WALSH BAY DEVELOPMENT (SPECIAL PROVISIONS) BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
The Hon. D. T. HARWIN
[5.08 p.m.] (Inaugural speech): The Walsh Bay Development (Special Provisions) Bill has the support of the Opposition. In my experience of politics thus far I have usually found that issues are rarely black and white, but more usually shades of grey. This bill is no exception. We are in this difficult situation today because governments do not take their heritage responsibilities seriously enough. Many of our State-owned properties are among those with the highest conservation values. There can be no doubt that in the years since permanent conservation orders were placed on the wharves at Walsh Bay successive governments of both political persuasions
have allowed the wharves at Walsh Bay to fall into disrepair. A notable exception was the efforts of the Greiner Government to preserve wharves four and five for the use of the Sydney Theatre Company.
A further aspect of our State’s regulation of heritage matters also concerns me. One of the Greiner Government’s major contributions to public policy-making was a determination to try to establish proper arm’s-length relations between the regulatory and management functions of government agencies. The classic example that Tim Moore had to grapple with was the Water Board, which for far too long was responsible for setting its own performance indicators on trade and domestic waste. Part of the rationale for establishing the Environment Protection Authority was to end this awkward mismatch of gamekeeper and poacher in the one agency. I think this experience is instructive in considering this bill.
Although I do not wish to reflect upon individual members of the Heritage Council, I am concerned that such a significant proportion of the Heritage Council comprises public servants. Inevitably, they are placed in a difficult position when considering significant heritage properties in the ownership of the State Government. Arguably, it is a conflict of interest. I endorse the sentiments expressed earlier by the Hon. J. P. Hannaford. I believe that the current proposal for Walsh Bay is adequate, if not perfect. I am not confident that a better solution will emerge if this legislation is not supported.
The bill also gives us the opportunity to ask some important questions about the protection of heritage in this State. Are we doing our best to ensure the protection of our State-owned built heritage? Does the Heritage Council have the resources it needs to do its job, including the capacity to analyse critically the claims of government in relation to projects in which it has an interest? Have we allowed the manager to have too much say in the preserve of the regulator? What about the resources governments give to their agencies for heritage purposes? How can we do better in a time of scarce resources and competing claims? I hope the House will take the opportunity to reflect on some of these issues as we wind up this debate.
On this first occasion I address the House I would like to make some other remarks. Whether we represent major, minor, or, in some cases, micro parties we come here having run as candidates for our parties. I believe parties have played and continue to play a constructive role in the performance of our State and nation. Political parties make democracy work. I agree with the Premier’s observation, made a fortnight ago, that organised political parties provide a focus and a defined alternative in democratic politics. Unfortunately, political parties have had a bad press for many years. A section of the community believes that by electing Independent members to the other place they are getting better value for their vote. Some hope that the influence of the major parties will continue to recede.
The New South Wales Parliament is one of the few to have operated for a substantial period without political parties. This was the experience of the colonial parliaments following the granting of responsible government in 1856. The experience of those parliaments is instructive. Loveday and Martin’s excellent book Parliament, Factions and Parties
shows how a House, full of Independents soon became organised, then factionalised, and finally institutionalised in the form of parties. I believe our major parties should and will endure and I believe this is good for government.
I am proud to sit in this House as a representative of the Liberal Party of Australia in coalition with the National Party. I am proud of the record of achievement of our parties during the two periods in which we have formed government in this State in the past 50 years. We put in place most of the key mechanisms for keeping government accountable. The Askin Government put in place legislation for the Ombudsman, the Privacy Committee, the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, and the Law Reform Commission. The Greiner Government established the Independent Commission Against Corruption, and legislated for freedom of information and the protection of whistleblowers. The Fahey Government established commissioners to oversee health complaints, legal services and community services.
The Askin Government was the first Australian Government to enact consumer protection legislation. It established the bureau and then the ministry that is now the Department of Fair Trading. It also established the Consumer Claims Tribunal to give individuals the opportunity to seek redress from unfair traders without having to access the more expensive court system. Coalition governments, through their support of the arts, have played an important role in making New South Wales a more vibrant place in which to live. The Askin Government established the first cultural grants program in the State in 1966, and in 1971 appointed George Freudenstein the first Minister responsible for the arts.
Under Peter Collins, Australia’s longest-serving Arts Minister, the Greiner and Fahey governments planned, funded and opened the Museum of Sydney, the Justice and Police Museum, Susannah Place at The Rocks, the Gunnery, the Writers Walk, the Wharf Theatre, the Sydney College of the Arts at the Rozelle Hospital precinct, and a network of writers centres across the State. We made a major contribution alongside the University of Sydney to the establishment of the Museum of Contemporary Art and increased funding to the State Library by 33 per cent during the course of our period in office. Most of the institutional framework for the protection of the environment in this State has been put in place by Coalition governments.
The Askin Government enacted the State’s first clean waters and clean air legislation, and established the State Pollution Control Commission and the Metropolitan Waste Disposal Authority to try to find solutions for the problems of environmental degradation. The Greiner Government significantly enhanced this effort by establishing the Environment Protection Authority. In conservation and wildlife protection we have much to be proud of. The establishment of the National Parks And Wildlife Service as a separate conservation-oriented organisation was an Askin Government initiative under Minister Lewis. He also sponsored legislation for the establishment of the Zoological Parks Board, refocusing the mission of our zoos from entertainment to conservation.
I believe our two periods in office have really energised this State and helped make New South Wales a better place in which to live. When we have been a progressive and dynamic force for change in the politics of this State we have received the support of the people at the ballot box. When we have been stodgy, conservative and reactionary we have failed. I do not want the Liberal Party to become the natural party of opposition in this State to which the people turn only when they are tired of Labor’s complacency and arrogance. Our challenge in the next four years is to project a vision for the future, and policies designed to achieve it. They must be driven by values.
I come to this Chamber with a set of liberal values. In a party that encompasses liberals and conservatives in an appropriately broad church, I am unashamedly a liberal. The core of liberalism is the dignity of the individual achieved through freedom, including the right to speak freely, assemble, vote, practise religion, own private property and, generally, live one’s life with maximum freedom as long as no harm is done to another individual.
Further, I believe in empowering individuals through strategies designed to promote equality of opportunity. Encouraging individuals to achieve their potential makes them more productive citizens who contribute to a more prosperous society. I am strongly committed to a liberal concept of social justice that goes beyond the classical liberal belief that only economic freedom can produce just outcomes. After all, freedom of the individual is meaningless if that individual does not have the basic human dignity of food, clothing and shelter, or any of life’s basic opportunities. At the same time, there can be no social justice without a strong economy based on vigorous free enterprise. I am confident that a platform based on these values can underline our victory in four years time.
It is just over 155 years since the people of New South Wales went to the polls to elect the Legislative Council for the first time. Of course, as this House is the mother of all Australian parliaments, that election was also the first election on the Australian continent. On that occasion, despite the Sydney Morning Herald’s
injunction for the maintenance of good order, a mob of 400 to 500 men took to the streets of Sydney when it appeared that their favoured candidate was losing. The constabulary read the Riot Act; vandalism, theft and brawling ensued. At Brickfield Hill one man was severely injured. He was taken to hospital and later died. After dusk the 80th Regiment had to restore order. An official inquiry followed into these attempts to intimidate voters. Being confronted with a tablecloth sized ballot paper 155 years later was about as intimidating as it got for New South Wales voters.
In due course I imagine that the House will have an opportunity to debate reform of matters relating to the election of members, including the registration of political parties. Before that occurs I hope the House will reflect upon the way our electoral laws have been shaped in this State. I believe it compares unfavourably with the way our electoral laws are made in the Federal arena. I believe that credit should generally be given where it is due and, therefore, I want to praise the Hawke Government for the package of reforms passed in the Commonwealth Electoral Act in 1984.
In general, I think the overall result has been to reduce the capacity of governments to use the electoral process for self-interested political purposes. The overall context of Federal electoral arrangements since then has been far more bipartisan as a result. The Commonwealth Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has played a valuable role in monitoring both the management
of the Australian Electoral Commission and its conduct of electoral processes. By contrast, we in New South Wales still leave far too much scope for governments to make mischief.
Two examples stand out in the last four years. First, in the last term, the Parliament effectively legislated to maximise voter confusion by allowing ticks and crosses to be used when voting, even though this is not permitted when voting at Federal elections. This was bad public policy and electoral practice. Second, there was the decrease in the number of seats in another place simply because my friend and foe Mr Shane Easson advised the Government that 93 seats would produce the margin that would lead to the most advantageous configuration of seats for the Labor Party in the resulting redistribution of electoral boundaries. I will not regale the House with details of the legislative price paid to secure that legislation through this House.
The point is that the electoral framework in this State should not be a bargaining chip to secure support for honourable members’ pet projects. Nor should it be the exclusive preserve of the political party that sits on the Treasury benches. Abuse of that type brings democracy into disrepute. We need a joint standing committee on electoral matters in this Parliament so that all parties can scrutinise electoral processes. The State Electoral Office must be accountable to that committee on an ongoing basis. The Joint Standing Committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption is a good model and, like the Independent Commission Against Corruption Commissioner, the appointment of an electoral commissioner should be subject to the approval of that committee. We need more than a select committee with a limited agenda; we need ongoing scrutiny.
The 1999 election for this House has done more than focus attention on electoral processes. The future of this Chamber again has been called into question. Of course, this has been a fairly regular occurrence for many decades. Australian State upper Houses were colonial variants of the nineteenth century House of Lords but, unlike the House of Lords, their powers have remained largely intact. Conceived originally as conservative second Chambers with a prerogative to retard progressive legislation, their function and purpose have since evolved, particularly as they are now popularly elected. The particular constitutional arrangements that shape the composition of this House present its members with a role that can promote the formulation of sounder public policy and better government. Without numerical control, governments must have some regard for this Chamber; how much regard is determined by what its members insist upon.
Parliamentary supremacy over Executive Government has been steadily eroded over a long period. Parliament has not played its role as watchdog as tenaciously as it should have. There has been an unprecedented attack on public accountability by this Government. It is a sad state of affairs that the Auditor-General has compared public accountability in this State to that which facilitated WA Inc.
It is a sad state of affairs when a government funds three years of litigation in the High Court to withhold from taxpayers access to information via their parliamentary representatives. It is a sad state of affairs when, having lost that litigation, it tries again in the court of appeal. It is a sad state of affairs when, under this Government, of the total number of applications lodged with agencies under the Freedom of Information Act for non-personal information, less than 50 per cent were successful because of a culture of secrecy that is being imposed. Only last week it was sad to see this Government in operation again strangling public accountability when the Opposition, supported by virtually every community delegate, tried to get some transparency in the Government’s future accounting of its budgetary response to the recommendations from the Drug Summit.
This Chamber should not frustrate the reforms of a government that sought and received a clear mandate on certain policies. However, this is a House that better reflects the complexion of the electorate than any other Australian parliamentary Chamber. That mandate gives members of this Council a mandate to be fearless when it comes to insisting on standards and public accountability from government. And the forms and procedures of this House must always function to facilitate keeping governments honest. In particular, it also requires the crossbench to understand and fulfil its role to ensure that happens. I do not criticise candidates who come to this place with only a limited agenda, as long as they will not compromise on standards and public accountability - and, thereby, the public interest - in the pursuit of the policy agenda of their parties. The role of this House as a watchdog should always be non negotiable.
Finally, each of us comes into Parliament as a result of the efforts of many others, and on this occasion I wish to acknowledge those people. There is, of course, an obvious starting point. Menzies once said that the "real life of the nation" was to be
found in "the homes of people who are nameless and unadvertised and who, whatever their individual religious conviction or dogma, see in their children their greatest contribution to the immortality of their race". Well, I propose to name and advertise my parents - Evelyn and Don Harwin - who have always put their children first. They provided me and my sisters, Sharyn Gaspari and Janine Cummings, with love, security, values and much, much more. I can never thank them enough. I am also lucky to have a large extended family encompassing Newmans, Wakefords, Lawrances, Brookers, Holes and other Harwins, among uncles, aunts and 18 cousins who have all contributed to my outlook on life.
Sixteen years ago, I joined the Liberal Party in Lugarno and the Young Liberals in Earlwood. At the very first meeting of the Young Liberals that I attended as a member in March 1984 at Bexley RSL, I met visiting Young Liberal State President Michael Photios and fellow Earlwood branch member Marise Payne. In that campaign we were working for the election of the Hon. John Ryan. I value the continuing friendships of all three. Along with Prime Minister Howard, the Hon. Max Willis, the Hon. John Ryan and Senator Payne, I am the fifth former member of the Earlwood Young Liberals to be elected to parliamentary office. At the University of Sydney I was actively involved in student politics and in the Sydney University Liberal Club. One of my first student election campaigns involved helping Belinda Neal get preferences from the Liberals and other groups to defeat the official Labor Club candidate, Anthony Albanese - which may be of passing interest to the Hon. John Della Bosca and the Hon. Carmel Tebbutt. As a life member of the Young Liberal movement I am incredibly proud of the role that that movement has played in the past 15 years. I acknowledge in the gallery the presence of the president, Tony Chappel.
I found the comments by former Prime Minister Keating at last week’s Young Labor anniversary dinner to be understandably partisan, but he was way off the mark when he claimed the Young Liberals were a "social outfit without a social conscience". Young Liberals have repeatedly demonstrated the falsity of that proposition. Apart from challenging many of the Liberal Party’s comfortable policy certainties, the New South Wales Young Liberals have also developed a well-deserved reputation for preparing the next generation of political contributors to the Liberal Party.
I thank the movement for the opportunity that it gave me to serve as its president for two terms. I have been privileged to have had a diverse political apprenticeship under four parliamentary employers: Ron Phillips, Tim Moore, Peter Collins and Michael Photios. I was able to work with Ted Pickering on a number of legislative projects in his role as Leader of the Government in this House during that period. I thank them for the opportunity to contribute to, and learn from, their work. It has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to serve on party committees with Sir Eric Willis and Sir John Carrick. I can only confirm the comments made by the Prime Minister last week at Sir Eric’s State funeral - Sir Eric’s knowledge of electoral boundaries was phenomenal, and he taught me a great deal. His knowledge was perhaps exceeded only by Sir John Carrick’s. They have both had a profound effect on me. I thank Tim Moore and Peter King for the opportunity to contribute in this area.
I want to particularly thank the friends and members of the party who supported my efforts to seek election to this House. I cannot forget to mention the truest of true believers, Kay Jones and Colleen Hodges. I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of Sam Witheridge, John Brogden, Trent Zimmerman, Marise Payne, John Booth, Ron Phillips, Chris McDiven, Andrew Kirk, Gladys Berejiklian, Scott Briggs, Andrew Constance, David Mair, Jay House, Georgina Inwood and Jason Falinski.
To my regional presidential colleagues, including the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti, Brett Thomas, David Begg and Steven Pringle, thank you for your efforts. To all of my friends in the eastern metropolitan region of the Liberal Party who have supported me over the last five years, a special thank you. In particular, to Greg Hansen, who travelled through all of the journey, working with me, and who would have made a wonderful contribution to this House in happier circumstances, it is hard to know what else to say other than: Keep the faith. Madam President, I look forward to vigorously representing the Liberal Party in this House, remembering always the higher responsibility that all members have to legislate in the interests of all the people of New South Wales. I congratulate you on your election as President and I thank honourable members for extending courtesies this afternoon.
The Hon. J. HATZISTERGOS
[5.31 p.m.] (Inaugural speech): I also support the Walsh Bay Development (Special Provisions) Bill. I commence my inaugural speech in this place by extending to you, Madam President, my warmest congratulations on your election as our President. It is proper recognition of your distinguished and widely acclaimed service in the last Parliament, particularly as Chair of the Legislative Council Standing
Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics. I have followed your public career with interest. You have been a great advocate for women, trade union rights and the environment. You now make history as Labor’s first female presiding officer in Australia’s oldest Parliament.
I readily join with other members in extending to you my best wishes, co-operation and support in your new role. I also extend my congratulations to your deputy and Chairman of Committees, the Hon. A. B. Kelly. His unanimous election serves to underline the high regard in which he is held by all parts of this House. Under your guidance and that of the Hon. A. B. Kelly the affairs of this House are in good hands.
Recently I came across a book entitled All Too Human
. The author is a Greek American, George Stephanopoulos, a well-known former adviser to United States President Bill Clinton. In the book Stephanopoulos evokes what it meant to be a Greek immigrant in America, using the following terms:
Greeks came to America from dozens of islands and hundreds of villages but here they formed a single clan, united by heritage, language, and a need to achieve. Those of us in the second generation understood that honouring the sacrifices of our parents and grandparents - the labourers, cobblers, waiters and cooks - meant getting a good education, and putting it to good use - as doctors, lawyers, professors and politicians.
Assimilation for Greeks didn’t mean blending in; it required standing out.
The rules were so clear they didn’t need to be said. Make your name, and don’t change it. Make us proud and don’t forget where you come from.
The Greek Australians are no different. Their sentiments and expectations are the same as those of their American cousins. As a new parliamentarian of Greek parentage I endorse the particular emphasis that Stephanopoulos underlines as part of his Greek heritage, the need to put one’s position to good use. It is to that task as a servant of the people in this Parliament that I dedicate my strength and all my effort.
I come to this House as a person who was brought up in the inner city of Sydney in Redfern. My parents migrated to this country from Greece in the late 1950s. They were amongst the many thousands who were attracted here by the promise of a better life and the better opportunities which this country offered. Australia became their permanent home and as a consequence the place where I was born, educated and raised.
Whilst both my parents were unskilled, they did not lack drive, ambition or energy. Like most Greek migrants at the time, they appreciated the value of education to their children in their new land. They saw that it meant the opening of new pathways to a better life. As we lived in Redfern, I was fortunate to attend two illustrious inner-city schools which in earlier times had produced many inner-city Labor leaders - people such as Pat Hills and Sir William McKell - a former Chief Justice, Sir Garfield Barwick, and many famous sportsmen. The schools were Bourke Street Primary School and Cleveland Street Boys High School.
I recall in my earlier years at school sometimes being embarrassed about my origins. There were taunts in the playground because my name was different; I went to Greek scripture lessons; I observed fast days; I celebrated Easter at a different time; I had different play lunch prepared by my mother; and even because after school I attended Greek language lessons while other children went to the park and played. Reconciling cultural differences is not easy for children. It has left me with insight and sympathy for the most recently arrived in our community seeking to make a new home and a new life in a new land. For me, as for them, somehow and sometimes things managed to work themselves out. After all, boys from Redfern do not cry, especially those of Greek parentage; we just push along. Remember, this is the area which produced a generation of the nation’s finest footballers, not to mention a couple of Labor premiers along the way.
Despite all the Redfern doom and gloom stories that we may hear, I put on the record that it was a great place to grow up and a great place to be educated. For sheer determination to succeed and achieve, the migrant community of Redfern in my boyhood was one group that could definitely be banked on. So I take this opportunity to say thank you and acknowledge the contribution my schools, my teachers, my community and my family made to forming my education and development.
After completing school I matriculated to the University of Sydney. The fact that I lived in the inner city during those years meant that, just as I had walked to attend Bourke Street and Cleveland Street schools for many years, so it was that after matriculation I was able to walk each day to Sydney university, where I pursued studies in economics and law.
One of the many privileges that I have been given as a member of this House is an appointment as its representative to the University of Sydney Senate. Through this opportunity I look forward to redeveloping my relationship with that famous institution of learning.
The inner city has one further claim on my life history. This area was more than just a background and upbringing. Redfern was the place which nurtured my early interest in politics. When I joined the Redfern East branch of the Australian Labor Party I was 16 years of age. I recall that for virtually all the time I was a member I was the youngest. Amongst the early acquaintances that I was to have I remember Bill Hartup, Ron Williams, the current mayor of South Sydney, Vic Smith, and Pat Hills, the former Deputy Premier. The branch meetings usually centred on discussions of the municipal report. I listened and reflected. I was encouraged to participate and soon had support for discussions of broader issues.
While an Australian Labor Party [ALP] branch member in Redfern I was redistributed into the Federal division of Kingsford Smith, where Lionel Bowen was the member. In the course of his electoral campaigns he was frequently accompanied to branch meetings by his young campaign director. I recall this director vividly. He was then not a member of Parliament but his speeches at meetings stimulated my growing interest in politics.
Soon I found myself attending McKell schools and Fabian Society meetings. There I found this person to be one of the principal speakers. He had a profound impact on my political consciousness. His speeches and writings contained uncompromising anti-Leninism analyses and crackled with anti-totalitarian fire. These ideas were brilliantly expounded by this speaker, who believed in a Labor government, democratic ideals and a just world order. He scorned dishonest fellow travellers and dupes and so-called trendy causes which have long since been discredited. That young campaign director is now the Premier of this State and I, with his encouragement and with the support of others in the ALP, and the votes of the people in this State, am a member of his Government’s team in the upper House of the Parliament.
I am of course grateful and indeed humbled by the honour that the people of New South Wales and the men and women of my party have bestowed upon me. The Labor Party is not an abstraction but living men and women to whom I owe much. I take this opportunity to particularly record three names: Special Minister of State John Della Bosca, former Senator Belinda Neal and ALP General Secretary Eric Roosendaal. All of us met in the Young Labor council many years ago. They remain active in politics. They remain my closest friends and have contributed immensely to my development.
Anyone from my political background realises his immense debt to one other person, namely John Johnson. Here he is honoured as a father of this House. Johnno was the political father of many of my generation, whom he assisted with generous advice and direction when we were cutting our teeth at an early age in politics. It gives me great personal satisfaction to have the opportunity to serve in this place with people like John Della Bosca and John Johnson, and the opportunity makes my election to this Parliament a special joy.
There are many other people whom I know I should acknowledge, particularly in the Canterbury area where I now live. Amongst these are members of the Belmore branch of the Greek-Australian Labor consultative committee. Locally, however, there are two figures who stand out for individual mention. I refer to the Hon. Kevin Stewart, a former Minister for Local Government, and the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Hon. Leo McLeay. Over the collective tenure of their public and party careers, and in Kevin’s case even in retirement, few people can emulate their contribution to Labor’s cause in the inner-west of Sydney. I take this opportunity to thank them sincerely for their work and support.
It would be remiss of me in my inaugural speech if I did not also make mention of the Hon. James Kaldis, a former member of this House and one of my immediate predecessors. A migrant from Greece who came here in the late 1940s and who worked in the profession of journalism, Jim was the first voice on ethnic radio. His reputation for service over two decades to the people of this State is reinforced by the generous praise that I hear wherever I go and from whomever I speak to in the party, but more particularly within the Greek-Australian community. Although retired and in somewhat poor health, Jim continues to pen a weekly newspaper column, as well as attend major community events. Whilst I cannot hope to emulate his feat of speaking in five languages in an inaugural speech, I wish to pay tribute to his work, thank him for all the encouragement he has given me and wish him all the best in the years ahead. I am pleased to acknowledge his presence here this evening.
When Jim Kaldis entered Parliament I was still at school, and had seen for myself the tangible support that the Whitlam Government channelled towards supporting communities such as those in which I lived, fostering educational opportunities for persons in my position and directly confronting
racial discrimination. In my perception the Whitlam Government put into practice what I regard as the guiding principles of the Labor movement as expressed by Ben Chifley in the famous light on the hill speech. Chifley said that he tried to think of the Labor movement not as putting an extra sixpence in people’s pockets, or making someone Prime Minister or Premier, but as a movement bringing something better to the people, better living standards and greater happiness to the mass of people.
This is the ideal for which I joined the Australian Labor Party. The vision of Ben Chifley has inspired my belief in Labor ever since. That vision is also found in the underlying purposes of the Carr Labor Government and shapes its objectives and strategies. That vision inspired the programs that ensured the party’s success on 27 March 1999. That vision encompasses the broad hopes and aspirations of the people of New South Wales. To put the matter simply, I am proud to represent a party and a government which constantly seeks justice and fairness on behalf of the Aboriginal community, the non-English speaking people, the unemployed looking for work opportunities, the aged and the disabled, the young people taking up education and training opportunities, the farmers and those living in country parts of the State, and those working in factories and coalmines.
For me politics is about people in their relationships and groups, not as constructs of ideology and social engineering. My allegiance is to a Labor politics which seeks to achieve right order in our community as a flourishing society built on justice and co-operation. That is why Labor and Labor leadership are critical. Let me give two examples. Of all the things that we have achieved in the past four years in government, perhaps our finest performance was in jobs and growth. The Carr Labor Government has brought unemployment down from 8.4 per cent in 1995 to 6.7 per cent - the lowest unemployment rate in the country. This Government has seen to it that two-thirds of all jobs growth in Australia has occurred right here in this State.
In another exceptional performance this Labor Government has capitalised on the strength of its available language skills to secure half the nation’s call centres for Sydney. Since 1995, 65 new call centres have opened in New South Wales.
The redevelopment of Walsh Bay, which is the subject of the legislation before this House, is one such move which will ensure that job opportunities continue to flow through to this State in the post-Olympic Games period. It is easy to be puristic about this matter. However, the undeniable facts are that this area has been inaccessible to the public since around 1915. Two wharves, Nos 5 and 6, are riddled with white ant infestation and accordingly require demolition.
The choice is simple: either leave the wharf as it is and let it fall into the harbour or seize this initiative to rejuvenate Walsh Bay into a facility that the public can have access to and enjoy. If the project does not go ahead the State will lose, on average, 350 jobs over the next seven years, and 1,970 jobs on completion, or a loss to the economy of some $70 million. Having high regard, as I do, for the skills of the State’s legal practitioners, the course proposed, which takes the matter out of the realm of legal challenge, is appropriate as it will ensure that the project proceeds.
I mentioned legal practitioners. For all of my working life I have worked in one profession, that of law. For the past decade I have practised as a member of the New South Wales Bar. Working life in the law has given me many challenging and interesting opportunities, with a unique insight into human problems. The motto of the New South Wales Bar Association is "The Servants of all but yet of none". This motto expresses the reality that members of the Bar are available to all, yet ultimately the duty is to the law and justice and to the courts charged with the administration of law and justice. Without this principle of legal practice I do not believe that our system could function, let alone flourish. It allows freedom to vigorously advance the individual’s interests in the impartial well of the courtroom but with an overall ethical responsibility.
More than 15 years of legal practice and 10 years as a barrister have exposed me to a wide range of personal anguish and suffering, frustration and failure. This has involved the neglected and abused child being the subject of care proceedings; the ordinary citizen being crippled by the effects of catastrophic injury; the trauma of family breakdown; the desperate plight of the drug addict; the breakdown of commercial partnerships in sometimes acrimonious circumstances; the sight of relatives fighting over the assets of a deceased’s estate. In these and many similar difficulties it is to the courts and lawyers that the citizen turns to seek redress.
The great human drama I barely sketch must be reflected in our debates here. For us as legislators the task is to formulate laws that govern our community. The task of the courts is to apply those laws in a large number of different circumstances, some of which might not have been even
contemplated at the time the legislation was formulated.
In this the year that we celebrate the Supreme Court’s 175th anniversary there is no less the need for government to ensure that justice is accessible, affordable, prompt and of high quality. We now have an unprecedented number of court filings in just about every court and a wider number of tribunals, all served with unprecedented resources. Waiting times have fallen dramatically, with extra resources and improved efficiencies, as the Attorney General indicated this morning during question time. Yet the question that has to be asked is whether the system can continue in its present form.
Increasingly, alternatives to the legal system are being explored. We get these modern developments in neutral evaluation, mediation and arbitration. However, even these have an expense component, and the reality is that for many in our community enforcement of legal rights is but an illusion due to their inability to afford access to services and the lack of access to legal aid services in the area in which they are required. Improvement to legal aid schemes will be a priority objective for me in this Parliament.
There has been much criticism of the legal profession over its work practices and the high cost of its services. However, as many studies have shown, we as legislators also impact on the cost of justice. My experience has shown that the following matters also contribute to the lengthening of legal cases: first, the sheer volume of legislation; second, the complexity and form of the legislation; third, the procedures adopted in the courts as determined not only by the Evidence Act but also by the courts through subordinate legislation in respect of which this Parliament has ultimate authority; and fourth, the lack of consolidation in our laws. These are matters to which some attention has already been given. Nevertheless I am aware that it remains an often raised criticism. Accordingly, it is a matter that I hope to give attention to in the course of my service in this House.
In my career at the Bar I have worked in courts at just about every level, however in more recent times mainly in the Common Law jurisdiction. At an early stage in my career I was afforded an opportunity to develop an expertise in electoral law. In fact, I met the Hon. Don Harwin during the course of a number of cases. Overall I think I have appeared in some eight Court of Disputed Returns cases, a number of redistribution cases, not to mention a number of other cases involving interpretation of the Constitution, both State and Federal, as well as other electoral legislation. Those cases included Bignold v Dickson
, which involved Marie Bignold, a former member of this House, McBride v Graham
, in which the honourable member for The Entrance, Grant McBride, was a participant, and Keating v Dickson
Each of these cases has raised fundamental issues regarding the integrity of our electoral system and the exercise of the right to vote. These are bedrock principles in any democracy. Regrettably, these principles were called into question in the recent election for this House. Members from all sides of the House, including crossbenchers, questioned the legitimacy of a ballot which involved one of the largest preference distributions of all time, in the context of the largest ballot paper in Australian history. Manifestly, registered how-to-vote cards, which were intended to simplify the method of voting, can hardly be contended to accurately reflect the elector’s real voting intentions when aggregated to elect candidates on low-numbered preferences and under the camouflage of misleading and, in some cases, absurd names.
The common law of parliamentary elections has as its first principle that an election is valid only if the real intention of the electors has been registered in the choice of candidate. The present voting system, to many minds, infringes this democratic principle. It is a matter to which I have no doubt the House will address itself in due course during the life of this Parliament. Apart from the opportunity that my work has provided, in terms of my understanding of electoral law, it has also allowed me to work with and against some of the most accomplished advocates at the New South Wales Bar. That includes my good friend John McCarthy, who led me in a number of these cases. Others with whom I have had the privilege of working are: the late Sir Maurice Byers, QC, David Jackson, QC, Peter Hely, QC, and Tom Hughes, QC. All of them are amongst the Bar’s leading advocates. It was a great experience to be involved in litigation with them.
There are many other barristers to whom I need to make mention, but I will confine myself in case I leave out too many names. I mention just two persons who were generous to me in my early years at the Bar and who taught me never to accept anything at face value and to critically analyse all aspects of every case in which I was involved. That is an aspect of my personality which makes some people cringe. When that happens I refer them to the people responsible, namely, Tony Bartly, SC, and David McGovern. I believe that one of the greatest features of this profession is the division of work
between solicitors and barristers which ensures the development of a high degree of professionalism in the preparation and conduct of litigation. Time does not permit me to mention all the solicitors with whom I had the pleasure of working over the course of my career. However, one name stands out not only as a professional colleague but also as a good friend - Steve Masselos. Perhaps because he is a Greek Australian and a strong Labor lawyer he understands me better than anyone outside my family. He could not be here tonight due to commitments overseas. However, his advice has been constructive and valued over the years, especially in recent times.
As some honourable members would be aware, this is not my first entry into public life. I come to this House at the twilight of a short but eventful term as a councillor and deputy mayor of Canterbury City Council. That term will conclude at the next local government elections. I have learned much from my service in local government in my short time there. That is the level closest to the people and it is frequently used as a one-stop shop whenever a problem arises, irrespective of whether the matter falls under direct local government responsibility.
Often when decisions are made, either at the State or the Federal level, the community reaction is local, and it is to local government that citizens turn for local leadership. Perhaps the best example of what I am referring to is the previous Coalition Government’s decision to close Canterbury Hospital. That decision catapulted the local community into protest and spurred the council to take action. Ultimately, the council’s action had some success, at least to the extent that the matter was pursued long enough to be vindicated by a change of government and a change of policy. As many honourable members would be aware, the Carr Government lived up to its promise and completely rebuilt Canterbury Hospital in its last term - a credit to the Government but also to Canterbury council and its residents who took up the issue in the way that I have outlined.
The role of local government is important in many other ways. I am particularly pleased that my council took up, adopted and developed a strategy targeted at preventing crime and promoting community safety. This strategy has been centred on the regulation of open space, promotion of surveillance measures, regulation of urban design and youth development. The strategy has received recognition from the Attorney General’s Department crime prevention division, which has provided funding for specific projects, including the youth guides project and, more recently, a youth crime prevention officer. I am pleased that community safety has finally been recognised as a responsibility that includes local government. I am pleased that local government in the inner west of Sydney adopted the Canterbury initiative. I hope that other councils will be as successful as Canterbury has been on this matter.
Local government in this State is not in a perfect condition. Imperfections include the boundaries of some local councils which defy any sense of logic and have more to do with historical anachronisms. I have frequently questioned whether the size of some councils allows them to maximise efficiencies. Nevertheless, I have a high regard for many of the people who serve at this level of government, largely as volunteers, and who spend an enormous amount of time bearing considerable electoral workloads whilst holding down full-time positions. I pay a special tribute in this speech to all my colleagues at Canterbury council, many of whom are here tonight, including the Mayor, Kayee Griffin, a number of councillors and a number of directors. As I have several months remaining on council I will refrain from making too many references to individuals. However, I wish to mention Robert Davidson and Andy Sammut, both of whom I admire immensely for the independent policy advice that they provided to me in matters that I have actively pursued in local government.
I commenced this speech by referring to my early life in Redfern. For most of my adult life I have resided in Canterbury and, more specifically, in the suburb of Earlwood. Like the Redfern of yesterday, this area is a cultural melting pot of many diverse communities. I have often said that there are few places in the world where in one day people can visit a Buddhist temple, a Greek orthodox day school, a Chinese services centre, have a meal at one of the great Korean restaurants and still have time to watch Sydney Olympic play soccer at Belmore before retiring to Canterbury Leagues Club. For my children this is their Redfern; this is their place to make their mark while they are growing up and developing.
The major thanks that I intend to give tonight must inevitably go to my family. I do not think anyone here is unfamiliar with the pressures that public life puts on people and positions, particularly when one has a young family. My wife Maria and I perhaps have the ultimate example of what I am talking about as election day this year also witnessed the birth of our third child. I thank my wife, Maria, and our three children, Theo, Constance and Irene, for all their help and support. I thank our parents, sisters and brothers for their willingness to assist us in whatever way possible.
For me now it is as the Premier said following the election: back to work, back to the job of creating jobs and securing the economic future of this State. I commend the bill to this House for doing just that. I urge honourable members to give it their resounding support.
Ms LEE RHIANNON
[6.57 p.m.] (Inaugural speech): The Greens oppose the Walsh Bay Development (Special Provisions) Bill. It is an outrageous triumph of greed over public good. What once belonged to every citizen, held in trust for this and future generations by the State Government, to be used in the best interests of all the community is about to be lost forever. Walsh Bay is one of Sydney’s jewels. It does not deserve to become the home of Sydney’s second toaster. If Walsh Bay is vandalised, the Premier, Bob Carr, will cop the heat. Those responsible - and that appears to include all parliamentarians in the major parties - will be the burnt offering. The bill is opposed by many residents, including the Walsh Bay Wednesday workshop, and by a broad cross-section of the community, including the Nature Conservation Council, the Total Environment Centre, the History Council of New South Wales, and the National Trust. The Greens join with those groups in opposing this bill, not only because it would result in an irreversible loss of heritage structures and not solely because of the appalling planning precedents it would establish. We oppose this bill because at its very core it promotes the acquisition of private profit at the expense of community needs.
The development of the existing structures at Walsh Bay grew out of the inability of the private sector at the end of the nineteenth century to develop docking facilities that would service the people of Sydney. In the 1890s the docks were chaotic, inefficient and rat-infested. In March 1900 the New South Wales Parliament resumed the entire area and placed it into public ownership. In October of the same year another Act of this Parliament created the Sydney Harbour Trust. It was recognised that the interests of the city and the State could only be protected by a public authority whose primary objective was the pursuit of the common good.
Within 10 years, work had begun on the Walsh Bay wharves, as they are now known. The enthusiasm and the idealism of the young engineers working under the leadership of Walsh and Hickson leaps out from the pages of the Sydney Harbour Trust journals. Inspired by the ideals of public enterprise, they created a world-leading port facility to serve the needs of the community. Ninety years later the current Government introduces a bill to create certainty for developers seeking to destroy this heritage and take over public assets. Walsh Bay Partnership plans to demolish wharf 6/7 and replace it with a modern structure containing six stories of apartments. Like the toaster at East Circular Quay and many other ill-conceived and damaging developments, this proposal is designed to maximise profits with little regard for urban amenities.
There is no doubt that the Mirvac-Transfield proposal will become another toaster, another monument to the triumph of avarice and self-interest over public good, and another embarrassment for Sydney. Designed by the same firm of architects that brought forth the East Circular Quay development, the arguments that have been advanced in support of the development of Walsh Bay are wrapped in exactly the same self-serving cant. The Government has not, however, been content with merely giving away this priceless public asset. It has knocked down the total purchase price paid by the developers for the land and wharves by $37 million. In a series of deals that are clouded in secrecy, the people of New South Wales are effectively paying to be ripped off. No matter how sophisticated the arguments about net public benefit, the people of New South Wales are the losers.
One cannot escape the argument that both Labor and the Coalition are blinded to the public need by their addiction to campaign donations. Later this session the Government will come forward with a Budget that will slash funds from almost every portfolio area, yet it can still treat the developers with unrestrained generosity. Like so many large construction projects, the proponents of Walsh Bay have hidden behind the mantra of jobs creation. This is a smokescreen. The $37 million gift to developers should be redirected to seed projects with similar or greater job creation impact in areas of high unemployment and with a socially worthwhile outcome. Western Sydney, western New South Wales and the Illawarra are some of the regions in desperate need of sustainable employment growth.
Apartment blocks do not generate large amounts of post-construction employment. Imaginative adaptive reuses could become the kernel of new industries, and many jobs in The Rocks could be created if the Premier would get out of the bed he has created for himself with developers. The approval being validated by this bill contains the sale under strata titles of numerous apartment units, including those over the water on wharf 6/7. If this bill passes we will never be able to return Walsh Bay to public ownership or community use. Like so many other large developments, both urban and in rural areas, the proposed development at Walsh Bay would establish an appallingly bad precedent. If the
existence of a permanent conservation order does not prohibit the demolition of entire structures and their replacement with modern buildings, then such instruments are truly meaningless.
It appears that the integrity of all planning processes in New South Wales exists only at the whim of the Government and at the convenience of the developers, who really call the shots. Walsh Bay developers did not like their chances in a court of law. Even if they were successful they feared that their development plans could be delayed if an appeal was lodged. For developers in New South Wales these obstacles are not a barrier. A word to the Government and a compliant Opposition ensures special legislation. In this case, the Walsh Bay development bill is fast-tracked through the Parliament. Due process evaporates, community rights of appeal dissolve and public participation is reduced to an even greater degree of tokenism.
The Greens are committed to a vision of the future where developers are treated equally with other citizens, where additional rights cannot be purchased by campaign donations to political parties and where the public interest is vigorously protected. Only by empowering and resourcing the community and by building sustainability and equity into the planning laws can our cities and towns, forests and wilderness and rural landscapes be saved for all future generations.
The vision of Walsh and the Harbour Trust engineers 80 years ago has left Sydney with a unique physical and cultural heritage. This is not only about nostalgia for old buildings. It is about a community that relates to its past through a continuity of architecture and a special relationship with its space. In the case of Millers Point, a large part of that heritage derives from the formation of the trade union movement. As early as 1837 the seamen and labourers at Millers Point struck for a pay rise. Throughout the nineteenth century Millers Point was a focus of the growing movement for the protection of workers’ rights through organised labour. In the 1880s the Sydney Wharf Labourers Union was formed in response to poor pay and dangerous conditions. This union played a key role in the general strike of 1890. A century later the inheritors of this legacy, the Maritime Union of Australia, continue their struggle against those who would seek to destroy organised labour for their own advantage. One of their famous picket lines is in this Walsh Bay area.
Millers Point was also an important example of the public provision of housing. The Sydney Harbour Trust, the Sydney City Council and other similar bodies built many housing units. To this day, much of the stock in Millers Point is publicly owned. Just as the vision of Walsh and his engineers for a publicly owned waterfront has been betrayed, both the Coalition and Labor parties have sought to reduce the role played by government in housing. This short-sighted approach relies heavily on a blind belief in the ability of the market to provide and ignores the important role that public housing can play in creating a more just society.
The Australian Labor Party’s plans for Walsh Bay are not surprising. Helping out mates from the big end of town to the detriment of local communities is now so common with this Government that one could be forgiven for thinking this style of work has policy status. The full story of why the ALP makes decisions that so often damage the lives of its own constituents is yet to be told. But part of the story clearly is that the ALP is beholden to many big developers and financial institutions.
One of the Green’s election promises was that we would work to expose and eliminate conflict of interests whereby a party receives donations from a company and then, when it is in government, that company can clean up with lucrative contracts. This style of work is undermining democracy in New South Wales, lining the pockets of a few to the detriment of the majority and adding to environmental destruction. We are yet to see how the ALP will reward its mates for donations to its 1999 election campaign fund. A few examples from what happened after the 1995 election illustrate what we can expect. Leighton and Macquarie Bank Ltd, the builders and financiers of the Eastern Distributor, gave the ALP $300,000 between 1992 and 1997, and a similar amount was given to the Coalition. This is clearly a conflict of interest. Lend Lease gave the ALP $75,000. In January this year it was awarded a $90 million contract to upgrade the Cronulla sewage treatment plant.
Abigroup, the proponent of an airport in Newcastle, donated $50,000. The Premier, Mr Carr, is strongly backing this proposal to the point that some of his statements have not been truthful. His statements that the Newcastle airport proposal had solid community support cannot be reconciled against the fact that all ALP members from the Hunter area, including Mr Bryce Gaudry, Mr Richard Face and Mr John Bartlett, are publicly opposed to the project. Mr Gaudry has organised petitions against the airport.
The Bus and Coach Association donated $12,500 to the ALP. This body has done very well
in protecting and promoting the interests of private bus operators, particularly Westbus, owned by Mr Bosnjak. A private bus transitway for western Sydney was announced in the last session, and we still have the scandalous situation that no public bus is allowed to go further west than Lidcombe, which means great inconvenience to people on low incomes who rely on their passes.
These are just a few examples of a conflict of interests that plagues government in New South Wales irrespective of which major party is in power. This situation is unacceptable, and the Greens will continue to campaign to remove the conflict of interests between money received by a party and the decisions that party makes when in government. While this blatant form of political patronage dominates political life in New South Wales, the quality of life of the people of this State will continue to suffer.
The New South Wales Government must put people and their communities first. The common good needs to be central to all policies developed and all projects undertaken in this State. Anything less further entrenches inequality and adds to the hardship of this State’s one million poor and low-income households. Four years of a Labor Government in this State have led to a divided Sydney and divided New South Wales.
Small towns and rural areas are suffering. Many rural towns and regional centres are also bleeding. Young people carry a particularly heavy burden in this divided society. The passions and visions of young people are something that our society should nurture. As a society, we are not providing the fertile ground for young people’s hopes and dreams to be realised. In the term of this present Labor Government there is the opportunity to bridge this divide.
History shows that usually when Labor is in power in this State it has faced a hostile upper House. In this current Parliament if the Labor Government can drop its flirtation with the big end of town, there is every chance that great things can happen for the majority of people in New South Wales. The Greens share a progressive agenda with many of their fellow crossbenchers. At present we have little in common with current Labor practices. However, many of us have a great deal in common with the Labor ideals as set out in the Labor Party’s constitution, such as the call for "redistribution of political and economic power", "the development of public enterprises based upon . . . forms of social ownership" and support for an ecological sustainability.
The sell-off of Walsh Bay is a sell-out of ALP policy, which contains a clear commitment to the development of social ownership. The challenge is now with Labor. Can it grasp the moment, take the best from its own traditions and work constructively in this House to advance a progressive agenda? The Walsh Bay legislation is an appalling start for this parliamentary session. Despite this setback, the Greens will continue to attempt to work with Labor if the parliamentary wing of the party will be guided by its policies and not by the pocket of a few big mates.
As this is my first speech, I would like to expand on my comments about Walsh Bay. I appreciate that as an elected representative of the Greens I have this opportunity to stand before this House and speak on issues that I have great passion for. My concern for the future is moulded by the history of this country. I am both proud and sad to acknowledge that we are on the land of the Cadigal people, was one of many Aboriginal tribes of the Sydney region that put up a heroic struggle when British colonialists occupied their land. To its credit, this House was the first House of Parliament in Australia to officially say sorry to the stolen generation of Aboriginal people. As a new member of the Legislative Council I would like to add my voice to that most important statement.
In less than two centuries, this House has evolved from nothing more than an outpost of British colonialism made up of landowning officials nominated by the Crown to one of the most democratic Houses of Parliament in this country. While the Legislative Council will continue to be relevant well into the next millennium it is time that its anachronistic trappings were overhauled. The oath of allegiance that all members of this place must swear to the British Crown needs to be at the top of the list of outdated practices to be jettisoned.
I was deeply offended that even though I had been elected by the people of New South Wales to take a seat in the Legislative Council, the only way that I could become an active and full member was by swearing allegiance to a British monarch. A change in the State’s Constitution is needed to modernise and Australianise the swearing-in process. I recognise that this will take some time, but I am sure it will happen. But there are other areas where we can cut the colonial ties right now.
The Greens congratulate the President on her decision to remove the painting of the Queen from her office. And I would like to thank Legislative Council staff and fellow members for their co-operation in assisting me to become the first
member to take a seat in this House without using the term "honourable". This title is another part of the colonialist trappings of this place that we need to relegate to history’s dustbin.
In making this statement I would like to emphasise that I have the greatest respect for tradition. However, the symbols and imagery that we preserve need to be ones that are inclusive, not ones rooted in the oppression and misery of so many people. My strong feelings on issues of social justice and environmental vandalism are part of my family’s traditions. The fact that I stand here today has much to do with my family. My grandfather, Ben Lewis, was gaoled as a conscientious objector in the First World War. He exposed police violence perpetrated against striking workers, organised unemployed people and took up many other burning issues at the start of this century.
Nana and Granddad’s two sons, Leon and Rae Lewis, were wharfies. One of their places of work was Walsh Bay, which certainly gives me a connection with that area. In the 1950s and 1960s when I was growing up, wharfies were vilified as selfish and lazy. The reality I saw was quite different, and I now realise how I was influenced by my hardworking uncles and their workmates, whose concerns and campaigns went much further than just their own wages and conditions.
I particularly wish to thank my parents, Bill and Freda Brown. My parents were members of the Communist Party of Australia. I was raised surrounded by people whose driving conviction was how to work to make this world a fairer, healthier, more peaceful place for all. Being raised in a household steeped in political campaigns leaves one with many proud moments. One of those was the night my father and Jack Mundey became the first people arrested in Australia for protesting against the Vietnam war.
I find these days when I explain my background some people are surprised by my acknowledgment. I am certainly proud of being part of a tradition of optimistic social activism, as I am proud of my three children, Kilty, Rory and Conor, who in their own way and sometimes in this place keep the family political passions alive. As a member of the Greens I feel very honoured to be part of this progressive international movement that will play a key role in addressing many of the challenges that confront this planet. From the sale of public assets, tragically epitomised by the events unfolding at Walsh Bay, to taking the lead in the fight against the GST, the Greens are out in front.
The fact that the Greens now have two members in this House is testimony to the hard and innovative work of thousands of members and supporters. Particular thanks go to my colleague the Hon. I. Cohen. His ability to combine parliamentary work with some of the most creative direct action seen in this country is a great asset for our party and for the community. Senator Bob Brown is one Greens parliamentarian whom I value enormously as a friend and colleague. It is a credit to Bob and to our party that his qualities have been publicly recognised in Australia and internationally.
I believe all the political parties represented here have in their ranks many dedicated people, most of whom receive little recognition for their years of commitment and hard work. I would like to thank all the tireless party workers for the Greens, and I would like to mention one person by name. Ten years ago I was asked to join the party by Geoff Ash. Today he is my partner. I thank him for his political and personal wisdom. I am thankful that I am in a party of which I can be proud, which adheres to its policies and which is driven by its local branches. In my short time in this place I have learned that many of my colleagues in other parties are principled and frequently do not agree with the decisions of their party hierarchies.
I acknowledge that for some of you it must be painful to be forced to vote on legislation, such as this bill, that will be so destructive of a community and much of Walsh Bay. For those on the Labor benches, a vote for this bill will be a vote against the wishes of many local Labor branches. I say to honourable members who have privately voiced misgivings about the Carr Cabinet manipulation of the democratic process: now is the time to take a stand. You can cross the floor. One day we hope we see it, and we hope to see it soon. A vote for this bill is a vote for Carr’s mates at Transfield, Mirvac and a few others yet to be identified.
If the bill passes the House the battle to save Walsh Bay will not be over. Just behind Millers Point lies The Rocks, the birthplace of the green bans. It was from this movement that my party, the Greens, derived its name. The residents of Millers Point have inherited a heady tradition of activism and, if this bill is passed, no doubt the Walsh Bay Wednesday workshop will fight on, and the Greens will be right there with them. The battle for Walsh Bay is far from over. This Parliament makes the laws, but it is the people who make history. The Greens will fight all the way with the people of Walsh Bay to ensure we have a city for people and a history of which we can be proud. We condemn the bill.
[The President left the chair at 6.22 p.m. The House resumed at 8.00 p.m.
The Hon. Dr A. CHESTERFIELD-EVANS
[8.00 p.m.]: Sadly, this bill is an abdication of responsibility for planning. State Environmental Planning Policy [SEPP] No. 56, "Sydney Harbour Foreshores and Tributaries", was approved by Cabinet on 17 March 1998 and was trumpeted in a press release by the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning on 21 August last year as "increasing public access to and use of land along the foreshores of Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River, and protecting these significant natural and cultural heritage values and increasing opportunities for water-based transport". Interestingly, the Walsh Bay area was not mentioned in August 1997 in the Premier’s Sydney Harbour Foreshore Statement when he mentioned a lot of other sites, especially those that the Federal Government is targeting for possible disposal.
In introducing the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority Bill in December last year the Hon. R. D. Dyer, Minister for Public Works and Services, said:
Sydney needs a more holistic approach to foreshore planning and land management, putting an end to growing public concern about the multiplicity of authorities responsible for planning and management decisions in and around the harbour. The Government has already taken action on planning reform.
He went on to state:
The key principles guiding the new SEPP include . . . increasing opportunities for water-based public transport.
He went on further to state:
The principal aim of the authority is to protect the natural and cultural heritage of the foreshore area.
However, this particular part of the foreshore area, despite the rhetoric and the creation of the Sydney Harbor Foreshore Authority, was given away by the Government to the project tenderers.
It seems to me to be absolutely clear that in the medium term Circular Quay is inadequate as a ferry terminal. There is a historical inevitability of increase in ferry transport demand. There is increasing urban density around the harbour, which is an extremely sought-after real estate location, as evidenced by land tax increases in harbour-side properties. There is also a lack of other public transport around the harbour foreshore areas, except for buses and a train system that is very inadequate. Cars are in gridlock. Bus transport will be difficult, and a lack of planning as urban consolidation occurs will have an effect. In many areas residents are complaining about increased urban consolidation. This is partly because there is no concomitant public transport planning as part of urban development. For people who have access to the harbour, it is perfectly plain that the easiest way to solve the problem would be to increase the ferries.
Circular Quay is already close to its capacity. The cruise ships have no wharves, although tourism is already one of this State’s fastest-growing industries. Ferries will need more space. If Walsh Bay is given away, where will the terminal be? Darling Harbour has been given away, so perhaps it will be the Botanic Gardens?
Clearly, a preferable idea would be to have a light rail travelling in a loop around the city, going from the CBD to Circular Quay around Hickson Road and back to the harbour via Sussex or Kent Street. That would be a real opportunity. This highlights the real cost of the plan - a lack of opportunity to use the wharves for anything else. This is a developer’s plan, and the department is saying, "Me too!" I show the House a nice little symbol of that. We were handed a booklet that was clearly prepared by a developer with lots of lovely pictures in it and enclosed by a Department of Public Works and Services [DPWS] folder. In essence, we have a developer’s plan with the Government saying "Me too! Yes! That is our plan. We do not have our own plans. We have plans that the developer has, and we say that they are terrific." Then it congratulates itself on the wonderful deal it did. However, the public and members of Parliament will never find out what the deal is because, of course, it is a secret.
All too frequently under this Government we have seen this pathetic sight. A railway could go from Enfield - where there is a great deal of land that could be used for urban consolidation - to Ashfield, up to Leichhardt and back to Central. Such a project would have required only a little extra effort to direct it either to the CBD or to make a link with the airport line. But did that inner city line happen, despite bad traffic congestion on Parramatta Road and Victoria Road? No. The railway line was given to Sydney Light Rail for an expensive, slow, joke of a tram. That action gave away the line. There was another silly plan to put light rail through the middle of the city without being linked to anything and without forming anything except part of a private get-rich-quick scheme. In that instance as well, the initial Department of Transport was saying, "Me too!" and was tacking its name onto the end of the private sector’s brochures. The M2 motorway contract was signed with a secret "no competition" clause. How can we ever get a decent transport system with this short-sighted approach, no
serious planning, and no vision? Walsh Bay is another example of that. We have just given away our next ferry terminal.
The main cost to the public of this project is the opportunity cost of never having a decent ferry system. The wharves do not need to be demolished. A real residents action group brought forward estimated costings from a developer that would give the current developer $150 million of possible profit if no wharves were given to them because of a lot of other development that is also happening.
There are many other very suspect aspects to this legislation. This is retrospective legislation - and of course such legislation sets a very dangerous precedent. It also avoids any decision that might be made by the courts in relation to the Walsh Bay area. The National Trust, which is hardly a radical body, wants to test the very reasonable proposition that the wharves are a single building. They are certainly a unified historical precinct and they are linked as one structure. Surely that would mean that those buildings would come under the Heritage Act as a single structure.
The deal for this redevelopment was done behind closed doors, and it is anti-democratic. The deal contains a "commercial-in-confidence" secrecy provision which is not even in the Act. This is the same type of legislation that was responsible for the Port Macquarie Hospital project, about which the Auditor-General said, "It has been paid for twice and given away once." We do not know about the harbour tunnel, the M2 motorway, Fox Studios, the water board treatment plants which operate under a Build Own Operate and Transfer [BOOT] scheme - although the transfer part of it seems to have been forgotten so I think it is now a "BOO" scheme. The Olympic contracts are also a matter of concern, and we wonder what all these contracts have in store for us. It is only our money, and this is an era of democracy and responsible government, is it not? Unfortunately not: in this State, trends are moving in the opposite direction.
Last year the Environmental Protection and Assessment Act was amended, and that was another occasion when the Liberals voted with members of the Labor Party. It gave more power to the Minister and less to the public. It is interesting to have heard during this debate that when the developers needed to change their plans and undertake further investigations, the termites suddenly got worse. They were given more and more time and, golly gosh!, more wharves as well. We have another "toaster" - another Woolloomooloo Bay where supposedly the historic wharf was to be retained, but where an extra bit was added to maximise the profit and destroy the historical character, which was the reason for access being given to the wharf in the first place. The bill will be passed in a few days. One might ask why it has to go through so quickly. There are no holding costs on the project. The developer has not bought a huge amount of land with huge daily interest payments. Why the urgency?
It seems to me that there is a desire to sell off the plan before the Olympics residential property boom ends. That sounds a plausible explanation to me. It is also a good time for the development to go ahead as the Government has no money because of the Olympics, so it will be very pleased not to have to pay for something. It is good politically. In two years, when people have stopped thinking about the Olympics and how poor the State is, they might realise the importance of the wharves and the transport alternatives. There will have been more time by then for the issue to penetrate public consciousness. There is a desire to escape the legal scrutiny of due process. That is what the hurry is all about. They are all very bad reasons indeed.
The general principle of democracy is that people elect their leaders to look after their interests. The leaders in New South Wales will not act in the interest of the people but will actively keep the facts from them. The legal system is expensive and complicated but at least it is not corrupt within its framework. It is a sad fact that people would rather have the legal system than the political system. Despite the fact that a member of Reform the Legal System was elected to this House - it was almost unknown to this Parliament - people still trust the legal system ahead of politicians. After examples such as this I do not wonder why.
Chomsky says that the definition of freedom in a neo-colonial world is the freedom to buy a country’s assets on the market. Here in New South Wales a government that gets less than 40 per cent of the popular vote gets more than 50 per cent of the seats and then 100 per cent of the power. With the wonders of party discipline 20 per cent gets control of 40 per cent, which gets 50 per cent of the seats and 100 per cent of the power. It is easy for the big players to get control of the assets in this sort of escalating system - no discussion of public good, no legal redress, a done deal.
The bill is being pushed through the Parliament not only by the Government but also by the Opposition. The Liberal Party’s name is ironic; it should be the Conservative Party. In this case that name would be wrong too. It is not supporting conservation, it is the developers party. It meekly
acquiesced to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1998, which took power from local groups and gave it to the Ministers. Liberal Party members do not want to offend the big boys; they are thinking of when it is their turn to be in government.
During the election campaign the small parties got no publicity in the major media but they got 35 per cent of the votes. This is because the major parties do shady deals such as this. More than one in three New South Wales voters do not support the major parties. We can see why: They are not looking after our interests; they are voting on party lines. The so-called Opposition has only 27 per cent of the votes - at least it did when the election was called in March, but its support is down by 6 per cent now. The real opposition, the real voice of the people, is coming from crossbench here today. We represent variety. We are not unanimous but we represent what more and more people want.
The excusers today waxed lyrical in their pathetic efforts. They claim that they are preserving 82 per cent of the area. I do not know how this can be worked out, not on the financial returns, that is for sure; perhaps on land area, but not on floor space. On any normal counting the developers are demolishing one of four finger wharves and taking over another. So they are getting 50 per cent of the wharves - and probably 100 per cent of our chance to have the wharves used for ferry transport. The New South Wales History Council has written to me on this subject as follows:
The History Council of New South Wales is the peak body for history in this state. Representing historians, institutions and organisations that engage with history, the Council responds to the history interests of the broader community, speaking and acting authoritatively on its behalf.
The History Council wrote:
The History Council of New South Wales is very disappointed and disturbed by the moves to have legislation passed by the state parliament that will allow for the destruction of wharves six and seven, a large 1880s bondstore and a remnant of an 1840s sandstone wall at Walsh Bay.
The historical significance of Walsh Bay to Sydney is second to none. Its historical significance is deeply rooted not only in the physical structures but to the whole precinct of Millers Point. To remove any of the wharves not only destroys these important turn of the century industrial buildings which were ‘worlds best practice’ at the time of their construction. More importantly it diminishes Millers Point. It is not any particular structure that counts. It is the totality of the intact site. To retain an entire precinct within the modern city is of fantastic educational, historical and tourist importance.
The finger wharves contain within them the work and skills of those who built and laboured within them. That can never be restored once they are destroyed or removed from the heart of this harbour city. The History Council of NSW urges all who are involved in making decisions about the future of Walsh Bay to consider an alternative to the loss of this valuable historical area.
The letter from this reasonable historic group is unequivocal. The National Trust is obviously against the proposal. The residents are against it, although there is a small group that, having watched the total lack of interest in maintaining our heritage by government departments and the total lack of planning by others, thinks that the development is the lesser of two evils. It has concluded that the Government could not or would not do anything. But that should not be the starting point. Governments have a duty to look after our assets and to plan for our future. It is pathetic that when the developers ask what other use is suggested, there is no answer. But that is not enough reason to give the site away. Because there is no current plan, that does not mean that there never will be, even at the Government’s glacial pace in proactive thought.
Yet we even hear people saying that we had better hurry or the developers will walk away. What a nonsense! It is true that there is nothing more lucrative than over-the-water unique residential property during a pre-Olympic boom. But others have said that the non-wharf and the shore shed profits for the developers would be $150 million. We are timidly offering $800 million in profits so that the developers will not walk away - $150 million would not be enough. What a supine negotiating position. What a rip-off of the people. And just in case we find out, there is a secrecy clause. It is a disgrace!
The Rocks Redevelopment Authority has worked by developing part of The Rocks area and then using the profits to restore and gradually develop the precinct on historical models. This model works and The Rocks is a great precinct, but quite a small one from a tourist point of view. This model could easily work with the wharves, but it is not even discussed. We oppose the philosophy of retrospective legislation, the secrecy, the abdication of government responsibility to the people and their history, the lack of planning, the backdoor dealing, and the avoidance of the legal process. We do not think much of the party discipline and the dereliction of the idea of the common good that our forefathers worked for. There may be aspects of the plan that are acceptable, but the totality of it and its methods and philosophy are not acceptable. We oppose the bill unequivocally.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE
[8.18 p.m.]: The Walsh Bay Development (Special Provisions) Bill 1999 has as its object:
. . . to validate certain approvals granted under the Heritage Act 1977 and certain development consents granted under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 in relation to the development of Walsh Bay, to the extent of any invalidity.
The approvals and development consents are the subject of proceedings before the Land and Environment Court.
That is the reason for the bill. I have received the same letter from the History Council that the Hon. Dr A. Chesterfield-Evans quoted. It goes on as if the bill provides for the development. All we are doing is trying to prevent drawn-out court cases and challenges against a development that has already been approved. A bill is not required for the development. In fact, if the National Trust withdrew its court action there would be no need for the bill. It is strange that people are now speaking as though this House is seeking to pass a bill that is to give approval to the development. That is not the case at all.
The debate on this bill raises some important philosophical issues as to what is the role of the Government. I believe that the Government must, on occasions, make tough decisions. The Government must govern and then take responsibility for its decisions. It is easy for those on the crossbenches - of which I am a member, representing the Christian Democratic Party - to take pot shots at what governments do, whether they be Labor or Coalition. I believe that the role of crossbench members is to be critical when we need to be critical, but we must also consider whether we are being constructive in our role in this House. We also assume the role of acting on behalf of residents.
I met with the leader of an officially recognised residents action group. She was vocal in her support for the Walsh Bay project and was concerned about the challenge by the National Trust. I know that there is a smaller group - they call themselves a discussion group - that has a different point of view, and I accept that. But it is difficult for us as members of Parliament to say who represents the residents in that area. I believe that the official body represents the residents.
The Walsh Bay and Millers Point area is one of the most historical parts of Sydney - not simply because of the Sydney Harbour Bridge but also because of the early settlement of the penal colony of New South Wales, as the British described it for many years. I have had personal contact with Millers Point over many years. For a number of years I was stationed at the Army headquarters in that area when I served as an Army Reserve adjutant in the Third Royal New South Wales Regiment. All Saints Garrison Church, one of the most historic churches in Sydney, is also located in Millers Point. That was one of the first churches built in Sydney, and the early British regiments held their church parades there.
With the revival of the Royal New South Wales Regiment, the annual church parade is held there. This year it will be held on Sunday 20 June, only a few weeks away. I am sure all honourable members would be welcomed if they wished to attend the historic service. There will be a parade of the guard of honour, and so on, outside the church. As a former officer of that regiment, I usually take part in the service each year. The Walsh Bay and Millers Point area is certainly historic. I would be more distressed if the Government were to do nothing and it simply became a derelict area. The area is certainly run down, and in many ways it is a disgrace. In its letter the History Council wrote:
The historical significance of Walsh Bay to Sydney is second to none.
Where has the History Council been for the past 100 years? Has it simply watched the wharves deteriorate and fall into the harbour? The term "second to none" means "most important". I would have thought there would have been a lot more agitation from those sorts of groups about the restoration and development of Walsh Bay and Millers Point. I am concerned about the National Trust seeking to block the Walsh Bay development, which is the whole point of its challenge in the court. On a couple of occasions I have asked who is paying all the money for its court challenge. In some ways that challenge is a conflict not between the Government and the National Trust but between the Heritage Council and the National Trust.
The Heritage Council approved the development, and I understand that a National Trust representative worked with the Heritage Council over a long period during discussions about the project. I wonder what happened to the co-operation and consultation. Did that representative report to the National Trust on what was happening and on the support the project had from the Heritage Council? It almost seems as though the National Trust has suddenly discovered the development proposal and now wants to block it. I am extremely concerned about that last-minute action in the court. The Government has been put in a very difficult position by reason of the action of the National Trust, and that is why this bill has been introduced.
One could ask who is paying the thousands of dollars for the legal challenge. Obviously the Government has its lawyers, and it could be that the
lawyers for the National Trust are also being paid by the taxpayer. Perhaps the Treasurer could inquire whether the National Trust is using taxpayers’ dollars. It has been suggested that in other cases the National Trust is using environmental lawyers, which are funded by the Government, to actually fight the Government. The question must be asked whether that is a misuse of public funds.
The Hon. M. R. Egan:
I do not know whether that is the case, but it could well be. I certainly resent funding both sides of a legal case. That is completely beyond the realms of this Parliament.
The Hon. Dr A. Chesterfield-Evans:
They don’t like funding both sides, do they?
The Hon. M. R. Egan:
They do not like funding both sides, no.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE:
I would not think the National Trust would have a big fighting fund for legal cases.
The Hon. M. R. Egan:
Not as far as I am aware.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE:
Perhaps it is a bluff to see whether the Government will cave in. Obviously, with the introduction of this bill, the Government is not caving in. There have been a number of briefings with the developers, the residents, and the residents action group that is opposed to the project. I am not an architect but it seems it is possible that the development of wharf 6/7 can still be made part of the overall precinct. When one looks at the drawings, the proposed development is a similar shape to the other existing wharves. The only real difference is that, apparently, the development is planned to have a curved roof. But if the roof were developed in the same pointed style as the existing wharves, if one were to look at it without a microscope one would say that it was a very attractive development.
The buildings would be similarly shaped and some of the modernising to the other wharves would be consistent with what is proposed for wharf 6/7. Obviously the colours and designs would have to match right through, and I assume that the developers would endeavour to do that. It would be possible to develop the project so that it blends in with the total precinct, which would be my suggestion if it has not already been taken up with the developers.
I should like to refer to the critical speeches of the last two speakers. One was a maiden speech. Then the Hon. Dr A. Chesterfield-Evans said that the developers had found termites. I understand that the Forestry Commission - in other words, an outside body - conducted the investigation that discovered the rotting of the pylons and so on; it had nothing to do with the developers. In other words, the developers have not simply manufactured a problem to push forward the project. The wharves at Walsh Bay are deteriorating, mainly due to termite infestation. The longer the project is delayed, the greater the problem will be. At some point people will say that the Government should carry out the stabilisation works. In 1998 it was estimated that it would cost $25.8 million just to stabilise the wharves, with no actual improvement. There would be no return from that; the Government’s coffers would simply continue to be depleted.
The Hon. M. R. Egan:
There would have to be ongoing maintenance, without any financial return or community benefit.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE:
And that will result in taxpayers’ money going down the drain. The cost to the Government of not proceeding with the current proposal is estimated at about $40 million. That includes: immediate repairs and maintenance to the wharves; provision for ongoing site security; and the need to commence a new tendering process. Over the years we have heard the sorry saga of what has happened to the project. We might reach a stage where the developers believe that this project is so dicey that they should go somewhere else. Developers might not want to take over the project if this development falls through. I am not an expert in the tendering area, but I know that companies would eventually deduce that this was not an area in which they would want to get involved and it might be difficult to get another developer.
Clearly, the redevelopment of Walsh Bay will revitalise a run-down city precinct and provide a number of positive benefits - a new 1,000-seat theatre, which will be transferred to taxpayers and become a publicly-owned drama theatre; five new parks; more cultural space, including better facilities for the Australian Theatre for Young People, the Arts Council and the Sydney Philharmonic Choir; a $3 million restoration of wharf 4/5 and a home for the Sydney theatre company; and public access to the Walsh Bay waterfront for the first time since 1915. This project will open up this whole area to the public. It is important for members of the public to have access to all waterfront areas in the Sydney Harbour area.
The Walsh Bay project also includes: the retention of over 80 per cent of existing heritage structures, including wharves, shore sheds and bond stores; residential construction; public transport improvements; improvements for bus services; provision for a light rail corridor; and the creation of a ferry stop at the end of pier four. Once the $69 million hurdle has been passed, there will be a profit to the Government, which will be of further benefit to taxpayers. Wharf 2/3 will be refurbished and returned to the Government for future use. This project is fully supported by local residents, the chambers of commerce, the New South Wales Heritage Council, the Labor Council and arts groups. For that reason I do not believe that this Parliament should let the National Trust block the commencement of this project by going to the court. We have no option but to pass this bill tonight. I support the bill.
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING
[8.33 p.m.]: I support the Walsh Bay (Special Provisions) Bill. This Walsh Bay development project, which is desirable, should proceed quickly. Nearly 40 years ago, when I was on a 2,800 tonne freighter, I sailed from wharf 4/5 out of Walsh Bay. Less than a year later I returned to Walsh Bay and the freighter was moored at wharf 6/7. Forty years ago those wharves were run down and dilapidated and they had on them antiquated machinery and equipment that in most cases were totally unusable. Under the administration of many governments, those wharves have continued to deteriorate. That deterioration occurred simply because of the nature of the wharves. The portage capacity at the wharves enabled their use only by small inter-island freighters. They really did not have a great deal to recommend them.
To my knowledge, plans for the redevelopment of Walsh Bay have been submitted since the 1980s. In 1980 the potential for development was established and in 1990, 1992 and 1995 tenders were called for. The exact size of this site is in dispute but there is no doubt that it is an eyesore. Once redeveloped, the site will provide access to the greatest harbour foreshore and walkway in the world. No facility anywhere in the world would be able to match it. Clearly, the proposal of the National Trust is an obstruction of that grand plan. Once Walsh Bay is redeveloped, people will be able to travel from the finger wharf at Woolloomooloo, around to Star City and Pyrmont Bay. The facilities at Walsh Bay will be the envy of the world.
Experts in the Heritage Council and the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning [DUAP] have carefully considered this proposition. At the end of the day the Government relies on advice from the Heritage Council - the ultimate body that has to make a decision about this proposal. Sydney City Council and the Central Sydney Planning Committee have sent their approval to DUAP. A lot of emotion has been expressed in debate on this bill and a great deal of attitude has been shown in regard to some of the facts that have been presented. Basically, this cultural heritage will be conserved. I accept the argument that we require a total picture or nothing at all, but I would rather see the existing buildings at Walsh Bay preserved.
I believe that over 80 per cent of those heritage buildings will be retained. We do not need to measure individual boards, the length of the wharfage or other areas of access; the public will now have access to these wharves and they will be put to other cultural uses. The bond stores, stone buildings and Maritime Services Board offices will be preserved. At present there is no public access to the Hickson Road facade, which is simply crumbling. We must not allow that deterioration to continue. There will be an extensive rebuilding of the site and much of the equipment will be saved. We cannot just do nothing and simply allow this area to deteriorate; we must save what we can of this site.
I express two major concerns about this issue. First, the Auditor-General indicated that, in general terms, that would be no financial return from the selling of this site to the people of New South Wales. Second, comments were made earlier to the effect that it would cost the Government $40 million to develop this site. It is anticipated that developers will sell to the Government a 1,000-seat theatre. In other words, the estimated cost to the Government will be $37 million, of which the developers will pay only $3 million. I have been lobbied by many groups and I have given a great deal of thought to what must happen. In my view we must take action and proceed with this development.
The Hon. J. J. DELLA BOSCA
(Special Minister of State, and Assistant Treasurer) [8.37 p.m.], in reply: I thank those honourable members who have contributed to debate on this bill. I mention in particular those three members who made their inaugural speeches. The Hon. D. T. Harwin made a thoughtful speech and reflected on some aspects of the bill. The Hon. J. Hatzistergos, who is an old friend of mine - a matter to which he referred in his speech - made a number of comments about the general employment aspirations of people in New South Wales and how this bill might impact on them. Ms Lee Rhiannon spoke in general opposition to the bill. Heritage issues relate to a
fundamental human emotion - nostalgia - which is felt more strongly by some members of society than others. We have a natural tendency to long for the past, for our homes or for something that symbolises the past. Some people in Sydney regard Walsh Bay nostalgically and believe that it must be conserved. The course of action embodied in this legislation is the only way in which to preserve these great social assets.
On behalf of the Government I want to respond to some issues that were raised during the debate on this bill. In particular, I will respond to key words. We have heard a great deal about process. Although the planning process was not thoroughly canvassed, it was referred to by a number of honourable members in their contributions. Honourable members should consider that this process began in a broad sense at least 15 years ago. The feasibility of options for the development of Walsh Bay - from being a greenfields site to knocking everything down, and every other conceivable configuration - has been the subject of public debate at various times in the past 15 years.
To get the matter into perspective, the Government is not bringing the planning process - the democratic or aesthetic aspects of the development - to an end. The current proposal is the result of three years of heritage, environmental and public assessment. Our proposal does not prevent the canvassing of future development consents and heritage approvals, so long as they are generally consistent with the master plan. Heritage Council approval has already been granted.
The current development restores public access to a key area of the city that has been closed to the public since 1915. My grandparents throughout their adult lives would not have had access to parts of this great heritage location. There is an element of absurdity and perhaps elitism in some of the arguments. Simply because the site exists in the minds of an elite group who were able to appreciate it, the area should not be closed off indefinitely to the public, as it has been since 1915. Honourable members need to consider that important element of history.
Unless at some point in your career you were a member of Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile’s citizen regiment or a seaman, like the Hon. J. H. Jobling, you would never have stood on large parts of this precinct. It is a ludicrous suggestion that the public should not have access to a central part of the city, so near to key tourism and heritage precincts like The Rocks and Millers Point. It is absurd to argue that the site should be indefinitely locked up, as it has been for the past 80 years.
As to the preservation and character of the wharves and of the Walsh Bay precinct, the consent requires the replacement of wharves six and seven. But as the Hon. J. H. Jobling and other honourable members have said, 80 per cent of the structure will remain in the new development. Unfortunately, in my previous career I had to deal with the vagaries of property development. The Hon. R. S. L. Jones has probably never had to engage in interesting private entrepreneurs in the preservation of heritage. No-one will do it for free.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones:
That is what they said about the Mona Lisa.
The Hon. J. J. DELLA BOSCA:
Artists do not paint Mona Lisas any more unless they are paid. Even the person who painted the original Mona Lisa got paid. The Hon. R. S. L. Jones has to understand that the only way to preserve heritage sites is by striking a balance. In response to the Hon. Dr A. Chesterfield-Evans, it is only by striking a balance between an entrepreneurial need for profit and a regulatory requirement to impose a set of rules that we get a decent outcome. A decent outcome is an 80 per cent preserved heritage precinct with public access to most of the site and the inclusion of a theatre, park and walkway. In general terms, I thank the Opposition for supporting the legislation.
The Hon. M. R. Egan:
A wise decision.
The Hon. J. J. DELLA BOSCA:
As the Leader of the Government said, it is a wise decision. As I have said, we have nostalgic and aesthetic reasons, all sorts of reasons, for wanting to preserve this precinct.
The Hon. I. Cohen:
Then why has it been neglected for so long?
The Hon. J. J. DELLA BOSCA:
Exactly. Governments will continue to neglect it because someone has to come up with the money. At the moment the Ministry for the Arts spends half a million dollars a year protecting the Sydney Theatre Company precinct from termite infestation. That is half a million dollars a year out of the public purse. This proposal does that and more, and preserves the location for public use.
Referring to a fundamental point, this area was not developed as an aesthetic site. The wharves were not built on this site for an aesthetic purpose. They were not built because they would have some great
heritage value in the future. These wharves were built as industrial working architecture to handle shipping freight commerce. Shipping freight companies cannot conveniently and commercially use those wharves for that purpose any more.
The only way to preserve a piece of heritage is by marrying the requirements of modern economy with the value of heritage preservation. I congratulate the current Ministers who have responsibility for this development and the previous Minister for Public Works and Services, the Hon. R. D. Dyer, on their handling of this matter over the past few years. I also congratulate the relevant Ministers of the previous Coalition Government, who had a more frustrating time. I will not go into the detail of that because the Hon. J. P. Hannaford has already placed it on record. The present Minister for Public Works and Services, the present Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning and the Hon. R. D. Dyer have made a major contribution to the preservation of this great asset. Although it is no longer a working piece of our industrial heritage, it will always have great nostalgic and sentimental attachment, and will come to serve the cultural and economic needs of our State.
I want to respond to some matters raised by the Hon. I. Cohen in his speech. I am sure that the honourable member said wharf 8/9 will be demolished. That is not correct. Under the current proposal wharf 8/9 will be refurbished. These wharves have significantly deteriorated. They are very old pieces of industrial architecture and were not designed to last 150 years. To preserve them, they need refurbishment. I am advised that wharf 8/9 will not be demolished, but will be refurbished.
The Hon. I. Cohen referred to a case brought by Rosemount Estate wineries against Bengalla Mining Co. Although he referred to the original decision, honourable members would know that the decision was reversed on appeal. Dealing with the transport issue, which was raised by the Hon Dr A. Chesterfield-Evans, the current instrument that is envisaged under this legislation requires the condition of consent for any transport management plan. This is not the old Soviet Union. We cannot have a single master plan that tells us what to do in every aspect. We are giving consent to a developer to proceed. The proper way to handle the transport issue is to require the relevant public bodies and the developer to come up with a transport management plan for the site. To suggest that the Minister should be obliged to bring forward a plan for the House to consider here and now is an absurdity.
One honourable member, I think the Hon Dr A. Chesterfield-Evans, said that the termite infestation of a whole sandstone wall had been exaggerated by the developer or the Department of Public Works. I am informed that the infestation has not suddenly worsened. With improved technology to detect termite infestation we can now see the extent of the damage. When entrepreneurs become interested in a development, the latest technology is applied to discover any problems that might be involved.
I am advised that the termite infestation is a serious preservation issue and will become more expensive to correct. I have already cited the primary example that each year half a million dollars goes out of the Ministry for the Arts budget that is supposed to provide for cultural events for New South Wales. That ministry is not meant to predominantly provide a large part of its funding to exterminate termites. I am sure the Ministry for the Arts has an adequate budget -
The Hon. M. R. Egan:
It is a generous budget.
The Hon. J. J. DELLA BOSCA:
My leader reminds me it is an adequate budget, but committing half a million dollars of any component of its budget to the extermination of termites seems to be an absurdity that this Government would do well to bring to an end. I do not know that I can respond to all matters raised by the Hon. J. H. Jobling regarding the Auditor-General’s report or the earlier remarks of the Hon. D. E. Oldfield. I refer both honourable members and any others interested in this aspect to page 91 of the Auditor-General’s report entitled, "Performance Audit Report Review of Walsh Bay". It has a fairly interesting graph that even an Assistant Treasurer could understand let alone a Treasurer or someone like the Hon. J. H. Jobling, who might have aspirations in that regard!
The Hon. M. R. Egan:
Let me assure you that I do not always understand the Auditor-General.
The Hon. J. J. DELLA BOSCA:
I assure you that there is a simple graph demonstrating the net public benefit and comparing the two offers. The 1995 scheme shows a net benefit of $45.34 million to the public purse, and according to the Auditor-General, who has established himself over whatever else can be said as an independent viewpoint on such matters, there will be a net benefit of $38.56 million to the public from this proposed development. Whatever else can be said of the Auditor-General, I do not believe anyone said he is likely to rort such assessments or do them simply to suit the Government or any other private developer.
The Hon. M. R. Egan:
You are on dangerous ground now.
The Hon. J. J. DELLA BOSCA:
I am being told I am on dangerous ground, so I will leave it at that. I would like to be a better travelled person than I am presently. However, I have been to Liverpool, which is another great port city of the world.
The Hon. J. H. Jobling:
You should have become the President.
The Hon. J. J. DELLA BOSCA:
I do not have any aspirations in that regard. Liverpool was a great port city. Because of world economic change it ceased suddenly to be a port city of any commercial significance because of the economics of the transatlantic routes and strategic changes after the Second World War. It may have ceased to be a port city, but I was somewhat surprised to learn that it has magnificent industrial architectural heritage. I expected it to be a somewhat glum place. However, the industrial heritage of Liverpool is predominantly dock lands that are truly magnificent. I do not believe that one inch of those Victoria docks, which are the ones that have been redeveloped, is still used for commercial dock purposes. They have been redeveloped entirely as cultural, retail and recreational facilities simply because there is no capacity for those wharves to be used for the commercial purpose for which they were originally designed.
In closing, I refer to some of the remarks of the Hon. I. Cohen. It was his assertion, though I am not sure that he is right, that these are the last wharves of this type in the world. I assume the logical argument for that is that those in other countries have been knocked down because they were no longer commercially useful. But we are preserving 80 per cent of them. If we do not take this option to preserve them, they will simply fall down and disappear into the harbour or deteriorate.
The Hon. Dr A. Chesterfield-Evans:
You could fix them.
The Hon. J. J. DELLA BOSCA:
You know very well that we cannot fix them and I have already given the reasons. We are trying to preserve a valuable part of our heritage and provide access for the public to that heritage as a basic entitlement. It is not the entitlement of the Greens, the Hon. Dr A. Chesterfield-Evans or any other honourable member that has raised some of these issues to say that this important heritage precinct should be locked up for another 84 years. That is a disgrace!
We have an opportunity to do something good for the economy of New South Wales and for its people. It will be wonderful for our great city that we want to become an office front for all sorts of business and provide jobs across this State. It is important that we review our heritage entitlement with a bit of logic and that we respect our nostalgia. The most important cure for anxiety, which is the main symptom of nostalgia, is action. It is time for us to take action; 15 years is too long for Walsh Bay to remain a question mark. We must fix the problem. I commend the bill to the House.
Question - That this bill be now read a second time - put.
The House divided.
Mr Bull Mr Manson
Ms Burnswoods Mr Moppett
Mr Della Bosca Rev. Nile
Mr Dyer Mr Obeid
Mr Egan Mr Oldfield
Mrs Forsythe Dr Pezzutti
Mr Gallacher Mr Ryan
Miss Gardiner Ms Saffin
Mr Gay Mr Samios
Mr Hannaford Mrs Sham-Ho
Mr Harwin Mr Shaw
Mr Hatzistergos Ms Tebbutt
Mr Johnson Mr Tingle
Mr M. Jones Mr Tsang
Mr Kelly Tellers
Mr Lynn Mr Jobling
Mr Macdonald Mr Primrose
Mr Breen Dr Wong
Dr Chesterfield-Evans Tellers,
Mr Corbett Mr Cohen
Ms Rhiannon Mr R. Jones
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.