ferguson required to report to NSW Police on a regular basis and if so what are his reporting conditions?
6. As Mr Ferguson has been temporarily moved until Housing NSW has found a longer-term solution, within what time frame do you expect that a long-term solution will be found?
I again ask for a prompt response to my letter. I cannot stress enough how much concern and angst this has caused in my local community of Ryde. However, it has caused concern and angst not just in the Ryde community but for people across New South Wales—people whom this Government has an obligation to look after. Over the past seven days this Government has fallen asleep at the wheel.
Mr Robert Coombs:
Mr VICTOR DOMINELLO:
We said at the outset that we would support any legislation that would assist the Government in fixing up this problem. However, it has taken the Government this long to come up with a proposal. I regard this as an emergency.
Mr Robert Coombs:
What a load of nonsense!
Mr VICTOR DOMINELLO:
The backchat and banter of Government members reveals their ignorance and how much apathy they have to real community concerns. Before concluding I ask the Minister when he responds to the debate to let me know, pursuant to proposed section 58C (2), whether the conditions he can impose would include some of the conditions that the court can impose under the 2006 legislation—that is, the Crimes (Serious Sex Offenders) Act 2006—which is important legislation that is doing a good job in reassuring members of the community that sexual offenders will undergo constant rehabilitation and supervision for as long as it is required to protect their interests. I know that this legislation will be the subject of a report before Parliament, hopefully, sometime next year. Under that legislation, some of the steps that the Supreme Court can take include the imposition of electronic anklets, a prohibition on communication with minors, and a prohibition on changing facial appearances. Did the Minister envisage incorporating some of those conditions in proposed section 58C (2)?
Mr GREG PIPER
(Lake Macquarie) [1.24 p.m.]: I contribute to debate on the Housing Amendment (Registrable Persons) Bill 2009 and state at the outset I appreciate that this is an emotional and vexed issue. I recognise the difficulties it has caused for the Government and, in particular, the Minister who is in the Chamber today. I respect the Minister; however, I have to say that I cannot support this bill. There is no doubt that all right-thinking members of our community are disgusted by, and completely intolerant of, crimes against children, particularly when those crimes are of a sexual nature. Generally paedophiles are loathed, and that is understandable. I would not be surprised if most members had not considered how they would take personal action if someone violated their own children or grandchildren.
The issue of how we deal with paedophiles in our community has caused consternation for many years. This includes offenders who currently are serving sentences and those who have served their sentences. It is an emotionally charged issue that requires effort to exercise caution and restraint so as not to trample the rule of law—a foundation of our society. Unfortunately, the law does not always align conveniently with populist public sentiment and lawmakers cannot, in reality, develop legislation that deals with all contingencies that might develop. Recognising that laws will sometimes appear inconvenient, do we capriciously respond in such a way to address matters that from time to time make us uncomfortable as a society?
In my opinion, this legislation displays a lack of thoughtful and judicious leadership. The debate around the issue and the response of the Government should set alarm bells ringing as to what might be next on this slippery slope of the removal of civil liberties by legislation on the fly. This is an ill-considered response—a capricious response not altogether out of character for a Government that has shown its willingness to legislate in response to single events rather than to broad principles. The bill has been introduced in haste, once again showing contempt for the legislative process. The only briefing that members on the crossbenches were given was from the media.
I know that these matters are difficult and I am sure that many members in this House have real concerns about how to deal with them. While I do not always take my own advice, I try to follow a personal rule not to make major decisions in the heat of the moment. Letting things settle so as to be able to consider the matter in a more judicious manner would have been appropriate in this instance. We often speak of the separation of powers—a concept that is critical in our governance system. This legislation separates powers by removing the judiciary from the process and denying review of the decision made by the Commissioner of Police. There are echoes of the past in this legislation—echoes that evoke images of lynch mobs and posses being formed to run the crook out of town. I thought we had moved far beyond that, but look how quickly we can regress.
It is unfortunate that contemporary thinking, erroneously in my view, has seen the demise of so many institutions that may have served as alternatives for many people of concern within society. Surely there must be better ways of managing people in these circumstances that allow for the maintenance of some dignity on both sides. In this instance Dennis Ferguson has been the focus, but let us not be fooled that he is unique other than that in many ways he stands out so clearly as an individual. Most paedophiles do not look like Dennis Ferguson. Unfortunately, they live amongst us and, more often than not, they live within the affected families. Even this House has not been unsullied by perpetrators of this crime.
I used to reflect on recent world turmoil and bemoan the fact that, while the times called for the likes of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Junior or Mandela, we were given George W. Bush. While this issue might not have as wide-ranging and significant an impact as did those world issues, I still believe the response the community needs for the long term is the response of a statesman—someone who, when necessary, can stand against populist sentiment and make decisions that when judged by history will do us credit rather than leave a stain representing further erosion of the rights of citizens who have either done no wrong or, as in this case, have served their debt to society. We must find better ways of dealing with such matters. I do not believe this bill forms a well-considered part of reform in this area. I would support a considered and inclusive process removed from the recent hysteria, anecdotes and supposition, to find solutions to the issue of paedophiles living within our community. This bill does not do that; nor does it even seek to do that. I cannot support the bill.
Mr STEVE CANSDELL
(Clarence) [1.29 p.m.]: I support the Housing Amendment (Registrable Persons) Bill 2009. I put up my hand and say, "Yes, I am a populist." For those who object to this bill, I say, "Show true brotherly love and invite them into your home." Civil libertarians are pushing for the rights of convicted child sex offender Dennis Ferguson, who kidnapped and raped three children, and should never have been released from jail in the first place. Unfortunately, this person—who has shown no remorse and whom psychologists and the parole board still consider is a risk to the community—has been let out on to the street. This demonstrates a flaw in our judicial system. He should never have been released until he was found capable of living in the community with some relative safety.
The case of convicted child sex offender Dennis Ferguson and the role of Housing New South Wales to find him social housing at Ryde has received significant media attention over the past week. There has been significant community concern about the location of Mr Ferguson's accommodation and whether there is appropriate accommodation in New South Wales for sex offenders with a perceived higher risk of reoffending. I do see the problem of where to put him. I, like others, do not want him in my backyard. As I said before, people of his extreme threat to the community should never be released in the first place. However, this bill is a step to protect the areas where he goes. The bill shows also that more protection and more information should be given to authorities such as Centrelink. It flies in the face of reality that Dennis Ferguson used a Centrelink service to be put in touch with his mate in these heinous crimes after both were released from jail.
The police and all other government social organisations should be aware when sex offenders are being released into the community and whether that is the right community for them. There should be many checks and balances before such people are allowed to go anywhere. I acknowledge that this approach restricts the places Mr Ferguson can go. However, allowing sex offenders the freedom of their civil rights and liberties to go anywhere places at risk the civil rights of families and communities. They expect to feel safe in their homes and for their children to attend school or go to the shop and back without fear of being kidnapped or harmed by these grubs, parasites, paedophiles and scum of society. The amendments to the Housing Act are reasonable and go probably as far as they can at this stage. Subsections (1) and (2) of new section 58B state:
(1) The Director-General may, on the recommendation of the Commissioner of Police, by written order terminate the lease of a tenant who is renting public housing and who is a registrable person.
(2) The Commissioner of Police may make a recommendation under this section only if the Commissioner considers that the presence of the tenant at the public housing places any neighbours in the locality or the tenant at risk of being physically harmed or injured.
Subsection (2) is an important consideration if young children may be in the nominated housing area. That provision limits localities in which the registrable person may reside, but extreme restrictions should apply so that people such as Dennis Ferguson are never allowed near areas housing prolific numbers of children. We have all read this bill and know what we are voting on. We must be extremely careful. This bill does not cover everything; it is not a silver bullet. Many other precautions need to be taken for the care and protection of our communities. The many areas of the Attorney General's office can ensure that the community is protected from these grubs and not put at risk when they are first released from jail. They should not be allowed on our streets until they have shown complete remorse and are completely rehabilitated. As has been said of repeat offenders, if child sex offenders cannot be rehabilitated, there should be some way of making them incapable of committing these crimes. If that is to be achieved by drastic medical measures, so be it.
Mr PETER BESSELING
(Port Macquarie) [1.34 p.m.]: The Housing Amendment (Registrable Persons) Bill 2009 lists its objectives as follows:
The object of this Bill is to amend the Housing Act 2001 to enable the Director-General of the Department of Human Services, on the recommendation of the Commissioner of Police, to terminate the lease of a tenant who is renting public housing within the meaning of that Act and who is a registrable person under the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act 2000. The Commissioner of Police may make such a recommendation only if the Commissioner considers that the presence of the tenant at the public housing places any neighbours in the locality or the tenant at risk of being physically harmed or injured. The Director-General will be required to make alternative housing available to the tenant.
The real objectives of this bill should read, "How do we remove a previously convicted sex offender and a registered person under the Child Protection Offenders Registration Act 2000, Dennis Ferguson, from his public housing tenancy in Ryde where he does not wish to live and we have no way of making him leave under current legislation?" An addendum to this bill also may read, "How can we push this bill through Parliament as quickly as possible, traversing on the principles of due process and good public governance and in the process, whether by design or otherwise, deny proper consideration of important legislation by our State's elected representatives, key advisory groups and individuals within our community who would otherwise have the opportunity to provide valuable feedback?"
The bill has been labelled emergency legislation due to the fact that current legislation contains no provision for the forced removal of a registered person from public housing. The outrage in Ryde is the result of a lack of policy direction from the Government as to the appropriate way of dealing with convicted sex offenders and a lack of guidelines to determine how to house them. I have absolutely no doubt that support is unanimous from all levels of government, aligned and non-aligned politics, and the general community in denouncing sex offences, particularly those against children, as vile, abhorrent and disgusting. Nothing truly shocks a community more than when a local example of abuse is highlighted and the revulsion expressed by all members of the general public is more than warranted.
Dennis Ferguson fits perfectly into the image, heavily influenced by the media, of sex offenders who are different, cannot be cured, have high re-offending rates, are psychological and physical menaces, and prey on the vulnerable members of our community. Of course, the sad reality is that the most frequently occurring sexual offences happen within family settings. A paper by Robyn Lincoln, Assistant Professor, Criminology from Bond University, and Carol Ronken, Associate Lecturer, Criminology at Griffith University, notes that if we look at sex offences against children, the studies generally show that adults closely related to the victims are most likely to be the offenders in well over half of these cases.
One reliable study reports that in 1994 Australia had about 5,000 substantiated child sex offence cases with a ratio of 80:20 of known perpetrators versus stranger perpetrators. Thus, a large percentage of sexual offences are partner-related or perpetrated by a family friend. Yet the media reporting of sexual offending tends to reinforce the stereotypes of predatory strangers, rather than focusing on the more prevalent non-stranger incidents. The tendency also is to report only the sensational and atypical cases of sexual abuse. Let us not forget this horrific statistic when we consider the debate surrounding this bill.
A clear element of the community concern that has led to consideration of this bill revolves around what to do with sex offenders and, particularly, recidivist sex offenders. We have heard from both sides of the House a number of suggestions that range from locking them away for the terms of their natural life, to capital punishment, to permanent and constant surveillance in an area particular to those of similar convictions. At present, we see the concept of rehabilitation as a driving influence over our judicial and corrective services systems. In a High Court judgement His Honour Mr Justice Michael Kirby, dissenting, commented:
Prisoners are human beings. In most cases, they are also citizens of this country, "subjects of the Queen" and "electors" under the Constitution. They should, so far as the law can allow, ordinarily have the same rights as all other persons before this Court. They have lost their liberty whilst they are in prison. However, so far as I am concerned, they have not lost their human dignity or their right to equality before the law.
I look forward to the consideration of bills put before the House from both sides as to their intentions in dealing with sex offenders. I welcome any moves further to this particular amendment that address this issue and provide clarity for all sections of the community. I would support legislation that provides clarity to the community. Any such legislation should receive input from all sections of the community. Such a bill should not be rushed through Parliament. This bill does not address the concern of what to do with sexual offenders. It simply transfers the problem of a sexual offender who is community housed in Ryde to another community without providing any clear guidelines or policy to government agencies to determine where best to locate sex offenders. Indeed, it does not state whether there is a responsibility for the registrable person to disclose this information to the department representative. Who has access to this information? I make one further point towards the approach taken by this Government with respect to the introduction and consideration of legislation. Standing Order 188 states in part:
(8) The motion that "This bill be now agreed to in principle" may be moved forthwith or set down for a later time.
(9) Immediately following the mover's speech the debate shall be adjourned.
(10) The mover shall ask the Speaker to fix the resumption of the debate as an Order of the Day for a future day which shall be at least five clear days ahead.
(11) On the reading of the Order of the Day a motion shall be moved "That this bill be now agreed to in principle" or that the order be postponed or, on motion without notice, that the order be discharged. A further motion may be moved that the bill be withdrawn.
The key words are "at least five clear days ahead", which allows for proper consideration of all bills. These standing orders have been put in place for careful consideration of all issues and views in relation to legislation in this State. It is little wonder that there are so many amendments to legislation in this place, given the frequency with which this standing order is ignored. Recently I trawled through the New South Wales Government website and I found that it takes 28 days for an application for a New South Wales Seniors Cards to be considered. We now have a situation in New South Wales where it takes longer for a person to apply for a Seniors Card than it does for the Government to pass legislation. It is a travesty of justice for the people in this place and for the legislation. People outside this place would love to have an opportunity to provide some input via their representatives, who have to consider the legislation.
This bill is about Dennis Ferguson, a sex offender, who is living in Department of Housing accommodation in Ryde. The Government does not have the ability to remove him and it wishes to do so, for obvious reasons. However, the Government has not put forward the requisite policies that direct Housing New South Wales to deal with this issue. It simply moves the problem from one area to another. This is a broader issue that requires input from interest groups, the Government, the Opposition and the Independents. We all have a role to play in determining future legislation to deal with sexual offenders within the community.
Mr DAVID BORGER
(Granville—Minister for Housing, Minister for Western Sydney, and Minister Assisting the Minister for Transport) [1.45 p.m.], in reply: This case has presented a unique and enormously challenging situation for the Government to resolve. The crimes of a child sex offender disturb and offend us all, every member of Parliament. The past week has demonstrated a level of concern that is felt within a community when a sex offender is present. As a young dad, I relate and sympathise with these concerns. Obviously, I relate and sympathise with those people; I do not relate and sympathise with people who are breaking the law. That is the reason we have taken decisive action to bring these amendments to the Parliament.
The amendments to this Act maintain the peace of communities by relocating registrable persons to alternative residential premises. It is important that members of the House note that relocating people on the child protection register is for their own safety just as much as it is for the safety of their neighbours. It is also about keeping peace in our communities. Today some members have accused me of rushing the legislation through with haste, while other members have accused me of taking far too long to get the legislation through. I think the Government has acted reasonably with very difficult issues.
These amendments to the Housing Act give us powers to relocate individuals on the sex offender register. The Leader of the Opposition referred to children being groomed by sex offenders. That is not what the amendments are about. The amendments are an effective measure to deal with leases in public housing, relocate tenants and terminate leases in extreme circumstances. They protect families and communities. The amendments give the New South Wales Government the power to make sure that offenders listed on the child protection register are given long-term housing in locations that will ensure they have the best chance of rehabilitation.
This is a vexed issue. Many people have spoken to me in the past week. I have received endless and sometimes gratuitous advice. I thank everyone for that advice. Frankly, those who do not support the approach taken today have put forward no alternative suggestions or solutions. It is not tenable for the current situation to remain. Everyone realises that if it had continued on to its logical conclusion, bad things would have happened in that neighbourhood. The Government has had to make tough decisions and these amendments strike the right balance. They protect families and communities and give us the powers to house sex offenders in more appropriate locations.
There are no ideal locations; there are no magic bullets or easy solutions. There are only better or worse locations, and work to be done in the future. The Government believes it is better to offer safe and appropriate housing to these people than to lose track of them, where they will wander around homeless on our streets. It would be a bad outcome for everyone if police did not know where someone was residing on any night. It is important that these people who have exited the Corrective Services system have a stable place to live, otherwise the community is placed at risk.
Question—That this bill be now agreed to in principle—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bill agreed to in principle.
Passing of the Bill
Bill declared passed and transmitted to the Legislative Council with a message seeking its concurrence in the bill.
[The Assistant Speaker (Mr Grant McBride) left the chair at 1.49 p.m. The House resumed at 2.15 p.m.
BLUE SEPTEMBER MEN'S HEALTH AWARENESS CAMPAIGN
I draw to the attention of the House the good work of Blue September, which is a campaign in support of the New South Wales Cancer Council and which encourages men to face up to cancer. Australian men are twice as likely as are women to die from cancers that in many cases can be prevented. One in two Australian men will be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 85. In recognition of and in a bid to raise awareness for the Blue September Men's Health Awareness campaign, all members are encouraged to wear something blue to question time tomorrow, Thursday 24 September. Every piece helps, so please choose your shirts, ties or scarves carefully for tomorrow's proceedings.
DEATH OF VIRGINIA KNOX, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF OF THE MINISTER FOR LANDS AND LEADER OF THE GOVERNMENT IN THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
The Premier has informed me of the sad passing today of Ms Virginia Knox, a ministerial adviser. Long-serving members will recall Virginia, who worked for many years in various capacities for former Ministers Frank Walker and Michael Egan, and a current Minister, the Hon. Tony Kelly, MLC. Those who knew Virginia will recall her to be a calm and obliging person with a dry sense of humour. Members on both sides and in both places will remember her great contribution to the New South Wales Parliament. She will be sadly missed.
Members and officers of the House stood in their places as a mark of respect
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Notices of Motions
Government Business Notices of Motions (for Bills) given.
DEATH OF THE HONOURABLE VIRGINIA ANNE CHADWICK, AO, A FORMER MEMBER OF THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL, A FORMER MINISTER OF THE CROWN AND A FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
Ms VERITY FIRTH
(Balmain—Minister for Education and Training) [2.21 p.m.], by leave: I know that I speak for members on both sides of the House when I say that we were indeed very sad to hear of the passing of the Hon. Virginia Chadwick, AO. New South Wales has lost a remarkable and inspirational woman, and Newcastle mourns the loss of a proud citizen—and a citizen of whom it was most proud. I was pleased to have met Virginia on a number of occasions and always admired the wonderful example she set for the women like me who have come after her in this place. I feel a particular privilege to have followed in Virginia's footsteps as she, of course, was the first female Minister for Education in New South Wales. We have also both had the honour of representing the interests of women in this State, as Virginia also held the position of Minister for Women.
My female colleagues and I have a debt of gratitude for women such as Virginia Chadwick who have blazed trails ahead of us in this Parliament. We should pause and consider their achievements. The Hon. Virginia Chadwick was very proud to have been a product of Newcastle Girls High School and was a champion of education for many years before becoming the State's first female education Minister. Indeed, she began her working life as a teacher in both school and TAFE. Virginia was elected to the Legislative Council in 1978 at the age of 33. She served the Greiner and Fahey governments in a number of portfolios, including as Minister for Community Services, Minister for the Hunter, Minister for Women, Minister for Tourism, as well as Minister for Education. As education Minister, Virginia implemented extensive reforms in particular the Carrick and Scott reports. She established the Board of Studies and championed choice for parents.
My colleagues in the Department of Education and Training advise me that Virginia Chadwick was held in very high regard within the public service. She was intelligent, fun, a highly successful negotiator, and she had a great capacity to bring together people with differing views but a shared vision of quality education. Virginia was also the first female Presiding Officer in New South Wales, as President of the Legislative Council, and she went on to have a successful and distinguished career post politics as the Chairperson of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority where her renowned negotiating skills resulted in a significant increase in the highly protected areas of the reef and culminated in her leading an Australian delegation to the United Nations on the international law of the sea.
Virginia was awarded a prestigious Banksia Award by the Banksia Environmental Foundation in 2004. She was awarded an Order of Australia in 2005 for services to conservation and the environment and for her work in the New South Wales Parliament in the areas of education and child protection. Virginia Chadwick was well regarded by honourable members on both sides of this Chamber. I know that my aunt Meredith Burgmann speaks of her very fondly when recounting the time they shared in the other place. Upon Virginia Chadwick's retirement one of my Australian Labor Party colleagues noted:
I congratulate you on your distinguished contribution to the New South Wales Parliament … you distinguished yourself in committee work, with a thorough knowledge of the House and its procedures that marks your most competent role as President. You have been, and remain, a distinguished academic and a public intellectual … an outspoken and intelligent advocate … I congratulate you on being a person who has managed to uphold the dignity of a very important traditional institution as President of the Legislative Council but who has not once compromised her beliefs or her principles throughout what I believe has been a very successful parliamentary career.
I extend my condolences and the condolences of the Parliament to Virginia's husband Bruce, daughter Amanda and son David and their families. Virginia stated in her maiden speech:
It is my hope that I may give account of myself in this Parliament so that at the end I can say, in the words of St Paul, I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.
I am sure we all agree that Virginia achieved these goals.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL
(Ku-ring-gai—Leader of the Opposition) [2.25 p.m.]: My colleagues and I were saddened to learn of Virginia Chadwick's death last Friday. While a number of us were aware that she was gravely ill, the news of her death came as quite a shock for a number of my colleagues and many members of both our parties. Virginia Chadwick was in every sense a remarkable person. She arrived in this place in 1978, elected in the first direct election ever held for our second Chamber. One of the remarkable aspects of her career was that in a career that spanned almost 21 years, Virginia only faced two elections.
Virginia Chadwick set many firsts during her career here: the first female Opposition Whip, the first female Liberal Minister, the first female education Minister, and the first female President of the Legislative Council. She took on the big issues and survived with reputation intact and enhanced, whether in community services or education. Having inherited an education reform agenda, Virginia made it her own. Her legacy is that wherever you go, principals, parents and teachers still speak of her in glowing terms.
When Virginia left this place it was not for retirement, a life on boards, or as a lobbyist to government. She became Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority where, during the next eight years, Virginia used her skills and energy to initiate one of the most innovative marine conservation and biodiversity programs ever to occur anywhere in the world, a legacy lauded last Saturday by WWF-Australia—an organisation that is not always kind about Liberals—who described Virginia Chadwick as "a Reef Heroine". Virginia Chadwick was a thoughtful Liberal and an assiduous reformer. She always called herself a "Carrick" Liberal. She was very connected to the values the Liberal Party was founded on. Virginia reflected on this in her final speech when she said:
In 1964, when I was already a party member, Robert Menzies—later Sir Robert said:
For me the perfect society would be one in which, by equality of opportunity and the full development of individual character and talent, each citizen was independent in his own heart and mind, but all citizens were inter-dependent in all social rights and duties.
That quotation expresses a view I still find valid today. I thank the party for the opportunity to serve and to seek to fulfil those principles.
Virginia was extraordinarily loyal to her party, her family, her friends and her community. She was empathetic, compassionate and warm. She was a gifted, witty and talented communicator. And she was great company. Virginia Chadwick was also an encourager of others in a profession where that trait is not always obvious. There are many people sitting on my side of politics today who were encouraged by Virginia Chadwick. She generously invested in young people—whether in the schools she enjoyed oversighting or those who over the years served on her staff—people like Mark Scott, now the General Manager of the ABC; Michael Tidball, the Chief Executive Officer of the Law Society; Joan Warner, the Chief Executive Officer of Commercial Radio Australia; and Irena White, the Company Secretary of Integral Energy.
But whether a member of this Parliament or working in far north Queensland, Virginia Chadwick was always a proud Novocastrian and a staunch advocate for the Hunter. She handed out for the Yes case in the New South Wales State referendum in 1967. She was always about the Hunter getting a fair deal from Government—something that former Maitland member of Parliament Peter Blackmore can well attest to. After all of Virginia's grand adventures—in this place, in far north Queensland and elsewhere—she returned home to Newcastle, where she passed away last Friday. Virginia Chadwick's passing will be mourned by many, especially the thousands of people, young and old, whose lives she improved through her work both in Parliament and in the community. In both her maiden speech and her final speech to this Parliament Virginia set herself the highest goals, saying:
It is my hope that I may give account of myself in this Parliament so that at the end I can say, in the words of St Paul, I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.
On behalf of a grateful parliamentary Liberal Party, I acknowledge that Virginia achieved all this and much more, and I extend our condolences to Bruce and her children, Amanda and David.
On behalf of the House, I join with the Minister for Education and Training and the Leader of the Opposition in expressing condolences on the sad passing of the Hon. Virginia Chadwick.
Members and officers of the House stood in their places as a mark of respect.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Notices of Motions
General Notices of Motions (for Bills) given.
[Question time commenced at 2.33 p.m.
PHILIPPINE-AUSTRALIAN SOCIETY FOR SENIOR CITIZENS FUNDING
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
My question is directed to the Minister for Disability Services. Will the Minister confirm that pressure from the member for Fairfield led him to reinstate funding for the Philippine-Australian Society for Senior Citizens?
Mr PAUL LYNCH:
I am delighted to be asked the question. The Leader of the Opposition would probably understand that I am less susceptible to pressure from the member for Fairfield than anyone else in this House.
Mrs KARYN PALUZZANO:
My question is addressed to the Premier. Will the Premier update the House on the latest information on the State's housing sector?
Mr NATHAN REES:
Thirty seconds of homework would have stopped the Leader of the Opposition from walking into that one!
I am delighted to answer a question on the important matter of the State economy. Earlier today my office staff tried to look up the Coalition's economic and fiscal priorities document on the Leader of the Opposition's website. All they got was the following message, "Sorry, but the content you requested could not be found." That is a grand metaphor in what has been a banner week for policy development from members opposite. The good economic news keeps on coming. I am delighted to advise that the latest figures from New South Wales Treasury reveal that our property sector is showing strong signs of recovery. I am advised that there has been a 25 per cent increase in property and land sales in New South Wales in the past two months, compared to the same period last year, July and August 2008. That is good news for the New South Wales economy but bad news for the Coalition and its campaign to talk the State down.
In July and August this year there were 6,986 more property transactions than in the same period last year—up 25.5 per cent. That is not all. Since 1 July, when we cut stamp duty by 50 per cent on newly constructed dwellings up to the value of $600,000, dwellings worth more than $220 million have been sold under our housing construction acceleration plan. That means 506 families, including investors, have taken advantage of our 50 per cent cut to stamp duty, putting $3.8 million back into their pockets. I turn now to first home buyers. Instead of the Home Fund debacle that the Coalition left us with, we have made first home buy grants worth $725 million in the first eight months of this year, compared with just $201 million for the same period in 2008. That compares to the $355 million in first home grants handed out for all of 2008. That is $$725 million in grants for the first eight months of this year, compared to $355 million for the whole of 2008.
We have waived $463 million worth of stamp duty for New South Wales first home buyers for the first eight months of this year, compared with $252 million in 2008. That is not just good news for the economy as a whole but especially good news for western Sydney, which is real estate central because that is where the majority of the sales are occurring. Three of the top selling suburbs in July and August this year were Liverpool, with 445 residential land sales worth $153 million; Blacktown, with 325 residential land sales worth $110 million; and Westmead, with 296 residential land sales worth $117 million. Also doing well was Gosford, with 316 residential sales worth $125 million, and Port Macquarie, with 297 sales worth $93 million.
The good news is not confined to the housing market. The wider economy is also showing signs of recovery. State final demand increased by 0.5 per cent in the June quarter, in contrast to States like Queensland, which recorded a decline. Through the year New South Wales State final demand grew by 0.8 per cent, which is above the national average of 0.7 per cent. In August the number of New South Wales jobs advertised in newspapers rose by 24.1 per cent—the highest of anywhere in Australia. The unemployment rate for August remained unchanged at 6.1 per cent, while the rate in Victoria increased from 5.9 per cent to 6.3 per cent, making it the highest rate in the country. Our triple-A credit rating has been reaffirmed, with a stable outlook.
Mr Andrew Stoner:
It's worth pointing out that it is the worst in the nation.
Mr NATHAN REES:
With $46 billion worth of unfunded undertakings, the Coalition would have trashed the triple-A credit rating. Since September of last year the Government has approved 447 major projects, creating nearly 62,000 jobs and bringing $19 billion worth of investment into New South Wales. The green shoots of recovery are growing steadily—undeterred by the Opposition's campaign to talk the State down— nurtured by policy settings that we have created to stimulate growth and protect jobs. They are detailed, costed and funded policies, unlike the nonsense members opposite served up earlier this week, with a feeble collection of motherhood statements. New South Wales in on the road to recovery due to the policy settings we have put in place.
Order! I call the member for Cessnock to order.
PHILIPPINE-AUSTRALIAN SOCIETY FOR SENIOR CITIZENS FUNDING
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
My question is directed to the Minister for Disability Services. Given the Minister's earlier answer will he explain what extraordinary pressure lead to an organisation whose secretary is a federal Labor staffer, former Australian Labor Party candidate and Tripodi-mate, having its funding reinstated despite failing to meet his department's own funding guidelines?
Mr PAUL LYNCH:
I am delighted to restate the comment I made earlier. There is no-one in this Chamber less susceptible to pressure from the member for Fairfield than me. If he, in fact, had put any pressure on me I would have guaranteed there would have been no funding for the organisation.
Order! I call the member for Bega to order.
Mr Barry O'Farrell:
Point of order: My point of order is Standing Order 129, relevance. I thank the Minister for his answer to the first question. Can I have an answer to the second question: Why did he fund them despite his own department's guidelines?
Order! The Leader of the Opposition is well aware that that is not a point of order.
H1N1 INFLUENZA VACCINE
Ms CHERIE BURTON:
My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. Will the Minister update the House on the rollout of the H1N1 vaccine in New South Wales?
Ms CARMEL TEBBUTT:
Since the potential for a pandemic of the H1N1 influenza 2009 virus was first recognised in Mexico and the United States of America in April this year, NSW Health has worked tirelessly to prepare for and manage this threat to public health.
Order! The House will come to order. Members who wish to conduct conversations will do so outside the Chamber.
Ms CARMEL TEBBUTT:
In May, the first New South Wales case of H1N1 influenza, or the human swine influenza, was confirmed. Since the start of the epidemic, 1,235 patients with H1N1 influenza have been admitted to public hospitals in New South Wales. Approximately 230 of those patients have required admission to intensive care units. Sadly, 49 people confirmed with H1N1 influenza have died in New South Wales. I know the House expresses its sympathy and condolences to their family and friends. The swine flu pandemic has been a significant health issue for communities across the globe, and in New South Wales hospital staff and general practitioners have worked tirelessly to make sure New South Wales families receive the best possible care and attention.
I recently visited the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital where I learnt of the work of medical teams who provide the highly specialized extracorporeal membrane oxygenation [ECMO] treatment to the sickest H1N1 influenza patients across the State. Doctors at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital proudly shared their work with me. They showed me how an ECMO machine supports the patient's heart and lungs, while treatment for underlying illness takes place. The ECMO machine is proving effective in treating critically ill H1N1 influenza patients suffering underlying conditions such as asthma, obesity, chronic lung disease and diabetes. A specially modified helicopter has enabled doctors from Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and St Vincent's Hospital to travel to sick patients to initiate ECMO treatment and transport them to an intensive care unit.
In July, the Government announced almost $1 million for this new service, and funding for aircraft modifications. This is one example of the magnificent response of the New South Wales health system to the H1N1 influenza outbreak. We are now moving into a new phase. From next week, New South Wales residents aged 10 years and over will be able to receive the H1N1 influenza vaccination. The Australian Government's Chief Medical Officer has advised that national clinical trials have determined that the H1N1 influenza vaccine, manufactured in Australia by CSL Limited, has been found to be safe and that one dose of vaccine is effective in people aged 10 years and over.
We are hoping for similar good news of a vaccine for children in the coming weeks. Some groups are considered to be more vulnerable to the H1N1 influenza. These include: front-line health care and community care workers; people with underlying chronic medical conditions, people who are morbidly obese, Aboriginal people, pregnant women, parents and guardians of children aged 0-6 months. It is important that people who fall into any of these priority groups contact their general practitioner and arrange to be vaccinated against the H1N1 influenza. In terms of the health workforce, appropriate steps are being taken to deliver vaccination.
We have been through this before. I am not ashamed of my Catholic upbringing or my wonderful education by Catholic nuns. It is never too late to gain immunity from the H1N1 influenza. Vaccination offers the best possible protection for individuals and is our best hope of limiting the spread of this new disease. The future course of the pandemic is uncertain. As we enter the summer months it is likely that we will see a higher than usual number of out-of-season influenza cases, as was the case in the Northern Hemisphere during their summer. NSW Health is ready for the program to commence on 30 September. We have a well-established vaccine distribution system co-ordinated by the State Vaccine Centre. Already, some 1,300 orders from general practices, private hospitals, aged care facilities and public hospitals have been received.
The rollout of the vaccination program will primarily be through general practitioners. Our public hospitals will offer the vaccination to vulnerable patients as appropriate. Similar to the normal seasonal influenza vaccine, the vaccine has been made available directly to aged care facilities and large residential facilities for people with chronic medical conditions. This H1N1 influenza pandemic has presented significant challenges for the health system in New South Wales. It has placed enormous demands on general practitioners and medical and nursing staff at our public hospitals and has increased demand at our emergency departments. It has required leadership and coordination from the Department of Health, general practitioners and the Association of General Practitioners. I thank everyone for their contributions and involvement. I particularly thank the general practitioners and their association for their cooperation as we now roll out the vaccine.
Order! I call member for Blacktown to order.
COMMUNITY BUILDING PARTNERSHIPS PROGRAM
Mr ANDREW STONER:
My question is directed to the Premier. With hundreds of community groups still not receiving feedback about their applications under the Community Building Partnerships Program, and unable to get through on the phone numbers provided, will the Premier personally guarantee that no applicant will be disadvantaged as a result of his Government's disarray, or should they just get Joe Tripodi to write on their behalf?
Mr NATHAN REES:
The Leader of The Nationals speaks again in his desperate search for relevance. That was confirmed recently in a Sun-Herald
article, in which a vox pop of 20 people revealed every person questioned knew about Kyle Sandilands's suspension from 2DayFM but none, including a political lobbyist, could name the leader of the NSW National Party. Extraordinary. I will guarantee with regard to the $35 million funding aimed fairly and squarely at generating employment across New South Wales that it will not be a repeat of the Regional Partnerships Program under the Federal Coalition. That was simply an exercise in pork barrelling and fell over at the first sign of any scrutiny or any examination; it was trawled through in Estimates, an absolute joke! I will guarantee that probity of process and transparency will be maintained, and all of those assessments will be carried out in due course, and the applicants advised.
DUST STORM AND TRANSPORT
Mr TONY STEWART:
My question is addressed to the Minister for Transport.
Order! I call the member for Murrumbidgee to order. I call the member for Upper Hunter to order. I call the member for Coffs Harbour to order. I call the member for Wakehurst to order.
Mr TONY STEWART:
Will the Minister update the House on the transport response to today's dust storm?
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
I take this opportunity to thank commuters for their patience in today's very unusual weather conditions. I also thank and congratulate our front-line transport staff for having done a great job in keeping our roads and public transport services running smoothly during this morning's peak. Today's response to the dust storm has highlighted the importance of ensuring our transport agencies are coordinated. In June the Premier announced a significant reform of public services in New South Wales. At the centrepiece of the Premier's reforms was the merging of transport, roads and infrastructure with the establishment of the new super-agency, New South Wales Transport and Infrastructure.
A new agency has taken control of all transport and roads coordination, policy and planning functions. It has also established the Transport Coordination Group, which means that representatives from all of our transport agencies are based in one room during peak times. This morning when the dust storm descended on Sydney our transport agencies were already on the ground. They were already swinging into action, putting in place the mechanisms that allowed our roads and public transport services to handle this most unusual weather condition. I can advise the House—and in particular the member for Willoughby—that our roads and transport agencies handled the dust storm extremely well this morning. Despite gale force winds and dust shrouding the city, on-time running on the CityRail network was at 100 per cent.
Mr Michael Daley:
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
The Minister for Police has asked me to repeat that: On-time running on the CityRail network this morning was 100 per cent, notwithstanding those difficult environmental conditions.
Order! Members on both sides of the House will come to order.
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
Not only did CityRail staff provide 100 per cent on-time running this morning, but they also provided bottled water to a number of commuters to assist with their comfort—a real sense of customer service. Despite poor visibility on our roads, the Roads and Traffic Authority has advised that there were minimal issues. The M5 East tunnel was closed briefly, but other roads and bridges remained open and traffic was normal. The M5 East tunnel was closed as a safety issue due to concerns about visibility in the tunnel. Safety always comes first on our roads and in our public transport network. Electronic message signs were activated early this morning to advise motorists to reduce speed and use caution, and I am pleased to say that motorists took heed of this advice.
Our Government buses also ran to timetable this morning with no major issues. On the harbour, Sydney ferries were cancelled as a safety precaution early this morning—safety being the primary reason—and 23 special express buses were immediately brought in to transport commuters from Manly wharf to Circular Quay. Ferry passengers were able to use their tickets on buses and trains in an integrated way. I have received very good feedback on the timeliness of this response. Ferry services resumed just after 9.00 a.m. and the Transport Coordination Group will monitor visibility levels as we move towards the afternoon peak.
The Transport Coordination Group is housed in the Transport Management Centre at Eveleigh. I visited the centre earlier today to get an update on arrangements and to personally thank staff for their efforts today. Their work has been nothing short of exceptional, and it is not over yet. Right now, as the dust continues to hang over our city, the Transport Coordination Group is gearing up for the afternoon peak. At this stage we are not anticipating any significant delays, but we are urging commuters to stay informed by listening to the radio or calling 131 500 so that they know what is going on.
I also advise that our State Emergency Service moved swiftly in response to weather conditions this morning placing teams on standby in 16 of its 17 regions overnight and ensuring they were ready to respond first thing this morning. I take the opportunity to congratulate those staff and volunteers on their hard work and dedication. I am sure that Minister Whan would agree and support that recognition of the preparedness of officers and volunteers of the State Emergency Service. The person who whinges, whines and complains the loudest about our transport network has been eerily quiet today—
Mr Adrian Piccoli:
Leave her alone!
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
See? Even those opposite know who I am talking about. They know the truth. The member for Willoughby has either been gagged by the eerie dust storm that has enveloped Sydney or, more likely, has been rendered completely mute at the shock of seeing her little black Honda covered in a layer of dust. Whatever it is, the member for Willoughby has not bothered saying a word—not one single word.
Order! Members will cease interjecting.
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
The member has not bothered to say one single word to thank our front-line transport workers for their great work today. Everyone knows she is the first to grab the radio folder—the whingeing, whining, complaining radio folder—and stick her head on television when she wants to put the boot into our front-line staff—
Ms Gladys Berejiklian:
Stop sacking the workers.
Order! I will not place the member for Willoughby on a call to order—I will extend her a little leniency today. However, if she continues to interject I will call her to order.
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
The member for Willoughby is the first to whinge, whine and complain, moan and groan, and criticise our staff—even when she does not have the facts straight, which is usually the case. I have outlined how our agencies handled today's dust storm and I call on the member for Willoughby to issue a statement to thank our front-line workers for their efforts today instead of hiding away and putting the feather duster over the black Honda. I call on the member for Willoughby to get out there and personally thank the coordination staff, our bus drivers, our train crews, our ferry masters and every other person who has worked—
Order! I call the member for Lismore to order.
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
—their guts out today to ensure that people got to work safely and on time. I look forward to seeing a continued effort by those front-line workers into the future.
ABBOTSFORD PUBLIC SCHOOL
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI:
My question is directed to the Minister for Education and Training. With respect to Abbotsford Public School and her so-called compromise, which now involves continuing plans to demolish four existing classrooms and replace them with five instead of four new rooms, why does she refuse to simply build four additional classrooms for the school as requested by the principal, the parents and citizens association and the community?
Ms VERITY FIRTH
: That is an interesting question. I am aware, as the member is, that some members of the Abbotsford Public School community are dissatisfied with a project to be carried out under the Building the Education Revolution, but I point out to the House that this project was agreed to by the school back in May. On Wednesday 9 September I spoke to the president of the parents and citizens association about this matter. I have had numerous representations from the local member about the matter, defending her school and her community, and I directed the head of the Building the Education Revolution Program in New South Wales to attend the school site at 9.00 a.m. on Thursday 10 September to work directly with the principal and school community to find a suitable solution to the problem.
He has recommended that the project that the school originally agreed to—a project that has gone to tender, which has now closed—proceed as planned. This will involve the demolition of classrooms that are inadequate for current and future education standards and their replacement with four new classrooms. These will be fully constructed on site with quality materials, which will fulfil the needs of Abbotsford Public School well into the future. Each of the new classrooms will be around 50 per cent larger than the existing classrooms. They will have practical activities areas, withdrawal space to facilitate individual instruction, enhanced display areas and significant storage space. They will also feature a retractable wall between each pair of classrooms, to allow for group teaching and learning. I am also advised that, thanks to the competitive tender process carried out at the school, a saving has been identified in the school's project budget.
On that basis, the department is amending the scope of the project to include the addition of a 50 square metre special programs room as part of the construction of the new classroom block. The special programs room could be used, for example, as a music room. I understand that the school has been informed of this proposal and that the parents and citizens association is meeting this week to consider it. I point out—I cannot help myself—that it is pretty rich, coming from an Opposition that voted against this spending in our schools, who voted against an economic stimulus package at a time of economic need—
Order! Members will come to order, including the member for Murrumbidgee and the Leader of The Nationals.
Ms VERITY FIRTH:
They come into this House carping and criticising when they should be praising the Rudd and Rees governments for delivering not only twenty-first century education facilities in our schools but also jobs throughout New South Wales. The member for Wakehurst should stand up and thank the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments for the engagement of CD Constructions to build the new halls at Killarney Heights and Narraweena public schools. The member for Lane Cove should take some time out to get up in the House and acknowledge that a number of businesses in his area are getting a lot of work out of this project. ATR, or All Types of Rubbish, Eminent Waster, Australian Structural Steel and Authentic Bricklaying are all businesses that are based in his electorate and receiving work under the Building the Education Revolution projects. The member for Baulkham Hills should be on his feet after question time. I hope he will make a private member's statement supporting Red 8 Roofing Pty Ltd and Taylor Construction Group Pty Ltd, both based in his electorate—
Mr Wayne Merton:
Point of order: Yes, Minister, I will be talking about Baulkham Hills—
Order! The member for Baulkham Hills will resume his seat. While the member is very entertaining, I remind him that he must address his points of order to the Chair.
Ms VERITY FIRTH:
I wanted to point out to the member for Baulkham Hills that Red 8 Roofing Pty Ltd and Taylor Construction Group Pty Ltd, both businesses based in his electorate, have been subcontracted to work on these schools. To talk up the benefits of workers—
Mr Adrian Piccoli:
Point of order: I refer to Standing Order No. 129. The City of London should thank the Minister for Laing O'Rourke, whose head offices are in London and who are going to get millions of dollars—
Order! The member for Murrumbidgee will resume his seat. I call the member for Murrumbidgee to order.
Ms VERITY FIRTH:
The style of this Opposition is to talk New South Wales down, to take the focus away from the job creation efforts that this sort of public spending is delivering. It wants to take the focus away from the 15,000 jobs that will be created through the Building the Education Revolution program. The small business owners and the workers of New South Wales will thank us for the jobs we are creating. They know that it is Labor governments at a State and Federal level that are filling the gap caused by the retreat in the private market. Those opposite should get out of the way, stop talking the State down and instead support the small businesses and the workforces in their electorates that are getting very well-paid jobs out of this program.
Ms TANYA GADIEL:
My question is to the Minister for Housing. Can the Minister update the House on how the New South Wales Government is working to address homelessness in this State?
Order! I call the member for Murray-Darling to order.
Mr DAVID BORGER:
I thank the member for Parramatta for her genuine interest in those in the community who are less able to house themselves. On any given night, more than 27,000 people in New South Wales are homeless.
Mr Adrian Piccoli:
What are you doing about it, David?
Order! I call the member for Murrumbidgee to order for the second time.
Mr DAVID BORGER:
We are determined to do all we can to help those people. It is core business for me and for the Government. It is unfortunate that during the Howard years of neglect, when more than $1 billion was ripped out of the social housing system, there was a deafening silence from the Leader of the Opposition and everyone opposite. We are making progress in New South Wales to ensure that people have the best supports in place to prevent them from becoming homeless; that people in need are placed straight into secure, stable accommodation with support services wrapped around them; that our most disadvantaged have access to crisis housing when they need it most; that women and children experiencing domestic violence can stay safely in their own homes; and that people no longer sleep rough.
In any given year the New South Wales Government's funding helps almost 440,000 of our most needy people into affordable, safe and sustainable homes. We offer everything from one-off help establishing a tenancy to long-term social housing. This includes priority public housing for those in urgent need. In 2007-08 the New South Wales Government gave that type of housing to about 3,000 families and single people, of whom more than 22 per cent, almost a quarter, were homeless. That is more than 650 homeless families and singles given a stable, long-term home. Over the same period, community housing gave more than 3,400 people long-term housing, and about 40 per cent of those homes were given to the homeless.
The New South Wales Government has an incredible 400 programs that deliver vital services for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. We provided more than 39,000 households with emergency accommodation through the New South Wales Crisis Accommodation Program. We have helped people with temporary accommodation in 27,000 cases while people make longer-term arrangements. We help people into long-term private rental accommodation by helping with the bond through Rentstart and by supporting some 31,000 families and singles. There is no question but that homelessness services in New South Wales are working very hard to help many people. As a result of this care and despite these challenging economic times, we have successfully held the rate of homelessness steady in New South Wales.
Working in partnership with community organisations is vital in creating real outcomes for our homeless people. Today I had the pleasure of handing over $100,000 of New South Wales Government funding to the Parramatta Mission so it can get on with its important work of providing emergency support for people in the local area. The member for Parramatta knows the good work it does in providing leadership and services to young people, women and children fleeing domestic violence, and homeless men. We are working hard to do more. We need to drive the rate of homelessness down, and we will. We are also radically changing how we do this.
Over the next four years the Australian and New South Wales Governments will provide an extra $283 million as part of a national partnership to reduce homelessness in New South Wales. Through the national partnership we have set targets so that by 2013 we will reduce the number of people sleeping rough by a quarter, reduce homelessness by 7 per cent, and reduce by one-third the number of Aboriginal people who are homeless. I have also launched a new homelessness action plan that outlines how we will achieve the reductions in those targets. This plan focuses on new and better support for homeless people or people who are at risk of becoming homeless. In the first year alone we will be looking to help more than 4,000 people across the State to access or maintain long-term accommodation.
We have also committed to a new common ground-style building in Sydney, which will provide a single inner-city facility where homeless people get a roof over their heads and the support they need to return to independent living. The support is actually hardwired into the building. With the Premier we have established the Homelessness Intervention Project. This project supports 20 chronically homeless people in the inner city and provides social housing and intensive support to young people in the Nepean area. We have looked at the drivers of homelessness to provide real solutions so that we can step in earlier to help those who are most at risk and stop entrenched homelessness.
It is heartening to finally have a Federal Government that is not afraid of addressing homelessness, which is very different from the 10 years of neglect when more than $1 billion was ripped out of the social housing system for the least disadvantaged people in our communities. It is very different from the Opposition's policy on homelessness. I have with me a copy of the Opposition's policy on homelessness, which is written on a single post-it note. As I said yesterday, the Opposition has no answers on this issue. The Opposition has no answers because it has no policy, and it has no policy because it has no leadership. The Government is serious about reducing homelessness and it is serious about creating opportunities for those who need them most. I ask the Leader of the Opposition and all Opposition members to get serious.
Order! The member for Bathurst will cease interjecting.
OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN FUNDING
Mr GREG PIPER:
I direct my question to the Premier. Subsequent to recent correspondence from the New South Wales Ombudsman, can the Premier advise whether the Government will address the resourcing issues that are affecting the ability of the Ombudsman to assist the public with problems with government services, which has forced a reduced level of service for constituent referrals from members of Parliament?
Mr NATHAN REES:
Unlike those opposite, this Government recognises the important role of an independent Ombudsman, an independent ICAC, and so on. Unlike those opposite, this Government will not be trashing some of those institutions that hold our taxpayers in good stead. This Government recognises the important role that the Ombudsman plays in reviewing legislation and also in ensuring that the Government provides the community with the best services possible. We respect the fact that it is an independent agency. I am advised that this financial year we have given that agency almost $1 million in extra funding to undertake special legislative reviews.
The Ombudsman recently wrote to the Treasurer acknowledging that additional funding, which is on top of that agency's budget of $21.7 million for 2009-10 to conduct its regular functions. All agencies and departments are allocated a budget and all agencies are expected to operate within that budget. If government agencies do not operate within their allocated budget it has significant repercussions on our ability to deliver other important services. Many governments around the world have been forced to cut back services as they face the global recession. In New South Wales we have continued to deliver record funding for all essential services, and that includes the Office of the Ombudsman.
Mr RICHARD AMERY:
My question is addressed to the Minister for Sport and Recreation—from one athlete to another! Can the Minister update the House on what the New South Wales Government is doing to address sports rage?
Mr KEVIN GREENE:
People deserve to play and watch sport without fear of being bashed. The recent media coverage of violent behaviour at junior sporting matches serves as an ugly reminder that sports rage continues to be an issue on our sporting fields. It is disgusting and unacceptable, and it must be stamped out for good. Enough is enough. Violent and abusive parents need to take a long hard look at themselves and realise who they are really hurting—the kids. It is also finals season and passions are running high. A bumper crowd is expected at the ANZ Stadium on Friday night. My message to all footy fans is: Enjoy the game but do not ruin it for yourselves, your team and the families attending the game by being an idiot.
As summer sports swing into action, parents are reminded not to let their egos get in the way of their kids' enjoyment of the game. Sports rage robs children of their right to a safe and supportive environment. With today's alarming rates of childhood obesity we must encourage children to be more active and to play more sport, not deter them with ugly behaviour by parents hurling abuse from the sidelines. Sport for kids is supposed to be about fun, teamwork, developing skills and fitness, and making friends. Parents who get caught up with winning or losing and who take out their frustrations on the referee or opposing team are missing the point.
Sports clubs are starting to crack down on inappropriate behaviour from spectators and I support them 100 per cent. The Rees Government is working closely with sporting codes to give local clubs the tools that they need to stamp out sports rage for good. Over the past year we have provided training for more than 1,500 volunteer sports administrators in conflict resolution, member protection, complaint handling and child protection. In the past three years more than 7,200 copies of the New South Wales Government's sports rage prevention kit have been distributed to clubs across the State. The New South Wales Government's coloured vest program has also helped clubs to deal with sports rage directed at referees in training. More than 4,000 bright yellow training vests have gone out to around 550 clubs, along with promotional materials that help players and spectators to understand that new referees need extra support, not criticism and abuse.
An online website has also been developed that features practical guidelines and tools for club administrators to deal with sports rage, including downloadable sports rage prevention kits for parents, players, coaches and officials; sample codes of conduct; sample newsletter articles; and guidelines
for setting up a good sport award. For more information I encourage all members to visit the website at www.dsr.nsw.gov.au/sportrage
. When I launched the program in March this year the Rees Government was not alone in its condemnation of sports rage. National Rugby League Chief Executive Officer David Gallop said:
There's nothing more embarrassing for a sportsperson, young or old, than seeing a parent or supporter lose control on the sidelines.
Sports should be about people coming together, trying their best against each other on a field, accepting that decisions will go "both ways" in the long term and being happy to shake hands after the event.
Football NSW President Jim Forrest said:
Sporting bodies have reacted very positively to the Rees Government's initiatives to assert control over sport rage.
Strong educational programs and a beefing up of penalties are now firmly in place, like our "Working with Kids" seminars that address emerging sports rage and provide information for coaches and officials working with children.
More than 450 club officials took these seminars in the lead up to the winter season.
Australian Football League New South Wales-Australian Capital Territory General Manager Dale Holmes said:
Parents and coaches are best to remember their own childhood memories of playing sport—the good, the bad and the ugly—and ensure they provide kids with enjoyable experiences.
AFL's Kids First program that is built around the Sports Rage program, focuses on ensuring parents behave appropriately in supporting their kids playing AFL. Every one of our 150 junior clubs receive education on the program.
Team participation, skill development and having fun with mates is all that matters to our kids.
I am sure all members are involved—as I am—in some form of sports coaching. I am pleased to say that I have enjoyed that experience for more than 30 years. I know that the Leader of the Opposition supports his two sons in their sporting endeavours. Most parents have been involved in sports coaching in an official or unofficial capacity. Mention has been made before in this House about the involvement of the member for Tamworth in his local rugby league club. I am sure that all members who take their responsibilities to their communities seriously join me in recognising that sport is about enjoyment and about developing good habits in young people. Sport provides a valuable outlet for our children to learn lessons about teamwork, standards of behaviour and values such as respect and fair play. Undoubtedly, we all have a simple message for parents, spectators and sporting clubs: Do the right thing to ensure that everyone has a good time without the aggro.
Question time concluded at 3.19 p.m.
DEATH OF ROBERT WILSON, OAM, AND KEVIN MARSHALL
Mrs BARBARA PERRY
(Auburn—Minister for Local Government, and Minister Assisting the Minister for Health (Mental Health and Cancer)) [3.19 p.m.]: I express the condolences of the House on the tragic passing of the former Mayor of Parkes Shire Council Mr Robert Wilson, and also Mr Kevin Marshall of Orange, following a head-on car collision on Tuesday 15 September. Mr Marshall, from Orange, died in hospital that night following the accident. Mr Wilson died at the scene. Mr Wilson had been returning from the inaugural meeting of the Regional Development Australia Central West Committee in Orange, fittingly still advocating for the community that he knew and loved. Proud of Parkes and not afraid to show it, Mr Wilson was the driving force behind the growth of local industry and the development of the Parkes area as an inland transport hub and national freight distribution centre.
Dedicated, focused and driven, Robert Wilson was a colossus of local government and a stalwart of the Parkes community. Born and raised in Parkes, Robert was first elected to the former Peak Hill Council in 1965. He served as councillor or mayor through the permutations of council mergers until he became Mayor of Parkes, a post he held for 23 years. In all, Mr Wilson dedicated 43 of his 67 years to local government and the Parkes community. This record inspired former Premier Morris Iemma to aptly describe Mr Wilson as the Bradman of local government. Awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 1997, a Centenary Medal in 2001, an A. R. Bluett Memorial award in 1987 as well as a National Award for Innovation in 1991 and 1996, Robert Wilson's services to local government were well recognised.
But Robert's interests spanned far further afield than local council limits. He was an avid fan of astronomy, looking forward each year to the Parkes Astrofest Festival. He took a keen interest also in Parkinson's disease, educating himself on the subject to the point where he could converse comfortably with experts on the issue; he actually led a Parkinson's disease study team to China. As a patron of the Red Cross, a patron of the famous Parkes Elvis Festival and a fellow of the Parkes Rotary Club, Robert Wilson truly lived to serve the people. These contributions were recognised this year by awarding Mr Wilson the Parkes Citizen of the Year Award. I extend the sympathies of this House to Mr Wilson's wife, Vicki, his daughter, Trudy, his son, Ben, and their families. I also express heartfelt condolences to the family of Kevin Marshall.
Robert Wilson was laid to rest yesterday at Peak Hill Cemetery, following a service at the Parkes Catholic Church. A family, a shire, a State and a nation have lost a great man and advocate, a loving husband and father, and dedicated councillor and mayor.
Mrs DAWN FARDELL
(Dubbo) [3.22 p.m.], by leave: I thank the Minister for Local Government for the kind words on behalf of the House in recognition of the enormous contribution and tragic passing of the former long-serving mayor of Parkes, Robert Wilson OAM. Indeed, this is a very difficult time for the communities of the State's Central West. We are overcome with a sense of profound and unspeakable loss. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Robert's wife, Vicki, and their children, extended family and loved ones. We thank them for sharing their husband, father, grandfather and friend with us over so many years. It is not possible to lessen the grief with any words spoken here today or to comprehend why we were so fortunate to have had a man of Robert's calibre in our midst. In one breath we feel both enormously blessed and irrevocably bereft.
It is almost a year to the day that Robert Wilson retired from local government. He enjoyed a very flexible notion of retirement. After 43 years of service to council and more than two decades as Mayor of Parkes, he threw himself into new projects. As the Minister said, he retained his lifelong passion for developing Parkes as a transport hub of national importance. Just this year he chaired the Newell Highway roundtable, took an active role in the ensuing task force and was appointed to the Regional Development Australia Central West Committee. Robert supported many charitable causes, particularly research into Parkinson's disease. He was a champion of tourism, the development of a national freight distribution centre, regional development and rural health. In everything, Robert conducted himself with humility and good humour.
In 2007 he was awarded an honorary Ph.D. by the Warnborough College in the United Kingdom for leadership, community service and philanthropic endeavours. He received the A. R. Bluett Award, the National Award for Innovation in Local Government, and there was the small matter of an Order of Australia Medal. Many honours were bestowed on Robert Wilson, but as I stand here today it does not seem nearly enough. Some lives simply surpass our very best efforts to say thank you. Robert shared the friendship and qualities of two other exceptional men from the Central West: his great friend and former Independent member for Dubbo, Tony McGrane, and the former member for Calare, Peter Andren. They were men of substance and honour. All three were taken too soon.
I consider myself fortunate to have counted them as my friends and mentors. They were generous with their time, encouragement and advice. If this Parliament is to learn anything from the fine example of Robert Wilson, surely it is that true public service is built on integrity. It is a quality all too rare in the practice of politics these days, but one that Robert had in abundance. It is why the loss is so deep and the legacy so great. Godspeed, Robert.
Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON
(Burrinjuck) [3.25 p.m.]: It is with a heavy heart that I speak on behalf of the Opposition to share with the Government and the member for Dubbo our condolences on the tragic passing of both Robert Wilson from Peak Hill and Kevin Marshall from Orange, who were killed in an horrific head-on collision last Tuesday, 15 September. Members will remember this as the same day five years ago that our former colleague Tony McGrane passed away. Two great men have left us. Robert Wilson, survived by his beautiful wife, Vicki, daughter, Trudy, and son, Ben, was Mayor of Parkes for 23 years, a councillor for 43 years, and a man of immense community service. Kevin Marshall was the husband of Pam, father of Patsy and her sisters, father-in-law of Kevin Saul, and grandfather of nine-year-old Brendan Saul.
Members will remember that Brendan Saul was knocked from his bike and killed in a hit-and-run accident in Dubbo in 2004. This resulted in the introduction of Brendan's Law in this place. Kevin Marshall worked terrifically hard to get that legislation introduced. The bill was officially named the Crimes Amendment (Road Accidents) Bill and was introduced on 21 September 2005. The bill was introduced to encourage drivers and to ensure that drivers do not leave the scene of an accident and are in a position to provide assistance to the injured, which may ultimately save a life or, at the very least, reduce the suffering and preserve the dignity of the injured or the deceased. The bill also provided community recognition of the seriousness of hit and run offences by increasing the penalties from four months to 10 years. These two men were people of exceptional calibre who provided an amazing level of community service to their local areas and also had a tremendous impact on government at all levels.
Road accidents have an impact on all who live in country New South Wales. I am sure the former Minister for Roads is aware that so far this year in the western region there have been 69 deaths compared with 39 last year. These accidents have an enormous impact on families, friends and communities. Yesterday, together with the member for Dubbo and the member for Rockdale, I attended the funeral of Rob Wilson. About 1,200 people attended the funeral; it was quite a gathering. Four ministers of religion officiated at the service. Clearly, this man was exceptional. I attended on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of The Nationals, who were disappointed they could not attend as it was a sitting day for this House. I am sure many other members in this place wanted to attend that funeral, including you, Mr Speaker, but members have responsibilities to represent our electorates in this place when Parliament sits. I was there also as a friend who had the greatest respect for him and also as a member of Parliament representing an electorate neighbouring the township of Parkes, which is in Dubbo electorate.
Rob Wilson was a great man. He had a highly infectious laugh. One could not help but like him. Two great eulogies were delivered yesterday, one by Alan McCormack, who worked with Rob for something like 22 years. He told us great personal stories like, "You would always know when Rob was coming because you could hear the Tic Tacs in his pocket as he walked down the hallway. He was always trying to give up smoking." Rob's daughter, Trudy, also gave an amazing eulogy. I know from experience that nothing can prepare us for the shock of the death of a beloved family member. Four years ago this month, I personally experienced the loss of a close loved one. I really feel for Rob Wilson's family because, after the funeral, shock will set in. That is the time when the community really will need to support the two families.
There is more to people than just community service; there is the family man, the friend, the mate. On behalf of the Opposition I again express deepest condolences to the families and friends of those two great men. But I also thank them for all of their community service and I remind everyone not to let that go to waste. Rather we should remember what these two great people have brought into our lives and acknowledge that by endeavouring to continue their good work.
I join with the Minister for Local Government, the member for Dubbo and the member for Burrinjuck in acknowledging Robert Wilson. Of course, I endorse all the comments that have been made relating to the tragic loss of life as a result of the accidents. I also called Robert Wilson a friend, as have so many people in this Chamber. The last time I spoke with Rob, he said two things that now are very clear in my mind. I said to him shortly after he had retired from 43 years in local government, "Robert, surely that constitutes some sort of brain damage?" He said, "Richard, I love my people, and I love local government." I think he lived his life by honouring those remarks. He was a great man, and one who, quite rightly, will be very sadly missed.
Members and officers of the House stood in their places as a mark of respect
The Clerk announced that the following petitions signed by fewer than 500 persons were lodged for presentation:
Wagga Wagga Base Hospital
Petition requesting funding and the nomination of a start date in the current parliamentary term for the construction of a new Wagga Wagga Base Hospital, received from Mr Daryl Maguire
Tumut Renal Dialysis Service
Petition asking that the House support the establishment of a satellite renal dialysis service in Tumut, received from Mr Daryl Maguire
Tumut Hospital and Batlow Multiple Purpose Service
Petition asking that vital equipment be provided immediately to both Tumut Hospital and Batlow Multiple Purpose Service, received from Mr Daryl Maguire
Tumut Hospital Anaesthetic Services
Petition asking that anaesthetic services at Tumut Hospital be made available immediately, received from Mr Daryl Maguire.
Binalong District Transport
Petition requesting an alternative form of public transport to replace the Fearnes Wagga Wagga to Canberra bus service, received Ms Katrina Hodgkinson
Bus Service 311
Petition requesting improved services on bus route 311, received from Ms Clover Moore
Petition requesting that the 2006 master plan for the Garvan St Vincent's research precinct be adhered to and that the plan incorporate the heritage classified terrace, received from Ms Clover Moore
Petition opposing the sale of animals in pet shops, received from Ms Clover Moore
Hat Head Beach Hauling
Petition opposing beach hauling from the Korogoro Creek to the Breakout at Hat Head beach, received from Mr Andrew Stoner
Drink Container Deposit Levy
Petition requesting a container deposit levy be introduced to reduce litter and increase recycling rates of drink containers, received from Ms Clover Moore
National Parks Tourism Developments
Petition opposing the construction of tourism developments in national parks, received from Ms Clover Moore
Game and Feral Animal Control Amendment Bill 2009
Petition opposing the Game and Feral Animal Control Amendment Bill 2009 in its entirety, received from Ms Clover Moore
The Clerk announced that the following petitions signed by fewer than 500 persons were lodged for presentation:
Pyrmont Metro Station
Petition opposing the Metro proposal for a Pyrmont station at Union Square and requesting community consultation for a suitable site, received from Ms Clover Moore
Camerons Corner Upgrade
Petition requesting community consultation before the commencement of the Camerons Corner upgrade, received from Mr Andrew Stoner
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Reordering of General Business
Mr ANDREW STONER
(Oxley—Leader of The Nationals) [3.32 p.m.]: I move:
Mr JOHN AQUILINA
That the General Business Notice of Motion (General Notice) given by me this day [Vehicle Height Regulations] have precedence on Thursday 24 September 2009.
(Riverstone—Parliamentary Secretary) [3.32 p.m.]: In fraternal spirit, the Government agrees to re-ordering of General Business tomorrow as moved by the Leader of The Nationals.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
CONSIDERATION OF MOTIONS TO BE ACCORDED PRIORITY
Ms TANYA GADIEL
(Parramatta) [3.33 p.m.]: The motion of which I gave notice earlier should be accorded priority because, in the context of reports of extreme violence at a rugby league game last weekend and recent shocking attacks upon an official at a Little Athletics event, clearly that is an area of growing concern for our community. Australia is a sports loving nation, and my electorate of Parramatta is no exception. I acknowledge the earlier interjection of "Go the Eels". Did I mention that the Eels are doing very well at the moment? Our children grow up playing team sports and learn skills of teamwork and camaraderie—and they have a lot of fun in the process. But when healthy competition in junior sports gets out of hand either because of children or parents and involves violence and thuggery, that is an important issue that should and must be addressed by the Parliament as a matter of priority.
Philippine-Australian Society for Senior Citizens Funding
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE
(Bega) [3.35 p.m.]: I seek priority for the motion of which I have given notice:
That the House notes the member for Fairfield's questionable influence across government.
During question time today the member for Fairfield, who is the Minister for Finance, Minister for Infrastructure, Minister for Regulatory Reform, and Minister for Ports and Waterways, sought to convey some type of message that the Left and the Right of the Labor Party do not do deals. There is no certainty in Labor Party factional politics; otherwise, the Right would not have dealt a left-wing deal for the position of Premier. The situation is that a Minister must front up and give some very serious answers to some very serious questions. The reason that the motion of which I have given notice should be given priority is that the Liberals and Nationals believe that time and time again the Government, through the questionable influence of the member for Fairfield, has been utilising taxpayer funds to the ultimate disadvantage of communities throughout the State.
Members of the Coalition wish to ensure that seniors in New South Wales are given every support from programs that are run by the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care [DADHC] and that members of cultural communities, such as the Philippine community, are given support. There are two key points at issue. First, how did a Minister of the Crown act contrary to departmental advice that was given to him two months prior to his making a decision? What influence did the Minister, Joe Tripodi, exert on behalf of Rolly Atienza, who is a former Labor candidate, a member of Chris Bowen's staff, the secretary of the organisation concerned as well as a mate of Joe Tripodi? How did Joe Tripodi influence that decision in the light of that information?
Mr Gerard Martin:
Point of order: The standing orders require the member for Bega to argue priority. The member is attempting to smear another member of the House by arguing what he considers to be the substantive part of his motion. That is not what establishing priority is about. He should tell us what he and the member for Murrumbidgee, Adrian Piccoli, know about Milton Orkopoulos—that would be more interesting.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Diane Beamer):
Order! I am sure the member for Bega will state why his motion should be accorded priority.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE:
This motion should be accorded priority because on 6 May the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care wrote to the Philippine-Australian Society For Senior Citizens Inc. and stated that, further to discussions, "I confirm the advice previously given to you that DADHC will not renew its funding agreement with the Philippine-Australian Society For Senior Citizens Inc. following expiry of the current agreement on 30 June 2009."
Mr Gerard Martin:
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE:
That is the advice of the department. The Minister went against that advice and renewed the funding agreement for another 12 months.
Mr Gerard Martin:
Do you not realise that Ministers are free to act when they consider that departmental advice is wrong? You always listen to departmental advice, do you?
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE:
That is why we should be debating this motion this afternoon. If members of the Government want to yell and scream, they should bring on the debate.
Mr Alan Ashton:
Point of order: The member for Bega has referred to a written reply or information. Could I ask that he read it very carefully again? My point of order is that the advice just said that they would not go ahead with it, but it did not state whether there was any reason why. The member for Bega should read it again.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Diane Beamer):
Order! The Chair cannot ask the member for Bega to read a letter. The member for Bega has the call.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE:
The reason that the motion should be accorded priority is that we want to ensure that there is openness and transparency around the ageing grants program in New South Wales. We want to ensure that senior citizens in the electorates of East Hills, Bathurst, Fairfield and everywhere else are receiving the support and programs from this Government that they deserve and should receive. Myriad organisations in this State, including the Combined Caring Centre of the Sutherland Shire, have been denied money by this Government over the past 12 months. In this case the Minister went against departmental advice and a Labor mate, who is the secretary of this organisation, received funding. That is at the heart of this matter. South-western Sydney is a cesspit for the Labor Party in terms of factional deals, corruption and everything else. We want to get to the bottom of what is happening in relation to this funding program, and there is no better way to do it than through debate on a motion accorded priority in the Parliament this afternoon.
Question—That the motion of the member for Parramatta be accorded priority—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion Accorded Priority
Ms TANYA GADIEL
(Parramatta) [3.40 p.m.]: I move:
That this House:
(1) congratulates the Government for its proactive stance in condemning sports rage; and
(2) calls on all members of Parliament to continue working closely with sporting codes to give local clubs the tools they need to stamp out sports rage.
I am sure all members of the House were appalled to see the most recent examples of violent behaviour at a children's sporting event. I was shocked at the level of violence at a junior rugby league game on the weekend. It was absolutely extraordinary to see 15-year-olds and 16-year-olds engaged in such acts of thuggery and brutality. Local rugby league officials are to be commended for the tough penalties they handed out to those involved. I am sure the police will be looking closely at footage of the incident. I was also shocked to hear of the recent attack on an official at a Little Athletics event. Violence between competitors is bad enough, but when adults, whether family members, supporters or anyone else, are violent towards each other it has a terrible effect on our kids. This is especially the case when adults assault or abuse volunteer officials.
Children learn how to behave from us. It is extremely important that we set the right example. Kids' sport should be about teaching values. It should be about fun, personal development, being part of a team. It should be about teaching our kids how to compete to the best of their ability, how to develop their physical and mental abilities, and how to respect their competitors and teammates. It should also be about respecting officials and accepting the umpire's decision, no matter what that decision may be. This is not what our kids learn when a parent abuses a referee from the sideline or when adults lose their temper, swear and carry on about something that has just happened on the field. Adults cannot help their children to grow, learn and develop by behaving like children themselves.
I was particularly disgusted when I heard of the parents cheering and congratulating children who had just perpetrated acts of violence on the field. It seems that no matter how much effort the Government puts into getting the message across to sporting bodies and grassroots sporting clubs, some people just do not get the message. The Government has certainly tried hard to get the message across. The Premier, the Minister and other Government members have been prominent in condemning this sort of behaviour. We have sent a clear message that this is not acceptable, and we have supported that message with action. The televised ground announcement "Dummy Spits are for Babies", developed by the sport and recreation division of Communities NSW, has been designed to show parents just how ridiculous they look when they get carried away and behave in irrational, immature and potentially dangerous ways.
This powerful 45-second announcement sends a clear message to parents not to interfere with their children's enjoyment of sport by highlighting the ugly side of their sports rage behaviour. Dummy Spits has been played at key sporting events, including NRL, A-League, AFL and rugby union matches over past years, and at live sites at Circular Quay, Darling Harbour and Bondi Junction during the 2006 Ashes tour. In addition, Dummy Spits has been distributed to free-to-air television stations in New South Wales as a community service announcement. When it comes to tackling sports rage at the grassroots level, many people have a role to play, including players, parents, spectators, coaches, officials and administrators. However, much of the responsibility still rests with the volunteer clubs or association committees.
A number of initiatives developed by the Government to assist sporting clubs are proving to be a real winner at a grassroots level. A recent evaluation of the highly popular sports rage prevention kit for club committees has found that 87 per cent of sporting organisations that had received the kit found it useful, and more than half reported improved behaviour by players, spectators and officials. In addition, 80 per cent of organisations that had received the kit reported that they were more confident to deal with sports rage incidents as a result of using the kit, and nearly two-thirds had introduced or improved a clear process for dealing with incidents. The kit is designed to give volunteer administrators in community sport the necessary tools and knowledge to address bad behaviour and, most importantly, to improve their confidence to put the right procedures in place to support their front-line volunteers.
With more than 7,200 kits ordered by sporting clubs over the past three years and more than 400,000 free promotional materials ordered by clubs as part of the program, such as brochures, stickers, a ground announcement and posters, this kit has proven to be a practical and popular resource for the sports industry. The kit has also been recognised in several major industry awards. It took the gold award at the 2007 New South Wales Sports Safety awards. Another winning program developed and implemented by the Government is the Coloured Vest Program, which won the bronze medal in the 2008 New South Wales Premier public sector awards. This program now has more than 600 clubs representing 27 different participating sports. This practical program provides supports to beginner referees and umpires by identifying them in training with brightly coloured yellow vests.
Promotional materials, including posters and cards, are provided free of charge to sporting clubs to be displayed at the venue and handed to spectators with the slogan "I'm wearing yellow so please don't see red". The message to spectators and parents is clear: support the learner, not criticise them. Over the past year some 3,500 volunteer sports administrators in New South Wales completed the play-by-the-rules online training, which covers issues such as discrimination, harassment, abuse and a range of other inappropriate behaviours in sport.
Mr KEVIN HUMPHRIES
(Barwon) [3.47 p.m.]: I speak on behalf of the Coalition on the issue of sports rage. While the Coalition is happy that the Government has raised the issue, we want to thank the many, many people who contribute to sports events, in administration, logistics, and operation, and the 100,000 plus young people who participate in sport every week across New South Wales, in country areas, in the cities and in coastal areas alike. Unfortunately, issues around sports rage are probably symptomatic of wider problems within our community. While I agree with the member for Parramatta that we have grown up with sport as an integral part of the culture of Australia—we like to gather and participate—that is not necessarily the trend in New South Wales.
It is sad to think that we now need full-on security at many of our sporting events. It is sad to think that many of our sporting bodies have to resort to selling alcohol on site to pay for and cover the costs of running these events. One way to deal with rage is to perhaps encourage more people in this State to participate in sport. Whilst large numbers of people participate at the grassroots level, anecdotal evidence suggests that our level of participation in sport is dropping. The number of volunteers committing to supporting many of our young people and coordinating sport across the State is also dropping. Some of the figures that have been cited by the Government today are very much in dispute by the NSW Sports Federation.
Brochures, websites, yellow vests and the dummy spits campaign to an extent are fine, but it is all window-dressing. The reality is that the resourcing of sport across this State has fallen. Many of the programs that were in place have been questionably dropped off the agenda. Only last week the Capital Assistance Program was raised with me. If we want people to participate in sport, they need proper venues. To get proper venues, our non-government and local government entities need to be adequately funded. In 2007-08, 300 projects received funding under the Capital Assistance Program. At the moment it does not appear to be on the agenda for the Department of Sport and Recreation. The Regional Sports Facility Development Program does not appear to be on the agenda at the moment. It is questionable whether the Country Athletes Scheme, which received $250,000 in 2007-08, is still in existence. It is questionable whether the Far Western Travel Scheme, that allows people to participate, has dropped off the agenda.
The Minister was asked in estimates about sporting individuals and role models. Adults and role models are integral to the wellbeing of sport. There have been a number of scandals involving sport, rage and behaviour—and not only that of the athletes but also that of parents and fans. The question was: What is the State Government doing to prevent incidents of unacceptable and antisocial behaviour of players away from the sporting arena as well as in the sporting arena? Has the Government designed a series of workshops, conferences and forums particularly relevant to rugby league that involved a recent incident in western Sydney and in other parts of the State in the last month? As we approach the finals seasons, what is the Government doing? In June 2009 a letter from the NSW Sports Federation to the Minister highlighted the inadequacies of the Sports Development Program in New South Wales. It stated:
There is currently a feeling of uncertainty and anxiety amongst NSW state sporting organisations. As you know, many of these organisations have very limited resources and very limited income. These sports are already planning for the 2009/2010 year but are unsure of their SDP funding amount despite being only 2½ weeks away from the period's commencement.
That was in June and it referred to the end of the financial year. It continued:
It is within this context that you will understand the NSW Sports Federation's concern at the ongoing delays and uncertainty with respect to the Department confirming the level of funding assistance that will be provided to sport through the SDP.
That peak body, the voice of sport in New South Wales, is very concerned about the ongoing security of funding for sporting entities in New South Wales. The chief executive officer of the NSW Sports Federation continued:
I take this opportunity to highlight the need for the SDP to increase in monetary terms.
I highlight the fact that sporting bodies in New South Wales are the least funded compared with other States. For example, in relation to the large sport of touch—which engages tens of thousands of people—the funding provided is: $55,000, New South Wales; $350,00, Queensland; $80,000, Victoria; $180,000, Western Australia; $60,000, South Australia; $45,000, Australian Capital Territory; $25,000, Tasmania; and $120,000, Northern Territory. Tennis receives the following funding: $40,000, New South Wales; $200,00, Queensland; $250,000, Victoria; $100,000, Western Australia; $250,000, South Australia; and $50,000 in Tasmania and in the Australian Capital Territory. Women's golf receives the following funding: $30,000, New South Wales; $45,000, Tasmania; and $250,000, Queensland. No wonder we are falling behind in this State. New South Wales receives less sports funding than the other States. It is a disgrace. It does not reflect the State Plan objective of trying to increase sports participation by 10 per cent by 2016. We are going backwards in relation to sports participation—it is no wonder people are cranky!
Mr ROBERT FUROLO
(Lakemba) [3.54 p.m.]: I support the motion moved by the member for Parramatta. Like many parents and members of this House, I am appalled at the incidents last weekend, and indeed over the winter season, involving ugly behaviour at some junior sporting events in Sydney. Unfortunately, sport is not immune from the rage that seems to affect so many parts of society. Just this year alone we have been horrified by reports of violence in the community in our schools and on our roads. But it is time for the rage to stop. When poor behaviour spills into the junior sporting arena, it erodes the very essence of sport and robs our children of the opportunity to benefit from the experience. Violence, abuse, bad language and generally poor behaviour by players, coaches, officials and spectators, including parents, are an indictment on our society.
Sports rage is against the rules and should not be tolerated in any way, shape or form in junior sport. It is bad for children and bad for sport as a whole. Participating in organised sport has so many benefits for children—improved health and wellbeing, greater self-esteem, reduced obesity and sharing in a team environment. But sports rage ruins a child's enjoyment of sport and undermines the benefits and encourages them to drop out. The effect on volunteer coaches, referees and officials is especially serious, with many hanging up their whistles because they are fed up with the abuse and harassment. Players must take responsibility for their actions and when they step out of line they should cop the penalties imposed by their sport's judiciary.
Parents must also take responsibility for their actions. When their behaviour is not acceptable sports must take strong action under their code of conduct. The message for parents, spectators and sporting clubs this coming summer season is simple: Show some respect and stop the rot! And to adults at games: Do not act like a goose and wreck the fun of a game for your child or someone else's child while they are on the field playing or refereeing. I am the proud father of two children who are both involved in local sport. My son Alexander is a keen soccer player and puts himself up as the goalie for his team, which I think is a brave move. I have been to a number of games as a spectator and parent watching the children play sport and have been appalled by the behaviour of some parents who seem to take great delight in ridiculing their child, who may have made a mistake on the field. They yell at their child, which would discourage them from being involved in sport. While that may not fall within the definition of "sports rage", it reflects poorly on the parent and detracts from the enjoyment of the sport for the child.
Building safe, harassment-free sporting environments for all people in New South Wales is a key commitment of the Rees Government. We want sport at all levels in this State to uphold the principles of fairness, respect, responsibility and safety. By applying these principles, sport helps to achieve many positive outcomes for us as individuals and for our communities. Players, coaches, officials, spectators—in fact, everyone involved in sport—should have the opportunity to participate in a safe and enjoyable environment without verbal or physical abuse. Over the past few years, NSW Sport and Recreation, a division of Communities NSW, has worked with State sporting organisations, associations and local clubs to address sports rage, harassment and abuse.
Sport Rage Prevention—a Kit for Club Committees is a free education kit for volunteer sports clubs and associations. It has been developed by NSW Sport and Recreation to assist volunteer committees to put a stop to sports rage. The kit was launched in November 2006 and a statewide rollout was conducted with several major sports. More than 7,200 kits have been ordered by sporting clubs in New South Wales. In addition, more than 400,000 free brochures, stickers and posters have been ordered by clubs as part of the program. The kit features a suite of materials designed to assist volunteer administrators to be proactive in the prevention and management of sports rage. The centrepiece of the kit is the planning guide, which sets out the essential sports rage prevention steps for all clubs and refers to a range of ready-to-use resources contained in the kit that are available to clubs to order in bulk at no charge. I believe that, as a community, we all have a responsibility to ensure that sports rage does not affect the enjoyment of sport for our children. The New South Wales Government is doing its fair share to help with this agenda.
Mr ROB STOKES
(Pittwater) [3.59 p.m.]: I wish to speak on behalf of the Coalition in relation to the motion of the member for Parramatta regarding sports rage. I note that the first part of the motion seeks to congratulate the New South Wales Government on its approach in condemning sports rage. I think that the Government can do its own job congratulating itself. I want to focus my comments more on congratulating the community in relation to its work in addressing this important issue, particularly referees, sports officials, and parents who are on the ground organising sporting events, working with kids and providing the opportunity that participation in organised sports involves. Our job on this side of the House is not so much to congratulate the Government but to hold it to account and to encourage it to do even better. All in this House agree that sport is vital and a really important part of developing character—not just for children but for everybody. I note that in New South Wales about 40 per cent of people participate in organised sport, which is a terrific participation rate, but just below the national average. There is room to improve, but we are heading in the right direction—to coin a phrase!
As I was preparing for this debate it occurred to me that sports rage really is an oxymoron. Sport is all about teamwork, strategy, learning, health, sharing, discipline, fitness and fun. However, rage conjures up ideas of loss of control, selfishness, ill discipline, fear, danger and destruction. So sport and rage have nothing to do with each other. Rage is the antithesis of the values that sport seeks to foster. All of us know of examples where sport and rage have sadly become entwined with each other. The member for Parramatta mentioned a sad example in relation to a Little League event at St Marys. In my own community of Pittwater at a recent rugby shield match between Warringah and Gordon a spectator assaulted a player.
Sports rage is a massive issue and we need to support families because much of the research indicates that a lot of it is learned behaviour. I refer to recent a recent article in the Journal of Sport Behaviour
, entitled "Background anger in youth sport: a perfect storm?", by Jens Omli and Nicole LaVoi. The researchers looked at the way that behaviour learned by parents is emulated by children. This was taken up by Adele Horin in a recent column in the Sydney Morning Herald
with a couple of really disturbing quotes. One 11-year-old boy told Dr Clifton Evers, a researcher in the area at the University of New South Wales:
The loud ones scare me. They're so big, too. Sometimes I think their head will explode.
The boy was talking about parents on the sidelines yelling at officials. He continued:
My dad is bad and I get worried. He punched someone near the car once.
A 12-year-old boy said he had stopped playing sport after parents from an opposing team pushed his mother hard. A 12-year-old girl said:
You're not allowed to have fun, especially when everyone is yelling and angry.
This is a massive issue and I do not believe we can really look at it in totality without looking at the issue of alcohol at sporting venues, particularly at children's sporting fixtures. There is a clear link between alcohol and violence—it is a well-documented link—and I know from speaking to local sporting clubs in my community that a lot of clubs would love to be weaned off the revenue they gain from the supply of alcohol, but they need that revenue to survive. To this end, I place on record my support, and the support of the Coalition, for the Good Sports Program. I note the great work being done by Phil Tangney, who is the regional manager of the Good Sports Program in Sydney. I encourage members to get into their communities and offer to serve as patron if one or several of their sporting clubs want to look at the benefits that participation in the Good Sports Program might provide. I also note that Ocsober is about to begin, a program supported by Life Education. We need to focus on the problem of sports rage. I encourage the Government to continue to do more.
Ms TANYA GADIEL
(Parramatta) [4.04 p.m.], in reply: I thank the member for Lakemba, the member for Barwon and the member for Pittwater for their contributions. They were most gracious and I thank them very much. Importantly, I would like to thank all of the volunteers across New South Wales who are the backbone of kids' sport—the referees, umpires, coaches, managers, club presidents, secretaries and, of course, the parents who set up things like the mini-soccer fields at 8 o'clock on a Saturday morning. They should be commended. Without the tireless efforts of these volunteers, their clubs and their sporting associations, there would be no kids' sports. Many of these volunteers and groups have worked constructively with the Government to develop the measures that I have outlined today. They continue to work hard to utilise these tools to protect kids from the misconduct of a minority, but the Government and sports clubs can only put the message across. It is up to individuals to control themselves in the best interests of our kids.
As we debate this issue in this place we should not forget that this is essentially an issue of individual responsibility. People need to take responsibility for their actions. They need to think about why they are at a children's sporting event. Most people attend these events to support a child. They support that child because they care about them, whether or not they are a parent, grandparent, family friend or supporter of a club. People need to think about the message they send to that child when they get carried away by their emotion and scream abuse at referees, start throwing punches at other supporters or encourage acts of violence by and against children. People need to understand that such actions will not be tolerated, and they should not be tolerated—not by other parents, not by the community and not by the Government.
Today I have outlined a range of measures that the Government has taken to combat sports rage. Most of these measures focus on increasing awareness of the issue and educating people about the effects of their actions. Make no mistake: There can be severe consequences for the type of behaviour that I have spoken about. People who hurl abuse at officials and players can face bans from venues. Violent players face potentially lifelong bans from their sports and perpetrators of violence on the sideline will be charged and prosecuted by police. Let us not forget who the real losers are as a result of sports rage. Anyone who has seen the joy of a child playing their favourite sport knows how important it is to them. It is also good for them. They develop social, physical and mental skills, they become fitter and healthier, they learn how to be part of a team and—most of all—they have fun. That is what childhood should be about. Abusive and violent adults have no place in this environment. It robs our kids of their enjoyment and their innocence. I commend the Government for taking this issue seriously and for taking steps to address it. I commend the motion to the House.
Everybody who witnessed the events last weekend would agree that it was an absolute disgrace. We saw 15-year-olds and 16-year-olds throwing punches and kicking players when they were down on the ground. Not only were they deriving enjoyment from it, but they were also giving high fives to each other as they came off the field. The parents and other children applauded them for their antics. It is a great credit to the junior sporting code that it has taken such strong action. One child has been banned from playing for 20 years. It is better for him to be banned from playing than have to live for years with the knowledge that his actions resulted in a head injury or the death of one of those children at a sporting event. That would have been an absolute disaster.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Diane Beamer):
Order! Debate on the motion accorded priority having concluded, the House will now proceed to Government business.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Suspension of Standing Orders: Routine of Business
Motion by Mr John Aquilina agreed to:
That on 24 September 2009 standing orders be suspended to permit the consideration of Notice of Motion (General Notice) No. 988 during the period in the routine of business set aside for General Business Orders of the Day (for Bills).
EDUCATION AMENDMENT (SCHOOL ATTENDANCE) BILL 2009
Bill introduced on motion by Ms Verity Firth.
Agreement in Principle
Ms VERITY FIRTH
(Balmain—Minister for Education and Training) [4.11 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now agreed to in principle.
It is the right of every child in New South Wales to have an education, and access to the lifelong benefits and opportunities that education brings. For this reason, education has been compulsory in New South Wales since 1880. Parents have the legal duty to enrol their child in a school, or to enlist them for home schooling, and to see that they attend regularly. A very small minority of children do not attend regularly. These children miss out on the quality education that is provided by New South Wales schools. They are at risk of lifelong social disadvantage as a consequence—a disadvantage that can be passed on to the next generation. Currently, for cases of persistent non-attendance, the only remedy offered by the Education Act is prosecution of the child's parents in court, with a monetary fine up to $1,100.
Yet a family's failure to have a child educated can be caused by a wide variety of factors. It may arise from mental illness, from drug and alcohol addiction, from social isolation, from parental disabilities, from the absence of parenting skills or from other causes of family disruption. When attempting to deal with these cases, it is vital to have a system that is flexible enough to address the real underlying causes of the problem. This bill will introduce such a system. Our aim is not to obtain a fine or have a parent convicted and punished. Our aim is to ensure that all children are receiving the education to which they are entitled.
In the New South Wales education system the first attempts to address a child's failure to attend school are made by the school. The principal and other school staff will work with the family to identify and resolve the reasons for poor attendance. Non-government schools are required by the conditions of their registration to take a similar approach. This is often successful. Where attendance does not improve, further assistance can be called upon by government schools from regional or State office staff or from a non-government school's welfare and pastoral support structure.
Currently, if this does not work, non-attendance matters are formally referred for prosecution in accordance with the Act. At present, all the courts can do under the Act is impose a fine. This system dates back to at least 1917 when a fine of five shillings was imposed for a first offence, and 40 shillings for a subsequent offence. A fine may work in getting some parents to meet their obligations under the Act. A recent examination of a sample of cases subject to prosecution shows that in around 50 per cent of cases, attendance improves in the three months following a conviction. But that still means that in 50 per cent of cases, it did not improve.
If our aim is to have children attending school, the imposition of a fine may in some cases just add additional stress to a family that is already struggling. The Rees Government has been committed to finding a better way to deal with these matters. We have been working to develop a much broader suite of options for the Department of Education and Training to deal with non-attendance matters before it is necessary to involve the court. And for those cases that do proceed to court, we have been working to develop greater options for magistrates—options that are better directed at our goal of improving attendance than the traditional fine.
I turn now to the provisions of the bill. Firstly, the bill will allow the Minister for Education and Training to approve an alternative education program for children who are unable for social, cultural or other reasons to participate effectively in formal school education. This will enable a child who has been living on the streets, say, to participate in a program such as Oasis, run by the Salvation Army. The Oasis program helps get homeless children "off the streets, off drugs and alcohol and away from abuse and violence". While partly an educational program, it also offers other services and family support. It is not a traditional school environment, but programs like this can play a role in reintegrating such a child back into engagement with compulsory education and training. Such a program would be able to be recognised as an alternative way of meeting the compulsory education requirements of the Act, at least for an interim period. The ultimate aim, where practicable, would be for the child to resume his or her school education.
Secondly, one of the difficulties the Department of Education and Training can face when dealing with the failure to enrol a child in a school is in identifying and locating that child and proving that she or he is of compulsory school age. Proposed section 22A of the bill addresses this problem by allowing the director general to request relevant information from a range of persons and institutions, including both government and non-government schools, other government agencies, and any non-government organisation in receipt of government funding. Concerned individuals would also be able to give information to the department about a child who they suspect is not receiving an education.
To give an example, if a community nurse becomes aware that a child of compulsory school age is not enrolled in school, the nurse can notify the Department of Education and Training and, as a result of the bill, will not be in breach of professional ethics by doing so provided he or she has acted in good faith. The department wants to ensure that a person who performs an important civic duty by reporting a non-enrolment is not placed at risk of harm by doing so. Accordingly, the bill also provides that the identity of any person who provides information under the section will not be disclosed.
Once the department is satisfied that a given child is not in regular attendance, proposed section 22C of the bill gives the department the power to convene a conference of persons and agencies with a potential role in improving a child's attendance. The conference could include the child's parents or caregivers, school executive, other government agencies such as NSW Health or the Department of Community Services, and individual members of the community who may be able to assist in improving attendance. For example, if the student is of Aboriginal background, the department may seek out a member of the local Aboriginal community, such as an elder, who may be willing to play a role in assisting with the child's attendance. The purpose of the conference will be to discuss the reasons why the child is not at school and to develop strategies to improve attendance.
The conference may identify services that are required, including, for example, parenting or adult literacy classes; drug or alcohol counselling; mental health services, including counselling for depression; respite for a family if the child has a disability; community nursing or other healthcare services; housing, financial support or other welfare services; and contact with Aboriginal or other cultural support services. The Department of Education and Training could also make undertakings such as to arrange for the child to have a school uniform or a breakfast program, or transport to school if he or she has a disability. The undertakings made in the conference will be formulated into an individual attendance plan for the child in question. It is hoped that the majority of non-attendance matters will be resolved through this new, pre-court mediation process.
However, if these measures are not successful, the bill allows the Department of Education and Training to apply to the Children's Court for a compulsory schooling order as a next step. Unlike a prosecution, the application for a compulsory schooling order is not a criminal procedure. However, it is a warning that if the order is not followed and attendance does not improve, prosecution may be considered as the next step. A compulsory schooling order may contain a requirement to follow through on the actions voluntarily agreed to in the previously mentioned conference, or it may contain new actions deemed by the court to be able to assist in the goal of getting the child to attend school.
For example, if it is acknowledged that a parental drug addiction is contributing to the failure to ensure the child attends school, a requirement that the parent attend a rehabilitation program may be included as an element of the compulsory schooling order. A compulsory schooling order adds the weight of the justice system to the requirement to follow through on these actions. The point of introducing these new steps—the parents' conference and attendance plan, and the compulsory schooling order—is to attempt to resolve cases of persistent non-attendance without having to proceed to prosecution. However, for serious cases that cannot be resolved through these mechanisms, the bill retains the option of legal action. Where parents continue to fail to see that their children are enrolled and attending school, the matter may be taken to a Local Court.
The bill retains the option of a monetary penalty. Magistrates will be able to issue a maximum fine of $2,550 for parents for their first offence, rising to a maximum fine of $11,000 for subsequent offences. This increased maximum penalty is proportional and consistent with serious penalties under the Children Care and Protection Act 1998 for child neglect or acting so as to cause a child significant psychological harm. Magistrates opting for a monetary penalty will be able to choose a suitable fine within this range, appropriate to the amount that would serve as a deterrent, given the particular circumstances of the family in question. However, under this bill, for the first time magistrates will also have alternative penalty options available to them in lieu of a fine, if circumstances warrant.
The bill provides at proposed section 23 (5) that instead of imposing a fine on a person the court may make a community service order upon the parent. It will also be possible for the court to take a range of alternative sentencing options, such as imposing a good behaviour bond or deferring sentencing pending the completion of a rehabilitation program. It is anticipated that in many cases these options will be more suitable to the ultimate goal of the child returning to regular attendance than the traditional fine. Sometimes, despite the parents' best efforts, they are unable to compel their children to receive compulsory schooling. For example, the children may simply refuse their parents' best efforts to send them to school or may even pretend to go to school but never actually attend.
The first steps in remedying such a situation will remain engagement at the school level, followed by the convening of a conference with relevant agencies and persons, and the development of an attendance plan. If this is not successful, proposed section 22D (3) of the bill provides that where a child is over 12 years and the Children's Court is satisfied that the child is either living independently or the parents are not able to control the child, the Children's Court may direct a compulsory schooling order at the child in place of his or her parents. Like compulsory schooling orders for parents, this will not be a conviction but it adds the weight of the court to the actions agreed to in the attendance plan. Where a compulsory schooling order is not successful and the child is over the age of 15 years, the department retains the option of taking court action.
For children in this category between 15 and 17 years, a modest fine of up to one penalty unit, or $110, will be available for failing to comply with a compulsory schooling order. The court can proceed to a conviction and criminal record for the child and can also order the child to participate in specified programs instead of a fine. This is a balanced approach that recognises, as the law does generally, an increasing capacity for children to exercise adult-like judgement and responsibility as they approach the age of 18 years. There are a number of ancillary provisions in the bill that I will address briefly. Parents and children are able to rely upon a broad range of defences for non-attendance set out in proposed section 23. These include the fact that the child was sick.
Unfortunately a very small number of parents claim that their children are sick as a means of keeping them home or excusing their non-attendance. While it will not normally be necessary, proposed section 23 (7) allows a school principal who has reasonable doubt as to the cause of a persistent absence to require a medical certificate confirming that the child is not fit to attend school. This bill also resolves an anomaly relating to attendance at non-government schools. In the past 10 years there have been no prosecutions of parents whose children are enrolled in non-government schools. This is because although all principals are required to keep a record of daily attendances, there is no requirement for non-government schools to notify the department of unsatisfactory absences.
This bill will close that gap, creating a level playing field in relation to the parental responsibilities of children enrolled in all schools. Information about persistent non-attendance in non-government schools would be passed on to the education department for consideration of appropriate action in accordance with the new system. I also point out that, under the system proposed in the bill, it would still be possible in extreme cases for the education department to move directly to prosecution without first making an application for a compulsory schooling order to the Children's Court. These would be cases where a dramatically worsening threat to the child's educational development is evident. It is expected that this will be a rare occasion but the necessity of this power being available in potentially tragic situations is clear.
This bill also adds an important statement to the objects of the Education Act. The bill will amend the Act explicitly to require the education department to provide opportunities for Aboriginal families, kinship groups, representative organisations and communities to participate in significant decisions relating to the education of Aboriginal children. This will be particularly pertinent in the application of the reforms set out in the bill but it will apply also to all significant decisions made under the Act in the future. The Rees Government's Aboriginal Education and Training Strategy 2009-2012 already commits the education department to work in partnership with the New South Wales Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, as the peak community advisory body on Aboriginal education and to engage the Aboriginal community in a meaningful way in policy development and decision making. It is appropriate that this principle be enshrined in the Education Act.
The bill is complementary to the changes passed earlier this year to child protection legislation as part of the Government's Keep Them Safe Action Plan. The process reflects the importance the Government has placed on active collaboration between public agencies and families to improve outcomes for children. The bill also responds to the recommendation of Justice Wood to introduce "measures to ensure greater attendance at school". It builds on the Government's decision to introduce 25 additional home school liaison officers and 15 Aboriginal student liaison officers across the State. The bill is also consistent with the change to the requirements of mandatory reporting following the Wood inquiry report. Failure of parents to comply with their compulsory schooling obligations is now one of the circumstances to be considered in determining whether a child is at risk of significant harm under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998.
Together these reforms will allow a significant enhancement of our capacity to ensure that all children of compulsory school age receive the education they deserve. In conclusion, the vast majority of parents are enthusiastic supporters of their children's participation in education. For the very small number that do not comply with the compulsory schooling requirements of the Education Act, the reforms set out in the bill provide greater flexibility in managing their cases. The bill will allow actions taken to remedy non-attendance to be tailored for the particular case and targeted at our ultimate goal—the child's return to a regular pattern of attendance. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Daryl Maguire and set down as an order of the day for a future day.
TRANSPORT ADMINISTRATION AMENDMENT (RAIL TRAILS) BILL 2009
Bill introduced on motion by Mr David Campbell.
Agreement in Principle
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL
(Keira—Minister for Transport, and Minister for the Illawarra) [4.29 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now agreed to in principle.
The New South Wales public rightly expects that the State's assets are available for positive community benefit. At the present time there are just more than 3,000 kilometres of non-operational rail lines across New South Wales where train services have ceased operating—some services ceased operating more than 30 years ago. Even though these lines are no longer part of the New South Wales operating rail network, they represent a significant historical investment in the transport and community network of the State. They were instrumental in shaping New South Wales' development, especially its rural and regional areas, and provided important linkages to markets, larger towns and capital cities. However, modes and patterns of passenger and freight transport have changed significantly since these rail lines were built, and in many cases, while there is strong community attachment to their retention as rail lines, there is little likelihood they will ever be required for train operations or other forms of transport.
This currently idle asset offers enormous potential benefit for communities in rural and regional New South Wales. The bill introduces changes to once again allow for their use by the public through their development, especially as rail trails for walking, cycling or potentially horseriding. Rail trails are in place worldwide. Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia have converted disused rail lines for rail trails. I am aware that there are eight proposals for rail trails in New South Wales. Given this interest, the Government wants New South Wales communities to reap the social and economic benefits rail trails are delivering in other States. The bill will allow us to free up the untapped value of this important community asset. Rail trails offer fabulous recreational opportunities to families in rural and regional areas.
As well, rail trails are a significant tourist attraction and, importantly, for many local economies struggling with drought and unfavourable economic conditions, the tourist dollar will benefit local businesses. Rail trails can in fact be an incentive to business development. The model we are adopting involves transferring on a case-by-case basis disused corridors to the Lands Administration Ministerial Corporation within the Land and Property Management Authority, which then will work with community groups to develop the corridors as rail trails or for other community purposes. This is similar to the very successful rail trails model in Victoria. It is anticipated that in many cases the Land and Property Management Authority would pass the care, control and management of the corridor to a reserve trust manager, for example, a local council.
The Lands and Property Management Authority has a proven record with managing similar trails, including short walking tracks on Crown reserves near urban areas and longer distance walking trails such as the Great North Walk from Sydney to Pokolbin and the Six Foot Track linking Katoomba and the Jenolan Caves. The approach the Government is introducing will promote development in rural and regional New South Wales while at the same time retain the corridor land in public ownership. Current legislation does not allow for the ready transfer of rail corridors into the administration of the Land and Property Management Authority. This is because disposal of rail corridor land or removal of railway tracks or other infrastructure legally cannot occur unless the line is closed, which requires an Act of Parliament.
The bill enables the transfer of lines, declared by the Minister for Transport to be disused railway lines, to the Lands Administration Ministerial Corporation and its management under the Crown Lands Act 1989 for community purposes, without necessitating closure. The bill also allows the Minister for Transport the discretion to have a corridor revert back to transport use, should this be required in the future. As a further safeguard, railway corridors administered by the Land and Property Management Authority under these arrangements will not be able to be sold. I understand that prior to requesting the Minister for Transport to transfer a rail corridor to the Lands Administration Ministerial Corporation, the Land and Property Management Authority will facilitate community consultation on the proposal for its use, including with adjoining landholders, to establish the feasibility of the proposal and to address any legitimate concerns.
In most cases development of rail trails will require removal of the remnant rail infrastructure—the old track, sleepers and any other structures. At the moment this also cannot be done without formally closing the line. In some cases the proceeds of selling that obsolete infrastructure could be used for the development of the rail trail. Even where no rail trails are proposed, the infrastructure is not needed; it is just lying idle. In the unlikely event that train services were ever to resume on a disused track, it would all need to be replaced as it would have seriously deteriorated. In the meantime, expenditure on essential maintenance is required just to ensure safety, and there are better ways to spend this money for community benefit. The sale of any scrap from railway lines is not likely to be a major source of revenue, but we should be able to clear them of old infrastructure and realise whatever value they hold.
The bill allows for both removal and disposal of infrastructure from any non-operational rail line without the line needing to be closed. We do not expect that the demand for rail trails means that all 3,000 kilometres of disused track would be developed for such use. In cases where there is no interest in developing corridors for this purpose the Government believes there may be instances where the best outcome for the community may be to consider closing and disposing of the corridor. Any proposal to close and sell a rail line would be exposed to appropriate scrutiny as, for some communities, it could mean losing a valued public asset.
Proposals to formally close and sell a rail line would be subject to community consultation and, in assessing such a proposal, consideration would be given to relevant factors that could include why closure is being sought, the potential for reintroduction of train or other transport services and the broader public interest considering the views of key stakeholders and the local communities. The bill therefore enables the Minister for Transport to authorise, on a case-by-case basis and following public consultation, the closure of a line declared by the Minister to be a disused railway line. This would facilitate the sale of such corridors where appropriate. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Daryl Maguire and set down as an order of the day for a future day.
MAJOR EVENTS BILL 2009
Agreement in Principle
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
Mr ROB STOKES
(Pittwater) [4.37 p.m.]: I am excited to contribute to the debate on the Major Events Bill 2009 after listening to so many contributions. One thing I have learned in this place is that when someone says they will speak for only five minutes, they do not necessarily mean it! I noted the comments of the member for Manly about the intricate understanding of the bill and of major events generally by the shadow Minister and member for Upper Hunter. Having listened to that contribution, I believe his knowledge not only is intricate but also exhaustive. We all acknowledge the need to attract major events to New South Wales not just to create creational opportunities for New South Wales citizens or economic stimulus and job creation but also to restore people's faith and belief in New South Wales as an exciting, dynamic venue and destination. It is appalling, for example, that the Surf Life Saving Australia titles have not been hosted by New South Wales at any stage during the current Government's tenure. Instead, the titles have been held in Western Australia and Queensland.
Mr Paul Pearce:
That was a decision by the Surf Life Saving Association. They all hated it.
Mr ROB STOKES:
That is not my recollection. Clearly, there is a huge amount of work to be done to attract big events to New South Wales, such as the Surf Life Saving Australia titles. Legislation to standardise the treatment of major events and to attract major events is a positive idea, and should be supported. But legislation by itself is a blunt instrument and should form part of an integrated strategy. As the member for Manly noted, that is the approach that has been adopted in New Zealand with its memorable "100% Pure" campaign and by Victoria with its enormously successful "You'll love every piece of Victoria" strategy. In contrast to that, New South Wales has had no memorable successful campaigns to match a past tourism campaign featuring an adaptation of Fleetwood Mac's Seven Wonders
, which some may argue is better forgotten but which nevertheless was enormously successful for its time. Its success in this State has not been surpassed.
The objects of the bill state that the bill will attract, support and facilitate the conduct and holding of major events in New South Wales. As pointed out by the shadow Minister, whose presence in the Chamber I acknowledge, we certainly need to encourage major events, and undoubtedly costs associated will be associated with doing so. An issue examined in some detail by the Legislation Review Committee is against what cost to the freedoms and liberties enjoyed by the people of New South Wales will the objects be measured? It is the threatened costs of individual freedoms and liberties forgone as a consequence of the bill that I will examine in detail during my speech, and I will look first to the definitions section of the bill.
I note that in clause 4 the definitions of "major event" and "major event venue or facility" are very broad and very loose. Arguably the looser the definition, the more flexible the application of the law, but also the greater the opportunity for dispute, conflict and abuse. For example, the definition of "major event" and "major event period" are not accompanied by any parameters set out in clause 4. How long before and after a major event will a major event period continue? For example, will construction of facilities and demolition be included in a major event period? The bill does not make that clear. Clause 4 (2) states that a major event venue or facility basically is any place declared by the Minister, and not just the venue but any associated accommodation, media facilities, transport infrastructure and adjoining public spaces. The parameters of the major venues and facilities can be very broad indeed.
Clause 5 deals with the declaration of a major event. In layman's terms, a major event may include any type of international conference. An international conference to view the work of Jurgen Harbormaster might be a major event, but it is unlikely to involve road closures. In legislation that has been introduced in the past year relating to major events, the subject matter usually relates to car rallies, such as those at Homebush Bay and the Repco Rally on the North Coast. They are the type of events that will involve environmental costs and costs in terms of people's rights manifested by nuisance, et cetera. I note that clause 5 is written in a way that suggests it is placing limits on the Minister's power, but that is only an ostensible limit. A close reading reveals that the Minister must consider:
(a) the nature of the event, and
(b) the number of people expected to attend or participate in the events, and
(c) whether it is in the public interest for the event to be declared a major event.
In other words, the Minister need only consider those matters. Basically it is left entirely up to the Minister to recommend the events that might be considered major. It would be good if during her reply the Minister could address what a major event might include and whether it could be particularised to provide some guidance not only to members but also to courts in the event of future litigation concerning whether the Minister was right in declaring an event to be major.
This is not a minor issue. For example, I remember being part of a surf patrol on Mona Vale beach about 15 years ago, with my Strawberry Moove and my Chiko Roll, when a sports group known as Thundercats, which basically involve souped-up inflatable rescue boats, decided to take over Mona Vale beach on a busy and hot summer day, without previously bothering to tell the surf club. The result was absolute chaos. We had to close the beach. It was a big problem and the event posed a lot of danger to the people on the beach. That event was apparently a big event. It was covered by Optus Vision and no doubt was played on some obscure cable channel, but the reality was that of the 300 people on the beach that day, perhaps a total of 50 were associated with the Thundercats whereas the other 250 people just wanted to enjoy the beach. While an event may be declared to be a major event, in the eyes of the public a major event would have exclusive use of a public space. We need some parameters by which to define a declaration of a major event and what that might include.
Clause 16 deals with cooperation by government agencies. That clause enables a Minister, by notice in writing given to a prescribed government agency—which means prescribed by the regulations, and I pause to note that a lot of detail will devolve to regulations, which is also a point made by the Legislation Review Committee—to direct that agency to comply with a request, direction or decision of a major event authority or other responsible authority under the proposed Act. If that direction has a budgetary or operational impact, potentially that provision will have a major impact on an agency's budget. Who will pay—the event, or the agency that is required to drop everything to comply with the direction? How does clause 16, which provides compliance powers to the Minister, interact with clause 17, which enables rather than directs? Clause 17 refers to the State Emergency Service [SES], the Rural Fire Service [RFS] and others that "may assist" a responsible authority. Which is it—may or must? Clause 16 suggests that it is "must", but clause 17 provides that it is optional and that those organisations "may" help. Clarification is required.
Clause 30 strikes me as restricting rights of access to pedestrians to what otherwise might be public spaces and creates an offence for pedestrians who disobey exclusions. On the face of it, the bill will have significant impact upon rights that people presently enjoy. Clause 39 relates to a prohibition of certain advertising on buildings and structures and is significant because it suggests that an area within 500 metres of a major event venue or facility, which in itself might be a very big area, may be excluded from having advertising as the area will be an advertising controlled site for a period specified in an order. The bill provides no guidance in relation to how long the order may remain in force.
Subclause (4) (a) states that an offence is committed if someone was to "cause or permit any advertising material to be fixed to or placed on the building or structure". In one sense perhaps that is okay, but subclause (b) suggests that failing "to ensure that any advertising material already fixed to or placed on a building or structure is covered, and obliterated or removed" is an offence. What will happen to advertising that is there legally, if an advertisement is approved under the provisions of the bill? Is it reasonable and legitimate to remove advertising related to, for example, a medical centre or an advertisement that has been on the site for a long period? Why should an occupant have to remove advertising that is there lawfully just because a major event happens to be underway? I can understand why advertising might need to be controlled during a period of a major event, but to control pre-existing advertising through this legislation seems to me to be a bit extreme, particularly as the bill provides for big penalties for a breach—250 penalty units for an individual and 500 penalty units in the case of a corporation.
Clause 43 relates to crowd management and interacts with clause 4 (2) that prescribes the extent to which a facility or a venue can extend. Clause 43 empowers the responsible authority to prohibit categories of persons from entering a major event area. The only comment I make is that that is a pretty big power. Clause 46, relating to directions to leave, is perhaps the most significant and obnoxious provision in the bill. [Extension of time agreed to
Clause 46 provides a power to an authorised officer to direct a person to leave a major event if:
(e) the person is about to contravene a provision of this Act or the regulations at a major event venue or facility.
The clause provides that failure to comply with such a direction will be an offence, and any person who fails to comply may be removed from the major event venue or facility by an authorised officer who is entitled to use reasonable force. I note that in this clause an authorised officer need not be a police officer but any person authorised by the regulations. We do not know whether the regulations will require authorised officers to have training in how to evict a person using reasonable force without inflaming a situation or how to predict when a person is about to contravene the legislation, if indeed it is possible to predict what a person is about to do. The main provision in this clause, that is, that no offence has been committed, is offensive. A person can be removed from a venue or facility although they have not committed a crime. That means that criminal sanctions may apply to an innocent person who may or may not have been about to commit an offence. We will never know. The provisions in division 6 relate to the interaction of the bill with the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. Clause 50 states:
This Division is to be construed with, and as if it formed part of, the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
Clause 51 allows a person to do anything on land, despite the terms of an environmental planning instrument, a development consent or an approval under part 3A of the Planning Act, if authorised by or under the proposed Act or a policy, strategy or plan prepared under the proposed Act. Surely the Planning Act is already confusing enough. What does this mean for certainty in planning? Certainty of process is one ingredient of a good planning system. Why is this bill undermining certainty in relation to environmental planning instruments, which are drafted in consultation with the community, yet the community has no opportunity to provide feedback when those plans are overridden?
I turn now to the interaction of the bill with the Protection of the Environment Operations Act. Clause 57 enables a responsible authority, after consulting with the Environment Protection Authority [EPA], to declare that a person may carry out activities associated with a major event on certain days and during such hours as specified in the declaration. What does "consulting" mean in that context? Does it mean that the EPA can disallow a licence to pollute waterways or allow noise limits to be exceeded? I do not think so. Consulting means exactly that—consulting. However, after that consultation, it seems that the advice of the EPA can be ignored. Clause 58 provides that the responsible authority for a major event in relation to the emission of noise is to be the appropriate regulatory authority for the purposes of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act.
Again, putting the responsible authority, which may be constituted under clause 8 for the purpose of promoting major events, in charge of noise regulation is like putting the fox in charge of the hencoop. It is not appropriate for the person promoting an event that is making noise to then regulate those noise emissions. Further, the bill prohibits any action to stop excessive noise emissions or to seek damages; therefore there is no reason for a responsible authority to act responsibly in relation to noise complaints. Clause 58 (3) provides that no prevention notices or noise control notices can be issued, and clause 61 provides that no-one can take action against a nuisance. That may be reasonable for people who live next to an established major event venue; for example, people living next to the showground know that major events are likely to be held there from time to time.
However, under this bill any site could be a major event venue. This means that shift workers trying to sleep, mothers with young kids, people suffering from an illness and recuperating, and people suffering from asthma and susceptible to pollutant emissions will have absolutely no recourse. The Government is not obliged to help, and under this bill people cannot take action. In effect, clause 61 extinguishes common law rights in terms of taking action on the basis of a nuisance. I note that those common law rights are extinguished, whether or not the person who is contravening them is doing so in good faith and whether or not they are being reckless or malicious. There is no limitation on that; those common law rights are totally extinguished.
The promoter benefits because there is no obligation to pay for damage caused to others, to be a good neighbour and to respect the property rights of surrounding businesses and residents. We have common law rights for a reason—people can take action to defend their rights—and we should not dispense with them lightly. An event would have to be fairly major to countenance abolishing common law rights that have taken hundreds of years to develop. Clause 62 provides an indemnity to public authorities, including the event authority, to pay compensation for negligence or any other tortuous act other than causing injury or death. Again, this will leave people personally liable for damage inflicted upon them. Cracked foundations, property damage, damage to local business, and economic loss must be borne by the victim or wronged person. This includes the major event authority.
What is good for the goose is not good for the gander because clause 63 provides that the responsible authority for a major event may bring proceedings in the Supreme Court for an order to remedy or restrain a contravention of the proposed Act. So one person gets rights; another person has their rights taken away. Finally, will this bill remove the need for all special events legislation? I do not think so. From time to time we will still need legislation to cover specific events. I do not think this bill will achieve the laudable objective it sets out to achieve. Time will tell if it gets the balance right between encouraging major events and safeguarding the rights of New South Wales citizens. No doubt this will be the focus of the review mandated in clause 75. I simply highlight those concerns on behalf of the Opposition.
Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY
(Heffron—Minister for Planning, and Minister for Redfern Waterloo) [4.57 p.m.], in reply: I thank members for their contributions to the debate. In particular I thank the member for Upper Hunter and the Opposition for their spirit of bipartisanship for the Major Events Bill. I thank the member for Upper Hunter for his bipartisan approach to major events. It bodes well for major events and sends a good message that New South Wales is keen to host major events and has the legislative framework in place to do so. I thank also the member for Wollongong, who highlighted the success of World Youth Day, both in terms of implementation and of the response to it. It is in my capacity as the Minister administering the World Youth Day Act and as the Government spokesperson for World Youth Day that I bring this bill before the House.
I will address some of the issues raised by other members who participated in the debate. The comments of the member for Sydney are noted and her participation in the debate is significant, given her role as Lord Mayor of Sydney. The member raised concerns about how the Act will be triggered and whether it will be triggered by a regulation declaring an event to be a major event when the Parliament is not sitting. I can clarify that the bill will apply only to events that have been declared by regulation to be a major event. The Minister will take into account numerous matters before recommending that a regulation be made. The Parliament will have its usual oversight over regulations in relation to the declaration of a major event. Namely, either House of Parliament may vote to disallow such a regulation.
We are talking about major events here, major events for which the planning will commence months if not years ahead of the event itself. It is anticipated that a declaration would be made well before the event commences and so it is extraordinarily likely that Parliament will have ample opportunity to consider each regulation. The bill is not aimed at those major events in New South Wales, those events that are anticipated to be of large scale with a large number of participants or spectators. The events could be of a sporting, cultural or other nature, such as international football matches, festivals or conventions. Obviously, as highlighted by several speakers, World Youth Day held in Sydney in July 2008 is one example of a particularly large major event. It involved hundreds of thousands of participants and spectators. The Sydney Olympic Games is another example. This bill is modelled on the provisions contained in the special legislation enacted for World Youth Day and the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Typically, the events are likely to be logistically complex because of a large number of participants or spectators attending events, with the need for government coordination of services in relation to roads, transport, police and health services. The member for Sydney referred to the potential for this legislation to be used for regular events conducted by the City of Sydney, including New Years Eve, Mardi Gras, and Chinese New Year. These are concerns I will address now. This legislation is not designed to manage the conduct of all events in New South Wales, nor is it designed to enable the Government to take over an event against the will of the organisers. As such, among the foreshadowed amendments is that the views of the event organisers can now be taken into account in the decision to recommend that a major event be declared. This amendment was made specifically with a view to addressing the concerns of the member for Sydney about lack of consultation. In addition to taking into account the view of organisers, the amendment includes clause 5 (3), which deals with the need for consultation with local councils.
Let me reiterate, however, that the purpose of having generic events legislation is to leave it as open as possible, to enable this legislation to be available when needed, to attract events to New South Wales now and into the future, events we cannot yet anticipate. The bill demonstrates the Government's commitment to attracting and supporting major events in New South Wales. Major events benefit the people of New South Wales by injecting millions of dollars into the economy, boosting tourism and creating jobs in the cities and the regions. They also bring other benefits, such as encouraging better relations and friendships between Australia and other countries, and enriching the cultural life of the people of New South Wales. The bill will increase transparency, certainty and consistency in relation to the regulation of major events and will ensure that New South Wales will maintain its competitive edge in attracting and supporting major events.
The knowledge and experience of Government planners and operational staff, and the cooperation and coordination between agencies have been critical factors in the success of events such as the World Youth Day 2008, Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, World Cup Rugby 2003 and the World Rally Championship. The bill was developed in consultation with government agencies, including those that are directly involved in the provision of Government services to major events, such as the New South Wales Police Force, the Roads and Traffic Authority and the Department of Premier and Cabinet's Community Engagement and Events Division. Consultation also took place with Events NSW, which was established by the New South Wales Government to market New South Wales and Sydney as a leading global events destination. It is important that the community and other stakeholders are kept informed about events that will take place in their local areas, to ensure the smooth running and success of an event.
The member for Upper Hunter mentioned the Legislative Review Committee's concerns about clause 46 in relation to the ability of an authorised officer to direct a person to leave a major event venue or facility or part thereof. This provision allows an authorised officer to direct a person to leave a venue if the officer believes on reasonable grounds that the person is contravening a provision of the Act, or is causing a significant disruption, amongst other things. This provision is about ensuring the safety of spectators and participants. A direction to leave may also be made if the officer believes a person is "about to contravene" a provision. This means the officer can direct a person who is about to, for example, obstruct someone or behave in a disorderly way without having to wait for it to occur. This requires an authorised officer to use their reasonable judgement about whether it is appropriate to use this power. It is about ensuring people's safety, reducing risks of injury and disruption of events. It is anticipated that further consultation with agencies, the community and other stakeholders will take place when arrangements are being made to hold particular major events.
The provisions concerning safety and crowd management contained in this bill, including offences relating to the dangerous offence of nuisance conduct, were modelled on provisions contained in the Sydney Olympic Park Authority Regulation 2007 and are similar to provisions for offences already contained in the Summary Offences Act 1988. Similar provisions may also be found in existing legislation governing specific venues and pieces of land, including, I am advised, the Anzac Memorial Building By-laws 1937, the Australian Jockey Club Randwick Race Course By-law 1981, the Centennial and Moore Park Trust Regulation 2009, the Parramatta Park Trust Regulation 2007 and the Sydney Cricket Ground and Sydney Football Stadium By-law 2009.
These provisions are necessary to ensure that families, spectators and participants can enjoy a major event in a safe environment undisturbed by threatening or indecent behaviour. Some members referred to the Government's commitment to attract major events to New South Wales. As already mentioned, Events NSW is a company established by the Government to promote Sydney and New South Wales as a leading global events destination. The potential benefits of hosting major events are significant to New South Wales. The economic benefits to the New South Wales economy of hosting the 2009 World Masters Games in Sydney next month has been estimated at $48 million. The Government launched a new Tourism Strategy in November 2008, which was developed with industry and is being supported with an additional $40 million to Tourism New South Wales over 3½ years. The strategy focuses on promoting tourism in both Sydney and regional New South Wales.
The Government is supporting regional tourism by encouraging businesses to consider holding their events and conferences in regional New South Wales. In 2008 it is estimated that more than 230,000 business delegates visited regional New South Wales for conferences, exhibitions, conventions and trade fairs, and that has provided an estimated $44 million for the regional New South Wales economy. Next month's Crave Sydney festival was launched by the Premier in August. The Breakfast on the Bridge campaign is part of that festival. It involves closing the Sydney Harbour Bridge to traffic on Sunday 25 October, and opening it for breakfast for 6,000 people. It is expected that images from this event will be shown around the world, showcasing iconic images of Sydney Harbour and what Sydney can offer to visitors.
In addition to those promotions, the Government also provides outstanding support to major events in relation to the planning and delivery of government services, including transport and traffic management, communications, police and health services. In fact, our success in hosting major events such as the 2000 Olympic Games and World Youth Day has given New South Wales an enviable international reputation for successfully hosting such events. The member for Pittwater referred to the ambush advertising budget and the planning Act. I respect the member for Pittwater but I suggest that he has missed that the intent of this Act is to provide provisions of a temporary nature for major events. His concerns about advertising and the overriding of certain planning provisions in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act are of a temporary nature designed to facilitate a major event for a temporary period.
Each major event is different. It is not possible for the Government to prescribe specifically what the relevant period would be at this particular time. This bill gives us the legislative framework to say to event organisers that we have the legislative framework to deliver major events in New South Wales. For example, the member for Pittwater raised whether an event would have the power to override councils or communities, or normal environmental approval processes. There are some limited powers in the bill relating to the modification of the application of a number of Acts. Where the provisions apply to a particular major event the bill modifies the application of certain parts of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, the Local Government Act and the Protection of the Environmental Operations Act to that event. The responsible authority will have limited and temporary powers relating only to the major event period for that particular major event. In exercising those powers it is anticipated that the responsible authority will engage with local communities and councils. In fact that is part of what we are doing here today with this Act—putting forward that requirement for consultation.
The purpose of the powers is to ensure there is a simple one-stop shop for obtaining some necessary approvals for activities related to the particular major event. The responsible authority will be able to apply conditions on the way in which the event organiser carries out the permitted activities. This could include, for example, the hours of operation, noise, dust and other environmental conditions, and requirements concerning consultation, reporting and public safety. Any approval given by the responsible authority will be temporary in nature, as it will cease to have effect at the end of the major event period for that particular event. Any temporary structures that are still in place after the expiry of the major event period would then need to have been approved under the usual environmental approvals processes. Temporary works could include work such as putting up traffic and other signs, fencing, medical and rescue facilities.
It is important to note that the bill does not contain any provisions modifying the application of the National Parks and Wildlife Act. This means that the bill will not affect provisions governing, for example, national parks and threatened species in that Act. In addition, the environmental assessment provisions under the Commonwealth Government's Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act will continue to apply to major events.
The member for Pittwater also raised questions about restrictions regarding advertising. The advertising controls in the bill may give New South Wales a competitive advantage when seeking to attract major events as they protect the commercial interests of the event organiser and its sponsors. Other jurisdictions include similar advertising controls in their legislation. New South Wales may not be able to compete with them if we do not include the provision. For example, in Victoria, section 40 of the Australian Grand Prix Act and section 70 of the World Swimming Championship Act prohibit advertising—new or existing—in designated areas except as authorised by the relevant body. In Queensland the Major Sports Facility Act prohibits the display of advertisements on buildings or structures within sight of a major sports facility during a declared period unless authorised. In New Zealand the Major Events Management Act provides that no person may advertise in a declared clean zone during a clean period or in a manner that is clearly visible from a clean zone unless authorised by the major event organiser.
Clause 39 of the Major Events bill before this House will only apply to a particular major event if a regulation declares that it applies to the event. The proposed regulation will be assessed in accordance with the Better Regulation principles, including consideration of the costs and benefits of the proposal. Advertising material will be prohibited only on buildings or structures in areas specifically identified by the Minister, by gazette notice, during a specified period, unless the advertising has been authorised. In practice it is likely that only those areas considered to be important in preventing ambush marketing or necessary to implement an agreement to provide clean venues would be declared as advertising controlled sites. It means that New South Wales can provide clean venues, free of advertising, to event organisers. Ambush marketing cashes in on media attention relating to the event where the advertiser has not contributed to or sponsored the event.
The same types of restriction on advertising were used during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and World Youth Day 2008 and have also been included in the Homebush V8 legislation. In practice, the responsible authority would publicise the making of the declaration to ensure that people responsible for the affected premises are aware of the advertising controls. We have consulted with the Better Regulation Office and with the Attorney General's Office and they have provided advice on this matter. We are confident that these provisions, which are consistent with the provisions of the World Youth Day Act, with the Olympic Act and with other major event legislation around Australia and indeed in New Zealand, will provide the necessary protection to say to event organisers and to their sponsors that we have the legislative framework to prevent ambush advertising.
The member for Pittwater also raised the issue that the bill provides some protection for the State and its employees and its agents from having to pay compensation in relation to major events where they act in good faith. The bill does not, however, affect the State's civic liability in relation to personal injury or death. The provision may be required for some major events as it may be necessary to ensure the State's financial exposure is not unquantifiable. The protection from compensation is generally aimed at the economic loss claims that might be made as a consequence of business interruption. A similar provision gave the State some protection from civil liability in relation to World Youth Day.
The bill demonstrates the Government's commitment to attracting and supporting major events in New South Wales. There is an abundance of events all year round in Sydney and regional areas for residents and national and international visitors to enjoy, whether they are sporting, cultural or business events. The New South Wales Government recognises the importance of events to New South Wales from both an economic and a community perspective. They inject money and jobs into the economy and enrich our cultural life and our community. The bill is another example of the Government's continued commitment to attracting, supporting and nurturing major events in New South Wales. I commend the bill to the House and I note that I have circulated proposed amendments to the bill.
Question—That this bill be now agreed to in principle—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bill agreed to in principle.
Consideration in detail requested by Ms Kristina Keneally.
Consideration in Detail
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY
(Heffron—Minister for Planning, and Minister for Redfern Waterloo) [5.18 p.m.]: I move my amendment:
Page 5, clause 5 (2), lines 4-10. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:
(2) The Minister may recommend the making of a regulation under subsection (1) only if the Minister is of the opinion that:
(3) Without limiting any other matters the Minister may consider, the Minister may have regard to the following matters before determining whether to recommend the making of a regulation under subsection (1):
(a) it is in the public interest to make the regulation, and
(b) the event in respect of which the regulation is to be made is a major event at an international, national or State level.
(a) the potential size of the event,
(b) the likely number of spectators for the event,
(c) the possible media coverage of the event,
(d) the possible economic impact of the event,
(e) the potential contribution to New South Wales's international profile as a host of major events,
(f) the commercial arrangements for the event, if known,
(g) the views of the event organiser, including the organiser's event management experience and expertise,
(h) possible factors affecting the operational organisation of the event, such as the following:
(i) preparation of road and transport plans,
(ii) the need for emergency management plans,
(iii) the need for security plans and consultation with police and emergency services,
(i) if known, the views of local councils directly affected by the event in relation to the arrangements made or to be made for the event,
(j) the possible need for consultation and agreements to be made between the event organiser and affected local councils in relation to the event, including any agreements about the restoration of event venues and facilities.
I acknowledge that these amendments arise out of a bipartisan discussion with the Opposition and the member for Upper Hunter, and result from our discussions about the need to provide to the people of New South Wales as well as to potential major event organisers what will be considered when the Minister determines whether or not to declare an event a major event. I acknowledge that this amendment provides advice on defining what will be a major event, which is a matter raised by several members as part of this debate, and I move that these amendments stand.
Mr GEORGE SOURIS
(Upper Hunter) [5.19 p.m.]: I indicate at the outset that the Opposition will not be opposing this amendment principally because, as the Minister has said, it has had an involvement in producing the amendment moved by the Minister. I thank the Minister and her staff for the way in which they have approached the concerns I raised, initially with the Minister and subsequently with her staff, and for the amendment before the House. My concerns arose not only from my own thoughts about the bill but also from a number of consultations I had with interested parties and stakeholders outside this place. There needed to be a better set of criteria that the Minister of the day would have regard to in assessing the declaration of a major event.
My feeling was that the bill, for all its virtues and the support we would give it, nonetheless seemed to be lacking and a little flimsy in the sense that the definition of a "major event" and the aspects the Minister would have regard to were very wide and not specific enough for a bill that is supposed to stand the test of time. It is supposed to be capable of handling future events, such as the Commonwealth Games. This amendment gives a greater level of certainty and greater confinement of the definition. The parameters of the bill will give a better guideline of what the considerations will be not only for the Minister but also for all interested parties. I thank the Minister for approaching the matter in this way and for moving the amendment on behalf of the Government.
Question—That the amendment be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 5 as amended agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 75 agreed to.
Schedules 1 to 4 agreed to.
Consideration in detail concluded.
Passing of the Bill
Motion by Ms Kristina Keneally agreed to:
Bill passed and transmitted to the Legislative Council with a message seeking its concurrence in the bill.
That this bill be now passed.
ANIMAL WELFARE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2009
Agreement in Principle
Debate resumed from 11 September 2009.
Mr GEORGE SOURIS
(Upper Hunter) [5.23 p.m.]: I have the pleasure of leading for the Coalition and on behalf of my friend, colleague and shadow Minister in another place, the Hon. Duncan Gay, in relation to the Animal Welfare Legislation Amendment Bill 2009. I indicate that the Opposition will not be opposing the bill. The bill aims to improve animal welfare outcomes in New South Wales and to reduce red tape for the bee industry. The bill amends the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 to give the Minister the power to recognise interstate court orders that prohibit certain people from buying or keeping animals. This will reduce the risk of a person who is subject to such an order in another State simply moving to New South Wales and possibly reoffending.
The bill also aims to amend the Apiaries Act 1985. This exemption will enable a regulation to be made to allow interstate beekeepers that are registered in another State to operate in New South Wales for a three-month period without needing to be registered here. Beekeeping depends on native flora for the majority of its production. Nectar and pollen production is seasonal and varies between locations. This means beekeepers need to move their hives long distances to maintain production. The Act as it currently stands does not provide exemptions from registration.
The final amendments relate to the Exhibited Animals Protection Act 1986. One proposed amendment aims to provide guidance to the Director General of Industry and Investment NSW when issuing an authority. An authority can be licences, approvals or permits to exhibit or supervise the exhibition of animals in zoos, marine parks, circuses, et cetera. In this regard the director general may consider persons and past actions and their capacity to care for animals. Another amendment relating to the Exhibited Animals Protection Act aims to give the director general the discretion to disqualify a person from holding an authority under this Act for a period of up to five years where that person had previously had an authority cancelled on misconduct grounds. This will decrease administrative costs for the Government.
I note in arguing for this bill that there will be reduced costs of compliance for businesses and the community and reduced administrative costs. Beekeepers will benefit from reduced barriers and increased mobility, and farmers requiring bees for pollination will benefit by reduced obstacles to the delivery of beekeeping services. There will also be greater animal welfare reforms. With those arguments and that background, I commend the bill to the House.
Mr GERARD MARTIN
(Bathurst) [5.26 p.m.]: I support the Animal Welfare Legislation Amendment Bill 2009. We need only look at the number of animal cruelty complaints received by the RSPCA in the 2007-08 financial year to be convinced that any action taken to improve animal welfare is a step in the right direction. During that period more than 13,000 complaints were made. Deliberate acts of cruelty to animals are disturbing and heartbreaking. It is concerning that people exist in the community that are capable of such unacceptable behaviour. It is therefore imperative that the New South Wales Government use the law to ensure that individuals that undertake such despicable acts are treated in a fitting manner.
The RSPCA and similar organisations do excellent work in providing for the welfare of animals, and have done so for generations. This bill makes an important contribution to supporting the work of the RSPCA and like bodies. The bill will provide the Minister for Primary Industries with the power to prohibit an individual from owning or possessing animals in New South Wales when a prohibition order has been made against that person in another State or Territory. This will reduce the potential for animal cruelty in New South Wales, particularly by repeat offenders.
Under the bill, the Director General of Industry and Investment NSW will also have the power to disqualify an individual from holding an authority to exhibit animals if the individual has a recent history of misconduct in relations to animals under New South Wales or any other State or Territory's animal welfare legislation. This new provision will reduce the potential for cruelty towards exhibited animals, again by repeat offenders. Society demands that animals be treated in a humane manner. Such people do not respect these community expectations nor do they appreciate the impact their actions have on their industry. There is plenty of evidence that people who treat animals cruelly have some other undesirable attributes as well. It takes only one animal exhibitor to be cruel to animals for it to impact on the entire industry, whether it be the circus industry, the exhibition industry or whatever. It may be a zoo, marine park, circus or other establishment where animals are exhibited to the public.
The bill also provides a list of matters to which the Director General of the Department of Industry and Investment in New South Wales may refer in considering an application for an authority to exhibit or supervise the exhibition of animals in New South Wales. The list will provide more certainty and transparency to the process but it will also provide a basis to refuse an authority to individuals with a history of animal cruelty or offences under the animal welfare and licensing laws in New South Wales or in any other Australian State or Territory. In conclusion, I support this bill because it will help to reduce the incidence of animal cruelty in New South Wales by restricting the ownership and exhibition of animals in New South Wales. The bill will strengthen animal welfare legislation and it will send a clear message that animal cruelty is not acceptable under any circumstances. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr NICK LALICH
(Cabramatta) [5.30 p.m.]: I support the Animal Welfare Legislation Amendment Bill 2009. Most members have appreciated the delicious taste of honey on their toast at some stage in their lives, but I wonder just how many members are aware of the important contribution the honeybee industry makes to the economy. Its most significant contribution is made to agricultural industries through pollination. Recent estimates have found that 65 per cent of the crops produced in Australia are reliant to some extent on honey bees for pollination. The value to the Australian economy of this "sometimes free" pollination service is estimated to be around $1.7 billion—a substantial amount of money that reflects the importance of the honeybee industry.
In addition to the valuable agricultural outcomes from pollination, the 2006-07 Australian honeybee industry survey shows that an estimated 31,100 tonnes of honey was produced across Australia. Around 41 per cent of this amount—that is, more than 13,000 tonnes—was produced in New South Wales. That is a significant contribution to the product of this popular commodity. Honey exports account for 25 per cent to 35 per cent of annual production in New South Wales, and beeswax exports account for 33 per cent of production. These exports contribute to Australia's balance of trade figures. In 2006-07 about 65 per cent of Australian beekeepers' income came from the sale of honey. They also earned income from pollination services, from the sale of beeswax, honeycomb and propolis, and from the sale of queen bees. Propolis is highly prized for its antiseptic, antibiotic, antifungal and antiviral properties.
The financial return for honeybee businesses in New South Wales shows an average turnover of approximately $70,000. The costs associated with running a beekeeping business were over $40,000. While these earnings may appear modest, they have improved since 2000-01. Increases in honey prices and the revenue from pollination services have helped to improve earnings over the interval, despite substantial increases in operating costs. Even with these modest earnings there are over 2,900 registered beekeepers in New South Wales, or around 30 per cent of all registered beekeepers in Australia. They also operate almost 242,000 hives. Apiarists or beekeepers must follow the seasons so that their bees can continue to produce honey. Being in the right place at the right time is crucial to their business survival. There is a mutual benefit to the farmer from having the honey bees on site when a crop is in bloom, and to the beekeeper in having access to the floral resource. Commercial beekeepers typically move their bees within a range of 500 kilometres to 600 kilometres from where they live to follow the plants in bloom.
Allowing registered interstate beekeepers easy access to New South Wales to meet the farmers' needs and at the same time assist the honeybee industry to prosper can only benefit Australia's agricultural industries, including the beekeeping industry. It also means that if a State boundary happens to be between a registered beekeeper and the next floral resource it is fitting for governments to ensure that the resource can be accessed with as little red tape as possible. These proposed amendments will assist the industry to prosper. They will allow beekeepers from other States into New South Wales for up to three months without the need to register in this State. The amendments will also encourage beekeepers to assist other agricultural industries while maintaining their own. This is practical and useful legislation. I commend the bill to the House.
Ms CLOVER MOORE
(Sydney) [5.35 p.m.]: I make a brief contribution to debate on the Animal Welfare Legislation Amendment Bill 2009, which provides for recognition of interstate court orders that ban persons from keeping animals, and introduces matters for consideration when issuing authorities to exhibit animals in zoos, marine parks and circuses. The bill also allows interstate registered beekeepers to operate in New South Wales for short periods without registration. The Government said that this bill will improve animal welfare outcomes in New South Wales, but it does nothing other than tinker at the edges of the appalling and sorry state of animal welfare in this State.
Most of the animal cruelty in this State is sanctioned and legal, and nothing is being done to improve the welfare of millions of animals suffering in factory farms, circuses or in cruel and unnecessary experiments. Millions of chickens are crammed into tiny cages and about 85 per cent of pigs are confined to sow stalls where they cannot even turn or feed and look after their young. Pigs are confined to farrowing crates where they can barely move. These intelligent sentient beings never see sunlight, socialise or get to dig or furrow for food, so that large corporations can boost their profits. Archaic circuses continue to use wild animals such as elephants, lions and monkeys despite all we know about cruel training practices and the natural need for these animals to live in the wild.
Provisions in this bill to prevent some people from exhibiting in circuses because of previous charges will do little to alleviate the suffering inherent in the practice of using wild animals in circuses. There has been a lack of oversight in the management of zoos, with the recent revelations that Taronga Western Plains Zoo sold 16 blackbucks to a member of the Shooters Party to be hunted on a game reserve. It is not clear whether this bill will do anything to protect animals in zoos from unscrupulous agreements between managers and third parties who want to hunt them. While this bill will give the Minister for Primary Industries the power to ban persons who have been banned in other States or Territories from keeping animals, the Minister has done nothing to improve animal welfare in this State. In fact, the reverse could be said.
The Minister for Primary Industries takes advice about feral animal management from a pro-gun lobby-controlled Game Council chaired by someone who thinks it is awesome to kill elephants in Zimbabwe. Last year the Minister repackaged a weak code of practice for the keeping of animals in pet shops so that the Government would have something to say in response to letters and emails in support of my Animals (Regulation of Sale) Bill. However, the code fails to reduce the cruel puppy farms and backyard breeding or impulse pet sales. Shockingly, the cat and dog euthanasia rate recently increased from 60,000 to 63,000 a year in our State. The new code of practice for breeding was released this week. While there will be some limits to the number of litters of dogs or cats that one can have within a particular period, puppy farms and backyard breeders will continue while they profit from selling to pet shops, markets and through classified advertisements.
Unfortunately, the code has not attempted to address the concerning problems relating to pedigree breeding, which was raised in a BBC documentary that was recently aired on the ABC entitled "Pedigree dogs exposed", where dogs are bred for exaggerated physical appearances and suffer greatly from health defects. Earlier this year I was disgusted to read that animal experiments, in particular, level seven experiments—the most painful type of experiment—are increasing in this State. Nothing appears to have been done about that, nor has there been any indication of any intention to reduce these cruel experiments. In such an environment of institutionalised legal animal cruelty this bill will hardly make any difference to the plight of animals in this State. I again call on the Government to create a just and humane society and to make animal welfare a priority.
Mr RUSSELL TURNER
(Orange) [5.38 p.m.]: I speak briefly in debate on the Animal Welfare Legislation Amendment Bill 2009. The Legislation Review Committee notes in its Legislation Review Digest No. 12 of 2009 that the objects of the bill are as follows:
(a) to amend the Exhibited Animals Protection Act 1986:
(i) to specify the matters that the Director-General of the Department of Industry and Investment ... may consider when deciding whether to grant or refuse an application by a person for an authority for the display or exhibition of animals, and
(ii) to enable the Director-General to disqualify a person who holds such an authority that is cancelled on misconduct grounds from holding an authority for a period of up to 5 years, and
(iii) to provide for applications for the review of certain decisions under the Act to be made to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal, instead of those decisions being subject to appeal to the Minister for Primary Industries ... or the Local Court, as is currently the case, and
(b) to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 to enable an order made by a court in another State or a Territory that prohibits a person from buying or possessing any animal to be enforceable in New South Wales, and
(c) to amend the Apiaries Act 1985 to enable the regulations to exempt a person or class of persons from the requirement to be registered as a beekeeper.
Members are aware that beekeepers are required to travel many hundreds of kilometres to provide food for their bees. Naturally, this means that some beekeepers are situated close to State borders. The agreement in principle speech states that the intention of the amendment is to allow beekeepers registered in other States to operate in New South Wales for a three-month period without registration in New South Wales. This bill will bring New South Wales into line with other States. That is a common-sense improvement to the legislation, which the Opposition does not oppose. As stated further in the agreement in principle speech, this approach is consistent with similar legislation in States, such as Queensland and Victoria.
The agreement in principle speech further states that the amendments in section 31AA are intended to "reduce the risk of a person who is subject to such an order in another State simply moving to New South Wales and possibly re-offending". As also stated, "the legislation will allow the New South Wales Government to be proactive in recognising interstate offenders and preventing them from owning animals in New South Wales". Everyone would agree that it would be difficult to oppose anything that makes ownership safer for animals. Someone always will travel from State to State to avoid being prosecuted if they are subject to an order in one State, but this bill will close that loophole. Someone banned in New South Wales will not be allowed to keep animals for five years. I assume the other States have similar provisions.
This bill is the way forward and helps to tighten the Act. As I have said, the Opposition will not oppose the bill. It is a good common-sense bill. Beekeeping is a primary industry dependent on native flora for approximately 80 per cent of its production. Nectar and pollen production is seasonal and varies between locations, which means beekeepers must regularly move their hives significant distances to maintain production. The provisions of the bill not only are to the advantage of beekeepers they are absolutely vital for orchardists. I used to have an orchard and I paid a reasonable fee to ensure there were enough bees to pollinate the trees. Beekeepers are important to all sections of the horticultural and vegetable industries. Beekeepers need the flexibility this bill provides because of droughts and other occurrences that require them to travel long distances to get food for their bees. To get viable sources of honey, beekeepers must cross State borders. Bees do not know about State borders. The bill will make it easier for beekeepers to cross State borders if they know food is available interstate for their bees. I support the bill.
Mr ALAN ASHTON
(East Hills) [5.44 p.m.]: I support the Animal Welfare Legislation Amendment Bill 2009. I have spoken on every animal welfare bill introduced in this place in the past 10½ years. The member for Sydney and Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, spoke on this bill. I believe quite strongly in these matters. I have repeated many times the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi: The way we treat animals in the world is how we treat people. If we do not treat our animals properly, we will not treat people properly. Unfortunately, the truth is that we treat both badly.
Pursuant to standing orders business interrupted and set down as an order of the day for a future day.
LIQUOR AMENDMENT (TEMPORARY LICENCE FREEZE) BILL 2009
Message received from the Legislative Council returning the bill without amendment.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENTS
GREENWICH DAY CENTRE
Ms GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN
(Willoughby) [5.45 p.m.]: I raise an important issue impacting on the Willoughby electorate and many electorates across northern Sydney: the closure of the Greenwich Day Centre based at Greenwich Hospital. This issue has caused justifiable angst in the community because the centre provides such a great service for 80 clients and 80 carers each week. The majority of these clients have attended the program for more than five years. The impending closure understandably is causing angst for many people in the community. I thank all the local residents and health workers who have been in touch with me. I commend also Jillian Skinner, the shadow Minister for Health, who issued a statement today calling on the Government to guarantee the future of the Greenwich Day Centre.
The objectives of the day centre are to improve the quality of life for both clients and carers, to prevent deterioration as far as possible in the mental and physical status of the clients, to keep clients in their own homes and not nursing homes for as long as possible, and to combat the problems of isolation and dependency of the disabled and their carers. I hope that the Minister for Disability Services, who is at the table, might lobby the Minister for Health about maintaining ongoing funding for this facility. Greenwich Day Centre has operated for approximately 30 years and has received funding through the Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service for that period. Centre staff were told that by the end of October the facility no longer will exist.
Only in May Hope Healthcare, which manages the centre, was advised that funding would not continue and the centre would close by the end of October. In the intervening months the community has been lobbying the area health service as much as possible for funding to continue. The advice is that the Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service has withdrawn funding without justification because the centre provides such an important community service. Only yesterday I received a call from an extremely independent and active 93-year-old constituent who told me she no longer has any family and is isolated but has depended on the service for five years. She expressed her concern about what the closure will mean to her and the many others who depend on the day centre.
Many clients and carers still have not been formally advised about the imminent closure. Concern has been expressed about what this will mean for people once funding stops by the end of October. I urge the State Government to reverse this decision of the Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service and reinstate this day centre, which has provided support to the community for more than 30 years. It is important to allow people to be as independent as possible, but carers must also be provided with respite when they spend so many hours each day taking care of loved ones or friends. The Greenwich Day Centre not only supports clients who otherwise would be isolated, but also provides valuable respite to carers.
I draw to the attention of the House correspondence that is continually being sent to the North Shore Times
about this issue. Today's edition of the North Shore Times
has a headline that states, "Stop fighting and look after my mum". The article is a very personal account of what closure of the centre means to families all across northern Sydney who rely on the service. We should respect those in our community who need support and ensure that that support is provided. If the Government is serious about preventative health issues and keeping people in the community as long as is possible with a good standard of living and quality of life, then it must continue funding for this centre.
It concerns me that in this day and age such vital programs are closing down. We should increase those programs to ensure that isolated people, people with a disability and certainly constituents who are advanced in years have somewhere where they can receive support and where their physical and mental health can be monitored instead of having the North Sydney Central Coast Health Service suddenly cutting funds to a service that has been provided for more than three decades. I thank everyone who has contacted me about this issue. I intend to write to the Minister for Health to outline my concerns and make ongoing representations on behalf of local residents. I urge the Government to reconsider its position and do what is right by the entire community in areas north of Sydney Harbour by maintaining this very important and critical service.
COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW SOUTH WALES OFFICE OF LIQUOR, GAMING AND RACING MICHAEL FOGGO RETIREMENT
Mr GRANT McBRIDE
(The Entrance) [5.50 p.m.]: I pay tribute to one of New South Wales finest and most dedicated public servants. In July this year Michael Foggo, Commissioner of the New South Wales Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing, retired after almost 40 years serving the people of this State. He began his public service career in 1968 as a clerk at various New South Wales local courts, but Michael progressed to be appointed in 2006 as the first commissioner of Australia's major liquor and gaming regulatory agency, and to successfully guide its integration into the new Department of the Arts, Sport and Recreation.
For almost three decades, Michael has made a substantial and lasting contribution at all levels of policy development and implementation to the State's liquor, gaming, racing and charities industries. Most significantly, he led profound reforms to the State's liquor, charities and machine gaming laws and reshaped the regulation of the State's gaming machine industry—one of the world's largest—with the rollout of the central monitoring system, which is unique to New South Wales and Australia. In 1995 Michael played a key role in the establishment of the Department of Gaming and Racing and later led the transformation of that department to the New South Wales Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing within the newly created Department of the Arts, Sport and Recreation in 2006.
Michael has performed at a senior executive level for more than 20 years with primary responsibility for ensuring efficient and effective corporate service delivery, and revenue and resource management in one of the State's key regulatory agencies. Since 2006 he has done this as Commissioner of the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing and over that short period has led the agency through one of its most significant periods of organisational change in many decades. Michael's contribution to policy development and implementation—both personally, and through his leadership of key agency teams—has been substantial. In particular, he played a key role in the development of the Liquor Act 1982, which up to that time was the most significant reforms to the State's liquor laws for 70 years.
In 2007 he oversaw even more profound changes with the development and enactment of the new Liquor Act 2007. This resulted in unprecedented reforms to the administrative structures around liquor licensing, and a move away from a court-based process to a more informal streamlined setting in which the needs of hospitality providers, and the interests and amenity of local communities could be better taken into account. He made important contributions as a trustee of the Responsible Gambling Fund from 2006 to 2008, and oversaw the introduction of radical reforms to the Gaming Machines Act in 2007 and 2008, which simplified the gaming social impact assessment processes, encouraged the forfeiture of gaming machines and strengthened a number of important responsible gambling protections.
Earlier in Michael's executive role, he was instrumental in bringing reforms to laws and practices governing charities and fundraising by not-for-profit organisations, resulting in the landmark Charitable Fundraising Act 1992 and a raft of changes to the Lotteries and Art Unions Act 1901. Collectively, these minimised the administrative burden on, and enhanced the overall viability of, that sector while ensuring appropriate levels of accountability. In relation to the racing and wagering industries, Michael shaped the Governments' response to the two most significant reviews undertaken into those industries in New South Wales in recent years—the Brown review into racing and the Cameron wagering review—and led the agency's response to the equine influenza outbreak in 2008, which threatened to cripple the State's racing industry.
Michael also took a close interest in the ongoing sustainability of the New South Wales registered clubs industry. He played a leading role throughout the conduct of, and implementation of recommendations from, the 2007 landmark review of the industry by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal as well as simplifying the processes around and improving the effectiveness of the club's Community Development and Support Expenditure Scheme. Michael also played pivotal roles in major privatisations of the State-owned totalisator and in the negotiating team reviewing the arrangements for the Sydney Casino following the expiry of its 12-year exclusive licence in 2007. He was also a leader in several inter-jurisdictional policy forums. In these, he has championed a national approach in key areas such as probity, licensing and gaming machine technical standards.
Throughout all of that, Michael worked to engage departmental staff and stakeholders across all levels in all industries and earned their respect and appreciation for his tireless efforts to provide for the proper conduct and balanced development of the liquor, gaming, racing and charities industries in the public interest. I congratulate Michael on an outstanding career of service to the people of New South Wales. I wish Michael a long and enjoyable retirement with his wife, Brenda, and their children.
TRIBUTE TO JACOB LOLLBACK
Mr STEVE CANSDELL
(Clarence) [5.55 p.m.]: On 4 May 2006 I made the following remarks in this Chamber:
Tonight I give credit to Jacob Lollback, a rising young star in the [Yamba Surf Life Saving Club] … in the Clarence Valley. Young Jacob Lollback is a genuine country kid. His father, Eric, and his mother, Kaylene, are both sportspeople in their own right. Those great parents raised five boys and they are all involved in sport. Jacob has starred in just about every sport in which he has been involved. Of late he has been involved in particular with surf life saving. Jacob … has only just turned 17 …
That was 3½ years ago. Yesterday, Jacob Lollback, aged 20 years, drowned in a tragic scuba-diving accident in North Queensland. Jacob grew up in Grafton and was a member of the Yamba Surf Life Saving Club where he started as a nipper. Jacob moved to the Gold Coast after he finished school in 2006. He was one of five brothers, Andrew who is the oldest, Daniel, Mitchell and young Josh. I can still remember 10 years ago when the four older boys would file into my corner store to buy bread and milk for their brothers and their mum and dad, Eric and Kaylene. They were all great kids and it is a great family. They were all involved in sport. They are just a beautiful family. Jacob's death is a very sad loss. Jacob trained for the Yamba Surf Life Saving Club and attended the Grafton High School.
In 2005 Jacob was named the Daily Examiner
's 2005 Sports Star of the Year. In 2007 he won the under-19 Coolangatta Gold ironman title. In 2008 Jacob captained the under-21 Australian Surf Life Saving team at the World Cup in Japan. Jacob recently joined the Tugun Surf Life Saving Club after having been a member of the Burleigh Heads Surf Life Saving Club for a few years. On the day before a function was held in 2006 to mark the Daily Examiner
's 2005 Sports Star of the Year, Jacob competed in the Yamba Surf Life Saving Club championships. He was entered in 13 events and picked up nine first places, two seconds and a fourth. Among his wins were the open ironman title, the open surf race, the open rescue tube race, the open board event, and five events in his own age group—the under-17 ironman, the surf race, the rescue tube, the beach flags and surfboard event. That amounted to three hours of hard competition.
Jacob finished the three hours of competition and had a shower. He was getting dressed when a call came through for support for two surfers who were in distress and who were in danger of being washed up onto the rocks at the northern end of the beach. Jacob swam out through 150 metres of surf. The surfer in distress he went to assist said that his mate was in worse condition, so Jacob swam 30 metres further on, took that surfer to safety, went back out, and brought the other surfer to safety as well. That incident indicates some measure of Jacob's character. He was a true champion in many ways and a great person. As I stated earlier, his mother and father are great people. The boys are part of a great family. Jacob's death is a terrible loss for the whole Clarence Valley and for surf-lifesaving in general.
All members of this House have great sports stars in their electorates. As I said 3½ years ago, there is a lot to be said for the contribution made by youth in our areas. We have not lost just a great sportsman but also a great young human being. My prayers go to Eric, Kaylene, Andrew, Daniel, Mitchell and Josh, their friends and extended family. May the Lord have mercy on Jacob's soul, and may he welcome Jacob with open arms into his home. I am sure there is a surf life saving club up there, and Jacob will probably be captain of that junior team as well.
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AND SUPPORT EXPENDITURE SCHEME
Mr NICK LALICH
(Cabramatta) [6.00 p.m.]: Earlier this year I had the pleasure of being the keynote speaker at the annual Fairfield Community Development and Support Expenditure scheme presentation, otherwise known as CDSE. It is one of my favourite events, and the work that local community groups and our clubs do for our residents is inspiring. Over the years millions of dollars have been granted to worthwhile projects to enhance the life of our residents through the Fairfield CDSE scheme. The CDSE scheme includes funding for many different projects. The CDSE committee works directly with local community organisations on long-term community development. More than $1.2 million was handed over to fund many different projects this year—projects that improve the lives of the residents of the Fairfield local government area.
The CDSE committee that sponsors the scheme includes representatives of many clubs including Cabramatta Bowling Club, Cabramatta Rugby League Club, Cabra-Vale Diggers Club, Canley Heights RSL and Sporting Club, Club Marconi, Fairfield RSL, MeKong Panthers, Triglav Panthers, Lansvale United Sports Club, Mounties, St Johns Park Bowling Club and Smithfield RSL. This year has seen a special focus on two areas in particular: people with disabilities and seniors. Projects that support people with disabilities received the most funding, totalling more than $381,036. Community First Step received the single largest grant for the Fairfield Mental Health Network Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Resource Project. This project aims to engage young people with mental health issues and assist them in moving beyond the challenges that their environment presents to them, such as drug use and criminal activity.
The Cabramatta Community Centre received funding for its senior easy access loans project, which offers a free interest loan scheme to Cabramatta and Fairfield seniors. The senior easy access loans project provides flexibility for seniors so that they can afford commodities that can improve their way of life. As members can see, many fantastic community organisations have an impact on our city. Every one of them is worthy of the funding they have received. I turn now to the Fairfield clubs. Many of them have contributed funds to the scheme and deserve enormous congratulations on this increased commitment to our community.
Clubs contribute 1.5 per cent of their gaming revenue—more than $1 million—to the legislated CDSE scheme. Community organisations receive these funds, administered by Fairfield City Council through a process put into place by the Fairfield CDSE committee under the guidelines set by ClubsNSW. The process is comprehensive and transparent to ensure fairness. There are two ways to apply for these funds. Category one funding is aimed at specific community welfare and social services, community development, community health services and employment assistance projects that go through the assessment process, with the funds distributed to the community groups on the day. Category two funding is aimed at other community developments and services, such as traditional areas of club expenditure that support sport and recreational groups. The club directly distributes this money to the groups.
During the past five years alone New South Wales clubs have contributed $335 million to CDSE approved community projects. This staggering amount is $144 million greater than the legislated amount. It does not take into account the vast amounts of community support that clubs provide or the $2 billion in sporting facilities provided and maintained by clubs. As the member for Cabramatta I am proud of the contribution made by my RSL and sporting clubs. I congratulate all of them on their generosity and achievements. The annual CDSE presentation is yet another example of the link that local clubs constantly demonstrate with the local community and the whole of Fairfield city. I am proud that the program has been able to fund many projects that address the needs of our local community.
JESUS ALL ABOUT LIFE CAMPAIGN
Mr MIKE BAIRD
(Manly) [6.05 p.m.]: I have toiled and debated about whether to raise this matter because the challenge in this House is often to avoid revealing personal details. It is tempting to bring one's personal self into this place, but the brutal reality is that often words we say in this place and outside this place are used and twisted. Thus there is a tendency to remain private and enclosed, and not to share the things that matter to us. I have taken the challenge today to talk about the things that matter because I believe in them and I want to say them. I want to talk about a community campaign called Jesus. All About Life, which is about the church reaching into the community and creating relationships.
A range of denominations, including my local church of St Matthews and many churches in my community, supported the campaign. The aim of the campaign is to have more than 2,000 churches across New South Wales and the country sign up and then actively be involved in helping family, friends and communities to understand the person of Jesus via a range of cultural, community and arts events. The campaign, which will run over seven weeks, is a celebration of being alive. If we understand that the author of life and all in it is God, then we must celebrate what we are provided with. In that context many people throughout Australia have shared the many wonderful things they have been provided with. Too often in life we focus on all the problems and trials before us and we forget about the simple things that we enjoy and are thankful for.
When I looked at the campaign online I found many things that people were thankful for: warm slippers, the beach and a beautiful grandma inspires one person. There was even an entry from a young girl who said she loved sparkly party hats. As background to the campaign, Martin Robinson, a researcher at the Bible Society in the United Kingdom, addressed a conference in Thailand about the work and said that there needed to be engagement with culture. He said:
In western Europe we have succeeded in producing a generation that knows nothing about the scriptures. So serious is this lack of knowledge that in some departments of Fine Arts in our universities they are having to run courses in the Bible so students can understand medieval art and English literature. Whether we like it or not, we are living in a society that knows increasingly less and less about the Bible.
His answer to this lack of biblical understanding was that bible societies worldwide needed to present the story in a way that is culturally relevant. He said:
We need to engage with our culture.
Thus this campaign is about engaging with mainstream media and opinion, saying who Jesus is and what he is all about. It is about starting a conversation. All members of this House and all members of the community—whether it is people in business, people working in non-government organisations, teachers, nurses, police, whatever profession one is in—are under continuous and relentless pressure each day. The demands on our attention are huge, whether it be at the start of the day with the alarm, the morning news, dealing with the school run, kids, the first meetings, information on radio, the Internet, clients, bank managers—whatever it is—and it seems that the issues that matter are missed. They are held at bay and before too long we are at the tail end of our life without some of the real questions being addressed.
A few months ago I saw my grandmother when she was in the last couple of hours of her life. I had a strong reflection as I looked at her and thought, "When I get to that stage I want to be in a position that I have addressed and wrestled with the real issues of life, the issues that matter, and not have regrets." I am anything but perfect, and without Jesus my life does not make sense. In this I join with my local churches and this campaign to challenge all members of this House to take time away from electorate work, portfolio work, parliamentary work, media work and community work, and to sit and ask about the questions that matter in life.
There are real questions that need to be asked. We can do that and I encourage everyone to take time to sit and consider. The challenge in this campaign is simple: Who is Jesus? What has He done? What did He do for you? How does He relate to you personally? I encourage all members of this House to take on that challenge. I congratulate all of those people involved in the Jesus. All About Life campaign, and certainly my local churches, on bringing it to the attention of my community.
Mr PAUL GIBSON
(Blacktown) [6.10 p.m.]: I refer to policing in the great City of Blacktown. Yesterday I stated that Blacktown, which was once a little outer-western suburb, has grown into one of the major cities in this nation. Blacktown has 47 suburbs with a population approaching 300,000. It covers an area of 246.9 square kilometres with, according to the last census, 1,103 people per square kilometre. The population increase since 1996 is a staggering 17.4 per cent compared with the Sydney growth rate of only 6.8 per cent. I often say that one in 73 people in Australia today live in Blacktown. More than half the population of Blacktown are under 30 years of age. Blacktown has myriad problems that arise from time to time but it is fortunate to have an outstanding police force that has a great police presence and whose 170-odd police officers carry out their job very professionally.
Yesterday I was fortunate to be a guest at the awards presentation day of Blacktown Local Area Command, hosted by Superintendent Mark Wright, Commander of Blacktown, who is not only an outstanding policeman but also an outstanding person. It is a pleasure to know and work with such a real gentleman. The official party comprised Assistant Commissioner Dennis Clifford, APM, Commander North West Metropolitan Region, whom I have known for a long time. A greater man and a greater policeman one will not find anywhere. He is a credit to the police family. Also present were Councillor Charlie Lowles, Mayor of Blacktown, another long-time friend of mine, and Mr Tony Poile, Executive Property Manager, Westpoint Shopping Centre. The protocol officer, Senior Sergeant Phil Kraus, did a great job that morning.
The recipients of the awards were: commission on appointment, Inspector Paul McHugh; warrants of appointment, Sergeant Andrew Knight, Sergeant Robert Roden and Sergeant Anastasia Ziogos; region commander's unit citation, Senior Constable Peter Cox; certificate of service and clasp to NSW Police medal, former Detective Sergeant Robert Campbell; local area command commendation, Constable Craig Skeels, Senior Constable Alan Wilkes, Constable Dale McGee, Constable Peter Scott-Majhet, Senior Constable Peter Cox, Constable Shaun Collings, Senior Constable Neal Hansen, Constable Jamie Tebbenhoff and Senior Constable Mark Newton; local area commander's certificate of appreciation, Senior Constable Colin Byatt, Constable Jamie Tebbenhoff, Constable Shaun Collings and Westpoint security staff; and academic award, Sergeant Andrew Knight, advanced diploma in public safety.
I congratulate those recipients on their awards for bravery. By "bravery" I do not mean they grabbed somebody and put them in the paddy wagon but from hearing their stories I know that some of them were shot, stabbed, belted, abused, cursed and spat at but that did not stop them from doing their duty. They arrested the bad people, continually putting their lives on the line, so that the people of Blacktown can live in peace and harmony. They are confident living with the knowledge that they have a police force that protects them. People often go crook about coppers and politicians. We are easy to knock, but as soon as anyone gets into trouble the first person contacted is the local policeman. I congratulate all police throughout New South Wales on their great job, a job well done. I give them a big thank you on behalf of the people of Blacktown.
Ms SONIA HORNERY
(Wallsend—Parliamentary Secretary) [6.15 p.m.]: I agree with the member for Blacktown and pay tribute to outstanding police in New South Wales, particularly Blacktown. I congratulate the many honourable police officers from Blacktown Local Area Command who received awards yesterday.
BROKEN HILL BUSINESS AWARDS
Mr JOHN WILLIAMS
(Murray-Darling) [6.15 p.m.]: On Friday 11 September I attended business awards in Broken Hill—similar awards are held at Berrigan and Wakool—where great businesses in the community are recognised and the people who contribute to the success of the those businesses are acknowledged. It is great that awards are handed out in communities because it gives spirit to businesses and obviously the desire to achieve excellence. No doubt on that Friday I saw some of the best of businesses nominated for awards. The businessperson of the year was Terese Zaknich who runs Tom, Dick and Harry's in Argent Street, which sells mainly kitchenware and has a coffee outlet that also sells food. That great business is professionally run and people are very supportive of it.
The executive businessperson of the year was Karren Howe from the Barrier Social Democratic Club in Broken Hill who has done a magnificent job transforming it into what it is today. She really deserved that award. Others worthy of mention are the female young achiever of the year, Jessica Burton, who runs the local Nova employment. She is a lovely young lady who is totally and utterly committed to finding work for the disabled. The male young achiever award was Luke McCarron who runs Temple of Fitness, Broken Hill. The support person award went to Jess Johnson from Broken Hill First National. The winner of the newly created people's choice award was Tara Lewis-Christie.
I had the honour of presenting some awards for induction into the hall of fame of businesswomen who have passed away in the past 12 months. They were both magnificent ladies. Originally Jamie Perry ran a pottery shop with her husband. She had loved flowers from when she was a young girl and started a florist business within that shop. She was very successful and the business was well supported by the local community. She battled with cancer. She was a fighter but unfortunately she succumbed to cancer in the end. Jamie's brother, Jason Lehmann, accepted the award on behalf of her family. The other inductee, the late Maria Petkovich, came to Broken Hill from Yugoslavia with her family in the 1950s. My wife told me she acted as a translator when Maria and her sister started school because they could not speak English. Maria did a magnificent job not only in business but also as a great worker for the Red Cross.
She supported her husband Peter in Rotary and I had a lot to do with Maria when she worked with the local Napredak club, which is a Yugoslav community club. She was a great family person. It was an absolute pleasure to be in the company of Peter and Maria. They were people who loved life and I saw Maria last year at the police presentation where her son Miroslav, who is a local detective, got an award. I presented the award to Miroslav on behalf of the family. There is no doubt that this hall of fame induction etches in our memory two very valuable citizens of Broken Hill who unfortunately are no longer here, but who will be remembered forever for being not only great people but great business people.
NORTHERN NEW SOUTH WALES FOOTBALL
Ms SONIA HORNERY
(Wallsend—Parliamentary Secretary) [6.20 p.m.]: May I speak about one of New South Wales' true sporting success stories—a story of humble beginnings, talented and interesting characters, hard work and amazing success, with more to come? It has been an extraordinary journey of 125 years for Northern New South Wales Football. Did you know that Northern New South Wales Football is Australia's third largest football association, with over 50,000 registered players, 240 clubs and over 3,300 teams? It was originally called the Northern District British Football Association and South Maitland British Football Association.
Formed in 1884, the Minmi Rangers honour us as the first official club in the area, followed closely by Hamilton Athletic, which in 1885 became Lambton Thistles. Over 2,000 people witnessed Newcastle's defeat by two goals to one at the first representative match between Newcastle and Sydney on the Queen's Birthday 1886. It had gate takings of 51 pounds, which was a very tidy sum in the 1880s. Northern New South Wales Football boasted two representatives in 1922 in the first Australian national team to tour New Zealand. They were locals: Peter Doyle from the Adamstown Rose Buds Club and William 'Podge' Maunder from West Wallsend. Although Australia was defeated 3 to 1, Maunder went down in the history books as the scorer of Australia's first international goal. Now that is something for the history books!
In the second of the three-match series in Brisbane the following year, Cessnock's Perce Lennard scored the first international goal for the country on Australian soil. It is an amazing record, I am sure members would agree, because players from Northern New South Wales scored the first goals, home and away, for Australia. Through this period Northern New South Wales players continued to provide strong representation for the national team, reaching a crescendo in 1927 in a one-all draw against China at Hobart Park, New Lambton. Cheryl Salisbury, a talented protégé of local soccer, who I have paid tribute to before in this House, holds the record for most internationals, male or female, representing her country 151 times.
To date Northern has produced 98 Socceroos and 27 Matildas. The entry of women to football has reinvigorated our interest in this special sport. The talent of female footballers was highlighted in the W-League Jets matches I enjoyed attending at Wanderer's oval at Broadmeadow last season, and I look forward to viewing their success this season. I had a lot of fun recently watching a very well-organised and highly popular small-sided gala hosted by Jesmond Football Club. Innovations such as the safe, healthy and fair small-sided games encourage younger players.
I acknowledge Northern New South Wales historians Sid Grant, Harry Hetherington and Bill Walker. Sid collated their history from 1925, Harry took over in 1968 and Bill is the current custodian. Without their efforts, a valuable part of our sporting history would be lost. I congratulate the chairman of Northern New South Wales Football, Jeff Green, and his team on the wonderful job they are doing in supporting, promoting and expanding "the beautiful game" under their jurisdiction. Happy 125th anniversary, Northern New South Wales Football.
NEWPORT SURF LIFE SAVING CLUB CENTENARY
Mr ROB STOKES
(Pittwater) [6.25 p.m.]: I wish to highlight to the House the incredible achievement of the Newport Surf Life Saving Club in reaching its centenary of service to the Pittwater community. Newport surf club has an incredibly proud history dating back to the days when Pittwater was simply a rural outpost on Sydney's northern beaches. Despite the small population of the area and the fact that many local beaches—including Newport—were privately owned, local residents gathered in Newport in 1909 to discuss the safety of bathers at their beach. These discussions subsequently resulted in the foundation of the Newport Surf Life Saving Club later that year, making it one of the oldest in Australia. Since that time the club has developed a proud and enviable record of service, including war service that took a terrible toll on club members. Of 24 members who enlisted in the Great War, six did not return, and of 70 who enlisted in the Second World War, seven did not return.
Since these origins, Newport surf club has become an integral part of the local community and is recognised for its invaluable contribution in providing beach safety education, recreational opportunities and vital rescue services to the countless number of individuals and families who visit the beach every year. Parts of the club, like Sunday Sippers and the daily Newport Knackers swim team, are important elements of Newport culture. It is no wonder that Newport Anglican church had a special service last Sunday to thank Newport surf club for its ongoing service to our community. With its professional management, strong community engagement and proud history, Newport surf club provides an outstanding example, which surf clubs across Australia can aspire to emulate.
The club today has more than 1,100 dedicated and enthusiastic members, making it one of the largest and most active in the northern beaches branch, which in turn is the largest and most active branch in Surf Life Saving Australia. So it can be seen that it is a pretty special club. The main ingredient in this success is the dedicated and selfless leadership and vision over many years from people like training officer Ian "Crutchy" Crutch and club president Ted Smithies, whose family, including house captain Sharon Smithies, vice captain Ryan and daughters Alanna, Pittwater's young volunteer of the year, and Madison, Newport surf club's rookie of the year, share his love for Newport and are active members of this wonderful club.
Newport's strength is as a family club. One example is the Menzies family—Doug Menzies, clubman of the year; Sandy Menzies, the first female deputy president of Newport surf club; Kieran Menzies, junior clubman of the year; and Jess and Kieran Menzies, both vice captains of the club. Another example is the Lynch family—Martin Lynch, former club president and life member whose son Jake Lynch was recognised as competitor of the year at the recent presentation night. There are families like the Budd family, consisting of Brett, Leanne, Lauren and Joel. Other names just keep coming up, such as well-known family names like Cummins, King and Phelps, and younger families like Ansiewicz, Layard and Till. These families and many others donate a great deal of time and effort to build on Newport's proud legacy of service. I am looking forward to the October long weekend and celebrating the centenary of Newport surf club, and I commend the organising committee of Doug Menzies, Gary Cook, John McInerney and Ian Storey.
So important is the role of the surf club in Newport's history that esteemed local author Guy Jennings has detailed the amazing history of the club in his upcoming book entitled Newport: The First Century
, detailing the contribution the club has made to the local community. This is a fantastic accolade for the club's members, who are immensely proud of their close and ongoing connection with the community. A special mention goes to passionate local residents and club members, including Col and Romi McLean, Bert King, OAM, and June King, who were instrumental in providing details of the club's extensive history.
Importantly, outlined in this book is the essential role that surf clubs play in communities throughout New South Wales as well as their value as far more than just community-based sporting groups. Surf clubs are also vitally important providers of vocational education and rescue services responsible for the lives of millions of Australians and overseas visitors every year. Despite this, surf clubs in New South Wales are still not considered part of the State's emergency services but are grouped with sporting organisations. This is in spite of New South Wales surf clubs saving over 7,000 lives during 2008. With our growing coastal population, there is a clear need for the State Government to increase the level of funding currently being provided to these invaluable lifesaving organisations and to recognise surf clubs for what they are, which is lifesaving rescue organisations.
I congratulate Newport surf club on its 100 years of service to the Pittwater community and acknowledge the valuable contribution of every member in making the club the success that it is today. I also take this opportunity to thank all 11 surf clubs in Pittwater for their tireless vigilance and service, and wish them all the best for the coming season, with patrols commencing on the October long weekend. In lifesaving education, surf sports and, most importantly, patrolling our beaches to keep them safe, our lifesavers do an amazing job. They are a living, tangible expression of our unique Australian identity and are a true icon of the virtues for which Australia can be justly proud.
GOSFORD COURTHOUSE RENOVATION
Ms MARIE ANDREWS
(Gosford) [6.29 p.m.]: It was with much pleasure that, together with the Attorney General, the Hon. John Hatzistergos, MLC, I officiated at the opening of the $1 million renovation of the Gosford Courthouse on Friday 18 September 2009. The renovations have brought about significant improvements for jurors, people with a disability and victims of crime. Court facilities have been modified to ensure people with a disability are able to serve on jury trials. The layout of the jury assembly area and deliberation room has also been improved to minimise juror contact with the general public. I have been told that during the 1980s when the jury retired for lunch a court staff member would walk the jury to one of the local hotels for a break and then walk them back again. Hopefully they were then still in a fit state to carry out their duties.
The new-look registry features a public computer and printer, allowing court users access to legal information online. A split-level counter has also been installed in the registry, with the lower level providing easy access for people using a wheelchair. I am particularly pleased that the renovations also include specialised facilities for victims of domestic violence. Victims will have access to their own waiting room equipped with a kitchenette and bathroom, as well as an interview room next door. This area will provide a safe retreat for victims of domestic violence as well as being a place where they can attend to children in their care. I say well done to the Department of Commerce, companies and trades people involved in carrying out these renovations. The project was completed six weeks ahead of schedule and within budget.
Among those present at the official opening were the Registrar of Gosford Courthouse, Mr John Arms; the Deputy Registrar, Mr Tony Doubleday; Judge Colin Phegan and Judge Peter Johnstone; Councillor Laurie Maher from Gosford City Council; the regional manager for the northern region from the Office of the Sheriff of New South Wales, Mr Reg Kruitt; the officer in charge of the Sheriffs, Ms Cheryl Back; and other staff of Gosford Courthouse, including Ms Anne Jones, Mr Phillip Webber, Ms Kelly Thorpe and Ms Tracey Pickup. Both the Attorney General and Mr Arms thanked the courthouse staff for putting up with all the inconvenience while the renovations were being carried out.
I would like to make special mention of the Registrar, Mr John Arms, who in 2007 received the Department of the Attorney General's Commitment to Community Award at the annual achievement awards presentation for his setting up of, and continued support for, the Suicide Safety Prevention Network. As Registrar, Mr Arms was concerned about the need for counselling and other support services for families and friends of persons who had died tragically. This led to Mr Arms being instrumental in setting up the Suicide Safety Prevention Network. Mr Arms is also president of the Central Coast Law Society and was integral in setting up the Domestic Violence Liaison Team with councillor Laurie Maher. Councillor Maher and his wife, Helen, have been heavily involved for many years in providing support for victims of domestic violence and Mr Arms recognised their contribution at this function.
Gosford Courthouse is a very important part of our region and it is essential that all who work within and use the courthouse have good working conditions and facilities. I believe the upgrade has delivered just that. All those who work within the court system at Gosford are acknowledged in the House today for their dedication to their duties. The history of Gosford Courthouse began in 1833 when the original courthouse was built adjacent to the Gosford watch-house in Donnison Street, near today's WorkCover building. This building was soon deemed inadequate for its purpose and in 1849 a replacement courthouse and police station were built in Mann Street, complete with a clerk's room, a magistrate's room, two cells, a constables' room and a yard. It is important to note that the building was constructed of the finest local sandstone. It cost £345 to build but by the mid-1860s the building was in need of major repair. Several additions were made to the building in 1892 and again in 1928, and it remained in use until 1983.
Fortunately for the heritage value of the Central Coast, the old courthouse was not demolished when the Unsworth Labor Government built the new and current courthouse in 1987, when Brian McGowan held the seat of Gosford for the Australian Labor Party, with many different boundaries to the current Gosford electorate. Fortunately the Government of the day built the new courthouse with the future in mind and hence the recent renovations could be carried out without any major exterior renovations being required. The historic sandstone courthouse is the oldest recorded public building on the Central Coast. In 1987, the then Premier, Barrie Unsworth, proclaimed that the building would become the permanent home of the Central Coast Conservatorium of Music, which still occupies the site today. I commend the workers at the courthouse and wish them well for the future.
PARLIAMENTARY INTERNSHIP PROGRAM
Mr RICHARD TORBAY
(Northern Tablelands—Speaker) [6.34 p.m.]: Today I wish to bring to the attention of the House a very successful joint program between the University of New England [UNE] and the New South Wales Parliament. The Parliamentary Rural and Regional Student Internship Program is being piloted for high-calibre UNE students and is a first for rural and regional New South Wales. I have two of these young interns, Andrew Bekkema, a Bachelor of Business and Law student, and Nicholas Flood, a Master of Business Research student, in the Chamber today and we welcome them to the New South Wales Parliament. The program is funded under a UNE Higher Education Equity Support Program offering students a "hands on" experience in the political and electorate arenas.
One of the main goals is to breach the gap between regional and metropolitan universities. Regional universities offer many advantages and opportunities for students. However, until now, students seeking a real boost for a career in politics through an internship program have been obliged to enrol at metropolitan universities. Until this year, metropolitan universities exclusively provided New South Wales political internships. With the creation of this new Rural and Regional Student Internship Program the UNE has become the flag-bearer for work experience in politics in regional New South Wales. It is the first of its type for a rural university and offers an excellent opportunity for country students wishing to pursue a career in politics.
The program requires the students to work at least 130 hours in an MP's office over a six-month period. During this period they are introduced to electoral and parliamentary procedures as well as being required to take on research projects on regional and State issues. We are currently two months into the program and it is proving to be a great success. Andrew and Nick have responded with great enthusiasm and professionalism and I sincerely hope that this experience will firm up their aim to enter the political sphere, at whatever level. As I understand it, their experience in my busy office has not deterred them and has, in fact, sharpened their ambition. Their positive response and commitment to the program underlines the need for more of these opportunities to be available to students from regional universities.
One of the main benefits is access to a behind-the-scenes experience of how politics is conducted on a daily basis. That provides quite a different perspective from what can be learned through textbooks. As all members of the House would agree, there are many degrees of separation between the academic concept of politics and the day-to-day engagement and time demands on politicians. Part of my role in the program involves acting as a mentor for the two interns. They have travelled with me around the electorate and have attended meetings to address local issues and other events. Recently they gained an insight into the way health services are delivered in country areas at the opening of the new multipurpose health service hospitals at Warialda and Bingara. They learned about the strong community involvement in these projects, the complex political process followed to deliver the new hospitals and the gathering of the community and its political representatives to celebrate their success. It also gave them an awareness of the need for increased and improved health services in rural New South Wales.
My office, like that of many members, is always busy and the students have experienced firsthand the range and scope of matters that come to the desk of a member of Parliament. They also appreciate the crucial value of a well-functioning electorate office, so essential for members in managing the volume of issues, requests and events they encounter on a daily basis. In a large country electorate like the Northern Tablelands I am very often on the road for long periods and rely on my office staff and others to keep me briefed and to follow up issues on my behalf. I have impressed on both interns that the basis of good management is a general without an army is a general of nothing.
Next year the UNE is looking to expand the program into other rural and regional electorates. It is hoping to establish 10 internship placements across the State with regional MPs acting as mentors. This is a positive initiative. I urge members of all political persuasions representing regional electorates to consider signing up, becoming involved in the program and introducing the next generation of politicians to the challenges and rewards of representing regional communities in Parliament. I take this opportunity to congratulate both Andrew and Nick on the professionalism that they have shown while working in my office. I know it will be encouraging to them in whatever aspect of life they wish to pursue in the future—hopefully, in politics.
Mrs KARYN PALUZZANO
(Penrith—Parliamentary Secretary) [6.39 p.m.]: I thank the member for Northern Tablelands for outlining the internships being offered at the University of New England. As a former teacher and university lecturer I am aware of the value of continuing education and of engaging young people in the education process. The University of Technology, Sydney also offers an internship. Beth Mulock—members might recognise that surname—the granddaughter of a former Deputy Premier and Attorney General, is conducting research on my behalf in the Connected Classrooms Program and spent today with the Department of Education and Training.
I am sure that Nicholas Flood and Andrew Bekkema, who conduct research in the office of the member for Northern Tablelands, understand the enormity and complexity of the tasks confronting Independent local members. Beth Mulock understands the complexities of a targeted government electorate 50 kilometres away from the central business district—an area that is somewhat outside the Sydney focus. Beth is having a great time in my office. I hope that more universities undertake this valuable internship program. I am sure that Nicholas and Andrew will benefit from the program. Many members informally offer student internships, as I have done in the past. It is wonderful that both the University of New England and the University of Technology, Sydney conduct a formalised program through the education office in Parliament. I commend the program and the students.
Mrs DAWN FARDELL
(Dubbo) [6.41 p.m.]: Tonight I bring to the attention of members the grave fears of those who are living in rural and regional New South Wales that those most in need—the poor, the disabled and the elderly—are to lose access to cataract surgery. The prospect of medical specialists withdrawing their services has resulted in proposed Federal Government legislation to reduce the cataract surgery rebate. While this is a Federal Government proposal, I urge all members of this House, in particular, the State Labor Government in power, to use whatever influence they have on their Federal colleagues to call for an urgent reappraisal of the rebate cut. It seems as though so far the Federal health Minister has turned a deaf ear to desperate calls from health workers and medical specialists who fear that cataract services in the bush will grind to a halt if the rebate is cut as planned.
Currently private ophthalmology specialists travel to the city of Dubbo in my electorate to treat cataract patients. The Dubbo clinic services a huge area of western New South Wales and patients are already forced to wait up to a year for surgery. The specialists who travel to Dubbo have warned the hospital that they will no longer be willing to travel to this regional city if the surgery rebate is cut, as it will not be worth their while. Their equipment is expensive, their skills are in high demand, and their private practices in Sydney are very profitable. There is no financial incentive for those surgeons to leave their comfortable city practices if they are not well remunerated. That will leave cataract patients in Dubbo in a dire situation. If the doctors stop coming to the bush—and they have made it clear that they will not continue their services if the rebate is cut—the cataract surgery waiting list at Dubbo Base Hospital will blow out.
Hundreds and possibly thousands of people who are too poor to access private treatment in Sydney will go blind as a result of the rebate cut. The Outback Eye Service also runs clinics in the Far West of the State—in remote towns such as Cobar, Bourke, Brewarrina, Lightning Ridge, Walgett, Broken Hill and Moree. Six surgeons work for the service but they have all stated that they cannot afford to keep doing this surgery in rural New South Wales if the rebate is cut. These specialists have warned that they will withdraw their services. Critics within the Federal Government have called these doctors greedy, but calling doctors names will not change the reality for rural patients: they will be left without doctors to treat them. That is not acceptable in the twenty-first century in a wealthy and modern democracy.
We cannot allow people to be denied their sight just because they do not live in cities and have access to private medical care. When elderly people lose their sight they also frequently lose their independence. Without vision, their ability to stay in their homes and to live full lives would be dramatically reduced. Without vision, many elderly people would be forced into expensive care and their quality of life would deteriorate, which would be a travesty. There is no doubt in my mind that the cost of nursing home and hospital care for elderly people unable to have their cataracts treated would far outweigh the cost of maintaining the current cataract surgery rebate.
In Dubbo and in far western New South Wales the majority of people are not wealthy. This is a low socioeconomic region with an ageing population and a large Aboriginal population. Sadly, western New South Wales also suffers from high rates of disease and ill health. The doctors will not suffer; they will continue to run profitable businesses in Sydney. This cut to the cataract rebate will have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable people in New South Wales. I urge all members to exert whatever influence they can on their Federal colleagues to reverse the planned rebate cut and to speak to specialists who come to the area, as the information they have provided to me is of great concern.
Mrs KARYN PALUZZANO
(Penrith—Parliamentary Secretary) [6.46 p.m.]: I thank the member for Dubbo for bringing to the attention of the House the provision of health care in regional New South Wales. I also urge the Federal health Minister to reconsider the decision to cut the cataract surgery rebate. Penrith has a large tertiary teaching hospital. I am aware that some of the clinicians and specialists at that hospital and in Nepean provide important clinical services to the Dubbo community. It is paramount for the New South Wales Government, which has a record health budget of over $14 billion, to provide equitable services in this State in conjunction with its Federal colleagues. I again urge the Federal health Minister to reconsider the decision to cut the cataract surgery rebate. Rebates relating to specialist services impact on patients in regional areas. As they do not have big pockets or big budgets they will suffer poor health outcomes if health services are not delivered to them locally.
Private members' statements concluded.
HOUSING AMENDMENT (REGISTRABLE PERSONS) BILL 2009
LOCAL GOVERNMENT AMENDMENT (PLANNING AND REPORTING) BILL 2009
Messages received from the Legislative Council returning the bills without amendment.
ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride):
Order! Private members' statements having concluded, the House will now consider the matter of public importance.
NATIONAL ASSESSMENT PROGRAM—LITERACY AND NUMERACY RESULTS
Matter of Public Importance
Mrs KARYN PALUZZANO
(Penrith—Parliamentary Secretary) [6.48 p.m.]: It gives me great pleasure to update the House on the outstanding achievements of our school students in the areas of literacy and numeracy. Those who read Hansard
would know that a year and a day ago I made members aware of the results of the first round of the National Assessment Program—Literacy and Numeracy [NAPLAN]. Twelve months ago to the day my colleague the member for Macquarie Fields and I both became parliamentary secretaries. As Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Minister for Education and Training I am proud of the outstanding achievements of our school students. I am also proud of our teachers who teach our students in the areas of literacy and numeracy.
In May about 350,000 students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9—students in government, Catholic and independent schools—undertook the 2009 National Assessment Program—Literacy and Numeracy. Last year when I spoke about NAPLAN for the first time my son, who was then in year 9, undertook the test. I was quite proud of his results. This year I had a double whammy—my daughter in year 9 and my daughter in year 5 both undertook the test. In the past two years the three Paluzzano children have undertaken the test. As the local member and also as a mother I am proud of their results. The results of my daughters and my son have provided me as a parent with information and those results have also provided information to the school in general.
I refer to the results of one of my daughters who achieved above the State and school averages in reading, writing, spelling, grammar, punctuation and numeracy. The results of students at her school were also well above the State average. Her school is providing information about her achievements in the system in reading, writing, spelling, grammar, punctuation and numeracy, which reinforces the teaching and learning that is occurring at her school, with the results in all those criteria being slightly above the State average. I commend the teachers of the Penrith area.
I should like to give the House a snapshot of a couple of high schools and primary schools in the Penrith area. The Penrith electorate covers an area from the lower Blue Mountains down to Kingswood. The NAPLAN Summary Report reveals that Nepean High School had strong growth in literacy. Reading results were higher than the State average, writing results were much higher than the State average and overall literacy results were way above the State average. These were excellent results for Nepean High School. Blaxland High School had above average growth in numeracy for year 9 with 33 per cent of students in the top two bands. Lapstone Primary School had excellent growth figures in year 5 numeracy. Both Lapstone and Glenbrook primary schools were well above the State average by being placed in the top two bands in year 3 literacy and numeracy. Blaxland East primary school was well above the State average in the top two bands in year 5 reading with 70 per cent of students achieving that result compared with the State average of 40 per cent and reading growth was way above the State average. I commend the teachers at those schools. I emphasise that they are not all the schools in the Penrith electorate.
It is fantastic to show those results in reading, writing and maths. The NAPLAN results were released earlier this month, confirming that New South Wales students are leaders in spelling, writing and numeracy. New South Wales students were the undisputed champion spellers in Australia, with the highest marks at every year level tested. We also had a great proportion of students achieving above the national average in the key area of writing. New South Wales students ranked first in nearly every year group. In numeracy New South Wales had the greatest proportion of students in the highest achievement band at every year level. These results speak volumes about the strength of the curriculum delivered in New South Wales schools by the dedicated teaching staff. Every student, teacher, principal and parent should feel very proud of these impressive results. There are many more success stories.
I should like to indulge the House further with another success story from the Penrith electorate. Jamison High School has reported the highest growth in year 9 literacy levels among the schools in the area. The school is very proud of this result, and rightly so. I attended the school's recent trivia night run by the parents and citizens association. When we had a coffee break the principal shared with everyone how proud he was with the year 9 literacy level results. I congratulate all the students and teachers of Jamison High School on their terrific result. Last week the parents of students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 began receiving the report of their child's results. Each report offers a wide variety of analysis of a child's performance in spelling, grammar, writing, reading and numeracy. The report showed the student's score compared with the national average for the year level and how their school performed overall.
No-one could dispute that this is important information for parents. This gives valuable insight into the progress of their children, puts in context the school's overall performance and assists parents in reading the results. Also a new website was introduced this year at www.naplanforparentsnsw.com.au
. I know that most parents have supported the introduction of that website. It is no surprise to learn that in the key area of early assessment New South Wales again leads the way. Our early intervention assessment programs are looking closely at the Best Start program and early intervention use of assessment for diagnostic purposes will be developed further in New South Wales with our expertise. Schools will have early assessment programs and the Best Start program. I commend the teachers and students of New South Wales for their fantastic results in NAPLAN 2009.
Mrs SHELLEY HANCOCK
(South Coast) [6.55 p.m.]: Surprise! Surprise! The member for Penrith again is on her feet congratulating her Government on the National Assessment Program—Literacy and Numeracy [NAPLAN] test results in New South Wales. I could have almost predicted what she would say even before she uttered a word because she said it all last year. Again this year the member has assiduously trawled through the 40-page document of the National Assessment Program, the NAPLAN Summary Report, and extrapolated much of the information within it as the basis for her contribution tonight. No doubt she has found the document fascinating. She has told us also about the success of schools in her area and about her children. It is important that she does that and well done to her children. I will not bore the House tonight though on the success of my children and how they performed at school. They did not do NAPLAN tests or anything else but, nevertheless, they still performed very well and are doing well in their professional careers. My grandson also is performing very well. He is only 11 weeks old and already is reading the Sydney Morning Herald
The NAPLAN Summary Report 2009 indeed is an interesting document. If anybody other than the Federal Minister for Education, the various State education Ministers and the member for Penrith wants to peruse the document, I am sure they will be able to find all sorts of information and statistical data by which they can boast that their State is performing best in year 3 spelling, best in year 5 grammar, best in year 7 numeracy, et cetera. After further perusal of this somewhat weighty document they might be able to ascertain whether their State has improved since 2008, because this document also contains those results. They can look at all sorts of other tedious tables referring to percentages of students in each State and Territory below the national minimum standard, at the national minimum standard, above the national minimum standard and at or above the national minimum standard. It is all really important!
The document outlines the various benchmarks in the areas of reading, writing, grammar, punctuation, spelling and numeracy in years 3, 5 and 7. The document even has instructions on how to read it and understand the tables within it. The document even has an explanatory note at the beginning because it is such a tedious and boring document. I should like to outline some of the little pearlers in the document. The first is on how to read graphs:
The average age and years of schooling are determined as at the time of testing—
it is important that we know that—
The percentages of students represented in the tables have been rounded and may not sum to 100—
that also is extremely important to know—
Exempt students were not assessed and are deemed not to have met the national minimum standards.
That is really important. Finally there is this little pearler:
Participation rates are calculated as all assessed and exempt students as a percentage of the total number of students in the year level, as reported by schools, which includes those absent and withdrawn.
By this stage parents have probably closed the document, if they ever opened it. I suspect that nobody, except the various education Ministers, reads these results or finds them a useful tool to identify comparative results from State to State because such comparisons are absolutely meaningless without contextual information. I am concerned also that New South Wales and Victorian Ministers particularly seem to be gloating about the performance of their States in comparison with, say, the Northern Territory or Queensland. I wonder whether in making those odious comparisons they stop to wonder what is happening in the Northern Territory in indigenous educational disadvantage and whether perhaps they should be praising the efforts of teachers in the Northern Territory or Queensland.
In fact, Queensland's results have improved since 2008. If the member for Penrith had actually looked at this document closely she would have seen that in many of the categories about which she spoke New South Wales has gone backwards from last year and not improved. One must be very careful interpreting these documents and should not extrapolate statistics one wants. The information must be taken in context. I am sure nobody wants to look at these documents because they are totally meaningless. I place absolutely no importance on this document or comparative NAPLAN tests across this country, because it tells us absolutely nothing about what is occurring in our schools. The great work being carried out by teachers in visual arts, performing arts, debating, public speaking, sport, languages, history, social science and every other curriculum area is not tested by NAPLAN.
Apparently the only thing that matters is that your child is above the State average or the State median, or that your child compares on standard deviation and percentages. They are just numbers. It does not matter to NAPLAN how a student is performing in any other area in the school. It does not matter what teachers and schools are doing in any other areas except those covered by the National Assessment Program—Literacy and Numeracy. Having said that, I also state that NAPLAN tests are very useful diagnostic tools. The New South Wales Teachers Federation has said that many times, and I agree.
The program is a good diagnostic tool that can be used by teachers in consultation with parents to ascertain whether there are significant learning difficulties among students, and as a tool to identify what can be done through early intervention to ensure that when students leave school they can read and write competently and that they are skilled in the basics of mathematics—all skill areas that they will need to master for their future. Of course NAPLAN does that, and it is an important tool for a teacher and a parent, but it should not enable Ministers for education and training to boast about what their State is doing in comparison with another State.
As I have stated on previous occasions in this place, NAPLAN tests should never ever be used to construct crude league tables, but that is what will happen under the Federal Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, who has blackmailed every Minister for education in the country by saying she will withdraw funding if they do not give her the NAPLAN test results so that she can construct league tables. In my view the Federal Minister for Education should be moved to another portfolio before she irreparably damages Australia's education system. She has no understanding of education. She does not speak to teachers, students or parents. She saw an idea in America that she liked and she thought it would be appropriate here, but it is not. I have been appalled at the bullying tactics applied by the Federal Minister for Education. I am surprised at the manner in which the member for Penrith has referred to NAPLAN in this Chamber.
Dr ANDREW McDONALD
(Macquarie Fields—Parliamentary Secretary) [7.02 p.m.]: The comments of the member for South Coast are welcome, but she failed to say the one thing that we all know: that the New South Wales Government's education system is magnificent. As a former teacher, surely she must admit that, but she failed to do so. The National Assessment Program—Literacy and Numeracy [NAPLAN] is not a boring, meaningless document. It is a vital part of how we educate our children who one day will be the leaders of our society.
Over the past 10 years there have been major improvements in education, such as the reduction in class sizes for junior years. It matters that we measure how our children are performing. As all members of the House know, assessment is at the heart of successful teaching. Teachers continually assess students, formally and informally, but they need the valuable diagnostic tool of the National Assessment Program—Literacy and Numeracy. Teachers need to know how students are performing to plan what to teach and how to teach it. At this stage I pay tribute to the teachers in my electorate. I know them all well. For them, the NAPLAN testing has been a very valuable diagnostic tool.
It is no longer acceptable to assess children without some form of validated standard tool. The information genie is now out of the bottle, and assessments have to be done properly. All students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 throughout Australia need standardised testing to provide consistency, comparability and transferability of results across jurisdictions. The results not only provide diagnostic data on each student but also enable teachers to focus on areas of student need. They provide data across a range of student achievements and an accurate assessment of not only how students are performing but, most importantly, how they are progressing.
The NAPLAN test is based on previous tests applied in New South Wales. The 2009 NAPLAN tests are fantastic because of the wonderful work of teachers in our schools. The results are worth repeating. First, the New South Wales participation rate was above the national average for every year level and every test. Students in New South Wales are not exempt from tests so that the results are artificially inflated, but that has happened overseas. The main measures for assessing NAPLAN performance are the mean score, the percentage of students at or above the minimum standard level, and the percentage of students in the highest band at each year level. On all three performance indicators, New South Wales performed well. New South Wales is almost always ranked in the top three jurisdictions in all measures, and almost always is significantly above the other States and Territories as well as the Australian average.
Second, in relation to the mean scores for 2009, New South Wales was ranked first in year 3 spelling, year 5 spelling and numeracy, year 7 spelling and year 9 spelling. In relation to the percentage of students at or above the minimum standard, New South Wales was ranked first in year 3 reading, writing, spelling, and equal first in numeracy. It is important to note at this point that those year 3 students had benefited from the reduction in class sizes. New South Wales was ranked first for students at or above the minimum standard for year 5 writing and spelling, year 7 spelling, and year 9 spelling. Not one word of acknowledgement has been spoken by members of the Opposition. They have now left the Chamber rather than admit that the reduction in class sizes has resulted in a significant improvement for the education of our youngest pupils.
Third, in relation to the percentage of students in the highest band, New South Wales was ranked first in year 3 writing, spelling and numeracy, year 5 spelling, grammar, punctuation and numeracy, year 7 spelling and numeracy, and year 9 spelling and numeracy. New South Wales has the largest education jurisdiction in Australia and the most students from low socioeconomic and non-English speaking backgrounds as well as the largest number of students with a disability. New South Wales also has the best participation rate. Our teachers do a magnificent job. All members of Parliament congratulate them on the work they do every day.
The results reflect a decade of careful policy formulation, significant investment and a comprehensive commitment to solutions. In contrast to that, what do we have from members of the Opposition? Finally, they have released a policy. At least it is a policy, which is an improvement. It is the subject of a motion of which notice has been given in the other place. The Opposition opposed the Building the Education Revolution spending and its own policy with regard to league tables. The New South Wales Government has always opposed the publication of simplistic league tables. I commend the performance of the Department of Education and Training to the House.
Mrs KARYN PALUZZANO
(Penrith—Parliamentary Secretary) [7.07 p.m.], in reply: I thank members who contributed to discussion of this matter of public importance, particularly the member for Macquarie Fields, who outlined the carefully crafted policy and rollout of a reduction in class sizes in the early years of a child's education. I pay particular attention to the remarks made by the member for South Coast, who made an assumption in her introductory remarks about whom I had congratulated. She may not win the prize for literacy, and she rates one out of 10 for listening skills as well. For her information, I will restate the remarks I made at the outset:
It gives me great pleasure to update the House on the outstanding achievements of our school students in the areas of literacy and numeracy.
I congratulated the school students and classroom teachers. The member for South Coast also made statements relating to league tables. Government members have always stated their objection to simplistic league tables, and that has not changed. New South Wales has the strongest freedom of information legislation in Australia. The member for South Coast wondered why I introduced this matter of public importance and seemed to deduce that it meant I do not commend the students or teachers of New South Wales. The member for South Coast preferred not to refer directly to the National Assessment Program—Literacy and Numeracy [NAPLAN] or to results, and instead referred to a "document" throughout her speech. NAPLAN results are the topic of this matter of public importance discussion, but the member for South Coast did not mention results, or if she did it was a reference of scant significance.
If the member for South Coast took the time to speak to principals and others in her electorate, as I have in my electorate, she would know that teaching professionals are very proud of results for value-adding educational techniques and growth figures that I have mentioned in relation to the Jamison High School, the Nepean High School, the Blaxland High School and primary schools. Those results are very important not only to teachers but also to students. The results of assessment show that at year 7 to year 9 levels growth has occurred in subject knowledge of literacy and numeracy, and has spilled over to human society and its environment, creative and performing arts, and science and technology, as well as all the other key learning areas. Those growth and value-adding figures are vitally important.
As well the introduction of the National Assessment Program—Literacy and Numeracy tests, and the basic skills testing in New South Wales previously, of importance are support for teachers and the information that is provided to schools with the Student Measurement and Reporting toolkit [SMART] pack technology software. The SMART pack technology software, which was developed by a school teacher from the Penrith area, allows teachers and school communities to drill down into each student's response to every question in the test. It provides capacity for strengths and weaknesses to be identified and addressed. It also gives extensive and specific professional development in the use of the SMART pack so that teachers can integrate and improve their teaching. It provides lesson plans, resources and teaching suggestions for students who may be struggling. I am not saying that it is the only resource available for teachers, but if it provides guidance for increasing the teaching and learning experience of students between year 3 and year 9 in the area of strength and development it will add to the education outcome of students.
If there is a solid basis for discussion between the parents, the student and the teacher the results and the improvement that can occur will add value to students in their lifelong learning and their post-school education. One essential ingredient for New South Wales students is the quality of teachers in the classroom. New South Wales has the best-paid teachers in Australia. We have introduced the New South Wales Institute of Teachers, which has increased the requirements of teachers. We now expect every trainee primary school teacher to have achieved a band 4 result in Higher School Certificate English and maths, and all university teacher training courses must have literacy and numeracy units. We have built an education system of which we are rightly proud. In the past decade we have continued to invest record amounts of money in our schools and TAFEs. I commend all the students and teachers in the New South Wales education system, and I congratulate them on the 2009 NAPLAN results.
The House adjourned, pursuant to standing and sessional orders, at 7.12 p.m. until
Thursday 24 September 2009 at 10.00 a.m.