Hunter Region Funding Cutbacks
HUNTER REGION FUNDING CUTBACKS
Mr FACE (Charlestown - Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [3.43 p.m.]: I move:
On Saturday morning the people of the Hunter woke up to the headline "Closure threat for RAAF base" in the Newcastle Herald. The article stated that the Williamtown base was under a real threat. The editorial in the same edition bemoaned the fact that the coalition's axe is "to fall again" and the resulting loss of jobs in the Hunter area. Honourable members should read the editorial. I hope the Opposition takes notice of what its Federal mates have done. It is a return to the Fraser years, the years after the demise of the Whitlam Government. What effect will the closure of the RAAF base at Williamtown have? Two thousand jobs will be placed at risk; downstream services, such as the multiplier factor of supplying such a large complex, will be placed at risk; the technological cutting edge will be lost; the possibility of establishing a regional maintenance centre in the Hunter for service and civilian aircraft will be lost; the defence capability on our eastern seaboard will be lost; and last but not the least, the ability to defend the greatest wealth-generating region in New South Wales will be lessened.
Is anyone able to understand the logic behind this proposal? The previous Federal Government realised that it made good logistical sense to make the Hunter the major defence area of Australia, because Australian Defence Industries had the capacity to manufacture submarine components and Minehunter vessels; Forgacs Dockyard had been given major contract for ship repairs, including technology upgrades; the capability of the Singleton army base had been upgraded; and the RAAF was capable of providing lead-in fighter replacement and support services. The area was also suitable for the location of F18 fighter plane upgrades, but that decision is still to be announced. It now seems that the Joint Command Centre will be located in Canberra, although the Liberals claim it is still possible that it will be located in the Hunter region.
The Hunter region has worked hard and long to gain defence contracts. It has been successful not because of favours from any government but because of its ability to be able to meet productivity levels, its industrial relations standards and its good, solid ability to produce results on time. I put it to the House that there is no fat left to trim in the Department of Defence. In recent years the defence force was trimmed because it had to become effective. Shifting one of the two F18 squadrons to Tindal, a proposition that the Minister for Defence will not rule out, will take away a key component of the Williamtown base.
The downgrading of the Williamtown base will have serious consequences not only for the city of Newcastle but for every other city in that region - Maitland, Cessnock, Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens. The base has a large number of operational and support staff; for every pilot there are at least 10 to 15 support staff. The winding down of the RAAF base at Richmond will leave Williamtown as the only remaining operational base in New South Wales. The downgrading of Williamtown will mean that the most populated State in the Commonwealth will have no air force base. Moving F18 squadrons to Tindal is not an answer to the problem. Staff and families will be isolated and left without infrastructure and support. Families will break up because of the lack of tertiary education. That sort of work force could not be supported in any existing facility. The number of pilots leaving will eventually increase; the figure is bad enough at present. More time will have to be spent on pilot training, and that is not cost effective.
The Federal member for Paterson has taken all the running of Federal issues that deliver good news to the Hunter - probably to build up his profile politically - but he has nothing to say about any of the nasties. The closure of the immigration office in the Hunter will affect many from the Hunter, central coast and northern New South Wales regions. The member for Paterson had not uttered one word about the drastic cutbacks in education and training programs until yesterday, when he asked Labor members representing electorates in the Hunter to take a bipartisan approach to sharing the blame for the defence cutbacks. At last he is asking for matters to be dealt with in a bipartisan spirit; yet all he ever talks about is the terrible New South Wales Labor Government. No-one ever hears anything about what he is up to. Until today not a word had been heard about these cuts from the long-term Hunter-based Liberal Senator who is - wait for it! - the chairman of the Government committee on regional development. Not a word has been heard from him even though he has seniority over the member for Paterson. The honourable member for Maitland can smile because he probably has the same opinion of Senator Tierney as I do. The headline in today's newspaper reads "Homes trouble for RAAF". What a great headline! Senator Tierney is now bullying Port Stephens council about urban encroachment on RAAF runway and flight path areas. Those matters already been resolved.
If he stopped tripping around the countryside and running up bills, he might learn a little about the Hunter, the area he is supposed to come from. Those matters were resolved by the former Government talking sensibly to the council and the council making the necessary adjustments to its development plans. What are the Liberals up to? That is the question that is being asked. As the Minister responsible for the Hunter region, and as someone who has represented the area in public life for 24½ years, I am not necessarily throwing cold water on the idea of gradually downgrading Williamtown, but I want to know what is going on. What is likely to replace it? Will the State have an aircraft industry?
The Government regards the threatened closure of Williamtown as a softening up for the king hit. It is another example of the Liberals' contempt for the Hunter. Perhaps the best example of that contempt is the comments made by the member for Paterson on the weekend after the article appeared. He was finally flushed out! Yesterday he said that Williamtown was planned to be an overflow airport for international flights during the Olympics in the year 2000. I reckon the people in the Hunter would be really happy about that. What would be in it for Newcastle? Big deal! There would be no benefit for the Hunter at all. That is what the Government is going on about.
The State Government says it should be told if Williamtown is to be downgraded, and the State and Federal governments can then make the appropriate adjustments. The member for Paterson has gone into damage control because he said Williamtown "could possibly be substantially expanded". Does he mean an expanded defence capability, or expanded for commercial international flights so that Newcastle will become Sydney's second airport? I want to know. Everyone is now asking that question. If Williamtown is to be used during the Olympics for charter and overflow flights, is this the softening up period? What are the Liberals planning? It is time they came clean on their plans for the Hunter. It is time to stop the worry that is being caused to defence personnel and their families. It is time to stop causing uncertainty and unnecessary hardship on the Hunter, which is now under a cloud because of uncertainly with BHP and a number of other matters.
This is not a happy time for the Hunter and this threat has now been thrown in with no warning and with no back-up material. Honourable members can understand why the people of the Hunter and I are complaining about it. The unfortunate fact is that the Federal Government is into everything. The ABC, which is essential to regional Australia, is being garrotted. The former Federal Labor Government brought services to people in the areas in which they live, but the present Liberal-National Party Federal Government is returning to its old practice of centralisation. This further announcement puts a further cloud over the prosperity of Newcastle. The Federal Government has been indecisive. It withheld announcements until its awful budget six months after it was elected, and this year's budget may be even worse.
The Federal Government is giving everyone the jitters, especially those in Canberra, a city that depends on Federal finance. What happens to defence personnel will have an effect on Canberra. The Federal Government has dealt a blow to regional Australia by closing Federal offices, as I mentioned earlier, and slashing unemployment training schemes. In my electorate and on the east coast of Lake Macquarie, particularly in the electorate of the honourable member for Swansea, some people in their thirties have never worked in their lives. There is nothing there for them. The aged have suffered because of health care cuts and, worst of all, in the same breath the Federal Government is claiming that palliative care funding is the panacea to euthanasia. [Time expired.]
Mr J. H. TURNER (Myall Lakes) [3.53 p.m.]: It is true that there has been a Federal cutback in the Hunter, and that was the loss by Bob Horne of the Federal electorate of Paterson. That loss was indicative of the way the people of the Hunter regarded the Labor Party. The Labor Party walked away from the people of the Hunter and it was punished for it. The Minister does not even have the status of being the Minister for the Hunter, despite the promise of the Premier before the election. The postbox for the Hunter now has the hide to claim in all sincerity that the Federal Government has made cutbacks in the Hunter.
If the Labor Party under Paul Keating had done the right thing by the Hunter in 1995, Mr Horne would probably still be the member for the electorate of Paterson. He is not, although he likes to run around and pretend he is. I suppose the Labor Party is funding that. If the Labor Party has enough money to fund failed candidates, it probably has enough money to kick the can for a few other things in the Hunter, for example, giving the Hunter a proper Minister, as promised by the Premier during the election campaign. He said he would appoint a Minister to assist him in coordinating matters relating to the Hunter. He did not; he appointed a Minister with the title of Minister assisting him on Hunter matters or some such title.
Mr Neilly: Don't you know his title?
Mr J. H. TURNER: I do not because his role in the Hunter has been of such a low profile that it is difficult to understand what his role or his title is. Last year the Minister was asked in the estimates committee hearing what his position was as Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development. He said:
That this House deplores the impact Federal cutbacks have had on the Hunter region since March 1995, and in particular the recent announcements concerning the defence efficiency review.
In other words, the Government says that it will not have a presence in the Hunter; it will have a Minister Assisting the Minister on Hunter Development but it will not have a presence in the Hunter. So much for the Minister having an interest in the Hunter! The Minister went on to say:
There is probably a misconception about my role as the Minister assisting the Premier on Hunter Development, and those departmental activities are not within my jurisdiction . . . My role was not to establish a new bureaucracy with all the associated costs and duplication it would entail.
Mr Hunter: On a point of order. I draw your attention to the motion, which clearly refers to the effect Federal cutbacks have had on the Hunter and has nothing to do with the Minister's portfolio as it is being referred to by the honourable member for Myall Lakes. I draw his attention to the fact that he should be talking about Federal cutbacks. If he supports those cutbacks, he should tell the House.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I uphold the point of order.
Mr J. H. TURNER: It is good when it starts to hurt and honourable members opposite have to take points of order to protect their Minister. The Newcastle Herald was very selectively quoted by the Minister a few minutes ago. That is the way the Labor Party always likes to do it. The Minister did not read what appears after a couple of paragraphs of the article. Honourable members should not forget that. It was the redoubtable Allan Morris who made these accusations, and even those on the Government side of the House would have to question some of the actions of Allan Morris at certain meetings that have taken place in the Hunter
Valley over the past couple of months. I will leave that aside because I am not here to denigrate Mr Morris; he does a good enough job of that himself. The article from which the Minister read also stated:
That is the commonly held misconception . . . I have two staff members, one located in Sydney and one in Newcastle . . .
I am sure he has been misinformed. I would give Mr Morris the benefit of the doubt and say that is what happened. Mr Morris really did not tell any fibs or make up any stories; he was misinformed. That would be understandable for Mr Morris. Indeed, the Labor Party is often misinformed. The article went on to say:
Mr Bob Baldwin, MHR Paterson, said Mr Morris had been misinformed.
That is a bit different from what the Minister alleged in this House. The article went on:
Williamtown remained a short-listed possibility to attract the joint operational headquarters and was "well positioned" to succeed.
I do not regard that as an indication that the base is to be downgraded. The article also stated:
It was a proposed site to take international charter flights during Sydney's 2000 Olympic Games, but there was no intention to allow its regular use for jumbo jets.
Why did the Minister not quote that? The article continued:
The base was not about to be downgraded or sold off and could possibly be substantially expanded, Mr Baldwin said.
It is all very well to have a selective memory and to quote selectively, but, frankly, the Minister should get it correct. In 1994 the headline "Hunter jobless figures worst in the State" condemned the Keating Government.
Ms Hall: On a point of order. The honourable member is not coming clean; he is not telling the House that he supports the cuts.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order.
Mr J. H. TURNER: The honourable member for Swansea will have to do a lot better now that she is trying to go to Canberra. Frankly, if that is the best she can do, she will be swallowed up and lost in Canberra, even with the special quota system to secure her preselection. I assure her that she could not have got to Canberra on her performance in this House.
Ms Hall: On a point of order. This motion is not about quota systems in the Australian Labor Party; it is about the Hunter. I ask you to direct the honourable member to address that matter.
Mr J. H. TURNER: On the point of order. You have ruled on many occasions that a member is entitled to respond to interjections.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member is correct, but I ask members to keep interjections to a minimum.
Mr J. H. TURNER: Every time the honourable member takes a point of order I have another opportunity to refer to these figures. The 1994 article appeared in the Newcastle Herald on 15 March under the headline "Hunter jobless figures worst in the State". That was under Paul Keating, and the Minister has the hide to talk about 12 months!
Mr Price: Under John Fahey.
Mr J. H. TURNER: That is very convenient. When Paul Keating was Prime Minister it was John Fahey's fault, but now that John Howard is Prime Minister it is Bob Carr's fault. If the honourable member for Waratah follows the logic of that argument, Bob Carr is to blame for the downgrading of the Hunter. That is good logic by the honourable member for Waratah! Let me deal with the frigate contract. How hard did you all work on the frigate contract? What happened to the frigate contract? You lost it; Keating lost it. What did you do to Carrington Slipways? You let it go under.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Government members will cease interjecting and the honourable member for Myall Lakes will address his remarks through the Chair.
Mr J. H. TURNER: What is Labor doing about the BHP cutbacks? It is allowing them to proceed. What did the Minister do when there was a chance to establish a new mill in the Hunter Valley? He went public and said, "We will not be giving them any assistance; they have to stand on their own two feet." If Labor is fair dinkum it should be bending over backwards to promote investment in the Hunter instead of trying to blame the Federal Government. Labor decimated the timber industry in the Hunter Valley. What are members of the timber unions in the electorate of the honourable member for Cessnock saying? They are clearly telling him that the Government has driven people out of work, and the Minister now has the hide to talk about misleading reports. He could not even read the third
column of a press report without getting it wrong or misleading the House. This is a nonsense motion. The Minister could not even get the motion right. He has March 1995. I do not know who is working for the Minister but they should be able to get three lines right. If they cannot get that right, how the hell can they get the Hunter right?
Mr Face: On a point of order. It is a longstanding convention of this House that members of Parliament do not attack staff members. It is pretty poor and indicative of the honourable member's character.
Mr Schipp: A search of Hansard would fix that up.
Mr J. H. TURNER: I withdraw without qualification but, as the honourable member for Wagga Wagga rightly points out, a search of Hansard would give some indication. The motion has not been made out in any shape or form. The motion is a joke. Labor has closed the regional office of the Department of Community Services in Maitland. It has cancelled the regional office of the Department of Housing in Maitland, which was to have 27 staff. It has closed Maitland gaol.
Mr Jeffery: It closed the Department of Agriculture office at Macksville.
Mr J. H. TURNER: I am talking about the Hunter, but the sky is the limit for my friend the honourable member for Oxley.
Yes, Wallsend Hospital. When does Labor intend to open Wallsend Hospital? Labor made a promise to open Wallsend Hospital. It is the height of hypocrisy for this Minister, the postbox for the Hunter, to blame the Federal Government for cutbacks in the Hunter when Labor governments in this State and under Paul Keating have done more to destroy the Hunter than any other Government in the history of this land.
Mr MARTIN (Port Stephens - Minister for Mineral Resources, and Minister for Fisheries) [4.03 p.m.]: Today is a important day for the Hunter. That is obvious because of the presence in the Chamber of every member who represents an electorate in the Hunter. Every man and woman in the Hunter is concerned about what is happening there. As my colleague the Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development said in his opening statement, on Saturday morning the people of the Hunter woke up to a headline in the media stating that the Royal Australian Air Force base at Williamtown was destined for closure. My colleague the honourable member for Waratah will talk about what Labor was able to do in 1983 to maintain the steel industry by the introduction of innovative policies. He will deal with that angle and I propose to deal with the RAAF base at Williamtown.
An article appearing in the Newcastle Herald today suggests that the proposed closure is related to noise. Let me tell honourable members about some sinister activities that have been taking place in the Hunter for short-term political gain. The member for Paterson, prior to the 1996 Federal election, held street meetings and sent out letters to people in the Hunter claiming that he would fix the noise problem. He raised expectations in the area. He now says he has had a win and will fix the noise problem. The article today in the Newcastle Herald states that noise is the problem. It is a grubby little political trick to raise expectations about noise and provide the Federal Government with a reason to pull out 2,200 enlisted men and 500 civilians.
If the Williamtown base is closed, 1,200 homes will go in the electorate of Port Stephens, and that is just the start. The Tories opposite and the Tories in Canberra are despicable for trying to pull this trick on the people of the Hunter. Even the air force personnel who voted for the coalition are disgusted. They live in my electorate and they tell me so. Let me go back a little further. Last Thursday the Newcastle Herald published an article stating that the honourable member for Maitland had written to Peter Collins - little Peter - about how terrible things are in the Hunter and the fact that the coalition is not looking after the Hunter. The article stated in part:
Fears for Williamtown's future were partly fuelled by a "misleading" front page headline in Saturday's Newcastle Herald . . .
Mr Blackmore has written to Mr Collins and his deputy, Mr Phillips, warning that the Carr Government is actively promoting initiatives for the region and attracting positive media coverage.
Where are the suggestions from the Hunter-based Liberal Senator, the honourable member for Paterson, and the honourable member for Maitland about Rundles obtaining defence contracts for air force and army uniforms so that it can keep trading? Where are those sorts of suggestions? What is being done about chicken meat in the Hunter? Why is the submarine facility in the electorate of Paterson to be sold? Why is Australian Defence Industries to be privatised? Why is the Minehunter facility to be wound down? Why is the Government talking about turning Williamtown into an international airport
without any of the restrictions that must go with such a suggestion so that the people of the Hunter do not have to endure what the people of Sydney have had to endure? Honourable members should note that the Federal member for Paterson wants Williamtown to operate as a 24-hour-a-day airport while the curfew stays in place in Sydney. What is to happen about the British Aerospace fighter program if Williamtown is closed? The whole exercise is a sham and it shows that the conservatives in Canberra are neglecting the Hunter every minute of every day.
I do not have to go onto the Pacific Highway. In the electorate of Port Stephens in the Hunter $56 million has been cut from the road program. The conservatives are organising against the upgrading of the Pacific Highway. That is the Liberal mentality, the mentality of the gutter. The honourable member for Maitland and his Federal colleagues are against their own Federal Government's $60 million allocation for readjustment in the timber industry, an allocation that accompanied State Government money. They are saying they do not want the money. That is their mentality. They have totally neglected the people of the Hunter. My case rests there. [Time expired.]
Mr COCHRAN (Monaro) [4.08 p.m.]: As the Opposition spokesman on regional development, I find it ironic that it has taken more than two years for the Government to raise the issue of Hunter development in this House. In 2½ long years it has not moved one motion or asked one question, not even a Dorothy Dixer, of the Minister. It is a disgrace that the Minister has neglected the people of the Hunter.
Mr Face: On a point of order. This motion relates to Federal cutbacks. It has nothing to do with what the honourable member for Monaro is raving about.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will address the motion before the Chair.
Mr COCHRAN: I know when it hurts. I have been in Opposition for 2½ years, and I know when it stings. It is stinging the Government now. The motion states in part:
He is understood to be frustrated that his continuing calls for a shadow Cabinet meeting in the Hunter have been ignored.
The Federal Government was elected in March 1996, so for 12 months the State Labor Government has deplored the actions of the Keating Government. The Carr Government and the Minister claim they have deplored the impact of Federal cutbacks on the Hunter region from March 1995 to March 1996. I do not disagree with that at all. If the Federal Government had any vision whatsoever, it would have provided a range of options for the Hunter area so far as industry, ports and airports are concerned. During that 12-month period it has neglected -
Mr Martin: Are you the Opposition spokesman?
Mr COCHRAN: Go back to your koalas, Bob. The Minister for Mineral Resources knows that subject so well, and he will hear more about it before he is finished on the front bench. The Opposition will be delighted to discuss koalas and his discussion with the Australian Koala Foundation, but that will take a little time. I am delighted that the Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development has moved this motion. It provides the Opposition with an opportunity to point out some facts about regional development that people in the Hunter are not aware of with regard to defence forces and the continuation of development of the port. Government members do not have an ounce of imagination between the lot of them. I see on the front bench and the back bench the troglodytes who represent the Hunter region. No progress is being made in regional development because of the standard of Government representation in State Parliament. Not one line item relating to regional development appeared in last year's budget papers.
Mr Gaudry: On a point of order. The honourable member has failed to mention that the Federal Government withdrew all funding for regional development to the Hunter.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order.
Mr COCHRAN: It is nice to know the Government is still stinging. Listen; there is more to come. Last year's State budget allocated $20.2 million to regional development. Where did it go? It did not go to the Hunter; it went to the Moore Park showground.
Mr Face: On a point of order. This is not a debate about last year's budget or Moore Park. It is a debate about Federal cutbacks.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will address the motion before the Chair.
Mr COCHRAN: I understand the Minister's sensitivity, because he has embarrassed himself.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have already ruled that the member is out of order in discussing matters that are not before the Chair.
Mr COCHRAN: Thank you for accepting the point of order; it highlights the facts that I have raised. I now refer to another matter that was raised by none other than a union official - [Time expired.]
Mr PRICE (Waratah) [4.13 p.m.]: I support the motion. I will address my remarks to the possible decline of BHP within the Hunter region. The steel review of BHP could mean Newcastle will no longer be a steel-making town. It is hard to imagine the Hunter without BHP. Over a number of years many industries have closed as a result of Federal policies. The first was the shipbuilding industry. In 1976 the Commonwealth withdrew its shipbuilding subsidies and ultimately caused a final collapse of the State Dockyard, quickly followed by Carrington Slipways and the Australian Submarine Corporation, the new owners of Carrington Slipways. They have all gone. Australian Defence Industries Pty Ltd is to be privatised, and we do not know whether the full contract for minesweepers in this part of the world will be extended, as was originally proposed.
In 1983 the steel industry employed in excess of 11,200 people. In April 1992 maintenance contracts were reduced, and that signalled the massive close-down of the industry. The industry currently employs fewer than 3,500 people. As a result of the withdrawal of confidence in Newcastle and the reduction of steelworkers in that city, the Hawke Government gave $400 million to steel cities throughout the country to improve infrastructure to take care of displaced workers and their families. That involved a number of significant projects in the Hunter Valley, from which we still benefit today.
Mr Blackmore: On a point of order. The urgency motion refers particularly to recent announcements concerning the defence efficiency review. Mr Speaker, you upheld an earlier point of order that discussion should be relevant to the motion before the Chair. The honourable member for Waratah is referring to BHP, which is not relevant to the motion.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The first part of the motion obviously does deal with it, as it states, "That this House deplores the impact Federal cutbacks have had on the Hunter region since March 1995 . . . "
Mr PRICE: BHP has a direct impact on the steel industry. Steel used in shipbuilding for the defence forces comes from our own steel industry. If anything is more directly involved in industrial production for defence than steel, I have yet to be advised of it. It is absolutely outrageous that the Federal Government has shown no initiative, no leadership, no guidance whatsoever, and no attempt to support industries in the Hunter region, apart from the Royal Australian Air Force. The shipbuilding industry has been in decline for many years, and we must now face the decline of the steel industry in Newcastle. I do not know why the industry is in decline. Efficiencies have increased dramatically over the last 15 years. In fact, the steel industry announced that an electric arc furnace would be installed in Newcastle by the year 2002. However, that proposal now appears to have been withdrawn.
In 1995, prior to the change of government, BHP agreed to spend $0.5 billion in Newcastle on that furnace and associated infrastructure. Following the change of government BHP knew that the Liberal conservative Government would not force it to honour the promise, so away it walked. Our nation has invested a lot, in human resources and money, in the steel industry in this country. The Newcastle plant was the first major steel-making plant built by the company. Its impact on the city has been tremendous. The impact on education, through chairs at the university, and the multiplier effect with employment in associated industries and service industries, has been enormous. BHP was the largest employer outside Williamtown air force base and the University of Newcastle. Now the last two employers are under threat. Will Newcastle become a university town, also under threat by the Federal Government?
What representation do we receive from Federal Government members in the Hunter? It appears that the Hunter is in a very sad decline. Australia currently exports 3.5 million tonnes of steel, and imports one million tonnes. If Newcastle is cut out of the system, another 1.6 million tonnes will go. The steel industry in other centres will not be increased, so steel will have to be imported and our balance of payments will be out of whack. It is a disaster. The Federal Government should run for cover. [Time expired.]
Mr FACE (Charlestown - Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [4.18 p.m.], in reply: I am surprised that the honourable member for Maitland has not made a contribution to the debate. I have known him for a long time and I know that he would not want to let himself be embarrassed, as he might have been had he spoken in this debate, because what is happening at the Federal level is indefensible. I shall address the question of a ministry for the Hunter. I ask members opposite what is the alternative. Are they proposing a Minister for the Hunter and the other eight regions as part of their policy?
Mr J. H. Turner: On a point of order. Mr Speaker, you have clearly ruled in this debate that it is inappropriate to debate State matters, but the Minister in reply is continuing to do so.
Mr FACE: Members opposite continually raised it as a postbox for the Hunter, so they should wear it. What is the alternative? I as the Minister asked the honourable member for Myall Lakes and the Hon. D. J. Gay if they wanted briefings, and I am still waiting. Briefings are available any time. Members opposite should talk to the Hunter Regional Association of Councils, because councils are more than happy with the service they are receiving. If the alternative is a full-time secretariat for the Hunter and the other regions of the State, members opposite should provide the cost figures for that. As for another steel mill in Newcastle, once again the mentality of the National Party - as distinct from that of the Liberals - is one of handouts. These steel developers have never seen me or the Hunter Economic Development Council to my knowledge.
Mr Cochran: On a point of order. Mr Speaker, you have already ruled in this debate on the question of relevance. I ask that the Minister be brought back to the Federal issue, which he has raised in the State Parliament, and attend to the motion before the House.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister is speaking in reply and may refer to any matter that has been raised in the debate.
Mr FACE: I am speaking in reply, and these matters were raised in the debate. I let members opposite go on a bit because they had no other information.
Mr J. H. Turner: On the point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order. I have already ruled on that and the Minister has not resumed his contribution since I so ruled.
Mr FACE: Charter flights during the Olympics Games are a flight of fancy, for want of a better word. The Federal Government wants to impose these changes on us without consultation. I am very active in my Hunter development portfolio. The State Government had not heard of the Hunter 2000 Committee or flights to the airport at Williamtown until Mr Baldwin made his announcement recently, and it does not know the ramifications of that announcement. If facilities at Williamtown are to be downscaled, as the Minister responsible for Hunter development I am happy to see whether a replacement aircraft manufacturer will be provided. That may be possible if the changes are instituted over a period, but the Federal Government should come clean and let us know. It will do nothing for Newcastle, even if Mr Baldwin thought that it was a great throwaway line. People will get off a plane at Williamtown and immediately transfer to a bus to travel to Sydney.
People in the Federal electorate of Paterson have been sold a pup. Federal members went all over the place telling people about the noise. Senator Tierney has not learnt anything during all the years he has been in Federal Parliament. He has said what he will do. He said that the future may be vulnerable and the threat of urban encroachment was merely a warning for Port Stephens Council. The Port Stephens Council strategy manager said that the council did not believe that the base was threatened by urban encroachment. One newspaper article set out all the matters that were rectified. The brains trust senator does not know anything about that. He has been caught with his hand in the till, and he is creating uncertainty in the region, in addition to what is happening with regard to BHP and the fact -
Mr Cochran: On a point of order. The Minister has launched a personal attack on a member in another place, accusing him of corruption by saying that he had his hand in the till. Mr Speaker, you should ask the Minister to withdraw the remark.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister's time for speaking has expired.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put.
The House divided.
That this House deplores the impact Federal cutbacks have had on the Hunter region since March 1995 . . .
Ms Allan Mr Markham
Mr Amery Mr Martin
Mr Anderson Ms Meagher
Ms Andrews Mr Mills
Mr Aquilina Ms Moore
Mrs Beamer Mr Moss
Mr Carr Mr Nagle
Mr Clough Mr Neilly
Mr Crittenden Ms Nori
Mr Debus Mr E. T. Page
Mr Face Mr Price
Mr Gaudry Dr Refshauge
Mr Gibson Mr Rogan
Mrs Grusovin Mr Rumble
Ms Hall Mr Scully
Mr Harrison Mr Shedden
Ms Harrison Mr Stewart
Mr Hunter Mr Sullivan
Mr Iemma Mr Tripodi
Mr Knight Mr Watkins
Mr Knowles Mr Whelan
Mr Langton Mr Woods
Mrs Lo Po' Mr Yeadon
Mr McBride Tellers,
Dr Macdonald Mr Beckroge
Mr McManus Mr Thompson
Mr Armstrong Mr O'Farrell
Mr Beck Mr D. L. Page
Mr Blackmore Mr Peacocke
Mr Brogden Mr Phillips
Mr Chappell Mr Photios
Mrs Chikarovski Mr Richardson
Mr Cochran Mr Rixon
Mr Collins Mr Rozzoli
Mr Cruickshank Mr Schipp
Mr Debnam Mr Schultz
Mr Downy Ms Seaton
Mr Ellis Mrs Skinner
Ms Ficarra Mr Slack-Smith
Mr Fraser Mr Small
Mr Glachan Mr Smith
Mr Hartcher Mr Souris
Mr Hazzard Mr Tink
Mr Humpherson Mr J. H. Turner
Dr Kernohan Mr R. W. Turner
Mr Kinross Mr Windsor
Mr Merton Tellers,
Mr Oakeshott Mr Jeffery
Mr O'Doherty Mr Kerr
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.