The Speaker (The Hon. Shelley Elizabeth Hancock)
Tuesday 21 February 2012
took the chair at 12 noon.
read the Prayer and acknowledgement of country.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENTS
PENRITH LAND CONTAMINATION
Mr STUART AYRES
(Penrith) [12.00 p.m.]: I draw to the attention of the House action taken by the Office of Environment and Heritage in response to a potential contamination of land as the result of a leaky underground petrol container that was removed in 2008 from a service station on Mulgoa Road, Jamisontown, which is in the Penrith electorate. This Government has been at the forefront in ensuring that petrol stored in underground tanks is secure and taking appropriate action when leaks occur. The elevated concentrations of fuel-related compounds found on the Mulgoa Road 7-Eleven site were declared significant to warrant regulation under the Contaminated Land Management Act on the basis that such compounds potentially had the capacity to move offsite and contaminate areas around Mulgoa Road.
The Environment Protection Authority took up the call to investigate sites along McNaughton Street and to assess the spread of any contamination. Fuel was detected along part of the street, but being at a depth of approximately eight to nine metres below the surface any fuel vapour was not anticipated to reach the surface. This is the particular reason I am surprised and even astounded by the response of Labor councillor Prue Guillaume and a report in the Western Weekender
, which can only be labelled as an attempt to beat up fear and hype amongst innocent local residents who, because of the action taken by this Government and the body corporate to protect any sites from leaks that may have originated from this 7-Eleven site, have no reason for concern.
Residents of the affected properties and the units affected at 80 McNaughton Street were contacted by 7-Eleven through its body corporate to provide an update of developments surrounding the potential contamination of their land. At 9.00 a.m. on Saturday 25 February residents will receive an update on the situation and have the opportunity to ask any questions and raise concerns. This information has been broadcast by 7-Eleven, and the Office of Environment and Heritage has been notified. It is highly irresponsible for a local councillor to whip up fear among surrounding residents without any regard—
Mr Paul Lynch:
Point of order: Private members' statements usually are not an avenue to attack other people, especially those outside this House. Earlier the member referred in passing to a councillor, but I did not take a point of order at that time. He has now returned to what appears to be an attack on someone outside this House.
Order! I uphold the point of order.
Mr STUART AYRES:
Residents of McNaughton Street have every right to feel disappointed that local representatives raised this matter inappropriately rather than consulted with local members or appropriate bodies to ensure that all community members have the correct information. I recognise the leadership of the O'Farrell Government, together with the Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Robyn Parker, on soil contamination. The New South Wales Government has been on the front foot: It has approved $6 million over a three-year period to clean up contaminated sites and extended the role of the Environment Protection Authority as a regulator of these sites. In November last year it provided funding of $450,000 to assist specifically with the clean-up of service station sites across New South Wales—action not undertaken by the previous Government. Clearly, this shows that the O'Farrell Government is committed under the leadership of the Minister for the Environment to ensure that any suspected contamination of land on old service station sites is dealt with appropriately and that funding is available to ensure that communities can respond to any potential contamination.
The Office of Environment and Heritage has made it clear that it does not believe there is any significant risk to the residents of Mulgoa Road. I repeat: the Office of Environment and Heritage believes that the depth of this fuel leak provides no, or limited, opportunity for fuel vapour to reach the surface. The office does not expect any fuel vapour to be detected by residents and there is no cause for concern. As I said earlier, the 7-Eleven body corporate will hold a further meeting at 9.00 a.m. on 25 February to ensure that residents have access to all the information. The Government continues its work of ensuring that fuel sites prone to contamination are secured appropriately. Penrith residents concerned about this issue are free to contact the local electorate office, the 7-Eleven body corporate directly, or the Office of Environment and Heritage.
COWS CREATE CAREERS PROGRAM
Mr CLAYTON BARR
(Cessnock) [12.05 p.m.]: I inform the House that once again the Cessnock electorate is representing New South Wales and doing the State proud. I am not talking about famous luminaries from my area like Casey Stoner, Chad Reed or Jennifer Hawkins. Rather, I refer to a group of year 10 agriculture students from Cessnock High School who have been chosen from the Cows Create Careers program to represent New South Wales at the Australian Dairy Conference. I pass on my best wishes and the best wishes of this House as they travel to Phillip Island this week to show off their work. The Cows Create Careers program involves agriculture students from around the country who have been selected to compete in their school team against other school teams from their region. The competition requires the students to care for three dairy calves for almost a year and put together a power point presentation, letter and poster about career opportunities in the dairy industry.
After almost an entire year's work, research and preparation, not to mention caring for their little calves, the students presented their work, along with other Hunter schools, at Tocal College and were judged the best team in the region. Cessnock High School has now won both junior and senior divisions in the competition for the third successive year—an extraordinary achievement given that agriculture is such a popular course in our region and especially when it is sometimes suggested in this House that this local member has no agricultural background. It is clearly a credit to the teachers in the agriculture program at the school. But that was not the end of it.
The Cessnock High School team of Lauren McGowan, Madison King, Natalie Lasky, Jenna-May Ryan, Courtney Scott and Abby Noone were then selected by the Dairy Industry Association to represent New South Wales at a national conference in the Moo'in Transfer competition—a different challenge altogether. With six weeks' notice the girls put together a television advertisement to convince consumers to buy milk at $3 per litre in recognition of the energy, effort and time involved in preparing a litre of milk—a tough challenge given the current circumstances. Only two of the girls will speak for thirty seconds each: One before and the other after the presentation. Along with parents and staff I was fortunate enough to watch a mock run of their presentation.
I applaud their application and the effort that has gone into their work. They demonstrated a careful analysis of and care for the industry. I am sure they have a good chance of winning the competition. In fact, they left for Victoria today, accompanied by their teacher, Mr Greg Matthews, and will return on Thursday. Greg is a teacher of high regard and long standing, and imminent retirement. It is a testimony to Greg's love and passion for agriculture and for his students that these students from little old Cessnock will be on the national stage. This success is an endorsement of the whole electorate of Cessnock. People refer to statistics—and I include myself in that—and bemoan the low levels of education and tertiary education in my electorate. Achievements such as these may be small in the scheme of all that we do in this place, but they are big in showcasing the skills, abilities and overall potential of our area. I am proud of the members of this team; they should be even prouder of themselves. I commend them to the House.
Mr DONALD PAGE
(Ballina—Minister for Local Government, and Minister for the North Coast) [12.10 p.m.]: On behalf of the New South Wales Government I congratulate the year 10 agricultural students of Cessnock High School on their wonderful local achievements and on representing New South Wales in the national competition to be held today and tomorrow. On behalf of all members I wish them well. I also acknowledge the wonderful contribution made by their teacher, Mr Greg Matthews, who has obviously done a wonderful job over many years at Cessnock High School. We thank him for his contribution in preparing these students for this national competition.
PARKES ELVIS FESTIVAL
Mr TROY GRANT
(Dubbo—Parliamentary Secretary) [12.11 p.m.]: The memory of the hip swivelling, pelvis gyrating, pop culture icon of his day whose awe-inspiring journey from an impoverished upbringing in Memphis to the man who would go on to be referred to ever after as the King of Rock 'n' Roll is honoured each year when the township of Parkes, within the electorate of Dubbo, throws open its doors to the world and welcomes Elvis Presley fans to celebrate the life and music of this most remarkable man. During the festival the population of Parkes almost doubles, as it plays host to literally thousands of die-hard Elvis fans from around the globe. They journey to Parkes to take part in the celebration of the tremendously exciting, if somewhat tumultuous, short life of the King.
Parkes had no connection whatsoever to the man from Memphis, Tennessee; yet it has earned its claim to fame among Elvis aficionados by successfully staging 20 Elvis festivals. As a huge fan of Elvis Presley and his brand of popular music that defined a generation, I felt honoured to take part in the celebrations this year. Some 18,000 visitors took part in some 150 events, which delivered a welcome injection of $9 million into the local economy. During the five days of the festival 80 volunteers dedicated more than 700 hours of work to ensure that it ran smoothly. I ask members to visualise an Elvis impersonator standing on every street corner and a large parade proceeding through town, throw in a Gospel church service and a series of Elvis tribute concerts, then add more than 400 excited fans making the trek from Sydney on the CountryL ink Elvis Express and you will appreciate that Parkes was well and truly "all shook up". This year local businesses reported record trade and most of the accommodation was booked out months in advance of the event.
An additional 70 powered sites were made available at the showground, while camping sites were stretched to capacity. Some generous local residents offered 1,776 beds in their homes to accommodate visitors. What better indication could there be of the wonderful sense of community this festival engenders among the good people of Parkes. The Parkes Elvis Festival began in 1993 and has blossomed ever since, creating a legacy with the enthusiastic support of fans and local residents. Parkes has a special brand of die-hard Elvis fans who will go to extraordinary lengths to pay homage to the King. In fact, one local has changed his name by deed poll in his honour, and for many years a local couple ran the Graceland Restaurant in town. I am told that my good friend the member for Newcastle has knelt at Elvis' grave in Memphis. The concept of the festival was conceived by passionate community members who recognised its potential as a regular fun event on the Parkes social calendar. January was identified as the ideal time to stage it, given the traditional lull in tourism preceding the Tamworth Country Music Festival—
Mr Kevin Anderson:
Mr TROY GRANT:
I thank the member for Tamworth for his input. Importantly, the festival happily coincides with the King's birthday, which is 8 January. What impresses me more than anything else about this festival is the way it has imbued the local population with an infectious enthusiasm that has manifested itself in a burning desire to see the town prosper. It is more than a festival to the community of Parkes. The concept is warmly embraced by the entire community and leads to an atmosphere that is difficult to capture. One really has to experience it firsthand to understand and appreciate it. In fact, yellow Wiggle Greg Page has a remarkable personal collection of Elvis memorabilia, reported to be the third- or fourth-largest in the world, which is housed in a museum in Parkes. I urge everyone to mark the date in January on their calendar to make the trip to Parkes to share a "hunker hunker burnin' love".
Mr DONALD PAGE
(Ballina—Minister for Local Government, and Minister for the North Coast) [12.16 p.m.]: I thank the member for Dubbo for his enthusiastic support for the Parkes Elvis Festival, which has been running for 20 years—a long time for a festival to run. I take my hat off to the organisers of the event for their vision that the festival would benefit the township of Parkes. To draw 18,000 visitors to take part in 150 events that results in a $9 million injection to the local economy is a tremendous effort. Early in January I saw on television the CountryLink Elvis Express departing for the festival and I though how much fun it would be to be a passenger on that train. I hope one day I will be able to attend the festival. I congratulate the member for Dubbo on promoting this very important event in his electorate.
SOUTH COAST ROADS
Mrs SHELLEY HANCOCK
(South Coast—The Speaker) [12.17 p.m.]: Today I speak about various road projects in my electorate. The New South Wales Government is committed to various road projects that will enhance and improve the South Coast economy and tourist sector. Last year I was pleased to facilitate a meeting between five of our regional councils, including Shoalhaven City, Goulburn-Mulwaree, Palerang, Upper Lachlan and Yass Valley, with the Minister for Roads and Ports, the Hon. Duncan Gay, to discuss the Beyond Nerriga project. Various options will be looked at for that project, which will involve extending the recently sealed section of Main Road 92 between Nowra and Nerriga to the Hume Highway.
In January 2001 funding of $80 million for the project was announced. That funding comprised $34 million each from the State and Commonwealth governments and $12 million from Shoalhaven City Council. In 2009 the New South Wales Government committed a further $15 million to complete the full length of the upgrade, for which the residents were grateful. The upgrade involved the reconfiguration and sealing of 54 kilometres of road between Hames Road 15 kilometres south-west of Nowra and Nerriga, and was officially opened in October 2010. Following the completion of the Main Road 92 project the five regional councils began to collaborate on the Beyond Nerriga project.
Recently I was pleased to announce that $300,000 had been committed to an option study for the potential linking of Nowra to the Hume Highway beyond Nerriga. The announcement is part of a funding agreement with the five local councils and the New South Wales Government, which has committed $200,000 and the additional $100,000 will come from the five regional councils I mentioned earlier. Two main options are being investigated for a western extension of Main Road 92, including via Mongarlowe River Bridge at Charleyong to the Kings Highway at Braidwood. The other option is north-west via Oallen Ford over the Shoalhaven River to Tarago rejoining the Kings Highway at Bungendore. The study will be managed potentially through a steering committee comprising representatives of Roads and Maritime Services and the five local councils.
I sincerely thank the representatives of the five councils and the local members involved in the meeting last year—the member for Monaro; the Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Small Business; the Minister for Family and Community Services, and Minister for Women; and the member for Kiama—for their commitment to this project. I thank Greg Pullen, Economic Development Manager, Shoalhaven City Council, for his continued commitment in driving the Beyond Nerriga project. On that day the Hon. Duncan Gay exhibited his continued understanding of the importance of the Beyond Nerriga project.
I take the opportunity to update the House on the Princes Highway duplication at South Nowra to which the New South Wales State Government has committed $62 million to provide four lanes between Kinghorne Street south and Forest Road in order to improve traffic flow for local motorists and those travelling through the area, particularly during peak holiday periods. I am very pleased that work will recommence on the South Nowra Princes Highway duplication following the suspension of works in late November after a small colony of green and golden bell frogs were discovered in the location of the works. A reassessment was necessary as the frogs are listed as a New South Wales threatened species and protected by Federal legislation. Site inspections were held.
On 16 January meetings were held with representatives from State and Federal Government departments to discuss the issue and a determination has now been provided for the work to proceed. Work can restart provided a number of conditions are met, including the implementation of the green and golden bell frog management plan, which will provide frog ponds and frog-friendly culverts to help them across the highway, and the planting of frog-friendly plant species on the median strip. Biodiversity offset measures such as research and population studies will also be carried out. I thank project manager Shaun Walsh and the very hardworking staff of Roads and Maritime Services for their tireless efforts in ensuring that this project will recommence very soon and get back on track. I thank the staff in my office for continuing to liaise with these government departments.
I also mention two other projects. I pay tribute to the New South Wales Government for funding intersection studies at Little Forest Road, Milton, which is one of the most dangerous intersections on the Princes Highway in my electorate. We are now looking at ways to improve that intersection. Work is continuing on the Termeil Creek Bridge highway realignment, with $400,000 committed by the State Government to make sure that project is ongoing. Extensive community consultation has occurred. It is good to see that the New South Wales Government is committed to improving South Coast road projects in my electorate. The Government is listening to the community and I am pleased to see the investment into infrastructure coming from the Government.
Mr DONALD PAGE
(Ballina—Minister for Local Government, and Minister for the North Coast) [12.22 p.m.]: I take this opportunity to congratulate the member for South Coast on her tireless efforts in upgrading infrastructure—roads in particular—in her electorate. The member is a model for other members of this House. As the Minister for Local Government I am pleased to hear of the collaboration of the five councils and other members of Parliament in relation to the Beyond Nerriga project. My experience in local government has taught me that many things can be achieved through local councils working together, sharing resources and collaborating on projects. I thank the five councils involved in that particular project.
VIETNAMESE TET FESTIVAL
Mr NICK LALICH
(Cabramatta) [12.23 p.m.]: On Saturday 28 January this year I attended the annual Tet festival at Fairfield Showground. The Tet festival is the most important time in the Vietnamese cultural calendar. The lunar new year is a time to review the achievements of the past year. It is a time of family gathering, paying respect to the ancestors, of reflecting and celebrating. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the joys of the past year and look ahead to a new year that we hope will bring us peace, joy and good fortune. It is also a chance for our community to unite and share in the spirit of a celebration that is rich in culture and tradition.
Cabramatta is one of the most multicultural places in the world. It has a very large proportion of proud Vietnamese Australians. Residents of the Fairfield local government area come from more than 133 cultural backgrounds, and more than 70 per cent of our residents speak a language other than English. Just a few weeks earlier Cabramatta hosted its very own lunar new year celebrations, with 25,000 residents, families and friends enjoying the colourful festivities of the occasion. Festivals such as the Tet festival add to Sydney's multiculturalism and are something we should all be very proud of. The Tet festival is organised by the Vietnamese Community in Australia—NSW Chapter Inc. It is the umbrella body that represents about 80,000 Vietnamese-Australian individuals.
It makes me very happy to have this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the association for all its hard work and dedication. I especially extend thanks to Mr Thanh Nguyen, President of the Vietnamese Community in Australia. In my time in public life I have been privileged to enjoy, and will continue to enjoy, a close relationship with the Vietnamese community. Vietnamese community organisations have worked tirelessly over the years on different programs, multicultural festivals and environmental events. I congratulate the Vietnamese Community in Australia for organising the Tet festival and giving us the chance to welcome in the new year together with friends and family.
Joining me in attendance on the day were the Hon. Chris Hayes, the Federal Member for Fowler, representing the Prime Minister; Mr Jason Clare, member for Blaxland; the Hon. Craig Kelly, the Federal member for Hughes, representing the Federal Opposition Leader; Mr Robert Furolo, the member for Lakemba, shadow Minister for Roads and Ports and Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Communities, representing the New South Wales Leader of the Opposition; Mr Andrew Rohan, member for Smithfield; Mr Glen Brookes, member for East Hills; Mr Thanh Van Nguyen, President of the Vietnamese Community in Australia; the Most Venerable Thich Bao Lac, representing the Vietnamese Buddhist community; Father Van Chi Chu, representing the Vietnamese Catholic community; Mr Van Ban Nguyen, representing the Vietnamese Caodism community; and Mr Thanh Minh Le, representing the Hoa Hao Vietnamese community.
As usual the Tet festival was packed with families and residents young and old enjoying the entertainment on the main stage, the delicious food on offer and browsing the many stalls. The Tet festival is always a huge attraction on our local calendar and I encourage all members of this House to come and visit next year. It provides the whole community with a taste of the rich Vietnamese culture and helps in the pursuit of a happy and harmonious multicultural society. It was a great occasion to wish the Vietnamese Australian community a happy lunar new year. I hope the Year of the Dragon brings good health, prosperity and happiness to all.
NSW SPORTS FEDERATION ANNUAL AWARDS
Mrs LESLIE WILLIAMS
(Port Macquarie) [12.28 p.m.]: It gives me great pleasure to recognise five local sportsmen from the Port Macquarie electorate who were finalists in the 2011 NSW Sports Federation annual awards, which were announced last Thursday night. These awards are a great way to recognise the outstanding achievements of both individuals and teams for their performances and contributions to a number of sports over the past year. I enjoyed the opportunity to take part in this celebration with the Minister for Sport and Recreation, and the Minister for Ageing, and Minister for Disability Services. I acknowledge Ryley Batt who was not only nominated for an award but who won gold in the category of "Team athlete with a disability." Ryley also received a special mention from the Minister for Ageing, and Minister for Disability Services, the Hon. Andrew Constance, during his speech at the awards night. Ryley Batt is a young man in his early twenties from Port Macquarie. He is one of those incredible people one meets in life who is inspiring, engaging and unarguably extremely successful at his chosen sport—wheelchair rugby.
However, according to Ryley wheelchair rugby inspired him and provided him with the freedom and opportunities that at one time he could only have imagined. Not surprisingly, according to his Facebook page, his life's motto is "Anything is possible." Ryley, who was born without legs, never saw himself as disabled and did not want a wheelchair because he considered it to be something that was used only by disabled people. Up until the age of 12 he travelled around Port Macquarie on a skateboard until he was forced into a wheelchair because of his passion for wheelchair rugby. In 2002 he played for the New South Wales Wheelchair Rugby Squad, which marked the beginning of a long list of achievements and accolades in that sport.
I recognise also the longstanding contribution Mr Tony Morley has made to the sport of hockey for which he received a distinguished long service award. In 1958 Tony first represented New South Wales as a player in the under 16 level and he then continued for another two decades. He coached under-age State teams and served in many administrative roles, including on the board. Not surprisingly, James Magnussen or "the Missile" as he is now affectionately known, was nominated in three categories. Although he did not take out any awards last Thursday night arguably he is Australia's latest swimming superstar. In Port Macquarie we are extremely proud of his performances on the world stage. We are proud also of the manner in which he has conducted himself both in and out of the pool.
In early September last year I was fortunate enough to be invited to an intimate civic reception held to honour James's contribution to the sport of swimming and to our local community. James's response to the many congratulatory speeches and well wishes reflected his outstanding personal attributes. No doubt no-one stood prouder in that room that evening than his parents, Robert and Donna, and his younger brother Daniel. James was nominated for Athlete of the Year, Team Athlete of the Year as well as Team of the Year as a member of the Australian Men's 4 x 100 metres freestyle relay team. These nominations acknowledge James's exceptional performances at the 2011 Fédération Internationale de Natation [FINA] Aquatic World Championships where he became the first Australian to win the 100-metre freestyle world championship.
I take this opportunity to thank James for his generosity in donating a signed swimming cap that was auctioned in order to raise much-needed funds for the mid North Coast Special Olympics Team, which was thrilled with this contribution. Peter Hennessey was nominated for Masters Athlete of the Year, acknowledging his three gold and two silver medals in the 65 to 69 age group at the Australian Surf Lifesaving Championships. This, along with his medal wins at the New South Wales Surf Lifesaving Championships and his victory at the Australian Sprint Triathlon Championships, makes him a worthy contender for this prestigious title.
The Sports Federation awards night also provides an opportunity to acknowledge the work of those behind the scenes such as administrators and coaches. Mr Ken Wilson was nominated for the Administrator of the Year category for his tireless work for the mid North Coast branch of Surf Life Saving New South Wales. He has been Director, Administration in this branch since 2008 and last year was recognised as the Surf Life Saving Administrator of the Year. As well as being involved in media coverage to acknowledge the branch sponsors, he is now actively involved in reviewing the current constitution and collating branch records. I know I speak for everyone in the Port Macquarie electorate in thanking all those people for their contributions not only to their chosen sport but also to our wider community. We wish them all the best for the future.
Ms CLOVER MOORE
(Sydney) [12.33 p.m.]: I share the view of my constituents, and the view of the wider Australian community, that the Federal Parliament should take action to ensure that all Australians can marry the partner of their choice. A life commitment between a couple can provide stability and belonging for the people involved and the law should value, protect and support all loving relationships between consenting adults. It is not fair to deny anyone public recognition of this support because of his or her gender or sexuality. If we support fair treatment for all citizens we should allow same-sex marriages. Australians from all walks of life have publicly supported change and a large number of Australians now refuse to accept that the current discriminatory definition of "marriage" is carved in stone.
A Galaxy research study commissioned by Marriage Equality Australia found that 62 per cent of Australians support marriage equality, and this figure is supported in recent polls by the Sydney Morning Herald
, News Limited and Roy Morgan. In the 18- to 24-year-old age bracket support is at 80 per cent showing an emerging trend towards tolerance, which I am sure everyone in this House would welcome. Ten countries already support same-sex marriage: the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Spain, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland and Argentina,as well as the American States of Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Washington DC, New Hampshire and New York. British Prime Minister David Cameron has expressed his support for same-sex marriage—a position that he states is in line with conservative politics because "conservatives believe ... that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other".
Gay men and lesbians are as capable of establishing loving, caring and lifelong relationships as heterosexual couples. By denying them the opportunity to marry legally treats those relationships as different and lesser. The Marriage Equality Australia website quotes many gay and lesbian couples expressing what marriage equality means to them. They say it would remove the stigma that they are different; that it would mean they are full members of society and not second-class citizens. They point out that the Government cannot dictate who loves who but it can provide support where there is love. For many couples same-sex marriage is about showing their love and commitment in front of their families. Exclusion impacts on families who want their brother, sister, son or daughter to live without prejudice and to have the same opportunities that they have.
There is considerable evidence that discriminatory laws reinforce social discrimination, which allows violence and abuse of lesbians and gay men. The Commonwealth Government should act to reduce homophobic violence and abuse. Equality and inclusion are qualities celebrated by Australian society. While our marriage laws reflect discrimination and exclusion, there is hope for change with legislation to be introduced in the Australian Parliament this year to amend the Marriage Act and a strong community campaign for reform. Millions of Australians have watched and shared via social media the GetUp! marriage equality video entitled Love Story
which features a young couple falling in love and deciding to marry but the fact that they are gay is revealed only at the end—a very moving video. It went viral, including a Facebook post by Madonna which was liked by 14,000 of her fans, and it generated more than 1,000 comments.
Who can forget the Vietnam veteran who asked on national television why his gay son could not marry the man he loved? Who can forget the Opposition leader struggling and failing to provide a reasonable and compassionate answer? He had a Catholic education and I hope that he still practises Christian principles. Our Federal parliamentarians need to legislate for the twenty-first century. The belief that marriage will be protected by denying same-sex couples the right to marry is like the illogical claim last century that women had to be denied the vote to protect democracy. In fact, Marriage Equality Australia reports that evidence from the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland shows no change to heterosexual marriage rates following the introduction of same-sex marriage which, of course, is what we would expect. Queensland and Tasmania recognise overseas same-sex marriages and civil unions and same-sex marriage legislation is proposed in Tasmania and South Australia.
I call on the New South Wales Government to put pressure on the Federal Leader of the Opposition to allow a conscience vote in his party, and I encourage all members of this House to get behind the campaign. All citizens deserve equal treatment, irrespective of gender and sexuality and governments should remove legal discrimination against people in same-sex relationships to ensure that everyone has access to the same legal, financial and social support. Every Australian who wants to make a life commitment to the person he or she loves should be able to do so, with that commitment being equally recognised and supported by law. It is what we expect in a fair, just, decent and compassionate society, which is what we all believe Australia is.
RURAL MIDWIFERY PROGRAM
Mr KEVIN ANDERSON
(Tamworth) [12.38 p.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House the important, comprehensive and rewarding Rural Midwifery Program that operates in the Hunter New England Local Health District. This program offers a post-graduate diploma in midwifery with a specific rural focus through Charles Sturt University and participating hospitals in the northern section of the Hunter New England Local Health District. Recently I attended the nineteenth rural midwifery graduation ceremony at the Tamworth Rural Referral Hospital and warmly congratulate the four graduates:Emma Allan from Tamworth, Amanda Bussell from Inverell, Belinda Pinchen from Moree and Melanie Williams from Armidale.
The Rural Midwifery Program was established with the aim of training and retaining midwives in the local area, thereby assisting in the maintenance of our rural maternity services. Graduates from this program have been the mainstay of many of our rural maternity units during almost two decades enabling continued provision of locally based maternity services. It is important to build services around the delivery of care. When it comes to the provision of maternity services we must focus on keeping the woman at the centre of care.
It is well known that attracting health workers to rural areas is an ongoing challenge. That applies across all disciplines, including midwifery, and that is why this program plays such an important role. The program is conducted through distance education and is of 12 months duration. During that time students attend two residential schools at Charles Sturt University, with the remainder of the course time being spent in the clinical setting. Students have the advantage of undertaking the theoretical and clinical components of the course concurrently. Whilst this makes for a very full-on, intensive year, it marries up the theory and the practical aspects that can be undertaken in the local area, enabling registered nurses living in the region to gain a midwifery qualification while remaining in the rural environment and closer to family.
The students rotate in the latter part of the year between several participating maternity units. This enables students from the smaller sites to access clinical learning experiences in the larger centres of Armidale and Tamworth. In addition, there is the option of accessing clinical experience at John Hunter or Maitland hospitals, if that suits the needs of a particular student. All midwives are educated to take responsibility for giving the necessary care and advice to women during pregnancy, to conduct births in any setting, and to provide subsequent care for the woman and her baby. They also have an important health counselling and education role, not only for mothers but also within the family and community.
Midwives who work in rural areas need to be particularly well equipped with the knowledge and skills to be able to function in isolated settings. Working in rural areas may include challenges such as working as the lone midwife on duty, having access to fewer resources, and having to travel greater distances for additional medical and/or technological backup. The Rural Midwifery Program therefore has a specific focus on equipping graduates to work in those settings. For example, the care of the sick neonate is a specialised field in its own right and is not usually considered core midwifery business. In a larger unit specialised staff provide assessment and care of the sick neonate.
In conclusion, I thank and pay tribute to the midwives within our local maternity units who put considerable time and effort into teaching and supporting students in the clinical setting. There are many support networks around this program. Midwives within local maternity units put in considerable time for the education of students. Specialist obstetricians, general physician obstetricians, obstetric registrars and paediatricians also make a significant contribution to the education of our students. I mention in particular our administrators and clinicians Mrs Ricki Bradbury, Acting Director of Nursing and Midwifery, Tamworth Rural Referral Hospital, and Ms Robyn Skews, Program Coordinator and Midwife Consultant, Area Maternity Services. We need to ensure that this program continues to be appropriately funded so that it can boost the workforce of midwives right across rural and regional New South Wales. I congratulate them warmly on their efforts and encourage them to continue to do so.
CHARLESTOWN ELECTORATE VOLUNTEERS
Mr ANDREW CORNWELL
(Charlestown) [12.42 p.m.]: Since I became member for Charlestown I have been inspired and humbled to meet so many wonderful volunteers within my community. These people, many of whom work for local community groups, support those in our community who are doing it tough, including those who have been ignored by successive Federal and State governments. Charlestown has been a region traditionally represented by one party and this has resulted in a failure of infrastructure investment and poor service delivery. In March last year the Hunter demonstrated that it was prepared to break with tradition and vote for change, vote for strong representation and vote for a brighter future for the region. It would be foolhardy or naïve for Federal members in the Hunter not to heed that lesson of March and look to the future, rather than wallowing in the traditional partisan politics of the past.
I do not believe that my time is best utilised sitting behind a desk in an office. The majority of my time as the local member is dedicated to reaching out to those in need and highlighting important projects within my electorate that need assistance. One of my focuses has been to begin doorknocking the Charlestown electorate again and to reach out firsthand to those who would not normally converse with their member of Parliament. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Nearly every person that I have spoken to has indicted to me that they cannot believe a member of Parliament is coming to their door to ask how he can assist. I hope I can provide a voice for the most vulnerable in our community.
In this vein I now take the opportunity to acknowledge some of the hardworking volunteers and community groups in the Charlestown electorate. A priority of mine since the March election is to reach out to as many community groups as I can to see firsthand the wonderful work that they do. I highlight two of these organisations that I have come into contact with recently. I would like to start by acknowledging the wonderful work done by Meals on Wheels in the Charlestown electorate. Since my election as a member of Parliament I have had the pleasure of working with many local volunteers and seeing firsthand the difference they make in many people's lives.
Just before Christmas I had the privilege of accompanying Aub Hewston on his Meals on Wheels run. Aub is in his late seventies and has been volunteering for Meals on Wheels for more than 10 years. His enthusiasm and dedication to the job, delivering meals to those less fortunate, continues to inspire me. I specifically acknowledge the staff, Leanne Rodwell, Kelly Griggs, Jenny Gato and Dawn Cousins for their dedication and commitment to the cause. Meals on Wheels Charlestown has more than 150 volunteers who work tirelessly. I also specifically thank 90-year-old Harry James and Burt Wolfe, who still to this day give 100 per cent to the cause.
Meals on Wheels is a familiar name to Australians, and it is at the heart of many communities. It represents helping hands, friendship and looking out for each other. It is also about people in the community joining together to help others. For many people, the Meals on Wheels staff who come out to their homes are their only personal contact for that day. Aub not only delivers meals but provides absolutely fantastic companionship to all people that he touches on a daily basis. Another important group I acknowledge is the Charlestown Caring Group. This group is committed to providing efficient and responsive support services to the frail aged, young people and those with a disability and their carers in my electorate. The wonderful staff, led by Margaret Morgan, are supported by a dedicated, caring and friendly team of volunteers.
Services provided by the Charlestown Caring Group include transport to medical appointments, home visits, in-home respite, assistance with shopping, small and large group activities, as well as bus outings. The contact that the staff and volunteers of Charlestown Caring Group have with the community, just like Meals on Wheels, may be the only contact that those people have on a daily basis. I applaud their dedication and commitment to bringing some light into the lives of the people that they touch. It has been my pleasure to highlight the work of these two organisations. I will continue to highlight the fantastic work that they do in my electorate and bring to the attention of the New South Wales Parliament the personal stories that continue to truly inspire me.
FORSTER-TUNCURRY QUOTA CLUB
Mr STEPHEN BROMHEAD
(Myall Lakes) [12.47 p.m.]: I wish to advise the House of a function in the electorate of Myall Lakes that I attended on Saturday night. Of course, Myall Lakes is the number one destination in Australia and, from all scientific research, is the number one place to live. The function I attended was for the Forster-Tuncurry Quota Club, which was celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary—25 years of service to the community, especially to disadvantaged women and children and those with speech and hearing difficulties. After several fruitless attempts the Forster-Tuncurry Quota Club finally started in 1986. It has been a tremendous success ever since.
It was, in a sense, the baby of the mother club, Taree Quota, which was determined, focused and enthusiastic to get the Forster-Tuncurry club up and going. They had heard about a woman by the name of Val Windle, a former Liverpool Quota member who had moved to live in Forster. The now District Governor of Quota in the area, Jan Irvine, went to Forster with the then Governor, Jeanette Holland. Jeanette received her Medal of the Order of Australia [OAM] last year. I had the great privilege of hosting Jeanette and her husband, Tony, here in Parliament, where they were received before going to Government House.
They went to Forster and had a cup of tea with Val and convinced her that she should take up the cause. They then hosted a number of dinners and get-togethers in the Forster and Tuncurry area and, finally, on 8 November 1986 the club received its charter. As I said, the club has provided 25 years of selfless service and caring not only to the Great Lakes area but also to disadvantaged women and children throughout Australia and in Third World countries. The club members' commitment to helping those with speech and hearing difficulties has seen equipment provided to schools and preschools and lip-reading classes and practical support provided wherever they were needed. Along with other club members in the twenty-eighth district, Forster-Tuncurry Quotarians are raising funds to assist the research work on stroke recovery being undertaken by Professor Chris Levi of the Hunter Medical Research Institute.
Difficulties with speech are often the first effects that many stroke victims must confront. I attended the club changeover dinner last year at which it was announced that that small community had raised more than $8,000. What an achievement for a small club in a small community. The speakers at the dinner included the club president, Patricia Ryan, and the chairperson, the ever-funny Eileen McMullen. The charter members' candle was donated and lit by Gloria Prescott, who is one of the founding charter members. Heather Wykes, Barbara Walters, Jeanette Holland, Jan Irvine and Helen Pearse also contributed to the formalities. Jan Irvine and Christine Armstrong performed a very funny skit about having a mammogram. I congratulate the Forster-Tuncurry Quota Club on its twenty-fifth anniversary and the Taree club on establishing it so long ago. Break a leg for Myall Lakes.
Ms NOREEN HAY
(Wollongong) [12.52 p.m.]: Members continue to say that their electorate is the best in the State. We all know that is not true and that Wollongong is the premier electorate in this State.
Mr Kevin Anderson:
Point of order—
Ms NOREEN HAY:
I intend to give the electorate of the member for Tamworth a plug. I draw to the attention of the House the unequivocal success of the Illawarra Folk Festival which was held in Wollongong and which I have attended for many years. My family and I also travelled to Tamworth to attend the Tamworth Country Music Festival. I note the comments of the member for Dubbo about the Parkes Elvis Festival, which I was unable to attend this year. While I was at Tamworth I was struck by the number of my constituents I bumped into. The member for Tamworth should thank me for the contribution that I and my constituents make to his local economy.
The Illawarra Folk Festival, which has been held for a number of years, has been going from strength to strength under the guidance and leadership of Russell Hannah. The festival's popularity has also been enhanced since the appointment of Peter O'Neill, who is responsible for marketing. We have much to be proud of, given the success of that event. My experience at Tamworth was excellent and my grandchildren, other members of my family and I saw outstanding performances, including by children and young people. The street performers were second only to those who perform in Wollongong. I thought I was travelling incognito, but I bumped into many people who asked me what I was doing about various issues in my electorate because that is where they live.
Although it is well known that the best police officers in New South Wales serve in the Wollongong and Lake Illawarra local area commands, I must admit that the Tamworth police officers were excellent as they moved unobtrusively through the large crowds. Some of the officers to whom I spoke had been brought in from elsewhere to assist during the festival and I tried to track down some from my electorate, but they were too busy working in their own local area command. Although my first duty is and always will be to promote Wollongong, I told the police officers at Tamworth they did such an excellent job that I would take the first opportunity available to me in Parliament to recognise their efforts. As we know, our police officers work in very difficult circumstances and I cannot let this opportunity pass without mentioning the amendments to the police death and disability support provisions.
I have said a great deal on the public record about those amendments and I reiterate that our police officers deserve a huge pat on the back. I first met Eric Bogle and John Munro, both of whom were born in Scotland, years ago in Wollongong at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre and the Illawarra Folk Festival. I love the song Leaving Nancy
, which reminds me of when I left my mum. I also attended the Three Queens of Country concert performed by Tammy Wynette, Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn impersonators. I would have added Connie Francis and Brenda Lee, but that is only my opinion. It is a shame that Tammy Wynette recorded that awful song Stand By Your Man
. Other than that, the concert was excellent.
Dr GEOFF LEE
(Parramatta) [12.57 p.m.]: There has been debate in the media recently about whether Parramatta is the capital of western Sydney, and overwhelming evidence proves that it is. Research shows that a vibrant city has three characteristics: a place to work, a place to live and good transport links between the two. Parramatta is a unique electorate in that it has a wonderful central business district [CBD] and leafy suburban streets. The CBD has a large number of apartment complexes and about 3,000 more apartments will be built over the next three years at a cost of about $1 billion. The area also has large shopping centres, such as the Westfield centre, the Harris Park Indian quarter and the Chinese quarter in the southern part of the city. We also have entertainment and cultural venues and some major festivals are held locally.
One need not travel to the Sydney CBD because we have everything at Parramatta. We also have parks and sporting venues, including Parramatta Park, Parramatta Stadium and Rosehill Gardens Racecourse. Of course, we have extensive education facilities such as the largest University of Western Sydney campus at Rydalmere, which has a student body of 15,000 students that is expected to increase by 10,000 over the next 10 years. Parramatta is acknowledged as the economic capital of western Sydney. With its $10 billion economic zone, it is an employment hub providing 90,000 jobs within the CBD. About 70,000 of those jobs are filled by people travelling from Blacktown, Baulkham Hills and Holroyd.
Parramatta has Westmead—the largest health precinct in Australia—and it has the second largest justice precinct in New South Wales. I note that the Attorney General is in the Chamber listening intently to what I am saying about the justice precinct, which he has visited on many occasions and of which he is a big supporter. I thank the Attorney General for his fine work in New South Wales. Additionally, Parramatta has considerable office space with many major government offices, private corporations and small businesses. There are about 16,000 businesses in Parramatta providing professional services, financial banking, health services and, of course, wonderful shopping facilities that employ many staff.
The third part of the nexus is the transport links. As a transport hub for western Sydney, Parramatta railway station is the biggest outside the Sydney central business district and is the fourth busiest station on the New South Wales rail network. Parramatta has the busiest bus interchange in western Sydney adjacent to the station. It has major arterial roads—the M4, Victoria Road, Pennant Hills Road, Great Western Highway and Parramatta Road—and there are other links, such as cycleways and pathways, that make Parramatta a liveable city. People can now walk from the head of the Parramatta River, through Parramatta, right down to Olympic Park. It is a fantastic walk.
Whilst research shows that those three areas are important, there is a fourth reason that Parramatta is a great city and the capital of western Sydney: its people. Parramatta has a strong, young workforce with a considerable number of qualified 18 to 35-year-olds in many trades. Many are self-employed or in managerial positions. The electorate contains people with aspirations—people who want their children to do better than they have—and people come to Parramatta because it provides them every educational opportunity, whether that be in the University of Western Sydney, the TAFE that has recently opened up there, the strong, independent school system or the public school system. I note that the University of New England will open its own campus in the heart of Parramatta—further recognition of Parramatta's outstanding location. Parramatta also has a large multicultural population. Around 40 per cent of those living in Parramatta were born overseas. Their distinct values, their hard work and focus on their skills and entrepreneurial activities make Parramatta the capital of western Sydney.
AUSTRALIAN OPEN OF SURFING
Mr MIKE BAIRD
(Manly—Treasurer) [1.02 p.m.]: I pay tribute to an amazing event that took place in my community over the past 10 days. It was amazing not just for Manly but for Sydney and New South Wales as a whole. The Australian Open of Surfing was a revelation. There were nine days of the world's best surfing, skating and music, performed by some of the best athletes and artists in the world. It gave people the opportunity to see Manly at its best. Every northern beaches local I spoke to was incredibly proud to be part of the event, which displayed to the world just how wonderful Manly and the northern beaches are.
The crowds supported this fantastic event, which featured for free some of the world's best athletes and musicians. These unbelievably talented people on our doorstep will, I have no doubt, inspire our kids and future generations to go on to great deeds themselves. More than 170,000 people attended the event over the nine days. I saw many young surfers looking at their heroes in action at the beach. I saw families coming to Manly to look at some of the incredible acts in the skating bowl. I remember one night listening to the music and looking down at more than 30,000 people on the beach enjoying a beautiful night and an amazing event. The event was alcohol-free. I commend Superintendent Dave Darcy and his entire team, including those officers who came to help from other commands. No doubt their presence helped to keep the event trouble-free. Of the event Dave Darcy said:
We didn't expect it to be so good but the excellent behaviour at the event was infectious through the whole Manly CBD.
I thank Dave and all those who came together to ensure that such a large number of people had the opportunity to safely enjoy the event in such a wonderful environment. I pay tribute also to Ryan Alagich, who as a young man won a world surf event at Manly as an amateur. He went through the trials as a member of Queenscliff Boardriders Club and won the event to the cheers of locals. I remember talking to him back in 2006 about the idea of bringing surfing back to Manly, back to its spiritual home. Ryan got in touch with world champion Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew, who, with the Association of Surfing Professionals, was supportive of the idea.
Many people played a role in bringing surfing back to Manly. I particularly pay tribute to Meegan Clancy and Destination NSW, which did an amazing job for the event. It was my first hands-on experience of the incredible work done by Destination NSW. Two years ago, when consideration was being given to holding the event at other beaches around the State, I joined with Meegan Clancy, who does a magnificent job for the Chamber of Commerce and the council, in campaigning to have the event at Manly, saying it should be staged nowhere else. I thank Meegan for her work in helping to secure the event for Manly.
I also acknowledge Bob Hurley and Derek O'Neill from Billabong, which sponsored the event. They had a magical vision, and I believe they delivered just that. My good mate Barton Lynch, an incredibly humble former world champion, and Luke Egan did an amazing job as directors of the event. Manly Council Mayor, Jean Hay—who I describe as the Gidget of the northern beaches—is an incredible supporter of sport in the community, and she was instrumental in making sure this event went off without a hitch, as did the general manager Henry Wong and manager Beth Lawson. I thank everyone who contributed or helped to make this event a success, and I thank those who willingly enabled so many people to come and enjoy our community.
The event was very special, and particularly so because it was held at Manly—the birthplace of Australian surfing. History has been created at Manly beach over the years. For example, Duke had the first surf ride at Freshwater. We have seen many local champions come and go. In that regard I have already mentioned Ryan Alagich. Other local heroes include Layne Beachley, former female world champion, and male champions Tom Carroll, Damian Hardman and Barton Lynch. There is a whole range of people. I express my admiration, respect and pure excitement for the young talents who won the events: Sal Fitzgibbons from Nowra, a young Aussie who has gone on to take on the world and who will give the world title a real shake this year; Matt Banting, a 17-year-old from Port Macquarie, who put in an extraordinary effort; and Laura Enever, who made the semi-finals. It was a great event and a great tribute to all things good in New South Wales.
PORT SAID STADIUM TRAGEDY
Mr GRAHAM ANNESLEY
(Miranda—Minister for Sport and Recreation) [1.07 p.m.]: One of the great success stories of our 200-plus years of settlement is the diverse range of people who have chosen to migrate to Australia and call it home. While the decision for some people was a forced one, for the large majority it was a decision based on opportunity, on freedom and, most importantly, on the desire to find a better way of life—a life that provides opportunities for employment and an education, to own one's home, to raise a family and even to play sport. These opportunities are presented to every citizen once they make Australia their home, regardless of from where they originate. I am proud to say that New South Wales is a major part of that opportunity.
We all know this is a great place to live, but perhaps at times we take our freedom and lifestyle for granted. Like most communities in this State and country my electorate of Miranda is an excellent example of people from across the globe living together in peace and harmony. The advantage of such a society is that we get to meet people from all walks of life and, in my case, to befriend someone like Mr Magdi Mikhail, a proud Australian of Egyptian heritage. Magdi lives in my electorate and we were both recently shocked and saddened by the appalling violence that occurred in Egypt and, of all places, at a football match. As an avid sports fan I was disgusted to see sport become a vehicle of violence and death. The tragic events that took place at Port Said Stadium on 1 February 2012 resulted in the death of more than 70 people and injury to around 1,000 people.
The match between the Port Said team Al-Masry and Cairo's Al-Ahly—Egypt's most successful club—saw the playing field hijacked by thugs and demonstrators. Reports of people brandishing knives, swords, clubs, stones, bottles and fireworks at a football match dominated the world headlines. Innocent and unsuspecting victims were knocked from their seats as people lost their lives in the panicked crush that resulted from patrons attempting to escape the violence. Within minutes of the violence commencing, the world watched in horror on live television as a football field became little more than a bloody battlefield. The television coverage showed fans running on to the field and chasing rival football players. The vision was horrific.
Sepp Blatter, President of Fédération Internationale de Football Association
[FIFA] was quoted as saying, "This is a black day for football. Such a catastrophic situation is unimaginable and should not happen." What made the tragedy worse were the related events that followed in ensuing days—more fighting, more bloodshed and more deaths. An official newsagency reported that over 2,500 people had been injured in the post-match, politically fuelled violence. More than 200 policemen were wounded. The clashes between rival fans marked one of the deadliest incidents in football and, for that matter, sporting history. Sport should never be the vehicle for political violence or hooliganism.
Sport has historically been the champion of peace, a means by which different nations and their people test their skills and enjoy each other's company in a relative spirit of goodwill and harmony. The tragedy that occurred in Port Said last month is a stark reminder to all of us that sport is not immune from radical violence that invariably targets the innocent when seeking to make a statement. To that end, it is vital that we are vigilant in our collective efforts to protect and preserve the innocence of sport around the globe. The Egyptian community in Miranda and all Egyptian communities across the globe have the deepest sympathies of all sports-loving, law-abiding Australians for their friends and loved ones who were injured or lost their lives in this tragic disaster.
MACARTHUR REAL ESTATE ENGAGEMENT PROJECT
Mr BRYAN DOYLE
(Campbelltown) [1.12 p.m.]: It gives me great pleasure to speak on the Macarthur Real Estate Engagement Project, an innovative project aimed at addressing and reducing the impact of homelessness in our community. On 8 February I hosted the inaugural Macarthur Real Estate Engagement Project at The Rydges—the world-renowned Catholic Club. In a nutshell, the Macarthur Real Estate Engagement Project is a partnership between real estate agents and social workers to reduce the impact of homelessness.
The project takes a two-pronged approach to the problem of homelessness: First, it provides support to new and existing tenants of real estate agents to help to prevent them from entering into the homelessness assistance system; and secondly, it encourages the development of a mutually beneficial relationship between real estate agents and community service groups that work with the homeless and the disadvantaged. This innovative strategy brings together two groups that traditionally do not often hang out with each other. As I hosted the meeting, I was pleased to say to both groups that not only do I love real estate agents but I also love social workers and to have them both together in the same room was an historic event.
Real estate agents are often the first to become aware that a tenant is suffering difficulties. The Macarthur Real Estate Engagement Project gives them the skills and contacts they need to help tenants. The project provided real estate agents with information from local specialist homelessness services as to how they can assist tenants in difficulty. The real estate agencies that attended were ProCore from Narellan, Dunsheas United Realty from Ingleburn, Richardson and Wrench from both Ingleburn and Campbelltown, Combined Real Estate and Macarthur United Realty.
These real estate agencies were linked with Centrelink, NSW Family and Community Services, Housing NSW and community housing providers such as Argyle Community Housing, St Vincent de Paul and The Drum Youth Centre. Issues discussed included how to get access to crisis payments, where to go for emergency help, how to manage money better, links with work and family support groups and information about available Centrelink support. Most importantly, the real estate agents present were provided with streamlined contact details, with approval to contact referral agencies such as The Drum, the Nagle Centre, Centrelink and Housing NSW. They were provided also with information as to the preferred language and the best contact times for those agencies.
Real estate agents were also informed about the new Rent It Keep It course that is being run by the Nagle Centre. This course assists new and prospective tenants in understanding how to establish and maintain successful tenancies. The greatest benefit provided by the project will be the development of contacts and relationships between the two groups—real estate agents and social workers—in a way that has never been tried. In this regard I pay tribute to the Western Sydney Community Forum, Eva Gerencer and my good friend Ken Barnard, a long-term real estate agent from Ingleburn. Feedback from the commencement of the Macarthur Real Estate Engagement Project has been overwhelmingly positive. All the real estate agents who completed the evaluation indicated that they would like more information about the project. They also thought it was relevant, well-facilitated and well-presented and would recommend it to others.
The first day after the briefing we had our first positive outcome. A local agent called one of the referral agencies and obtained a support letter straight away and was able to offer a person a tenancy. On the second day after the briefing another tenant was assisted with arrears by a local agency. In just over a week we have had at least seven referrals. That is seven possible cases of people entering into the homelessness system that have been averted. The Macarthur Real Estate Engagement Project is a worthy project that has been started at Campbelltown—that great opal of the south-west—and it is one that I recommend to all members as something positive that we can do to help reduce the impact of homelessness in our community.
NEPEAN CHRISTIAN SCHOOL BEAUTY AND THE BEAST MUSICAL PRODUCTION
Mrs TANYA DAVIES
(Mulgoa) [1.16 p.m.]: I am pleased to inform the House of the excellent and surprising performance of Disney's Beauty and the Beast
by the students of the Nepean Christian School. The Nepean Christian School is a small school of just over 300 students, located in the electorate of Mulgoa. The principal of the school, Mr Geoff Wheaton, eloquently described the school's journey in the preparation and execution of this beautiful fairytale. Mr Wheaton said:
No doubt there have been beautiful times and beastly times for our performers and assistants but they have excelled. With focused determination they have defeated the beasts of self-doubt, awkwardness and mistakes.
Congratulations to Rachel Raj, Christine Stone, Clive Coutman and Rob Weule, who worked so hard to produce a show that was full of surprises, sadness, softness, joy and elation. The courage of the students in standing in front of their classmates, families, teachers and unknown members of the wider community, is to be applauded. From a relatively small school came a surprisingly strong, believable and humorous performance by the students. The costumes were designed and made in-house by two talented women, Christine Stone and Rachel Raj. Such was the quality of the costumes that I asked the deputy principal where the school had hired them. To my surprise he informed me that they were all made in-house. That is an outstanding achievement by these two women, who still worked full-time at the school during the preparation for the presentation. The sets and props were simple, yet very effective. The coordination of the music, lighting and narration during the numerous set changes was seamless and professional. As the directors of the performance, Clive Coutman and Robert Weule, said:
It has a clear message: we must all be prepared to make a transformation to love, so that we can deny our selfish ways, make a sacrifice and be loved as our reward ... realising that beauty is found within.
Belle was played by Bethany Ghanem—an extremely talented, natural beauty who can sing dance, and act. The Beast was played by Jordan Hancock who delivered a bold, gruff, yet at times tender, performance. Gaston was played by Jack Mallard. The girls fawned over him in the show and I have been reliably informed that they also fawn over him in the schoolyard. Maddie Gillman played the part of Lumiere. Her French accent, humour and the flickering of her hands to replicate the flame were a pleasure to see. Cogsworth was played by Elise Randall. Congratulations to her for being the sensible one out of the half-human "things" in the castle.
The character of Mrs Potts was played by Samantha O'Brien, Chip by Charlotte Gillman, Lufou by Chad Sultana, and Maurice by Shane Hughes. The Mesdames were played by Chloe Willoughby-Green, and Felicity Maher and Olivia Mulligan who also played villagers. Emily Kirkham played Babette and performed as a villager. Adam Bull, Grace Hackney and Trinity Kitching performed as the narrators and as castle servants. The Silly Girls, as they were described in the program, were played by Elysha Gibson, Esther Crane, Georgia McArthur, Hannah McGillivray, Jaime Elsmore-Steele, Karina Blackwood, Lauren Dooley, Lucy Robson, Naomi Soane and Andrea Kirkham.
Ezekiel Johnson and Lucy Mallard performed triple roles as villagers, members of the wolf gang and as castle servants. Other students who played the parts of villagers were Josiah Irving, Liam Kensey, Marguerite Maher, Miriam Bartlett, Stephanie Weston, Grace Irving, Jake Sultana, Olivia Eaton, Bianca Marchio, Cora Belter, Brodie Wolffe. Additionally, Bailey Stubbs, Bronte Grouse, Brooke McLeod, Liam Kelly, Rachel Gibson, Tara Baker performed as members of the wolf gang and as castle servants. Felicite Vella Roberts performed as part of the wolf gang. Tom Kennedy performed as part of the wolf gang, as a castle servant and in the role of Monsier D'Arque.
I turn now to the stars behind the scenes. I thank Clive Coutman, Rob Weule, BJ Weule, Sam Hayde, Jason Weston, Patrick Collins, Jefferson Godsell, Peter Lewis, Taylah O'Neill, Breanna Burgess, Georgie Heffernan, Emily Blair-Hickman, Sophie Miller, Kaitlin Ghilardi, Kaitlin Wallis, Sarah Payne, Zoe Kelly, Monique Kozlovsky and Yasmine Shelley. I congratulate every person involved in the Nepean Christian School's successful, beautiful and enjoyable performance of Disney's Beauty and The Beast
. It is a fairytale that inspires everyone to see that true beauty is definitely found within.
TRIBUTE TO THE MOST VENERABLE THICH PHUOC HUE, OAM
Mr ANDREW ROHAN
(Smithfield) [1.21 p.m.]: It was with great sadness that I attended, on behalf of the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, and the Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Victor Dominello, the funeral of the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue, OAM on the 8 February at the Phouc Hue Monastery in Wetherill Park. The life of the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue was one of many accomplishments, yet one of much humility and servitude to his community. He was loved and respected as the spiritual leader of tens of thousands of people in the Vietnamese Buddhist community.
Born to a family of villagers in 1922 in the then Gia Oinh province located south of Ho Chi Minh City, formally known as Saigon, he left home at the age of 13, setting out on his noble search for education and knowledge. At the age of 16 he was ordained as a Samanera, a young novice monk. He continued his studies and was ordained as a Bhikkhu, a full monk, at the age of 20. He began his advanced schooling in Buddhist studies at the An Quang Buddhist Institute—the leading Buddhist University in Vietnam. From 1954 he was situated at the Meekong Delta in the south western region of Vietnam, where he assumed numerous religious and professional responsibilities, including managing a Buddhist secondary school located in the An Giang Province.
Returning to Saigon in 1960, the Most Venerable was appointed as director of studies at the Buddhist Studies Institute. He attended the National Conference of the Vietnamese Sangha, an annual assembly of key Vietnamese individuals, as secretary of the South Vietnam Delegation. It was at that Sangha that the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam was formed. When Saigon fell in 1975, the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam was outlawed and banned. Eventually, because of a lack of religious freedom, the Most Venerable was forced to flee Vietnam.
Arriving in Australia in 1980 and being Australia's first Vietnamese monk, Thich Phuoc Hue aspired to rebuild the Vietnamese Buddhist society in Australia, as well as contribute to the multicultural nature of Australian society. Elected as the first president of the Vietnamese Buddhist Federation at the Inaugural Buddhist Conference in Sydney in 1981, Thich Phuoc Hue went on to become the federation's longest-serving president. In 2009 he stepped down from that position due to ill health. In 1987 he was elected president of the restructured organisation called the United Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation in Australia and New Zealand. The Most Venerable's work was not confined to Australia; he also worked internationally. He was a high-ranking member and elder of the World Sangha Council as well as the World Fellowship of Buddhists.
On Australia Day of 2005, Thich Phuoc Hue was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in recognition of his commitment and contribution to the community that he tirelessly and selflessly served. Thich Phuoc Hue passed away peacefully on Saturday, 28 January 2012 much to the sorrow of the Vietnamese Buddhist community and the wider community. He was an advocate for peace, inclusiveness, social harmony and interfaith dialogue. As testimony to that, Prince Charles, when he toured Australia in 1994, chose Phuoc Hoe Monastery as the venue to hold discussions between the leaders of Australia's major religions. Much of the development within the Vietnamese community in the greater Sydney region and throughout Australia has been as a direct or indirect result of Thich Phuoc Hue.
I see the results of his work every day in my electorate—people of different faiths and cultures living side by side with a common respect for each other and for the community. The full Buddhist funeral ceremony was conducted by senior Buddhist monks in the presence of Christian church clergy, representatives of Federal, State and local governments and a large congregation of the faithful and community leaders who came to pay tribute to the life of this extraordinary man. I pay tribute to the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue, OAM. He was not only an inspiration to those who knew him; he was an inspiration also to the next generation of religious, cultural and community leaders.
HANNAH STREET AND COPELAND ROAD, BEECROFT, DEVELOPMENT
Mr GREG SMITH
(Epping—Attorney General, and Minister for Justice) [1.26 p.m.]: The changes made by the previous Government to the development of home units in beautiful residential areas under the State Environmental Planning Policies (Affordable Rental Housing) document contain some less than attractive aspects. In this regard I will refer to an application that deals with a large amount of property between Hannah Street and Copeland Road at Beecroft. Beecroft is a beautiful suburb. It has lovely trees, gardens and birdlife that make it reminiscent of a forest. Many of its fine houses have heritage protection. It has largely survived the push for high-rise developments that has seen the destruction of many fine homes on the north shore and caused great residential uprising.
Although some high-rise units will be allowed around the shopping centre near the railway station, homes west of Beecroft Road have been protected by zoning. The council has fixed areas on the eastern side of Beecroft Road as part of the housing strategy of the Department of Planning that requires councils to find other areas for housing. While there was opposition to that strategy, the community has now become used to the idea. But on the western side there are many fine houses and areas of beautiful gumtrees and other native trees that form some of the most beautiful features of Beecroft. It therefore came as a major surprise when a development application was lodged to allow the building of a five-storey unit block ostensibly for affordable rental housing between Hannah Street and Copeland Road.
If approved, the development would see the destruction of 71 gumtrees from an already rapidly depleting forest. Last May the O'Farrell Government's Minister for Planning, Brad Hazzard, acted decisively to close loopholes in the use of State environmental planning policies, otherwise known as SEPPs, whereby developers were building units of a scale and design that clashed with the local area. The planning policies are currently under review, but the more permissive provisions have been deleted. Now developments must comply with the character of the neighbourhood. A number have been rejected by local councils because they do not comply. In this case, because the value of the property will be more than $10 million, it will be dealt with by a local planning panel.
In my view, and in the view of many residents, this development clashes with the character of the area. While we need more dwellings because of a booming population, they should be placed in other areas, including some in Beecroft, but on the other side of Beecroft Road. We must fight to retain beautiful parts of Sydney from damaging development. The development application will be considered soon—it is still being assessed—but I assure the residents of Beecroft and surrounding areas that I will continue the fight to stop this particular development, despite the fact that some property interests in the area want it to go ahead. I will talk to them and listen to them, but to my mind the development will damage a beautiful part of my electorate—and it will not happen, if I have anything to do it.
Private members' statements concluded.
[Acting-Speaker (Mr Lee Evans) left the chair at 1.30 p.m. The House resumed at 2.15 p.m.
I welcome to the public gallery Mrs Judy Hopwood, who served as a member of the Legislative Assembly from 2002 to 2011 as the member for Hornsby, and who is a guest of the member for Hornsby. I also welcome Mateo Belgio and Saveria Christiano from the Department of Presidency, Italy; Nicolas Care, chief executive officer of the Italian Chamber of Commerce; and Nick Scali, board member of the Italian Chamber of Commerce, who are part of a Calabrian delegation and are guests of the member for Drummoyne.
DARWIN BOMBING SEVENTIETH ANNIVERSARY
On behalf of the House, I acknowledge the seventieth anniversary of the attack on Darwin, Northern Territory, which marks the time when war came to Australia. On 19 February 1942 at 9.58 a.m., 188 Japanese airplanes launched from four aircraft carriers, the Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu
, and dropped an estimated 683 bombs on Darwin, killing 243 people and wounding between 300 and 400 civilians and military personnel. A "sledgehammer to crack an egg", according to Japanese Air Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, the attack destroyed 34 Australian aircraft, sank nine ships and damaged a further 15 in Darwin Harbour. Furthermore, the post office was demolished, and both civilian and military facilities in Darwin were devastated. A section of the wharf was destroyed, which resulted in 22 waterside workers losing their lives.
The attack consisted of two waves within an hour of each other. More air planes were utilised and more bombs were dropped in the first wave across Darwin than in the first wave at Pearl Harbor. Over the next 21 months Darwin, Adelaide River, Katherine and Milingimbi in Arnhem Land were bombed a total of 64 times. Nineteen February 1942 marked the battle for Australia, and lives on as one of the country's darkest days. I request all members to rise as a mark of respect in memory of those who lost their lives during the bombing of Darwin, and as a mark of respect for all those who defended Australia at that time.
Members and officers of the House stood in their places as a mark of respect
APPOINTMENT OF THE LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR OF NEW SOUTH WALES
I report the receipt of the following message from the Secretary to the Governor:
Office of the Governor
Sydney, 8 February 2012
I write to advise that The Honourable Thomas Frederick Bathurst QC, Chief Justice of New South Wales, was sworn in as Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales on 1 February 2012.
ADMINISTRATION OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE STATE
I report the receipt of the following message from the Lieutenant-Governor:
T F BATHURST Office of the Governor
Lieutenant-Governor Sydney, 16 February 2012
The Honourable Thomas Frederick Bathurst, Lieutenant-Governor 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 6.05 a.m. on Thursday 16 February 2012.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Notices of Motions
Government Business Notices of Motions (for Bills) given.
[Question time commenced at 2.24 p.m.
ROGER CORBETT AND SYDNEY CHILDREN'S HOSPITALS NETWORK
Mr JOHN ROBERTSON:
My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Did the senior staff member the Minister referred to last week make a formal complaint about allegedly being bullied by Roger Corbett prior to her sacking Mr Corbett from the Sydney Children's Hospitals Network board?
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER:
As I have indicated, I am saying nothing more about this matter. I have addressed the subject completely.
SERIOUS OFFENDER IDENTITY CHANGES
Mr BRYAN DOYLE:
My question is directed to the Premier. How is the Government preventing serious criminals from changing their identity?
Ms Noreen Hay:
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
The one identity over there that has not changed is the member for Wollongong. This Government will always stand up for victims of crime.
Order! I call the member for Canterbury to order. I call the member for Kiama to order.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
We will always stand up for the victims of crime. We will always stand up in defence of the community. We will always give police the laws and powers they need to do their jobs. As I said last week, Labor spent 16 years talking tough on law and order but, in effect, did nothing practical to help victims of crime, to help the community or to help police. Today the Government is closing a loophole left—ignored—by those opposite. We will introduce legislation to close a loophole that allows serious criminals—murderers, sex offenders and other dangerous prisoners—from changing their identities and allowing them to go undetected in the community.
Members will be aware of the recent arrest of child killer Austin Allan Hughes, who changed his name to Brian Lopex Smith and who was living in Kempsey with a woman and her two children. His real identity became known only because of the suspicions and actions of the woman's sister. Allowing criminals to change their names makes it easier for them to avoid detection, which puts the community and their victims at risk. The Government's reforms will make it much harder for inmates, parolees and forensic patients to seek a name change.
An alert list of serious offenders will be sent regularly to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Any application by offenders on the alert list will not get past go without the written approval of the supervising authority, whether it is the police, Corrective Services or the Mental Health Review Tribunal. Inmates and forensic patients will be blocked from submitting any application to the registry if a name change is reasonably likely to threaten security, jeopardise a person's health or safety, or be used for an unlawful purpose. Offenders under supervision in the community will be prevented from making an application if there is a reasonable likelihood they will use a new name to avoid being monitored.
I note that in welcoming our reforms, victims of crime support groups have expressed concern about criminals from other States changing their names and moving to New South Wales. Those victims of crime groups are absolutely right: We can put in place the toughest laws possible in New South Wales but we cannot stop criminals coming into New South Wales from other States where laws still allow criminals to change their identities. That is why the Attorney General, who has pioneered this reform, is leading the charge at a national level and putting the onus on the other States to follow our lead.
Finally, I draw the attention of the House to the reaction of the Opposition police spokesman, the member for Toongabbie, to this change. On 2WS news—one of my favourite news bureaus—he was complaining that this action should have taken place earlier. I could not agree more. I cast members' minds back to 2009, when the member for Toongabbie was Premier—all but briefly—of this State. On 14 July 2009 the Daily Telegraph
wrote yet another scoop under the heading "Identity Crisis—Making a gangster name for himself. Meet Sydney's Tony Soprano, the former Ali Balil." The then Premier and member for Toongabbie was quoted as saying:
This is obviously something you would rather not read ...
The statement of the decade. He then pledged action to fix the loophole.
The article further stated:
Premier Nathan Rees said laws allowing police to be informed when a criminal changes his or her name will come into effect within weeks, finally ending the legal loophole.
Like with so much of his premiership, it never came to pass. That is why we are getting on with the job of cleaning up this loophole.
ROGER CORBETT AND SYDNEY CHILDREN'S HOSPITALS NETWORK
Dr ANDREW McDONALD:
My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Were the bullying allegations that the Minister made against Roger Corbett last week the subject of an independent investigation?
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER:
As I indicated previously, I do not intend to say anything more on this matter except to thank the shadow Minister for Health for inquiring about the health of the person in question.
TOBACCO AND HEALTH
Mrs LESLIE WILLIAMS:
My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. What is the Government doing to reform tobacco laws and reduce smoking-related illness in New South Wales?
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER:
I expect a quality question from the member for Port Macquarie, who is a former nurse and someone who understands the importance of preventing people from taking up smoking or persuading them to quit smoking. I refer to the foreword in the "NSW Tobacco Strategy 2012-2017", which I released today.
Order! I call the member for Canterbury to order for the second time.
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER:
It is difficult to believe that just a few decades ago we smoked in our workplaces, in our homes, and in cars, buses and trains—in fact, everywhere—with ashtrays overflowing and long-suffering non-smokers putting up with second-hand smoke. It is gratifying to note the progress we have made. I acknowledge that that progress relied on initiatives from both sides of Parliament, under the previous Labor Government and the Coalition. They have always enjoyed bipartisan support, and I trust that that support will continue. I shall outline some initiatives in the strategy released today. Smoking-related illness is the leading cause of preventable mortality and morbidity, and annual social costs are estimated to be more than $8 billion. Last year there were around 5,200 tobacco-related deaths and 44,000 hospitalisations. The most disadvantaged communities are affected disproportionally—Aboriginal people, people with mental illness and people in prison. Much of our strategy is targeted towards helping those people quit smoking.
The strategy announced today focuses on environmental smoke. I am pleased to announce that smoking will be banned in playgrounds, public sportsgrounds, swimming centres, public transport stops, entrances to public buildings and, from 2015, from commercial outdoor dining areas. As I have said, the NSW Tobacco Strategy focuses on disadvantaged populations. Local health districts will have Government support to ensure that there is no smoking on NSW Health grounds, which they may achieve through the introduction of by-laws. I am proud of the Coalition's long track record in delivering on tobacco reforms such as banning smoking in public offices, banning tobacco advertising at sportsgrounds and implementing public health campaigns discouraging smoking. I acknowledge and thank those organisations and individuals who have approached me since making this announcement a couple of hours ago. The Chief Executive Officer of Cancer Council NSW, Dr Andrew Penman, who joined me to announce the strategy, praised the New South Wales Government for listening and acting to address the needs of the community. He said:
This was a crucial step to protect children and the whole community from the toxic second-hand smoke.
The Heart Foundation issued a press release stating:
The NSW Government is to be applauded for finally lifting the cigarette smoke haze on residents in NSW with the introduction of a comprehensive smoke free policy that will see smoking banned in outdoor areas where food is served.
The Cancer Institute said:
The NSW Tobacco Strategy ... announced today ... is a breath of fresh air for communities across NSW. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable cancer. The NSW Tobacco Strategy is real action, right now to reduce the devastating and costly impact smoking has on our State ...
I address one criticism about the delay in implementing the banning of smoking in commercial outdoor dining areas. I remind the House, as pointed out by Dr Penman, that these things do not happen overnight. In 2004 New South Wales Premier Bob Carr announced that smoking in outdoor areas of licensed venues would be phased in by July 2007—nearly three years later. Our phase-in period for banning smoking in outdoor dining areas will be much shorter. I am pleased to see those opposite nodding their approval. I particularly acknowledge the member for Balmain for his supportive comments about this issue. This is a red-letter day for New South Wales: the day we started the move to ban smoking in outdoor dining areas.
Order! I welcome to the public gallery Mr Heikki Holmas, Chair of the Standing Committee on Local Government and Public Administration of the Norwegian Parliament, and other members of that committee. Our visitors are undertaking a study program with this Parliament today and tomorrow. I wish them well. Welcome to the New South Wales Parliament and to question time.
ROGER CORBETT AND SYDNEY CHILDREN'S HOSPITALS NETWORK
Mr NATHAN REES:
My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Given that no formal complaint was made, no independent investigation undertaken and no opportunity provided to defend the charges, how can the Minister justify using parliamentary privilege to traduce Roger Corbett by calling him a bully?
Order! Having regard to the factual content of the question, I am not sure that it is in order. I rule the question out of order. I suggest that those who prepare questions refer to the standing orders.
Mr MATT KEAN:
My question is addressed to the Minister for Education. Will the Minister update the House on details from the Federal review of school funding?
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI:
I thank the member for Hornsby for his question and commend him for his ongoing interest in education, which is shared by members of The Nationals and the Liberal Party in this Chamber. Yesterday was a significant day, with the release of the long-awaited Gonski review into school funding. Many different views have been expressed about that review and what will happen next. As I described yesterday morning, the review is best described perhaps as the end of the beginning. Commentators and stakeholders have welcomed and rejected various aspects of the Gonski report but, most importantly, we have to make sure that in the end we have a school funding system that can lift attainment across all New South Wales schools—public and private. New South Wales has two issues in education: lifting the performances of those who are underperforming, and disadvantaged students failing to reach minimum benchmarks. However, another problem is the underperformance of students performing at higher levels who should be performing even better. We have to deal with both performance issues in New South Wales, and across Australia.
This goal transcends different political views and sectoral issues. The future of our children's education and the future prosperity and wellbeing of the nation depends on getting this reform right. This issue is too important to be used as a political football. We must work together—the Commonwealth, States and Territories—to establish a way forward. The Director General of the New South Wales Department of Education and Communities has today convened, at my direction, a meeting of the various directors general and secretaries of education of Australian States and Territories to begin these discussions. Just a few hours ago I welcomed them to the meeting in New South Wales to discuss this most important review. I am pleased that New South Wales is again taking a leading role because we are the largest State with the largest education system. It is the States and Territories that deliver public education and provide significant funds for private education. It is the States and Territories that must play a major role in shaping and progressing the reform of school funding.
It is disappointing that yesterday the Commonwealth was unable to make any commitments around the critical issue of funding. I must emphasise the funding issue. While it is the States and Territories that provide public education, it is the Commonwealth that has the revenue-raising ability to fund a major part of the investment that will be needed to turn the reforms announced yesterday into reality. All members of Parliament agree that more money must be made available to ensure the new school funding model achieves its goals. I call on the Commonwealth Government to commit to the lion's share of the funds required. Our approach to David Gonski's findings will be constructive. The Government supports Mr Gonski's key view that every child should have access to the best possible education regardless of where they live, the income of their family, or the schools that they attend.
Order! I will clarify my ruling on the question asked by the member for Toongabbie. The member can reword the question if he wishes, but Opposition members will have no fewer questions: they will be able to ask five questions.
ROGER CORBETT AND SYDNEY CHILDREN'S HOSPITALS NETWORK
Mr MICHAEL DALEY:
My question is directed to the Premier. Given that the Minister for Health, and Minister for Medical Research is declining to answer further questions in regard to the sacking of Roger Corbett will the Premier now apologise to Mr Corbett for the Minister's unfortunate comments about him in the House last week?
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
I am happy to do what I did on Ross Greenwood's program on 2GB last week, which is to thank Roger Corbett for his service to the State's public hospital system for so long. I am happy to make the point that as part of the local health district reforms put in place by the Minister for Health the two children's hospital boards were to come to an end and to be reformed by 1 April. I am happy to restate what I said on air last week: What the Minister has done is in line with the legislation that passed through this Parliament with the support of those opposite. I am pleased to repeat what I said on air last week: We do not run our public hospitals like corporations.
Order! The member for Canterbury will come to order.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
If those opposite are suggesting they should be run like corporations that is a whole new aspect. The Government thanks Mr Corbett for his contribution.
Mr Michael Daley:
Point of order: My point of order relates to Standing Order 129. The question was: Will the Premier apologise to Roger Corbett for having been defamed under privilege by the Minister for Health? He is a great Australian.
Order! That is not a point of order. The member for Maroubra will resume his seat. The Premier is being relevant to the question.
Mr Brad Hazzard:
Point of order: Clearly the Premier is being relevant to the question asked. If the member is going to continually raise irrelevant points of order I would ask that the member be ruled out of order and to desist.
Order! It is for the Speaker to make those decisions.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL
: I again say that we thank Mr Corbett. What is the difference between the member for Marrickville and a three-week-old puppy? At six weeks a puppy stops whining.
Mr Michael Daley:
Point of order: Just because the Premier does not want to answer the question does not mean he can breach Standing Order 73 in respect of a member on this side of the Chamber. Answer the question.
Order! The Premier will return to the leave of the question. The Premier has the call.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
I say again, I thank Roger Corbett for his service.
Order! I call the member for Shellharbour to order. I call the member for Shellharbour to order for the second time.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
I thank Roger Corbett for his service. What the Minister has done is in accordance with the legislation that has passed through this Parliament.
Order! I call the member for Maroubra to order.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
This Government will not start running our private hospitals like commercial organisations.
Order! I call the Leader of the Opposition to order. Opposition members will come to order. I will give members no further warnings. I will not hesitate to call members to order and have them removed, if appropriate. I remind members that a number of them are on two calls to order.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
The Minister for Health has my support and has acted in accordance with the legislation passed by this Parliament. This Government is not about to run hospitals like corporations.
Order! I call the Leader of the Opposition to order for the second time.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
Just as Mr Corbett may have views about the way we employ staff, individual members may have views about the way Fairfax and other organisations employ their staff. At the end of the day they are a matter of difference.
Order! I call the member for Canterbury to order for the third time.
Ms CARMEL TEBBUTT:
My question is directed to the Minister for Family and Community Services. In light of the Minister's backdown last week on foster carer's allowances will she now have a heart and reinstate post-adoption allowances for parents who give vulnerable children a permanent home?
Order! I call the member for Keira to order. I call the member for Keira to order for the second time.
Ms PRU GOWARD I
thank the member for her question. I remind members that both sides of this Parliament consider that adoption is one of the great permanent routes for out-of-home care and is closely aligned to the Government's commitment to reduce out-of-home care. Adoption of children in out-of-home care appears not to have been a priority for the previous Government. There were 17,892 children and young people in out-of-home care when the Coalition was elected, that is 11 in 1,100. In 2010-11 how many adoptions were there? There were 45 out of almost 18,000 children in out-of-home care. The year before there were only 48 children adopted from out-of-home care. As this Government has identified repeatedly, the reason for this low number is the extraordinarily long, repetitious and difficult process that would-be adoptive families have to go through to adopt in this State. We all believe in safe and loving permanent solutions, but we will not attract more people to adoption while we have a process that can take well over two years and often up to five. New adoptive families of children and young people in out-of-home care will now receive an annual $1,500 post-adoption allowance per child rather than the fortnightly carer allowance they received whilst fostering a child or young person.
The post-adoption allowance that the Coalition Government introduced in its last budget will remain in place. We have also stressed that if children who have been adopted have disabilities, then of course they are entitled to disability and home care services, and that will be a priority. The new post-adoption allowance announced in last year's budget impacts on only new adoptive families and children and young people in out-of-home care. I am advised currently around 721 potential adoptions are at various stages of consideration. Hundreds and hundreds of these families had been waiting for years—thanks to the mismanagement of Labor—to finalise assessments. That has to change if we are to increase the number of children in out-of-home care who can enjoy a stable and permanent solution.
Opposition members can say whatever they like, but very few families are prepared to persist with a very difficult process, as the numbers on record clearly identify. The changes to allowances that were made in last September's budget will not impact on the families who have already proceeded to seek an adoption. That was always made clear. They will continue to progress under the same financial arrangements that existed when they commenced. These grandfathering arrangements also include carers who formerly expressed an interest to adopt the children in their care, before that budget announcement on 6 September 2011, but had not yet proceeded to an assessment—again, as was made clear at the time of the last budget.
When a carer or a child has contacted their caseworker and inquired about adoption, and Community Services has agreed to pursue this permanent option, that is classified as a prior application. Alternatively, a caseworker may have identified adoption as a suitable permanent option and has discussed this with a carer and/or child. We are clearly developing a suite of broader reforms in conjunction with non-government organisations and carers in the adoption process, because in our view and in the view of those choosing to adopt children, that remains the problem: more children were adopted from overseas, despite the extraordinarily onerous cost, than were adopted locally.
Mr PAUL TOOLE:
My question is directed to the Deputy Premier. How is the Government delivering on its election commitment to address the impacts of mining on regional communities?
Mr ANDREW STONER:
I thank the member for Bathurst for his question—no Bundy Bear, this bloke, and aren't we glad of it? And so are the people of the Bathurst electorate, 36½ per cent of whom voted for him. But I digress. There is no doubt that the current minerals boom has brought once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for many parts of the State and the national economy. However, this resources boom is a two-edged sword, with heavy impacts on other sectors of the economy, including tourism, manufacturing and agriculture, which are suffering from the double whammy of a high Australian dollar and skills shortages. Also affected are the host regions and communities that experience the impact of increased mining activity on local infrastructure. These regions make a substantial contribution to State revenue by way of mining royalties. But in many cases significant demands are being placed on local infrastructure, particularly roads and bridges, by mining activities.
The New South Wales Liberals and The Nationals went to the last election committed to a Resources for the Regions program to address these issues. We promised that a portion of our Restart NSW infrastructure fund would be directed towards helping mining-affected communities with their local infrastructure needs. In order to identify those needs, an economic assessment of mining-affected communities has been carried out for the first time in the State's history. This independently audited economic assessment has revealed that most mining-affected communities around the State received more funding per head of population in 2010-11 than those unaffected by mining. However, the report did identify that two mining-affected New South Wales local government areas, Singleton and Muswellbrook, received less capital and recurrent funding per capita than the State average in 2010-11.
Ms Kristina Keneally:
When I go out—
Mr ANDREW STONER:
Opposition becomes the member. And she need not worry because under the leadership of the member for Blacktown she has many more years in opposition ahead.
Order! The Deputy Premier will refrain from responding to interjections.
Mr ANDREW STONER:
Accordingly, the New South Wales Government will engage with Muswellbrook and Singleton local councils to identify key economic infrastructure projects in those regions. This economic assessment of mining-affected communities is part of the New South Wales Government's commitment to restoring accountability and transparency to government. The economic assessment was undertaken to help guide our long-term infrastructure decisions, which is why we have provided it to Infrastructure NSW for its consideration when developing the 20-year strategy for infrastructure in this great State, due later this year. The working group that undertook the economic assessment has suggested that, given the variable nature of capital contributions, particularly road funding, the data in this report should be re-examined annually. This will ensure both the robustness of the analysis and also that communities where mining activity is beginning or increasing are assessed adequately. Therefore the Liberal-Nationals Government has adopted this recommendation.
Resources for the Regions infrastructure funding will be allocated from Restart NSW, the Government's new capital fund, which comprises windfall tax revenue, realisation of the capital invested in assets—such as from the Sydney Desalination Plant—and borrowings, including Waratah bonds. Initial allocations from Restart NSW are expected to be announced as part of the annual State budget process. I know that Opposition members are not interested in this matter, because for 16 long years they ignored those mining-affected communities. Shame on the member for Cessnock: he should listen to this. If he did, he would acknowledge that, for the first time in a long time, this State has a government that is determined to deliver a fair share to mining-affected regions. Unlike those opposite, the Liberals and The Nationals are about rebuilding the State. Initial allocations from Restart NSW are expected to be announced as part of the State budget process. This is a Government with regional New South Wales at the heart and centre of its decision-making.
Ms SONIA HORNERY:
My question is to the Minister for Family and Community Services. In light of the Minister's backdown last week on foster carers' allowances, will the Minister now have a heart and reinstate funding for the VisionCare program so that pensioners are not forced to live without glasses?
Mr Andrew Fraser:
Point of order: I submit that both the member for Auburn and the member for Wallsend have contravened Standing Order 128 by asking questions that contain inference and imputation. I ask that this question be ruled out of order.
Order! I will not rule the question out of order. Many questions asked in the past have been borderline. The question asked by the member for Wallsend is borderline, but I will allow it.
Ms PRU GOWARD:
I thank the member for Wallsend for her question. I hope I will have an extension of time to answer it, so that I can go through the legacy of this program that has brought us to this point.
Order! I remind members, a number of whom are on two calls to order, that they might find themselves outside the Chamber shortly.
Ms PRU GOWARD:
The New South Wales spectacles program, administered by VisionCare on behalf of the Department of Family and Community Services, provides free spectacles and other vision appliances such as contact lenses to the elderly and people on low incomes. The program has been put on hold until 1 July, when it can recommence. This program began in 1992. Under Labor how often did that program exceed its budget? Was it one or two years in the last 14 years? No. It was 13 of the last 14 years.
Order! I call the Leader of the Opposition to order for the third time.
Ms PRU GOWARD:
What we did not do is take the shortfall out of the out-of-home care budget, which is what Labor did.
Mrs Barbara Perry:
Point of order: Madam Speaker, I ask you to caution the Minister against misleading the House. That is not true; money was taken out of unexpended funds.
Order! There is no point of order. The Minister has the call.
Ms PRU GOWARD:
I do not think that a shortfall that was taken out of the out-of-home care budget to a total of $8 million is misleading the House. It might not be something the Labor Opposition is proud of and it might not be something that it wants people to know, but the fact is that that is what happened. That is why we know that the former Labor Government was not a government that had a heart; it was a government that was prepared to pilfer from the out-of-home care program to pay for a VisionCare program it could not manage.
Order! I call the member for Cessnock to order. I call the member for Macquarie Fields to order.
Ms PRU GOWARD:
Even after Justice Wood's commission of inquiry found the importance of out-of-home care, the former Labor Government continued to take from that budget to pay for a program it failed to manage. We all know that Labor left this Government with a budget shortfall of $1.9 million in this portfolio over four years.
Order! I call the member for Cessnock to order for the second time.
Ms PRU GOWARD:
Vulnerable children, young people and families should have a financially sustainable department that can offer the best and most appropriate support they need, and it cannot be run by a government that pilfers from one program to pay for another.
Mrs Barbara Perry:
You made a choice.
Ms PRU GOWARD:
I made a choice to meet our budget commitments, and VisionCare was well aware of that.
Order! Opposition members will come to order. This is my final warning.
Ms PRU GOWARD:
One would think after maybe the first year, but certainly after the second, the third or the fourth year, of an overrun somebody on the other side of the House would have said to the department, "We can't keep doing this". But they did not; they just kept pilfering. The current program expires in August this year.
Order! I call the member for Toongabbie to order.
Ms PRU GOWARD:
As I said, the contract for the current program expires in August this year, which will be an ideal opportunity to review the program to see how we can ensure that the money is properly spent and that there are no longer the overruns that we saw in 13 of the last 14 years. We have provided 75,000 pairs of spectacles in the past year and we must keep providing that sort of assistance but in a way that enables children, young people and the elderly to be confident that the program they have joined is able to deliver what is needed. This is not a reflection on VisionCare, which has simply delivered according to Labor's shoddy program design.
REGIONAL COURT FACILITIES
Mr TIM OWEN:
My question is directed to the Attorney General. What is the New South Wales Government doing to improve court facilities in Newcastle particularly and throughout New South Wales generally?
Mr GREG SMITH:
I thank the member for Newcastle for his question and for his great advocacy for Newcastle, particularly for the courthouse.
Order! I call the member for Toongabbie to order for the second time.
Mr GREG SMITH:
The Government will build a $94 million court complex that will become the centrepiece of a modern justice precinct in the heart of Newcastle—an area in which much work needs to be done because of its almost desert-like appearance after 16 years of Labor. This will be the State's largest court complex outside of Sydney, replacing the existing courthouse with a facility that not just will meet Newcastle's immediate needs but also will be a building for the future. The Newcastle court has had rats—
Mr John Robertson:
Have you been there?
Mr GREG SMITH:
It sounds like the member opposite might have. It has had leaks and it has had cockroaches. Last Friday I announced that the development application for the construction of the new courthouse had been submitted to Newcastle City Council. The submission was welcomed by the Newcastle Lord Mayor, John Tate, who has stated in relation to the application:
Development that has the potential to generate local jobs and helps to revitalise the Civic Precinct is definitely worth consideration by The City of Newcastle.
The new modern complex will have a floor area in excess of 10,000 square metres. It will include at least 10 modern courtrooms with videoconferencing technology and it will be fully accessible to people with a disability. A large proportion of the building's facade will be glass, allowing the complex to be filled with natural light. The design will create a welcoming atmosphere in keeping with the New South Wales Government's philosophy that the justice system should be open and accessible. One of the courtrooms will be large enough to accommodate trials involving up to 10 defendants and a jury panel of up to 15members. This will enable Newcastle to hold trials of a similar size to the large terrorist trial held recently at Parramatta. The new courthouse also will feature airport-style perimeter security and a new cell complex as well as a range of facilities for victims, support services, justice agencies and the legal profession.
I am glad that the Australian branch of Cox Richardson Architects and Planners was awarded the contract for this building; it is an Australian practice with more than 40 years of experience and it has worked on a range of major projects, including the design of new courthouses in Queensland and Western Australia. It will be an extremely secure courthouse and cell complex, with a network of closed-circuit television cameras and an X-ray machine and a metal detector for the screening of users of the court, and members of the Opposition, who visit the complex. Importantly, there will be secure and well appointed facilities for domestic violence victims and a private room from which victims of sexual assault can give in-camera evidence to the court. The proposed site preserves the opportunity to create a justice precinct in Newcastle with the Commonwealth courts, the University of Newcastle and other justice-related agencies and service providers.
A number of major law firms are currently located in close proximity to the precinct. The member for Newcastle knows all too well that the new courthouse is needed. He has been strongly advocating for the project not only on behalf of the legal community but also on behalf of the people who will be employed during its construction and on behalf of the people who live in the Newcastle area who want a decent court, who want their kids to be protected and who do not want to be exposed to the perpetrators of domestic violence and others who might interfere with their giving of evidence. The first stage of construction is set to begin at the Burwood Wedge site in the middle of the year, following the demolition of the derelict Fred Ash building. Part of the history of the site will be retained as thousands of bricks from the Fred Ash building will be used in the construction of the new courthouse. [Extension of time agreed to
The main construction works are expected to start towards the end of 2012 and the courthouse is expected to be completed and operational by mid-2014.
Order! Opposition members will listen to the answer in silence.
Mr GREG SMITH:
The Government also is upgrading courts in a number of regions throughout New South Wales. A new courthouse will be constructed at Armidale which is expected to cost $16.5 million. A construction contract was awarded to a local building firm in December 2011 and construction commenced in January 2012.
The people of Armidale are very happy; there is no need for members opposite to be facetious. Construction is expected to be completed in early 2013. In September last year, as part of the budget the Government announced funding for a new court facility at Coffs Harbour valued at $40 million. That is a long overdue project. A number of capital works have been completed at the Wollongong courthouse and plans are underway for future works.
Order! Opposition members will come to order for the last minute of question time. I call the member for Maroubra to order for the second time.
Mr GREG SMITH:
This is in addition to the works being undertaken at courthouses in Taree, Port Macquarie, King Street, Liverpool and Waverley, and at the Downing Centre criminal courts and the civil courts and tribunals in John Madison Tower. The O'Farrell Government is committed to building first-class court facilities throughout New South Wales and this commitment is backed by concrete action.
Order! The member for Canterbury will cease waving a piece of paper around. I remind the member that she is already on three calls to order.
Question time concluded at 3.12 p.m.
LEGISLATION REVIEW COMMITTEE
Mr Stephen Bromhead
, as Chair, tabled a report entitled "Legislation Review Digest No. 10/55", dated 21 February 2012, together with the minutes of proceedings regarding Legislation Review Digest No. 9/55.
Report ordered to be printed on motion by Mr Stephen Bromhead.
PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE
Mr Jonathan O'Dea
, as Chair, tabled a report of entitled "Report on the Examination of the Auditor General's Performance Audits October 2009 to June 2010", report 3/55, dated February 2012.
Ordered to be printed on motion by Mr Jonathan O'Dea.
The Clerk announced that the following petitions signed by fewer than 500 persons were lodged for presentation:
Inner West Light Rail Extension
Petition requesting the continued construction of the Greenway project as part of the Inner West Light Rail Extension, received from Ms Linda Burney
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
Companion Animals Travel
Petition requesting that companion animals be allowed to travel on all public transport, received from Ms Clover Moore
Pig-dog Hunting Ban
Petition requesting the ban of pig-dog hunting in New South Wales, 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
Petition requesting mandatory closed-circuit television for all New South Wales slaughterhouses, received from Ms Clover Moore
Animals Performing in Circuses
Petition requesting a ban on exotic animals performing in circuses, received from Ms Clover Moore
Petition opposing the sale of animals in pet shops, received from Ms Clover Moore
Woolloomooloo Public Housing
Petition calling for certain actions in relation to Housing NSW property and for priority for supported housing at the Camperdown project to be given to rough sleepers in Woolloomooloo, received from Ms Clover Moore
The Clerk announced that the following petition signed by more than 500 persons was lodged for presentation:
Petition requesting the Government buy out commercial fishing operators within the Pittwater to help to ensure a sustainable future for this invaluable natural asset, received from Mr Rob Stokes
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders: Motions Accorded Priority
Mr BRAD HAZZARD
(Wakehurst—Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Infrastructure NSW) [3.13 p.m.]: I move:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to permit the consideration of both motions sought to be accorded priority at this sitting with the following speaking times:
(1) For the notice of motion given by the member for Macquarie Fields:
(a) Mover - 5 minutes; and
(b) Member next speaking - 5 minutes.
(2) For the notice of motion given by the member for Pittwater:
(a) Mover - 5 minutes; and
(b) Member next speaking - 5 minutes.
Although this is not the norm, the Government acknowledges the merit of both notices of motion. In order to ensure that there is no competition between two highly meritorious motions, the Government proposes to allow both motions to be appropriately debated.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
TRIBUTE TO ROGER CORBETT, AO
Motion Accorded Priority
Dr ANDREW McDONALD
(Macquarie Fields) [3.15 p.m.]: I move:
That this House recognises the enormous contribution that Roger Corbett, AO, has made to children's health in New South Wales over the past 40 years and thanks him for his good service.
The sacking of Roger Corbett, AO, goes to the very heart of the way this Government and the Minister for Health deal with the New South Wales health system. Roger Corbett, AO, has an extensive past history of both philanthropy and corporate success. As the chief executive officer of Woolworths and the chairman of Fairfax he knows all about the necessity of due process at all times. As the chair of the Sydney Children's Hospitals Network, Roger Corbett contributed greatly to the wellbeing of every child in New South Wales. Our children's hospitals are regarded by every person in New South Wales as being of the highest quality. No concern has ever been raised by any member of the public about the standard of care that children in this State receive at those hospitals.
I will start by paying tribute to Elizabeth Koff, who is a highly competent and respected professional. Elizabeth has the support of everyone involved in this debate. I stress again that this issue is not about her competence or her professional ability, which are above reproach. Mr Corbett was reappointed by the present Minister for Health to head the Sydney Children's Hospitals Network. Both while in Opposition and in Government the Minister has always said that these local health networks are independent of the ministry. Mr Corbett would have been told of the so-called core values this Minister has espoused from day one. These core values are collaboration, openness, respect and empowerment. We have seen the exact opposite of these values from this Minister. In an unbelievable absence of due process and a denial of natural justice, Mr Corbett has been summarily sacked.
Mr Brad Hazzard:
Point of order: While the House has certainly seen fit to agree to debate two motions, the basis of that agreement was the clarity of the member's motion, which states:
That this House recognises the enormous contribution that Roger Corbett has made to children's health in New South Wales over the past 40 years and thanks him for his good service.
It is a very clear motion. The member is seeking to go beyond the motion by launching an attack on the Minister. That is entirely inappropriate and quite demeaning of the motion that the House has agreed to debate.
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! I uphold the point of order. I ask the member for Macquarie Fields to confine his comments to the leave of the motion.
Dr ANDREW McDONALD:
I will continue. As I was saying, in this case concerning Mr Corbett, a prosecutor, a judge and an executioner have finished his career and philanthropy all in one week.
Mr Brad Hazzard:
Point of order: It is with much reluctance that I take this point of order. I do so out of concern for what should have been a bipartisan approach to supporting a motion of great merit. We now see that the member is using the opportunity to depart from the spirit of the motion and to engage in a full-scale attack on the Minister for Health. That is not appropriate. I ask, Mr Deputy-Speaker, that you direct the member for Macquarie Fields to confine his remarks to the leave of the motion and clearly indicate to him that if he continues in that manner he will be ruled out of order.
Mr Michael Daley:
To the point of order: The Government agreed to this motion knowing full well the circumstances that surrounded the dismissal of Roger Corbett. It was quite evident.
Mr Brad Hazzard:
What is your point of order?
Mr Michael Daley:
I am speaking to the point of order taken by the Leader of the House. It is within the ambit of the motion to discuss the circumstances of Mr Corbett's departure.
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! The motion clearly states:
That this House recognises the enormous contribution that Roger Corbett, AO, has made to children's health in New South Wales over the past 40 years and thanks him for his good service.
Debate is confined to the leave of that motion.
Dr ANDREW McDONALD:
For most of debate on this motion I have been prevented from speaking, but I will conclude by saying that Mr Corbett contributed enormously to child health in New South Wales. His sacking was unjust and unfair.
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER
(North Shore—Minister for Health, and Minister for Medical Research) [3.20 p.m.]: I am very pleased to support the motion, which states:
That this House recognises the enormous contribution that Roger Corbett, AO, has made to children's health in New South Wales over the past 40 years and thanks him for his good service.
I wrote to Mr Corbett to thank him for his service to children's health.
Dr Andrew McDonald:
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER:
Has he shown that letter to the member for Macquarie Fields? I would be surprised if he has. I particularly thanked him also for his fundraising support.
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! I remind the member for Maroubra that he is already on two calls to order. The Minister will be heard in silence.
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER:
I am pleased to take this opportunity to state for the record that I wrote to Mr Corbett to thank him for his contribution towards the Sydney hospitals network.
Dr Andrew McDonald:
The Sydney Children's Hospital.
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER:
And for his contribution to the Sydney Children's Hospital at Westmead over many, many years. I particularly acknowledged his fundraising and support for the hospitals.
Ms Carmel Tebbutt:
Why did you sack him?
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER:
My disagreement with Mr Corbett is about the approach he took to promotional opportunities for a senior staff member and that he tried to persuade her not to take up that appointment. As the Premier pointed out, under the legislation, which was supported by every member of the House, I have the right to appoint the boards—just as the former Minister for Health and member for Marrickville, who is present in the Chamber, had the right to appoint the boards—and I have a right to remove the boards. I exercised that right purely on the basis of my disagreement with Mr Corbett about the approach he took to the appointment of a staff member to a senior promotional position. I repeat that in correspondence I addressed to Mr Corbett, among many items of correspondence, phone calls and meetings I have had with him in recent weeks, I thanked him for his contribution to health.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Motion Accorded Priority
Mr ROB STOKES
(Pittwater—Parliamentary Secretary) [3.24 p.m.]: I move:
That this House notes that:
(1) DonateLife Week commenced on 19 February and runs until 26 February;
(2) the Government supports DonalteLife Week; and
(3) the Government is getting on with the job of reforming the organ donation system in New South Wales to improve donation rates.
DonateLife Week, which we mark this week, is an important initiative to stimulate a national conversation and awareness of organ and tissue donation. The theme for this year is "Ask And Know Your Loved Ones' Wishes", which points straight to the big issue of organ donation in New South Wales and other jurisdictions. The reality is that it is not enough simply to mark on our drivers licences or inform Roads and Maritime Services of our wish to be a donor, and it is not even enough to register on the national organ donation register. We also must have a conversation with our loved ones about our intentions to offer our body for donation in the event of our death. We must have that conversation with our families because, according to law, families have a right of veto over a deceased's wishes in relation to organ donation. It places families in an invidious position, at a time of real tragedy, confusion and great grief and loss, of having to make a decision without having any notion of the deceased's acceptance of being a donor. That is why it is so important to have such a conversation.
DonateLife Week asks families across Australia to have a discussion about end-of-life issues. As a solicitor I was always fascinated that debates over wills were conducted at a time confronting to the bereaved—a time of shock and grief—yet, sadly, it is an event for which we can all plan. Death is an occurrence that we all know we face, so it is very important to have end-of-life conversations. It is a great act of love to clarify for our families our intentions in the event of our death. That is what DonateLife Week is all about: stimulating those conversations. To promote such conversations, during DonateLife Week events will take place across New South Wales. These events will range from the Lake Hume Cycling Classic in Albury to information stalls in regional universities throughout the State as far north as the Southern Cross University at Tweed Heads.
The New South Wales Government certainly supports DonateLife Week. The Minister for Health, and Minister for Medical Research, Jillian Skinner, is listening and responding to community concerns in relation to issues surrounding organ and tissue donation. In December last year she released a discussion paper entitled "Increasing Organ Donation in New South Wales", which asks for community feedback on issues of consent with a view to increasing the rate of donation of organs and tissues in New South Wales. Sadly, people who have their names on waiting lists are dying because there are not enough organs to provide to them. That is why this is an absolutely crucial issue and why the Minister is so eager to support it.
I am very pleased that the Minister for Health will visit the northern beaches of Sydney to launch the Book of Life
, a publication that describes the issues surrounding organ and tissue donation from the point of view of donors' families, recipients and other people whose lives are changed forever by organ and tissue donation. I take this opportunity to inform the House of the experience of a family in Pittwater who live in the street next to the one in which I grew up. I speak of the lovely Hanavan family—Michael, Judy, Daniel, Harrison and Chris. Tragically, a year ago Chris suffered a brain aneurysm just prior to his fifteenth birthday. His family was left in the terrible situation of determining what to do in relation to his organs and tissue. But because they had had a family discussion about his intentions, they were very clear about what to do. The family made an act of absolute agape love—selfless love that seeks no return—by donating Chris's organs and tissues. That enabled five other people to live. DonateLife Week is a fabulous cause. I commend the Hanavan family as well as the Minister for listening and responding to the issues of organ and tissue donation.
Mr RYAN PARK
(Keira) [3.29 p.m.]: I agree with the member for Pittwater: this is an important issue. I hope that all members of this place can work together to ensure that by the end of this parliamentary term we see an increase in organ donations. I hope that governments of all persuasions introduce policies, strategies and campaigns to improve the rate of organ donation in this country. This is a really important topic, but one that is often difficult to talk about. Our own mortality does not make for easy conversation—at least not conversations we have on a day-to-day basis.
As we focus on organ donation in this place this week we should all take the opportunity to check in with our loved ones, our family members and our friends to gauge their views on organ donation. One of the sad things about organ donation in this State is that while a large number of people in New South Wales are organ donors, on a per capita basis fewer people in this State donate their organs than those in other States. I hope that all members, Government and Opposition members alike, work in a bipartisan way to ensure that when this term of Parliament comes to a close organ donations in this State increase to a level above that of all other States.
A close friend of mine, Michael White, who lives in my electorate, underwent a kidney transplant procedure when he was younger. He is one of the most gentle, genuine human beings, a fantastic father, a particularly hard worker and a great contributor to the local community. He would not be here today and would not have his present quality of life if someone he had never met and did not know had not made that important decision to donate his or her kidneys. That is something all of us, our loved ones and our family members, must always remember.
Organ donation is a difficult topic of conversation but it is a conversation we must have. Today, around 43 per cent of the population of New South Wales—almost half the population—do not know what the wishes of their loved ones and immediate family members are about organ donation. That means that almost 50 per cent of people who suffer the trauma of losing a loved one, whether by natural or accidental causes, do not know whether the organs of that loved one can be donated to save another life, as their understanding of that person's wishes in relation to giving up their organs is not clear. Members should understand that organ donation does not save the life of just one person. An organ donor can save up to 10 individual lives.
Blood donation can save or contribute to saving three lives; organ donation can save up to 10 lives. As the father of a two-year-old I would hate to think that an organ for which he was waiting was not available because our organ donation levels were not sufficiently high and we were not active enough to ensure that an organ was available to save his life. This week, everyone has a duty to make sure that our communities are aware of organ donation. As well as promoting that sentiment in our communities, more importantly we have a personal duty in that time to make sure that our immediate family, our friends and loved ones know of our wishes in relation to organ donation. I look forward to working with the member for Pittwater and members on both sides of the House to improve the level of organ donation over the next four years.
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
I acknowledge in the House the presence of the member for Myall Lakes. Last week he issued a challenge to other electorates to beat the level of organ donation attained in his electorate.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders: Divisions and Quorums
Mr BRAD HAZZARD
(Wakehurst—Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Infrastructure NSW) [3.34 p.m.]: I move:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended at this sitting to provide that from 6.00 p.m. until the rising of the House no divisions or quorums be called.
I have discussed this motion and other motions that I will move subsequently with the member for Maroubra. The motions speak for themselves.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Member for Clarence: Inaugural Speech
Motion by Mr Brad Hazzard agreed to:
That the business before the House be interrupted at 6.00 p.m. to permit the presentation of an inaugural speech by the member for Clarence.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Community Recognition Notices
Mr BRAD HAZZARD
(Wakehurst—Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Infrastructure NSW) [3.37 p.m.] by leave, I move:
That this House authorises the Speaker to:
(1) identify those general business notices of motions (general notices), currently on the Business Paper, which could be dealt with as a general business (community recognition notice);
(2) consult with members as to whether they want their identified notices of motions to be considered as a general business (community recognition notice); and
(3) arrange, with the member's consent, for the notice of motion to be reclassified as a general business (community recognition notice) and listed in the Business Paper accordingly.
This motion arises out of a change to the sessional orders. An issue that I think has brought acceptance from members on both sides is that a practice be put in place enabling the Speaker to determine which general notices of motion deal with, effectively, community recognition issues—seeking to congratulate certain members of the community or to observe some particular aspect that should in the general sense be given community recognition. The House agreed last week to consider this matter, so I commend the motion.
For clarification, paragraph (3) of the motion deals with the issue of retrospectively analysing the notices of motion that can most properly be construed as community recognition notices. This will not be compulsory; members will be consulted on this issue. If members want particular notices of motion regarded as community recognition notices, the benefit to members and to the community will be that they will be recorded in Hansard
in the normal course. From discussions that I have had with the member for Maroubra, I am of the view that all members are in agreement with that course.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! It being before 4.00 p.m. the House will now proceed with government business.
CRIMINAL PROCEDURE AMENDMENT (SUMMARY PROCEEDINGS CASE MANAGEMENT) BILL 2011
Agreement in Principle
Debate resumed from 24 November 2011.
Mr STEPHEN BROMHEAD
(Myall Lakes) [3.39 p.m.]: I support the Criminal Procedure Amendment (Summary Proceedings Case Management) Bill 2011. I congratulate the Attorney General, who will be remembered as being as tough as nails and fighting for law and justice in New South Wales like no other Attorney General before him or any in the future. The object of the bill is to amend the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 to make provision for case management procedures to reduce delays in trial and sentencing proceedings before the Supreme Court and the Land and Environment Court in their summary jurisdiction. This is achieved by granting those courts the discretion to make orders requiring that certain disclosures be made by the prosecution and the defence before a trial or sentencing hearing. The bill provides also for prehearing mechanisms—for example, preliminary hearings and preliminary conferences—that are aimed at achieving more efficient management and conduct of the proceedings.
In 2009, prompted by concerns about the increasing length of criminal trials—especially jury trials—the previous Government reformed the case management process for indictable criminal offences. The then Government was concerned that, apart from financial implications, unduly lengthy trials imposed hardships on defendants and witnesses, and could adversely affect the public's perception of the justice system. The Criminal Procedure Amendment (Case Management) Act 2009 gave effect to these reforms and was based on the work of the Trial Efficiency Working Group that comprised members of the judiciary and senior representatives of the legal profession from government and non-government bodies. The purpose of this bill is to extend the 2009 reforms to apply to proceedings beyond indictable offences.
In particular, the reforms aim to apply to summary criminal matters in the higher courts, including sentencing proceedings. As with the 2009 reforms, this bill aims to encourage or require parties to a proceeding to disclose to each other aspects of their case before proceeding to the hearing and to indicate, for example, which facts are agreed. The bill will create several mechanisms for this to occur. In effect, this bill largely mirrors the 2009 reforms with some appropriate adjustments to tailor it to the context of summary proceedings. As a legal practitioner, I see this reform as an obvious saving of time and money. The narrowing of issues in cases will benefit all parties. In recent years the community has become more conscious of problems that arise when criminal proceedings become protracted and are highly complex—particularly jury trials. The Criminal Procedure Amendment (Summary Proceedings Case Management) Bill 2011 seeks to extend those reforms to apply to summary criminal proceedings.
Some matters can be complex and involve significant delay. For example, certain proceedings in the Land and Environment Court can involve a significant amount of complex expert evidence about environmental impact. There is a need for mechanisms to assist the court to manage these cases better. In civil cases in recent times the increased emphasis has been on alternative dispute resolution—getting the parties together in a room to try to reach a negotiated settlement. In some matters before the courts parties might trawl day after day for months through complex evidence and we might think, "Why can't they just save themselves the time and money and try to agree on something?" For some years this happened in Family Court matters with Order 24 conferences when parties were compelled go into a room with a registrar and try to talk, negotiate and ultimately compromise on the matter to save everybody time and money.
Obviously, in criminal matters different considerations come into play. Questions of efficiency need to be balanced against questions of fairness to the accused person being prosecuted by the State for a criminal offence. The Government believes this bill strikes the right balance between trial efficiency and the accused's right to a fair trial. The bill sets out clearly the prosecution's obligation to disclose its case to the defendant, and it provides mechanisms for the court to ensure that that obligation is complied with. This is an existing common law obligation, but the bill sets it out for clear reference. In cases where the court considers that it is in the interests of justice, the defendant may be required to advise the prosecutor of disputed aspects of the case. The defendant remains free to dispute everything, but the aim is to facilitate narrowing a case to the disputed issues.
The court can order parties to attend a preliminary conference to determine what evidence will be admitted at the hearing. The court can also hold a preliminary hearing to make directions about how a matter will be conducted. The court may also determine a question of law at a preliminary hearing, which might save the parties time and money in preparing for the substantive hearing because one aspect has been resolved. These mechanisms increase the court's ability to manage cases in the interests of the parties and the justice system and for the benefit of the public. Courts would be assisted by many issues being narrowed. For example, for a car stealing offence the prosecution must prove ownership of the vehicle and other associated larceny elements when car ownership is not in dispute. Rather than the prosecution having to call the owner to state merely, "I am the owner of the car", by resolving that issue before the hearing, the defence, the prosecution and the court will save time and money.
The same approach could be applied to traffic offences when the prosecution must prove who was driving and that the driver was driving a vehicle on a public street in the State of New South Wales and committed the various offences. If the defendant's main issue is, "I was not speeding" and he accepts that he was the driver of the vehicle on a certain street at a certain time on a certain date, those facts are not in dispute. Resolving those details before the hearing will benefit all parties. I conclude by saying that this piece of legislation should be supported. I commend the bill and the Attorney General.
Mr CHRIS PATTERSON
(Camden) [3.47 p.m.]: I contribute to debate on the Criminal Procedure Amendment (Summary Proceedings Case Management) Bill 2011.
Dr Geoff Lee:
A good member.
Mr CHRIS PATTERSON:
Thank you. It is a bit early to say "great", but I thank the member for Parramatta for that. The bill aims to improve community confidence in the justice system, to bring efficiency to the courts and to address problems of delay and unnecessary costs. The bill will extend the 2009 reforms beyond proceedings for indictable offences to apply also to summary criminal matters in the higher courts, including sentencing proceedings. I pause at this point to pick up on and concur with the comment of the member for Myall Lakes that we have a wonderful Attorney General. I am not sure whether he will go down in history as the best, but nonetheless he is wonderful and certainly heading in that direction.
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! I am sure the member is about to return to the leave of the bill.
Mr CHRIS PATTERSON:
Problems of unnecessary delay and expense have been identified, especially in more complex matters. Some inefficiencies include parties failing to narrow the disputed issues at a sufficiently early stage. This makes hearings take far longer than they should, resulting in unnecessary costs and placing a needless burden on the justice system and on parties. The bill creates several mechanisms by which the issues in dispute can be narrowed. Each party is encouraged or required to disclose aspects of its case to the other before the hearing and to indicate, for example, which facts they agree on. The amendment involves a mandatory exchange of notices between the prosecutor and the defendant before the hearing. The court has the discretion to determine the time frames within which these notices must be given. Given the complexity of some relevant issues some proceedings will benefit from more intensive case management that will be apparent to the court in regard to the volume of evidence involved, or for some other reasons.
Another level of case management available to the court will take the form of preliminary hearings and conferences. The court will be able to order the prosecutor and the defendant to attend one or more preliminary hearings. Directions by the court will enable efficient management and conduct of proceedings, and the leave of the court will be required during the trial if certain matters are not raised or dealt with in the preliminary hearings. This aims to prevent the ventilation of matters that have already been dealt with and to encourage parties to focus their minds at an early stage on the issues in dispute. To avoid hearings being longer and more complex than needed, the bill provides, at the highest levels of case management, the court to order additional preliminary disclosure where the court is of the opinion it is in the interests of the administration of justice to do so. Higher tiers of case management are available regardless of whether one or both of the parties fail to comply with the lower tiers. Although it is open to the court to use the provisions in this fashion if it becomes apparent that the case would benefit from the preliminary disclosure, it can make relevant orders without first needing to conduct preliminary hearings or conferences.
Improvements to the efficiency of the court system should not come at the expense of unfairness to defendants and the impact on defendants is also limited in several ways. Prehearing disclosure provisions are designed so the court can employ them where it deems it appropriate to do so. The consequences that flow from a failure by the defence to identify an issue at prehearing disclosure will apply only when the court decides, in its discretion, that this should be the case. The aim of this bill is to reduce the unnecessary delay and costs in the preparation and conduct of hearing and sentencing proceedings in summary matters in the higher courts. At any given time there are some 6,000 cases on the books and this State could spend the money better elsewhere. This bill will reduce the delay and costs by introducing a number of mechanisms and by resolving issues at the beginning of the matter rather than during the trial or sentencing proceedings. This is a commonsense approach that aims to improve our community's confidence in our justice system, increase efficiency and avoid unnecessary costs for all involved. I commend the bill to the House.
Dr GEOFF LEE
(Parramatta) [3.53 p.m.]: I support the Criminal Procedure Amendment (Summary Proceedings Case Management) Bill 2011. I note that the Attorney General is in the Chamber. Like many great Ministers, he is willing to listen to debate and supports a fairer and more efficient justice system for New South Wales. I commend him for his efforts. One of the aims of the New South Wales Government is to improve the efficiency of the court system. As the member for Camden highlighted previously, there are 6,000 cases before the court system. Improving the efficiency of that system will decrease delays and costs for both defendants and the prosecution. The bill will manage time frames. Justice needs to be managed and done in a fair and timely manner.
I understand that this bill flows from the Trial Efficiency Working Group that comprises members of the judiciary and senior representatives of the legal profession. It is a continuation of the reforms that were introduced in 2009. This bill extends those 2009 reforms to tackle and reduce financial cost and hardships endured by defendants and witnesses. In any one case many witnesses may be called to give evidence. There are 6,000 cases within the court system. The court process is slowed by the backlog of cases in the court system. This bill will reduce the backlog of cases and improve efficiency. Only a limited number of eminent people are qualified for and appointed to the judiciary and they work hard to give impartial judgement based upon the evidence before them.
Hearings may take longer without the bill as parties will fail to narrow the issues. In more complex cases, when the issues are not agreed upon by both sides, there is the opportunity for a full trial to proceed. The bill addresses those elements of a trial involving evidence that has little evidentiary weight. The member for Myall Lakes gave the example of a stolen car. As the identity of the owner of the stolen car is not a contentious issue, it is a matter that could be agreed upon by both parties prior to the trial thereby saving time having to prove the fact at trial. The pre-trial meetings and agreements will assist in managing difficult cases by removing superfluous issues that both sides can agree upon. It aims to identify the issues before the hearing and to narrow down those issues upon which the facts have been agreed by both parties.
The bill allows for different levels of case management. The first stage is the mandatory exchange of notices between the prosecutor and defendant. Both the prosecution and the defence have to produce a statement of facts to highlight the anomalies within the statements. The court will manage the time frames for production. With straightforward criminal matters the aim will be to simplify the proceedings to reduce the cost and time of the case. With complex cases more significant case management may be required to move the matter to the next level. At that point the judge can make preliminary findings to narrow down the issues in contention and stop the ventilation of agreed issues during the trial.
At present, a case may proceed as if every point is in dispute. The bill will still allow argument on every point in dispute. However, arguing every point, even those agreed upon, leads to extra costs and delays for all. This bill presents a great opportunity to deal more efficiently with complex cases by narrowing the issues in dispute. The defence has the opportunity to say why it objects to certain admissions, and to raise those matters before the judge. As well, the defence notice must include a copy of various materials from expert witnesses and so on, as is the case in normal proceedings. Preliminary disclosure orders cannot be made where the defendant is unrepresented. This safeguards defendants who do not have a legal representative.
There are some 6,000 cases on the books in the criminal justice system. I am certainly not a lawyer, but dealing with so many cases makes the system very expensive to the State, defendants and the prosecution and unnecessarily lengthy for the judiciary. Lengthy delays in the hearing of cases diminish the opportunity for fairness and reasonableness in the criminal justice system. This bill addresses community concerns about fair and timely trials. This is a matter of concern to government. This Government is acting responsibly fiscally in looking at ways to improve the legal system, by reducing not only costs but also the time it takes to conduct trials. The Liberal-Nationals Government is looking at ways to increase efficiency in the legal system without impinging on the rights of defendants.
This bill is based on 2009 amendments relating to case management of proceedings in indictable criminal offences. This is a commonsense approach to summary criminal proceedings in the Supreme Court and the Land and Environment Court. This better management of the process will make the system more efficient. In some cases it will reduce the time taken to deal with a matter. The bill seeks to narrow the issues in proceedings and dispense with dealing with issues that are not in dispute by identifying agreed-upon facts. This will allow the time of the court to be better spent examining and hearing issues that are disputed. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr BRYAN DOYLE
(Campbelltown) [4.02 p.m.]: It gives me great pleasure to support the Criminal Procedure Amendment (Summary Proceedings Case Management) Bill 2011. The bill will make amendments to proceedings in relation to the Supreme Court, the highest court in New South Wales, established by the 1823 Charter of Justice and now operating under the Supreme Court Act 197 and the Civil Procedure Act 2005. The bill affects procedures in summary criminal matters heard in the Supreme Court and the Land and Environment Court. This bill is important, given that the court's motto is: Draw near and you shall be heard. This amendment will enable hearings to be dealt with more expeditiously.
The bill seeks to clarify the issues to be determined, and in so doing provides fairness for both the prosecution and the defence. There are consequences for failing to comply with preliminary directions. In fact, parties could be precluded from leading evidence on matters that have been addressed in preliminary hearings. The bill has beneficial impacts for the community. These amendments could impact on any of us, particularly matters to be dealt with in the Land and Environment Court. Many people suddenly find themselves in this court. A recent case in Campbelltown—that great opal of the south-west—involved an unremarkable matter: the regulation of boarding-houses. A council decision on premises at Lindsay Street, Campbelltown, was taken to the Land and Environment Court. These premises consisted of 12 single bedrooms, four bathrooms, three separate toilets and a central lounge—accommodation for those who sometimes are on the margin, who do not need a McMansion but require cheaper share accommodation.
The case was brought before the Land and Environment Court, where an amended plan was put in place and council officers agreed that that plan was suitable. Amendments such as those contained in the bill will allow these cases to be dealt with quickly and resolved earlier, saving money for both litigants and council ratepayers. So this is an amendment that has real impacts for ordinary people. It is a credit to the Attorney General, who continues to move justice forward in New South Wales with compassion and an eye to making sure that justice is not only done but seen to be done. I am pleased to commend the bill to the House.
Mr BRUCE NOTLEY-SMITH
(Coogee) [4.06 p.m.]: I am pleased to support the Criminal Procedure Amendment (Summary Proceedings Case Management) Bill 2011 and support my colleague the Attorney General, the Hon. Greg Smith, who spoke about this important piece of legislation after he introduced the bill last year. It is the purpose of this bill to improve the efficiency of the court system by implementing measures aimed at reducing time spent in the court by narrowing down the actual issues in dispute at an earlier stage. As British Prime Minister William Gladstone is believed to have said, "Justice delayed is justice denied".
By design, this bill will, through better case management, alleviate potential hardship for both the prosecution and the defendant that can result from trials of unnecessarily long duration. This will be accomplished through measures that give courts the option to encourage, and where it sees fit require, parties to disclose aspects of their case to the other, and predetermine before hearings which issues they agree on, as well as mandatory exchange of notices between the prosecutor and defendant before the hearing. The legislation also calls for provisions for preliminary hearings so that both parties can agree or disagree on pleas and evidence before the trial. In doing this, we will be saving the time of the court by predetermining exactly what issues are up for dispute before the trial.
This bill extends upon case management reforms of 2009, in which these same provisions were passed to apply to indictable offences, which were based upon findings of the Trial Efficiency Working Group. The need for reform is due to increasingly complex evidence, often requiring expert involvement. Much of this has to do with technological advancement in recent times that has in this regard altered the nature of criminal proceedings. This amendment responds to these issues by adapting the court process to reflect changing needs, specific to the Supreme Court and the Land and Environment Court.
Initially, the bill sets out in new sections 247D and 247F provisions for case management that will include the exchange of notices between the prosecutor and defendant prior to the hearing. This makes the defendant aware of any matters the prosecution intends to raise with the court with regard to the case during the trial—outlined in a statement of facts and copies of any documents that the prosecution plans to produce at the hearing. The defence is simply required to respond by stating the name of the defendant's lawyer and the defence's intention with regard to dispensing with the rules of evidence.
New section 247G outlines the ways in which preliminary hearings will be used in the courts. The purpose of these hearings is to set a direction for the trial that both parties will be able to understand and agree on beforehand, saving precious time. If the court exercises these hearings, any matters that the prosecution or the defence adduces during the trial that were not raised during the preliminary hearings will require a leave of the court before the raised matter will be taken into consideration. However, it is the ideal purpose that, under this Act, matters of discussion such as the form of the charge, questions of law and evidentiary rulings will be predetermined.
New section 247H includes a provision that the court may or may not utilise the ability to order the defence and prosecution to both attend a preliminary hearing to disclose and potentially dispute the evidence that will be presented during the trial. After the trial both parties will submit areas that may be in agreement and/or areas in which there is disagreement. These kinds of preliminary conferences are mostly needed in more complex cases. In understanding why we are bringing forward this bill it is important to note that court time is frequently wasted by both parties potentially adducing evidence to the court that is not in dispute and is therefore unnecessary. This provision narrows down the disputed facts to ensure that as much time and cost are saved so that the administration of justice is more efficiently and swiftly reached.
On the point of narrowing down issues in dispute, new section 247J outlines the notices the prosecution will forward to the defence, including any documents, information or other thing that the prosecution plans to adduce in the trial that could be adverse to the credit or credibility of the defendant, as well as a list of the witnesses being called by the prosecution to testify. This notice works as an update from previous notices exchanged between the prosecution and defence. The idea is to keep the process of court-overseen case management present throughout the process of preparing for the case. In relation to the defence, likewise, notices should also be sent to the prosecution.
New section 247K outlines the kinds of things that the defence will need to inform the prosecution of beforehand, including a statement in relation to each fact set out in the prosecution's claims regarding whether the defendant considers something an agreed fact and whether the defendant takes issue with any of the matters of circumstances set out, as well as any issues the defence plans to raise with regard to the chain of custody exhibits and the authenticity or accuracy of evidence. New section 247U outlines that there is no need to disclose matters that have been disclosed already. As such, the prosecution is not required to issue a notice about anything that has already been included in a brief of evidence previously issued in relation to the case and in accordance with this Act or any other related Act. The same provision applies with defence notices to the prosecution.
I mention this to further highlight the important purpose of this bill, which is to eliminate all unnecessary time and resources dedicated to matters that have been established already or that will not have any bearing over the case during the trial. New section 247M allows the court to dispense with the prosecutor's obligation formally to prove a fact included in the initial notice, even if the defence agreed with a fact. This provision also allows the court to oversee that any other evidence may not contradict or qualify the relevant fact that the prosecution plans to raise. This provision also allows the court to adduce evidence without complying with some requirements in the Evidence Act 1995 in a situation where the defence may contest admissibility of evidence during the trial when it did not contest it in the preliminary hearings and notices.
To properly enforce the provisions of this bill and where they are applied in court, measures have been included in the event that a party attempts to include evidence that was not disclosed or produced in preliminary hearings or notices, or to call upon witnesses not disclosed previously to the other party. The court may refuse to admit evidence or to allow a witness to testify in such an event. However, in extenuating circumstances the court may alternatively allow an adjournment if one party seeks to include evidence or call upon a witness, even though the party did not disclose it in previous notices. New subsection (5) seeks to clarify that the court cannot prevent the defendant adducing evidence unless the prosecutor has complied with the requirement for preliminary disclosure.
It is ultimately the decision of the court to use any of these provisions where it sees fit, even in higher tiers of case management, regardless of whether one party or both parties has failed to comply with lower tiers of case management. New section 247X outlines a number of miscellaneous provisions, including that any statements made by the defence during preliminary hearings do not constitute an admission of that matter by the defence. It is important also to note that the provisions of this bill do not override or limit any common law disclosure requirements of any other court proceeding guidelines, rules of the court or legislation. Other measures available may require higher levels of disclosure than this legislation; however, the bill prevails over other requirements where it is impossible to comply with both.
There may be circumstances where this legislation would not be beneficial to the defendant. That is why this bill has been made flexible, so that a court may impose one or all sanctions where necessary to the heightened productivity of a case. The absence of this legislation presently is responsible for longer trials and the unnecessary presentation of evidence with little probative value either in prosecuting a case or in defending one. Especially in criminal court matters the Government must, wherever possible, find ways to both reduce costs and improve the way justice is reached. This legislation accomplishes both. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr TIM OWEN
(Newcastle) [4.15 p.m.]: I am pleased to support the introduction of the Criminal Procedure Amendment (Summary Proceedings Case Management) Bill 2011, which represents the Government's commitment to a form of justice in which the real issues in dispute are determined without undue delay or expense. It is our Government's goal to improve community trust in the justice system. One way of improving the efficiency of the court system is to narrow the issues that are presented to the court. The Criminal Procedure Amendment (Summary Proceedings Case Management) Bill 2011 aims to reduce the delays and unnecessary costs in summary criminal proceedings. The case management reforms were enacted to halt the trend towards lengthy criminal trials.
As we are all aware, many trials have taken a significant amount of time and have proven to be expensive. As stated by the Attorney General, this bill will reduce delays and costs by introducing a number of mechanisms that will give those involved the means to identify and resolve issues at the beginning of a matter rather than during the trial or sentencing proceedings. In 2009 reforms were introduced to give courts a stronger capacity to manage trials. The reasons behind these reforms were in response to the community's increased awareness and consciousness of complex jury trials and the time and costs associated with the lack of efficiency. I had an opportunity to speak to one of my constituents, Mrs Sue O'Sullivan, who is a practising lawyer in Newcastle, who said:
Newcastle is chronically affected by delays, in Criminal and Civil Courts. I have found the tightening of the time limits by the courts to also be effective in ensuring that the parties are prepared when we do get to Court.
These reforms are designed to eliminate those delays and to ensure that legal services expenditure in New South Wales is transparent and efficient. The introduction of the Criminal Procedure Amendment (Summary Proceedings Case Management) Bill 2011 will incorporate and extend the abovementioned reforms and apply those reforms to summary criminal proceedings in the Supreme Court and in the Land and Environment Court. In certain proceedings in the Land and Environment Court with complex and detailed evidence, the trials would be delayed significantly. As stated by the Attorney General, the bill sets out the obligation, although we know it does not replace common law.
The bill will reduce delays and costs by introducing a number of mechanisms that will give those involved the means to identify and resolve issues at the beginning of the proceedings in order to focus on resolving the real issues in dispute. In civil cases there has been an increased emphasis on alternative dispute resolution. That means getting both parties into the room to try to reach a negotiated agreement. As we know, in some cases parties may take weeks and sometimes months to sift slowly through all the evidence before any decision is reached. Obviously, in indictable cases different matters must be considered. Questions of efficiency need to be balanced against questions of fairness to the accused person who is being prosecuted by the State.
The bill will also assist judges to manage the proceedings by increasing their capacity to be informed of the relevant issues at an early stage. Used properly, the provisions in this bill will provide an opportunity to reduce hardship to parties and witnesses, to prevent unnecessary costs and to allow parties and the court to spend their time and money on what really matters—those issues that are genuinely in dispute. This common law obligation is already present; however, this bill sets it out for clear reference. The amendment in the bill would not impact on a defendant's rights. The efficiencies of the court system will not reduce the defendant's chance to a fair trial, as has already been stated. In some cases the defendant may be required to advise the prosecutor about which aspects of the prosecutor's case it disputes. The defendant remains free to dispute everything.
The aim is to facilitate a narrowing down of the issues to those that are really at stake. The narrowing of issues may occur also at preliminary conferences. The court can order that the parties attend a preliminary conference with a view to determining what evidence will be admitted at the hearing. The court can hold a preliminary hearing at which it can make directions about how a matter is to be conducted. The court may also determine a question of law at a preliminary hearing that will save all the parties time and money. These mechanisms increase the court's ability to manage cases in the interests of the parties, the justice system and the public who benefit from it. The Liberal-Nationals Government believes that this bill will strike a perfect balance between trial efficiency and a person's right to a fair trial. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr GEOFF PROVEST
(Tweed) [4.21 p.m.]: Justice and the public's perception of its delivery are extremely important issues. As we know, in the past the media and some sections of our community have been critical about justice and its delivery. I am not a lawyer by any means but I know there are a lot of complex legal issues regarding the delivery of justice and the understanding of the wider community. The object of the Criminal Procedure Amendment (Summary Proceedings Case Management) Bill 2011 is to amend the Criminal Procedure Act 1886 and to make provisions for case management procedures to reduce the delays in trials and sentencing before the Supreme Court and the Land and Environment Court. The second object of this bill is of extreme interest to me. Many issues in the Tweed electorate have been dealt with by the Land and Environment Court. I am sure that currently a number of issues are being dealt with by that court and undoubtedly there will be more in the future.
The Criminal Procedure Amendment (Summary Proceedings Case Management) Bill 2011 seeks to extend reforms so they can apply summarily to criminal proceedings in the Supreme Court and the Land and Environment Court. Some of these matters can be complex and involve significant delay. For example, certain proceedings in the Land and Environment Court can involve a significant amount of complex expert evidence about environmental impacts. There is a need for mechanisms to assist the court in better managing these cases when they arise. In 2007 I appeared for an environmental group in the Land and Environment Court about a marina proposal. Our case was successful. By experiencing it firsthand I was amazed at the amount of expert witness testimony required, the costs generated and the sheer length of time in which the whole community was looking for some form of direction and resolution to the issue.
In civil cases there has been an increased emphasis on alternative dispute resolution—getting the parties into the room to reach a negotiated settlement. In some matters the parties may be before the court for months as it trawls through complex evidence day after day. We may think, "Why do they not save themselves the time and money and just agree to an out-of-court settlement?" That is a common perception held by the wider community about the judicial system. Anything we can do to expedite proceedings should be applauded. When cases take an unnecessarily long time and legal costs mount to heights that the ordinary person cannot afford, the community's perception of the justice system is damaged. While the delays in costs may be attributed to a variety of factors, it is clear that one problem is that some defence lawyers require the prosecution to prove every point of its case—even those with which the defence does not generally disagree.
That applies also in the Land and Environment Court, particularly with the Native Vegetation Act 2003. Under the bill defendants will retain the right to require the prosecutor to prove every aspect of its case if they wish. The presumption of innocence is a fundamental principle of our justice system. The prosecutor must be able to prove each element of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. I applaud the Attorney General for his diligence in introducing this amending bill. The more transparency we can offer to the wider community about the legal system the better the results from that legal system. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr MARK SPEAKMAN
(Cronulla) [4.25 p.m.]: When criminal cases are unnecessarily delayed or unnecessarily complex, justice delayed can be justice denied, costs can blow out and again justice may be denied, and the adverse impacts in time and costs can be not only on the accused but also on witnesses. When criminal cases are unnecessarily delayed or complex there is also a cost to the public purse. Every dollar that is spent on criminal cases dealing with issues that are not really in dispute is a dollar not spent on our schools, hospitals, police, roads and other basic services. The public confidence in our judicial system, which is so fundamental to our system of government, is also undermined. Public confidence underpins our very essence as a Parliament in what we do and say, and how we conduct ourselves. Likewise, the public has to have confidence in the judicial system.
The Criminal Procedure Amendment (Summary Proceedings Case Management) Bill 2011 is an appropriately proportionate response to these problems. On the one hand it deals with delay and unnecessary complexity, but on the other hand it keeps an appropriate level of fairness for an accused who is fighting for his or her liberty. I am delighted to support this bill and commend the Attorney General for bringing it to the House. The bill will strike an appropriate balance by introducing a new division 2A into the Criminal Procedure Act 1986. That division will apply to proceedings before the Supreme Court and the Land and Environment Court in their summary jurisdictions. In 2009 case management reforms were introduced by this Parliament for indictable criminal offences. This bill extends those reforms, with appropriate tailoring, to summary criminal offences in the higher courts—namely, the Supreme Court and the Land and Environment Court.
As set out in proposed section 247B, the purpose of the bill is to reduce delays in proceedings before the courts in their summary jurisdictions by requiring some preliminary disclosures to be made by the prosecution and the defence before the proceedings are heard, and to enable the court to undertake case management where suitable in those proceedings either on its own motion or on application by one of the parties. The case management measures include ordering preliminary hearings, preliminary conferences and further preliminary disclosure. The court will have discretion in determining which, if any, of those measures are suitable in the proceedings concerned. In mirroring the 2009 reforms for indictable offences, the bill introduces a series of case management techniques.
The first of those will be in proposed sections 247D to 247F, which will involve a mandatory exchange of notices between the prosecutor and the defendant before the hearing. Prosecutors already have a common law obligation to disclose their case to the defence. If this bill is enacted the legislation will clearly set out that obligation. Proposed section 247F will require the defence to respond in a very limited way by simply stating the name of the defendant's lawyer and advising whether the defence proposes to consent to dispensing with the rules of evidence. While those notices are mandatory, the court retains a discretion under proposed section 247D as to the time within which notices are to be given.
Beyond that there are other levels of case management that will be introduced at the discretion of the court. Proposed section 247G and following deal with preliminary hearings when the court will be able to make directions, orders and determinations, et cetera, about the efficient management and conduct of the proceedings. Proposed section 247H states that there can be preliminary conferences between the parties to try to narrow the issues so that all that ultimately is dealt with at the hearing are matters that are genuinely in dispute. Proposed section 247I will enable the court to order preliminary disclosure in particular cases, if the court thinks that it is in the interest of the administration of justice to do so. Proposed section 247J deals with what the prosecution notice must contain.
Proposed section 247K will deal with the defence's response, if one is ordered, that will be required to indicate whether any statement set out in the statement of facts provided by the prosecution is an agreed fact, whether the defendant takes issue with any matters or circumstances set out by the prosecution, whether the defendant disputes the admissibility of any proposed evidence, and whether the defendant disputes any expert evidence. The defence also will provide a copy of any report when the defendant intends to adduce expert evidence as well as indicate whether the defendant proposes to require the prosecutor to call any witnesses to corroborate evidence and, if so, which witnesses will be required. The bill provides sanctions for non-compliance that will be set out in proposed section 247N. The sanctions include exclusion of evidence that has not been disclosed, exclusion of expert evidence when a report has not been provided, adjournment, et cetera, but those sanctions will be within the discretion of a court.
It is very important to emphasise that although the bill appropriately addresses issues of unnecessary delay and complexity, it maintains fairness to an accused. First, prehearing disclosure provisions are not designed to be applied in every case. They can be employed when a court considers them appropriate. For example, that might be appropriate in more complex cases. Secondly, even if prehearing disclosure is ordered, a defendant can still choose whether he or she agrees with the prosecutor on any aspect of the case. If the defendant wishes to do so, he or she can still object to all matters referred to in the prosecution's notice and retain the right to require the prosecutor to prove all aspects of the case.
Finally, if there is a failure by the defence to identify an issue at prehearing disclosure proceedings, the consequences that flow will apply only when a court decides in its discretion that that should be the case. A court would be unlikely to confine the defence to a position arrived at during preliminary disclosure if the court considers that that would be unjust to the defendant. Considering that there are 6,000 cases on the books at the moment, it is very important that we do all we can in a practical and measured manner to reduce unnecessary delay and complexity as well as hardship to defendants and witnesses while at the same time maintaining a fair trial. I believe the amendments in the bill strike the right balance. I commend the Attorney General for introducing such a proportionate and measured response to deal with the ongoing problems of cost and delay.
Mr CHRIS HOLSTEIN
(Gosford) [4.34 p.m.]: My contribution to debate on the Criminal Procedure Amendment (Summary Proceedings Case Management) Bill 2011 will be brief. This bill is all about disclosure at preliminary hearings and conferences to avoid wasting court time. One of the Government's goals is to improve community confidence in the justice system and one way of doing that is to improve the efficiency of the court system. Unlike some of my colleagues who preceded me in the debate, such as the member for Cronulla, the member for Myall Lakes and the member for Campbelltown who have legal and police backgrounds, I do not; but I know the community's feelings and concerns about the court system.
In recent years the community has become conscious of problems that arise when criminal proceedings are protracted and highly complex. In 2009 case management reforms were enacted in respect of a different type of proceedings—proceedings for indictable offences. The aim of those reforms was to halt the trend towards increasingly lengthy criminal trials, especially jury trials, by giving courts the capacity to manage more effectively the way in which trials are run. This bill will extend the 2009 reforms beyond proceedings for indictable offences to apply also to summary criminal matters in the higher courts, including sentencing proceedings and matters before the Land and Environment Court.
Some hearings take longer than they should, not because of some unavoidable complexity in the evidence but because the parties fail to narrow down the issues in dispute at a sufficiently early stage, which can result in inefficiency. Some proceedings in the Land and Environment Court involve a significant level of complex expert evidence on environmental impact. My 20 years experience in local government enables me to assure the House that that happens constantly in the Land and Environment Court. The mechanisms that will be implemented by the bill will assist the court to better manage such cases when they arise. In civil cases, there has been an increased emphasis on alternative dispute resolution, but in criminal matters very different considerations come into play. Questions of efficiency must be balanced against issues of fairness to any individual who is being prosecuted for a criminal offence.
The Government believes that this bill strikes the right balance between trial efficiency and an accused's right to a fair trial. In cases in which the court considers that it is in the interests of justice to do so, the defendant may be required to advise the prosecutor of which aspects of the prosecutor's case are disputed. The defendant will remain free to dispute everything, but the aim is to facilitate a narrowing down of the issues to those that really are at stake. Narrowing of the issues also may occur at preliminary conferences. A court may order the parties to attend a preliminary conference to determine the evidence that will be admissible at the hearing. The court can hold preliminary hearings at which it can make directions about how matters will be conducted. Those mechanisms increase the court's ability to manage cases in the interests of the parties, the justice system, and the public who benefit from them.
When cases unnecessarily take a long time and when legal costs soar to heights that an ordinary person cannot afford, community perceptions of the justice system are very much damaged. While delays and costs can be attributable to a variety of factors, it is clear that one problem is that some defence lawyers require the prosecution to prove every point of its case, even when the defence does not genuinely disagree with those points. This legislation will permit a court in an appropriate case—not in every case, but in appropriate cases—to require a defendant to nominate the issues that are in dispute. A defendant nevertheless may dispute everything, in which case at least the prosecution knows where it stands. However, the hope is that defence practitioners will respond to preliminary disclosure orders cooperatively and in a manner that is in their clients' best interests. That could include agreeing to some basic facts that the defendant does not really dispute.
The bill will provide judges with a more robust tool with which to manage the way trials and sentencing proceedings are conducted in the courts. I reiterate the issue relating to community confidence and state that this legislation can only enhance the community's confidence in our justice system. I acknowledge that courts have a significant workload. It is important that they are able to deliver justice in a manner that is an efficient use of public resources. Courts must be able to control their own processes, if the public is to have faith in the effective administration of justice. Used properly, the bill will provide an opportunity to prevent unnecessary costs, to allow parties in the court to spend their time and money on what really matters and, above all, to improve and enhance the public's confidence in our justice system. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr JAI ROWELL
(Wollondilly) [4.39 p.m.]: Today I speak on the Criminal Procedure Amendment (Summary Proceedings Case Management) Bill 2011, which seeks to enhance the efficiency of the justice system in relation to summary criminal proceedings in the Supreme Court and in the Land and Environment Court. The Criminal Procedure Amendment Bill 2011 stems from earlier reforms in 2009 that initiated a movement towards a more reliable and productive court system by improving the effectiveness of case management in respect of proceedings for indictable criminal offences.
Following the previous reforms, the bill acts to bring more clarity and efficiency into areas that are often fraught with complexity and delay. This is particularly relevant to cases presented within the Land and Environment Court, which draw heavily upon complex expert evidence. Like the member for Gosford, my experience in local government gives me the opportunity to witness that on a regular basis also. It is imperative to highlight that this bill does not undervalue the important role that expert evidence plays within the court system. Rather, it is focused upon reducing unnecessary cost and delay for the sake of all those affected by the court proceedings. This includes those experts whose evidence is currently called upon to ascertain particulars in relation to matters that are not disputed by either party.
Reducing such complexity will be achieved through this bill introducing mechanisms by which the disputable components of proceedings are identified and made the attention of the court proceedings. As the Attorney General has stated, inefficiency pervades the justice system when time and money is spent on the presentation of evidence with limited or no probative value. It is the Government's aim to reduce the burden upon all parties involved in relation to the consideration of such evidence. This is particularly important when there are literally thousands of cases in the system.
The Criminal Procedure Amendment (Summary Proceedings Case Management) Bill 2011 seeks to introduce a number of mechanisms that will limit the negative implications associated with complex and lengthy proceedings. One such mechanism provided through the bill is the establishment of a platform for negotiations to occur outside the courtroom. Providing such room for resolutions to develop outside the courtroom has the potential to result in resolutions being established between both parties without necessitating the immense time and money typically associated with complex court proceedings. In addition to facilitating these alternative platforms for negotiations, another mechanism that seeks to alleviate unnecessary burdens upon the courts and the parties involved in disputes is the conduct of a preliminary hearing. These preliminary hearings have the capacity to resolve aspects of a dispute at an early stage, thus speeding up the process and giving the justice system more capacity to deal with more cases quickly.
Cutting out unnecessary time and expenses will increase the confidence the New South Wales community is able to have in its justice system. It is known that the current complexities that often hinder and delay important proceedings have the effect of creating disenchantment towards the legal system, not only for those who are personally seeking justice, but also for those who expect justice to be upheld for the sake of others in their community. As the member for Wollondilly, I believe this consequence of the Criminal Procedure Amendment (Summary Proceedings Case Management) Bill 20ll to be of particular importance. The people of New South Wales elected the Liberal-Nationals Government with the expectation of it delivering results and enacting change within the current system. The bill demonstrates this Government's commitment to achieving such results and instilling a renewed faith in the Government by the people of New South Wales.
I also believe that the bill is particularly pertinent to this Government's dedication to make change within New South Wales, as an effective justice system lies at the very core of a safe, cohesive and productive society. It is due to this fundamental role that the justice system plays in our society that we as a government have a particular responsibility to ensure that the system not only delivers positive outcomes, but also does so in a timely and cost-efficient manner. The importance of ensuring a timely and cost-efficient justice system is well known to this Government. The Liberal-Nationals Government observed those opposite maintain a high disregard for the responsibilities of a trustworthy and hardworking government during their time in office. Yet this Government is unwilling to partake in such behaviour; rather, we seek to ensure that public money is being effectively utilised and public resources efficiently managed.
I know that many people from Wollondilly and across the State as a whole are doing it tough and I believe it is this reality that makes this bill so important. We must remember that it is our responsibility to ensure that this State has a justice system upon which the people of New South Wales can rely—a system that is fair but is not an unnecessary burden upon the public purse and one that can be run efficiently for all those who rely upon it. Of course, as part of this responsibility to deliver a strong justice system for the people of New South Wales, we as a government must not allow cost efficiency to undermine an ability to conduct a fair trial for defendants. This consideration is evident in the Criminal Procedure Amendment (Summary Proceedings Case Management) Bill 2011 as it contains a number of provisions that ensure that the defendant's rights are protected. For example, although the bill does allow the court, in suitable cases, to oblige the defendant to articulate which particular components of the case it wants to dispute, the defendant maintains the right to dispute all aspects of a prosecutor's case. Furthermore, a prosecutor is still required to prove beyond reasonable doubt each element of an offence.
These inclusions, among others of great importance in the bill, safeguard the defendants' rights within the justice system whilst also encouraging their participation in a manner that seeks to increase the effectiveness of court processes within the State. This balance means that the bill will have positive implications for defendants, prosecutors and the wider public within New South Wales. During my time working in and around the courts I have firsthand knowledge of how such legislation will improve the justice system. Too often I have seen cases bogged down on intangible matters that have literally clogged up the system benefiting no-one—and certainly not the cases that have to wait until the current cases are resolved. I commend the Attorney General for another sensible, balanced approach that will ensure that the justice system in this State is reformed. I commend him for his hard work, and I commend the bill to the House.
Mr ANDREW GEE
(Orange) [4.46 p.m.]: I also support the Criminal Procedure Amendment (Summary Proceedings Case Management) Bill 2011. Like the member for Wollondilly, I commend the Attorney General for bringing this important bill to the House. As the Attorney General has indicated, it aims to reduce efficiency problems in summary criminal proceedings in the Supreme Court and in the Land and Environment Court. The bill achieves this by encouraging the identification of relevant issues before hearings, thus allowing matters to proceed efficiently, promptly and at minimal cost.
Proposed section 247E (1) provides that the prosecutor give the defendant notice of the prosecution case. That includes statements of facts; a copy of the affidavit or statement of each witness whose evidence the prosecution proposes to adduce at the hearing; copies of documents, the contents of which the prosecutor proposes to adduce at the hearing; copies of any exhibits the prosecutor proposes to adduce; and, if an expert witness is proposed to be called at the hearing by the prosecutor, a copy of each report by the witness that is relevant to the case. Through this provision of notices the scope of issues between the parties will be narrowed.
I note that proposed section 247F provides that the defendant must give the prosecutor notice of the defence response, including the notice of any consent the defendant proposes to give at the hearing under section 190 of the Evidence Act in relation to a statement of a witness the prosecutor proposes to adduce at the hearing of the proceedings, and a summary of the evidence that the prosecutor proposes to adduce at the hearing of the proceedings. Proposed section 247G provides for the court to order the prosecutor and defendant to attend one or more preliminary hearings. If a preliminary hearing is held and certain matters are not raised at that time, the matters cannot subsequently be raised at a hearing without the leave of the court. Again, the aim is to ensure that time is not wasted arguing again points that have already been dealt with.
Proposed section 247H gives the court the power to order that parties attend a preliminary conference. Proposed section 274H (4) provides that the purpose of a preliminary conference is to determine whether agreement can be reached regarding the evidence to be admitted at the trial or sentencing hearing. As I have stated, this will help the parties narrow the issues in dispute, with the aim of ensuring that parties progress to the hearing stage with a minimal waste of time and resources. Proposed section 247H (l0) provides that, except with the leave of the court, a party to proceedings may not object to the admission of any evidence at the hearing of the proceedings if the preliminary conference form indicates that the parties have agreed that the evidence is not in dispute.
Again, it encourages parties to reach agreement beforehand and to stick to that agreement. The court-ordered preliminary disclosure requirements contained in proposed sections 247I to 247K are similarly aimed at narrowing the issues in dispute between the parties. Proposed section 247J sets out the preliminary disclosure requirements for the prosecution. They include a copy of any information, document, or other thing in the possession of the prosecutor that would reasonably be regarded as adversely impacting on the credibility of the defendant. Also required is a list identifying the evidence of the prosecution witnesses to be called at the hearing.
Proposed section 247K sets out the defendant's responsibilities with respect to court-ordered preliminary disclosure. For the purposes of proposed section 247I (1) (b), the notice of the defence response is to contain a statement in relation to each fact set out in the statement of facts provided by the prosecutor as to whether the defendant considers the fact is an agreed fact or disputes the fact. Proposed section 247L provides what is to be contained in the response to the defence response to the court-ordered preliminary disclosure. In particular, the prosecution response to the defence response is to contain the following: whether any expert evidence is to be adduced, whether admissibility of documentary evidence is disputed and whether the admissibility of any other evidence is disputed.
Proposed section 247M allows the court to dispense with the prosecution's obligation to prove a fact, matter or circumstance that is alleged in an initial notice and that the defence did not dispute. Again, the bill is aimed at parties reaching agreement to improve the efficiency of the administration of justice. Proposed section 247N provides sanctions for non-compliance with the preliminary disclosure requirements contained in the bill. The court may refuse to admit evidence in proceedings sought to be adduced by a party that fails to disclose the evidence to the other party in accordance with the requirements for preliminary disclosure imposed by the division. The proposed section provides also that the court may refuse to admit evidence from an expert witness in proceedings sought to be adduced by a party if the party failed to give the other party a copy of a report by the expert witness in accordance with the requirements for preliminary disclosure. If it is not disclosed, there will be a price to pay at the hearing of the matter.
Proposed section 247N (3) also provides that the court may grant an adjournment to a party if the other party seeks to adduce evidence in the proceedings that the other party failed to disclose in accordance with the requirements of the preliminary disclosure imposed by or under the division and that would prejudice the case of the party seeking the adjournment. Non-compliance with preliminary disclosure will result in sanctions. Parties will be encouraged to narrow the issues in a case. Proposed section 247O provides that the disclosure obligations are ongoing. It is important to note that these obligations do not stop at preliminary conferences; they run all the way through. Proposed section 247P provides that a court may waive requirements that apply under the provisions. While the bill provides appropriate sanctions, it allows the court to waive the requirements in appropriate circumstances. As I said earlier, I congratulate the Attorney General on this important bill and on his unwavering commitment to the efficient administration of justice in New South Wales.
Mr Stephen Bromhead:
He is tough and fair.
Mr ANDREW GEE:
Indeed. I thank the member for Myall Lakes for his input. Recently, the Attorney General was a guest on Orange radio, where I was pleased to interview him. During the interview we played one of The Token's greatest hits, Danny Boy
. We joined the Attorney General in a rendition of Ring of Fire
. On that day I wondered why the Attorney General was in such good voice and on song all the way through the interview. Clearly, he had this type of legislation in the pipeline—legislation that will improve the efficient administration of justice in New South Wales. Once again I commend the Attorney General for his unwavering commitment to improving the administration of justice in New South Wales. I wholeheartedly commend this bill to the House.
Mr GREG SMITH
(Epping—Attorney General, and Minister for Justice) [4.54 p.m.], in reply: I thank the members representing the electorates of Liverpool, Myall Lakes, Camden, Parramatta, Camden, Coogee, Newcastle, Tweed, Cronulla, Gosford, Wollondilly and Orange for their contributions to this debate. Members have said virtually everything that can be said about the bill. I do not propose to say anything further except that the bill extends the 2009 case management reforms currently applicable to indictable proceedings to summary proceedings in the Land and Environment Court and the Supreme Court. The bill will provide the courts with greater flexibility to manage potentially difficult matters by granting them the ability to order pre-trial hearings and conferences and to order a more focused form of pre-trial disclosure than currently existing for those matters. This should help to ensure that justice is delivered expeditiously and without undue expense. I commend the bill to the House.
Question—That this bill be now agreed to in principle—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bill agreed to in principle.
Passing of the Bill
Bill declared passed and transmitted to the Legislative Council with a message seeking its concurrence in the bill.
CHILDREN (DETENTION CENTRES) AMENDMENT (SERIOUS YOUNG OFFENDERS REVIEW PANEL) BILL 2011
Agreement in Principle
Debate resumed from 24 November 2011.
Mr PAUL LYNCH
(Liverpool) [4.56 p.m.]: I lead for the Opposition on the Children (Detention Centres) Amendment (Serious Young Offenders Review Panel) Bill, which the Opposition does not oppose. The object of the bill is to constitute the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel in statutory form to provide advice and to make recommendations with respect to serious young offenders and certain other detainees. The functions of the panel are set out in proposed section 37P and the matters to be considered are set out in proposed section 37Q. Of course, the review panel has existed since 1998—an initiative of the previous Labor Government. This bill merely reduces to a statutory form an already-existing body. Interestingly, the establishment of the panel was a recommendation of the New South Wales Juvenile Justice Advisory Council green paper published in 1993 during the period of the previous conservative Coalition Government, which did not establish the panel. It required the election of the Carr Government to establish the panel.
The panel's present role is described to make recommendations to Juvenile Justice on the reclassification and the granting of leave to detainees on serious children's indictable offences and on any other matter appropriately referred to it. Meetings are held monthly. Membership of the non-statutory panel consists of the following and is specified as such: a magistrate, who is chairperson; an independent person with qualification in psychology; an independent community person with expertise in dealing with youth generally; amember of the indigenous community; a victim of crime; and an ex officio member from Juvenile Justice. Of course, this membership is not established by legislation and can be altered by administrative decision at any time. The Serious Offenders Review Council performs broadly analogous functions to the panel for adult offenders. It is established on a statutory basis. The Government argues that this bill brings the panel into line with its adult counterpart. It does not quite do that exactly.
An interesting divergence exists between the current panel and the legislative model. The current panel membership, whilst subject entirely to the whim of the government of the day, nonetheless has the various qualifications of the members explicitly set out, to which I have referred. That is slightly different from the bill before the House. Schedule 1 to the bill proposes schedule 1A to the Children (Detention Centres) Act and provides a constitution for the legislatively established panel. The membership of the legislative panel is set out by proposed section 37O, which provides:
The review panel is to consist of at least 3, but not more than 6 members appointed by the Minister, of whom one is to be a Magistrate, acting Magistrate or retired Magistrate who is to be the Chairperson of the Review Panel
This is in much broader terms than the current non-legislative panel, which has various positions reserved for particularly qualified or representative members. Of course, in both cases, appointment seems entirely in the hands of the Minister. The constitution of the legislative model provides that a nominee of the department's director general is to attend meetings of the review panel but not vote. This seems to be a continuation of the current non-legislative situation. Apart from the chair, this ex officio position is the only position on the panel particularised in the legislative model. The provision in this bill is much broader even than that in the legislation setting up the analogous Serious Offenders Review Council. Section 195 (2) C of the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act provides that community members of the Serious Offenders Review Council must represent the community at large as closely as possible. Broad as those words may be, they are clearly more particular than those provided in this bill.
In his agreement-in-principle speech the Attorney General referred to the traditional membership of the panel without committing to retaining the types of representatives in the non-legislative panel. The Attorney General should, in my view, explicitly reveal his intentions in that regard in reply in this debate. In particular, granted the horrific rate of Indigenous over-representation in the juvenile justice system I would regard it as entirely scandalous if a member of the Aboriginal community did not manage to be appointed to the newly constituted panel. Apart from the chair and the ex officio bureaucrat, the only other specified position is that of a representative of the NSW Police Force. Despite the Attorney General's comments in his agreement-in-principle speech that is not a provision of the bill, although it is clear that the Attorney General will appoint such a representative. We have a clear commitment that a magistrate, a departmental ex officio bureaucrat, and a representative of the New South Wales Police Force will be appointed but no clear commitment as to an independent psychologist, a victim of crime, or a member of the Indigenous community. I look forward to the Attorney General's clarification in relation to that.
The Attorney General might also clarify his intentions as to the existing panel members and the precise functions of the panel as set out in proposed section 37P. The department's annual report sets out the activity and role of the panel to date. In 2010-11 it met 12 times and dealt with 76 cases. Seven of those cases were considered for reclassification, with 12 of those received being reclassified. Of the 17 reclassification recommendations 10 were adopted by Juvenile Justice's chief executive officer and 59 cases for leave were considered with 56 of these recommendations being adopted by the chief executive officer. There is no reason that work will not be able to continue under the basis of a statutory panel. The Opposition does not oppose the bill; however, it seeks clarification of the issues I raised in relation to membership.
Mr STEPHEN BROMHEAD
(Myall Lakes) [5.04 p.m.]: I support the Children (Detention Centres) Amendment (Serious Young Offenders Review Panel) Bill 2011. I congratulate the Attorney General, who has a reputation for being tough on crime, particularly on organised crime and serious offenders. The object of this bill is to constitute the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel to provide advice and make recommendations with respect to serious young offenders and certain other detainees under the Children (Detention Centres) Act 1987. As background to this proposed legislation; the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel provides advice and recommendations to the director general with respect to the classification of serious young offenders who have been referred to the review panel. The Serious Young Offenders Review Panel has been in operation since 1998 when the panel began as a 12-month trial.
The Attorney General stated in his agreement-in-principle speech that the bill will amend the Children (Detention Centres) Act 1987 to enshrine the constitution, functions and powers of the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel. The bill will bring the review panel in line in the Corrective Services Serious Young Offenders Review Council, which provides similar services in respect of adult serious offenders. The Attorney General also said, "This important amendment will ensure clearer guidance, accountability and consistency in relation to the classification of serious young offenders."
As stated the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel was established in 1998 as a 12-month trial period and was not provided for in legislation at the time of its creation. After 12 years of successful operation it is pertinent that the functions of the panel be incorporated in the Children (Detention Centres) Act 1987, which provides for the responsibilities and obligations of Government for young offenders in custody. The panel provides advice and makes recommendations to the Chief Executive of Juvenile Justice in relation to serious young offenders and certain other detainees. The recommendations are in relation to the reclassification of detainees and the approval of day and overnight leave to detainees charged with serious children's indictable offences.
The bill, under proposed section 37Q, outlines the matters that the panel must consider in making a recommendation to the chief executive, such as the public interest; the protection of the public; the circumstances and nature of any offence committed or allegedly committed by the detainee; the sentencing court's reasons and recommendations; the detainee's criminal history; the detainee's conduct whilst in custody; the time the detainee has served in custody and the remaining time yet to be served in custody; the detainee's commitment to address offending behaviour, which includes the detainee's willingness to participate in rehabilitation programs; the detainee's classification history; submissions made by the victim or victim's family; prospects of rehabilitation of the detainee, that they may re-enter the community as a law-abiding citizen; and the availability of family, departmental and other forms of support and reports about the person that are relevant and available to the panel.
Clearly providing a legislative basis to the matters that the panel must consider in making its recommendations to the chief executive will ensure accountability and consistency in relation to the classification of young offenders and granting of leave to detainees. The provisions of the proposed legislation include clause 2, which provides that the commencement of the proposed Act be at the date of the assent to the proposed Act, and schedule 1  will insert a part 4B into the Children (Detentions Centres) Act 1987, the principal Act. The proposed part constitutes the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel. Proposed section 37N defines the term "Director General" as the "Chief Executive, Juvenile Justice", in the Department of Attorney General and Justice or, if there is no such position in that department, the director general of that department. A serious young offender is a detainee convicted of a serious children's indictable offence within the meaning of the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 for the purposes of proposed part 4B.
Section 37O provides for the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel to comprise between three and six members appointed by the Minister for Justice of whom one is to be a magistrate, acting magistrate or retired magistrate, who is to be the chair person. Proposed section 37P sets out the functions of the review panel, which include providing advice and making recommendations to the director general with respect to the classification of serious young offenders who are referred to the review panel by the director general. The review panel is to provide advice and make recommendations to the Minister or the director general with respect to any matter relating to a detainee, including a serious young offender, that is referred to the review panel by the Minister or the director general.
Proposed section 37Q provides for the matters that the review panel must take into consideration when exercising functions with respect to a person who is a serious young offender or other detainee and those matters I have already listed. Proposed section 37R provides that a report of the review panel's activities be included in the annual report of the Department of Attorney General and Justice. Proposed section 37S provides for the security of information in circumstances where the provision of the information may adversely affect the security, discipline or good order of the detention centre, endanger a person, jeopardise an investigation or prejudice the public interest.
Schedule 1  permits regulations to be made for, or with respect to, the constitution, functions and procedures of the review panel. Schedules 1  and 1  make consequential amendments. Schedule 1  inserts into the principal Act a new schedule 1A, which contains provisions relating to the members of the review panel and its procedure. Schedule 1, items  to , update provisions of the principal Act as a consequence of the abolition of the Department of Juvenile Justice. Schedule 1, items  and , omit redundant provisions. Schedule 1  authorises the making of savings and transitional regulations. Schedule 2 relates to the amendment of the Jury Act 1997. It amends the Act to provide that a member of the review panel is excluded from jury service while being such a member, and for three years afterwards.
The review panel will be chaired by a magistrate, acting magistrate or retired magistrate. Other members of the panel will be appointed by the Minister for Justice, based on their expertise on juvenile justice issues, and may include community members such as a psychologist representative, a victims group representative, an Aboriginal representative, and a representative of the NSW Police Force. These members will consider the matters to which I referred previously—that is, section 37Q of the Act. The success of the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel is evident in the evaluations that have taken place since it commenced in 1998.
Further evaluation of the panel's activities will be available as it will be included in the annual report of the Department of Attorney General and Justice. While the panel has operated successfully for the past 12 years, this bill gives it legislative status, enshrining in legislation its constitutional functions and other matters. We should all support this legislation and the very hardworking and active Attorney General, who continues to bring very good legislation before this House and demonstrates that he is tough on crime and determined to make New South Wales number one again.
Mr JAMIE PARKER
(Balmain) [5.12 p.m.]: I rise to speak to the Children (Detention Centres) Amendment (Serious Young Offenders Review Panel) Bill 2011. The Greens will be supporting the bill, but I will be echoing some comments made by the member for Liverpool.
Mr Paul Lynch:
Oh, don't help me.
Mr JAMIE PARKER:
I know it is a very strange occurrence when anyone agrees with the member for Liverpool. I know it is difficult to comprehend, but there will be a little bit of agreement with him today. The Serious Young Offenders Review Panel has been operating since 1998, and this bill seeks to legislate for current practice. The Serious Young Offenders Review Panel is an independent body that makes recommendations to the Director General of the Department of Attorney General and Justice on the reclassification of and the granting of leave to detainees on serious children's indictable offences and on any other matter referred to it by the director general or the Minister. The panel balances the expectations of the community with the needs and expectations of the young people and their families in accordance with the legislation and departmental guidelines.
The Serious Young Offenders Review Panel is managed through the Department of Juvenile Justice. It was established in response to a recommendation in the New South Wales Juvenile Justice Advisory Council's green paper, published in 1993. The panel consists of community representatives with an understanding of community expectations and expertise in juvenile justice issues. That goes to the heart of the point that I raise in regard to this bill. I note that in 2010-11 the panel met on 12 occasions, dealing with 76 cases. It is a panel that has a significant workload. Seventeen cases were considered for reclassification, with 12, or 70 per cent, of juvenile offenders reviewed being reclassified. Ten, or almost 60 per cent, of the panel's 17 recommendations for reclassification were adopted by the Chief Executive of Juvenile Justice.
The panel also considered 59 cases for leave. Fifty-six, or 95 per cent, of the panel's 59 recommendations for leave were adopted by the chief executive. It is interesting that 87 per cent of cases considered were from regional detention centres and 13 were from metropolitan centres. It is also important to note the high proportion of Indigenous young people who have contact with the criminal justice system, because that is of particular relevance to this bill. After 12 years of successful operation, it is appropriate to enshrine the practice of this body in legislation. I support the Minister's attempt to make that happen through this bill. In doing so, however, care should be taken to ensure that the composition and operation of the panel is maintained as closely as possible to its current composition and independence.
The Government, of course, has represented the bill as primarily legislating for current practice—which it does. However, the membership of the panel is critical, and deserves comment. Currently, members of the panel are appointed by the Minister and approved by Cabinet. The composition of the panel currently is: a magistrate, who acts as chairperson; an independent person with qualifications in psychology; an independent community person with expertise in dealing with youth generally; a member of the Indigenous community; a victim of crime; and a delegate of the Assistant Director General (Operations) of the Department of Juvenile Justice as an ex-officio member.
Under section 337O the panel is specified as consisting of at least three, but not more than six, members appointed by the Minister—one of whom is a magistrate, acting magistrate or former magistrate, who will be chairperson of the panel. So the bill before us today indicates that the breadth and depth of diversity of the former panel is diminished. It is important to note that the director general may also send a nominee to such meetings to observe them. Members are appointed for two years on a part-time basis and may be entitled to some remuneration. Guidance on the matters that should be considered by the panel when making a determination is appropriate. The list of matters under section 37Q includes public interest, the circumstances of the offence, the reasons and recommendation of the court, rehabilitation of the person, et cetera. This list of factors must be considered, plus any matter that may be prescribed by the regulations.
It may be desirable to include other issues that it is deemed necessary the panel should consider. On that basis, our particular concern is that there is no longer a requirement to include on the panel an Indigenous representative. I ask the Minister, when speaking in reply to the bill, to explain why he feels there should no longer be a requirement to have an Aboriginal representative on the panel. In our view it is important, considering the high number of Indigenous youths who have contact with the criminal justice system, that it be a requirement that there be an Aboriginal representative on the panel. I know that my colleagues in the upper House are considering moving an amendment to ensure that Indigenous representation is a requirement.
I conclude my comments by acknowledging the work of the Attorney General and his department to develop this legislation. But I also highlight my concern that the requirements that there be a range of different people with specified qualifications will not continue if this bill is passed. In particular, I speak of the importance of requiring an Indigenous representative to sit on the panel. In our view it is critical that a member of the Indigenous community be involved, given their understanding of that community, to ensure that the high standards and positive decisions made by the panel are maintained.
Mr CHRIS PATTERSON
(Camden) [5.18 p.m.]: The Children (Detention Centres) Amendment (Serious Young Offenders Review Panel) Bill 2011 will amend the Children (Detention Centres) Act 1987 to incorporate the functions of the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel, which is responsible for making recommendations to the Chief Executive of Juvenile Justice on the reclassification of detainees, granting of leave to detainees charged with serious children's indictable offences and any other matter referred for consideration to them. Until now, the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel has not been provided for in the Children (Detention Centres) Act 1987—or in any legislation for that matter—as it was initially set up as a 12-month trial in 1998.
This Government acknowledges that the panel has been successful and addresses the important functions of the six members of the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel and ensures more accountability for the Government in addressing the serious offending behaviour of young people. In exercising its functions the panel must consider a number of matters, including consideration of the public interest, protection of the public, the circumstances and nature of any offence committed or allegedly committed by the detainee, the sentencing court's reasons and recommendations, the detainee's classification history, and the young offender's criminal history and their commitment to addressing the offending behaviour. Submissions by the victims and the consequences for them and their families must also be considered, and they are important factors to take into account.
The review panel will make recommendations based on the most relevant and important factors in determining the reclassification of detainees and the approval of day and overnight leave to detainees charged with serious children's indictable offences. A lot of the children in our courts have been thrown out of home, have run away or simply do not have a home for many and varied reasons. So they are living on the streets at a very young age, which leads them to get involved in varying degrees of criminal activity. With that comes non-attendance at school, the lack of a stable family influence and no network of support. These young offenders have no example to follow of how to become a young adult within the values and guidelines acceptable in our community. A recent survey of young people in custody revealed that more than half—65 per cent—left school before commencing year 10, 60 per cent have not attended school regularly and nearly 90 per cent have been suspended for one reason or another.
With many young offenders on remand, juvenile detention has become the only safe place for some. As I have highlighted already, many have suffered family breakdowns, exposing them to risks at home and on the street when no other appropriate accommodation is available. Our children are our future and the rehabilitation of young offenders and their re-entry into the community as law-abiding citizens should be every community member's goal and will be addressed by the panel. Although we must not give up on our youth, this bill gives the review panel the ability to take into account the seriousness of the youth's behaviour and to make recommendations to the chief executive reflective of that behaviour and of our society's values and expectations.
This year some 300 detainees have been enrolled in schools within the State's juvenile justice centres. Former detainees have continued their education and found employment, which is an excellent result for the hardworking teachers and Juvenile Justice staff and a positive result for the community as a whole. Young offenders are often disengaged from school and many detainees have learning difficulties. With the extremely hard work of staff and assistance by volunteers to mentor young offenders on the benefits of education comes the motivation for detainees to have a positive attitude towards education. Through the reinforcement that their active participation can reap rewards—from improved literacy and numeracy skills to potential employment when they return to the community—a positive response to reducing reoffending behaviour can be achieved.
The Government recognises and understands that education is essential to all young people, and especially to a young offender's rehabilitation while in custody. Without an education the reality is that there is a prospect of reoffending. There needs to be a break in the cycle of young people continually being detained in custody because of something most of us take for granted—access to an education. The Serious Young Offenders Review Panel will consider the future impacts on young offenders' lives, on their communities and on the lives of their victims and their families. This Government does not want to write off our young offenders; it wants to ensure that serious offending behaviour by young people is addressed and that recommendations by the panel are made with the offenders and their victims and their families in mind. The Serious Young Offenders Review Panel consists of people from several corners of society and this bill will ensure clearer guidance, accountability and consistency in relation to the classification of serious young offenders.
Dr Geoff Lee:
Mr CHRIS PATTERSON:
I thank the member for Parramatta for his enthusiast support. I look forward to his 10-minute contribution to debate on this bill. I also commend the Attorney General for introducing this fantastic bill. I commend the Government on its actions and I commend the bill to the House.
Ms TANIA MIHAILUK
(Bankstown) [5.25 p.m.]: I state at the outset that the Opposition will not oppose the Children (Detention Centres) Amendment (Senior Young Offenders Review Panel) Bill 2011. I commend the New South Wales Government for recognising the importance of the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel. I note that this body was established by the Carr Labor Government, and it is disappointing that in his agreement in principle speech the Attorney General did not give his predecessors credit for that important initiative. I call on the Attorney General to give credit where it is due when he replies to the debate. I also put on record my disappointment about the disappearance of the portfolio of Juvenile Justice. I had hoped that the O'Farrell Government might come to its senses and appoint a Minister for Juvenile Justice with responsibilities separate from those of the Attorney General.
Juvenile justice has long been an issue that has received a great deal of bipartisan support. So it is astounding that the Premier chose to roll this responsibility into the Attorney General's already significant portfolio. Both sides of politics agree that we would like to see fewer young people in our prison system, but of course that should not be achieved by compromising our existing justice system. Our duty as parliamentarians is to work to alleviate the conditions that lead to younger people becoming involved in criminal activities. We live in a society with unprecedented prosperity, yet many in our society are yet to experience the benefits of our national success. It is in the DNA of those on this side of the House to work to ensure that the marginalised in our society do not continue to miss out.
The bill is an attempt to enshrine in legislation the pre-existing Serious Young Offenders Review Panel, and, as is described in schedule 1, part 4B, the review panel provides advice and recommendations concerning young offenders. These recommendations can relate to the reclassification of detainees, the granting of leave to detainees and any other matter referred to the panel. I understand that there is already significant variety in the membership of the review panel. Currently, the review panel includes a representative from the legal community in the form of a magistrate, who acts as a chairperson; an independent person with qualifications in psychology; an independent community person with expertise in dealing with youth generally; a member of the Indigenous community; a victim of crime; and a delegate of the Assistant Director General (Operations), Department of Juvenile Justice, is an ex officio member.
I concur with both the member for Liverpool and the member for Balmain that there is no requirement in the legislation for the Attorney General to appoint such persons, and I call on the Attorney General in his speech in reply to commit to appointing individuals with appropriate experience to ensure that there is relevant expertise on the panel. I also ask the Attorney General to address whether the present members of the panel will be reappointed when this proposal comes into effect.
Mr Greg Smith:
Ms TANIA MIHAILUK:
It is about making sure that those positions continue to exist and that they and the community groups they represent continue to be represented on the panel. I note that both the member for Liverpool and the member for Balmain said that the panel needs to contain a member of the Indigenous community, and the Attorney General should commit to that. It is appropriate also to have a representative on the panel who is a victim of crime. It is obvious that the people on the panel must have expertise in community work and working with youth in particular, and also have the necessary qualifications to provide appropriate advice to the panel. The present panel is likely to have extensive experience in juvenile justice matters and it would be unfortunate to lose that experience. I understand the importance of confirming the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel through this legislation. I encourage the Government to continue the work undertaken by previous Labor governments. I also acknowledge the work of the Attorney General and his department in relation to this legislation.
Mr GEOFF PROVEST
(Tweed) [5.30 p.m.]: Thank you—
Mr Ryan Park:
One hundred per cent.
Mr GEOFF PROVEST:
I am always 100 per cent for the Tweed—and the children are a big part of the Tweed. Anything we can do to assist the development of children in New South Wales should be applauded. Unfortunately, members on both sides of this House know that at times children go off the rails and may face issues that will later affect their ability to contribute to their local communities. Some of those issues are very serious and we must deal with them. The Children (Detention Centres) Amendment (Serious Young Offenders Review Panel) Bill 2011 was introduced on 24 November 2011. In his agreement in principle speech the Attorney General outlined a number of issues. He said:
Establishing a legislative basis for the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel brings it in line with the Corrective Services Serious Offenders Review Council, which carries out an equivalent function for adults.
This important amendment will ensure clearer guidance, accountability and consistency in relation to the classification of serious young offenders.
The bill will enshrine the constitution, functions and powers of the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel. The panel provides advice and makes recommendations to the Chief Executive of Juvenile Justice in relation to serious young offenders and certain other detainees. The recommendations are in relation to the reclassification of detainees and the approval of day and overnight leave to detainees charged with serious children's indictable offences. Under new section 37Q the bill outlines the matters that the panel must consider in making a recommendation to the chief executive. These include the public interest, the protection of the public, the circumstances and the nature of any offences committed or allegedly committed by the detainee, the sentencing court's reasons and recommendations, the detainee's criminal history and the detainee's conduct while in custody.
It is prudent that we offer resources and guidance to young offenders. Mr Assistant-Speaker, I assume that in your great electorate of Coffs Harbour you have seen the age of young offenders decreasing. I have been told by police officers in my local area command that the number one house breaker in my electorate is aged 13. I have gone on the road and campaigned for youth homelessness. I have also had a number of meetings with Father Chris Riley, who does excellent work. I know of one chap who is now 19 years old and whom the justice system now treats as an adult. He has been in juvenile detention nine times since the age of seven. His time in juvenile detention was a bit like an apprenticeship: He started off with shoplifting and by the time he was 16 or 17 he was committing crimes such as assault with a deadly weapon and kidnapping.
We must do everything we can to ensure that the review panel offers support. It is commendable that the panel will consist of a psychologist representative, a victims' group representative, an Aboriginal representative and a representative of the NSW Police Force, but there is a still long way to go. As a number of members have said, the fact that these offenders are getting younger shows that sometimes the system works for them and sometimes it fails them. Young repeat offenders are in danger of becoming a lost generation, as evidenced by the 19-year-old to whom I referred previously. The system has let him down and I do not believe he has any chance of rehabilitation. Nevertheless, I support the bill and commend it to the House.
Dr GEOFF LEE
(Parramatta) [5.35 p.m.]: I support the Children (Detention Centres) Amendment (Serious Young Offenders Review Panel) Bill 2011. I commend the Attorney General, who is at the table and taking copious notes. It is good to see his concern for this bill and for the other legislation that has passed through Parliament. It shows his dedication to ensuring that there is a fair and just judicial system in New South Wales. Members on this side of the House—the good side—are concerned about children's futures. Our children must grow up to be productive members of society and we must encourage them to reach their potential. But, as the member for Tweed said, for various reasons some young people go off track.
Those reasons may include family dynamics, psychological issues or problems with the environment in which they are brought up. It is a sad fact of life that there are serious young offenders who are under 18 years of age. We must have a fair and just system that deals with them in an equitable manner. A number of issues must be resolved, including community confidence in, and expectations of, the judicial system. The system must also treat young offenders and their families in a fair and equitable manner. The purpose of the bill is to amend the Children's Detention Centres Act 1987 to recognise the constitutional functions and powers of the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel.
The panel has been in existence in since 1998. It was originally introduced on a 12-month trial basis and to date has not been enshrined in legislation. The member for Bankstown expressed pride that the panel was established under a Labor Government. I think it is sad it took them so many years to do it, but not doing anything and not listening to the people is symptomatic of all Labor governments. At least the good Liberal-Nationals Government and the Attorney General are getting on with managing the State in a fair, equitable and efficient manner. This bill will ensure that government is accountable in addressing the issue of juvenile offenders. The Serious Young Offenders Review Panel is an independent body that makes recommendations to the Director General of the Department of Juvenile Justice.
The recommendations can relate to things such as the reclassification of detainees, the granting of leave to detainees charged with serious children's indictable offences and any other matter referred to the panel by the director general or the Minister. As I said before, the panel is about balancing community expectations with the needs of young offenders and their families. I will address that balancing act further. Rather than concentrating on the individual, a proper approach to reform of wayward young people involves consideration of a wider scope of issues, including family issues. The Assistant-Speaker takes an interest in how young offenders are dealt with and knows that traditionally a panel has consisted of a qualified psychologist, a person with expertise in dealing with the issues, an indigenous representative and a victims' group representative.
It is interesting to note the matters that the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel will take into consideration when making recommendations to the chief executive are set out in proposed section 37Q and include the public interest in balancing penalty with considerations of justice and protection of the public. I know the member for Wollondilly and I share the goal of protecting our constituents. The matters also include the circumstances and nature of any offence committed or alleged to have been committed by a detainee. Those matters are particularly important because young people are influenced by peer groups and sometimes hang around with the wrong type of person. A young offender's peers often influence how a young offender perceives reality and how they react. The panel can also take into account a detainee's criminal history.
The member for Tweed informed the House of his experience with a young offender who had been a repeat offender from the age of nine and how difficult it had been for that young offender to get off the treadmill of crime, which accounted for much of the young offender's disastrous conduct. Serious offenders who have a long history of committing offences can have a significant influence on detainees, and that is a matter the panel may take into account. The panel may also take into consideration the length of time a detainee has spent in custody, their behaviour during the custodial period, and the attempts they have made through education to reform.
Of particular importance are submissions made by a victim or a victim's family that bring home to an offender, the court and the panel exactly how the serious crime has affected a victim's family. The panel must consider many factors when making a recommendation. The list I have provided is not exhaustive. New schedule 1A to the bill indicates that the panel may be increased to six members and include an appointee by the Minister for Justice who is the nominee of the Director General of the Department of the Attorney General and Justice and a representative of the New South Wales Police Force. It is appropriate to include on the panel a member of the New South Wales Police Force because police officers who deal with these matters day to day are the eyes and ears of the community.
Mr John Williams:
They are terribly frustrated.
Dr GEOFF LEE:
The frustration of the police reflects the frustration of communities that endure offences committed by repeat offenders who are not brought to justice. All members of the panel will be expected to possess a thorough understanding of community expectations as well as expertise in juvenile justice matters. The panel will consist of highly qualified members with the right experience who can represent the interests of the community. Schedule 1  to the bill will insert proposed part 4B into the Act to formally state the constitution of the panel and matters that the panel will be required to consider.
This bill is of particular importance because it deals with juvenile offenders and involves striking a delicate balance between the deterrent effect of penalty and sending a message about conduct that is proper and conduct that is unacceptable. People are never too young to understand the difference between right and wrong and the balance that must be struck between, on the one hand, accountability, community expectations and sentences that are appropriate for offences and, on the other hand, the rights of individuals. Young people deserve an opportunity to reform with a view to taking their place as productive members of society.
The justice system should aim at balancing the rights and responsibilities of perpetrators of crime with community expectations of conduct. I reiterate that the Parramatta electorate has the second-largest law precinct in New South Wales and includes a Children's Court with a significant caseload. My electorate is fortunate to have wonderful community groups and role models who work with young people, such as the Police and Community Youth Club and the Parramatta Eels. My academic background features a belief in breaking the cycle of economic disadvantage through education. Education is one of the strings of the Government's bow in developing opportunities for young offenders to discard poor habits and improve their lives in line with community expectations. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr ANDREW CORNWELL
(Charlestown) [5.45 p.m.]: It gives me great pleasure to contribute to debate on the Children (Detention Centres) Amendment (Serious Young Offenders Review Panel) Bill 2011. The object of this bill is to constitute a Serious Offenders Review Panel to provide advice and to make recommendations with respect to serious young offenders and certain other detainees under the Children (Detention Centres) Act 1987. The Serious Young Offenders Review Panel was established initially as a trial with the aim of mirroring the Corrective Services Serious Offenders Review Council, which provides advice and recommendations to the chief executive of Juvenile Justice and to the Minister for Justice. It is reasonable and appropriate to provide a legislative basis for the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel considering that the Corrective Services Serious Offenders Review Council is enshrined in legislation and that its functions are similar to those of the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel.
Schedule 1A to the bill specifies the constitution and procedures of the panel. It provides that the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel will be constituted by between three and six members who are appointed by the Minister for Justice. The panel will be chaired by a magistrate, an acting magistrate or a retired magistrate. Other members of the panel will be appointed by the Minister for Justice based on their expertise in juvenile justice issues, and may include community members such as a psychologist, a victims' group representative, an Aboriginal representative and a representative of the New South Wales Police Force. Those members will consider a number of matters in the exercise of the panel's functions, including consideration of the public interest, the criminal history of the offender, the offender's commitment to addressing the offending behaviour, the impact of the offence on victims, and the young offender's prospects of rehabilitation and re-entry into the community as a law-abiding citizen.
The success of the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel is evident in the evaluations that have taken place since its commencement. Further evaluation of the panel's activities will be available as it will be included in the annual report of the Department of Attorney General and Justice. While the panel has operated successfully and has considered a range of applications over the past 12 years, the provision of a legislative basis for this body will ensure clearer guidance, accountability and consistency in the functions and powers of the panel. I take this opportunity to praise the staff of Juvenile Justice in the Hunter Valley. Recently I had the opportunity to work with them and some of their clients as part of their graffiti hot spots program. Nursery Grove at Mount Hutton had a graffiti problem along a pathway from a local suburb to a shopping centre. The pathway was continually being hit by graffiti. People were having their Colorbond fences kicked in and other offensive behaviour was causing an enormous problem for local residents.
As part of the graffiti hot spots program, the staff of Juvenile Justice engaged their young clients in cleaning up graffiti and strategic plantings along fence lines to remove opportunities for graffiti to be added as well as ensuring that graffitists no longer have a blank canvas on which to paint. I make specific mention of Vicki Pearse, the area manager, Damien Baker, the Hunter region's community service organisation [CSO] coordinator, and Jason Carpenter, the sessional supervisor, all of whom do tremendous work with young offenders in our area. The young offenders I was working with were all normal young people who have made bad decisions. The Attorney General has expressed that his aim is to try to reduce recidivism. I certainly wish all these young offenders well and hope they serve apprenticeships at TAFE rather than winding up in custody serving apprenticeships in crime. Most of them have come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Certainly the link between disadvantage and ending up on the wrong side of the law is clearly known and something this Government is committed to redressing.
I also make mention of some of the young people I worked with last night. I spent the evening with the Exodus Foundation, started by Bill Crews, and its food cart in St Mary's Road just behind the cathedral. I make mention of the tremendous work Reverend Bill Crews and his staff do for these young people. Many of them have come out of custody and are still finding life, re-entering the community, difficult. Some of these young people have addictions and other problems, and the Exodus Foundation does excellent work in providing support for them. They can go to the food cart every night, and get a meal and companionship. Probably one of the most remarkable things I saw was the sense of camaraderie and companionship, not just amongst the volunteers but also amongst the clients, many of whom see each other night after night.
I was quite shocked by how young some of the people were. Under normal circumstances many of them would still be at school. As the member for Camden mentioned, it is important that we as a government try to keep these people in the education system. I note the recent announcement by the Minister for Family and Community Services about providing financial support for families who have children in their care, which is based on getting the children into school. Linking education with the provision of government services is a welcome initiative. It provides an incentive to keep these young people in education. Members on both sides of the House would agree education is one of the keys to lifting people out of disadvantage and keeping people from winding up on the wrong side of the law.
I welcomed the question today from the member for Newcastle to the Attorney General about the Newcastle law courts. For too long the legal fraternity and their clients have had to put up with a substandard facility in Newcastle. This is a welcome initiative that will not only provide better amenities for the provision of justice in the Hunter Valley but will also help to revitalise Newcastle. It is a $94 million initiative and a tremendous announcement. All credit to the Attorney General and to the hard work of the member for Newcastle. I commend the bill to the House. Juvenile justice is something members on both sides of the House are committed to. This is just another welcome initiative from the O'Farrell Government.
Mr JAI ROWELL
(Wollondilly) [5.53 p.m.]: The Children (Detention Centres) Amendment (Serious Young Offenders Review Panel) Bill 2011 will contribute significantly to strengthening the justice system in relation to young offenders in New South Wales. It will amend the current Children (Detention Centres) Act 1987 to legislatively protect the continuation of the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel, which currently plays an important role within the justice system by making recommendations to the chief executive of the Department of Juvenile Justice on the reclassification of detainees, the granting of leave to detainees charged with serious children's indictable offences and other important matters relating to these individuals.
Although the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel has been fulfilling this role for 12 years since its inception in 1998, the previous Government failed to provide legislative protection for the panel by denying the panel inclusion within the Act. This Government will provide such protection to the panel through this bill by specifying the constitution and function of the panel. This will provide the panel with the same status, recognition and direction that is granted to the Corrective Service's Serious Offenders Review Council. This review council, which currently fulfils the same role within the justice system in respect to adults, is formally established as an independent statutory authority through the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999.
The bill also acts to articulate the parameters the panel will work within. These parameters include the delineation of matters that must be considered by the panel in its process of review. For example, the panel is obliged to consider the criminal history of each young offender, the consequences to the offender's victim and their family members, the rehabilitation of the young offender and the interests of the wider public. This articulation is necessary as it will enable the Government to bring more clarity and accountability into the current system. The panel is an important component of the justice system that must offer its recommendations by drawing on these differing and often conflicting considerations.
These recommendations must also adhere to the existing legislative and departmental guidelines. In addition to reinforcing these guidelines, the bill will also necessitate the panel to report its activities in the annual report of the Department of Attorney General and Justice. This process is currently being employed by the adult Corrective Services Serious Offenders Review Council as necessitated by the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999. Legislating a similar reporting requirement for the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel is an important component of this bill and it is representative of this Government's commitment to ensuring we are a government that is transparent.
Such transparency will comfort the people of New South Wales by demonstrating that they have elected a Government that they can trust to uphold an effective and reliable justice system in this State. I note that we just finished debate on the Criminal Procedure Amendment (Summary Proceedings Case Management) Bill 2011, which was introduced by our hardworking Attorney General and passed through this House. An effective and reliable justice system is precisely what is required to address serious offending behaviour by certain young people. The serious offences committed by some New South Wales youths are a troubling subject to consider. However, it is a reality that the Government and the community must respond proactively.
I note also the hardworking Minister for Family and Community Services, who does everything in her power to protect those at most risk and disadvantage. The actions of young offenders have repercussions not only for the offender and the victim, but also for the families of these young people and their community. Upholding the safety and wellbeing of all affected by serious offences committed by certain youths is something that I want to strive towards for the people of Wollondilly. The decisions we make here in this House in relation to this bill affect the lives of those within my electorate and it is their interests, needs and expectations that are at the forefront of my mind as we consider this bill.
By legislatively enshrining the constitution, functions and powers of the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel within the Children (Detention Centres) Act 1987, the Government is responding to its responsibility to take the matter of serious young offenders seriously and to seek appropriate and considered resolutions to the complex issues that the detention of young people conjures. Enshrining the role and powers of the panel through the introduction of the Children (Detention Centres) Amendment (Serious Young Offenders Review Panel) Bill 2011 will allow for greater accountability and consistency for the members of the panel, the justice system as a whole and the lives of those whom the panel's recommendations affect. We are approaching 6 o'clock, and I note in the audience many supporters of the member for Clarence who will soon make his inaugural speech. I will cut my speech short this evening to allow the member for Clarence to deliver an excellent speech for his people. I commend the bill to the House.
Pursuant to resolution business interrupted and set down as an order of the day for a later hour.
Mr CHRISTOPHER GULAPTIS
(Clarence) [5.59 p.m.] (Inaugural Speech): Thank you, I will not let you down. That is my simple message today and it is directed beyond the walls of the bearpit, beyond the city limits and all the way up the coast to the residents of the Clarence and Richmond valleys. To those who placed their trust in me, I will fight for you in this place, in the Clarence electorate and wherever else I need to go to represent you. Thank you, I will not let you down. I say to the New South Wales Nationals: I will stand up for our core values and I will not waver in my support for regional New South Wales—I will not let you down. I say to the New South Wales Government: I will not let you down. I will work tirelessly with the Government to make the State work efficiently for the benefit of all people in New South Wales.
The premier State should be more than just a slogan on a number plate; it should be the measurement of our lifestyle. To the members of this place I also say: I will not let you down. In matters relating to the Clarence electorate and in those matters of public importance you will know clearly where I stand, but I will conduct myself in accordance with the respect due to this place. To my family I say, "Thank you for your support; I will not let you down." I will maintain the principles and values that were taught to me by my parents and by which my own family has been raised. Becoming a member of Australia's first Parliament is the second-greatest privilege in my life. Of course, the first was my marriage to Vicki some 30 years ago.
I am honoured to be in such great company, starting with our Premier, the member for Ku-ring-gai, and our Deputy Premier and leader of my party, the member for Oxley. These are great men and that is why New South Wales now has the best State Government in my lifetime. This place is known for great men and during my time here last week I had time to ponder. I could not help but notice the commemorative plaque in honour of Lieutenant-Colonel George Frederick Braund, member of Parliament, and Sergeant Edward Rennix Larkin, member of Parliament. They set a worthy example for those who follow in this place.
I can tell members that at the time Lieutenant-Colonel Braund was killed both of his sons, aged 17 and 18 years, were fighting in the same war. I am proud to say that the grandson of Lieutenant-Colonel George Braund, member of Parliament, is a constituent of mine. I can say also that his grandfather would be proud of his achievements both in business and in the broader community. It may well be that courage and dedication to public service is genetic. Whilst there is much to admire about the great Liberal member for Armidale, Lieutenant-Colonel George Frederick Braund, his grandson Ian knew where the real power base was in New South Wales—he joined The Nationals a long time ago.
My parents, Dimitrios and Dimitra, had no expectations when they arrived in Perth in 1951 with my brother, George, and sister, Mary. They simply wanted a better life than the one they left in Greece. For the benefit of the member for Upper Hunter, the Hon. George Souris, they came from that part of the north-east corner of Greece known as Macedonia. My parents struggled in a new country with a new language and a young family, but they were hard workers, and this country has always rewarded hardworking families. Becoming a New South Wales member of Parliament did not seem my destiny, especially growing up in Perth in the 1960s or graduating as a surveyor from the Western Australia Institute of Technology with the intention of working in the Western Australian outback. It was during my early years working as a graduate surveyor in the eastern goldfields of Western Australia that I came to love the honesty of the bush—both the people and the landscape. I converted very quickly from a first generation city-bred Australian into a characterisation out of that classic Australian movie Sunday Too Far Away
The most important piece of equipment my first boss gave me after I graduated as a surveyor was not a theodolite but a plumb axe. For the uninitiated, the plumb axe was revered by chainmen because it kept its edge. I loved the simple lifestyle of the bush: you could actually cut down a tree without feeling guilty. Surveyors are prone to travel and in 1980 I moved to the Clarence region in a step closer to this place. It was easy to fall in love with the Clarence: it was like the south-west of Western Australia only warmer with nicer beaches and friendly people. It is a hard place to leave and these days I am mostly considered a local. My work as a small business owner and surveyor showed me that government could operate better. Raising our two sons, Leon and Jarrad, made me want to do something about it.
In 2000 I sold my business and I am very pleased that my former partners, Des Smith and Ed Munday, could join me here today. They have always been of tremendous support and encouragement to me. I ran for council in 2000 and topped the polls at the election. I was elected Mayor of Maclean Shire Council for the next four years. Maclean shire centred around the town of Maclean, the Scottish town in Australia. Being of Macedonian heritage I always appreciated Australia's inclusiveness for those who are prepared to get up and have a go. I was especially grateful to Maclean, which adopted me so readily when I did not have a "Mac" in front of "Gulaptis".
After the Clarence councils were dissolved in 2004 I found an opportunity to work as chief operations officer for a company called Atlantis Energy, a start-up company in Maclean developing a new renewable energy technology that generated electricity from river and ocean currents. This company, which was spawned out of the Clarence Valley by Mick Perry in the early 2000s, is now the world leader in tidal current technology. It is developing marine power generation projects all around the world with the primary site being at the inner sound of the Pentland Firth in the north-east of Scotland. Public service has always been my passion and in 2005 I contested the Clarence Valley Council elections and again topped the polls.
In 2007 The Nationals preselected me to run for the Federal electorate of Page, which covers most of the State electorate of Clarence except, ironically, my home town of Maclean. I once again topped the polls, but Labor won the seat thanks to Greens preferences. I was disappointed, not just for myself and my supporters, but for the whole nation, because losing electorates like Page meant losing Australia's most successful Government and our greatest Prime Minister, John Howard. I had not expected to have another opportunity to serve my community in an elected position. The sudden resignation of my predecessor caught everyone by surprise. I was deeply saddened and shocked by his sudden departure.
Steve Cansdell is a friend of mine and was, by any measure, an exceptional local member of Parliament. He was described as the hardest-working member of this place by none other than Paul Gibson, the Labor member of Parliament whose electorate is now held by the current Leader of the Opposition. Indeed all former members of Parliament who represented the Clarence electorate have served with distinction: Ian Causley went on to become Deputy-Speaker of the House of Representatives, Harry Woods was one of the few Carr Labor Ministers to leave politics with dignity, and Don Day's achievements during the Wran Government are well regarded across the electorate. Winning Clarence in these circumstances was a bit like winning a tennis grand slam when your opponent sustains an injury: It is just not the best way to win, but it was out of my control. Nevertheless, win we did, and with a vote surpassed only by Steve Cansdell's extraordinary result last March.
Like all great wins, this was very much a team effort. I was lucky to enjoy enormous support, which I must acknowledge. My number one supporter and my harshest critic is my extraordinary wife of three decades, Vicki—she is not that old. She is well grounded in our community and provides a brutally honest sounding board. She knows when something is right or wrong and that the community wants simple answers, not political ones. Returning to the tennis analogy, Vicki has more energy and fight than Lleyton Hewitt and she looks better than any of the Russian women on the tour. She had no hesitation in backing me all the way, as did my boys, Jarrad and Leon, who even starred in one of my television commercials. Unfortunately, Leon is currently in Los Angeles and Jarrad is having another gap year, this time in Europe.
I must acknowledge the opportunity that my parents afforded me; aside from providing me with a loving home environment they worked hard to ensure their children were educated. Whilst my father passed away in 1984, my mother, at 89 years-of-age, is as sharp as a tack and very capable of taking care of herself. Unfortunately she cannot be with us today. Despite the difficulties he was going through personally Steve Cansdell did everything possible to ensure that Clarence remained in Nationals hands. The candidates who had been unsuccessful in the pre-selection also selflessly threw their support behind the campaign. I particularly want to thank Clarence Valley mayor, Richie Williamson, and Richmond Valley councillor Stuart George.
The reason the Clarence electorate office runs so smoothly is because of the people who have worked there for so long. My senior electorate officer, Deb Newton, is an unbelievably dedicated individual. She is a competent and compassionate young mother who is passionate about helping people and excels at doing just that. Janet Gould is just as good, just as loyal and extremely proficient at the administrative side of things, which I am discovering is so very important in this job. I also acknowledge the excellent work of my part-time electorate officer, Greg Bailey, who joined the office more recently. If I listed alphabetically the local party members, friends and supporters who were part of this win, I would not get past the Bs before the Deputy-Speaker sat me down. However, I do wish to thank in this place the member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser—door-knocker extraordinaire—and his wife Kerry for their support over a long period of time.
A by-election is different from a general election in that I had all the backing and support of the Liberal Party, the National Party and The Nationals head office. Ministers and backbenchers were tireless in their support and I very much appreciate the time they spent with me in the Clarence electorate. In particular I would like to thank the Premier for visiting Australia’s oldest floral festival, the Jacaranda Festival in Grafton. It is a very popular festival, and the Premier spent more time talking to constituents of his from Ku-ring-gai who were at the festival than he spent talking to mine. Similarly I would like to thank the Deputy Premier and Leader of the New South Wales Nationals for his frequent visits to the Clarence electorate, to whom I say, "Come back soon because there is lot more work to be done." [Extension of time agreed to
New South Wales Nationals State Director, Ben Franklin, and his team have turned the party into an exceptional organisation. Ben has one of the sharpest political minds in the country and I am grateful for the help he gave me throughout the by-election. I also acknowledge and thank my campaign director, Ross Caddell, and Tony Sarks for their counsel, dedication and general support. Our State chair, Christine Ferguson, was an enormous help and inspiration. But successful campaigns must have a local driver and in that regard I thank my campaign chair, Jeremy Challacombe, for his continual commitment to the cause. I must also acknowledge the support that Murray Lees has given me over two campaigns and I am very grateful to him for that and for his friendship.
I turn now to what I want to achieve for the Clarence and Richmond valleys over the next three years and hopefully beyond. The Clarence electorate is a large coastal electorate that spreads across 13,388 square kilometres and includes the Clarence Valley and Richmond Valley local government areas. It has a range of diverse communities—coastal, hinterland and Indigenous. The two main centres are in Grafton in the south and Casino in the north. It is typical of most electorates in regional New South Wales. It is a wonderful place to live, work and play, but has suffered outrageously during 16 years of the former Labor Government's complacency and neglect. Why should we only have one police officer for every 700 residents when there is one officer for every 500 people in Sydney? Why should we have to put up with a killer highway while the previous Government was wasting billions on transport projects in Sydney that never saw the light of day? What gave the former Labor Government the right to administer the Clarence electorate as if it were a Third World colony?
The good news is that we have come a long way since the change of government. More than 10 per cent of the cadets who graduated from the New South Wales Police Academy just before Christmas were allocated to the two local area commands that serve the Clarence electorate. There is more work to be done. We desperately need 24/7 policing in Casino and in the Lower Clarence. This Government's first budget last September saw record funds allocated to the upgrade of the Pacific Highway, and I was pleased to open the completed Glenugie upgrade south of Grafton only two weeks ago. There is more work to be done if we are to meet the 2016 deadline to complete the highway upgrade.
I have put my colleague the Minister for Roads and Ports on notice that we may need to consider night and weekend road works and improve processing times at the Department of Planning and Infrastructure and the Office of Environment and Heritage. The completion of the upgrade of the Pacific Highway becomes more and more difficult with the Federal Government deciding to change the funding arrangements from 80:20 with the previous State Government, to 50:50 with the current Government. This places a further strain of $2.31 billion on the New South Wales budget and delays the finishing time. It is no wonder ordinary people become so cynical with governments.
The answer is to give power back to the people, and that is exactly our policy. The local accountability and responsibility seized by the Labor Party are now being returned to our local schools, our local health facilities and our local councils. There is more work to be done. We need a health clinic in Yamba and we need to secure the future for our smaller hospitals at Maclean, Casino and Coraki. In 2003 Bob Carr gave a cast iron guarantee that the second Grafton bridge would be built within four years. It took another eight years and a change of government to get the project back on track. We will begin construction of that bridge before the next election. In the ultimate cynical move the former Labor Government axed the Casino to Murwillumbah rail service seven years ago.
It took a Coalition Government to provide the $2 million to start the process of restoring it and eventually extending the line to the Gold Coast. I see my job as ensuring that the Government builds on the good start it has made in Clarence. But more than that, as the new person in the job I want to hear new ideas from the citizens I am now privileged to represent. As a former surveyor I am passionate not only about better government and a fairer allocation of resources, but also about a smarter government. A smart government is one that wherever possible gives decision making to those who know best.
Almost invariably local decision making is smarter than Sydney decision making. We must always remember that the money we spend in government belongs to the taxpayers of New South Wales. In conclusion, I again thank the locals at home who have given me their trust , and I thank the members here who have made me feel so welcome in this very special place. I also thank my family and friends present in the gallery who have travelled to be with me this evening: Ron and Janette Brown, David and Lee Brown, Alan and Viva Brown, Peter Brown—the Brown family—Graeme and Margaret Dobbin, and Warren and Rosemary Rackham. Thank you. I will not let you down.
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
I extend a warm welcome to all the supporters of the member for Clarence in the gallery who have travelled all the way to Sydney to be with him on this special occasion.
CHILDREN (DETENTION CENTRES) AMENDMENT (SERIOUS YOUNG OFFENDERS REVIEW PANEL) BILL 2011
Agreement in Principle
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
Mr KEVIN CONOLLY
(Riverstone) [6.20 p.m.]: I speak in support of the Children (Detention Centres) Amendment (Serious Young Offenders Review Panel) Bill 2011, which formally constitutes the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel through the insertion of a part 4B and schedule 1A in the Act and outlines the panel's functions and powers. The review panel has been in operation for more than a dozen years now and was not originally established through legislation. It is important that the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel has a legislative basis, and that is what these amendments will ensure.
The primary purpose of the review panel is to provide advice and make recommendations in relation to serious young offenders and other detainees referred to in the Children (Detention Centres) Act 1987. These amendments make the constitution of the panel as well as its provision of advice clearer for the public and more transparent by outlining matters that the review panel ought to consider when making recommendations. They also require an annual report of the panel's activities. Within proposed part 4B are a number of proposed sections that detail the function and power of the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel. Proposed section 37O outlines the make-up of the panel, which can consist of between three and six members who are appointed by the Minister for Justice. Of these members the chairperson is required to be either a magistrate, an acting magistrate or a retired magistrate.
Proposed section 37P sets out the functions of the review panel, which, as referred to earlier, are largely the provision of advice and recommendations to the Director General of Juvenile Justice in relation to the classification of serious young offenders. The review panel is also required to provide advice and recommendations in relation to any detainee that is referred by the Minister or the director general. Proposed section 37Q outlines the matters that the review panel must take into consideration when exercising its powers to make recommendations.
The matters that the review panel must consider under these amendments include the public interest; the nature and circumstances of any offence committed by the person; the reasons and recommendations of the court that sentenced the person; the criminal history of the person; the time the person has served in custody and the time yet to serve; their conduct while in custody; their commitment to address the offending behaviour and any willingness to participate in rehabilitation programs; their classification history; the position of and consequences to any victim of the person, including the victim's family; submissions made by any victims of the person; the need to maintain public confidence in the administration of criminal justice; the rehabilitation of the person and their re-entry into the community; the availability of support to the person, whether it is family or departmental; and any reports about the person, such as reports from counsellors or psychologists.
Proposed section 37R requires the review panel to provide a yearly report of its activities in the Department of Attorney General and Justice's annual report. Proposed section 37S provides protection for information that potentially may be sensitive. It provides the review panel with the discretion to not provide reports or documents that could potentially clash with the following: the operation and security of a detention centre, the safety of the person or another person, the conduct of a lawful investigation, and the public interest. Schedule 1A deals largely with the constitution and procedure of the review panel and other housekeeping issues.
Schedule 1A outlines the grounds and procedures for appointing acting members in the event a member is ill or absent; clarification that members are appointed for no more than two years and on a part-time basis; grounds on which a member's place may become vacant and the subsequent filling of such a position; and the requirement for the panel to include a nominee of the Director General of the Department of Attorney General and Justice, who can provide advice in relation to policies and procedures of the department. These amendments ensure that, just like the Serious Offenders Review Council, the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel has a basis in legislation and as a result will provide greater accountability and consistency in classifying serious young offenders.
Despite the noisy commentary of a particular talkback radio host, the Attorney General, the Hon. Greg Smith, is to be commended for his approach to young offenders, and to offenders generally, as he has not lost sight of the fact that the best outcome for the community is achieved if offenders stop offending and become productive and constructive citizens. Where this outcome is possible, it should be our goal. It is a goal that this Parliament should strive to achieve. Of course, in the case of hardened and serious criminals, protection of the community must be given priority. I am confident that the Attorney General not only understands this distinction but also is working to deliver both outcomes through the various bills that he has introduced in this House.
I note that the shadow Attorney General has indicated that the bill will not be opposed, and I acknowledge the appropriateness of that position. I also acknowledge that the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel was established by the previous Government after recommendations arising during the life of the Coalition Government led by John Fahey. It is appropriate that both side of politics support sensible measures, such as this review panel and its work. The bill serves to formalise in legislation this particular sensible measure, and so I commend the Children (Detention Centres) Amendment (Serious Young Offenders Review Panel) Bill 2011 to the House.
Mr TIM OWEN
(Newcastle) [6.28 p.m.]: I am pleased to speak in support of the Children (Detention Centres) Amendment (Serious Young Offenders Review Panel) Bill 2011. I commend the Opposition for its bipartisan support for this amending bill, which will preserve the constitution, powers and functions of the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel. The review panel was initially established as a trial with the aim of mirroring the Serious Offender Review Council of Corrective Services. The Serious Young Offenders Review Panel provides advice and recommendations to the Chief Executive of Juvenile Justice and the Minister for Justice.
I believe it is reasonable and appropriate to provide a legislative basis for the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel, considering that the Corrective Services Serious Offender Review Council is enshrined in legislation and that its functions are very similar to those of the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel. It has taken 12 years to enshrine that basis in legislation. The amendment will provide us with better guidance, accountability and, more importantly, consistency regarding the classification of serious juvenile offenders. Since the review panel's inception back in 1998 it has been proved to be a successful procedure. Thus it is logical to incorporate functions and responsibilities of the panel in the Children (Detention Centres) Act 1987.
Schedule 1A of the bill specifies the constitution and procedure of the panel. It provides that the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel will comprise between three and six members appointed by the Minister for Justice. Further, the panel will be chaired by a magistrate, acting magistrate or a retired magistrate. Other members of the panel will be appointed by the Minister for Justice, based on their expertise of juvenile justice issues, and may include community members such as a psychologist representative, a victims group representative, an Indigenous representative, and a representative of the New South Wales Police Force. These members will consider a number of matters in the exercise of the panel's functions, including consideration of the public interest, criminal history of the offender, commitment to address the offending behaviour, impact on victims, and the young offender's prospects of rehabilitation and re-entry into the community as a law-abiding citizen.
I note that the success of the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel is evident in the evaluations that have taken place since it commenced. Further evaluation of the panel's activities will be available as it will be included in the annual report of the Department of Attorney General and Justice. The panel can now work within a legislative framework and will provide advice and make recommendations to the Chief Executive, Juvenile Justice, in relation to serious young offenders and certain other detainees. Proposed section 37Q outlines the matters that the panel must consider in making a recommendation to the chief executive. Some of those matters include the public interest; the protection of the public; the circumstances and nature of any offence committed or allegedly committed by the detainee; the sentencing court's reasons and recommendations; the criminal history of the detainee; his or her conduct whilst in custody; the time the detainee has served in custody; his or her commitment to address offending behaviour; his or her classification history; submissions made by the victim or the victim's family; and the availability of family, departmental and other forms of support.
Clearly, providing a legislative framework for the matters that the panel must consider in making its recommendations to the chief executive will ensure accountability and consistency in relation to both the classification of young offenders and the granting of leave to detainees. At a local level I have been doing considerable work in the past few months with the Life Church group, which runs an organisation called Soul Cafe, which not only looks after the underprivileged in the community but has taken on board the very virtuous concept of assisting young offenders. Its work has been absolutely fantastic. Soul Cafe works with some of the youngest potential offenders and also young children who have been repeat offenders. It has done some great work by taking these young people under its wing and preventing what is clearly a big issue within the community, that of recidivism, particularly with young offenders, and, importantly, it is assisting them back into education and guiding them.
Soul Cafe also helps young people to find work or to undertake apprenticeships. Some of these young children are doing apprenticeships in a trade rather than going back to apprenticeships in crime. It is a great outcome. Although the panel has been operating successfully and has considered a range of applications over the past 12 years it is imperative that it has a legislative basis. Members on this side of the House and members on the other side have bipartisan agreement on that. The bill will allow more accountability and consistency for the Government to address the offending behaviour of juveniles. I question why it has taken 12 years to introduce this legislation when clearly such measures have been so successful. I commend the Government for its excellent work on this bill, which I commend to the House.
Mr MARK SPEAKMAN
(Cronulla) [6.32 p.m.]: I support the Children (Detention Centres) Amendment (Serious Young Offenders Review Panel) Bill 2011, despite the length of its title. The Serious Young Offenders Review Panel was established in 1998, initially for a 12-month trial period, and there was no legislative basis for its establishment at the time. The panel has operated successfully for 12 years and it is appropriate now that its functions be incorporated into the Children (Detention Centres) Act 1987. Establishing a legislative basis for the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel will bring it into line with the Corrective Services' Serious Offenders Review Council, which carries out an equivalent function in relation to adult offenders.
The bill will introduce into the Children (Detention Centres) Act 1987 a new part 4B, entitled "Serious Young Offenders Review Panel". Proposed section 37O will constitute the review panel, which will consist of at least three but not more than six members appointed by the Minister, of whom one is to be a magistrate, acting magistrate or retired magistrate, and that person is to be the chairperson of the panel. Schedule 1A to the bill contains detailed provisions for the constitution and procedure of the review panel. The review panel's functions are set out in proposed section 37P and they include providing advice and making recommendations to the director general with respect to the classification of serious young offenders who are referred to the review panel by the director general; and providing advice and making recommendations to the Minister or the director general with respect to any matter relating to a detainee, including a serious young offender who is referred to the panel by the Minister or the director general, and any other matter prescribed by the regulations.
When the review panel exercises its functions it will be required by proposed section 37Q to take into consideration a number of matters to the extent that the panel considers the matters relevant. Those matters are the public interest, including the protection of the public; the nature and circumstances of any offence committed or alleged to have been committed; the reasons and recommendations of the court that sentenced the person; the person's criminal history; the time the person has served in custody and the time the person has yet to serve in custody; the person's conduct while in custody; the person's commitment to address offending behaviour, including willingness to participate in rehabilitation programs and the success or otherwise of any such participation and the person's classification history.
Further matters are the position of and consequences to any victim of the person, including the victim's family; any submissions made by any victims; the need to maintain public confidence in the administration of criminal justice; the rehabilitation of the person and the re-entry of the person into the community as a law-abiding citizen; the availability to the person of family, departmental and other support; any relevant reports about the person, including reports by counsellors, health practitioners or educational establishments; and any other matter prescribed by the regulations. The bill will enshrine in legislation the constitution, functions and powers of a review panel that was initially set up only as a trial but which has established a successful and worthwhile operation over 12 or more years in New South Wales. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr TONY ISSA
(Granville) [6.37 p.m.]: The Children (Detention Centres) Amendment (Serious Young Offenders Review Panel) Bill 2011 is another step forward by the Liberal-Nationals Government to make New South Wales number one again. The bill will amend the Children (Detention Centres) Act 1987 to enshrine the constitution, functions and powers of the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel. The panel is responsible for making recommendations to the Chief Executive, Juvenile Justice, on the reclassification of detainees, on the granting of leave for detainees charged with serious children's offences, and on any other matters referred to the panel for consideration.
This important amendment will ensure clearer guidance, accountability and consistency in relation to the classification of serious young offenders. The Serious Young Offenders Review Panel was initially established in 1998 for a 12-month trial period and was not provided for in legislation at the time of its creation. After 12 years of successful operation it is appropriate that the functions of the panel be incorporated in the Children (Detention Centres) Act 1987, which provides for the responsibilities and obligations of government to young offenders in custody.
The Serious Young Offenders Review Panel will consist of six members, including the chairperson appointed by the Minister for Justice. The panel will be chaired by a magistrate, an acting magistrate or a retired magistrate. Other members of the panel will be appointed by the Minister for Justice also and will possess an understanding of community expectations and expertise on juvenile justice issues. The panel includes a nominee of the Director General of the Department of Attorney General and Justice who provides advice to the panel about policies and procedures of the department and other matters relating to the administration of juvenile justice.
Traditionally, the panel has consisted of four community members, including a psychologist representative, a victim's group representative, an Aboriginal representative, and a representative who reflects community attitudes or values towards young people. The panel also includes an additional member who will be a representative of the NSW Police Force. The bill requires the panel to report its activities in the annual report of the Department of Attorney General and Justice, thus making the panel accountable, and the recommendations are provided to the chief executive in relation to serious young offenders. The recommendations are in relation to the reclassification of detainees and the approval of day and overnight leave to detainees charged with serious children's offences.
In new section 37Q the bill outlines the matters that the panel must consider in making a recommendation to the chief executive. These include public interest, protection of the public, the circumstances and nature of any offence committed by the detainee, the sentencing court's reasons and recommendations, the detainee's criminal history, the detainee's conduct while in custody, the time he has served in custody, the remaining time yet to be served, the commitment to address offending behaviour—which includes the willingness to participate in a rehabilitation program—the detainee's classification history, and submissions made by the victim or victim's family. This is an important issue, and the reforms in this bill must be supported. The Government is moving forward in honouring its commitment to make New South Wales number one again.
Mr BRYAN DOYLE
(Campbelltown) [6.42 p.m.]: I support the Children (Detention Centres) Amendment (Serious Young Offenders Review Panel) Bill 2011. This important amendment will ensure clearer guidance, accountability and consistency in relation to the classification of serious young offenders. The term "serious young offender" refers to a young detainee who has been convicted of a serious children's indictable offence. These are offences that would carry a penalty of 20 years or more imprisonment if committed by an adult. It is important that the panel that reviews young detainees is chaired by a magistrate, acting magistrate or retired magistrate. I am fortunate to be the son of a magistrate who served the people of New South Wales for more than 25 years. I know the member for Liverpool would have appeared before my father at some stage.
Mr Paul Lynch:
Mr BRYAN DOYLE:
And he survived too. Magistrates have a great wealth of knowledge and information. They sit on the bench at local courts and the Children's Court. There is a 98 per cent probability that anyone who appears in court in New South Wales will be appearing before a magistrate. Therefore, it is a wise move to have someone from that profession serve as chairperson of such a panel. Of course, such panels must always consider the public when carrying out their functions. They must assess the criminal history of the young offender, the young offender's commitment to addressing their offending behaviour, the position of and consequences for any victim, any submissions made by the victim, and the rehabilitation of the young offender.
It is illustrative to consider a circumstance of which I am fortunate to have firsthand experience. This story involves a juvenile detention centre and a woman's refuge—strange bedfellows, one may think. The Reiby Juvenile Justice Centre is in the suburb of Airds in my electorate and has capacity for approximately 60 detainees. It mainly accommodates young males under 16 years of age who are on control orders or on remand. The centre provides a range of health, educational and spiritual services to these young people, including individual case management, specialised counselling and training in job and living skills. It also has its own school, which the inmates attend to continue their education. The centre specialises in managing young male offenders with extreme behavioural problems and has a unit specifically designated to address the special needs of this group.
The centre runs a very fine cafe where some of the young inmates are trained as baristas and learn how to manage and operate in a business environment. It also has the Waratah Unit, which is a pre-release unit aimed at preparing young people for return to the community. That unit caters for approximately 10 young people from across New South Wales. There are even some strange things. The doors to the cells have handles on the inside. People in custody do not get used to opening their own doors and the centre uses little things such as that to help rehabilitate the inmates. I also mentioned a women's refuge. The connection is unusual because most women's refuges shun or shy away from male offenders. However, Marcia Women's Refuge, which is a refuge for women and children, entered into an interesting partnership with the Reiby Juvenile Justice Centre. Late last year, at the invitation of Marilyn Fogarty—a fine servant of the people of New South Wales—I attended the refuge and met its staff and members of staff from Reiby. There I learnt of the extraordinary thing that has happened at the refuge.
The refuge extended an opportunity for young offenders from Reiby Juvenile Justice Centre to give something back to society as part of their rehabilitation. For many good reasons, refuges do not normally wish to engage with male offenders. So this was a big step for the refuge, but the results were amazing. The detainees have built a beautiful garden—complete with a water feature—at the front of the refuge. It has a bronze plaque that commemorates their fine work. The work also extends to the backyard, which was a large sloping area with a swimming pool that was largely unusable. There is now a 70 square meter, multilevel timber deck with an awning.
The work is of a quality that any craftsman or tradesman would be proud to call their own, and probably amounts to more than a year's work. Rehabilitation is an important aspect of any prison system but it is particularly important for juvenile detention centres. Ultimately, a just society is one in which we can welcome rehabilitated offenders back into the community as better people and good citizens. The work done by Reiby Juvenile Justice Centre detainees at a women's refuge that continues to provide a great service to the people of Campbelltown is a demonstrably worthy project. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr GREG SMITH
(Epping—Attorney General, and Minister for Justice) [6.48 p.m.], in reply: I thank members representing the electorates of Liverpool, Balmain, Bankstown, Myall Lakes, Camden, Tweed, Parramatta, Charlestown, Wollondilly, Riverstone, Newcastle, Cronulla, Granville and Campbelltown for their contributions to the debate. During debate, several issues were raised that invite a response and reflected a broad analysis of the legislation and its purpose. For the information of the member for Liverpool, the only change to the constitution of the panel is its enlargement by one member, and that is a representative of the NSW Police Force. Considering that police play a vital role in dealings with juvenile offenders, it was considered appropriate to include a police officer on the panel for the guidance of the panel in relation to matters for which police have expertise. I believe it is an appropriate step to take because police officers often have contact with juvenile offenders. Indeed, police officers are the gateway for young offenders entering the juvenile justice system. For those reasons, the expertise and experience of the police are invaluable, and their input will be widely appreciated by the panel.
The matters to be considered by the panel when making recommendations in relation to serious young offenders include public interest and protection of the public under new section 37Q. In relation to those matters also, the input by a member of the panel who is a police officer will be useful. The issue relating to a current, acting or retired magistrate and a departmental member on the panel was dealt with during debate. I point out that an acting, current or retired magistrate has always chaired the panel. Currently, the panel's constitution provides for appointment of a representative of Juvenile Justice, who is considered to be an expert on juvenile justice issues, to provide operational advice on offence-focused programs and classifications. The bill merely formalises current practice. Provision currently exists also for an Aboriginal representative to serve on the panel, and that representation will continue.
The member for Bankstown raised the issue of the reappointment of existing panel members. I point out that the existing panel is appointed until March 2012. Members will be appointed according to merit, which reflects current practice. Current members may or may not be reappointed, but it will not be an insult if a member is not reappointed. Obviously expertise will be closely examined, but length of service is also a consideration: Sometimes it is better to turn over membership of a panel if members have served for a long time. The member for Bankstown also mentioned that the previous Government established the informal panel. I concede that. I am not one who wishes to say that everything done by a previous Government is wrong. Many of the things done by the previous Government were right, and we went along with them. We continue to adhere to many of the attitudes and policies that were put in place by the previous Government, but it would have been better, in view of the importance of the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel, to have established it on a legislative basis, which is what this bill will achieve. The panel has undergone some evaluations and received positive feedback.
A matter that has not been mentioned is the significance of the name of the panel, the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel. Primarily the role of the panel is to deal with serious young offenders, which means persons who have committed serious children's indictable offences. Unlike the Corrective Services Serious Offenders Review Council, which deals with adult prisoners and penalties of approximately 12 years, the offenders dealt with by the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel are young people who have committed offences such as homicide. I prosecuted a young man who, at the age of 13, murdered a three-year-old child. He received a 20-year sentence of imprisonment with a non-parole period of 10 years. Recently I visited Goulburn jail and, sadly, I noticed that he was in SuperMax. His prospects for parole are not looking good. He has been in detention for approximately 10 years. He was rushed into Kariong but continued to offend. The psychiatrist called by the Crown and the offender's psychiatrist assessed him to be dangerous, and their assessments have been borne out. It is drastic action to incarcerate an offender in SuperMax at 21 or 22 years of age, but apparently it is considered to be the best place for him.
In addition to homicide, the panel deals with offenders who have committed offences punishable by imprisonment for life or 25 years, but there are other some lesser offences, such as aggravated sexual assault, that are punishable by imprisonment for 20 years. Most of the offences comply with criteria for serious indictable offences committed by young people, and include offences under section 80A such as sexual assault by forced self-manipulation. I will not go into the details of the offences; suffice it to say they are very serious offences. Other detainees can be referred to the panel, but the primary function of the panel is classification of and dealing with serious offenders, many of whom do not complete their incarceration in a detention centre but, rather, move from Kariong to the prison system. I recall that one of the K brothers, who was 15 years of age at the time of the offence, received a minimum sentence of 13 years.
He was involved with his brothers in a number of gang rapes and he would still be well and truly in the adult prison system following a custodial period in a detention centre. Although prisoners are classified at various stages, they are generally classified as high-end offenders so that they do not get out and walk around the streets. Young offenders who are convicted of serious indictable offences are usually moved from Kariong when they turn 16. That is done to avoid their influencing less serious offenders and in an attempt to spare less serious offenders from their influence. Hopefully, some way will be found of rehabilitating high-end offenders.
The bill provides a legislative framework for the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel. It outlines the functions of the panel and specifies matters that the panel must consider in providing advice and recommendations to the chief executive in relation to detainees, including serious young offenders. The member for Bankstown lamented the fact that there is no longer a department of juvenile justice. I point out to her that the Department of Justice, of which I am the Minister, covers both Corrective Services and Juvenile Justice. Not all branches of the administration of justice have been subsumed into the Attorney General's department but are part of a smaller department. The matters that are to be considered by the panel when making recommendations to the chief executive include matters in relation to the young offender, public interest, and victims. The bill provides an extensive list of matters that must be considered by the panel. While the panel has operated successfully and has considered a range of applications over its 12 years of operation, creating a panel as a statutory body will ensure clearer guidance, accountability and consistency in the functions and powers of the panel.
Members of the panel will be independent of Juvenile Justice and will be appointed by the Minister. The panel will include a chairperson and five community representatives who are considered to be experts in Juvenile Justice issues. The chairperson will be a current, acting or retired magistrate. The panel will provide the community, including victims of crime, with the assurance that a panel of qualified experts will consider applications for classifications and leave from a detention centre for young offenders. It is noted that this amending bill creates no economic impact because the panel is already established and its panel members and functions are working effectively. The bill also provides for accountability of the panel by ensuring that a report by the panel is included in the department's annual report. I commend the bill to the House.
Question—That this bill be now agreed to in principle—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bill agreed to in principle.
Passing of the Bill
Bill declared passed and transmitted to the Legislative Council with a message seeking its concurrence in the bill.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Melanie Gibbons):
I welcome to the Speaker's gallery His Excellency the Hon. Tim Fischer, AC, who was the State member for Murray and for Sturt, the Federal member for Farrer, Leader of the National Party, and Deputy Prime Minister. He is also the Ambassador to the Holy See.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Melanie Gibbons):
Order! It being before 7.00 p.m. the House will proceed with the matter of public importance.
ISOLATED PATIENTS TRAVEL AND ACCOMMODATION ASSISTANCE SCHEME
Matter of Public Importance
Mr TROY GRANT
(Dubbo—Parliamentary Secretary) [6.59 p.m.]: I put before the House a matter of public importance relating to the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme [IPTAAS]. I have raised this matter before in the Chamber to draw attention to the significant improvements that have been made to the scheme and the great benefits it offers to those in regional and rural New South Wales, who now have more efficient access to services and a structured and efficient health system in order to bridge the gap of financial disadvantage they suffered under those opposite. For 11 long years the people of regional New South Wales had to travel great distances—from as far away as outback New South Wales to my electorate of Dubbo, for example—to access limited specialist medical services, such as cancer services. Some need to access specialist children's services.
The Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme was established to provide assistance and to bridge the financial gap for those people living west of the Blue Mountains—the sandstone curtain. The Hon. Jillian Skinner made a commitment to the people of New South Wales that she would deliver for them and improve the scheme, and deliver she has. The changes that have taken effect from 1 January this year include an increase in travel rates for those people requiring accommodation assistance who have travelled at least 100 kilometres. The accommodation subsidy has increased by 30 per cent. The rate increased to $43 for a single person and $60 per double, which is up from the original $33 for a single and $46 for a double. Reimbursement for car travel is now 19¢ per kilometre, which is up 4¢ per kilometre.
That is an increase of $28 million over the next four years. This commitment to regional New South Wales has been widely acknowledged and well received. We have acknowledgements from rural doctors. The Cancer Council of New South Wales is supportive of the Government's reforms and the fact that the Minister listened to people's concerns. Kidney Health Australia is also a great supporter of this initiative and the increase in funds. Cancer Voices of New South Wales, another wonderful organisation, and the Leukaemia Foundation support the initiative. It is similar to the initiative of the Minister for Education that re-established the literacy and numeracy program formerly known as Dalwood, which was ripped away from regional people. That was re-initiated in the Centre for Effective Reading.
This is another example of how the voices of New South Wales people are being heard. This is of significant public importance to everybody across the State because on this side of the House we recognise that New South Wales is not just Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong. There are people who need government support in the north, south and west of this great State, and that is what this program—with its injection of $28 million in funding—will deliver over the next four years. In addition, doctors have a system whereby people who need to access funding can make a single application and provide a travel log for every subsequent visit to a specialist.
This is important because when people are isolated and suffering they do not need to be burdened by excessive paperwork and red tape; they do not need to bear any more than the health burdens they are already carrying. The new online claiming system is a winner and has been well received. Previously there was a weighty paper application form; the application process has been streamlined and is now shorter and simpler. Patients have greater access and can update, monitor and change their details online. I commend the Minister, the Hon. Jillian Skinner, for her commitment to this program and for walking the walk on this issue, not just talking the talk like those opposite accuse us of doing. These reforms have been delivered to regional New South Wales since 1 January.
Dr ANDREW McDONALD
(Macquarie Fields) [7.04 p.m.]: I was wondering what new information would be provided tonight because the member for Dubbo raised this issue on 11 October 2011. Yet here we are debating it again. In reality, there is just a new form—that is not yet available on the internet. If the member tried to download the form that was just announced he would find that it is not available on the Net. Only the old form is on the Net. I will be interested to hear whether, when he replies to the debate, the member can confirm when the new forms will be available to the patients who need them.
The Commonwealth Government established the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme almost 30 years ago. It was then designed as a subsidy system. In 1987 its administration was passed to the States. Even though this is an adversarial place, all members recognise that falling ill in rural areas creates a substantial financial burden, and it is even greater for those in more rural and remote areas. Even now, patients will sometimes refuse treatment because of the prohibitive costs involved. So any improvement to the system, such as the $7 million that was announced last year and again tonight, is very good for patients who live in rural and remote areas. One wonders whether this discussion is simply intended to distract us from the sacking of Roger Corbett, but we will allow goodwill to dominate tonight.
My mathematical skills were questioned when I pointed out that a 50 per cent increase in the budget from $12 million to $19 million did not equate to each patient getting a 50 per cent increase, because they would receive only a 30 per cent boost in accommodation subsidies and a 25 per cent boost in travel. While the 19¢ per kilometre rebate is useful, the Australian Taxation Office assesses the cost of travel by private car as being between 58¢ and 70¢ per kilometre, and similarly $43 a night for single and $60 a night for double accommodation is not in line with the true costs.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr John Barilaro):
Order! I ask the member for Dubbo to refrain from interjecting.
Dr ANDREW McDONALD:
That is one of the reasons the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association, in responding to this initiative, stated:
When the NSW Government increases the benefit, it would be very churlish of the CPSA to say that it is not enough and that it doesn't resolve the problem.
But, in reality, it does not because the increase does not reflect the true costs involved. Survival rates in the country for cancer patients, for example, are already significantly lower than in the city. Although the Government is congratulating itself by raising this matter, nobody should be under the illusion that the scheme meets the true costs of treatment. The Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association went on to say:
… it is a shame that the changes to IPTAAS do not include the introduction of an indexation mechanism …
CPSA would like to see percentage-based systems of 75 per cent … under IPTAAS, so that as prices go up and down so do the allowances.
That is the view of the association. However, as I said before, these changes are still welcome. As yet, the form is not available. Last year I asked the Minister what changes would be allowed, and I will document them now. There is an online claiming system, a simpler form and the ability for patients to monitor their progress online—if they have internet access. I asked about a simplified form to cover multiple visits, and the log book system is good. However, at present the treating person has to be a doctor or a nurse unit manager. This category could easily be enlarged to cover hospital administrators or delegated staff. That would make it easier for patients because they would not have to verify their identity with a doctor or a nurse. That change could have been introduced with a new form, and it is something that the Government should consider.
The health transport budget is only $27.5 million. Even though it is an increase, it has come at the cost of other services. The Government has opened only 125 beds since the March 2011 election. Of those, only 25 were paid for by the New South Wales Government; the rest are Federal beds. So the State Government is robbing Peter to pay Paul. Despite that, the $7 million per annum increase to the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme is welcome. It is good policy. It could be expanded easily because patients in rural areas still do not do as well in health terms, and cost is a major barrier to equality.
Mr JOHN WILLIAMS
(Murray-Darling) [7.09 p.m.]: It gives me great pleasure to join my colleague the member for Dubbo to support his matter of public importance. As a local member representing probably some of the most remote areas in New South Wales, the Isolated Patient Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme [IPTAAS] certainly has presented a challenge regarding lack of subsidy and people accessing it under the previous Government. The 2008 Senate committee report enunciated clearly how the program's shortfall was administered in New South Wales. The Senate committee made major recommendations to the States to review and come up with a consistent program. I passed on those recommendations to the then Minister for Health but nothing came of it. I guess through the arrangement of the Council of Australian Governments most State health Ministers did not consider the issue a priority and none of the recommendations were carried out.
The member for Macquarie Fields highlighted that people in the more remote areas choose to not have specialist services and not undergo chemotherapy because of the financial impost, which is usually placed on the patient's spouse. That is an unfortunate situation. Today we have an enhanced isolated patient travel assistance program on which more money will be expended. Users of the program will never be reimbursed fully for the cost, but this allocation is a vast improvement. Past funding to the program by the previous State Government at its lowest point was only $6.2 million in a year. Most people would find that outrageous when one thinks of the number of people who would make claims for reimbursement. For whatever reason, claims were denied or the reimbursement amount was reduced by an administrative cost applied to every trip the person took to undergo chemotherapy. It reached the point that a return trip from Finley to Albury reimbursed the person making the claim $18 after the administrative fee was subtracted. The program operated under an offer that no-one could access.
Mr TROY GRANT
(Dubbo—Parliamentary Secretary) [7.13 p.m.] in reply: I am happy to address some comments from the Opposition spokesperson on Health. He said that he had trouble accessing the form on the website. My colleague the member for Menai was able to access the form on her iPhone. We are happy to help him with that at any time. I thank the shadow spokesperson for his contribution and his recognition of this welcomed increase. Obviously, if government could provide more for the community, we would, and we often have from both sides of the House. This Government's commitment is to spend within its means, not beyond, which was the policy adopted by those opposite.
The provision of $28 million is a good start. I thank the member for Murray-Darling for his contribution to this important subject matter. I am sure he has seen its operation more than most because of the incredible distances his constituents must travel to access health care. All too often we become very city-centric. For me to drive to Broken Hill from Dubbo, which already is five hours away from Sydney, involves a further eight-hour drive. That is a considerable distance to travel for health care. We have inherited what we have and I am not going to harp on about that. I acknowledge the former Premier and member for Toongabbie in the House. I worked with him for a time and I know his heart was in the right place, but I do not know that those around him shared his vision or supported him to achieve many of the things he wanted.
That is not the case on this side of the House. We have a united Liberal-Nationals Government that occupies three-quarters of this Chamber. We will make the necessary contributions for regional New South Wales and other issues confronting us, despite the perilous economic situation we inherited, to right many of the wrongs that occurred over the past 16 years. It is all well and good for the Opposition spokesperson on Health to welcome this increase and to preach to us about how far the funding has not reached or what it has not achieved, but what did he do about the matter? What support did he give former Premier Rees? Why did he not let him know or insist that appropriate increases were required? However small the member may say the increases are under our watch, why was he not in former Premier Rees' ear advocating for regional New South Wales? It is gross hypocrisy to dictate to us that what we have done is not enough when those opposite did nothing for 11 years. I commend the Minister for Health for what she has done for regional New South Wales and for this program.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENTS
KINGS LANGLEY UPZONING PROPOSAL
Mr NATHAN REES
(Toongabbie) [7.18 p.m.]: On Sunday afternoon I met with some 25 constituents and residents of Kings Langley, which is on the western fringe of my electorate. They are deeply concerned about a proposal to spot rezone an area in the Blacktown City Council local government area. These residents have worked hard all their lives and raised their families in the area. The developer who owns the particular block of land on the corner of Vardys Road and Sunnyholt Road seeks an upzoning under a practice that happened frequently years ago. However, because of the potential for nefarious activity and, frankly, corruption, spot rezonings largely became a thing of the past. From memory this property is currently zoned 2A, which allows for the construction of double-storey homes and townhouses. The developer's proposal is to have the property upzoned so that high-rise buildings can be built at this location. The property is close to a number of waterways, some of which were flooded in recent rains. No doubt there will be more rain and more testimony from locals as to the unsuitability of the site for large-scale development.
However, the process from here is that the proposal for that redevelopment, that spot rezoning, goes to Blacktown council, which may or may not reject it on the advice of its planners. In the event it is rejected, under the review of the draft local environment plan, which is due to commence this year, the proponents may seek an upzoning of that particular area in the public consultation phase of the review. The concerns around the proposal are many, but it is an unsuitable site because of its proximity to flood-affected areas. The area does not comply with existing development requirements regarding proximity to railway stations et cetera. The proposed development would create enormous traffic hazards and whilst the frequency of the existing bus route has been augmented, it remains the sole route on which the initial grounds for much higher density were rejected when the current local environment plan was confirmed by council more than a decade ago.
I supported these residents in their opposition to this proposal because western Sydney has taken its fair share of increases in density and population. We know that there are parts of Sydney—Ku-ring-gai comes to mind—where councils have not allowed an increase in density but instead have expected western and south-western Sydney suburbs to bear the brunt of population growth. The first reference I can recall to population in Australia when I was a child is that it stood at around 11 million, but it has now doubled. We accept that people need to go somewhere and that in a city like Sydney—the financial capital of Australia and the de facto capital of Australia outside Canberra—we accept that there is going to be population growth. But population growth must come with commensurate increases in public infrastructure—hospitals, schools, transport nodes and so on.
The need for infrastructure is a concern for local people and I back them in their opposition to this high density proposal. I urge council to reject the spot rezoning and if the proponent proceeds to pursue this in the drafting of the new local environment plan [LEP] I urge council to reject it at that stage. I know local councillors, Leo Kelly and Julie Griffiths, will be receptive to local residents in their concerns. I place on record my opposition to this proposal and my preparedness to stand shoulder to shoulder with residents to fight against what I believe is an unfair imposition of a higher density in an area that has already done its bit.
MURRAY-DARLING BASIN PLAN
Mr JOHN WILLIAMS
(Murray-Darling) [7.23 p.m.]: First I will highlight a meeting that was held in Finley some weeks ago with the Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Small Business, which was ably chaired by my colleague the member for Dubbo and Parliamentary Secretary. The Hon. Rick Colless also attended the meeting. In my time in politics attending public forums, this public forum was one of the most constructive events I have attended. The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is going through a consultative stage following the launch of the draft basin plan. This period provides an opportunity to reflect on what the plan is proposing for people in the Murray-Darling and to look at primarily the sustainable diversion limits. There is no doubt that we see today a Murray-Darling Basin Plan that is not about the Darling River and has very little to do with the Queensland and the Northern Rivers of New South Wales. This is a plan about watering South Australia. It is unfortunate that politics rules and common sense is disregarded.
The plan concentrates on retrieving flows from the Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers primarily to supplement the flows into the Murray mouth in South Australia. The first draft plan was rejected outright by the irrigating communities across the State, particularly in the regions of the Murrumbidgee and the Murray. These communities can now see that the sustainable diversion limits are no different from those contained in the first draft plan and, consequently, the impact is just as great. We now have the opportunity to identify the impost this places on those communities. The modelling referred to in the plan—Canberra desktop modelling—talks about what is required in terms of flow, but as we have seen, modelling, and particularly computer modelling, is subject to flaws.
There is no doubt that the volumes that are predicted to be sent down the Murray will be somewhat constrained and restricted. The Barmah Choke is one of the major restrictors and people who have lived on the Murray all their lives know that only a limited volume can be put through that choke—most set it at 7,000 megalitres a day. The plan is demanding much more than that and we will see the effects of trying to push those sorts of volumes into a restricted flow. The subsequent flooding events and the impact that will have on communities back behind the choke will once again be evidence of sheer and utter planning stupidity.
The Murrumbidgee is a regulated river and I saw evidence just last year of what happens when you put high volume flows down the river. I went to a couple of properties that were affected by some high volumes pushed through the Hay weir pool. The subsequent event saw the removal, in some areas, of at least 10 metres of riverbank, with trees being uprooted out of the bank and falling into the river. That is not what I think the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is trying to achieve. The Wentworth Group is telling us that it wants to see over-bank flooding, which is absolutely impossible in a regulated river: the destruction is way beyond what anyone could believe. I appeal to those people affected by this plan to put their thoughts into a submission to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. Even one small point mentioned could change the minds of the members of the authority on what they are proposing.
Mr TROY GRANT
(Dubbo—Parliamentary Secretary) [7.26 p.m.]: As Parliamentary Secretary I thank the member for Murray-Darling for bringing this important update on the draft Murray-Darling Basin Plan to the attention of the House. Having participated in the consultation process on a timeframe set by the Commonwealth, I join with him in commending the communities that have made a significant contribution to what ultimately will be the New South Wales submission to the Commonwealth. This plan could have devastating effects across all basin communities. It is one that needs to be considered sensibly and clearly in the submission made by the New South Wales Government, a submission from the minds and hearts of those who live in the basin community. It is built on common sense. It is not built with an attitude of denying that the plan should occur. Everybody is working towards a plan, because the community needs that certainty. But the communities of the New South Wales basin will not tolerate nonsense or the disregarding of information and facts. On behalf of the New South Wales Government I urge the authority to take heed of the New South Wales submission.
TRIBUTE TO JOHN ERIC ALLEN
Mr RAY WILLIAMS
(Hawkesbury—Parliamentary Secretary) [7.27 p.m.]: I inform the House of the passing of John Eric Allen, a larger-than-life character who grew up in Castle Hill but who lived a large part of his life in Dural in the electorate of Hawkesbury. He passed away last week and was laid to rest at Castlebrook Memorial Park Cemetery in Rouse Hill last Friday. John Eric Allen, or Johnny or Jack Allen as he was known to many, was a relation of mine. He and my grandmother were cousins, their fathers Silas and Ambrose being brothers. John grew up in Castle Hill, not too far from the land grant that was granted in 1814 to our first ancestor in this country, Robert Allen, after his arriving in Australia as an Irish political prisoner on the Marquis Cornwallis
John grew up as a boy in Castle Hill, leaving school at 13, as most young men did at that time because the High School at Parramatta was too far away. Johnny got his first job as an offsider on a truck and in a couple of years he had his own licence and his own truck. That started an association with heavy vehicles that was to last him throughout the remainder of his life. However, not long after that time, with the onset of World War II, Johnny was conscripted into the army. He was sent overseas and captured soon after. Before his passing, Johnny was the last remaining prisoner of war in this country who had served in World War II who had been captured by the Japanese. He spent four years on the infamous Burma Railway. He was a large man, as many of the Allen family were, but he came back home weighing a mere eight stone.
Johnny faced much adversity in his life, but after arriving back home he pursued his great love of heavy vehicles and trucks and proceeded to build up a company that was to become an icon in the Dural area, known as John E Allen Spares. John E Allen Spares sold trucks and provided mechanical expertise for trucks. The company built truck bodies, pantechs, for many years and in the mid 1970s, that company, which was based in Dural—very much a small rural community—employed no fewer than 130 local people. To give members an idea of how significant that was, at the same time the local Glenorie bus company employed 10 to 15 people. John E. Allen Spares employed many apprentices who went on to become tradespeople and start businesses of their own. Not long after establishing his business John had a tragic accident—a truck body fell on him and crushed his legs. After surviving as a prisoner of war, re-establishing his business and employing so many people, he suffered an accident where a truck chassis crushed his legs. He walked with the aid of two walking sticks for the rest of his life, but that did not stop him from establishing this iconic business.
As part of his business, he constructed a trailer to transport a satellite for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. No other person in the country had the expertise to build this particular trailer. He did it successfully. He was successful with many aspects of his life. He was a larger-than-life character and a great bloke. We got on very well. It was always a great pleasure to talk to John because he had such an amazing attitude to life. I would call him and say, "Jack, how are you going?" He would say, "Mate, I am getting three meals a day and I have a roof over my head. It does not get any better than this." That was John E. Allen to a T. He was happy with his lot. The last surviving prisoner of war left this earth last Friday. He was buried at Castlewood Cemetery. Australia has lost an icon. Vale John E. Allen.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr John Barilaro):
I acknowledge and welcome in the gallery the Hon. Tim Fischer, who is accompanied by Lord Richard Faulkner and Mr Andrew Scott from the United Kingdom. Welcome to the New South Wales Parliament.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENTS
EMERGENCY SERVICES AND ELIACHIM MUTEBA
Mr RYAN PARK
(Keira) [7.33 p.m.]: A tragic incident took place on 23 January 2012 in my electorate. A little boy, Eliachim Muteba, eight years old from Towradgi, originally from the Congo, tragically drowned off one of our beautiful beaches. I was on the beach that evening and received a message from a friend that a search was underway on the beach near my house, with hundreds of people looking out to what was extremely rough and turbulent surf that evening. Unfortunately, Eli, as he was affectionately known, went 15 or 20 metres into the surf but was taken immediately, quickly and devastatingly by an undercurrent that can occur on beaches in the Illawarra. It was an absolute tragedy.
In the days following I visited the emergency services operation command to get an update on how the search was proceeding. I put on the record my thanks for the work of the emergency services personnel, including the State Emergency Service; local life guards, both volunteer and council employees; the Ambulance Service of New South Wales; the Westpac rescue helicopter; marine search and rescue; and the Police Force. The coordinated rescue efforts for Eli showed Australia and New South Wales at its very best. There could not be anything more difficult than to be on a beach as the sun is setting and knowing that your son, your child, is out in very dangerous and treacherous surf. Eli's mother, Therese Milolo, was distraught. The support she has received from a wide cross-section of the community has been staggering. It says so much about our country and how its people care for others. Eli's family may not have been locals in the traditional sense, yet the community rallied behind them.
I pay particular tribute to the Strategic Community Assistance to Refugee Families Inc., led by Ted Booth and Sharyn Mackenzie. The Strategic Community Assistance to Refugee Families Inc. has been in operation for a long time supporting refugees and new arrivals to our community. They do a job that receives little attention, but they make an enormous difference to the community. Unfortunately, their work on this occasion was to assist not new arrivals but a family during difficult times—a mother had lost her son. This event is tragic in any scenario but to lose a family member after fleeing a war-torn country and settling in a new country is horrific. I want to place on record in this House the work done by Strategic Community Assistance to Refugee Families Inc. I also pay tribute to the Wollongong Church of Christ. Regardless of one's religious beliefs, one would acknowledge that the role of the church on this occasion and the support provided by its members were nothing short of staggering. They have provided and continue to provide an enormous amount of support to this family.
I also thank the Rotary clubs and service clubs who were involved and pay tribute to the broader community, particularly those in the emergency services. Every day on our television screens we see the work performed by emergency services personnel, but to witness firsthand emergency services personnel putting their lives at risk to search for someone they have never known or met was inspiring. The emergency services personnel knew that there was a family in need. Eli's body was found a couple of days later on a neighbouring beach. This was a tragic event. I again pay tribute to the volunteers and thank each and every one of the local community members who continue to support this very special family.
GALSTON AND COWAN SEWERAGE SERVICES
Mr MATT KEAN
(Hornsby) [7.37 p.m.]: I am delighted to speak in the House today to represent my community. The Hornsby electorate provided me with my first job, my education and a wonderful place to grow up. Hornsby is characterised by its unique and beautiful natural environment. Our council is known as the bushland shire. Hornsby encompasses wonderful bushland areas and pristine waterways and our amazing community is made up of wonderful people. However, all is not as it should be in my community. Over the past 16 years Hornsby has needed infrastructure in the form of hospitals and roads. But there is one issue that symbolises the former Labor Government's failure to provide for the community of Hornsby: the two communities of Galston and Cowan are without basic sewerage services. These two communities are located in metropolitan Sydney, 40 minutes outside the central business district of Sydney, yet they do not have basic sewerage services.
The lack of basic sewerage services impacts tremendously on the cost of living for residents. I recently visited one of my constituents, Kylie Dawson, who lives at Galston and has two young children. Kylie is a stay-at-home mum. The Dawson family pays $50 a week for a pump-out sewage service. It is an onerous cost that the previous Government was willing to ignore. The lack of sewerage services impacts on a family's way of life as well as its budget and also impacts on the environment. To avoid paying pump-out costs, some residents have connected pipes to their sewerage system and emptied the sewage into the bush, polluting our natural environment.
One of the election commitments I made was to deliver basic sewerage services to the Galston and Cowan communities. I am delighted to advise the House that recently Premier O'Farrell and my great friend and mentor, the Minister for Finance and Services, the Hon. Greg Pearce, announced that this would be addressed. The Government has listened and the Sydney Water operating licence has been changed to ensure that this will be included in its priority sewerage program. The delivery of sewerage to those communities will now be fast tracked up to two or three years ahead of schedule.
The Cowan community can look forward to basic sewerage services being delivered by 30 June 2014 and the Galston community can look forward to basic sewerage services being delivered by 30 June 2015. Benefits to the residents will include a reduction of ongoing maintenance and pump-out costs, elimination of damage and seepage from on-site systems into backyards, the protection of environmentally sensitive creeks and rivers, a reduction in public health risks, and the elimination of odours from septic systems and pump-out trucks. It is a huge win for those communities.
This is only one example of how people at the grassroots level are benefiting from a change in government. The O'Farrell Government is listening to the needs of the people of New South Wales and responding to them. I am delighted to have made this announcement today, which will make a tangible difference. On behalf of the Galston and Cowan communities, I thank Premier O'Farrell and Minister Pearce for taking an interest in delivering basic services to the people of New South Wales.
Ms MELANIE GIBBONS
(Menai) [7.41 p.m.]: As members of Parliament we get to witness some amazing things in our own backyards and we get to meet inspiring local community members. To date my most memorable experiences have been talking with passionate community advocates and humble residents who are very vocal about their community. These people are vital to our electorate as they champion local causes and embrace community. Today I will share with members a few stories from my electorate about some outstanding locals who I consider to be community heroes.
Cooper's Paddock, a cause close to the hearts of a concerned group of residents, is situated on the border of the electorate of Menai. The former racing stables and paddocks were recently rezoned for industrial development. Cherie and Brian Saxby of Chipping Norton were quick to contact me about the proposal and to share their love of the Cooper's Paddock property—in fact, each time I see them they tell me about how much they love this special area. It did not take long before the Saxbys put together a website, a petition and a magnificent colour booklet featuring some of the native birdlife, flora and fauna that live at Cooper's Paddock. They assembled a group of like-minded residents to help spread the message about the rezoning proposal and put their all into attempting to save Cooper's Paddock.
Thanks to their passion and hard work more than 100 people contacted me via letters, petitions and telephone calls to express concern about this proposal. This is no small feat. I was more than happy to represent their concerns because of their passionate pleas to save this land not only for its environmental beauty but also its historical value. Along with a number of others, I made a submission to the Liverpool City Council requesting further consideration of the potential impacts of this proposal. With the help of Mrs Saxby's exhaustive research on Cooper's Paddock, I argued in favour of a smaller rezoning area that would allow for recreational and environmentally protected zones. I wanted to ensure that the valuable species that live in the area were protected. The proponents have reduced the extent of the industrial area and I hope consideration will be given to the location of those valuable species when the site is developed.
Despite the impressive campaign to stop the development going ahead, Liverpool City Council approved the rezoning in December 2011. While this was a blow to the Saxbys and the other residents who argued against the proposal, it is important to acknowledge the efforts of community advocates such as Mrs Saxby. Without her unfaltering commitment to stop the rezoning a number of concessions would not have been made. The original plan included a much bigger rezoning footprint and did not take into account local flora and fauna. The community would not have been aware of the significance of this site or its history. Although I often drive by this site, which is located close to my electorate office in Hammondville, I have learnt a lot about it that I would not otherwise have known. It takes a special individual to challenge decisions like these. The community is better off for the challenge.
I can think of plenty of examples of individuals who have spoken out against something in the community. However, sometimes we are tipped off about the achievements of someone who goes above and beyond who otherwise might go unnoticed. Last year a special thank you morning tea was held for local bus driver Stuart Molloy of Wattle Grove. He came to the attention of the Minister for Transport, Ms Gladys Berejiklian, via a letter from Mrs Margaret Butz of Sutherland, a grateful passenger. Mrs Butz relies on public transport to get around and she was particularly impressed by Mr Molloy's service. To Mr Molloy he was only doing his job but his courtesy struck a chord with her.
Instead of letting her gratitude go unheard she wrote to the Minister in praise of the driver as an example of the values of public transport—the Minister agreed. I enjoyed the opportunity to bring the Minister, Mr and Mrs Butz, and Mr and Mrs Molloy together at that morning tea. Mr Molloy was clearly humbled by the kind words spoken—he never expected to receive such acknowledgement for doing his job—and Mrs Butz was able to thank her favourite driver face to face. People such as Mrs Butz play an important role in the community. Members of Parliament spend a lot of time assisting people with various issues and crises. It is nice to hear of positive achievements within our electorates and acknowledgement of those making a difference.
I also mention Tony Melville and our local scouts. I advise that 22 February marks the 155th anniversary of the birth of Lord Baden Powell, the founder of the scout movement and a swimming carnival, supported by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, was held to celebrate the occasion. The scout movement is very active in my electorate; its leaders put in a great deal of the time and effort. Mr and Mrs Saxby, Stuart Molloy and our scout movement are but some examples of the Menai electorate's community heroes. I am honoured to have such inspiring members in my community. I look forward to sharing more of these stories with members in the future.
Private members' statements concluded.
The House adjourned, pursuant to standing and sessional orders, at 7.46 p.m. until
Wednesday 22 February 2012 at 10.00 a.m.