The Speaker (The Hon. Shelley Elizabeth Hancock)
Tuesday 22 November 2011
took the chair at 1.00 p.m.
read the Prayer and acknowledgement of country.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENTS
TRIBUTE TO DAVID BURKE
Mr CHRIS HOLSTEIN
(Gosford) [1.00 p.m.]: David Burke is a resident of Springfield in my electorate of Gosford. We are not sure how the name Springfield came about but it may derive from freshwater springs reported to be found on orchards in the area. Mr Peter Drinkwater Berry sold fruit trees from his orchard named Springfield in the 1910s and several subdivisions took place in 1917 using the name Springfield. The 2006 Australian census revealed that the average person living in Springfield was 35 years of age and earned less than the average weekly wage of $443 per week. At the time the average mortgage payment was about $379 a week and the average price of a house was $321,000.
Chertsey Primary School is a key educational facility in the Springfield area. It has 240 students, four support classes, two classes for the hearing impaired, one class for language and one class for students with autism. The school is capably run by its principal, John Anderson, whom I have known for many years. David Burke attended the Chertsey Primary School class for the hearing impaired. David Burke's parents moved to Springfield 25 years ago. David was born soon after and his sister, Kelly, was born a year later. They used to visit the Central Coast to fish and enjoy the wonderful beaches. After several visits over the years they came to the conclusion that it would be a nice place to live. When they moved into the area Springfield was a lot quieter than it is today and Mr Burke senior had to commute daily by train from Gosford to Sydney. After 10 years he finally obtained a job in Gosford.
Back then Springfield residents had to backtrack through East Gosford to access The Entrance Road to go to Erina or Terrigal. Then the bridge to link Wells Road with Barralong Road was built and this connected Springfield to its eastern neighbours. David and Kelly attended Chertsey Primary School. As I mentioned earlier, David had a hearing impairment and the deaf unit attached to the school came in handy. The Burke family continues to live in Springfield today. David has represented Australia at the Special Olympics. He has also competed at the Australian Tennis Championship. That event is supported by the Australian Sport and Recreation Association for Persons with Integration Difficulties [AUSRAPID] and Tennis Australia. The tournament is held in January each year during the last four days of the Australian Open.
The 2011 men's singles final was won by David Burke of Springfield on the Central Coast. I congratulate him on his win and we wish him well in defence of his title in a few months time in Melbourne. David also reached the men's doubles final at the same tournament but finished as the runner-up. Nonetheless, it was a notable achievement. David travels with his parents to compete in tournaments overseas. His parents always look forward to returning to their home at Springfield on the Central Coast. I congratulate David on his outstanding achievements to date at the age of 25. I wish him well in the defence of his title and success in years to come as he continues to do his community proud.
MOUNTIES SWIMMING CLUB
Mr NICK LALICH
(Cabramatta) [1.04 p.m.]: It was my pleasure to be invited to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Mounties Swimming Club on Saturday 14 June. The occasion was held at the Starz function room at the Mounties Club, Mount Pritchard. Swimming is considered one of Australia's most popular sports. This is a testament to the level of achievement we have seen at the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games over the years. We have seen Australian swimming produce some of our nation's best athletes, including Kieren Perkins, Susie O'Neill, Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett, just to name a few. The occasion was a celebration and a chance for us to acknowledge the many achievements of Mounties Swimming Club.
Cabramatta Swimming Club began in 1960 at the Cabramatta pool. It was during this period that Margaret Whitlam—the wife of one of our country's greatest Prime Ministers, Gough Whitlam—was a coach and member of the club and gave much of her time to the wellbeing of our youth. It was not until 1978 that it officially became known as the Cabramatta Amateur Swimming Club. During the 1980s the Cabramatta Swimming Club produced some of our nation's top level athletes, with swimmers competing at the Australian Age Championships and sports exchange program in West Germany, as well as the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand. In 1989, the Australian Swimming Federation nominated the swimming club as one of the top eight clubs in Australia.
During the 1990s the closure of the Cabramatta pool saw the Cabramatta Amateur Swimming Club seek sponsors in their efforts to continue and so it became one of the many sub-clubs under the banner of Mount Pritchard and District Community Club, now known as Mounties. The outdoor pool at Fairfield Leisure Centre became the new training facility for Mount Pritchard Swimming Club until the opening of the Prairiewood Leisure Centre in 1994. With the opening of the new pool in 1994, the senior squads moved their training routine to the new heated pool at Prairiewood while the juniors continued to train in the indoor heated pool at Fairfield Leisure Centre. Eventually in 2007 the junior squads also moved to Prairiewood Leisure Centre to train with the seniors once more.
Fairfield City Council is committed to supporting Mounties Swimming Club and values the members' dedication to their club. It is always great to see so many of our young locals taking part in sport—especially being involved in a disciplined sport such as swimming. These young swimmers show true sportsmanship, dedication and commitment to their sport. This commitment will see our young swimmers become rising stars. Together we will be there to support each one of them as they reach an elite level and possibly compete at future Commonwealth Games or maybe even at the Olympic Games. I congratulate Branko Sutic, the president of the club, for his dedication and commitment over the years. We have seen the club go from strength to strength over this time.
Finally, I congratulate the swimmers and the parents of our young swimmers for their continued support and commitment to the club. It would be remiss of me not to thank the president of the Mounties club, Mr Kevin Ingram, and his board of directors for the wonderful support they give not only to the swimming club but also the many other sporting sub-clubs they support under the banner of Mounties. I also thank Mr Kenneth To, national and international swimmer, and past swimming coaches John Esposito and his wife, Lorraine. I thank Mr and Mrs Bruce Steed, parents of Trent Steed, who is a former club member and Olympian. I also thank past members and representative swimmers Daniel Sutic, Brodie Westwood, and Julie Anne and Marcus Bankowski. I thank them for their great support to the club and the inspiration that they have been to the youth of our area over many years.
Mr DONALD PAGE
(Ballina—Minister for Local Government, and Minister for the North Coast) [1.09 p.m.]: Next Sunday a community open day will be held to celebrate the early opening of the second section of the Ballina bypass. This will see the majority of the project—the largest ever investment in infrastructure in my electorate—completed. The official opening will occur two days later on 29 November. The opening of the Ballina Bypass is big news for Ballina and the State. It will save lives, save travel time, reduce congestion in Ballina and reduce pollution.
We have been waiting a long time for this road to be built but major construction work on the project did not start until 2008. This project cost $640 million and when completed it will be a four-lane, divided carriageway stretching 12 kilometres from Ross Lane in the north to the intersection of the Bruxner Highway and the Pacific Highway in the south. This is expected to reduce travel times by up to 12 minutes and take all through traffic out of Ballina. The Ballina bypass has been one of the most technically challenging road projects in Australia, with the need to stabilise underlying soft soils which are up to 30m deep in some places. I pay tribute to the builders, the Ballina Bypass Alliance, who have delivered this complex project six months ahead of schedule.
The completion of the Ballina bypass has major benefits for the local community and motorists. In addition it has provided a tremendously positive impact on our local economy. Since June 2008, 3,880 people have worked on the Ballina bypass. It is not often that a coastal town has a project of this magnitude feeding its economy. I am pleased to say that the economic benefits from the upgrade of the Pacific Highway in my electorate will continue for several more years yet, with the work on the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale section of the road to start in March 2012. It is expected some 400 direct jobs will be created as part of this $780 million project. This will also have an enormous flow-on benefit to local businesses.
The Ballina bypass will bring a huge reduction in traffic congestion—anyone who has ever been caught in holiday traffic entering Ballina around Christmas or Easter will know what I mean. During peak holiday times the traffic jams in Ballina often stretch for several kilometres in the hot summer sun, testing the patience of drivers and their passengers. This problem will be largely eliminated by this Christmas. People living near what will become the old Pacific Highway will have a peaceful night's sleep once the new bypass is opened. Visitors too will find motels near the old highway much more appealing and quieter.
I acknowledge the Ballina bypass, whilst improving traffic conditions around Ballina, could also mean a period of adjustment for retailers and businesses. Typically the most affected businesses are those that rely on passing traffic, like service stations and motels. However other towns have been successfully bypassed, including Bangalow and Bowral. They have bounced back with the town a more pleasant place to stay, shop and do business. Places like Bowral and Bangalow have become destinations in their own right, not just a transit town. Similarly, anecdotal evidence from Alstonville, which was bypassed earlier this year, suggests going to town is a much more pleasant experience.
I am pleased that the Ballina Chamber of Commerce, the council and local businesses are being proactive about the opening of the Ballina bypass, encouraging local residents and visitors to the region to shop local. A loyalty card will soon be available to shoppers that will entitle them to discounts at more than 120 businesses. Shopping local will keep money in the town and that will have a flow-on effect on jobs. In recent times I have been surprised by the number of people who have not stayed at Ballina who do not realise it is a coastal town with beaches and a beautiful river. I assume this is largely because motorists travelling the Pacific Highway via Ballina do not see the beaches and only get glimpses of the Richmond River. One of the serious challenges for our community with the bypass opening will be to educate people that Ballina is Ballina by-the-sea.
I encourage Northern Rivers Tourism, the council and the Chamber of Commerce to highlight what is well known to local people—but not necessarily known to motorists and some visitors—that Ballina has beautiful beaches and a great river for fishing and boating. It is a great place for a coastal holiday. We need to make the most of our natural assets and market them well to people living in Sydney. In addition, we need to highlight the fact that Ballina is a coastal town with beautiful beaches, a clean environment, a tourist infrastructure and a relaxed lifestyle. I believe the opening of the Ballina bypass will see the reinvention of Ballina. The streets will be safer and quieter with less traffic rumbling through town. Ballina has the potential to be more of a destination in its own right than a town that many people pass through on their way north or south.
Mr CRAIG BAUMANN
(Port Stephens—Parliamentary Secretary) [1.14 p.m.]: I thank the member for Ballina for advising the House about the Ballina bypass. Raymond Terrace was the first of the major town bypasses on the Pacific Highway. That was introduced a few years ago by the Greiner and Fahey Governments. Raymond Terrace turned from a car park into a very vibrant town. I am sure the people of Ballina who live and work there will find similar advantages in the bypass. Travellers, such as me, who have been caught in Pacific Highway bottlenecks, will also be appreciative.
SCARBOROUGH FIRE STATION
Mr LEE EVANS
(Heathcote) [1.14 p.m.]: I acknowledge and celebrate the long-awaited and deserving renovation of Scarborough Fire Station in my electorate of Heathcote. I recently had the honour of representing the Hon. Michael Gallacher, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, to officially open the $845,000 refurbishment of this station. The renovations provide state-of-the-art amenities and better training and operating arrangements, and will meet the needs of firefighters and the community well into the future. The Heathcote area is surrounded by beautiful bushland, but if not carefully monitored and maintained by our firefighters, this can become a tinder box waiting to erupt.
I was joined at the ceremony by the Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW, Greg Mullins, the zone commander, Steve Baker, the station captain, Les Choice, and firefighters. Marjorie Oliver, another very special guest, shared the honour of officially opening the station. She is the widow of Scarborough's longest-serving captain, Vince Oliver. Vince joined the brigade in 1961 and was its captain for 23 years until his death in 2009. He was a driving force behind a very strong firefighting demonstration team and was a much-loved and admired member of Fire and Rescue NSW. In 2007 his long and distinguished service earned him an Australian Fire Service Medal, presented by the Governor of New South Wales, Her Excellency, Professor Marie Bashir, at Government House. He was so devoted to the station; he made his home just a few hundred metres away. I know that he would be very proud to see his second home as it is today.
I am proud that the New South Wales Government is committed to providing our firefighters with the equipment and amenities they need for their vital work in protecting local residents, businesses and industry from fires and other emergencies. The original station, built on the site in 1970, has now been upgraded to comply with modern building codes and the latest station design standards of Fire and Rescue NSW. The changes will provide greater flexibility on site, making service much more comfortable and efficient for the station's 14 retained firefighters. The refurbishment includes a new kitchen; an expanded training room; improved bathroom, change room, locker room and storage facilities; and a slight expansion of the engine bay. The station finally has facilities specifically for female staff and is hoping to recruit its first female staff member soon.
Scarborough firefighters now have a training space that is up to 65 per cent larger than before. There are improved storage facilities for uniforms and breathing apparatus equipment, and an office for the station captain. The entire crew were recently trained in the use of extended duration breathing apparatus, which is important in the rail corridor and for mine rescues. Previously the station staff would have been required to call in a specialist unit for these conditions but is now capable of responding themselves. During 2010-11 Scarborough firefighters responded to more than 50 fire and emergency incidents and undertook 10 community engagement activities. As a secondary responder to Bulli station, Scarborough mainly deals with house fires, motor vehicle accidents and some unusual calls, which recently included rescuing a kangaroo from a water tank and a pet cockatoo from a tree. Captain Les Choice has said the completion of the station had brought a huge morale boost, especially after 12 months of maintaining an active fire station throughout the building period.
The aim of this Government is to give all firefighters a modern facility that will meet operational needs well into the future. The Heathcote community has welcomed the news of these improvements and applauds the staff for their tireless service. Living in an environment so fraught with fire danger, my constituents have an enormous respect for those who man the front lines to protect our homes and property. The sacrifices that this service entails cannot be overstated. They were duly recognised recently by the Minister for Police and Emergency Services at the volunteers' memorial service. At this ceremony the eighty-sixth name was added to the memorial honour roll, that of Senior Deputy Captain Don Deppeler of the Marsden Park Rural Fire Brigade. He died after collapsing at the wheel of the brigade's Category 1 tanker after hitting a tree, reminding us of the danger faced by our 80,000 emergency services volunteers every year. Once again I welcome the completion of these vital renovations and commend the staff and volunteers at Scarborough Fire Station and the previous Government for their work.
Mr ROBERT FUROLO
(Lakemba) [1.19 p.m.]: It was not all that long ago that I was able to talk regularly in this House about the great initiatives and programs being undertaken in my electorate. Unfortunately, that seems like a distant memory for members of the Opposition. However, it is great that members of the Government can acknowledge the great work of the former Government through the Ballina bypass—a great project on the Pacific Highway—and of course the new fire station at Scarborough. Today I highlight a major problem and concern to the people of my community and certainly to me. I do not think there is a member in this House who does not recognise the importance of education as the great equaliser for all communities, and particularly the important role of early education in assisting children from families with a disadvantaged background.
That is why I am particularly concerned to hear the news that two preschools in my electorate that have been available to children of families from disadvantaged backgrounds will now be charging parents for the privilege of educating their children and trying to give them the best start in life. Punchbowl Public School has a preschool that serves the needs of 80 students from my community and Riverwood Public School has a preschool that serves the needs of 36 students. Riverwood Public School has a total school population of 79 students. It is situated in a housing estate in the suburb of Riverwood and it draws its population from that estate. I understand that 99 per cent of the students at this school come from a non-English speaking background. It is one of the reasons a preschool was established at this school. It recognises that giving children an opportunity to embed themselves in the education system and learn English before they start school will give them a better chance of taking an active part in their education.
The Government's decision to charge families for the right to send their kids to these preschools will be a massive disincentive. I have spoken with the principals of these and other schools in the area that have been advised of this fee, which I understand will be up to $40 per day per student, depending on the preschool. The principals have advised me that a number of parents have withdrawn their children from the preschools. We should not be putting any barriers in the way of families from disadvantaged backgrounds that discourage them from sending their kids to preschools to give them an opportunity to receive a solid education.
When our public schools are doing such a good job and the service is provided by the State free of charge we have to ask why one would want to charge parents a fee to send their kids to the preschools attached to these public schools. It does not make sense. The argument that has been put to me is that there are private preschools operating and providing a service and it would not be fair to them for the State to provide free preschools to compete with them. Yet these preschools serve some of the most disadvantaged communities. To give members an idea, Punchbowl and Riverwood are in a local government area where more than a quarter of the families live on less than $500 a week. That is their total household income to cover housing rental, food, clothing, sending their kids to schools, transport and all their other costs every week. Many of these families are living on even less than this amount.
Despite that, this Government has decided to slug these families with a fee for sending their kids to school. It is an outrage. The people of the electorate of Lakemba are disappointed that this Government has decided to attack them and remove opportunities for families to give their kids the best start in life. I join with the people of Lakemba and express my disappointment at the Government's decision to charge families and people in my community for their children's attendance at preschool. They should have the right to attend preschool without charge.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr John Barilaro):
I call the member for Myall Lakes and welcome him back to the Parliament.
Mr STEPHEN BROMHEAD
(Myall Lakes) [1.23 p.m.]: It is good to be here. May I say what a pleasure it is to see you elevated to the position of Acting-Speaker. It must be great for the people of Monaro to know they have such a competent local member, a champion who is not only an Acting-Speaker but chairman of a committee. I inform the House about a great local boatbuilding company in Taree, Steber International. They capped off the most successful year in more than six decades of boatbuilding when they were named Manufacturer of the Year at the prestigious 2011 Hunter Manufacturing Awards. Before a capacity audience of 535 people at a gala event at Wests Newcastle several weeks ago Steber International was firstly named winner of one of 12 categories, for excellence in product design.
This award was for its ongoing series of 38-foot commercial rescue vessels, which sport a host of new technologies. Alan Steber, the company manager, went on stage for a second time to receive the number one award for the evening. He received a standing ovation for his passionate acceptance speech in which he said Steber International is "proud to be an Australian manufacturer". He went on to say, "We are proud to be acknowledged as the best boatbuilders in Australia, building commercial boats, rescue and police patrol boats and pleasure boats."
His parents, Bruce and Beryl Steber, had a vision 65 years ago when launching their first timber runabout on the North Shore of Sydney to be the best boatbuilders in Australia. Through decentralisation, a policy introduced some years ago, they moved to Taree. Sixty-five years after forming the company, Steber International is still in Taree in the Manning Valley and very proud of that fact. The people of Myall Lakes and the Manning Valley are very proud to have Steber International in their community. As I said, this was the company's most successful year. The company also had success a month before when it won a $5 million contract to supply five vessels for the Australian Navy through Defence Maritime Services, to be used for diver training and general naval purposes.
In August, at the Sydney Boat Show, Steber International won the Champion Exporter Award in recognition of the three vessels it exported last year to Dubai, New Zealand and Vanuatu. I had the pleasure of inspecting the boat the company sent to Dubai—it was one of two vessels they sent there—which had a decompression chamber on the boat. The company that built the decompression chamber is a Hunter company. Also this year the company attained silver level status in the Department of Environment and Climate Change's sustainability program for its efficiency in upgrading much of its manufacturing plant. I had the great pleasure at Club Taree of presenting awards not only to Steber but other companies that received commendations or silver status in the department's sustainability program.
Steber International is a family company that began operations in 1946 producing timber clinker hull boats. It changed to fibreglass construction in 1959. The company was one of the pioneers of fibreglass boat construction and has remained at the forefront of the industry. It is now regarded as the premium manufacturer of commercial fibreglass vessels and composite components in Australia. Operations were originally based in Brookvale but moved in 1974 under the decentralisation program. Our Government is keen to introduce the strategy of 10 years of decentralisation to get parts of government departments and private companies to decentralise to regional New South Wales. I note that the member for Tweed says that he is 100 per cent for the Tweed and the member for Campbelltown says Campbelltown is the opal of the south. I conclude by saying, "Break a leg for Myall Lakes."
Ms NOREEN HAY
(Wollongong) [1.28 p.m.]: Like the member for Lakemba, I too comment on the fact that Government members ungraciously take credit for initiatives without acknowledging that they were former Labor Government initiatives. I speak here today frustrated, annoyed, bewildered and quite frankly a little bit angry. Government and Opposition members alike used to be able to come into this place and talk about events in our electorates that we could all be proud of. That is no longer the situation. Since the O'Farrell Coalition Government was elected a mere eight months ago everywhere I turn in the electorate of Wollongong there is the streamlining of departments, of entitlements and of jobs. This Government, which swore to New South Wales voters they had nothing to fear from a Coalition Government being elected to run this State, has done nothing but slash and cut since coming to power, particularly in the electorate of Wollongong. Nothing is sacred.
Today I witnessed firsthand 5,000 of our finest men and women, many from Wollongong, in the blue rally out the front of this place, calling on Premier O'Farrell and his Government to withdraw its legislation to slash entitlements for injured and disabled police and to return to negotiations with the New South Wales Police Association. Cutting entitlements for police officers who are seriously injured or disabled in the line of duty is a new low even for the O'Farrell Government. These police put their lives on the line day in and day out. They have the right to feel safe in the knowledge that when they put on their uniform they and their families will be protected and looked after should the unthinkable happen—they are injured on the job or, worse still, killed. Families have the right to know that they can pay the mortgage, electricity bills or car repayments and not face uncertainty at a time when clearly they would have greater concerns.
The same applies to the State's owner-drivers. They have the right to know that protections are in place for them through the Industrial Relations Act. At a recent meeting in my office with owner-drivers and the Transport Workers Union concerns were raised about the O'Farrell Government's outrageous plans to strip the chapter 6 protections of the Industrial Relations Act from owner-drivers such as truck drivers and couriers. At present they have the same protections and access to arbitration as other employees despite the unique nature of their employment. With Premier O'Farrell planning to streamline the State's industrial relations tribunals—and releasing an issues paper that fails to address the unique situation of owner-drivers—I am worried that these workers will slip through the cracks.
Owner-drivers are especially vulnerable to exploitation because they typically do not have a variety of clients; they report to a single principal, who exerts significant leverage over their livelihood. Premier O'Farrell needs to guarantee that the rights of owner drivers will be protected under any changes to the industrial relations system. In 2000 the Carr Government placed New South Wales at the forefront of owner driver-protection in Australia. I call on Premier O'Farrell to see sense and keep these vital protections in place. I continue to divulge the carnage this Government is bestowing on the State of New South Wales and my electorate of Wollongong directly, in particular, the streamlining of the New South Wales fire and rescue communications centres.
I have had discussions with the New South Wales Firefighters Association about these centres and by "streamlining" I actually mean their closure. It has come to my attention that the fire and rescue communications centres are undergoing a major upgrade of their emergency call taking, dispatch and communication systems. This apparently means the closure of both the Katoomba and Wollongong centres. Shame on the O'Farrell Government! There will be no job creation for us in the Illawarra, just cuts, with jobs going from the area and the closure of yet another government department at a time when the Illawarra already has significant problems with job losses.
I am sure my colleagues are aware of the closure of the office of the Minister for the Illawarra that was located in the heart of Wollongong—more streamlining. The New South Wales Teachers Federation, teachers and students approached me about cuts to TAFE courses, particularly at West Wollongong TAFE campus. They are devastated about cuts to courses, particularly in the arts department. There has been no consultation or negotiation, just cuts to courses, meaning fewer opportunities for people in the Illawarra. There has also been a move towards user pays. I call on the Government to step back and actually give assistance to the Wollongong and Illawarra areas.
MCHAPPY DAY TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY
Mr JOHN FLOWERS
(Rockdale) [1.33 p.m.]: It gives me great pleasure today to inform the House about an event I attended on Saturday 12 November 2011 that no doubt all members in this place would have heard of, McHappy Day. I was pleased to be invited to spend the morning behind the counter chatting with customers and staff alike at the McDonald's Restaurant, Rockdale. McHappy Day is, without doubt, the highlight of the year for McDonald's restaurants around the country, especially this year as it marks the twentieth anniversary of such a successful event, raising much-needed funds for the work carried out by the Ronald McDonald House charities.
In the 20 years that have passed since the first McHappy Day in 1991 Australians have donated in excess of $18.5 million for Ronald McDonald House charities. This generosity was clearly on display at Rockdale on Saturday morning as crowds of people came into the restaurant not only to eat their Big Macs—which I noted were still two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun—but to give generously. From the sale of every Big Mac $2 goes directly to the Ronald McDonald House charities, an additional incentive to buy a Big Mac.
In 2011 the organisers of McHappy Day were aiming to fundraise $3 million. They can rest assured that the residents of Rockdale contributed generously to this effort. Since being formed the 13 Ronald McDonald Houses across Australia have provided more than 75,000 families with care and comfort while their sons or daughters, brothers or sisters, undergo treatment of various illnesses. In 2010, 6,300 families spent a night in a Ronald McDonald House. I am told that the houses accommodate approximately 250 families per night. It is easy to see why so many people turn up on such occasions to donate to this worthy cause.
I notice many people from across the Rockdale electorate have also generously purchased a helping hand. As many members would have seen on Saturday, these paper hands cover the window fronts of many McDonald's restaurants around their electorates and are a visible reminder of the generosity shown by the local community. I was fortunate that on the day I was able to meet Elmo, Bob the Builder, and B1 and B2. These larger than life colourful characters encourage children to enjoy the fun of this event. Rockdale was further honoured on the day by the presence of the chief executive officer of McDonald's Australia, Katrina Noble, who was on hand to join in the celebrations and fundraising.
It is important that we in this place recognise the important role that charities play in our society. Special occasions such as McHappy Day serve as a reminder to the community that there are those who, on a daily basis, sacrifice their time to improve the lives of others. I acknowledge the proprietor and staff of McDonald's Rockdale who were present on Saturday. It was heartening to see the enthusiasm employees showed to the cause and their dedication in assisting customers to donate. In particular I mention Louie Treffiletti, the owner of McDonald's Rockdale, who ensured that the day was a great success. Having been an elected representative in the St George area for close to 13 years as a councillor and now as a local member, there are few events that I enjoy attending more than those that contribute to charity. I am always impressed by the generosity of the people of Rockdale and I look forward to attending many more events such as this while serving as the member for Rockdale.
Mr GUY ZANGARI
(Fairfield) [1.38 p.m.]: On Sunday 30 October 2011 the Nonni Club of New South Wales held the seventh annual grandparents celebration at Club Marconi. The word nonni is the plural Italian word for grandparents, as you would know, Mr Acting-Speaker. Present on the day were the Mayor of Fairfield and State member for Cabramatta, Nick Lalich, and, representing the Premier, Charles Casuscelli, the member for Strathfield. It was a significant day for all grandparents across New South Wales, as 2011 marked the first official Grandparents Day, which was declared by the Premier this year. The creation of this day of recognition has been a long time coming. I thank the Premier for making good the foundations and the track work of the Labor Government in making the day a reality. I pay homage to the members of Parliament from both sides of the political divide for championing this day. The official Grandparents Day had taken six years of lobbying by the Nonni Club. This year's event was the seventh year of the Nonni Club function at Club Marconi.
Grandparents, as we all know, are the foundations of families and communities. Many cultures place greater social status in their respective communities on those that are older. Take, for example, our own Indigenous culture. Aboriginal elders are held in high regard in their society and ours as well. They are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the traditions that are the hallmark of each Aboriginal nation are passed from one generation to the next—whether it is in song, story, dance or art. This is similar to the important role grandparents play in Western and Eastern societies, where grandparents are seen as the essential moral compass for families and communities alike.
In New South Wales and in Australia generally the role grandparents play has evolved. In 2003 Australian Bureau of Statistics data indicated that grandparents represented 69 per cent of all informal care providers. This figure highlights the important role grandparents play in today's society. As the dominance of the traditional single-income nuclear household is increasingly challenged by the social phenomena of sole-parent and double-income households grandparents are increasingly being relied upon to provide an alternative means of childcare. As a result of these changing social dynamics many grandparents work until much later in life and they support their children via looking after their grandchildren during the day.
Grandparents in the Fairfield community have also taken up the responsibility to look after their grandchildren in place of their biological parents, and it is becoming a trend throughout the State. In the community grandparents play a vital role in many charity organisations. They make up the core base of many volunteer groups. For example, in Fairfield Meal on Wheels would be lost if it were not for the small army of grandparents it relies upon to ensure that the elderly and the destitute members of the community have at least one proper meal a day. Social justice organisations such as the Salvos, the Smith Family and the Society of St Vincent de Paul rely heavily on the generous volunteer work of grandparents. Churches I know right across Fairfield claim grandparents as the key links in the services that they provide to the underprivileged. I am proud to say grandparents definitely make monumental contributions in the Fairfield electorate, as I am sure they do right across New South Wales.
I acknowledge the committee members of the Nonni Club of New South Wales for hosting another successful event: the President, Mr Joe Commisso, who is also the Grandparents Day ambassador for New South Wales; Vice President Domenico Marrocco; Secretary Umberto Russo; and the hard-working Antonio Bamonte, Alberto Santucci and Franco Pellegrino. This committee of fine working gentlemen has taken grandparents' role to a new level. Each committee member in his own unique way has contributed towards making this organisation and each event that it organises an extremely enjoyable and memorable one.
Ms CLOVER MOORE
(Sydney) [1.43 p.m.]: Today I wish to speak about a matter that is very important to my constituents and that is the urgent need to take action to address global warming. The Federal Government Climate Commission's review of climate change science recently concluded that climate change is real. It is occurring at a rapid rate and that two degrees is the maximum temperature increase before our planet risks tipping into catastrophic climate change. We are in the critical decade, with the decisions we make from now until 2020 determining the severity of climate change our children and grandchildren will experience. The cost of doing nothing to reduce environmental impacts far outweighs the cost of action. Confusion and misinformation have surrounded the Federal Government's carbon pricing policy, with vested interests, scaremongering, political ambition and outright miscommunication clouding the debate. But carbon pricing is just one of a range of activities that Australia needs to play its part in addressing global warming.
An emissions trading scheme is the most cost-effective way to help meet carbon reduction targets, giving polluters an incentive to pursue the lowest-cost abatement opportunities. Australia is not the first country to place a price on carbon. Indeed, New South Wales introduced Australia's first mandatory emissions trading scheme in 2003. China announced plans for an emissions trading scheme to be rolled out in six provinces by 2013 and for a national scheme by 2015. Many other countries, including India, have also made such a commitment. While the Chicken Littles rush around claiming the sky will fall, the facts are that revenue from the carbon price will flow into emission reduction projects, clean energy, job reallocation and industry and household compensation.
Carbon pricing provides an extraordinary opportunity to foster innovation, to create new jobs and develop a more intelligent economy, one that does not rely on digging up and shipping out our finite resources. In the United States it is estimated that $1 billion spent on a coal-fired power station creates 870 jobs. The number is lower for nuclear power stations because the plant is so expensive. By contrast, $1 billion invested in solar energy creates 1,900 jobs—870 compared with 1,900. Wind power would create 3,300 jobs from that expenditure and energy-efficiency projects would create 7,000 jobs—870 compared with 7,000 jobs.
A recent New South Wales Treasury assessment, which I believe the State Government hoped would demonstrate economic catastrophe from a carbon price, showed that Sydney would have more jobs and stronger growth at the end of the decade under an emissions trading scheme. Sustainable Sydney 2030 is the City of Sydney's plan to reduce our greenhouse emissions by 70 per cent based on 2006 levels. This will be achieved partly through a trigeneration network producing low-carbon, locally provided electricity—initially powered by natural gas before transitioning to renewable gas from waste. Trigeneration is almost three times as efficient as coal-fired power stations, making it cheaper, and it exists in many cities, including New York, which has been powered by cogeneration for over a century. We are working to provide lower carbon transport alternatives through car share, support for electric vehicles and establishing a cycling network. Despite only 10 kilometres of our 200 kilometre bicycle network being built, average cycling numbers have increased by 60 per cent over the past year.
Our sustainability programs help the inner-city community reduce energy consumption and bills, importantly, and include the following projects: Smart Business Live Green for small businesses; the CitySwitch Green Office program for office tenants; the Better Buildings Partnership for commercial office space owners—of course, they are the owners of 60 per cent of commercial space in the global city of Sydney; the Green Apartment Buildings Program for apartment owners; the Green Village Workshop Series for residents; and the SAVE Program for our social housing tenants. Indeed, since 2007 we have completed 18 solar projects, reducing emissions by 180 tonnes, and we have established a $10 million renewable energy fund. Our building retrofits have cut emissions by 17 per cent in our properties since 2006 and we will complete a full portfolio refit, which will reduce energy use by an additional 23 per cent and carbon emissions by 20 per cent.
We are now in the final stages of assessing a tender to install LED lights on all 8,000 of our street lights. The economics of reducing carbon emissions will improve when the carbon price commences with a price set, giving us greater certainty to assess our strategies and projects. It is astonishing that the sceptics demand that we persist with business as usual in the face of all the evidence that we must and can change just as people in other nations are doing so. The recent passage of the carbon pricing legislation in the Senate was an enormous relief to a very large number of people and a cause for great celebration. I commend the Federal Government and the Independent and The Greens members who acted responsibly and courageously and voted for our future. Now more than ever we need political leadership on climate change to ensure a future for our children and grandchildren.
TRIBUTE TO BRYAN MULLAN
Mr DOMINIC PERROTTET
(Castle Hill) [1.48 p.m.]: I pay tribute to Bryan Mullan, the Principal of Castle Hill Public School, who has recently announced his retirement after 13 years of service to the school. There are many things in life that change as one gets older, and I daresay wiser. I recall as a young boy a healthy fear, and even at times a healthy dislike, for several teachers who did not agree with my version of events, opinions and, let us face it, generally how things should have been done around the classroom. Having grown up ever so slightly since school, I have come to realise just how important our educators are and how wrong I was on the odd occasion.
My mother and father have made me realise that the learning of fundamental values, life skills and manners begins and ends in the home but it is to educators that we as parents entrust our children's development as students and future leaders in society. I had the privilege to have several excellent teachers during my school years and I have come across many more in my position as the member for Castle Hill. At the top of this list is Mr Bryan Mullan, the Principal of Castle Hill Public School. Bryan has led a distinguished career dedicated to education and the development of children in The Hills area and beyond.
Completing his qualifications at Macquarie University in 1974, Bryan has never stopped furthering his skills and abilities and imparting his knowledge to his students. A younger, but no less impressive, Bryan taught at Busby Public School, Excelsior Public School, John Purchase Public School and served as principal at Sefton Infants Public School. He was a principal at Pendle Hill Public School, Willoughby Public School and, last but not least, at Castle Hill Public School, from 1998. It was with much sadness to the students, teachers and families of the school that he recently announced that he will retire at the end of this year.
A teacher does more than simply impart knowledge in the areas of mathematics, English, history and science. The educator's ability to challenge, connect and foster excellence sets teachers such as Bryan Mullan apart. Bryan has been an approachable and supportive leader within the school environment and outside of it, and has always been there to assist and offer encouragement to students and parents alike. In addition to Bryan's contribution to education, he has made a substantial contribution to The Hills community. In fact, he may as well be the local member of Parliament because at every major community event in The Hills one can rest assured that Bryan Mullan will be there. Whether he is organising The Hills Relay for Life, speaking at local Anzac Day and Remembrance Day events or donning his boots and walking 250 kilometres to raise cancer awareness, Bryan Mullan is there.
The spirit and zeal which Bryan brings to his service of The Hills district cultivates our community and ensures that The Hills continues to flourish and remain the envy of other communities across the State. I first met Bryan in the lead-up to the State election in March but it was not until I attended an Anzac Day ceremony at Castle Hill Public School that I got to see him in action. The attention and respect that was shown to him by the students and staff alike are a testament to his character and methods of educating. It is easy to forget that a school's most important assets are not the buildings, the equipment, sporting fields or even their new interactive white boards; rather it is the teachers themselves who are paramount.
From my discussions with numerous teachers at Castle Hill Public School I know that Bryan is held in very high regard: each staff member he has worked with holds him in great stead. I commend Bryan Mullan for his work as an educator, mentor and leader in the Castle Hill community. I wish him all the best in the future. Whilst it may be goodbye to Castle Hill Public School, it certainly will not be goodbye to the Castle Hill community. I look forward to working with Bryan closely over the coming years.
MINIMBAH ABORIGINAL PRIMARY SCHOOL
Mr RICHARD TORBAY
(Northern Tablelands) [1.53 p.m.]: There is a lot of corporate and political speak about the variable benefits of top-down and bottom-up management. I have always been a strong believer in the latter. Good leadership comes from empowering individuals and communities to make change. I want to speak about some initiatives that exemplify this approach in Armidale and that are achieving most impressive results. They centre on Minimbah, a small primary school and pre-school for Aboriginal children in Armidale. The primary school, with approximately 40 students, was established in 1997. The pre-school, with 75 students, began much earlier.
During the past 18 months the school has opened its doors to what its Principal, Carolyn Briggs, describes as practical reconciliation. As a result it has established strong relationships with the Armidale School, known as TAS, one of the city's oldest independent schools, with an enrolment of 620 students, and a group of University of New England students working with New England Mutual, the largest regional credit union in New South Wales—a wonderful combination of committee organisations and institutions. Over many years TAS has had an ad hoc relationship with Minimbah but 18 months ago senior English teacher Barney Buntine formalised the relationship. Each week up to 30 students from the TAS senior school visit Minimbah during lunch hour to read and play sport. At the beginning there was some suspicion on both sides but over the months the relationship has developed into one with positive and genuine enthusiasm.
Ms Briggs says her students love the visits from the TAS boys and cannot wait for them to arrive each week. From the TAS perspective the number of boys wanting to participate has grown from an initial 7 to 30. From this initiative a number of others have blossomed. Minimbah students now visit TAS to use its covered swimming pool each week. Minimbah students have played in TAS primary school rugby teams during the season. The TAS junior school and Minimbah shared a joint athletics carnival this year. For NAIDOC Week the Minimbah students celebrated with TAS at a ceremony conducted by TAS Aboriginal students and the whole school.
TAS now has 15 Aboriginal students enrolled, 12 through scholarships. Headmaster Murray Guest says the change in attitude across the school community from the mid-1990s when the first Aboriginal student set foot in the school has been remarkable. You can have all the posters and slogans in the world about reconciliation, he told me, but when you see the way the students now intermix with genuine friendship and learn and grow together, that is what makes the difference. He says it has changed the culture of the school. An Aboriginal graduate from TAS now works for a Senator, and another who has just completed the Higher School Certificate was a school prefect and house captain. He plans to study science and then medicine at Melbourne University.
Another remarkable outcome has been an initiative by the Students in Free Enterprise group at the University of New England, supported by New England Mutual. They approached Minimbah to teach the school students financial literacy. What they found when they wanted the children to open bank accounts was astounding. Ninety five percent of the students had no birth certificates. That meant they could not apply for bank accounts, drivers licences or passports. Next year it will be mandatory for all students enrolling in preschool to present birth certificates. However, what about the 95 per cent at Minimbah? That has been resolved. When the Students in Free Enterprise students and New England Mutual approached me I contacted the Attorney General, who has organised for personnel from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages to come to Minimbah to register up to 100 Aboriginal children on 29 November. The school has organised a celebration day and is expecting approximately 300 parents and friends to attend. Ms Briggs says the response has been remarkable.
I believe this problem is widespread and under the radar. Hundreds, even thousands, of Aboriginal children in New South Wales are believed to be in the same predicament. An explanation given to me is that Aboriginal mothers in hospital for the birth of their children were given a package with the paper work but had little idea of how to proceed. Many Aboriginal children were enrolled at school and preschool through their blue books, which also assisted in their immunisation records and other records. Although greater numbers of newborn Aboriginal children are now being registered at birth there are many who have missed this process. These are just beginnings for Minimbah. Ms Briggs's openness to the outside world has been rewarded. TAS, the University of New England and New England Mutual have all been equally rewarded. Reconciliation in action has positive momentum and one can only speculate on how far and wide it will evolve from this point.
[The Acting-Speaker (Mr John Barilaro) left the chair at 1.58 p.m. The House resumed at 2.15 p.m.
EDITOR OF DEBATES APPOINTMENT
I inform the House of the appointment on 22 November 2011 of Mr Mark Faulkner as Editor of Debates.
DEATH OF JOHN DAVID BOOTH, FORMER MEMBER FOR WAKEHURST
It is with regret that I have to inform the House of the death on 17 November 2011 of John David Booth, a former member of the Legislative Assembly, who served as the member for Wakehurst from 24 March 1984 to 3 May 1991. On behalf of the House I extend to the family the deep sympathy of the Legislative Assembly in the loss sustained.
Members and officers of the House stood in their places as a mark of respect
ASSENT TO BILLS
Assent to the following bills was reported:
Aboriginal Land Rights Amendment (Housing) Bill 2011
Sporting Venues Authorities Amendment (Venues NSW) Bill 2011
Liquor Amendment (3 Strikes) Bill 2011 (No 2)
Plumbing and Drainage Bill 2011
Children Legislation Amendment (Child Death Review Team) Bill 2011
Redfern-Waterloo Authority Repeal Bill 2011
Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill (No 2) 2011
Protection of the Environment Legislation Amendment Bill 2011
Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Amendment (Children in Vehicles) Bill 2011
ADMINISTRATION OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE STATE
I report the receipt of the following message from the Administrator:
James Allsop Office of the Governor
Administrator Sydney, 19 November 2011
The Honourable Justice James Allsop, Administrator of the State of New South Wales, has the honour to inform the Legislative Assembly that he assumed the administration of the Government of the State at 10.10 a.m. on Saturday 19 November 2011.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Notices of Motions
General Business Notices of Motions (Business with Precedence) given.
[Question time commenced at 2.23 p.m.
POLICE DEATH AND DISABILITY SCHEME
Mr JOHN ROBERTSON:
My question without notice is directed to the Premier. Why did the Premier not front the 5,000 police officers that marched on Parliament to explain his Government's decision to cut their death and disability payments?
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
It is now clear to me why on Saturday night the Leader of the Opposition tried to claim victory in the Clarence by-election. Although I have had a number of meetings today, I managed to listen to a couple of news bulletins at two o'clock. The number of police reported by the media certainly was not 5,000, just as what is required to win a by-election or election is not 28 per cent of the vote.
Order! Opposition members will come to order and cease interjecting.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
The only relevance of 28 per cent is that it is twice the popularity rating of the Leader of the Opposition. The members of the Tuggerah branch of the National Servicemen's Association in the gallery today—whom I thank for their service—should understand that the position taken today by the Leader of the Opposition on police death and disability may not be his position tomorrow. Throughout his period of leadership of the Opposition we have seen changing positions on coal seam gas and the Solar Bonus Scheme. He flips and flops depending on the way the media is running or the way in which Sussex Street and Sydney Trades Hall is asking him to operate.
I do note earlier claims by the Leader of the Opposition that the Clarence by-election would be a referendum, amongst other things, on police death and disability. By any measure, the result on Saturday night in Clarence demonstrates that community's support for the fair but tough measures that this Government is taking to clean up the mess left to us by those opposite. That mess includes the changes they made to the death and disability scheme for police.
Were the death and disability scheme allowed to remain unchanged, it would, in the decades ahead, become financially unsustainable and provide zero protection for injured police.
I say to the leader of the National Party that the 56 per cent primary vote result for The Nationals, the second highest in the history of Clarence, was a good result. The Nationals have every right to celebrate, and I look forward to welcoming Chris Gulaptis to this Chamber later in the week. Apparently there was a second celebration on Saturday night and that was the Leader of the Opposition celebrating Labor achieving a 28 per cent vote.
We know that the Federal Labor Party is celebrating a 30 per cent rating, but not even it would celebrate 28 per cent.
Mr MICHAEL DALEY:
Point of order: The question was not about Clarence. The word "Clarence" was not mentioned in the question, which was about why the Premier had no respect for the police. He could have at least turned up to show some respect to police today.
Order! I understand the point of order. The Premier has answered that aspect of the question. I remind the Premier to remain generally relevant.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
If Saturday was a referendum in relation to death and disability, it was an overwhelming endorsement of the tough and fair decisions being made by this Government. I make the point that even with the changes to the New South Wales death and disability scheme for police it will remain the most generous of any such scheme in Australia. Its focus is on getting police back to work rather than giving them a lump sum payment that will not encourage them to rehabilitate themselves or to take up jobs again. A lump sum payment to police on their way out gives them the message that they are no longer our problem. The reality is that if we do not fix the death and disability scheme, there will be no protection provided for hard-working police in the future. The Government has listened to the Police Association of New South Wales and made changes to the scheme in recognition of its concerns.
The bottom line is that this Government was elected to fix problems such as a scheme that is not working and does nothing to help the many fine police officers who want to return to work after being injured on the job. I have every sympathy and support for police who put their lives on the line to protect the public. The changes the Government is making will help police. It will give them fair compensation and encourage them to return to work should they be injured on the job. That is why the changes should be supported by the Parliament, just as they were supported by the voters of Clarence on Saturday.
Mr BART BASSETT:
I ask the Premier a question without notice. What impact will the Federal Government's penalty on mining royalties have on New South Wales infrastructure plans?
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
I thank the member for his question. It seems that whether in Canberra, where Labor is currently attracting 30 per cent of the vote, or in New South Wales, where Labor attracted 28 per cent of the vote in the Clarence by-election, people are turning their backs on the Labor Party. That is no surprise because Labor continues to rob New South Wales—the nation's largest State—of vital infrastructure funding. The funding threatened by the Prime Minister and Federal Treasurer is money that belongs to the people of New South Wales. The citizens of this State pay taxes, including the goods and services tax, to a Federal Labor Government that seeks to divert its funding to other States.
Order! I call the member for Wollongong to order.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
That funding is being diverted to other States, including those that are already benefitting from the mining boom. To make matters worse, the Commonwealth has now imposed an insidious carbon tax, which will affect not only the people but also the economy of this State. Each year that carbon tax will force up family power bills by $500 and an average small business power bill by up to $4,000, slash at least 31,000 jobs and deliver a $3.7 billion hit to the State's economy. So we took the only option open to us. The Treasurer announced in the State budget earlier this year an increase in mining royalties of $900 million over three years.
The aim was to claw back some of the carbon tax funding that had been drained out of New South Wales and diverted to other States. So what does the Commonwealth do? Yesterday the Prime Minister and the Federal Treasurer again singled out New South Wales for punishment by threatening to withdraw infrastructure funding from the Regional Infrastructure Fund unless we scrap those royalty increases. They did not threaten to withdraw funding from Western Australia, which also increased its royalties. They only threatened the people of this State. Yet again a vendetta is being run by Federal Minister Anthony Albanese and others in the Federal Cabinet against the people of this State.
Let me make it clear: New South Wales does not intend to back down. We are determined to recover the cost of Labor's unfair carbon tax through an increase in mining royalties. The fact is that of the $6 billion in Federal Labor's Regional Infrastructure Fund $2 billion has already been committed to Western Australia and $2 billion to Queensland. Of a $6 billion fund only $2 billion is left for the rest of Australia. Only $2 billion is left in that fund to be shared between States such as Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania. Only $2 billion is left to be shared amongst two thirds of the nation's population. They are a bunch of thieves.
Despite the March election result that has left Federal Labor's colleagues in this State sitting on two benches in this Chamber, Federal Labor has not got the message about State Labor's incompetence in trying to apply for Federal infrastructure funds. They have not got the message about New South Wales deserving its share of Federal infrastructure funds for the people across our communities, some of whom reside in Federal Labor electorates on the Central Coast, on the north coast and across western Sydney. Those people will be fascinated to know that the Federal Labor Party, which is supported by those opposite, are determined to deny them the infrastructure funding they deserve.
After 16 years the State finally has a government that is determined to put together a State infrastructure strategy upon which people can rely. We recently put forward our priority projects, which include the North West Rail Link, the Pacific Highway and the Port Botany road links, the M4 and M5. We put forward a comprehensive submission, unlike the flimsy three-page document put forward by the member for Toongabbie when he was Premier of the State. We are not going to be bullied by the Federal Government. We will proceed with our increase in mining royalties and we expect the Federal Government to meet its obligation to reimburse the companies affected. We will continue to push for a fair share of infrastructure funding for New South Wales and we will continue to plan for the roads, the rail projects and other infrastructure that New South Wales desperately needs and was denied by those opposite for 16 years and by Canberra for the last four years. They are a bunch of thieves and they are about to be exposed for it.
POLICE DEATH AND DISABILITY SCHEME
Mr NATHAN REES:
My question is directed to the Premier. In relation to the death and disability scheme the Minister for Police and Emergency Services said today, "There are time constraints because the insurance company has given the Government a deadline." Why has the Government put the interests of a private insurance company, which will profit from the new death and disability scheme, ahead of negotiating with New South Wales police officers?
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
I say again that changes made by those opposite when in government have ensured that this scheme, if it remains unchanged, will not be financially sustainable.
Order! I call the Leader of the Opposition to order.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
At a cost of $2.5 billion to the budget this scheme, if left unchanged, is unsustainable, just as it is unsustainable for the Police Association to say on the one hand that it wants to see reforms and on the other hand that it does not want to see any change to payments and contributions.
We are making the tough decisions. As of today, as of yesterday, as of April, May, June and July this year, discussions have been held between the New South Wales Police Association, New South Wales Police and the New South Wales Government.
Mr John Robertson:
And you can't land the deal.
Order! I call the Leader of the Opposition to order for the second time. The Leader of the Opposition will cease interjecting. He will have his opportunity to debate this issue later.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
I thought the Leader of The Nationals landed a deal on Saturday night—56 per cent suggests that he landed the deal.
Mr John Robertson:
He had the solar panelling installed on Saturday.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
Did the Leader of the Opposition refer to the Solar Bonus Scheme? Talk about landing a deal. The Solar Bonus Scheme was meant to cost $400 million. Members of the Tuggerah ex-servicemen's club and the parents of the students of Kyogle High School who are in the gallery today will pay more because the cost of the Solar Bonus Scheme has blown out to $1.9 billion. That is not the sort of economics that this Government is prepared to put up with. That sort of economics provides absolutely no assurance to taxpayers about the future.
Order! I call the member for Wollongong to order for the second time.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
Equally, the changes made by those opposite when in power to the police death and disability scheme have ensured that those who remain in the police service have no confidence that the police death and disability scheme, if left unchanged, will provide them with the protection they deserve. The scheme that will be in place will still be the most generous of its type in the nation. Most importantly, the Minister for Police and Emergency Services is ensuring that police who are injured on the job and want to return to work as police officers will be encouraged to do so. Under the previous Government they were given a cheque and sent on their way. As a result, it was left to their families, their potential employers—if they were lucky enough to get jobs—and others to deal with the problems that police officers encounter when they are injured on the job. We have one of our own in this Chamber who can attest to that. As I said before, the Minister for Police and Emergency Services and the Commissioner of Police continue to talk to the Police Association about the needed reforms in this area.
Order! I call the member for Canterbury to order.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
Just because an issue is difficult does not mean that we ignore it. We do not ignore issues that, if left unchanged, would threaten the death and disability scheme that police are rightfully entitled to. As I said, the scheme under our changes will still be the most generous of its kind in the nation.
Mr GLENN BROOKES:
My question is addressed to the Treasurer. What steps has the Government taken to protect its tax base and budget?
Mr MIKE BAIRD:
I thank the member for East Hills, who comes from small business and understands responsible budgets. He understands the obligations involved in employing people and getting the economy going. I am pleased that he represents the community of East Hills and small business in this place. Today we saw yet again the Federal Government decide to take out its anger on New South Wales. For some reason it has a vendetta against New South Wales. The O'Farrell Government is determined to stand up for New South Wales and maintain control over our economic destiny.
It is our right to apply our State taxes as required to deliver the services and infrastructure that this State needs.
That is not easy to do when about one half of State revenue comes from the Commonwealth. It is even more difficult to do when the Federal Labor Government appears to be openly hostile towards the people of New South Wales. The Leader of the Opposition referred to "spine" in an earlier interjection. Today he has the chance to stand up to his colleagues in Canberra and tell them that their actions are not in the interests of this State. But we will not hear a peep from him on that issue. Let us look at the facts. Canberra has delivered the carbon tax—a billion dollar hit to the budget—without consultation with, or compensation for, the people of New South Wales. Victoria will receive billions of dollars. Victoria, whose electricity assets are owned by the Government of France, received $800 million. New South Wales got nothing.
When the first round of Federal funding from Infrastructure Australia came through—the second part of this equation—how much percentage did New South Wales get? We got 2 per cent. Despite the mandate delivered by the people of New South Wales to the O'Farrell Government, the Federal Government in Canberra still refuses to provide funds for the North West Rail Link. Today, in another hit to New South Wales, we saw the Federal Treasurer and the Prime Minister attempt to take more funds from this State through the GST. That was rebuffed by Nick Greiner and others as a political stunt, and rightly so.
In addition, when the Regional Infrastructure Fund was first set up—and it was supposed to support rural and regional communities, particularly those in mining-affected regions—we saw $434 million go to Queensland and $480 million go to Western Australia. What did we see come to New South Wales? It was just $2 million. That is a hit to this State and it is particularly a hit to the Hunter and to the Illawarra. I wonder whether members representing the Illawarra will stand up to Canberra today. Are you going to stand up to Canberra?
Order! The member for Keira will come to order, despite being incited by the Treasurer.
Mr MIKE BAIRD:
He should come to order, Madam-Speaker. He should stand up for his community because he has been steamrolled by Canberra. I do not know whether it is because the Federal Treasurer is from Queensland and the Prime Minister is from Victoria.
Order! I call the member for Keira to order.
Mr MIKE BAIRD:
Whatever it is, they have got it in for New South Wales and that is unacceptable. Since 1884 New South Wales has had the right to raise mining royalties, and the Federal Government wants to take that right away from us. But we have got news for the Federal Government. As the Premier said—and if the Leader of the Opposition wants to know what ticker is, it is right behind me—we will not be intimidated and we will not be bullied by Canberra because the people of New South Wales deserve their fair share. We deserve our fair share of funds—
Order! I call the member for Macquarie Fields to order.
Mr MIKE BAIRD:
—for infrastructure and for services. The people of this State deserve a government that looks after them as opposed to a Federal Government that has got it in for them. The Federal Treasurer may try to run but he cannot hide, because in the Federal election to come we will ensure that the people of this State know about the infrastructure that the Federal Government has not delivered.
Ms LINDA BURNEY:
My question is directed to the Minister for the Environment, and Minister for Heritage.
Mr Ray Williams:
Order! Those kinds of comments are not appropriate. The member for Canterbury has the call.
Ms LINDA BURNEY:
Does the Minister accept that as the Minister for the Environment she has an obligation to warn the public promptly when she becomes aware of potentially dangerous chemical spills?
Order! An Opposition member asked the question and Opposition members should listen to the answer.
Ms ROBYN PARKER:
We have spoken about this matter over and over again. In relation to warnings to the public, I note that a submission was made to the Orica inquiry from the Stockton branch of the Australian Labor Party. The submission states:
The Stockton branch of the ALP has long been concerned about the pollution coming from Kooragang Island. Complaints have generally fallen on deaf ears!
Order! I call the member for Oatley to order.
Ms ROBYN PARKER:
The submission goes on to say:
In September 2003, the following resolution was carried at the monthly meeting of the Stockton branch.
The Stockton Branch of the ALP informs the Minister for Emergency Services that it views—with great concern—the almost complete lack of notification—
The member for Mount Druitt should listen to this. I know he is deaf but he should listen. I repeat:
The Stockton Branch of the ALP informs the Minister for Emergency Services that it views—with great concern—the almost complete lack of notification following the latest toxic gas escape on Kooragang Island, especially given that Stockton was in electrical blackout at the time.
What did the former Government do about that? Nothing. Did the former Government change any legislation? Did it make any changes? No. Did the former Government do anything? No. The submission from the Stockton branch of the Australian Labor Party goes on to say—
Mr Nathan Rees:
Point of order—
Order! Members will come to order. I cannot hear the point of order.
Mr Paul Toole:
Come on, Nathan, get on with it.
Order! The member for Toongabbie will wait until Government members have come to order. I call the member for Wakehurst to order.
Mr Nathan Rees:
Point of order: My point of order relates to Standing Order 129. If this keeps up we might be compelled to release Pennant Hills branch's minutes.
Order! That is not a point of order, as the member well knows. The Minister has the call.
Ms ROBYN PARKER:
The submission goes on to say:
At long last, heavy industry on Kooragang Island is beginning to be held to account. The Premier's letter to Stockton residents dated 6 October outlined the strengthening of laws to give better environmental protection, following the O'Reilly Report. This is most welcome ...
It is also noted recently that the Environment Minister, Robyn Parker, on Friday 21 October held an industry and environmental round-table at Mayfield where she stated that the state government's new environmental laws would go beyond the recommendations of the O'Reilly review.
The Stockton branch called for some attention but there was no change. To reiterate: Since the Orica incident this Government has made changes. We have reformed the Environment Protection Authority and we have introduced legislation that has passed both Houses. Opposition members did not oppose the legislation because they knew it was the right thing and they knew they should have done it when the Stockton branch asked them to in 2003. It is about industry notifying.
SPEED ZONES AUDIT
Mr STEPHEN BROMHEAD:
My question is directed to the Deputy Premier. Members will remember that the last time I rose to ask a question I brought the House to a halt and the Premier was left dumbfounded. How is the Government saving lives and cutting congestion on our roads?
Mr ANDREW STONER:
I thank the member for Myall Lakes for his question. It is great to see him back. He is obviously a man with a keen interest in road safety. For many years drivers were incredibly frustrated with the inconsistent and confusing speed limits on roads around this State. One cause of their frustration was Labor's snap decision to slash 10 kilometres an hour off the speed limit on the Newell Highway. Under Labor, speed limits were progressively reduced and made more confusing—and were often accompanied by a strategically placed speed camera. Unlike those opposite, we listened to the community and to the experts. Prior to the election we committed to introducing safer and simpler speed limits. We are delivering on that commitment.
The first step was the Auditor-General's investigation into the operation of fixed and mobile speed cameras. We have removed more than 30 of those. I am happy to report today that, with the help of community feedback through the Safer Roads NSW website, this Government has now identified 100 roads that will have their speed limits reviewed. The roads to be reviewed are a mix of rural and metropolitan locations and include the Anzac Bridge, the Bells Line of Road and several locations on the Pacific and Princes highways. I cannot see Coronation Road in Enfield on the list. I would encourage the shadow Minister for Roads and Ports to visit the website and nominate it for review.
Mr Michael Daley:
Point of order: The Deputy Premier wants to talk about people's driving records.
Order! What is the member's point of order?
Mr Michael Daley:
I remind him of the day he drove into a creek in his taxpayer-funded car.
Order! That is not a point of order. The member for Maroubra will resume his seat. I call the member for Maroubra to order. I call the member for Maroubra to order for the second time.
Mr ANDREW STONER:
Already more than 27,000 people have visited our Safer Roads NSW website and we have received more than 2,600 submissions from across the State. The information has helped the Centre for Road Safety to prioritise the roads to be reviewed between now and March 2112. I encourage all drivers, including members of Parliament—even the member from the other place who drives a black Honda CRV—to visit the website. For years, we heard Labor going on about the black Honda of the member for Willoughby. The Hansard
shows that almost every time former Minister David Campbell—who is apparently in the House today—was asked a question about his portfolio he somehow spent more time talking about the car of the member for Willoughby than answering the question.
However, after reading today's Sydney Morning Herald
it seems that we were focused on the wrong black Honda. From the article we see that for New South Wales Labor even the simple act of buying a car becomes "a Byzantine affair". In what sounds like an episode of The Sopranos
, apparently Eddie's son Moses bought a car for Eric that was initially paid for by a property developer named Rocco but registered to Rocco's sister Nata. Somehow along the way Eric apparently ended up paying $10,000 less for the car than the list price. Eddie later told the Sydney Morning Herald
, "You write one thing out of place, I tell you what, I will go for you, for the jugular." Charming! Meanwhile, the dealer reportedly said, "I didn't even have a chance to give him instructions for the new car. He's just jumped in the car and left without a word." Unfortunately for New South Wales, instead of just keeping on driving, Eric went on to cook up the dud deal of the century—the wreckage of which this Government is now trying to salvage. In conclusion, I encourage all drivers to visit the Safer Roads NSW website to participate in this important initiative.
COAL SEAM GAS EXPLORATION
Dr ANDREW McDONALD:
My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Why did the Minister give permission for the neonatal intensive care unit at Newcastle to be used in advertisements promoting coal seam gas companies in New South Wales?
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER:
I did not.
BUS DRIVER SALARIES AND CONDITIONS
Mr ANDREW ROHAN:
My question is directed to the Minister for Transport.
Order! I will call Government members to order if they do not cease interjecting. I cannot hear the member for Smithfield.
Mr ANDREW ROHAN:
What progress has been made in negotiating a new pay deal for bus drivers?
Ms GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN:
I thank the member for his important question. I am sure all members would like to hear my response. I am pleased to inform the House that this Government has successfully negotiated a new pay deal with the 4,000 hardworking bus drivers employed by the State Transit Authority. The deal was struck last Thursday. The online newsletter of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union reported, "Over 75 per cent of members voted to accept it—a barnstorming result." That is not the Government saying that; it is the union saying it. The newsletter also described the three-year deal as fair and reasonable.
The new deal gives bus drivers wage increases of up to 3.25 per cent annually over three years—proving it is possible to achieve wage rises of more than 2.5 per cent if people are prepared to take a reasonable approach to productivity gains. We all want a more efficient public sector and we want best practice in our workplaces. There are benefits for those who share this aspiration. I know members opposite do not want to hear this because they did not have the guts to do it, but excellent outcomes for both employees and employers are completely achievable under this Government's public sector wages policy, especially when parties enter into negotiations in a constructive manner and with good faith.
The new agreement rewards bus drivers for negotiating improved work practices and contributes to improved customer service, which is very important. The State Transit Bus Drivers Award is the first New South Wales industrial agreement between a New South Wales government agency and a union with a wage increase above 2.5 per cent. This has occurred under the Government's new public sector wages policy, which was introduced in June this year. This is testament to the fact that the Government's new public sector wages policy is working. It is working to the benefit of public sector employees and government agency employers and at the same time it is providing better service to the public, which is so critical. This Government is committed to ensuring fair work conditions for its employees and allowing increases in remuneration and other conditions of employment that do not reduce services to the public and are consistent with maintaining fiscal sustainability.
At the start of negotiations for the new bus driver award State Transit received a log of claims from the Rail, Tram and Bus Union. State Transit then held informal talks with the union about its log of claims and the Government's changes to the wages policy. It was an ongoing process. During these discussions State Transit fully outlined the new wages policy and explained that any increase in wages above 2.5 per cent had to be met by employee-related cost savings. As well, the savings to fund payments above 2.5 per cent had to be achieved prior to any further wage increase being passed on to the employees.
With these philosophies outlined, State Transit sought initiatives from the Rail, Tram and Bus Union that would enable an offer to be greater than 2.5 per cent. At the moment the average bus driver earns $67,000, including average overtime and penalty shift payments. Under the new deal, drivers will receive an increase of almost $5,000 a year. The successful negotiation and finalisation of this award is a perfect example of how the Government's wages policy can deliver a good outcome for all sides. It is a good outcome for drivers, a good outcome for the public and a good outcome in making sure that this Government has a responsible fiscal strategy.
COAL SEAM GAS EXPLORATION
Mr JOHN ROBERTSON:
My question is directed to the Premier. In light of yesterday's announcement that the Federal Government will invest $200 million to research the effects of coal seam gas mining on the environment, will the Premier now adopt our proposal to suspend all coal seam gas exploration licences?
Order! Government members will come to order. The member for Monaro will come to order.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
It is extraordinary that somebody who was part of a Government that presided over an orgy of release of exploration licences for coal seam gas, including across cities and towns throughout New South Wales, would actually ask that question. We are seeking some advice in relation to the details of the Prime Minister's proposal, which I think everybody accepts has been made not necessarily in the public interest but in the interest of Labor securing the passage of its mining resource rent tax legislation through the Federal Parliament.
As the Government has tried to grapple with the issue left to us by those opposite, it has also become clear that what is lacking in New South Wales is any sort of pathway or process that enables various uses of land to be assessed when developments and licences are applied for. What we have not had in New South Wales is a process that, for instance, allows the community to have a say. We know that those opposite, whether through part 3A or other changes to the planning Act, were not interested in the public interest. We are interested. We are also interested in ensuring that prime agricultural land—land that is used for other purposes—is weighed in the process because some clear-cut choices will be made if there is a proper weighing-up of the various benefits to the State of different land uses. We will continue, through the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, to put together our strategic land use policy.
That policy is not about a short-term fix to get a particular piece of legislation through this Chamber or the other Chamber. It is about putting in place a regime that has been lacking in New South Wales; a regime that will ensure that scientific evidence and proper land use are considered but, more importantly, that the community gets a say. There is no doubt that this is another of the difficult issues left to us by those opposite who, for reasons that I will never understand, have allowed coal seam gas exploration licences to exist across the whole of this city, across areas of urban development, across regional New South Wales, and across water catchments and environmentally sensitive land as well as areas of the State that by any measure are prime agricultural land. What we are seeing from the Leader of the Opposition, as I predicted in answering the first question in mentioning the Tuggerah branch of the National Servicemen's Association, is yet another day-by-day approach to an issue designed to get headlines. That is not going to win him the next election. It did not even get him more than 28 per cent in Clarence.
CROWN PRINCESS MARY CANCER CENTRE WESTMEAD
Dr GEOFF LEE:
My question is directed to the Minister for Health. How is the New South Wales Government sharing its expertise in cancer research with Denmark?
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER:
I thank the member for Parramatta for the question. He had the great privilege yesterday, as I did, of accompanying Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark on a tour of the cancer centre at Westmead Hospital. We were able to share the excitement of all the staff—nurses, doctors, cleaners, maintenance workers and others, and patients and their families as the Princess toured the wards. She saw patients in the chemotherapy, radiation therapy and radiation oncology areas. It did not matter where she went, there were people cheering at every corner she turned and warmly welcoming her.
Order! Opposition members will come to order. This is a very serious subject.
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER:
I am surprised that they would be so scornful about this very gracious Princess who did us proud in visiting the centre at Westmead. I particularly noticed when she spoke to a patient, Alicia Hopkins, a Blue Mountains High School teacher who in June last year, just eight weeks after giving birth, was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive form of cancer. At one point she was on the critical list and her life was seriously in question. The cancer had started in the placenta and spread to her liver, lungs and brain. However, with complex and aggressive treatment she is expected to be cured. I am advised that she can have more children and her future looks great. For Alicia and all who met Crown Princess Mary at Westmead Hospital cancer centre yesterday it was thrilling to hear that the centre would be renamed the Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre Westmead. This is a fantastic endorsement of the work that the cancer centre at Westmead does. It also sends an important message to the patients of western Sydney and beyond who are cared for by the hospital that they are getting the best care in the world.
Ms Linda Burney:
It's just a name change.
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER:
I note the disparaging remark by the member for Canterbury that this is "just a name change". To suggest the Crown Princess would give permission for her name to be used without a real purpose is disgraceful. The director of the centre, Professor Paul Harnett, told me that in an impetuous moment he wrote to the Crown Princess to seek her help in supporting the collaborative efforts that had developed between the centre and Denmark in recent years. He was stunned to get a positive response, and yesterday was the happy result. How did this all come to pass? In 2007-08, Westmead Hospital hosted a two-year fellowship for trainee oncologist Dr Frede Donskov from Denmark. Dr Donskov learnt about new ways of delivering cancer care while at Westmead and was keen to implement these in Denmark on his return. Cancer outcomes in Denmark had been surprisingly poor and Dr Donskov believed these were largely related to inferior organisation of cancer services compared with Westmead. This generated significant media interest in Denmark and subsequently a series of delegations came to Australia from Denmark and Professor Hartnett was invited to Denmark on a number of occasions.
For the record, this centre is the flagship of a network of services for patients with cancer in the west of Sydney. Doctors there also provide services at other smaller hospitals in the district so patients can obtain cancer care wherever they live. The centre sees about 3,000 new cancer patients every year, provides 32,000 consultations, and gives 15,000 doses of chemotherapy and about 32,000 doses of radiotherapy. The centre not only has an international reputation for its clinical work and research but places great importance on palliative care and ensuring the patient is at the centre of decision-making in everything that happens. I again congratulate all involved with this fabulous centre. They should be extremely proud of the fact that the Crown Princess permitted the facility to be called the Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre Westmead. I wish all who work there and those who are treated there well in the future.
Question time concluded at 3.08 p.m.
The Clerk announced the receipt, pursuant to section 63C of the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983, of the Report of the Auditor-General for 2011, Volume Six, received on 18 November 2011.
LEGISLATION REVIEW COMMITTEE
Mr Stephen Bromhead,
as Chair, tabled the report of the Legislation Review Committee entitled "Legislation Review Digest 8/55", dated 22 November 2011 together with minutes of the committee meeting regarding Legislation Review Digest 7/55.
Report ordered to be printed on motion by Mr Stephen Bromhead.
COMMITTEE ON THE HEALTH CARE COMPLAINTS COMMISSION
Reference: Inquiry into Health Care Complaints and Complaints Handling in New South Wales
Mrs LESLIE WILLIAMS:
I inform the House that, pursuant to Standing Order 299 (1), the Committee on the Health Care Complaints Commission has resolved to conduct an inquiry into health care complaints and complaints handling in New South Wales, the full details of which are available on the Committee's home page.
The Clerk announced that the following petitions signed by fewer than 500 persons were lodged for presentation:
Petition opposing the sale of animals in pet shops, received from Ms Clover Moore
Animals Performing in Circuses
Petition requesting a ban on exotic animals performing in circuses, received from Ms Clover Moore.
Mental Health Services
Petition requesting increased funding for mental health services, received from Ms Clover Moore
Container Deposit Levy
Petition requesting the Government introduce a container deposit levy to reduce litter and increase recycling rates of drink containers, received from Ms Clover Moore.
The Clerk announced that the following petition signed by more than 500 persons was lodged for presentation:
Walsh Bay Precinct Public Transport
Petition requesting improved bus services for the Walsh Bay precinct, and ferry services for the new wharf at pier 2/3, received from Ms Clover Moore
The Clerk announced that the following Ministers had lodged responses to petitions signed by more than 500 persons:
The Hon. Katrina Hodgkinson—Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre—lodged 11 October 2011 (Mr Mark Speakman)
The Hon. Adrian Piccoli—Confucius Classrooms—lodged 12 October 2011 (Dr Geoff Lee)
The Hon. Katrina Hodgkinson—Belmont Baths—lodged 12 October 2011 (Mr Garry Edwards)
CONSIDERATION OF MOTIONS TO BE ACCORDED PRIORITY
Federal Infrastructure Funding
Mr BART BASSETT
(Londonderry) [3.14 p.m.]: My motion, that this House condemns the Federal Government for its failure to provide New South Wales with its fair share of infrastructure funding, deserves priority because of the current Federal Government's arrogant and lazy attitude towards New South Wales. The article in the Daily Telegraph
today headed "NSW's $900 million mine shaft—Julia Gillard dishes out punishment for O'Farrell's carbon tax offsets " is the icing on the cake when it comes to the management of public finances by those opposite and their counterparts who sit on the Treasury benches in Canberra.
Order! Members who wish to have private conversations should do so outside the Chamber.
Mr BART BASSETT:
Canberra is recklessly spending our money on wasted projects and imposing a new tax that it never had a mandate for and indeed promised by the Prime Minister, Julia—no carbon tax under any government I lead—Gillard. For 16 years Labor, on the other side now, treated the government of New South Wales as its own personal plaything with the people of New South Wales suffering—
Ms Noreen Hay:
Point of order: The member opposite should be arguing why his motion should be accorded priority. He is going into the body of the motion.
The member for Londonderry has barely begun to argue why his motion should be accorded priority. The member for Londonderry has the call.
Mr BART BASSETT:
New South Wales is still suffering after 16 years of Labor. Labor must stop pretending that the election result in March never happened and respect the overwhelming mandate that the new Liberal-Nationals Coalition Government, led by Premier Barry O'Farrell and Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner, received to implement reforms that are in our State's long-term interest and not just in the short-term interest of the factional chiefs, the Independents and The Greens. It is a priority that this House debate what is in the State and national interest, and it is time to get the priorities right. It is time to act. It is time for leadership. It is time for revision. It is time that the minority Federal Labor Government gave New South Wales its fair share of funding for nation building infrastructure. It is a priority that we address the infrastructure backlog. If New South Wales had matched the growth rate of Victoria in the first decade of the twenty-first century, we would have an additional 273,000 jobs and the State economy would be more than $22 billion larger than it is.
It is important to emphasise where we would be today if the right priorities had been addressed. To unlock our potential the O'Farrell-Stoner Liberal-Nationals Coalition Government has developed a long-term State Plan that is fully costed and deliverable. That is in stark contrast to what those opposite did when they were in government. Rather than spin and media-driven announcements, we have put a submission to the Federal Government that clearly sets out the funding priorities. Those opposite might like to have a good look at it. I am sure they would remember the media reporting on their submissions to the Federal Government. Do they remember what happened? Their submissions were knocked back. It got to the stage that even when the State was given money those opposite did not go ahead with their plans, and we now have to give the money back to the Federal Government.
Mr John Robertson:
Point of order: The member is misleading the House. In fact, $2.1 billion was given to New South Wales and this Government is sending it back.
Order! That is not a point of order.
Mr BART BASSETT
: As we note from Infrastructure Australia you need a plan that can implemented so that the money can be well spent. The Leader of the Opposition does not want to listen to this because it brings back terrible memories of when he was in Cabinet and the former Labor Government was failing New South Wales. In 2009 Infrastructure Australia described the former Government's submissions as totally inadequate. The report said that New South Wales could miss out on Federal Government money for vital projects and cited lack of detail on the benefits and costings for its key projects and lack of integrated planning. The report further said, "It clearly took them by surprise and they are constantly updating the submission—it is changing every day." For the past 16 years New South Wales was ripped off by the former State Labor Government and now its Federal comrades are doing exactly the same thing to New South Wales. We cannot forget Julia—no carbon tax under any government I lead—Gillard. But now Labor has imposed a great, big, new tax on the people of New South Wales without a mandate. The Greens and the Independents have failed and that is why my motion deserves priority.
Police Death and Disability Scheme
Mr NATHAN REES
(Toongabbie) [3.19 p.m.]: The Opposition's motion deserves priority because the Government is proposing to ram legislation through the Parliament this week before there has been any good-faith or meaningful negotiations with the men and women of the NSW Police Force. Earlier today we saw 5,000 police men and women occupy Macquarie Street in a show of anger at the O'Farrell Government's dismantling of the police death and disability scheme. Speaker after speaker detailed how they, in the line of duty, have been punched, shot at, kicked, maimed or psychologically scarred. The stories were harrowing and no-one could listen to them and not be moved. One officer, Prue, had been punched and had two prolapsed discs in her back. She got through rehabilitation and went back to work only to have some criminal kick her and fracture her sternum whilst on duty. Officers are attacked with screwdrivers, baseball bats, garden forks, firearms and knives. That information has come direct from police officers.
Order! Members will cease having private conversations.
Mr NATHAN REES:
Prue and her fellow officers went on to detail the psychological impact incurred when officers are required to deal with suicides, car accidents, attacks on children, burnt bodies or "someone who has blown their brains out". No right-minded person could imagine that the psychological impact of confronting these situations is not real and, for some, long lasting. The resilience and courage of our police officers is both extraordinary and demanding of our recognition. Two months ago I stood with other members of this place in the Domain at the Wall of Remembrance as we paid our respects to officers who have fallen in the line of duty.
We all understand that police officers incur additional risks in performing their daily duties, yet in an hypocrisy of mammoth proportions this Government proposes to gut the death and disability scheme that looks after those same officers when they are injured. That hypocrisy is extraordinary. This morning and every day when your Premier goes about his business the police officers of New South Wales keep him safe. When each of us enters this Parliament each day we say hello to special constables who are also part of the NSW Police Force. You are quite happy to accept the safety their expertise provides and you expect them to accept risk on your behalf, but you do not have the fortitude to back them on this important matter. They are on hand to keep us safe, yet here you are buccaneering your way across the industrial relations landscape.
Mr Gareth Ward:
Point of order: My point of order has two parts. First, the member for Toongabbie should direct all his comments through the Chair and, secondly, he should be stating why his motion deserves priority over other business of the House, not debating the motion.
Order! I believe the member has been trying to establish why his motion should be accorded priority. There is no point of order.
Mr NATHAN REES:
As I said at the outset, you are trying to ram the legislation through this week. These people are on hand to keep us safe and you are buccaneering your way across the industrial relations landscape because you do not have the brains or guts to engage in face-to-face negotiations.
Order! The member will direct his comments through the Chair.
Mr NATHAN REES:
The Police Association by any measure is a model of moderate and sensible industrial views; it is strictly politically neutral. All the association asks for is good-faith negotiations. Instead, the arrogance of this Government forced the association's members to march on Parliament House and commence unprecedented industrial action. You do not even have the minimal sense of Qantas' Alan Joyce to recognise that a negotiated outcome is appropriate. Instead, you manifest your cowardice with emails to the association knowing that its executive group will be in Macquarie Street today. To use the words of the Police Association, not mine, the Government is stabbing them in the back. You are all class. This attitude is a disgrace. The Minister for Police and Emergency Services, a former police officer, ought to know better. So, too, the now infamous Troy Grant from Dubbo, the member for Campbelltown and the member for Myall Lakes. Gentlemen, you know that this is the wrong way to go about things.
Order! The member for Toongabbie will direct his comments through the Chair.
Mr NATHAN REES:
Those members know that rather than ramming this legislation through the Parliament in a gung-ho act of industrial relations cowboy activity, they ought to be conducting negotiations in good faith with the Police Association of New South Wales, and recognising that police officers look after us and have done nothing wrong—they keep the people of New South Wales, and their homes and streets safe as they go about their day-to-day business.
Question—That the motion of the member for Londonderry be accorded priority—put.
The House divided.
Mr R. C. Williams
Mr J. D. Williams
Question resolved in the affirmative.
FEDERAL INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING
Mr BART BASSETT
Motion Accorded Priority
(Londonderry) [3.34 p.m.]: I move:
That this House condemns the Federal Government for its failure to provide New South Wales with its fair share of infrastructure funding.
I moved this motion to condemn the Federal Government for its failure to provide New South Wales with its fair share of infrastructure funding because our State's economic future is at risk. A healthy, vibrant and prosperous economy is vital if we are to unlock this State's potential, provide employment prospects for our young people and deliver essential services in infrastructure. To unlock economic growth we need to develop a long-term plan. The Liberal-Nationals Coalition Government has developed the State Plan 2021, a comprehensive blueprint that details how we will achieve the objectives we took to the people in March.
The Government has lodged a submission with Infrastructure Australia requesting funding from the Federal Government for key projects that will help unlock the economy and provide welcome relief to long-suffering commuters who have to endure extensive trips to and from work on congested roads. Unlike the former Government's substandard submissions, the submission under consideration contains proposals for key priorities that are properly planned and fully costed. Three key priorities have been identified: the Pacific Highway upgrade, the north-west rail link, and the Port Botany and Sydney airport transport improvement plan.
As a former mayor from a local government area in the north-west of Sydney I know the effect of neglect of infrastructure on our region, its people and the economy. Together with mayors from the neighbouring Hills and Hornsby shires a submission was made to Prime Minister Julia—there will be no carbon tax—Gillard requesting that the $2.6 billion allocated to build the Epping to Parramatta rail link be diverted to help fund the north-west rail link. The north-west of Sydney is the most car-dependent area in the country and for the past 16 years I have been lobbying for funding for roads and the north-west rail link. The member for Hawkesbury and I also lobbied for the Windsor Road upgrade. The former Labor Government has claimed credit for that, but we had to drag them kicking and screaming to complete the upgrade. Let us not forget that the people of the north-west paid for that upgrade: it was not money that came out of the budget. Every lot sold in north-west Sydney went towards funding the Windsor Road upgrade.
We now have a State Government that is getting on with the job, but it is being held back by a lack of action and the arrogance of the minority Federal Labor Government, which now threatens to punish the people of New South Wales for its own actions and broken promises. Labor has promised the people of the north-west the north-west rail link, which has been promised then scrapped, promised then scrapped, remodelled and then promised again since 1997. The former Labor Government promised 11 new rail projects over 16 years and got around to building half of one—the Chatswood to Epping section of the Parramatta to Chatswood link. If Labor had moved beyond the 24-hour media cycle of promising big but delivering nothing we might have been able to catch the train to Rouse Hill today. Bob Carr promised to have the line operational by 2010. In its place we have seen a litany of expensive failures.
Some $500 million was wasted on the inner west metro and the Chatswood to Epping rail link overran its budget by $1.2 billion—the list goes on. New South Wales taxpayers' money that was wasted on those and other projects could have been better spent. In March the people of New South Wales showed Labor the door and the Coalition was elected to government to implement a plan for the long-term future of New South Wales. It is a future that is not just for the factional chiefs, The Greens and the Independents at the Federal level. The minority Federal Labor Government is continuing down the same path as that taken by those opposite when they were in government: it is preventing the State, individuals, organisations and councils from progressing. Funding from the Regional Infrastructure Fund that the Federal Treasurer has threatened to withhold is for individuals, not-for-profit organisations and councils who apply for funding to build infrastructure in local areas.
Some $6 billion is available in the fund with $4 billion allocated to other States and $2 billion possibly coming to New South Wales. It is being held back because the New South Wales Government had the audacity to say that it would increase the mining royalties to fund the financial gap created by the carbon tax that this State has not been compensated for. The State is going to lose significant amounts of money as a result of the carbon tax and the Government needs to raise royalties to compensate for that. Was there any attempt by the Federal Government to discuss the issue with the State or local governments? No, there was not and the State will have to find the money out of the budget.
Members will recall the rush by Federal Labor to announce the Parramatta rail link in a desperate attempt during the last Federal election to win the electorate of Bennelong for Maxine McKew. A letter from the former Labor Minister for Transport, John Robertson—the same John Robertson who is now Leader of the Opposition—said on 10 August 2010 that the Parramatta to Epping rail link was not a project in the Government's 10-year Metropolitan Transport Plan. If it was not part of the former Government's transport priorities then the question is: Why is the minority Federal Labor Government continuing to fund a rail link that has not been fully thought through, planned and costed?
More importantly, why is the Leader of the Opposition not demanding the money from his Federal Labor mates to help deliver the North West Rail Link, which will benefit his own constituents in Blacktown? The $2.6 billion allocated to this project should be diverted to the North West Rail Link. This motion deserves to be agreed to because our submission to the Federal Government will make a difference to the economy of New South Wales. The Federal Government should provide national leadership, not the petty threats and thuggish tactics we have seen reported in today's Daily Telegraph
. We need to get on with the job of rebuilding infrastructure in New South Wales.
The Federal Government needs to get on with the job by putting aside petty politics and sitting down with our Premier and Treasurer to decide how the money will be reallocated from the Parramatta to Epping rail link to the North West Rail Link. We need that infrastructure funding to come across to those projects that have been clearly articulated in the submission that was lodged with Infrastructure Australia in November this year. Let us get on with the job, let the Federal Government work with the New South Wales Government and let us start rebuilding New South Wales for the good of the New South Wales taxpayer.
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
I recognise in the gallery this afternoon a former member for Tweed, Don Beck, and a former Mayor of Tweed Shire, Lynne Beck. Welcome to Parliament.
FEDERAL INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING
Motion Accorded Priority
Mr MICHAEL DALEY
(Maroubra) [3.41 p.m.]: I move an amendment to the motion as follows:
That the motion be amended by leaving out all words after "That" with a view to inserting instead:
"this House condemns the Government for its failure to provide New South Wales with its fair share of infrastructure funding in its first budget."
That is the crux of this debate this afternoon. If the Government wants to talk about infrastructure spending, it should start with its budget, the first of the O'Farrell Government, which should have had a vision and outline a narrative and a plan for, in the Government's words, getting New South Wales moving. It contained nothing but a $1.3 billion deficit and a cut to infrastructure spending. It is instructive when I reflect on changes in this place. As a new member in September 2005, I remember the O'Farrell Opposition refusing to support motions of the then Labor Government calling on the Howard-Costello Government for more infrastructure funding. At a time when the Howard Government was amassing unprecedented surpluses of $20 billion, it provided no money for Port Botany or for the Pacific Highway, except $1.8 billion over 10 years when we had spent almost double that amount.
It spent some money on a white elephant, the Adelaide to Darwin railway, but provided not one cent to any Premier of the day because they were all Labor Premiers. John Howard chose to give the money back in tax cuts rather than give it to Labor States to build. That is why this State, for more than any other reason, is in the infrastructure predicament it is today. The O'Farrell Government was going to see the sun come up. Premier O'Farrell would fix it. He would put $5 billion straightaway into a fund for infrastructure in New South Wales. An O'Farrell Government would establish a body called Infrastructure NSW with $5 billion in it. It promised local government rivers of gold. We would see bitumen laid and tracks rolled out almost as soon as the O'Farrell Government was elected. It is not happening.
In fact, we have seen a cut in infrastructure spending in this budget. There is no money in the Infrastructure NSW fund. The $5 billion did not make it there. We have seen infrastructure spending cut. A Government that inherited a $730 million surplus now sees us with a $1.3 billion deficit. That is a $2 billion turnaround in one budget. The only plan and vision this Government has for infrastructure spending is an easy, fat one: sit back and wait for electricity poles and wires to be sold, flog off the desalination plant and Port Botany, increase water prices and put some of that money into new infrastructure. It has no vision. That is the fat, lazy, do-nothing way of the O'Farrell Government.
One of the constant themes of this Government is the blame game. When things go well it is because of its doing; when things go badly it is because of international factors, global economics or the carbon tax. Its arguments are completely debunked by people such as Professor John Quiggin of the University of Queensland. Today it blames the Federal Government for not giving it the money for infrastructure. That will be shown to be false this afternoon. Today in question time the Treasurer said, "We have seen the Federal Government refuse to provide funds for the North West Rail Link." Curiously, in the latest round of Infrastructure Australia submissions the O'Farrell Government did not request funding for the North West Rail Link. It cannot have it both ways. It cannot omit to ask the Federal Government for the money and then blame it when it does not give any money for a particular project.
The Treasurer went on, "Since 1884 New South Wales has had the right to obtain mining revenue." No-one is debating that point. Under the Federal Constitution the New South Wales Government has always had the right to levy income taxes. But there is no suggestion it would do that because it is not the right thing to do. It is not the right thing to do now because what comes from one end of Commonwealth funding will go out the other end, as the Federal Treasurer has said today. I remind the Treasurer of his express promise before the election, "The New South Wales Liberals and Nationals have no plans to change mining royalties." That is one of the 100 promises broken very quickly by this Government.
The O'Farrell Government's budget is an abject failure in relation to infrastructure spending. The O'Farrell Government promised in its first 100 days to begin negotiations on the widening of the M5, a road that I am sure the member for Londonderry and the member for Campbelltown would like to see built. Those 100 days have well and truly passed and there is no light on the hill. The Government promised $500 million to upgrade the Princes Highway and for the completion of the South Nowra upgrade. Only $82 million has been spent—another broken promise. It promised $60 million for school maintenance funding. That funding was cut short as well. The Hunter Infrastructure Fund received $1 billion less than promised. The O'Farrell Government has spent $400 million less on infrastructure this year than our Government promised and committed last year.
Major hospital upgrades have been put on the backburner. Investment in public schools has been slashed. State funding for capital expenditure on schools has been slashed from $623 million last year to $357 million this year. Funding has been slashed for hospitals in western Sydney, including a $120 million cut from Blacktown and Mount Druitt and a $50 million cut from Campbelltown Hospital. Western Sydney road users will miss out, with the O'Farrell Government committing just $348 million for western Sydney roads, down from last year's $543 million funding. I could go on. The member for Canterbury will take up where I have left off.
If the Government wants to compare the record of the Federal Labor Government on infrastructure spending with that of the Howard Government I will table on another occasion a chart. I remind the House that in its first budget, the Rudd-Swan budget, the Federal Labor Government gave more for infrastructure spending in one budget than the Howard Government had given us in 10 years. It gave us $1.4 billion for the Hunter Expressway, $3.7 billion for the Pacific Highway, $2.1 billion for the Epping to Chatswood rail link and hundreds of millions of dollars for the Tarcutta bypass on the Hume Highway. The O'Farrell Government should stop bleating about someone else doing it wrong. It should just get on with it and do what it promised.
Mr GARETH WARD
(Kiama) [3.48 p.m.]: I listened intently to the address of my friend the member for Maroubra.
Ms Linda Burney:
You are not intent about anything.
Mr GARETH WARD:
I can tell the member for Canterbury that I thought very carefully about what the member for Maroubra said. I wondered what the people sitting in traffic jams across Sydney thought about his statements. I wondered what the mums and dads who travel up and down the Princes Highway and see cross after cross where people have lost their lives thought about those statements. I wondered what people in the inner west who were told they were going to get a metro project thought about those statements. Do not listen to what Labor members say, look at what they do, or in the case of those opposite what they do not do. I will address some of the remarks of the member for Maroubra in the interests of transparency and accountability in this debate. The member for Maroubra quite clearly said in this place—and people in the gallery and members in this House heard it—that there was no submission to Infrastructure Australia from this Government. Clearly the member for Maroubra has not seen the Strategic Overview document, which details the submission that this Government made this month to Infrastructure Australia.
Ms Linda Burney:
What does it say?
Mr GARETH WARD:
The member for Canterbury should read it. I acknowledge the interjection from the member for Canterbury, who asks, "What does it say?" That indicates to me that Opposition members make statements in this House asserting that things do not exist when they have not even read documentation that is out there. If there was any instance of Labor demonstrating its incapacity to lead this State that was it from the member for Canterbury—she does not even know the documents exists.
Ms Linda Burney:
I said what does it say?
Mr GARETH WARD:
I am about to tell you, but I needed to curry you up a bit first. It says that this Government has made a submission in relation to a number of things: one is the north-west rail project; the second is the Pacific Highway—
Mr Michael Daley:
You had better read that chapter carefully.
Mr GARETH WARD:
I will, and you should read it too.
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! Members will direct their comments through the Chair.
Mr GARETH WARD:
Also Port Botany—all detailed in this submission. Labor does not even acknowledge what the Government has done; Labor is telling us that nothing exists. If there was ever an example of why people cannot trust Labor, there it is. The member for Maroubra spoke about infrastructure. Let us look at the budget papers; there was an allocation of $70 million for local government. The member for Maroubra spoke about local government. We have provided a local government infrastructure renewal scheme which will allow councils to seek support for infrastructure projects in their area, and I certainly hope that local government takes up that call. One of the things the Coalition said it would do if it was elected was establish an infrastructure fund, and that is what we are doing through Infrastructure NSW.
We have already appointed Nick Greiner to head up that body and to lead the infrastructure revival in this State—something that must be done if we are to drive investment, to see jobs return to New South Wales and to see confidence in the New South Wales economy grow so as to make this State number one again, which was lost under the former Government. In relation to Labor's failures in providing infrastructure one does not need to travel too far to see one spectacular failure—the light rail project, the project that was going to extend rail in this city, which clearly failed the people of this State. The former Labor Government made only one application to the Federal Government for funding and it was given $91 million. The former Government then had to give $87 million of that back. We saw half a billion dollars of taxpayers' money spent without a single sleeper laid. How can Labor members sleep at night knowing about that level of failure? Labor has failed the people of this State and it has failed the people of Sydney.
This Government has made a $500 million commitment to upgrade the Princes Highway: stage one, from Mount Pleasant to Toolijooa—something I feel very, very strongly about. The former Labor Government said it would make improvements to the Princes Highway but nothing ever got done. The Minister for Roads and Ports, Duncan Gay, wrote to the Federal Minister suggesting an extension of the national highway network from Gwynneville in Wollongong through to the Jervis Bay turn-off. Where were the Labor members for the Illawarra? They are like the Scarlet Pimpernels of the Parliament today; they are not even in the Chamber to talk about infrastructure development in the Illawarra. They were strangely silent when the Minister for Roads and Ports brought forward this proposal to seek Federal funding. Labor should be condemned and I encourage the House to vote in favour of the motion moved by the member for Londonderry.
Ms LINDA BURNEY
(Canterbury) [3.53 p.m.]: I will make a few observations in relation to this motion. It is absolutely extraordinary the amount of time the Government has spent during this term speaking about Federal issues. They have been parading around and puffing themselves up about Federal issues that will have no effect on these issues. This is the State Government. It is extraordinary the number of times that the Government has raised the issue of the carbon tax and has spent time discussing these sorts of issues. The only conclusion I can come to is that the Government has nothing else to speak about. We know that for any side of government infrastructure spending and infrastructure building are massive challenges. But I will not let this debate conclude without refuting the nonsense that we hear constantly from the other side.
We hear constantly that the new members of the Government are fed up with rubbish, that somehow or other there was no infrastructure investment or no infrastructure development under Labor. I suggest to each and every one of them that they go to any of the major hospitals in this State and see that there has been massive investment in the rebuilding of hospitals right across New South Wales. Government members only have to look at the number of other projects around New South Wales to see that there was massive investment in infrastructure under previous Labor governments. Another point I want to make is that when a government promises infrastructure the most responsible thing to do is to have the funds to be able to pay for those promises. We only have to look at the last budget brought down to see that there was very little—
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! The member for Dubbo and Parliamentary Secretary will have an opportunity to contribute to debate.
Ms LINDA BURNEY:
There was very little consideration given in the last budget—just tiny bits of funding for this and that—for the infrastructure that was promised by the O'Farrell Government prior to the election. As the member for Maroubra said, the only chance in any capacity for the O'Farrell Government to pay for its infrastructure, despite this rubbish today, is to privatise everything that is possible, including poles and wires, Port Botany, the desalination plant and who knows what else. When a government promises something it should know that it has the ability to pay for it without selling off things that are in public ownership.
Mr Troy Grant:
How dare you lecture us when you failed to deliver on the exact things you are talking about. This is the most hypocritical statement.
Ms LINDA BURNEY:
Mr Deputy-Speaker, could you pull the member for Dubbo into line?
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! The member for Dubbo will cease interrupting the member for Canterbury and allow her to continue.
Mr Troy Grant:
She is such a hypocrite. It is unbelievable.
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! If the member wishes to interject he should take a point of order. The member for Canterbury may continue.
Ms LINDA BURNEY:
The creation of Infrastructure NSW raises a number of issues. The first, as we see constantly in newspapers, is the big question about who is really running the State—the Government or Nick Greiner? With the constant comments about there being only one option—to sell off electricity—and the constant comments about mining royalties, one has to ask who is calling the shots in New South Wales. Why bother having a planning and infrastructure Minister when a former Premier, who left government under very dubious circumstances, is calling the shots in New South Wales? [Time expired
Mr BART BASSETT
(Londonderry) [3.58 p.m.], in reply: I thank the member for Maroubra, the member for Kiama and the member for Canterbury for their contributions. I need to address a couple of the issues raised, especially by the member for Canterbury. It is interesting that members of the Opposition talk about selling off things. Who was it who shut down the Parliament so the public and the Parliament could not discuss the sell-off of electricity prior to the election?
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! The member for Canterbury has had her opportunity to contribute to debate.
Mr BART BASSETT:
Those opposite shut down Parliament so there could be no discussion and they could sell it off. During question time today the Leader of the Opposition had the audacity to talk about coal seam gas and ask the Government to take on board his suggestions. When in government the Opposition issued 44 licences.
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! Members will be heard in silence. All members have had an opportunity to contribute to debate. The member is speaking in reply.
Mr BART BASSETT:
I completely understand why those opposite do not like to hear this and why they want to make a lot of noise so that the public cannot hear it. It is because they do not want the public to be reminded. But they will be saddened to hear that the public will be continually reminded of what Labor did. Labor issued 44 licences for coal seam gas. Those were Labor's licences. This Government has not issued one licence. Not only did Labor issue the licences but it renewed the licences. When those opposite speak about selling off assets and transparency, let us have a look at their record. It is not good. Let us also remember the record of the Carr era. He was the Premier who promised the North West Rail Link and who promised that people would be boarding those trains in 2010. We know that did not happen.
Those opposite had billions of dollars in revenue over and above budget during the last property boom. There is nothing to show for it except increases in costs in the public sector. They provided nothing for the future or for future generations to benefit from. I will now address the work that is starting and what infrastructure this Government is working on. This Government is delivering on the North West Rail Link. I congratulate the Minister for Transport, Gladys Berejiklian, on her work in that regard. Track is being laid for the South West Rail Link. This Government is continuing to build the South West Rail Link. The North West Rail Link is also going ahead.
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! Opposition members will remain silent.
Mr BART BASSETT:
They really do not want to hear it.
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! I remind the member for Canterbury that she is on two calls to order. The member for Londonderry will be heard in silence.
Mr BART BASSETT:
They can make all the noise they like but they cannot run. Speaking of taking credit for things, let us not forget the great Western Sydney Orbital discussion, now known as the M7. The previous Government tried to take credit for constructing the M7. It was $356 million allocated by the previous Liberal-Nationals Federal Government and private operators that built the M7. That is who got it built; not State Labor. The $356 million from the previous Liberal-Nationals Federal Government is what got the M7 built in a corridor that had sat there for years. I thank our forefathers for putting those corridors in place. We now need to do what our forefathers did. We should not sell off corridors in the same way previous Labor governments did. Previous governments sold off the corridor for the M4 into the city. They sold off the land for busways down to the south.
We need the Federal Government to reallocate the money from the Parramatta to Epping rail link to the North West Rail Link. We will build it anyway because we have committed to building it, but if that money comes through we will build it more quickly. We will also be able to plan to extend it, which we are talking about with the Minister. The community want it continued on through the Richmond line and maybe further. There will be a greater possibility of that if we receive that money from the Federal Government. We will not sit on our hands. We will plan for corridors in the future. For years I and other people have talked about a western Sydney orbital railway. We need to plan corridors to link up the North West Rail Link and the South West Rail Link. If the Federal Government gives us the money from the Parramatta to Epping rail link we can get on with building that and planning corridors for the future.
Question—That the words stand—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! The motion accorded priority having concluded, the House will now proceed with Government Business.
WATER INDUSTRY COMPETITION AMENDMENT BILL 2011
Agreement in Principle
Debate resumed from 11 November 2011.
Mr BART BASSETT
(Londonderry) [4.05 p.m.]: I fully support the Water Industry Competition Amendment Bill 2011. Prior to the interruption of the debate I was speaking about Sydney's growing population. We all know that there is no silver bullet that will solve the problems of water shortages. Any long-term plan requires a multifaceted approach involving several areas. The strategic objectives of the Metropolitan Water Plan are to provide a secure supply of water to meet the medium-term needs of a growing city while keeping long-term goals in mind, help protect the health of our precious rivers, ensure our water supplies are adequate during drought, and minimise cost to the community. The plan was reviewed in 2006 and 2007.
I recall that at the last sitting of Parliament an Opposition member spoke about what those opposite did to protect Sydney's water and the Metropolitan Water Plan. I will remind them of what they did for the Metropolitan Water Plan. The former Government was going to impose a cease to pump rule. Members opposite talk about protecting agriculture in the Sydney basin, but they were going to have a cease to pump rule. That meant that when the temperature got above a certain level farmers would not be allowed to pump water. I do not know if anyone here understands what it is like to grow crops but hot weather periods tend to be the time when one needs to ensure that the crop has water. The former Government was not going to allow that. It was going to say that no-one could pump during those times. People would have lost their crops. It took a long time for that message to get through.
I thank the member for Hawkesbury for his work on that issue. I also thank the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Barry O'Farrell, for walking with us from North Richmond to Windsor during one Christmas period. He fully acknowledged the problem. Mr Barry O'Farrell, Mr Ray Williams and I met with irrigators and we clearly understood what was necessary. After some pressure, the previous Government changed that rule. We are glad that it saw sense and that the farmers were able to plan for the future. There was the potential that their irrigating licences, their farms and therefore their businesses were going to be worthless. But that has been changed because we need to support the farming communities on the floodplain of the Hawkesbury-Nepean river system.
Dams continue to provide most of Sydney's drinking water. Recycling is reducing demand for drinking water and water efficiency will reduce demand for water by households, government and business by 145 billion litres a year by 2015. We need to continue to support water recycling programs. Again the media—probably with the involvement of the Opposition—was trying to suggest that somehow this Government was not going to continue to support recycling programs. That was clarified in the last sitting of Parliament when the Government clearly stated its full support of recycling programs and that it will continue to ensure that recycled water forms part of the water supply.
It amuses me when I hear those opposite talk about recycling. At the time of the last State election when I ran for Londonderry there was a lot of discussion about the reuse of water. The election was held during the drought. I am talking about the past; I am not talking about now. I was always an advocate of looking for broader usage of recycled water. I still believe that in the future we will need to have a community discussion on that matter, but not now. The former Government built an expensive desalination plant that this Government has to try to fix the finances of. But at that last election Labor members were out scaremongering about recycled water. I will not repeat the crude language used by Labor members during that election to describe what we were trying to force down the community's necks in regard to water. They failed to accept that in my electorate of Londonderry, in the Hawkesbury Council area for which I am a councillor and was mayor, a large percentage of the population drink recycled water.
They were drinking large amounts of recycled water during the drought because there was virtually no water coming from Warragamba Dam as Sydney Water was trying to protect the supply. Why were we drinking recycled water? There are more than 20 sewage treatment plants along the Hawkesbury-Nepean River so you do not have to be Einstein to realise that most of the water in the Hawkesbury-Nepean that was being provided to irrigators and to the North Richmond drinking water plant was treated effluent. Fifty thousand people in the Hawkesbury do not have a problem with that and have not had a problem with it for years. However, the Opposition was scaremongering and saying we were trying to do that for the rest of Sydney. It was a discussion paper at the time and a proposal that I supported during the drought. It needed to be considered. But no, the Opposition scaremongered and built a very expensive desalination plant.
We are continuing to look to re-use water wherever possible. We are looking to allow private enterprise and other users to get involved in the water supply system through the leasing of the desalination plant to bring in money for other infrastructure. It will not change the price of water for consumers. That is all being protected. Let us get on with the job of increasing the ability of other companies to provide water to Sydney. Capacity is being freed up for those involved in the treatment of wastewater and a plant is being established at Pitt Town called the Water Factory. These recycling sewage treatment plants can stand alone so that areas that would normally have gone onto the Sydney Water system can filter and look after their own water and return it to households through recycling. Enormous advantages can come from changes in the Water Industry Competition Amendment Bill 2011. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr ANDREW ROHAN
(Smithfield) [4.12 p.m.]: I support the Government's Water Industry Competition Amendment Bill 2011. I commend the Minister responsible for this legislation, the Hon. Greg Pearce in the other place, for introducing this bill. While it may not be the most controversial piece of legislation, it is important and will help the Government achieve its goal to make New South Wales number one again. The purpose of the bill is to amend the Water Industry Competition Act 2006 to provide greater certainty for licence holders to access their infrastructure; to enable a fairer sharing of costs associated with water infrastructure that contributes to water security, including additional licensing principles to support that mechanism; and to rectify some other minor anomalies in the Water Industry Competition Act and Water Industry Competition (General) Regulation 2008 and remove the duplicated approvals process with the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005.
One of the proposed amendments in the bill empowers the Minister to impose licence conditions that will ensure that all drinking water retailers pay their fair share of the cost of infrastructure that helps secure Sydney's water supply. A second proposed amendment will address the risk of a new drinking water retailer entering the market to supply drinking water to Sydney—as that is a possibility as a result of the refinancing of the desalination plant—and undercutting Sydney Water by not paying its fair share of cost associated with infrastructure such as the desalination plant. This practice is known as "cherrypicking" and would involve the customers of Sydney Water cross-subsidising new water entrants. I think all members will agree that if a new business pops up in the market to supply Sydney with water it should pay its fair share to maintain water infrastructure. Any hypothetical drinking water supply business would benefit from the infrastructure in place and should therefore contribute to its cost. Well done, Minister Pearce. This is the sort of logical thinking that was missing from government over the past 16 years.
Another proposed amendment will enable the Minister to impose licence conditions to reduce the risk of customers suffering adverse financial consequences as a result of the grant of a licence. This will help address concerns about high wastewater service charges in future greenfield developments. I have spoken many times in this place about the dramatic increase in population that Sydney will be experiencing over the next 20 years. With that increase in population there will be an obvious increase in development, in particular in greenfield sites such as new-release areas on the outskirts of Sydney. In the past, councils in particular have taken the opportunity to levy new developments with gusto. I do not blame them for that because the previous New South Wales Government was infamous for shifting its responsibility to local government without adequate compensation.
However, we need new developments and we need to encourage new developments to avoid the predicted 600,000 house shortfall that will occur if current construction rates continue. Again, I commend the Minister and the New South Wales Government for taking into consideration the risk of customers suffering adverse financial consequences as result of the grant of a licence and for addressing the concerns about high wastewater service charges in future greenfield developments. To provide greater certainty to Water Industry Competition Act licensees the amendments will enable network operators to access private land to inspect and maintain their water infrastructure. This will include a future lessee of the desalination plant. The amendments confer protections on landowners and provide them with low-cost dispute resolution through the Energy and Water Ombudsman.
There are also a number of drafting anomalies and minor amendments in the Water Industry Competition Act and the Water Industry Competition (General) Regulation that need to be addressed. These include streaming the application process, imposing consistent requirements for water and sewerage service providers, and extending the existing transitional provisions applying to the removal of certain exemptions from licensing requirements. The Local Government (General) Regulation 2005 is also being amended to remove duplication between the Local Government Act and the Water Industry Competition Act in relation to recycled water and sewerage schemes. This will cut red tape and reduce costs for scheme proponents and councils. I commend the Minister for introducing this very important bill. It will be good for the State of New South Wales and good for the people of this State. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr ANDREW GEE
(Orange) [4.18 p.m.]: I support the Water Industry Competition Amendment Bill 2011. This is important reforming legislation that will, among other things, amend the Water Industry Competition Act 2006. The bill makes a number of important legislative changes, the first of which is to provide that a licensed network operator is not required to hold a retail supplier licence in addition to its network operator licence in order to supply water or provide sewerage services to a public water utility. That is the first important point in the bill. Secondly, it enables retail suppliers licences to be granted that authorise both the supply of water and the provision of sewerage services. The bill also specifies additional licensing principles to be taken into account in determining whether to grant licences or impose conditions on licences under the Act. I will refer to those principles in more detail shortly.
The bill also enables conditions to be imposed on retail suppliers licences that authorise the supply of drinking water so as to promote the equitable sharing of the cost of water industry infrastructure that contributes significantly to water security. It also clarifies the circumstances in which a licence may not be granted under the Act to a corporation because it is connected to a disqualified corporation. Other features of the bill include conferring certain powers of entry to land on certain licence network operators and providing for disputes and complaints about the exercise of such powers to be subject to the Ombudsman's scheme approved under the Act. Furthermore, it provides that generally water industry infrastructure is owned by the person who constructs or installs it or any person who subsequently acquires it. That certainly will add a great degree of clarity to water industry infrastructure matters and the legalities concerning them. The bill also makes provision for savings and transitional matters consequent on the enactment of the proposed Act and a matter in the nature of statute law revision. There are also components of the bill that amend the Water Industry Competition (General) Regulation 2008.
As I said, the bill provides for a number of important new licensing principles and those principles are contained in new section 7. I know that the member for Dubbo is very familiar with new section 7. The first principle relates to the promotion of policies set out in any prescribed water policy document. This amendment provides that in deciding whether to grant a licence and impose licence conditions the Minister will have regard to relevant government policies such as the Metropolitan Water Plan, which sets out the mix of measures that together secure greater Sydney's water needs. For example, when the Sydney Desalination Plant was granted a network operators licence in mid 2010 conditions were imposed on the licence to ensure that the desalination plant was operated in a manner that is consistent with the operating regime set out in the Metropolitan Water Plan.
The second new licensing principle concerns the potential for adverse financial implications for small retail customers including small retail customers of existing public water utilities and future customers of companies seeking a licence to enter the market. This principle builds on the existing licensing principle that refers to the protection of consumers. The new principle will provide the Minister with a clear and decisive basis on which to consider the financial implications for small retail customers' activities that are proposed to be covered by a licence and also to impose any conditions that may be appropriate in a given case. Again, this will bring greater clarity to the regulation of these matters.
The third licensing principle that is introduced by the bill relates to the sharing among participants in the drinking water market of the costs of water industry infrastructure that contributes significantly to water security. The bill inserts a new head of power to enable conditions to be imposed on drinking water retail supply licences so as to promote the equitable sharing of the costs of water industry infrastructure that contributes significantly to water security. So the result of these amendments will be to ensure that new drinking water market entrants and their customers contribute their fair share of the cost of infrastructure such as the desalination plant, an asset that certainly boosts the water security of Sydney. The bill's other salient points include that it confers new powers on certain licensed network operators to enter private land for the purpose of inspecting, maintaining, repairing and undertaking emergency work on water industry infrastructure.
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that licensed network operators are on a similar footing to other water and energy utilities while at the same time conferring protection of landowners' and occupiers' rights. Other highlights of the bill include that it provides protection to landowners and occupiers. For example, notice of entry must be given at least two days prior unless the occupier of the land consents to the entry, urgent entry is required or notification would defeat the purpose of entry; network operators may not enter a residential building except with the consent of the occupier or owner if there is no occupier, or under the authority of a warrant; reasonable force may be used to gain entry to a non-residential building but only if authorised in writing by the network operator in relation to the particular entry concerned and also specifying the circumstances that must exist.
The bill also imposes a licence condition requiring licensed network operators that are prescribed authorities to join the Energy and Water Ombudsman Scheme. The bill also amends section 5 of the Water Industry Competition Act to provide that a licensed network operator is not required to hold a retail suppliers licence in addition to its network operators licence in order to supply water or provide sewerage services to a public water utility. Other features of the bill that I should mention include provisions streamlining the licensing provisions in section 6 of the Act by enabling retail suppliers licences to be granted that authorise both the supply of water and the provision of sewerage services. I note that section 6 currently requires that separate licences be granted where a corporation proposes to supply water and provide sewerage services. The bill is comprehensive legislation dealing with matters of water licensing and water industry competition. It is important legislation that will be welcomed by all in the industry. I commend the Minister for Finance and Services, and Minister for the Illawarra for bringing this important piece of legislation to Parliament. I recommend it to the House.
Ms TANIA MIHAILUK
(Bankstown) [4.27 p.m.]: The Opposition opposes the Water Industry Competition Amendment Bill 2011. The bill follows on from the Water Industry Competition Bill 2006, which sought to improve the running of water systems and to diversify the water industry of New South Wales. It is disappointing that Government members could not bring themselves to acknowledge the work of their Labor predecessors. I put on record my congratulations to the former Government on that legislation. I note at the outset that the shadow Minister made it clear the Opposition would consider supporting the bill if the Government amended the legislation before this place. Unfortunately, the Government refused to amend the bill and consumers will once again be worse off as a result of this decision. Rising utility prices are a major concern in my electorate and throughout New South Wales, and we have heard members on both sides of this House discuss the issue of utility prices both here and in the media. Members on both sides in this place agree that the cost of living is a major issue for many constituents. Yet the Government's actions today will only exacerbate these concerns.
The bill represents the latest aspect of the Government's privatisation agenda. The Government plans to sell off the Sydney Desalination Plant. That plan to privatise the desalination plant will hit hardest my electorate of Bankstown and the rest of south and south-western Sydney. This is due to the fact that our areas rely on the desalination plant for a certain percentage—about 15 per cent—of our water. The bill represents an attempt by the Government to flog off yet another asset. Like the Government's now revealed plans to sell off our electricity industry poles and wires, the Government's privatisation agenda is slowly coming to light. The Opposition has serious concerns about schedule 1  to the bill, which states that the Minister may impose conditions on a retail supplier's licence, including:
(a) a condition requiring the licensee to obtain a specified proportion of the water that it supplies under the authority of its licence by means of specified water industry infrastructure,
(b) a condition requiring the licensee to contribute to the costs of specified water industry infrastructure (whether or not it is used to provide the licensee with the water that it is authorised to supply under the licence) ...
The Opposition attempted to prevent the inclusion of new section 13 (2) (c) only to have its amendment defeated by the Government in the other place. This new subsection is likely to result in new entrants in the water retail market being forced to obtain water from the Sydney Desalination Plant or potentially make a payment to the Sydney Desalination Plant. This proposal is a shameless attempt to sweeten the pot for the sale of the Sydney Desalination Plant.
Mr Guy Zangari:
To fatten it up.
Ms TANIA MIHAILUK:
That is right—to fatten up the sale. This bill has no purpose other than to make the Sydney Desalination Plant more lucrative for purchase. New section 13 (2) (c) will increase the sale price of the Sydney Desalination Plant while doing nothing to alleviate the burden of increasing water prices. The Opposition is concerned also with the provisions of schedule 1  to the bill, which states:
... a licence may not be granted under the Act to a corporation that is a related entity ... of a disqualified corporation only if the disqualified corporation would have a direct or indirect interest in, or influence on, the carrying out of the activities that the licence would authorise if granted.
This amendment will reduce probity measures on companies that bid for the desalination plant. I would have thought that would have been a major concern for the Government but, sadly, it is not. The bill is an attempt by the New South Wales Government to line its pockets without passing on the benefits to taxpayers. That is an unfortunate outcome and should be opposed. I reiterate my concerns particularly about the sale of the Sydney Desalination Plant, which is what this bill is leading to. I reiterate also that the southern and western sides of the harbour currently rely on the Sydney Desalination Plant for 15 per cent of their water.
The sale of the plant may result down the track in a variation in water bills. Parts of Sydney relying on water from the Sydney Desalination Plant may be billed differently from other parts of Sydney that do not rely on that water. The only reason any corporation would purchase the Sydney Desalination Plant is to make money. When the sale takes place—as I imagine it will—I reiterate that the process of divvying up water bills across Sydney will not be transparent. I oppose the bill and urge the House to oppose it also. Given that the Government refused to accept appropriate amendments, new sections 10 (3) and 13 (2) (c) are cause for concern. Unfortunately, this Government has chosen not to remove those clauses from the bill.
Ms GABRIELLE UPTON
(Vaucluse—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.33 p.m.]: I welcome the opportunity to speak in debate on the Water Industry Competition Amendment Bill 2011. The O'Farrell Government was elected earlier this year with a commitment to rebuild the New South Wales economy. The Government's State Plan, released in September, detailed six tasks to rebuild the economy after Labor's appalling management and to ensure that our economic growth is constant and sustainable so that we can pay for the infrastructure and services that the people of New South Wales deserve. One goal is to increase the competitiveness of doing business in New South Wales. Unlike what the Opposition would have us believe, competition is the cornerstone of economic growth. Unlike what the member for Bankstown would have us believe, the Coalition believes competition leads to new products, services and technologies that give consumers a greater selection and better products. That is the aim of this bill. Greater selection of products and services typically causes lower prices compared with when there is no competition, as happens in some world economies, or very little competition.
Competition is healthy, and the Government wants to promote it wherever possible and create level playing fields for that competition to take place. But competition cannot occur at the expense of the people of New South Wales. Encouraging a market where traders and consumers can transact fairly and transparently is an aspect of economic development that will assist this Government in reaching its goals of rebuilding the New South Wales economy. Those goals are to improve performance so that we are not lagging behind in all regularly issued economic reports; to rebuild our State finances; to drive economic growth, particularly in our regional areas; to place downward pressure on the cost of living for the people of New South Wales; and, finally, to strengthen the New South Wales skills base. Part of our agenda for increasing competition in the New South Wales economy is to identify areas of our competition laws that need changing in order to keep up with modern economic pressures.
The Water Industry Competition Act 2006 is a piece of legislation that the Minister for Finance and Services and the Government identified for amendment to ensure that it operates efficiently and competitively. The bill was introduced in 2006 to allow market access to new entrants wishing to supply water services using existing water industry infrastructure—a worthy objective. Included in the 2006 legislation was a licensing regime that regulates market entrants and ensures they operate in a manner that protects public health, consumers and the environment. New market entrants were encouraged to enter the water industry through the terms of the 2006 Act so that water consumers had a choice of water supply and that competitive pressures offered efficient market prices to New South Wales citizens.
I am advised that seven schemes were licensed after the Act was implemented. Five schemes involved recycled water, one drinking scheme is in Sydney and a sewerage scheme is in northern New South Wales. The Bligh Street and Darling Walk recycled water treatment plants in the Sydney central business district and Sydney electorate, neighbouring the Vaucluse electorate that I represent, are schemes that are licensed under the Act. Recycled water is used commonly to irrigate sports fields, parks and golf courses as well as in some commercial buildings and industrial sites. If we are able to maximise the use of recycled water for these types of activities, we can ensure that more water is made available for drinking. This is one outcome of introducing competition to the water industry. Encouraging similar schemes across New South Wales not only protects our water supply but also benefits economic development, and creates employment opportunities and an efficient price for water consumption. This is why this Government is amending the Water Industry Competition Act by updating the legislation to ensure that competitive opportunities are available.
The amendments in this bill will add new licensing principles, new powers to impose conditions for the purposes of ensuring fair competition in the drinking-water market, and more consistent and streamlined licensing schemes for licensees. Under the current provisions the Minister administering the Act must have regard to licensing principles when deciding whether a licence should be granted to a private operator and what conditions should be attached to that licence if granted. This bill will add three new licensing principles to which the Minister must have regard when determining whether or not to grant a licence. First, the Minister will be required to have regard to relevant government policies, such as the Metropolitan Water Plan—and what a welcome approach that is. It will provide consistency to policies resulting in effect and execution to the policies that the Coalition brings to government.
It is appropriate for the Minister to have regard to those policies when determining the grant of a licence. For example, the Metropolitan Water Plan details the measures being undertaken to ensure that the water needs of Sydney are met. When an applicant for a licence under the Act proposes commercial activity that will impact on Sydney's water supply it is important to ensure that the Minister has regard to the Metropolitan Water Plan and the impact on Sydney's water supply before granting that licence. It is also important for my electorate of Vaucluse, which lies adjacent to metropolitan Sydney, that regard be had to how Sydney's water supply is managed when the Minister is determining whether to grant a licence.
Secondly, the bill will insert a new licensing principle to ensure the Minister must consider the financial implications on small retail customers and activities that are proposed to be undertaken by the potential licensee. The Minister may impose any conditions to protect small retail customers if needed—this principle extends to small retail customers of existing public water utilities as well as future customers of the proposed licensee. It is important in a competitive industry to give regard to the impact that market entrants will have on the ability of operators of all sizes to continue competing in the market, a market we want to create and support for the benefit of the consumers of water in New South Wales. As is consistent with this Government's reform agenda in the area of fair trading, we must ensure an equal playing field wherever possible and this is what this additional licensing principle is aiming to achieve.
The third licensing principle concerns the cost of water industry infrastructure contributing to water security in New South Wales and the equitable sharing amongst participants of that cost. The bill will allow the Minister to impose conditions on licensees to ensure that the costs of using and maintaining this infrastructure is shared on an equitable basis and the principle of equitable cost-sharing is protected under the bill. The Government will have the power to make regulations in order to calculate the contributions payable by each licensee in order to ensure that these costs are shared on an equitable basis. The amendment ensures that new licensees contribute their fair share to the cost of infrastructure. This includes the cost of the desalination plant—mentioned by the member for Bankstown—being built at Kurnell, which will supply up to 15 per cent of Sydney's water supply. The licence condition to pay a fair share of costs will be imposed on drinking water retailers only; it will not apply to stormwater harvesting water recycling schemes.
This ensures that new licensees accessing water from infrastructure such as the desalination plant also pay costs towards maintaining those facilities. Without such a provision allowing the Minister to ensure costs are recovered on an equitable basis, the full cost of maintaining infrastructure such as the desalination plant will flow to existing Sydney Water customers rather than the customers of new water retailers accessing the same water. Contrary to what the member for Bankstown is saying, such an outcome would be inequitable and anti-competitive. Through imposing these conditions the Government is protecting small retail customers, who are mainly residential households, and who account for more than 70 per cent of the water demand in the Sydney region. This bill ensures that residents in electorates such as Vaucluse do not pay additional costs for water because new market entrants are not required to pay for the maintenance of the infrastructure that they are using.
The next set of amendments in the bill relates to the new power for certain licensed network operators to enter private lands. It is important for the maintenance and security of New South Wales water supply that certain operators can access infrastructure on private lands in order to inspect, maintain, repair and undertake emergency work to the network. This bill provides for entry onto private land by the operators under appropriately strict conditions. For example, operators will not be able to enter private land unless a notice of entry is given at least two days prior and the occupier of the land consents to the entry. Licensees will have to abide by a number of conditions to access private land. This will protect landowners while ensuring that maintenance can be performed on the network so that customers in New South Wales have a good and secure water supply.
Finally, the bill will impose a condition on licensees that are also prescribed authorities that they must join the Energy and Water Ombudsman's scheme. The Government has requested that the ombudsman deal with complaints from residents and owners regarding the powers of entry that operators have onto private land. This will further protect private landowners. The legislation also makes a number of amendments. It corrects drafting anomalies in the legislation to improve and streamline the Act and increase competition. These are all matters that the Coalition Government regards as important. The next piece of legislation amended by this bill is the Water Industry Competition (General) Regulation. This bill will ensure that the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal will notify public water utilities of an application for a licence when the potential licensee proposes to connect to or use any of the public water utility's water industry infrastructure. Such an amendment will facilitate early consultation between existing utility operators and potential licensee applications to determine how access will occur.
This amendment ensures that competition is enhanced in the water supply industry and that all market participants can compete on a level playing field. As I said, this Government is committed to increasing competitive pressures in the New South Wales marketplace as a means of rebuilding our economy and enhancing the growth and development of the economy. It will provide the people of New South Wales with the services and infrastructure they need to get on with living their lives. The measures in this bill are sensible. I commend the Hon. Greg Pearce, Minister for Finance and Services in the upper House, for introducing this bill which forms part of the Government's agenda to ensure a level playing field, fair competition and efficient regulatory arrangements that do not overburden the water supply industry. These important amendments will grow the economy in New South Wales, which is something that the former Labor Government failed to do. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr GUY ZANGARI
(Fairfield) [4.47 p.m.]: According to this Government and in the words of its Minister for Finance and Services, the Hon. Greg Pearce, the purpose of the Water Industry Competition Amendment Bill 2011 is:
... to enable new market entrants to access existing water industry infrastructure and to create a licensing regime to ensure that new entrants operate in a manner that protects public health, consumers and the environment.
On paper the bill attempts to build upon the former Government's success in introducing innovative policies aimed at providing water for New South Wales households, businesses and industries. The former Labor Government introduced the Water Industry Competition Bill in 2006 and the Water Industry Competition (General) Regulation in 2008 to encourage competition and promote innovation in the water industry. The bill we are debating today attempts to introduce new licensing principles that are rather vague. In his second reading speech in the other place the Minister identified the current stated policy positions such as those outlined in current policy documents. This includes the Metropolitan Water Plan and the Lower Hunter Water Plan. The second and third principles outlined in this bill are rather vague. According to the Minister the second principle relates to:
The new principle will provide the Minister with a clear basis on which to consider the financial implications for small retail customers of activities that are proposed to be covered by a licence, and to impose any conditions that may be appropriate in a given case.
The gist of this so-called principle, hidden in the Minister's rhetoric is simple: I do not know what is best for the consumers and businesses of New South Wales, so let us give the Minister broad discretionary powers to make decisions on the run. This bill shows a Government with hidden intentions. It claims the bill will strengthen the framework to regulate and promote the growth of competition for water services. Yet the only framework in place is the discretionary powers resting in the Minister. In his second reading speech in the other place the Minister introduced a new head of power which, according to him, will "enable conditions to be imposed on drinking water retail supply licences so as to promote the equitable sharing of the costs of water industry infrastructure that significantly contribute to water security". However, as we have seen in the second principle, the bill does not introduce a set of policies, standards or values that will provide any real guidance or tool to measure the manner in which water competition and deregulation is carried out in New South Wales. This so-called principle has been included to give the Minister more discretionary powers.
New section 13, Conditions of licences, to be inserted in the Water Industry Competition Act, states that the Minister may impose conditions on a retail supplier's licence. This confers discretion on the Minister to introduce a condition requiring the licensee of a water retail supplier to obtain a specified proportion of the water that it supplies under the authority of its licence by means of specified water industry infrastructure. Further, it also confers discretion on the Minister to require the licensee to contribute to the costs of specified water industry infrastructure calculated in a specified manner and payable to a specified person or persons. This is irrespective of whether the infrastructure provides the licensee with the water it has been authorised to supply. The likely effect of this new section is that a new entrant to the water retail market may be forced to obtain its water from the Sydney Desalination Plant or, in the event that this is impracticable, a new entrant may be forced to make a payment to the desalination plant. The real objective of this bill is simply to fatten up the Sydney Desalination Plant for privatisation. In his second reading speech in the other place the Minister said that these principles:
… will also facilitate the refinancing of the Desalination Plant by ensuring that the liability associated with the Desalination Plant can be effectively removed from the State's balance sheet …
The bill will result in increases in the price of water that New South Wales households will have to pay. It will force households to use and to pay for infrastructure regardless of whether they need it. This shows a complete disregard for the families of New South Wales, who already have been hit hard by increases in electricity prices approved by this Premier. It is this misery imposed on the families of New South Wales that this Government hopes will make the desalination plant an attractive investment to potential bidders. The families of New South Wales again will be made to pay for the reckless promises to which this Government committed during the last election.
Already we have seen a double digit increase in electricity prices, we have seen the removal of stamp duty exemptions and we now see the Government sell one of its water utility assets, again at a cost to the hardworking families of New South Wales. We have seen an unfair attack on the livelihoods of the public servants of this State through the pegging of their wages to a fixed rate below the current rate of inflation, with an increase in wages set at a mere 2.5 per cent. It is the same broad notion of efficiency and innovation on which the Government tried to justify its attack on public servants and their families that we see here today.
Mr RAY WILLIAMS
(Hawkesbury—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.53 p.m.]: It gives me great pleasure to speak in debate on the Water Industry Competition Amendment Bill 2011. Many members have spoken in great detail about the bill. I do not intend to speak in detail but I will refer generally to the bill. It would be remiss of me not to speak in debate on this bill as I ardently opposed the implementation of the desalination plant. Mr Deputy-Speaker would remember that I spoke at length about the abhorrent waste of $2 billion.
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
I well remember that.
Mr RAY WILLIAMS:
There would not be too many members of this House or people in my electorate of Hawkesbury who would not have agreed with me that spending $2 billion is an abhorrent waste of taxpayers' money.
Mr Chris Hartcher:
You were right.
Mr RAY WILLIAMS:
The Minister for Resources and Energy certainly agrees with me. That money would have paid for a little over one-third, maybe one-half, of the North West Rail Link. I am proud to say that this Government is getting on with that project. This bill will generate further competition in the marketplace for the provision of water and ensure an equitable financial outcome on behalf of the people of New South Wales, who were subjected to a cost of $2 billion for the desalination plant. Former Premier Iemma announced that his Government would not go ahead with the desalination plant unless water storage in the dams providing the Sydney metropolitan area had dropped below 33 per cent capacity.
That was an untruthful statement because at the time that the former Government went ahead with the desalination plant, water storage was above 70 per cent capacity and it was unnecessary to inflict a cost of $2 billion on the State's taxpayers to build a desalination plant. We had gone through one of the longest droughts in the history of this country. I say one of the longest droughts because we have many droughts in this country. Australia is recognised as one of the driest continents on the face of the Earth. From time to time we have droughts, but currently we are seeing the reverse. We have had floods up and down the eastern seaboard and on the east coast of New South Wales we have had rainfall in abundance. Our dams are reaching very sustainable levels.
The bill provides a financial outcome that will enable the Government to achieve a better outcome from the desalination plant. The money achieved, whether or not the desalination plant is leased, will enable the Government to provide much-needed infrastructure for the people of New South Wales. No area has a greater need for infrastructure than the north-west and the North West Rail Link, when it is delivered, will be a welcome addition to public transport in that area. I am pleased to say that the Government is getting on with the job and is providing that piece of infrastructure.
Throughout my life I have never had the benefit of being able to draw on potable water from Sydney Water. As I have said many times in the House, I capture my own water for drinking and gardening. For every water need on my property I capture every inch of water in dams and tanks and running envirocycles. I am conscious of the use of water on my property. Having grown up with that consciousness, I understand the fluctuations in weather patterns. During the drought, when dam levels dropped to unprecedented lows, I knew full well that the time would come when the weather patterns would change and the dams would be replenished. Rather than spending $2 billion on a desalination plant, the implementation of tanks throughout our suburbs, which had been shunned for many years by Sydney Water, could have reduced the water needs of our residents and provided us with a much better outcome. That is the reason I opposed the desalination plant.
Not long after the desalination plant project was implemented and the money was spent, we learnt that Israel, which is more prudent with its finances, implemented a desalination plant at Hadera. That desalination plant was exactly the same size as the Sydney desalination plant, yet Israel built that infrastructure for less than $500 million. Israel waited for about 18 months and then built a desalination plant at a quarter of the cost of the plant imposed on the people of this State by the former Labor Government. It was an unnecessary burden and an unnecessary cost. It was money that could have been spent much more prudently across the suburbs. Indeed, at that point the transport infrastructure that we are now implementing was vital and it had been promised by the former Government as far back as 1998. The rail line we were promised was not implemented. We were lied to for many years because the former Government shunned implementing that infrastructure and instead turned its attention to a desalination plant.
This Government is taking responsible steps towards getting an equitable financial outcome for the people of New South Wales. The Government is implementing measures that will in some way get back some funding from the unnecessary expenditure of $2 billion so that the people of New South Wales can get the infrastructure they so desperately need. I commend the Government for introducing this bill. It is a responsible step to take. Previous Opposition speakers said that water prices would increase which is quite hypocritical when we know that the cost of water has increased in the past three to four years. In some suburbs the cost of water has increased by 20 and 30 per cent, and the cost of some of the recycled water in Rouse Hill has increased more than that. It is highly unlikely that we will see the same cost increases when we take this responsible step. I support the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance and Services in the other place for introducing this bill and I commend it to the House.
Ms MELANIE GIBBONS
(Menai) [5.01 p.m.]: I support the Water Industry Competition Amendment Bill 2011, which is one step towards solidifying sustainable and integrated management of the State's water for the benefit of both the present and future generations. Like many bills the Government has introduced in the past six months, this bill addresses the 16 years of neglect of the former Labor Government. Water is one of the basic resources we rely upon and we must invest in its future sustainability. As an example, our State-owned Sydney Water Corporation will need major investment in its infrastructure to maintain the service levels our community requires. This investment has been lacking over the past 16 years under an inept Labor Government addicted to the windfall dividends from the corporation to patch its budgets and mask its financial incompetence.
The lost opportunities over the past 16 years have led to an infrastructure backlog in Sydney alone, which will take many years to address unless fresh ideas, innovative ideas, and sensible legislation and policy are put in place. This is reflected across our State and I congratulate the Minister on addressing it so quickly. It is time to open up the market to new and innovative ideas. This amendment bill endeavours to improve the Water Industry Competition Act to enable new market entrants to develop and access our existing water industry infrastructure equitably. This legislation will continue to protect public health, consumers and the environment while promoting the fresh innovation this industry can provide.
A bit of healthy competition is good for business and it means that the New South Wales Government can open the door to improved technology and models for more efficient water delivery. The New South Wales Government is fulfilling another election commitment to take responsibility for this sector and to get it back on track. However, it is important that the competition is fair and equitable. This bill cleans up a number of anomalies in the Water Industry Competition Act and removes duplication between that Act and the Local Government Act 1993. These amendments will help to cut red tape and reduce costs for scheme proponents and local government regulators. It will also give the Minister the authority to incorporate conditions on water retailers to ensure that equitable competition is followed.
The people of New South Wales have made substantial investments in the infrastructure and networks that deliver water to homes and businesses across the State. This investment must not be squandered, and I recognise that the provisions in this bill will ensure all market players and consumers, large or small, are adequately protected. It is time we investigated and promoted alternative options offered by the private sector. These amendments will go a long way towards establishing greater security and faith in the water licensing industry. The bill is not simply about servicing the current population but also the growing population of the future. We have to explore what is best for the people of New South Wales and harness the innovations that are available now as well as in the future.
We have seen the success of the privately run Rosehill Recycled Water Scheme. The scheme, which has been in operation since October, will initially provide 4.3 billion litres of recycled water a year to industrial and irrigation customers. This amendment bill will allow us to explore other programs such as that and ensure that the people of New South Wales continue to receive safe and affordable water without issue. The bill will motivate the water industry to deliver better outcomes for all sectors of the New South Wales economy. This Government is working to ensure that we can get the best value and save a precious resource. The bill will work to facilitate fair competition in the market through promoting a level playing field.
Licence conditions will be imposed to ensure that new entrants will meet the requirements, as set out in the Metropolitan Water Plan, to secure greater Sydney's water needs. There are also added protections for small retail customers to avoid negative financial implications and to ensure they are not unfairly disadvantaged. With the proposed refinancing of the Kurnell desalination plant, the drinking water market is expected to grow and expand. These amendments will cover this growth and regulate the industry as it evolves. In an effort to avoid inappropriate proposals and unnecessary costs to proponents and utilities alike, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal will be required to notify public water utilities of new applications that will access existing infrastructure. This is just one of the safeguards being introduced in this bill.
Sydney alone has more than 20,000 kilometres of water mains that must be maintained. How we maintain and upgrade this system is an ongoing challenge. This challenge, coupled with Sydney's growth and how we deliver safe and affordable water to our community and industries, will be one of the most significant challenges for all future governments. These amendments improve the State's ability to be in a position to accommodate this growth, whether in Sydney or across our State. This bill will also improve many of the issues my colleagues across the State face, including the inadequacy of water infrastructure in rural and regional areas. All townships, large or small, should expect quality water and sewerage services.
The fact that there are areas in and outside Sydney yet to be connected to proper sewerage systems should be testament enough that the former Labor Government had the wrong priorities and was incapable of addressing the most basic infrastructure issues. After all, we are not just speaking about the most remote of towns that does not have adequate water infrastructure; in some circumstances townships surrounding Sydney are still awaiting long-ago promised sewerage systems. I am pleased that the proceeds from refinancing the desalination plant will free up the capital to spend on much-needed infrastructure. This is not only an infrastructure issue; it is a health and environmental issue. These changes will start addressing those issues in a tangible and meaningful way. I commend the Minister and I commend the bill to the House.
Mr MIKE BAIRD
(Manly—Treasurer) [5.07 p.m.], in reply: I thank members for their contributions to debate on the Water Industry Competition Amendment Bill 2011. We have had strong, constructive, considered contributions from this side of the House. Unfortunately, a particular theme of Opposition members—price—must be addressed because it is misinformed, wrong and misleading. I look forward to putting that right shortly. The bill is designed to address a number of issues that have arisen since the passage of the Water Industry Competition Act 2006 and to ensure that the drinking water market evolves in a way that is fair and equitable. I am pleased to say that the bill addresses overlapping regulatory requirements imposed by the Water Industry Competition Act and the Local Government Act 1993. In so doing it will cut red tape and result in lower costs for proponents of recycling schemes and local councils. Importantly, the bill is also designed to put licensed network operators on a similar footing to other energy and water utilities with regard to accessing private land.
The bill confers new powers on certain licensed network operators to enter private land for the purpose of inspecting, maintaining, repairing and undertaking emergency work on water industry infrastructure, while at the same time conferring protections on landowners and occupiers to ensure that their rights are protected. The bill also enables the Government to proceed to market with the long-term lease of the Sydney Desalination Plant to unlock funds to build the infrastructure the State desperately needs. That fact should not be lost in this debate. That policy was taken to the election and was delivered on the basis that this State has waited too long for infrastructure delivery. This Government has found ways to fund that infrastructure, the first part of which is to proceed with the long-term lease of the Sydney Desalination Plant. I turn now to some of the specific issues raised by the member for Maroubra and other members of the Opposition. Importantly, the House needs to understand the truth on prices.
It is clear that the member for Maroubra does not understand the current or proposed pricing structure for the desalination plant. Contrary to his remarks, once the two-year proving period finishes in June next year Sydney Water will not have to pay for any water produced by the desalination plant outside of the operating rules set out in the Metropolitan Water Plan for greater Sydney. I will explain this in detail. Currently Sydney Water pays two kinds of charges to the Sydney Desalination Plant. One is a monthly availability charge that covers the fixed costs of the desalination plant. The other is a volume charge per kilolitre, payable when the plant is delivering water to Sydney Water. The availability charge is intended to cover the capital costs and fixed operating costs and reflects the fact that the desalination plant is a significant asset that cost around $1.8 billion to construct.
The availability charge is payable regardless of whether the desalination plant is producing water—reflecting the fact that the capital costs and fixed operating costs, such as maintenance, need to be recovered regardless of whether the plant is producing water. Once the two-year proving period finishes next June, Sydney Water will only pay the volume or usage charge for water the plant produces in accordance with the operating rules set out in the Metropolitan Water Plan and in the network operator licence granted to the Sydney Desalination Plant under the Water Industry Competition Act. Under those rules, the desalination plant must operate at full capacity when storages fall below 70 per cent. Once storages recover to 80 per cent, Sydney Water does not have to pay for any more water until storages again drop back to 70 per cent.
The so-called 70-80 rule was developed based on a cost-benefit analysis undertaken by independent experts for the former Labor Government. It was Labor's model to run the plant to achieve the best cost-benefit outcome. It was included in Labor's 2010 Metropolitan Water Plan as part of the least cost portfolio of measures to secure Sydney's water needs both in the long term and in drought. The rule is reflected in the network operator licence granted under the Water Industry Competition Act to the plant in August 2010. It has not changed since it was developed. That is an important point in this debate. Despite the mischief being made by the Opposition, not one part of this has been changed.
The Opposition by its arguments and criticisms is effectively attacking its own rules, policies and arrangements that it put in place. I repeat that we have not changed one letter of Labor's agreement. I note that estimates of the costs recovered through the availability and volume charges are already built into Sydney Water prices set by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal under a determination that runs until the middle of next year. Labor knows that—it put those processes in place. In other words, the estimated availability and volume costs have already been factored into the prices paid by Sydney Water's customers.
This pricing approach of having both a fixed and volume component is consistent with the way the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal sets charges for the other water utilities including Sydney Water and Hunter Water. It is also consistent with the structure of charges Sydney Water pays to the Sydney Catchment Authority for water supplied from Sydney's dams. Having an Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal determination in place for the desalination plant provides transparency and certainty regarding the charges payable. That is important both for the community and in the context of refinancing the plant.
I now turn to the shadow Treasurer's comments in relation to the amendment to section 13 giving the Minister a discretionary power to impose licence conditions regarding cost sharing. I say again that the intention of this amendment is to ensure that customer bills do not rise as a result of cross-subsidisation. The refinancing of the plant will not lead to increased charges to customers. As I have already explained, this is because the estimated costs of the plant are already being recovered under the existing Sydney Water price determination. We do not expect the new price determination, once finalised by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, to change things. It will simply provide greater transparency regarding the desalination plant charges.
There have been some suggestions that the bill will increase charges to customers. I hear that repeatedly outside this Chamber. In particular, there are suggestions that this bill will increase charges to customers as a result of the new power to impose licence conditions relating to cost sharing. These concerns are wrong and misleading. Recent statements reported in the media are utterly incorrect. We cannot lose sight of that in this debate. Government members will come into this Chamber day in and day out and repeat that this transaction will not affect Sydney Water prices as a result of the refinancing.
The facts are simple. As I have explained, Labor's Metropolitan Water Plan rules will still apply once the desalination plant is refinanced and the drinking water system will continue to operate to meet the community's water needs at least cost. The new provisions inserted by this bill will not push up household water charges; they are designed to ensure that charges do not rise as a result of cross-subsidisation. Cross-subsidisation could occur if a new entrant to the drinking water market were able to cherrypick large Sydney Water customers and provide drinking water to them at prices that do not include a share of the desalination plant costs. The bill will not boost the value of the desalination plant, as some have suggested. The value of the desalination plant is a function of the rate of return permitted on the regulated asset base. The permissible rate of return will be set by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal in its forthcoming price determination for the Sydney Desalination Plant.
In short, the bill will not push up household bills. On the contrary, it is designed to avoid bills rising due to unfair cross-subsidisation. The refinancing of the desalination plant also provides the State access to funds to build the infrastructure it so desperately needs. A constructive Opposition would know the challenges that the State faces, would recognise good ideas when they are presented and would support them. I cannot think of one reason why the Opposition would decide not to support the provision of at least $1.5 billion towards the infrastructure needs in this State. Only Opposition members can explain why they would not do that. This Government is proud to put forward this policy and this proposal. All of the tenets of this Act are for the good of New South Wales. I again thank members for their contributions to this debate and 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 returned to the Legislative Council without amendment.
BUDGET ESTIMATES AND RELATED PAPERS
Financial Year 2011-2012
Debate resumed from 10 November 2011.
Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON
(Burrinjuck—Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Small Business) [5.17 p.m.]: It gives me much pleasure to support and talk about the first budget of the New South Wales Liberal-Nationals Government. We came into government with a mandate to fix the State and make it number one again. Our first budget is absolutely central to this. The people of New South Wales have been muffled by successive Labor governments that were too focused on their own survival rather than acting in the best interest of the people. Our election commitments were built on delivering for the State's communities, ensuring that New South Wales is number one again and making sure that communities have the resources and capacity to bring about the much-needed change.
As Minister for Primary Industries and Minister for Small Business in this Government I know that our primary industries budget will ensure that the Department of Primary Industries has an important role to play in the lives of New South Wales farmers for years to come. This Government is investing more than $1 billion in the Department of Primary Industries to deliver important services and programs for rural and regional communities across the State. The 2011-12 budget is exciting for primary industries. It includes $390 million across the agriculture, fisheries and biosecurity sectors of the department. This includes $190 million to protect valuable agricultural land, a $120 million investment in biosecurity, and $90 million to be spent on New South Wales fisheries. The budget also includes more than $380 million for catchment management authorities and Crown lands, and a $260 million investment in New South Wales water management.
These investments will ensure the services provided by the Department of Primary Industries are relevant, sustainable and effective. They are also investments that demonstrate our commitment to primary industries research and development. The Department of Primary Industries has more than 600 scientists and technicians working on more than 900 projects at any one time, in close collaboration with farmers, foresters and fishers. Thirteen million dollars will be spent during this financial year on the upgrade of the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute. Two million dollars will be spent in phase 2 of the project to build a new New South Wales Department of Primary Industries research facility at the Ourimbah campus of the University of Newcastle. A further $1.7 million will be spent in 2011-12 for a biosecurity information system, known as BioSIRT, to enhance the Government's capacity to respond to outbreaks of exotic plant or animal diseases.
As we committed prior to the election, the services currently being delivered to our regional industries and communities through the Department of Primary Industries will continue unchanged. We are committed to delivering services that are relevant and responsive and that make a difference to our rural and regional communities. This vision for the Department of Primary Industries is one that I am very passionate about. I want to deliver for our primary industries not just money but absolute value for money. Under Labor, the role and services of the Department of Primary Industries remained stuck firmly in the 1970s and 1980s. Farmers, and as a result farming, have grown, modernised and shifted their priorities over time. But they told me that under the former, Labor Government the Department of Primary Industries had not grown with them. While farmers were struggling to meet the demands of life on the land, the Labor Government had an extraordinary vision for the Department of Primary Industries' budget.
It turned out that Labor was more focused on potential financial gains from property development instead of looking after our primary producers. Just when it seemed that the level of politics in New South Wales could not possibly sink any lower, in the dying days of the Labor Government disgraced former Lands Minister Tony Kelly flogged off 70 hectares of Crown land in the Hunter Valley for just $1. That is less than a cent a hectare. It is outrageous. The revelations came as Mr Kelly and Mr Watkins were being investigated by the Independent Commission Against Corruption over the purchase of another property, Currawong at Pittwater, for $12.2 million.
Instead of going in to bat for the bush, Labor's primary industries Ministers wasted valuable taxpayers' dollars which could and should have been better invested in relevant and contemporary services for our primary producers. Labor had no plan, no vision and no strategy for improving and revitalising the Department of Primary Industries. It was just money down the drain. The first action of the new Minister for Agriculture in the Carr Labor Government in 1995 was to take an axe to veterinary laboratories in Armidale and Wagga Wagga as well as gutting the Biological and Chemical Research Institute at Rydalmere. That was only the start. Let us refresh our memories about Labor's efforts to gut the Department of Primary Industries: the agricultural office in Bathurst was closed, the Wagga Wagga advisory office was closed, and the agricultural offices at Roseberry, Balranald, Lockhart, Singleton, Cobar and Mullumbimby were closed, as was the Lismore Chemical Residue Laboratory.
Without a plan, vision or strategy to improve and revitalise the Department of Primary Industries, in less than six years more than 660 Department of Primary Industries and Industry and Investment jobs were axed by the former Labor Government. It was absolutely outrageous to be here as a regional representative and have to watch all those positions disappear under the former Labor Government. It is a bit rich for the Labor Party now to talk about the importance of Department of Primary Industries jobs to regional communities when they disregarded this principle in government. The only jobs the Labor Party ever cared about were their own.
Farmers are telling me that they want outcomes, not outputs, value for money, relevant and responsive services, and no more red tape. I am committed to ensuring that all of the services delivered by the Department of Primary Industries, as well as the Livestock Health and Pest Authorities and the Catchment Management Authorities, are responsive and relevant to the needs of our primary industries. I recognise the Parliamentary Secretary for Natural Resources is at the table this evening. The New South Wales Government is committed to investing in the skills of our Department of Primary Industries workforce.
As Minister for Small Business, I was pleased to deliver more than $5 million for the State's small businesses in the New South Wales Liberal-Nationals Government's 2011-12 budget. This funding will boost the level of support available to the small business sector and rebuild business confidence across New South Wales. It will deliver a better deal for the State's 650,000-odd small businesses while also providing the necessary policy framework to drive small business growth. Small businesses are the key drivers for the New South Wales economy, employing more than 1.8 million people in metropolitan and regional areas throughout the State. The New South Wales Government is committed to supporting small business growth and we will ensure that happens in the most equitable business environment.
The Sensis Business Index report released just a month before the election in March 2011 revealed that support for the Labor Government's policies among New South Wales businesses was the lowest in the nation. This result was not a blip or an accident—business confidence in the Keneally Labor Government was the worst in the country for all but one quarter of the past seven years. Businesses in New South Wales lost faith with consecutive Labor Governments because they were burdened with higher taxes, more regulation and less support than their counterparts across the borders. Over the past decade New South Wales has suffered the lowest jobs growth of any Australian State. If New South Wales jobs growth had matched Victoria's during the 16 years of Labor we would have seen an additional 193,000 jobs in this State.
The New South Wales Liberal-Nationals Government believes that lower taxes will be central to this and the payroll tax rebate will give employers greater confidence to accelerate the expansion of their business and their workforce. That is why the New South Wales Government introduced legislation to slash payroll tax as part of a campaign to deliver on the Government's election commitment to offer a payroll tax rebate of $4,000 to businesses and to create up to 100,000 extra jobs. This Government is restoring the confidence and protecting the rights of small businesses by providing them with both a strong advocate and a simple low-cost dispute resolution system. To this end, we have appointed the State's first Small Business Commissioner, Ms Yasmin King.
The New South Wales Business Chamber has been a consistent advocate for the establishment of a small business commissioner in New South Wales, but for 16 years Labor ignored the needs of small business owners. It was a New South Wales Liberal-Nationals Government that finally appointed the State's first Small Business Commissioner. I am very pleased to be able to report that our Small Business Commissioner has recently completed the first tranche of her regional listening tour. She has been met with great enthusiasm by so many of the State's small businesses throughout regional New South Wales. She regularly meets with small businesses across the metropolitan area. She will conduct the second tranche of her small business tour in the first quarter of next year. I welcome her enthusiasm for small business. She certainly is a breath of fresh air.
This Government also recognises that a predictable cash flow is vital for small businesses. Our 30-day benchmark policy finally brings New South Wales into line with Victoria and the Commonwealth after almost two decades of financial limbo under Labor. As Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Small Business, I am proud to say that this budget takes action to rebuild the New South Wales economy by getting our State's finances back on a sustainable footing.
Mr CHARLES CASUSCELLI
(Strathfield) [5.27 p.m.]: I speak in the take-note debate on the budget estimates and related papers 2011-2012. The New South Wales Liberal-Nationals Government's first budget takes direct action to rebuild New South Wales by repairing the State's finances, improving essential services and building the essential infrastructure needed to lead New South Wales on the road to prosperity. I am excited by these moves and encouraged and confident that we are now on the road to recovery. Let us remember the classic words uttered by the Leader of the Opposition and many of those opposite. "We left the New South Wales budget in good shape," they crow. In frequent moments of acute denial they shout, "A $5.2 billion black hole? What black hole?"
In contrast to the disciplined Coalition budget designed to return the economy to some measure of prosperity, the former Labor Government has earned the title "the Government of the unsustainable" not once but a champion number of times. Public sector wages growth in New South Wales outstripped that of every other sector in Australia. Without prudent action it would have led to the Government having to borrow money to pay for wages. That is unsustainable. The New South Wales Auditor-General has raised serious concerns about the financial position of the State's WorkCover Authority. He said WorkCover is more than $2 billion in deficit and may not collect enough premiums this year to meet its requirements for sustainable long-term funding. That is unsustainable. Workers compensation leave in the Police Force has increased fivefold during the past seven years. The death and disability scheme cost more than $300 million between January 2009 and May this year. The force recorded about 25,000 hours of workers compensation and paid leave for March in 2004.
By March this year the figure had grown to 125,000 hours. Six years ago workers compensation cost $5 million a quarter. In the first quarter of this year it cost $18.3 million—unsustainable. Every household in New South Wales would have to fork out up to $50 a year until 2016 to pay for the former Labor Government's solar bungle. The Auditor-General found that the solar bonus scheme cost up to $1.75 billion, up to four times the original forecast. Had it not been closed to new entrants less than 16 months after it was opened and more than 5½ years early, it would have cost as much as $4 billion—unsustainable. The Government of the unsustainable has left us, thank God, but its legacy will affect us for many years to come—a legacy that the people of New South Wales will not readily forget.
When we came into government the State's finances presented us with an incredible challenge as a consequence of the culture under Labor of hiding deficits, risking our triple-A credit rating, and long-term fiscal challenges were virtually ignored. This budget is about taking control of the State's finances and protecting the triple-A credit rating while enabling us to get on with the job of rebuilding New South Wales. The 2011-2012 budget has required tough decisions and it will demand hard work to get our finances back into shape so we can put this State back on the path of prosperity.
Our Government was elected by the people of this State because they knew that New South Wales desperately needed rebuilding after 16 years of neglect by Labor. This neglect manifested itself in deterioration of infrastructure, inadequate investment and dysfunctional service delivery. That trifecta of non-achievement was underpinned by a total lack of savings for future investment. How refreshing it must be to the people of New South Wales that the extravagant waste of the former Government has come to an end and that this new budget introduced concepts of fiscal discipline, transparency and appropriate governance. All these must appear quite alien to the former government.
Fixing the problems we inherit will take time and will not be achieved in a single budget. However, our first budget includes definitive and confident steps to get the State's finances back in order and to put New South Wales back on a sustainable economic path. A key part of rebuilding New South Wales is building the infrastructure our community so desperately needs. Our first budget delivers the biggest infrastructure commitment in the history of this State, totalling $62.6 billion over the next four years and nearly $7 billion more on infrastructure in its first four years than the last four years of Labor—an increase of more than 12 per cent.
Nowhere is Labor's infrastructure backlog felt more than in our hospitals. That is why we have committed a record $1.08 billion for the health capital works program in this budget along with $343 million set aside for new works. The value of major new health projects commencing this year was over $1.3 billion and about 45 per cent of this expenditure is in rural and regional areas. Total spending on health capital works over the next four years is expected to be around $4.7 billion, a 50 per cent increase on the last four years of Labor. Hospital projects are being funded right across the State over the next four years and this includes Concord Hospital, which services a large part of the Strathfield electorate.
This budget also invests $6.3 billion in infrastructure in transport and roads. To address the State's ailing infrastructure $6.3 billion has been allocated: $3.2 billion has been committed for roads just this year, an increase of nearly 10 per cent on Labor's last budget. This funding will meet election commitments to address road black spots and congestion, the upgrading of the Princes Highway and a billion dollar commitment to the Pacific Highway. More than $600 million has been committed to the North West Rail Link and the South West Rail Link to fast track the projects. I note the sheer act of bastardry by the Federal Government in not diverting funds, about $2.1 billion, from the Epping to Parramatta rail link project to the North West Rail Link. That Government is ignoring the will of the people of New South Wales, but just for now because the will of the New South Wales people will catch up with them at the next Federal election.
The New South Wales Government increased spending on transport and roads infrastructure by nearly 10 per cent on Labor's last budget and we have invested more than $600 million in the North West Rail Link and the South West Rail Link. We have made good on our promise to fast track the North West Rail Link and the budget backed up those actions with appropriate funding—$314 million has been allocated just this year to develop the line between Epping and Rouse Hill, including $222 million for land acquisition. Long-suffering commuters from Sydney's north-west will be relieved to see that this project is no longer held hostage by Labor party political interests. We immediately established Infrastructure NSW, which will improve the way infrastructure is assessed, prioritised and delivered in our State—free from political manipulation and party political vested interests substituted for the common good by the former administration.
Delivering this record investment infrastructure requires a new approach and a robust funding program. To clear the backlog of essential infrastructure across the State we are also delivering new funding options. We understand that many local councils are struggling under an infrastructure backlog, so this budget provides $70 million over five years to address this and provides capacity for up to $1 billion in additional investment by local councils. Legislation has been passed to establish Restart NSW, the New South Wales Government's key infrastructure fund, and one-third of all funding provided for infrastructure projects will be quarantined to deliver infrastructure in the regions. Restart NSW will be funded from a range of sources including windfall revenues when in surplus, funds made available by long-term lease of the Sydney Desalination Plant and by Waratah bonds.
The budget also delivers to protect the most vulnerable in our State with a record $1.4 billion in new growth funding for disability services that is part of a five-year, $2 billion Stronger Together Program. This is the largest funding commitment to disability services in New South Wales history and the largest made by any government in Australia. This will boost disability services capacity by an estimated 47,000 new places and provide a sound foundation to transform disability services with or without national reform. This budget has delivered the largest increase in funding for mental health in the State's history with a $1.34 billion funding commitment for mental health services in this financial year, an increase of 8.8 per cent on last year. As a result of the funding allocated in this budget the New South Wales Government will greatly improve and expand services and outcomes for mental health patients, their families and carers across New South Wales.
The budget will boost essential services with almost 4,000 extra front-line staff to be directed to the State's hospitals, schools and police stations over the next five years. The budget will put more nurses, teachers and police officers on the ground to improve essential services to the community; 200 new teachers, over 900 new nurses and 150 new police to be available this year. Despite the $5.2 billion black hole left by Labor, the Liberal Party and The Nationals are delivering on our commitment to improve front-line service delivery. There is no doubt that Labour's financial mismanagement means we are facing a very difficult budget position. On coming to government we were presented with a clear indication that New South Wales was headed for financial disaster under Labor's watch.
We are hardworking and working hard at the same time. The member for Keira should behave otherwise we will send him to the naughty corner. We are working hard to return the State's finances to a sustainable position, as the people of New South Wales expect, but we are also fulfilling our promise to make extra funds available to help our hardworking nurses, teachers and police. In summary, our budget will fund over the course of the budget estimates 2,475 extra nurses, 900 extra teachers and 550 extra police. We are determined to get New South Wales back on a sound financial footing, but at the same time we are keeping our promise to make sure the people of New South Wales have improved health care, education and safety across the State.
Unfortunately, because of the deceit of the Labor Federal Government, led by the most shameless Prime Minister in our nation's history, the New South Wales Government had to increase State mining royalties to offset the cost of the carbon tax on the New South Wales budget. There was and is no offset compensation proposed from the Federal Government to mitigate the increased cost to the New South Wales economy. Unlike the sly Federal Government, we have been very clear about the significant negative impact that the Federal Government's proposed carbon tax will have on the State's finances and that we would be seeking compensation from the Federal Government for the loss of dividends generated by our State-owned electricity.
New South Wales Treasury analysis confirms that New South Wales will face a larger negative impact than most other States and that some regions will face disproportionately adverse consequences, with both the Hunter and the Illawarra expected to be hit particularly hard. This budget recognises that New South Wales will bear the brunt of Federal Labor's carbon tax. The carbon tax cost to the State budget is expected to be around $950 million or more over the forward estimates, including reduced dividend income from State-owned electricity generators. The value of the State's generator assets are also expected to diminish by $3.6 billion.
We cannot stand by while the Federal Government proposes to pay up to $800 million or more in compensation to the French Government through the ownership of generation assets in Victoria while New South Wales receives nothing. We are not going to accept a multibillion dollar hit without taking action to protect our budget on behalf of the people of New South Wales. We are prepared to use all necessary means within our power to recover the costs to the State. To offset the carbon tax cost on the State budget the New South Wales Government plans to increase State mining royalties. The offset increase will apply only to those companies subject to the Commonwealth's proposed mining resources rent tax. Unfortunately, the cost of the carbon tax on Australian small businesses will be onerous, especially the heavy energy users such as cake shops, dry cleaners, takeaways, restaurants, bread shops, convenience stores, small manufacturing and light industrial. NSW Treasury estimates that the carbon tax alone will add up to $498 a year to household bills.
Businesses will pay anything from $927 to $4,191 extra a year, depending on energy usage. I fear for the survival of small businesses as they are most vulnerable to increased energy costs and receive no compensation. Some businesses will be driven out for no good reason. As the member for Strathfield I am proud to represent one of the most diverse communities in Australia. Many small businesses in my electorate are owned and operated by Koreans, Chinese, Indians, Sri Lankans, Lebanese, Italians, Greeks, Russians, Tamils and Vietnamese, amongst others. These ethnic communities will suffer more from the effects of the carbon tax on their small businesses. The New South Wales Government will do everything in its power to assist small businesses through a number of initiatives, such as reducing red tape. The Government has already established the Office of the Small Business Commissioner and given voice through the NSW Multicultural Business Advisory Panel to help our small businesses. We are determined to stand up for the people of New South Wales. For the information of those opposite, if this means fighting our own Federal Government, then so be it. We will not resile from the challenge.
The New South Wales Liberal-Nationals first budget is about rebuilding this State, including improving roads, and police and disability services for the people of Strathfield. The Government has allocated to Strathfield over $2 million for social housing upgrades and maintenance; over $5.5 million for Homebush West Public School for a new library, six classrooms and special programs; almost $2 million for the commissioning and completion of a new Burwood police station; over $500,000 to upgrade a major traffic black spot; over $1.7 million to replace damaged road pavements; over $500,000 in council grants for regional roads; over $400,000 for traffic black spots around the electorate's commercial centres; over $300,000 for a Community Building Partnership Program, for which we have many requests to improve local facilities; and over $4 million for those with a disability, including the establishment of a new collocator accommodation centre for 40 people.
Strathfield has attracted over $20 million from the State Government in this financial year. The New South Wales Liberal-Nationals first budget delivers on our commitments and starts the process of rebuilding the State. Indeed, Strathfield is fortunate to receive $20 million for a host of activities and facilities to better the lifestyles of the people of Strathfield. I take heart that our Government has achieved a balance between those measures directed to growing and protecting our economy while delivering those essential services on which our community depends and has every right to expect. I commend the Treasurer and his team for delivering the first of what I call the turnaround budgets for this State.
Ms CLOVER MOORE
(Sydney) [5.42 p.m.]: The first budget of the O'Farrell Government presents mixed results for the Sydney electorate and the wider New South Wales community. Of particular interest to my electorate is how this budget will help reduce inner-city transport congestion, which currently costs the New South Wales economy $4.8 billion and is expected to cost $8 billion by 2020 if business continues as usual. Congestion impacts on quality of life by reducing time spent with loved ones, as well as through pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The budget includes welcome funding to expand light rail services through to Circular Quay via Barangaroo and to Dulwich Hill from Lilyfield. Light rail is the solution to the gridlock in the city as it moves high volumes of people. The capacity of one light rail carriage is equivalent to three fully laden buses or 50 cars. Light rail systems operate in over 400 cities worldwide, with more being added each year.
I have long advocated for a light rail link to connect the Barangaroo development to Central and the city centre. Recently the City of Sydney committed $180 million to upgrade George Street to accommodate light rail in the city centre. The City of Sydney is keen to work with the State Government as it develops routes for its light rail network and with Randwick City Council on an extension to the sporting stadia in Moore Park and beyond. Clearly, a light rail route to Green Square is needed urgently as the major urban renewal area is developing and ultimately will provide for 40,000 residents and 22,000 jobs. I have urged successive governments to provide a city light rail network for around two decades and I congratulate the Minister on getting this significant project started.
A regional cycleway network would assist the increasing number of cyclists using the City of Sydney's separated network. A cost-benefit analysis for such a network spanning 15 council areas shows that just $179 million would create a 284-kilometre network covering 164 suburbs and servicing a population of 1.2 million people. By 2016 cycling will increase by 66 per cent and the network will generate $4 benefit for every $1 spent while, interestingly, motorways generate only $2. Other councils do not have the same resources for such a project and, given the benefits of alleviating congestion, reducing carbon emissions and providing a healthy transport option, it is important that State and Federal governments contribute to this project.
Community transport is an essential form of accessible and affordable transport for people who have difficulty using public transport and I strongly welcome additional funding for this service. The City of Sydney Community Transport Service provides transport for outings and excursions, and to medical appointments, shopping centres and local venues such as swimming pools and libraries. Our recent review of community transport found an opportunity to increase services by at least 50 per cent within the same budget allocation. Changes that the City of Sydney would like to discuss with the Minister include combining funds to enable integrated services for the existing Federal-State Home and Community Care service and the State Community Transport Program. Other good news for transport in the budget includes funding to develop the North West Rail Link, for continued work on the South West Rail Link and for electronic ticketing.
Of particular benefit to my constituents is additional funding to increase the NightRide bus service to help get home those patrons who come to the inner city late at night. I understand that two new lines plus 91 additional services will be provided. This is an absolutely essential service and I congratulate the Government and the Minister for Transport, who is at the table, on acknowledging the importance of providing transport from late-night entertainment precincts. Late-night trading in the City of Sydney area generates around $15.1 billion for Sydney's economy, of which 28.4 per cent is from inner-city jobs in late-night businesses and services, including restaurants, cafes, theatres, clubs and pubs. It is important for the Government to invest in that funding to sustain the contribution to our economy. Through our recent late-night economy consultations the City of Sydney identified lack of transport as a major source of dissatisfaction for customers, businesses and emergency services.
I have reported to the House previously about the volume of people that the City of Sydney counted late at night on a weekend last year between midnight and 1.00 a.m., including 6,000 pedestrians on Bayswater Road, 3,050 pedestrians at Oxford Square and 4,550 on George Street. Of course, those people had been drinking. For those in Kings Cross there is no rail transport. Taxis cannot cope with the volume of people and many people are not willing to pay the cost. This leaves thousands of mostly intoxicated patrons walking inner-city streets in the early hours of the morning, making noise and risking violence as they wait for buses and trains to restart. Additional NightRide bus services could make a real difference and the City of Sydney is contributing to publicising their availability. I welcome funding in this budget to plan and build a pedestrian tunnel link between Barangaroo and Wynyard. Existing pedestrian links between Wynyard Station and Barangaroo are close to capacity and will not cope with the expected increase in activity from the development, which amounts to about 30,000 in just the morning peak hour.
While this budget contains good transport news, overall transport funding pales in comparison with the $3.2 billion dedicated to roads, including $1 billion to the Princes Highway. I am disappointed that the Government will divert $1.75 billion—over half—of the Climate Change Fund to the Solar Bonus Scheme. A sustainable Solar Bonus Scheme is an essential part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and electricity infrastructure expansions. Funding for the scheme should come from energy retailers who on-sell the renewable energy produced by households, freeing up government funding for other environmental initiatives.
I hope that the closure of correctional centres outlined in the budget is not just a cost-cutting measure but marks a new approach to offending that focuses on rehabilitation, intervention, support services, therapeutic help, local support to keep people out of the criminal justice system and programs that reduce reoffending. Filling prisons has been standard practice in New South Wales, with over 11,000 prisoners costing $966 million a year in custodial services. I welcome the Attorney General's commitment to reduce recidivism, with $21.3 million in funding over four years for another Drug Court, a specialist drug rehabilitation correctional centre, and education and training programs for inmates. Additional funding for more drug and alcohol services and for specialist child and adolescent mental health services will also assist some of the State's most vulnerable people, many of whom are in my electorate.
Disability funding, including payroll tax rebates for employers hiring someone with a disability, is a breakthrough, and I congratulate the Government on these initiatives. While the Government says that from 1 January it will retain stamp duty concessions only for newly constructed and off-the-plan homes in order to stimulate development, this will have little benefit in the inner city. Very few newly constructed homes bought off the plan in the inner city sell for less than $650,000, which is $50,000 above the maximum price for which concessions apply. I call on the Government to lift this concession for inner-city developments to at least $650,000.
I share the concerns of the Council of Social Service of New South Wales [NCOSS] that this budget, like many before it, fails to address the escalating need for social housing or to encourage affordable housing. This is a particular concern given that the budget limits public sector wage increases below the consumer price index— including for frontline workers. These workers are needed for the proper functioning of the city but cannot afford to live in the city. I again ask the Government to exclude the 2009 single pensioner increase permanently from Housing NSW rent calculations. Single pensioners are already on some of the lowest incomes in the State and tenants will lose a quarter of their increase, which is unfair.
I join the Teachers Federation in its opposition to the introduction of fees for most children attending public preschools. This goes against the principle of providing all children with access to a high-quality public education. I understand that under the plan most families who send their children to public preschool will incur a fee, including Aboriginal children, moderately disadvantaged children and children from families with a healthcare card. The Teachers Federation estimates that only the most severely disadvantaged preschools will be exempt. I share the concern of the Teacher's Federation that fees will now prevent children who would most benefit from preschooling from attending, reducing opportunities for already disadvantaged children.
Of great importance to my constituents is funding for the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust. Most park users come from the surrounding densely populated community and the parkland's primary role is to provide for their open space and recreation needs now and into the future. With an additional 40,000 residents expected to move to Green Square and live in apartments with little or no private open space, the Government should increase investment in parklands, ensuring that it can maintain landscaping and heritage without the need to raise revenue through commercialisation and alienation. While I welcome capital works funding in this budget to upgrade the ES Marks Athletic Fields and refurbish the pavilion in Queens Park, recurrent funding continues to constitute a measly contribution of around 7 per cent of expenditure. I call on this Government to increase funding in future budgets. I conclude by saying I congratulate the Government on its first budget and I look forward to working together in the future for the inner city, my constituents and the global city.
Mr DAVID ELLIOTT
(Baulkham Hills) [5.53 p.m.]: I will make a modest contribution to debate on this State's 2011-12 budget—a budget that was implemented and handed down by the O'Farrell Government as elected on 26 March, and a budget and a Government that I am proud to support. My electorate takes a great deal of interest in matters financial particularly regarding the public sector. We do not have a train station. We do not have a court house. We do not have a police station. We do not have a public hospital. But we do have plenty of taxpayers. Our views on matters to do with the New South Wales budget are very dear to our hearts. Many of my constituents are the taxpayers who fundamentally provide the massive amount of financial support that Federal, State and local governments require.
The vision in this budget is best expressed by the word "productivity" and by productivity improvements. "Productivity" is the most important word used in economic discussion in the twenty-first century. Productivity is what the Government and private sector need to ensure that they improve the economic standing of New South Wales. All budgets must drive economic growth and productivity. Parts of this budget are similar to the budgets that we saw under the Federal Howard Government of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Those budgets were reliant on the need to promote economic growth and productivity and, as a by-product, reduce the amount of public sector debt. This budget limits the threat of unemployment. As most members of this House will know, employment is a most important issue for government. It broadens tax receipts giving Treasury surety when it comes to receiving revenues for services offered by the State and the receipts that are offered with land transfers and payroll tax.
My constituents constantly remind me that job vacancies in this State are falling continually. Job vacancies in the past were filled by those entering or re-entering the workforce. This budget addresses the economic activity that as a by-product will increase the number of job vacancies. I note that average adult full-time earnings in New South Wales rose by 1.4 per cent in May this year. This highlights the appropriateness of the O'Farrell Government public sector wage offer of 2.5 per cent. As recently as last year New South Wales had a negative agricultural income of $973 million. That highlights the reason that this Government remains committed to the diversification of regional economies. I see the member for Dubbo in the Chamber and members representing electorates in the Illawarra, western New South Wales and metropolitan New South Wales.
Mr Bryan Doyle:
And the opal of the south-west, Campbelltown.
Mr DAVID ELLIOTT:
And the opal of the south-west, Campbelltown. Representatives from these regional areas and economies know full well that to promote economic activity is to promote job opportunities. Only with those job opportunities will these regions continue to flourish. The Government's focus must be on the ability to provide retail trade, confidence in the public sector spending—which was of great concern to those of us involved in the business community under the past Government—and infrastructure delivery. In conclusion, my electorate is focused on six important areas of public sector spending: road safety; providing excellence in education; the continued expansion of housing and development; increasing the cost of living; threats to employment; and, when it comes to the first budget of the O'Farrell Government, the delivery of the North West Rail Link. The people of Baulkham Hills are delighted that for the first time an appropriations bill enshrines in law spending for the North West Rail Link, and for that we are extremely grateful. I commend the budget to the House.
Mr CLAYTON BARR
(Cessnock) [5.59 p.m.]: I speak in the debate on the 2011-12 budget, which was handed down by the Coalition Government in September this year. I say from the outset that I do love a budget. I love numbers and the truths that they tell. Let me start with the first and biggest lie of the current administration: the alleged budget black hole. It is difficult to determine whether it is a budget black hole of $5.1 billion, $5.2 billion, $5.3 billion or $5.4 billion, because the number touted by those opposite keeps changing. Lesson number one: When telling stories, making things up and saying things that are not true, you have to remember what you said and you need to be consistent. It is easy to be consistent when telling the truth because the truth is the truth and details do not have to be remembered. The truth in numbers, in dollars and cents, in black and white on page 2 of the Budget Overview shows that the budget result was a $1.264 billion surplus. It was not a deficit, not a hole, not a hidden mystery or a disguised figure that has been covered up. It was a $1.264 billion surplus.
If any member on that side of the House would like to challenge or contest that figure they should take it up with their Treasurer. I suspect that heads will roll at Treasury. As I said, there is no black hole, no deficit, but there is a $1.264 billion surplus. As a Labor member of this House, the wonderful thing about this "black hole" line often touted by those opposite is that it undermines their integrity every time they say it. Every time they go out in the community and use that line their constituents know that they are lying. Every time they utter those words they prove that they are lapdogs to the machine and not capable of independent thought. The first person in the Coalition smart enough to step away from this ridiculous claim was the Minister for Finance and Services in the other place. He stopped using the line back in May. Every major newspaper has disproved it. First it was the Sydney Morning Herald
and the Australian
. These two papers exposed the lie and all their readers became well aware of the lies and spin of the Coalition members.
The net result was that those who had read a newspaper other than the Daily Telegraph
knew that the black hole did not exist and that the Coalition was being fraudulent. Today, several months later, even the Daily Telegraph
has distanced itself from this fabrication. That was the final nail in the coffin for this untruth regarding the 2011-12 budget. As a member of the Australian Labor Party I listen with a smile when those opposite, unable to think for themselves, continue to trot out the line. Page 2 of the Budget Overview identifies a $1.264 billion surplus. I suggest that members opposite read it and spare themselves from ruining whatever credibility they still have. After all, the only currency a politician has is integrity. Let us move forward from this oft-repeated lie and look more closely at the budget. By more closely, I mean beyond page 2.
Mr Stuart Ayres:
Are you going to tell us about the Federal stimulus?
Mr CLAYTON BARR:
I will get to the Federal stimulus soon. The budget has to be read in the context of the dialogue and verbiage that the Coalition Government uses both in this House and in public. The majority of the public are spared the great mass of verbal nonsense that those opposite trot out, but if they have been listening, watching and reading they would be well aware that this budget is something akin to The Emperor's New Clothes
for this Government. For those not familiar with The Emperor's New Clothes
, a children's book, the Emperor is convinced that a thread so fine that it cannot be seen by anyone other than royalty has been spun specially for him and those who dare question the Emperor will show their inferiority. The Emperor, who himself cannot see this supposed thread, is far too embarrassed to suggest so, as are the servants of the Emperor. It is only when a child in the street and the community at large are willing to announce that the Emperor is naked that the truth comes out.
This budget is the story of The Emperor's New Clothes
. Insert "O'Farrell" for "Emperor" and insert "67 backbenchers" for the "servants", except the Treasurer who has been told that he must spin a thread so fine of numbers and non-existent fiction that it will create a story of a budget black hole that O'Farrell can wear. I, in my speech today, am the child in the street who seeks out the truth. This budget is evidence that there is no black hole and that the decisions being made by this Government are of its own doing, at its own discretion, based on its own preference and choice. This is important. When people in the street are affected by the Government's decisions, I suggest that those opposite do not reach for a robe that is not there. They should reach for some integrity and honesty and say to the people "These are the decisions that we have made because we believe in them and they are based on our integrity." But they do not do that. They keep on blaming this imaginary black hole.
One of the significant truths that need to be told about this budget is the increase in GST revenue returning to this State. We have heard so much about it. The Emperor's New Clothes
approach to this scenario is that we are going to get $2 billion less. I refer to page 6-3 of Budget Paper No. 2. The truth is that this State will get $1.3 billion more, as shown on page 6-2 of Budget Paper No. 2. Going forward, this figure will climb by $l billion every year to the point that in 2014-15 the Government will have an additional $4 billion per annum of GST revenue to spend. This is an incredibly important point. When a budget has more coming in, it means there is more money to spend. Within that basic pretext of having more money to spend, how does the Government justify cuts to working conditions and real salaries of public sector workers? The former Labor Government afforded all that it did with the money it received. So too will this Government, but this Government will receive more than the Labor Government ever did.
Having dealt with one Federal issue of misinformation—the GST, which is frequently referred to by those opposite—I will move to another, the carbon tax. We frequently hear from those opposite that the sky is falling because of the carbon pollution tax and that New South Wales will be hurt. The reality of the budget papers is that the carbon pollution tax will have a net result on the New South Wales budget over the coming four years of an increase to State revenue by $3.5 billion. That is right, members heard correctly: There will be an increase of $3.5 billion as a result of the carbon pollution tax. It will not be a decrease of $l billion, as the Premier would have us believe. My advice to the Premier and members opposite who are thinking about espousing yet another financial falsity is to read the budget. To help members opposite put these figures together, I refer them to pages 5-14, 5-19 and 5-20 of Budget Paper No. 2.
I will add these two together: an additional $10 billion in GST and an extra $3.5 billion as a result of the carbon pollution tax. That tells me that New South Wales will be $13.5 billion better off over the next four years. Based on that, every person in New South Wales has the right to think that in four years their lot in life will be better than it is today. Sadly, that will not be true for public sector workers, for families fighting the rising costs of living, for first home buyers or for our rural firefighters. One would think this massive increase in funding from these two Federal Government initiatives would satisfy the Coalition Government's appetite for dollars. No, it does not. On two of life's most basic needs for households—water and electricity—this Government has determined that it will require an increase in dividends of 15 per cent for water and 30 per cent for electricity. If that is not driving up the cost of living, I do not know what is.
Over the next four years these dividends will drive an extra $350 million into the budget coffers of this Government, which has an insatiable appetite. With this increased income not being used for the wellbeing of the people of New South Wales, we might think that at least it would be used to pay down some debt. But we would be wrong. During the coming four years New South Wales can expect an increase in net debt of $25 billion. That is an increase of 78 per cent. We really should not be surprised because it is typical of Coalition governments to drive up debt. It is a legacy of the former Greiner Government, which was the last time this rabble found itself in power. In the years since, the Labor Government worked hard to reduce the net debt as a percentage of gross State product. We inherited the net debt at 12 per cent of gross State product. Labor worked hard to get that figure below 10 per cent in the first two years, and indeed got it down as low as 6 per cent for more than five years. Yet within two years the Coalition will have the net debt back above 10 per cent of the State's total productivity.
In the face of massive increases in revenue already identified to be in excess of $13 billion this Government will drive up the net debt of the State—quite a feat. The most obvious and glaring element of Budget Paper No. 3 is the Coalition's approach to the lowest common denominator. In previous years, the Labor Government reported in the budget targets and actuals. This Government has carefully scanned those targets and has generally picked the lowest number, the easiest number, the target that was most likely to be easy to achieve. Its race to the lowest common denominator highlights a government that is not looking to advance this State but one that is looking for mediocrity. While this approach has been taken widely, it is not always the case. Some Ministers have been bold enough to shoot for increases and improvements of 1, 2 and sometimes 3 per cent—all power to those Ministers. It would be a terrible shame to see the hard work of the Labor Government slide backwards in all fields.
But to find my favourite target of the year one has to look no further than page 2-9 in Budget Paper No. 3—the chapter dedicated to the Department of Attorney General and Justice. The Minister has set a target that identifies escapes from custody. Historically, Labor always set that target at zero. One would think that the Government would strive for zero escapes. But what might this new target mean in May or June next year? In May or June next year if there have been no escapes from custody and all has been going well what will the staff at the correctional centres do? Do they encourage escapes so that the Minister's target can be realised? Do they leave the gates open to meet the target? Criminals in New South Wales should stay posted because if all goes well in the next six months they may have a golden opportunity to relieve themselves of being in custody in May or June.
Is Fire and Rescue an important element of State Government? Of course it is. To that end, the former Labor Government invested considerably to ensure that the pumper fleet age decreased from 10 years to nine years to eight years. The Coalition Government's target, with an eight-year-old fleet left to them by Labor, is to set next year's target at nine years. I am willing to bet that an eight-year-old pumper this year will be nine years old next year. That means the Government is investing nothing. It means it is not spending any money on the pumper fleet, it is not investing money in Fire and Rescue and it is not doing anything to make things better for Fire and Rescue personnel who put themselves in harm's way. That is the approach taken by this Government. It has such an insatiable appetite for dollars that it would leave the hardworking Fire and Rescue NSW workers out there on their own with no help.
I turn to the budget for the Ministry for Police and Emergency Services and the figures for crime. Under Labor, crime rates in all major indicators were falling. Will that continue? No. Budget Paper No. 3 indicates that the community should expect an increase in crime. Incidents of domestic and sexual violence are expected to increase from 45,000 to 46,000—the first time in more than five years that the trend will be upward. Labor drove it down; the Coalition will watch it go up. Incidents of property crime are expected to increase from 63,000 to 70,000—an increase of more than 10 per cent. What about people feeling safe while walking or jogging in their own neighbourhood at night? In 2010 under Labor 63 per cent of people felt that way. Under this Government it is apparently okay if only 55 per cent of people feel safe.
The Coalition promised an increase in police numbers. Surely that will be in the budget papers. Total police—sworn and civilian—will increase from 19,194 to 19,230, an increase of just 36. But those opposite said there was going to be an increase of 150. Perhaps that is 150 sworn police officers. That would mean a reduction of 114 civilians working with police officers. The penny has just dropped. One would expect a rise in crime if the number of civilian workers was reduced because that would mean that more police would be behind desks in police stations and not out on the beat. That is what the Government has promised to do for our community in this budget. It is a little mystifying how the Government expects to increase the cadet training program by 60 per cent while decreasing the budget for operating costs by 12 per cent. Are alarm bells ringing? When the Government reads its own budget does it start to wonder how it will do that?
I move now to Budget Paper No. 3 and the portfolio of the Department of Education and Communities. I love education and I am disappointed by the provision of education and opportunities for the people in my electorate. Australian Bureau of Statistics data tells us—and I have told the House this many times—that Cessnock has the State's lowest level of year 12 completion rates and tertiary studies completion rates. I would welcome investment in both secondary and tertiary education. But unfortunately the evidence at the moment is that there is nothing in this budget for us. There are rumours among the community that the Cessnock TAFE will be closed. That is supported by shrinking course options being offered. The TAFE in Kurri Kurri is bursting at the seams, but we cannot get any investment to expand. The Hunter TAFE is moving towards the delivery of degree training to complement that offered by the University of Newcastle.
We have a skills and labour shortage in the Hunter, a region that drives this State through coalmining and exports. One would think that it would be logical to invest money in training and educating the workforce that lives and resides in the area so that they can benefit this State and improve its prosperity going forward. But this budget does none of that. I will not thank this Government for what it will not do for education in my electorate. Let us consider our preschools. There is a reason the Government runs and funds preschools located in low socioeconomic areas, and it is the low socioeconomics of the area. By definition that should indicate to the Government that money is scarce and that paying fees would pose a problem for people in those areas. While the budget papers reveal that the Federal Government will put in $154 million, the insatiable appetite of those who want to double dip means that they will also charge those who can least afford it.
Although we could talk about sport and recreation, the Hunter region's sporting venues, families and communities, and the lack of understanding of the Minister for Sport and Recreation, I will move on to something that is incredibly important to my electorate and to many electorates represented by those opposite—water catchment authorities. The Labor Government invested heavily in this important infrastructure program but I will list the changes in the budget for the catchment management authorities of New South Wales. Members of The Nationals should be getting a little bit nervous because they have not stood up for their communities in this area. The budget for Border Rivers-Gwydir has been cut by $8 million.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Lee Evans):
Order! Members will come to order. There is too much audible conversation in the Chamber.
Mr CLAYTON BARR:
There has been a 50 per cent cut in the budget for Border Rivers-Gwydir. The budget for the Central West Catchment Management Authority has been cut by $600,000; the Hawkesbury-Nepean budget has been increased by $200,000, and I recognise that; the Hunter-Central Rivers has been cut by $2.6 million; the Lachlan has been increased by $750,000; the Lower Murray-Darling has been decreased by $150,000; the Murray has been reduced by $800,000, the Murrumbidgee got an increase of $40,000; the Namoi was reduced by $1.35 million; Northern Rivers was reduced by $3.7 million; Southern Rivers was reduced by $2 million; Sydney Metropolitan was reduced by $1.5 million; and the Western Catchment Management Authority was reduced by $100,000.
At first glance these numbers may appear to be large and cumbersome for those opposite and difficult to understand, but I will spell it out to them to make it a little bit easier. If you hail from Albury, Broken Hill, Lismore, Parkes, Dubbo, Newcastle, Sydney or Cessnock you will know that the water catchment areas that you live in should expect a minimum of a 20 per cent funding cut this year. That is the thanks that this Coalition Government gives to its national counterpart. "Coalition" by definition means the joining of the two; however, the budget is a statement of the one—the Liberal Party at the expense of The Nationals. Have members of The Nationals told their communities about these cuts?
Have members of the Liberal Party been open and honest about these cuts and have the issues been discussed in caucus, or has it been slipped silently into this budget in the hope that nobody would notice? I have tried to do a favour for those opposite. I have given them notice to let them tell their communities what is going on with their water catchments authorities. Why did the Government allow all this money to be stolen away from their water catchment authorities? I have only offered my thoughts on Budget Papers Nos 1, 2 and 3. Members who would like my further input on Budget Papers Nos 4, 5 and 6 are welcome to visit me in room 1003 for more information.
Mr ANDREW ROHAN
(Smithfield) [6.19 p.m.]: One would think that Labor members would learn from their mistakes, but it does not seem so. It gives me great pleasure to speak in the take-note debate on the Budget Estimates and Related Papers 2011-2012. It is the first budget of the Liberal-Nationals Government, which has a strong mandate to return fiscal responsibility to the operations of this State and to make it number one again. This Government's first budget is about rebuilding New South Wales, improving roads and public transport and investing in health and education in electorates across New South Wales, including my electorate of Smithfield. But for this Government to begin rebuilding New South Wales, it has to repair the damage that was left behind. Essentially this Government has come into office with a mop and bucket—much like the cleaners that roll into the Sydney central business district after the famous New Year's Eve celebrations to clean up the mess left behind.
The damage caused by the previous Labor Government was felt by people all over New South Wales, but nowhere was it felt more than in the Smithfield electorate. Sixteen years of bad decisions, reckless spending, billions of dollars wasted, gross mismanagement and neglect meant that the residents of my electorate were better off in 1995 before the election of the previous Government than they were in 2011. Like the residents of western Sydney more generally, the residents of Smithfield could no longer tolerate this sad state of affairs. That is why on 26 March electorates that were previously rusted-on Labor became Liberal for the first time in history with swings of up to 30 per cent. Before I speak on the budget in more depth I take this opportunity to repeat the remarks of my colleague the member for Penrith who made a fine observation when he said:
... I want to set the record straight in relation to the financial situation this Government has inherited ... There has been extensive discussion and debate about the concept of a budget shortfall and a $5.2 billion black hole. It is worth going through some of the figures listed in Budget Paper No. 2 to make sure that members are aware of where we stand ... The previous Government was able to mask the State's true budget position through the funding it received from the economic stimulus. If members look at the figures listed in the budget paper they will see that in 2009-10 there was a budget surplus of $989 million.
If the economic stimulus of that year is taken away, we see that the budget's underlying position was a deficit of $895 million. In 2010-11 we see a $1.2 billion surplus but the underlying result was $194 million. If we had continued the spending regime of the previous Government without taking any action the forward estimates would have resulted as follows: in 2011-12, a deficit of $170 million; in 2012-13, a deficit of $550 million; in 2013-14, a deficit of $1.316 billion; and in 2014-15, a deficit of $2.4 billion. That adds up to somewhere in the vicinity of $4.5 billion, but we have discovered since taking office that there was an unfunded liability of about $720 million relating to the Solar Bonus Scheme. If we add together all those deficits and the Solar Bonus Scheme liability there is a deficit of $5.2 billion. That is the reason this Government has had to take some action.
If this Government had continued down the same spending path as the previous Government we could have ended up with a $5.2 billion budget black hole. As the member for Penrith stated, it is critical that all members are absolutely clear about the financial position that was inherited by this Government on 26 March. It is because of this $5.2 billion black hole that we inherited from the former Labor Government that measures to curtail the unsustainable rate of spending were taken in this budget. I have listened carefully to the contribution of Opposition members to this take-note debate. They hate it that this Government has cut spending. It is clear that Opposition members are addicted to spending—at least spending other people's money.
It is clear that Opposition members think any problem can be solved by throwing money at it and that they have no sense of fiscal responsibility. The people of New South Wales had a Government that was addicted to spending. The people of New South Wales had a Government that spent, spent, spent. At the last election the people emphatically elected a new government with a mandate to cut spending and return fiscal responsibility to the financial management of the State. I congratulate the Treasurer and his department for doing exactly what was needed and for doing exactly what the people elected this Government to do—return fiscal responsibility to the financial management of the State.
Gone are the bad old days of financially unsustainable programs such as the Solar Bonus Scheme and the bad old days of failed projects such as the Tcard. Also gone are the bad old days of announcing then axing then re-announcing projects that wasted billions of dollars with nothing to show for them, such as the Rozelle Metro. The Government has made hard decisions in this budget, decisions that may not have been easy but were definitely in the interests of the State. In his first budget Treasurer Baird has outlined a range of savings measures to rescue this State from a massive $5.2 billion budget deficit over the next four years, which I have highlighted previously. One of the measures is 5,000 voluntary redundancies in the public service, while more savings are to be achieved through procurement process changes, the public sector wage cap and various efficiency strategies across government.
I will analyse the public sector wage cap for a moment. Public sector workers in New South Wales have received wage increases well above that of other employee groups. Since 1997 public sector wages have increased by 21.9 per cent in real terms. New South Wales public sector wage growth has exceeded the private sector by 10.7 per cent and the public sector in the rest of Australia by 6.1 per cent. New South Wales taxpayers will save $2 billion over four years from a 2.5 per cent cap on wage growth. That should not be scoffed at. The spending cuts are important. They will go a long way to repairing the damage done to the State by the previous Government. But there is more to this budget than just spending cuts. This budget starts the process of rebuilding and making New South Wales number one again.
The budget also includes a five-year $2 billion program for disability services, which is the largest funding commitment to disability services in the nation's history. Residents in Smithfield, like residents across New South Wales, will benefit from the investment this Government is making in law and order, health, education, public transport, roads and disability services. The budget delivers almost $129 million to progress existing health works including the Nepean Hospital Stage 3 and Stage 3A redevelopments and the Liverpool Hospital Stage 2 redevelopment and car park. Planning for the Nepean Hospital car park expansion is proceeding. An amount of $3.5 million will provide 39 more beds in 2012 following the commissioning of the New South Wales building works. At Liverpool Hospital 56 more beds will be delivered after the new building works have been commissioned later this year or early next year.
Transport will improve with $102 million allocated for more express train services and an extra $7.6 million for NightRide services. The $40 million in the Park and Travel Safety Fund means better safety for commuters through more closed-circuit television cameras, lighting and help points at stations. Additional expenditure in the Smithfield electorate includes $16 million allocated in 2011-12 to commence construction of the Erskine Park Link Road to service the Western Sydney Employment Area. Some $8.8 million was allocated in 2011-12 to the Smithfield landfill site development and $3.5 million was allocated for conservation works in Horsley Park. There was a boost in funding for community transport to local services including those provided by South West, Blacktown, Gandangara and Wangary Community Transport.
I know that the member for Fairfield is anxious about two issues in particular, Fairfield Hospital and the upgrade of the Polding Street and Cumberland Highway intersection. Although my constituents may use a number of hospitals that are relatively close to my electorate as the need arises, only one hospital is within the boundaries of my electorate and that is Fairfield Hospital in Prairiewood. I was pleased to welcome the Premier, the Hon. Barry O'Farrell, and the Minister for Health, the Hon. Jillian Skinner, to Fairfield Hospital where they announced that the Coalition would deliver 100 more beds and 25 more nurses to the local area health district as part of our More Beds, More Nurses, Real Reform health plan. This was a great win for patients at Fairfield Hospital and a great win for Sydney's south-west. This will be delivered.
It is interesting to note that the last time the Coalition was in Government a substantial allocation was made to complete the overpass on the Cumberland Highway at Fairfield West. Now that the Coalition is back in government we will deliver the long-awaited and much-needed upgrade to the Polding Street and Smithfield Road intersection. The intersection under that same overpass in Fairfield West was ignored by the Labor Party for the entire 16 years it was in government. Visiting the site with the then shadow Minister for Roads and now Deputy Premier, the Hon. Andrew Stoner, we committed $3 million to this vital project in order to ease traffic congestion in the area.
As members may be aware, this is one of the worst accident spots in Sydney as identified by both the New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority and the National Roads and Motorists Association. While the member for Fairfield may parade around the community fearmongering and misleading constituents about this project not going ahead, I put on the record again that this upgrade will be delivered within our first term of government. It must also be noted that while the member for Fairfield has recognised this as a vital project, he did not make the same commitment during his election campaign to fight for the upgrade of the intersection. The New South Wales Liberals and The Nationals first budget delivers on our commitments and starts the process of rebuilding the State. I commend the Treasurer and the Coalition Government.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders: Motion of No Confidence
Mr BRAD HAZZARD
(Wakehurst—Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Infrastructure NSW) [6.32 p.m.]: I move:
That on Wednesday 23 November 2011 standing and sessional orders be suspended to:
(1) Permit consideration of the motion of no confidence in the Minister for the Environment, and Minister for Heritage, immediately following the motion accorded priority.
(2) Provide for the following time limits to apply to the debate:
Mover – 15 minutes;
Minister – 15 minutes;
Four other members – 5 minutes;
Response by the Minister – 5 minutes; and
Mover in reply – 5 minutes.
(3) Postpone all other business until the conclusion of the motion of no confidence.
Earlier today the Leader of the Opposition moved a no confidence motion in the Minister for the Environment and to facilitate that motion being debated tomorrow I have set out the terms of the debate so that members can prepare for it.
Mr MICHAEL DALEY
(Maroubra) [6.33 p.m.]: I note there is a substantial difference between what the Leader of the House has moved and what is provided for in standing order 112 (6), which says that debate will be as follows: The mover is to have an unspecified time. This has been truncated to 15 minutes. Under the standing order the Minister named has unspecified time to respond. That also has been truncated to 15 minutes. Any other member has 20 minutes to speak. This motion limits the number of speakers, which is not provided for in standing order 112. The standing order says any other member is to have 20 minutes, but the motion gives four other members five minutes each. It is a serious truncation of the debate. Under the standing order the Minister has 30 minutes to respond but that has been truncated to five minutes. The mover in reply also has 30 minutes but the motion states only five minutes. If one were cynical one could say that this is a further move by this Government to protect this hapless Minister for the Environment. I invite members to draw that conclusion.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
BUDGET ESTIMATES AND RELATED PAPERS
Financial Year 2011-2012
Mr TROY GRANT
(Dubbo—Parliamentary Secretary) [6.35 p.m.]: It gives me great pleasure to speak in the take-note debate on the Budget Estimates and Related Papers 2011-2012 and to make a contribution on behalf of the electorate of Dubbo, principally the large communities of Dubbo, Parkes, Forbes and Narromine but also the other wonderful communities in my electorate. The budget that was delivered by this Government needed to be tough, but still it managed to deliver some big wins for the Dubbo electorate. I will begin with a short anecdote that serves to highlight how one local organisation and a particular individual in my electorate stand to benefit from an allocation of funds in this budget. It illustrates the intent of the first budget handed down for the O'Farrell-Stoner Government by the Hon. Michael Baird, a most fantastic Treasurer.
Earlier this week I had the privilege of meeting 13-year-old Sarah Valentine. Sarah has been diagnosed with common variable immunodeficiency. Her body is unable to produce normal levels of antibodies. This necessitates her making monthly trips to Sydney's Children's Hospital for infusions of Intragram, which is made from donated plasma. Sarah, who is a student at Dubbo College South Campus, once had dreams of competing in the Olympics as a swimmer. However, regular contact with other sick children and the debilitating impact of her lifelong condition has forced her to rethink her goals. For Sarah and her fellow sufferers, plasma, or as she calls it "liquid gold", can be extracted from blood either during or after a blood donation. These two components are then transformed into life-saving medical products. In the September budget the Dubbo Blood Bank received $3,000 to purchase a heat sealer. This is a vital piece of equipment used in the safe collection of blood that was previously denied to this organisation.
The heat sealer safely seals a bag after it has been filled with a donor's blood, thus ensuring that the blood remains in the best possible condition once it is delivered to Sydney. The high-quality blood or plasma for recipients like Sarah is an integral part of her treatment and ensures her long-term health. Despite facing these personal challenges, Sarah heads a successful annual campaign to increase blood donations across Dubbo called "Run, Catch, Swim". This encourages our local sporting teams to donate blood each summer. As a result of the campaign the Dubbo Blood Bank has been able to save many more lives. Sarah's circumstances demonstrate how a modest injection of public money that was denied for so long goes a long way towards improving the lives of those members of our community who confront challenges in their daily lives.
Finally, after 16 years of Labor neglect, the people and communities of the Dubbo electorate are starting to see the benefits of good government. This is a Government with good intent, a Government that has enough vision to see beyond the needs of metropolitan Sydney. As we set about arresting the slide that resulted in a 6.6 per cent decline in the annual budget allocation for the Dubbo electorate since 2006-07 we are honouring our commitment to get the State's finances back in shape whilst ensuring our local community receives badly needed infrastructure improvements and investments in services. Despite our need to deliver a responsible budget, the Liberal-Nationals Government—of which I am proud to be a part—has already secured for the Dubbo electorate a 9.3 per cent increase on the last Labor budget. This includes, which is very important in my electorate, a 7 per cent increase on road funding projects. I commend the Hon. Duncan Gay, Minister for Roads and Ports. This demonstrates our Government's intent to recognise and service the needs of people who for too long have been forgotten.
One such project is the final sealing of the Tony McGrane Way between Tullamore and Narromine. This is an injection of some $600,000 that has been devoted to sealing a gravel road that will be of lasting benefit to drivers, communities and businesses alike, and honours the former member, Tony McGrane. This project commenced under the Labor Government when the Hon. Carl Scully was Roads Minister, so it is some time ago. Those opposite left that project with seven kilometres of unsealed road and it has been completely ignored for the last six years. With this investment there will be improved safety on this road. This is a major consideration because this road is becoming increasingly busy with livestock, grain transportation and fertiliser carriers. It is also an increasing thoroughfare for those known as the grey nomads. By improving this section of road there will be a flow-on economic benefit through the increase in efficiency of regional industries which will create better connectivity between our regional communities.
Some $4.2 billion has been invested in the regional and rural road network across this State in the 2011-12 budget, of which $5 million has been committed for the construction of passing lanes and safety improvements on the busy Newell Highway that dissects my electorate. This will mean that motorists in Forbes, Parkes and Dubbo will see some tangible improvements to the Newell Highway. This is in addition to the commitment given and then delivered by the Minister in relation to the restoration of the speed limit on the Newell Highway. The new speed limit will improve the flow of traffic and, in conjunction with the construction of passing lanes, will provide a much safer and efficient thoroughfare. In addition, funding to the tune of $1.4 million has been provided under this budget to deliver traffic flow improvements to the Golden Highway and Ballimore Road intersection, an intersection that was always ignored by the last Government. This intersection places at risk the lives of schoolchildren on a bus that must take the notorious turn at this intersection every single day.
A further $300,000 investment to undertake traffic investigations at the Troy Junction rail crossing is also another significant investment to improve safety. There is an additional $100,000 to construct a turning lane on the Newell Highway at Forbes which has already seen a death and is much needed. There is $1.2 million to pay for the pavement rebuilding on the Newell Highway at Peak Hill and a further $600,000 to repaint Paytens Bridge on the Grenfell-Eugowra Road. That is a number of examples of the investment made because that is what the community have asked for, those are the issues that for too long have been ignored. The Liberal-Nationals Government is conscious of the need to bring public expenditure under tighter control because it recognises that without doing so no funds will be available to provide the services that people rely upon. This is an economic reality. It is one that the people of the Dubbo electorate understand.
The budget has focused primarily upon rebuilding our State. By rebuilding we mean repairing what was left behind, and there is much to do in that regard in the Dubbo electorate. It means improving services and building the infrastructure the people of our State and my electorate need. A massive component of this is improving our health services. Obviously I have not been here for a long time but earlier today the member for Canterbury chose to lecture us in relation to making promises and not delivering on them. I do not think anyone could ever witness a greater example of hypocrisy. This is from a member of the former Government that for nine years promised the Dubbo, Parkes and Forbes communities upgrades and new hospitals in our electorate that were not delivered. How dare she lecture us about failed commitments when that was the modus operandi of those opposite—shame on her.
Health capital works spending in this budget in the Dubbo electorate over the next four years will deliver $4.7 billion. Dubbo Base Hospital will receive in this first budget $4 million towards the planning for stages 1 and 2 of that upgrade. This is real money that is now entering our community to achieve what those opposite failed to do after nine years of broken promises. This redevelopment will provide expanded surgical and renal dialysis services, additional inpatient beds, reconfigured maternity and paediatric services, ambulatory care services and an improved emergency medical unit. This will also ensure more consulting space in medical clinics for specialists who visit Dubbo regularly. In addition, the Lachlan Health Service at Parkes and Forbes hospitals will also receive a $3 million injection of funds this financial year to get the planning and building of their facilities underway.
Other allocations include $455,000 to implement a master plan at the Western Plains Zoo. I recognise in the House and thank the Hon. George Souris, the Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality and Racing, and Minister for the Arts, for his ongoing support of this wonderful regional and national asset, which I take the opportunity to congratulate on being a silver prize winner at the State Tourism Awards last night. This facility is world class and the operations are world class. This support of the zoo by the Minister is just another opportunity for it to make a contribution to our regional economy. A further $758,000 is allocated to upgrade the Parkes fire station, $6.8 million to upgrade the Parkes police station and $600,000 to redevelop the Dubbo Riverside Centre, a disability group home. In relation to disabilities, the Dubbo electorate is at the forefront raising issues with the Hon. Andrew Constance, the Minister for Ageing, and Minister for Disability Services. He, like all members of Cabinet, is delivering for the electorate of Dubbo. They have all made a wonderful start. Their contributions are far more significant than my allotted time will allow me to highlight.
The funding secured in this budget provides an incredible boost to the electorate's economy whilst simultaneously delivering the vital services and infrastructure that were so sadly neglected by the former Labor Government. That neglect and those days are over. The Dubbo electorate is without a doubt one of the most important economic regions in New South Wales. This year's budget allocation reflects that importance and demonstrates that this Government now has our electorate at the front of its mind in the rebuilding of our State. Under the Labor Government it was of out of sight, out of mind. I am proud to be part of this Government because we have made significant starts in so many areas. This Government is showing the courage to tackle the big issues that are impacting on our economy and our ability to deliver services.
One such approach is our courageous Minister for Police and Emergency Services tackling the death and disability scheme. It is no secret that I have been vilified. I have been made out to be some sort of monster by a number of those within the New South Wales Police Association executive and to be doing the wrong thing by police. They have cast a web of lies and deceit to paint a picture of me and my support for the Government on this issue that they should be ashamed of. They have accused me of lying and defrauding the community of New South Wales and my representations in support of this necessary reform. Again I say, "Shame on them." At no time have I ever lied about this issue. At no time have I ever deceived anybody. At no time have I sought to be at the front and centre of this debate, but I found myself in that position given my history in the organisation and my understanding and knowledge of this scheme.
It is important that I raise this because we have a lot to do to reform this State. As I highlighted in my inaugural speech, we need to have the courage of our convictions as we undertake that job. I can tell those opposite tonight that if they want to try to take me down with their modus operandi of sleaze, lies and deception, bring it on. I will not stand by and let them impugn my reputation and mislead the community when this vital reform needs to be undertaken without question. Unfortunately, those I mention are a small representation of the wonderful police men and women who serve our community. We always have provided and always will provide the support necessary. They are not truly representing the majority of the Police Force who agree also that this issue needs reform.
At any one time between 600 and 800 police can be on long-term sick leave. We have a responsibility to those police to look after them for the longer term. We need to remove the incentives that have been outlined. That is the issue I have spoken about repeatedly and which I will continue to advocate and support the Minister to achieve. We will work with the association. They are back at the negotiating table. Shame on them for perpetuating lies that they were never involved in negotiations. They were involved and they are misleading their members by choosing the cheap option of trying to vilify someone who served with them by misrepresenting matters and making a personal attack rather than addressing the real issues facing its membership. I am proud to be part of this Government because these are tough reforms and examples of responses to the budget that need to be taken to rebuild this State. I commit to supporting the O'Farrell-Stoner Government to achieve this reform over the next three-odd years.
Mr GREG PIPER
(Lake Macquarie) [6.52 p.m.]: I am pleased to contribute to the Appropriation Bill take-note debate. As an Independent my approach to this debate can be a little bipartisan. I do not believe either of the major political parties can lay great claim to any significant investment in Lake Macquarie over many years past. This budget did not treat Lake Macquarie particularly badly; perhaps, a better word to use would be indifferent as it leaves significant needs for infrastructure and services unmet. The previous 16 years under Labor certainly left a lot to be desired. I shall talk parochially about Lake Macquarie and not about the global New South Wales budget as other members have done. I have some sympathy for the O'Farrell-Stoner Government on many issues. One cannot lightly dismiss the legacies resulting from the solar bonus scheme shortfall, the failed and poor power privatisation model, and other issues relating to public transport proposals that the previous State Government set in train and need to be addressed.
I applaud those aspects of the budget that have been established, including funding processes such as Infrastructure NSW and the Hunter Infrastructure Fund. It will take hindsight and a matter of time to determine whether they have passed the test of policy and implementation. Lake Macquarie transport problems, health services and policing remain of concern to local people. I have reminded members of this House many times of the population growth in the southern part of the Lake Macquarie electorate and the disappointing lag in the provision of services. I am not here to apportion blame on this Government or on any one budget; the failure to invest in the needs of this area has existed for a long time.
Health is one area with the greatest shortfall with lack of hospital facilities and services proving to be in great need. The Morisset and surrounding communities have made a concerted effort to fill this gap. The Southlake Integrated Health Care Committee has developed a specification for the types and levels of services that can be effectively and efficiently provided locally. The Southlake Integrated Health Care facility has been based on other facilities in New South Wales and includes a range of services that can be provided reasonably by the Hunter New England Local Health District. I had this proposal costed by the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the estimated cost at just over $45 million is consistent with that of recent rural and regional hospital developments. Quite rightly, as the budget has provided for these important projects in other areas it should provide also for this important unmet need in the Morisset area.
While the Hunter New England Local Health District is free to consider such a project within its global budget, the Government's interest in providing infrastructure to growing communities will be best served by specific allocation. The actual cost to the New South Wales Government will not be the $45 million; it will be almost halved by the Commonwealth Government's commitment to fund 45 per cent of new hospital services. While this new health infrastructure is critical to the growing population of Morisset, it also would ease the burden being placed on John Hunter and Wyong hospitals. This issue deserves the attention of the Government and deserves inclusion in future budgets.
Morisset Ambulance Service also has been under question lately. The Morisset community suffers from a reduced level of ambulance service while it remains dependent on John Hunter and Wyong hospitals for services that ought to be provided locally. Experience has shown that transferring administration of the Morisset ambulance station to the Central Coast region has led to reduced availability of a local ambulance. This is another way in which the inadequate level of resources directed to the Morisset community has jeopardised the welfare of residents. It is unfair treatment and the community's access to ambulance services is eroded in the absence of health care infrastructure. Provision of equitable access to ambulance services is a matter that deserves more consideration and should be addressed at the first possible juncture.
Roads and transport infrastructure are extremely important in our electorate, as they are in every member's electorate. Lake Macquarie is the main centre for regional growth in the lower Hunter and is set to receive the largest increase in population in the Lower Hunter Regional Strategy, with the southern Lake Macquarie district taking the largest part. Therefore, the associated problems with this rapid development are being exacerbated by the inadequacy of transport generally and of Main Road 217 particularly. This main north-south corridor serves some 25 suburbs through my electorate. The five-kilometre stretch from Toronto to Booragul is hopelessly inadequate and includes the notorious problem area of Carey Street, Toronto. This section of road is too narrow for the expected traffic flow and has an above-average incidence of collisions. Traffic volume of 26,000 vehicles per day vastly exceeds the figures foreseen by the former Roads and Traffic Authority. The road condition now impedes economic development.
I have raised on numerous occasions the unwarranted complexity and subsequent problems with the section of road between The Boulevarde and Bay Street, Toronto. It is only a short section of road, but it has numerous intersections, and carries high volumes of light and heavy vehicles as well as a significant number of pedestrians who need to cross the road. The nature of the road causes considerable risk, which all too often results in motor vehicle accidents and, more concerning, those involving pedestrians. When these incidents involve schoolchildren they are especially unacceptable and, of course, have occurred recently. The land needed to address this problem has been acquired but for one small frontage. It beggars belief that the former Roads and Traffic Authority, now Roads and Maritime Services, has not prioritised a solution for this location. The people of Lake Macquarie electorate have a deficient public transport service that would be greatly improved by the construction of a Lake Macquarie transport interchange at Glendale.
Ms Sonia Hornery:
Mr GREG PIPER:
I acknowledge the interjection of the member for Wallsend, who was supportive of that project. It is with great disappointment I learned last week that the Commonwealth no longer plans to match the financial commitments made by Lake Macquarie City Council and the State Government. This project has been acknowledged by the 11 councils in the region as the top priority for new transport infrastructure. The Government has declared its support and committed funding for the new interchange. I call on the Government to maintain that commitment until the current funding impasse is overcome. I acknowledge the member for Charlestown has assisted in securing that funding from the State Government. We need to keep pressure on the Commonwealth and seek support from the Federal member for Charlton, Greg Combet, in order to find a solution. The impasse has been created by a set of criteria for infrastructure funding under the Infrastructure Australia Fund or the Regional Development Australia fund that is almost impossible to meet.
Pursuant to standing and sessional orders business interrupted and set down as an order of the day for a future day.
CLUBS, LIQUOR AND GAMING MACHINES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2011
Message received from the Legislative Council not insisting upon its amendment disagreed with.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Notices of Motion
General Business Notices of Motions (General Notices) given.
WHITE RIBBON DAY
Matter of Public Importance
Mr BRUCE NOTLEY-SMITH
(Coogee) [7.11 p.m.]: I speak today on an incredibly important issue for men, women and children in our community: domestic violence, and violence against women and children and its effects. White Ribbon Day is held on 25 November to change the attitudes and behaviours that lead to men's violence against women. White Ribbon is an organisation that is working to prevent the most common and pervasive form of male violence—that is, violence towards women. The White Ribbon organisation believes, as I do, that by preventing violence against women we will change society forever for the better. I will participate in White Ribbon Day this Friday morning by taking part in a walk across my electorate with hundreds of others, from High Cross Park in Randwick to Grant Reserve in Coogee. Pru Goward, Minister for Family and Community Services, and Minister for Women, will attend and I encourage all members to join us or to take part in a White Ribbon Day event in their electorate to support this great cause.
Domestic violence rips families apart. Men who commit domestic violence or sexual assault against women are feckless, disgusting cowards. They cannot be regarded as, and nor should they consider themselves to be, real men. Real men see violence against women as the abhorrent and sickening act that it is. White Ribbon Day should be considered by any decent man to be important because it is up to men to set an example and take a stand against violence towards women. All men should be aware of how our behaviour influences the behaviour of our sons, our brothers, our nephews, our colleagues and our mates. White Ribbon Day asks all men to take the following pledge:
I swear never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.
It is a short but profound oath that all men should be able to pledge easily. We all share a responsibility to each other and to society to do all we can to fight the alarming proliferation of domestic and family violence in our communities. There are some truly alarming statistics relating to domestic and family violence. Studies have indicated that domestic and family violence contributes to the death, ill health and disability of women under 45 years of age more than any other single factor, including smoking and obesity. This alone is a truly disturbing figure, but it is one of many alarming statistics relating to domestic and family violence. Two in three victims of domestic and family violence do not go to the police. Nearly half of the 92,000 victims and 82,000 perpetrators who came to the attention of police in 2010 had a history of such incidents over the previous five years. Further, 12 per cent of victims had been victimised five or more times and 16 per cent of perpetrators had been identified as perpetrators five or more times.
Domestic violence has serious long-term effects that extend well beyond the immediate experience of violence. These effects can manifest themselves in many ways, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, arthritis, early menopause and even cancer. Furthermore, there are serious and lasting negative impacts on levels of income, home ownership and superannuation, as well as lengthy, difficult and expensive legal and family law related proceedings. But domestic and family violence is far more than statistics. These women are our mothers, our sisters, our nieces, our friends and our daughters. If we cannot speak up and stand up for those close to us who are affected by domestic violence, we are as cowardly as those who perpetrate it.
The majority of women who experience domestic violence will also have a child in their care. Far too often children will bear witness to acts of violence and may be victims of violence themselves. The biggest influence on a child's development is the environment provided by their parents. What they determine as acceptable behaviour is influenced primarily by their parents' actions. No young child should have to live in fear of their father coming home from work or the pub and then witnessing the shouting and abuse, the swearing and aggression, the shove in the chest or the blow to the face. Imagine that occurring night after night, week after week and year after year. All too often, a child will not know whether it is right or wrong, normal or abnormal. Some will never learn and they will grow up thinking not only that domestic violence is normal but that it is excusable or even acceptable.
The effects on a child's mental and physical development can be life long. The physical scars may heal, but the mental scars will remain. Some may turn to alcohol to numb the pain, some may turn to drugs. Some may feel they have nowhere to turn except suicide. Something needs to be done, and this is where we come in. While governments will never be able to fully prevent an individual's violent behaviour and the complete eradication of domestic violence is an incredibly difficult task, we must strive to do better. We can target the issues that contribute to domestic and family violence in the first place, and we can work continually to increase support for the victims of these crimes. In a report handed down earlier this month, the Auditor-General noted how we have dealt with domestic and family violence in New South Wales. He said:
There are no standard ways to access services for victims and perpetrators that might help prevent ongoing violence. Unlike Victoria, Western Australia and parts of England, New South Wales does not have a common framework to identify domestic and family violence, assess risk, prioritise need and refer people to services. The lack of coordination is a particular problem for repeat victims and perpetrators, many of whom have complex mental health, drug and alcohol problems and are difficult to work with.
He noted that, while there had been a proliferation of trial programs across the State to help combat domestic violence and assist its victims, there was no plan to consolidate or bring these approaches into the mainstream. Moreover, there are huge challenges facing government and non-government agencies alike, including a lack of coordination, a lack of an effective means to refer people, a lack of safe accommodation for victims and children, and a lack of training as well as a lack of perpetrator programs. White Ribbon Day is on Friday. I encourage all male members of this Parliament and all men in my electorate and the 92 other electorates around the State to take the oath for White Ribbon Day and pledge never to commit, excuse or stay silent about violence against women.
Mrs BARBARA PERRY
(Auburn) [7.18 p.m.]: I speak on White Ribbon Day and thank the member for Coogee for bringing this matter of public importance before Parliament. White Ribbon Day, which is held on 25 November, is a campaign to end violence against women. It originated in Canada and has been taken up across the globe. The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is 25 November. The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women defines violence against women as:
Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.
Violence against women is manifested in many ways. It can be physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, intimidation, economic deprivation or threats of violence. It affects woman across all categories of race, age, ethnicity, religion or socioeconomic status. There are some very sobering statistics on women's experience of violence in Australia. One of the difficulties is that most incidents of domestic violence go unreported, so it is difficult to measure the true extent of the problem. The estimates vary but show that between one-quarter and one-half of Australian women will experience physical or sexual violence by a man at some point in their lives. Dr Michael Flood's research found that between 5 per cent and 10 per cent of Australian women had experienced at least one incident of physical and/or sexual violence by a man.
Most tragic of all is the research that shows that the cycle of domestic violence is often repeated down the generations. The Personal Safety Survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2006 found that women who had been sexually or physically abused as children are almost twice as likely to experience violence from partners later in life. In addition to this, the children of victims of domestic violence are also at risk of continuing the violence with their children and partners. Not surprisingly, many experts point out that victims "self-medicate" to ease their trauma and are at heightened risk of alcohol and drug abuse. They are also more likely to exhibit destructive behaviours later in life. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience higher rates of violence than do other women. The Medical Journal of Australia
report found that one in four Indigenous women living with dependent children younger than 15 years have reported being victims of domestic violence. It is a complex cycle and it is incumbent upon us all to do all we can to help stop that cycle.
The consequences of violence against women are dire, and they reverberate amongst families, across communities and, as I have pointed out, across generations. The scars are borne not just by those who are the direct victims of intimidation and sexual and physical violence but by the children who witness such violence. These scars run deep and they are scars that are often carried for life. There is innocence lost and futures shattered. The resultant emotional damage often means that those affected cannot flourish as they should. They are often in poor health. They cannot throw themselves into educational opportunities or relate in healthy ways to others. They carry emotional burdens that mean they are unable to enjoy much that many of us take for granted.
A KMPG report of 2009 found that the cost to the Australian economy from violence against women and their children was around $13.6 billion. As in many areas of welfare policy, the research is showing that governments need to move beyond damage control in relation to violence against women, to looking at prevention and early intervention programs. Policy needs to deal across portfolios and look at the problem holistically—to look at educational programs, programs for perpetrators, early childhood intervention programs and community awareness programs. I am proud of the work done by the former Government in tackling violence against women. Our Staying Home Leaving Violence program won this year's Premier's Public Sector Award in the "Leadership and Collaborative Practice" category. The program was developed in response to evidence that domestic violence is the major reason that women and children become homeless. In 2007-08 women with children fleeing domestic violence sought help from homelessness services on more than 6,000 occasions.
The program is led by Community Services and is a collaborative effort, run by government and non-government agencies to support women escaping domestic violence to remain in their home of choice, rather than fleeing into a life of homelessness and displacement. It puts the onus on the offender to leave while women and children can remain safely in the family home. I congratulate the department and all officers of the department who have worked tirelessly on this program. It seeks to place responsibility firmly on the shoulders of the violent offender, and seeks to ensure that women and children are not driven into homelessness or uprooted from their families, friends, schools and communities. The program received $12.5 million in funding under the former Labor Government and was rolled out in 18 carefully targeted locations across metropolitan and regional New South Wales. I trust the O'Farrell Government will ensure that these types of programs remain adequately funded.
Another program, also initiated by the former Government, that I would like to highlight is the Brighter Futures program, which is a prevention and early intervention program. It is run in collaboration by Family and Community Services and non-government organisations and provides targeted support tailored to meet the needs of vulnerable families with children aged under nine years or vulnerable families who are expecting a child. These are good examples of programs that I hope this Government will continue to commit to. Funding for the Brighter Futures program has been committed to in the Family and Community Services budget this year. Prevention of violence against women is an issue that should concern us all. It needs to receive bipartisan support and the attention of State and Federal parliaments alike.
I encourage all male members of this Parliament and all males in this State and Australia to do what the White Ribbon campaign encourages men to do: swear never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women, lead by example to challenge sexist behaviour, and break the silence about violence. As the proverb goes, "Women hold up half the sky." The empowerment of women impacts many, many areas. The empowerment of women has been shown to alleviate poverty and improve education outcomes, amongst other things. As I have outlined, the impact of violence against women is unspeakably tragic. Tonight I and other members, including the member for Coogee, uphold the work of the White Ribbon campaign in speaking out against this scourge on our communities. The beginning of the solution is to refuse to remain silent.
Mr JAI ROWELL
(Wollondilly) [7.25 p.m.]: White Ribbon Day is a fantastic initiative and one that I am very proud to be a part of. White Ribbon Day is a male-led campaign to speak out against violence against women. By taking an oath men from all walks of life can show their commitment to the women in their lives and be a positive role model for other men in their community. The White Ribbon organisation works to change the attitudes and behaviours that lead to men's violence against women through primary prevention initiatives. I am proud to be part of a community that has embraced this initiative, and I congratulate all who have participated in the campaign in my electorate of Wollondilly.
Yesterday I was fortunate to celebrate White Ribbon Day as a guest speaker on the grounds of the University of Western Sydney Macarthur campus, which is located in the Wollondilly electorate. Also in attendance was Bryan Doyle, the member for Campbelltown. I was proud to speak out against violence against women and lead the oath with the menfolk in attendance. The university has line-marked a massive white ribbon on top of its largest hill, which is adjacent to Narellan Road, to raise awareness. The ribbon, 20 metres by 30 metres, will serve as reminder for the message that White Ribbon Day sends. The message that rings loud and clear is that violence has no place in our society, and that violence against woman is completely unacceptable. That large white ribbon is a symbol that we, as a community, embrace these sentiments, and together we will work towards all that White Ribbon Day stands for. Not only did we have guest speakers, but we had our local media in attendance; we all stood on the outline of the massive white ribbon to create mass awareness in our community.
The day could not have happened without the dedication of the Campbelltown Domestic Violence Liaison Committee, which works towards the elimination of violence in our region and comforting and empowering those who may have fallen victim to domestic violence. This committee is a shining light in our community, and I thank it for all that it does. I also take this opportunity to thank the White Ribbon Day subcommittee, which consists of members from the St Vincent De Paul Society's Macarthur Ozanam Centre, the University of Western Sydney, Campbelltown City Council, Burnside, TAFE South Western Sydney Institute, Campbelltown, NSW Health and the Benevolent Society, which all worked actively to make the event possible. The great people who spoke on the day included Kylie Richardson, Manager, Macarthur Ozanam Centre of the St Vincent De Paul Society; Louella McCarthy of the University of Western Sydney School of Medicine; and Councillor Julie Burke from Campbelltown City Council. It was a great opportunity to promote the event.
I am blessed to be the member for Wollondilly as I get to see the great work that volunteers and community groups undertake right across Wollondilly on a daily basis. Unfortunately, a minor portion of the population commits violence against women and it is estimated that one in three women over the age of 15 years experience physical or sexual violence at some stage in their lives. As we heard earlier tonight, KPMG estimates that such violence to women and children costs the Australian economy $13.6 billion annually. In New South Wales alone the figure is $4.5 billion. These dollar figures are not the major negative; such violence is the major cause of homelessness, and we know that domestic violence breaks up families and leaves not just physical but emotional scars that are very hard to heal. In some cases, the violence leads to death. I applaud the University of Western Sydney for its involvement yesterday but it certainly is not the first time the university has raised awareness of this important issue.
I remember in my first year in law at the university when we were given a research essay on battered wife syndrome. This was not simply just another late-night assignment but a real eye-opener to the ongoing effects of domestic violence. Serving as a court officer in many local courts, I too saw firsthand the devastating effects of domestic violence. Sadly, more often than not I saw cases of domestic violence go to court only to have the female victim so intimidated by her perpetrator that she dropped the charges or the apprehended violence order. It was obvious that the victim was going home that night to more violence. That is why men must take a lead in stamping it out as those who suffer violence are often least able to help themselves out of a dangerous situation.
In 2010 New South Wales police responded to more than 126,000 incidents of family domestic violence and nearly half of the 92,215 victims who came to the police had a history of violence perpetrated against them in the preceding five years. Reducing violence against women is a commitment in the 2021 State Plan and I am aware that reforms are being considered to prevent the violence and also to provide better services to the victims. I take this opportunity to thank the Minister for Family and Community Services and the Minister for Women for her work in this field. Yesterday I swore the oath and I wish to repeat it in the House today. I ask all the men folk in the Chamber tonight to repeat it after me. The oath I swore was:
Never to commit violence against women
Never to excuse violence against women,
And never to remain silent about violence against women
This is my oath and the oath of all the men in the Chamber this evening, and this is the oath I trust will be echoed across all our communities. I encourage all members to log on to www.whiteribbon.org.au and publicly take the oath. Violence against women is completely unacceptable. I thank the House and the member for Coogee for giving me the opportunity to speak on this matter of public importance. I commend it to the House.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Melanie Gibbons):
Order! I note the time. However, with the leave of the House the member may conclude the debate by replying to his matter of public importance.
Mr BRUCE NOTLEY-SMITH
(Coogee) [7.30 p.m.], in reply: I thank the member for Auburn for her contribution to this matter of public importance and particularly for reminding the House that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are overrepresented in the area of violence against women. The member for Auburn pointed out that it is a complex cycle and has damaging effects not only across our communities but also right through generations. I recognise the work of the former Government and acknowledge that we must be bipartisan on this issue and no politics should be involved.
I thank the member for Wollondilly for informing the House about his experience at the Macarthur campus of the University of Western Sydney. It is fantastic that it has raised the profile of this great cause. I thank the many who have made White Ribbon Day possible in their electorate and I thank the many from right across the State who will make White Ribbon Day a success this coming Friday. Let us hope that the disturbing experiences of the member for Wollondilly as a court officer when he saw victims withdraw applications for apprehended violence orders because of threatening looks made to them will soon be a thing of the past.
The House adjourned, pursuant to standing and sessional orders, at 7.32 p.m. until
Wednesday 23 November 2011 at 10.00 a.m.