CASTLEREAGH LIQUID WASTE DISPOSAL DEPOT BILL
Debate resumed from 24th September.
(Gosford - Minister for the Environment) [10.6]: I lead for the Government in debate on the Castlereagh Liquid Waste Disposal Depot Bill, which was introduced by the honourable member for Londonderry, and which has been reinstated to the business paper following the prorogation of the House. I acknowledge the work that the honourable member for Londonderry does on behalf of his constituents. He has taken a great interest in their welfare and has worked very hard to ensure that their concerns are properly addressed. I pay tribute to him for that. I also pay tribute to him for the co-operative way in which he has assisted me since I became Minister for the Environment in ensuring that the issues concerning Castlereagh and the Castlereagh waste depot are addressed. He has raised many issues, and over the next few months - though it is early days yet - I hope they will all be addressed.
In particular the honourable member has drawn my attention to a number of matters of which I had not been conscious before and which I am now seeking to have addressed. I acknowledge his considerable interest in this matter. This bill was introduced by the honourable member for Londonderry on 24th September, 1992. Since then there have been a number of developments about this issue. Whether or not the House is inclined to accept the fact that circumstances have considerably changed and that this bill is no longer relevant - at least in the short term - is a matter I would be arguing. I hope all honourable members would agree. When the honourable member introduced the bill he made it clear that essentially, on behalf of many people in the area, that they did not want a tip at all. He said in his speech:
We in the Londonderry area find ourselves fighting another battle against a megatip which we do not deserve, which is not suitable for the area and would devastate the environment.
That is the theme of his speech to the House; basically that they do not want what is there. The honourable member went on to say:
To advocate to put a megatip on top of the present dump is wrong. To do so would be the greatest act of bastardry, for want of a better word, against the environment. How can the Government tell the people of Londonderry and western Sydney that although it lost a battle to place a dump there now, by de facto means, through the back door...the area would be turned into another love canal.
The issue has since changed because of a number of factors. First - and this is a crucial point - in September 1992 I made an announcement of proposed government policy on future waste management projects for New South Wales through the release of a green paper. The honourable member for Londonderry and the honourable member for Blacktown are members of the committee of the Parliament which is examining future waste management strategies. The committee will examine these issues and determine a plan for the future. Second, I have announced a comprehensive audit with regard to the Castlereagh depot, the completion of a stage one audit and the commencement of the stage two audit.
My understanding of the bill before the House - which I imagine is similar to the understanding of most members - is that it attempts to ensure that no further waste other than liquid waste is accepted at the Castlereagh waste depot until an environmental impact statement has been prepared and determined in accordance with the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act - which means it would be determined by Penrith City Council as State environment planning policy No. 3 would no longer apply. When the honourable member for Londonderry tabled the bill in September he expressed concern about the potential effect of a proposal by the Waste Recycling and Processing Service - WRAPS - to overtop the depot with putrescible waste.
Besides ensuring that the overtopping proposal does not proceed without an additional environmental impact statement being prepared, the bill, through clause 6, is seeking to prevent the depot from accepting putrescible waste - an essential part of the process for liquid waste disposal - and permit it to accept only liquid waste. The Castlereagh depot is covered by State Environmental Planning Policy No. 3 which was introduced in 1981. When the policy was introduced the then Minister, who was from the western areas of Sydney, the Hon. Eric Bedford, M.P., set out the aim of SEPP No. 3, in the following terms:
State Environmental Planning Policy No. 3 -
Castlereagh Liquid Waste Disposal Depot.
2. This policy is to allow for the continuation and expansion of the Castlereagh Liquid Waste Disposal Depot to provide for part of the State's needs pending the selection of a new site and the construction of that site of an industrial liquid waste treatment plant.
The policy states that the facility can operate as a liquid waste depot and that landscaping and pollution control measures can be carried out on the site. The recontouring is considered necessary by the Waste Recycling and Processing Service to improve surface drainage of the site; it will reduce the potential for infiltration of rainwater to landfill material and lessen the potential for contaminant migration.
Under the proposal adopted in 1987 by the former Labor Government the capacity of the recontouring was to be about 3 million tonnes of waste; the maximum height of the overtopping was to be eight metres; and the area was to be screened from road frontages by a 100-metre vegetated buffer zone. The then Minister for Planning and Environment, the present Leader of the Opposition, agreed to the overtopping proposal on 3rd February, 1987, and decided that the Metropolitan Waste Disposal Authority - as WRAPS was then called - was the most appropriate body to determine the matter.
On 23rd February, 1987, Penrith City Council was advised that the development consent had been approved by the board of the Metropolitan Waste Disposal Authority. The procedure established for the Castlereagh tip by the previous Labor Government should be clearly and publicly acknowledged. In 1981 the previous Government introduced SEPP No. 3; in 1987 the then Minister - the present Leader of the Opposition no less! - determined that the waste service be the consent authority that consented to this development, which is now the concern of the honourable member for Londonderry. On 23rd February the Penrith City Council was accordingly advised.
Community standards have changed.
In complete contrast to the Opposition, the Government has taken a different approach. As the honourable member for Moorebank has said, community standards have changed. The Government has taken action to address the concerns of local residents. My predecessor, the Hon. Tim Moore, arranged an environmental audit of the site because the Government believed an opportunity must be provided for the concerns to be fully investigated by an independent organisation. Further, the Government has determined that until the environmental audit of the site has been comprehensively executed and all implications for residents established, no overtopping of the site should occur.
I believe the current processes provide the best solution for resolving these concerns in a comprehensive, open and credible manner. I state unequivocally, as I have on a number of occasions out at the site, in newspaper reports, and during television interviews, that there will be no consideration at all of an overtopping proposal until the current environmental audit is completed and the environmental integrity of the facility is established without question. The Government's position goes even further because it is proposing a final and comprehensive resolution and not simply an interim measure.
It is appropriate to place on record what has been done and said by members opposite - members who are now supporting this particular bill. The honourable member for Blacktown is well aware of the history of the Labor Party's association with this facility. On 14th August, 1990, she acknowledged to the Penrith press that, "The depot was operating the whole time we were in government and we did virtually nothing about it". That is quite an
understatement because when the depot was first established it was only 40 hectares in size. Under the Labor Government the depot was enormously expanded so that by 1988 the site had grown to 357 hectares. It is the former Labor Government to whom the people of Castlereagh must look for the massive expansion of this facility.
Two and a half years later - after those comments by the honourable member for Blacktown - this bill comes before the House. Of course, it is not presented by the Opposition spokesperson for the environment; it is presented by the honourable member for Londonderry. The broader picture of the Labor Party's waste management policies when it was in government is equally damning. Effectively, the decision to approve the placement of landfill depots of great size at Londonderry and Lucas Heights, and to overtop Castlereagh, was taken by the Wran Cabinet in October 1976 with the approval of the Metropolitan Waste Disposal Authority in the Sydney region waste management plan, phase 2.
In October 1976 that plan, which directly involved the establishment of Londonderry and Lucas Heights and overtopping at Castlereagh, was approved by the Wran Cabinet. The plan was designed to establish megatips in order to concentrate the location of waste depots. Two were selected in the outer west of Sydney and one in the southern suburbs of Sydney. In the course of executing that plan, the Labor Party was either aware of both the specific implications of a deliberate decision about the location of tips and their potential impact on the local community, or it was aware only of the overall strategy while giving the Waste Disposal Authority carte blanche to establish tips, in which case it was simply washing its hands of all involvement.
Honourable members do not know what the Wran Cabinet thought in 1976, but they do know that from 1976 until 1988 no further steps were taken to address the issue of waste management. The existing plan was simply proceeded with. Bob Carr, the Leader of the Opposition, was one of the ministers for the environment and he it was who originally approved the overtopping proposal for Castlereagh in 1986. It was not me. I have made sure the Government will not proceed until complete environmental studies have been undertaken. It was not my predecessor, the Hon. Tim Moore, but Bob Carr who approved this proposal. He took development consent away from Penrith City Council, of which the honourable member for Penrith is a member, and placed it in the hands of the Metropolitan Waste Disposal Authority. The present honourable member for Penrith was a member of the board of that authority, and her role needs to be examined.
Moving on from the historic involvement of the Labor Party to the history of the Castlereagh depot, the depot is located about 60 kilometres northwest of Sydney at Berkshire Park. That site was chosen after an intensive investigation of sites throughout the Sydney region - so honourable members are told by members of the then Labor Government - and other areas as far as 250 kilometres from the city centre. The primary reason for the selection of the Castlereagh depot and its subsequent expansion by the Labor Government from 40 hectares to 357 hectares is that it is located in a geologically unusual basin of effectively impermeable clay.
The records held show that since 1974 the following liquid wastes have been disposed of at Castlereagh: tannery wastes, printing inks, oil-water mixtures, acids and alkalines, sludges, paints and resins, vegetable and mineral oils, small quantities of solvents and miscellaneous organic chemicals. Since its commencement, the depot has received about 970,000 tonnes of liquid waste. These wastes are now largely treated at the aqueous waste plant at Lidcombe. One of the consequences of the bill, if passed, will be that Sydney's hazardous liquid waste will not be processed at the aqueous waste plant at Lidcombe, as there would be no place for the disposal of final residues. The Castlereagh depot is the only secure landfill depot in New South Wales and it is the only place where these residues can be safely disposed of.
I am not sure whether that is understood by the honourable member for Londonderry. The present practice is that only minimal quantities of liquid wastes are taken to the Castlereagh facility; they go through the new plant at Lidcombe. However, if the Castlereagh depot is not available to dispose of the residue from the Lidcombe waste plant, the Lidcombe waste plant simply will not be able to operate. I suggest that honourable members take that into account when determining the fate of this bill. Accordingly, the Government cannot support the bill, which seeks to close down a facility which serves a vital purpose in the community before the stage two findings are available.
I should like to relate to honourable members two matters of importance with regard to the Castlereagh facility, one involving an environmental group and the other involving a family of ordinary citizens caught out by unknown irresponsibility from decades past. In 1990 Greenpeace sent 1.84 tonnes of hazardous liquid waste - including phenyls, alkaline cleaning agents and hydrogen sulphide - from the Rainbow Warrior
to Waste Recycling and Processing Service facilities for disposal. These wastes were treated at the aqueous waste plant at Lidcombe and the sludge buried in a secure cell at the Castlereagh site. Surely by being a client of the facility Greenpeace was acknowledging the environmental integrity of the site. Notwithstanding all the occasions on which one becomes concerned about some of the views expressed by Greenpeace, it is good to learn that it has a responsible approach to some aspects of waste management.
If this bill is passed, the site at Lidcombe will be unuseable. If the bill had been enacted last year, a constituent of the honourable member for The Hills would have been placed in an impossible situation. Honourable members may recall that in November last year an old illegal waste dump involving medical waste was discovered on a property at Dural. Almost
600 tonnes of that waste has now been removed and disposed of at Castlereagh in an environmentally sound way. The waste had to be removed and the only place where it could be disposed of was the Castlereagh facility.
Such is the care and attention needed for the disposal of that type of waste that under commercial circumstances the waste service would have charged at least $542,000 to perform that task. The Government's responsible and caring approach to waste management is demonstrated by its commitment to relieving the owners of properties of the costs of disposing of such waste. That commitment could not have been made under the provisions of the bill, and that is proof of the bill's short-sightedness. It is of interest to note that the Metropolitan Waste Disposal Authority informed Penrith City Council of its intention to overtop in 1986 and no objection was received from that council.
Mrs Lo Po':
The Minister has just told the House that the council's planning powers were taken away. I wonder why.
But the council raised no objection. On the basis of the previous decision, the council has now written to the waste service demanding that it not proceed. I wonder if the changing attitude of the council between 1986 and 1993 is merely the result of changed political circumstances, because in 1986 Penrith City Council was dealing with a State Labor Government. Surely one must wonder about the council's changed attitude.
I am advised that the Waste Recycling and Processing Service could act on the previous agreement and proceed with overtopping, whether or not it carried out an additional environmental impact statement, because the development has already been approved, albeit by the waste service under the auspices of SEPP 3. Penrith City Council waste was disposed of at Castlereagh depot until mid-1991. Penrith City Council, which now complains about the facility, was sending waste to the facility until 1991. The reason it is no longer sending waste there is not any change of heart by the council about the facility; it is that the facility no longer needs to use that amount of putrescible waste as absorbency material. It is a change in operation in the facility, not a change in attitude in the Penrith City Council, that has determined the fact that Penrith City Council no longer sends waste there.
When the current State Government cancelled Labor's plans for the Londonderry megatip in 1991, Penrith City Council - of which the honourable member for Penrith was then mayor - was asked to nominate alternative sites for the disposal of waste by Penrith city ratepayers. Council failed to nominate any site for disposal of its waste and that waste currently goes to Eastern Creek depot for disposal, on an interim basis. I have said on a number of occasions that, should the depot not meet the most stringent environmental requirements, the overtopping proposal would be amended or even abandoned, if it were found by the audit to be inappropriate.
The Castlereagh secure landfill disposal depot is essential for the disposal of certain of Sydney's wastes, and must therefore be kept open to handle those wastes in the short to medium term, at the very least until viable alternative disposal options are available. For that fundamental reason, the Government will not support the bill. Furthermore, the bill is dated and fails to recognise the actions taken by the Government to achieve the same end - to ensure that the facility is safe. The central question posed by the bill is whether the depot is legally able to receive non-liquid wastes.
SEPP 3 states that the facility can operate as a liquid waste depot, and that landscaping and pollution control measures can be carried out on site. The use of putrescible waste for absorbency is standard operational practice for liquid waste landfill depots using co-disposal methods throughout the world. Therefore, the approved method for receiving liquid-sludge wastes at Castlereagh relies upon the associated receipt of some putrescible or other absorbent wastes - for example, paper wastes - to provide for the absorption-containment strategy for liquid-sludge wastes at the depot.
The basis of the bill would therefore suggest that this depot be operated in a manner not practised in any industrialised country in the world. That such a retrogressive step be proposed by the Labor Party is not surprising. That it should come from the honourable member for Londonderry, who has the interests of his constituents at heart, as I have said, is surprising. It would appear, from the honourable member's bill, that the bulk of liquid wastes in Sydney go to the Castlereagh depot. That is not true any longer, as the majority of the wastes are now delivered to the WRAPS aqueous waste treatment facility at Lidcombe for treatment and subsequent disposal, not to the Castlereagh depot.
The Castlereagh depot is required to receive those sludges and few liquid wastes that cannot be accepted at Lidcombe but which are acceptable at Castlereagh. Under the bill it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to dispose of those liquid wastes already despatched to the depot. That is because they need the absorbent material and this bill outlaws the continuing use of the absorbent material. That would therefore require stockpiling, and I am sure that aspect has escaped the attention of the honourable member for Londonderry. The waste would need to be stockpiled or there would be the risk - so prevalent in Sydney - of illegal dumping of such wastes. That would be of major concern to the community, the Environment Protection Authority, local councils and to the people of New South Wales.
The Government is concerned to ensure that the Castlereagh waste depot facility is seen to be safe. On 9th April, 1992, my predecessor, the Hon. Tim Moore, then Minister for the Environment, announced that AGC Woodward-Clyde Pty Limited had been appointed to carry out stage one of an environmental audit of Waste Recycling and Processing Service facilities, including the facility at Castlereagh. The
funds allocated for the audit of the Castlereagh depot amount to $650,000, a very large sum which reflects the Government's concern that the audit be done exactingly and well. The audit was commissioned by the EPA and, as the title suggests, was independent of the Waste Recycling and Processing Service, which is the operator of the facility.
The audit of stage one served a twofold purpose. The first was to provide a benchmark assessment of the operations and environmental risks associated with the facility, and the adequacy of the environmental safeguards in place, to ensure effective environmental regulation of the facility by the Environment Protection Agency. The second was to provide the Minister for the Environment with an independent assessment and critique of the environmental management and the due diligence programs of the facilities. The stage one audit report included the auditor's perspective on the adequacy of available data. It also included recommendations for remedial measures and improvements to management and operational processes, procedures and systems.
Further, the report made recommendations in relation to stage two of an audit for additional sampling, testing and monitoring considered necessary in relation to the Castlereagh facility. The stage one audit included a review of unresolved community concerns and issues in relation to the facility, and made recommendations in the overall context of the stage one findings. The stage one environmental audit of the Castlereagh depot recommended that the existing monitoring program should be improved and enhanced. The audit did not conclude that the depot should be closed because of the existing level of risk alleged to be involved.
The Government has implemented the findings of stage one of the report, following assessment and review by the waste service and the EPA, and the stage two audit is now under way. At a meeting held in mid-October with local government, residents and local members of Parliament, following the release of the stage one audit report, it was alleged that the waste service did not provide all the documentation on the operation of the Castlereagh Liquid Waste Disposal Depot to the independent auditors, AGC Woodward-Clyde Pty Limited. It was further alleged the documentation provided proof that the depot was not operating satisfactorily and that certain cells could be leaking.
I sought to obtain a copy of the documentation, which I forwarded to the auditors, to the Environment Protection Authority and to WRAPS. I expressed concern at the nature of the documentation and sought their response as a matter of importance and of urgency. In forwarding the information, I asked: first, whether the documentation was on the waste services files; second, whether the material was provided to AGC Woodward-Clyde Pty Limited, and if so on what date; third, what the material meant, in terms of the operational security of the depot; and fourth, whether the material contradicted or compromised previous information provided to me or my predecessor.
I also wrote to the honourable member for Londonderry, the author of this bill, informing him of my action. I endeavoured to write further to him after I had received advice from concerned parties. All correspondence and documentation that I received, including that from the waste service and the auditors, AGC Woodward-Clyde, was also referred to the Environment Protection Authority, in its role as both commissioner of the environmental audit and the State's principal environment protection agency. I am satisfied that the responses provided by the waste service and AJC Woodward-Clyde Pty Limited indicated that this material was and has been available to concerned parties.
Indeed, I am informed that this material was available to Greenpeace, which conducted a review of material on file in August 1990. Accordingly I drew to the attention of interested parties the response of AGC Woodward-Clyde that the material was taken out of context and did not in any way establish that the depot could be leaking. Indeed, AGC Woodward-Clyde claimed that any conclusion drawn from this material would be indefensible and unscientific. I am satisfied that those comments resolved the concern over the hidden nature and content of this material. I place that on the record because this facility has been operating for a long time and many allegations have been made about it and many concerns expressed.
It is important that these matters be recorded in the context of a discussion of the continued operation of the facility. One of the most significant recommendations contained in the stage one audit report was that a permanent committee be established to discuss community concerns. This was also recommended by the Castlereagh Londonderry catchment committee, known as the Martyn committee, which produced a report on community claims of problems on 15th October, 1990. The audit report recommended that Penrith City Council be asked to chair such a panel. I am pleased to announce that this community monitoring committee has been established, though not without some delay. The community monitoring committee is examining the environmental implications of the continued use of this facility. The Government is determined to ensure that the council, environmental groups, and resident action groups are fully informed of and acquainted with every step of the process.
The terms of reference of the committee are: to serve as a community forum to the audit process, with formal access to the relevant government agencies; to meet monthly while the stage two audit of the Castlereagh regional waste depot is being conducted, and to meet thereafter twice a year for a period up to and including five years after the depot ceases operation; to serve as a public review of all information arising from the audit and associated activities as indicated in the action plan of the Minister for the Environment; to receive monthly reports, oral and written, on the progress of the audit,
minutes of the audit team - meetings will be made available in this respect; to provide the EPA and the auditors with community perceptions and comments on the audit process; to serve as a public scrutiny body for the operational activities of the depot; to collate and analyse community reports of contamination in the region that are directly related to the operations of the depot; to refer reports of contamination to the relevant survey groups under the action plan, for example, health, veterinary and agricultural; and to monitor the restoration of the site.
The community monitoring committee includes representatives from Penrith City Council, Hawkesbury City Council, the Environment Protection Authority, the Waste Recycling and Processing Service, the Department of Health, the Department of Conservation and Land Management, the Department of Agriculture, the resident action group for the environment, known as RAGE, the coalition of Hawkesbury and Nepean groups for the environment, known as CHANGE, the movement opposing senseless environmental sacrilege, the Bligh Park enhancement group, and the five non-aligned community representatives.
The composition of this committee is such that an overwhelming proportion of its members are from the local community. The ability of this group to be informed of the process and findings of a public review - the audit - as it proceeds are unparalleled in the history of New South Wales. The Castlereagh facility is the most closely monitored and tested facility in the whole of Australia. No other facility is subject to more exhaustive examination. No other site has undergone such careful and open testing.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Hazzard):
Order! I call the honourable member for Blacktown to order for the second time.
The committee will have constant access to the audit team to receive progress briefings, make comment on findings and actions and ask questions during the term of the audit. I arranged for the EPA to forward a copy of the terms of reference for stage two to the community monitoring committee as soon as it was established. The community monitoring committee reviewed the audit terms of reference, and had no substantial problems with their extent and scope. Furthermore, suggestions that were made by the community monitoring committee have been incorporated in the auditor's brief. This Government sees the community as central to the problem resolution process. It can be involved through consultation and discussion, bringing together the groups most affected so that each is aware of the extent and nature of the problem.
Did this process occur under the Australian Labor Party? The site was approved by the Australian Labor Party. Under the administration of the former Labor Government the waste service was made the sole consent authority. There was no expression of concern for community residents. There was no consultation with Penrith City Council. There was no attempt to ensure that the community was advised of what was happening. It was simply imposed upon them, as Lucas Heights was imposed upon them. The Australian Labor Party's record on lack of community consultation, and dumping vast waste depot facilities on the people, will ensure that it stands condemned for its environmental vandalism.
I would also like to clarify the issue about the terms of reference for stage two of the audit process for the Castlereagh facility. The terms of reference have been prepared by the EPA, which has specifically focused on the technical requirements of the audit. The EPA maintains responsibility for the ongoing management of the audit process. On 17th February I announced the stage two terms of reference for the environmental audit of the Castlereagh facility at Castlereagh waste depot. The stage two audit will add to the information collated during the stage one audit, through extensive testing, and the community will be involved in that process. I hope that the audit will be completed by the end of this year.
The auditors will be required to make a conclusive risk assessment of the site to ascertain once and for all whether the site poses any threat to the environment or to public health. The audit will result in, first, a hydrological model of the site, to include all potential pathways for contaminant migration. The model will be used to assess the effects of any proposed future uses of the site on the movement of contaminants. Second, there will be verification of the existing monetary program and data in terms of reliability. Third is redesign of the monitoring program and database to include both ground and surface water movement on and off site; fourth, to facilitate the development of a contingency plan by the waste service, in conjunction with the Environment Protection Authority, for responding to any detected changes in monitoring results and quantify the potential risks associated with the facility; fifth, additional data on the permeability of the Londonderry clay; and, sixth, an assessment of the environmental and health risks off site.
The EPA will produce a series of interim reports on these matters before the final audit report is completed. Work is also under way on the preparation of a health study, which will be conducted in conjunction with the stage two audit, with the full assistance of the community monitoring committee. The process has been, and will continue to be, conducted in an open atmosphere so that no allegations of non-involvement or cover-up can be legitimately made. At the outset, I said that the honourable member for Londonderry expressed some concerns to me which I felt had not been addressed and which I said would be addressed.
When the honourable member for Londonderry attended the Castlereagh waste depot facility on 17th February - I am grateful that he attended - he expressed concern as to whether there would be immediate action to address problems should the worst possible result be established and should it be clear that there is a potential problem with this site.
I inform the honourable member that I have requested the waste service and the Environment Protection Authority to act on that request. The necessary plans will be made available to take action should it be established that there is a risk with this continued use of the site or associated with the past use of the site - I have no idea whether that will be established.
What then of the waste service to overtop the facility at Castlereagh? In responding, I must reaffirm that the Government has already announced that it will undertake not to permit a change in the nature of operations at the landfill unless the stage two audit shows that the result is reasonable and satisfactory. The honourable member for Londonderry and all members of this House are fully aware that I have given an undertaking that no further consideration will be given by the waste service to overtopping Castlereagh depot until the stage two audit is completed. If - and only if - the result of the audit is satisfactory, will this matter be reconsidered. "Reconsidered" does not mean that overtopping of the depot is a fait accompli; it simply means that all the options available for the disposal of waste at that time will be carefully analysed and assessed.
I reiterate that the Government does not and can not support the Castlereagh Liquid Waste Disposal Depot Bill 1992. The waste service, in conjunction with the EPA, has assessed the recommendation of the stage one environmental audit of the Castlereagh depot. As indicated in my action plan of 29th October, 1992, it will implement those recommendations. This will be done in conjunction with, and to the benefit of, the local community. Fundamental to the entire process is that the stage two environmental audit of the depot proceed. In deciding the fate of this bill, the Parliament must address the fundamental role of the stage one and stage two audits.
That this bill, with all its inadequacies, should be seen as a better means of determining the fate of the depot than a comprehensive and independent report is ludicrous and untenable. This bill would render the value of the audits useless. As I said at the outset, the bill is now outdated and would cause unnecessary consequences. The environmental impact statement mechanism specified in clause 5 of the bill is simply seeking to restate existing law, which can easily be brought into effect by decision of the Minister. The EPA will not consider its required formal approving of the overtopping until the stage two audit has been completed and it is satisfied about the integrity of the depot for the containment of the deposited liquid waste.
The Opposition's continued attempts to stir up controversy about this facility are politically motivated and an endeavour to distort the realities of history. The Australian Labor Party and Mr Bob Carr, who initially approved of this facility, introduced it to the people of the west. The honourable member for Blacktown is hissing at the mention of Bob Carr's name. It is appropriate that she should hiss at his name and acknowledge his responsibility in giving this facility to the people of western Sydney; it is also appropriate that she should question his future role as a credible leader for the Labor Party. I congratulate the honourable member for Blacktown for her hissing at the mention of Bob Carr's name. Many people in the community hiss at the mention of Bob Carr's name, and we can add to their ranks the honourable member for Blacktown.
I stress that a fundamental aspect of the stage two audit is, as I announced on 29th October last year in my action plan, to quantify the risk of contamination of the environment from the material stored at the depot or from its continued operation. Some three weeks after this bill had its second reading I met with the honourable member for Londonderry, the honourable member for Hawkesbury, the Chief Secretary and Minister for Administrative Services, the Penrith council, the Hawkesbury council, representatives of local environment groups and other concerned individuals on the issue of the Castlereagh audit. At that meeting, I undertook to take action on the audit as a matter of public importance. On 15th October, 1992, the honourable member for Londonderry said in this Chamber:
The current Minister for the Environment received a deputation only a few days ago. I thank him for that. I have faith in the present Minister for the Environment. I am certain that he will do the right thing in this regard; he has not closed his mind to what is happening. It is to the credit of the Minister for the Environment that for the first time ever an environment minister has been game enough to take on the issue to see whether the complaints that are made about Castlereagh are justified.
I thank the honourable member for his comments. I note that he did not hiss at the mention of Bob Carr's name - he is a member of the same faction. As the honourable member for Londonderry has noted, I share his concern that this matter be fully and publicly addressed so that it is satisfactorily resolved. I also agree that the community around the Castlereagh landfill disposal area needs our assistance, but I do not agree that this bill is the appropriate way of providing that assistance. It is a temporary approach. I have announced and set out in some detail in my address to this House, a proposition which seeks to provide a permanent resolution of the problem.
This bill raises a number of important concerns for future waste management for Sydney. The concerns of the people of Castlereagh are appropriate and need to be addressed; the concerns of waste management for Sydney and New South Wales generally are also appropriate and need to be addressed - that is why a committee of this House is examining future waste strategies. To close off the options available to the Government and the Parliament, to pre-empt the findings of the committee - which this bill would effectively do - would not render assistance to the people of this State nor be of assistance to the people of Castlereagh.
The best result for the people of Castlereagh is a continuation of the stage two audit; the best result is a continuation of my undertaking that there will be no
consideration of overtopping until completion of the stage two audit and until it shows that that would be satisfactory. Only then would I consider an application for overtopping. This Government is not attempting to impose overtopping on the people of Castlereagh at this stage; it is attempting to develop a sensible waste management strategy in the interests of the people of this State.
To allow legislation that would effectively prevent the continued operation of the aqueous waste depot at Lidcombe and close it down - because no secure landfill is available to take the plant's residue sludge - would be a disaster for this State. That must be understood. I am sure the honourable member for Londonderry was not aware of that hidden side to his bill when he introduced it in this House, but it is something that the joint select committee will be looking at in the weeks and months ahead.
Mr A. S. Aquilina:
And do nothing.
Does the honourable member opposite claim that stage one is do nothing, stage two is do nothing; the whole comprehensive approach to the issue is do nothing; the joint select committee on waste management is do nothing; the green paper is do nothing?
You are responsible for the Joint Select Committee on Waste Management.
Who moved this motion for a bill in this House, I ask the honourable member for Blacktown?
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Hazzard):
Order! I call the honourable member for Blacktown to order for the third time.
The Government opposes the bill for the sensible reasons I have outlined. I ask honourable members to understand and support the reasons for the Government's opposition to the bill.
(Blacktown) [11.2]: I congratulate the honourable member for Londonderry for introducing the bill. The Minister for the Environment made snide reference in passing to the fact that it was the honourable member for Londonderry who was responsible for bringing the bill before this House. I, like my colleagues, congratulate the honourable member on his initiative. The honourable member for Londonderry and I were elected to this Chamber on the same day in 1988. Almost from day one the honourable member told the Parliament about the environmental problems and potential health risks associated with the Castlereagh tip site in the Londonderry electorate.
A number of months after his election scepticism about those claims still remained on both sides of the Chamber. I remember listening to a number of speeches by the honourable member for Londonderry in which he expounded on the number of human limbs that had been found dumped in that area. He brought to the attention of this House many gross examples of the dumping of dangerous waste of which he was aware. It did not take many months before the Opposition began to take his allegations seriously despite a diatribe that was directed at the honourable member by Tim Moore, the former Minister for the Environment, on this issue. After many months of persistence by the honourable member for Londonderry, the Labor Party, the media and the local community began to take serious note of the problem. After many years of discussion of this issue the Minister, as he himself so eloquently said, decided to take action and last year ordered the audit report.
The upshot of calling for that report will not satisfy the continuing concerns of the community in that area, and it certainly will not stop the overtopping proposal being promoted to the Government by the Waste Recycling and Processing Service. I congratulate the honourable member for Londonderry on bringing the bill forward and flushing out the current Minister for the Environment to at least justify and explain his record on this issue since he became Minister. The Minister has made the grand announcement - for which the Opposition has been waiting at least two years - that a community monitoring committee should be established for that site. Congratulations, Minister.
Order! Could I establish from the honourable member for Blacktown whether she is leading for the Opposition?
Is that system in place? In that case I am. I am representing my parliamentary leader.
Order! I am not asking for dialogue across the Chamber. If the honourable member is leading for the Opposition, she has unlimited time and I am happy for her to continue on that basis; if not, the honourable member should know that she has been speaking for four and a half minutes.
I am leading for the Opposition. The bill has been introduced to stop plans by the Minister for the Environment to illegally overtop the Castlereagh liquid waste depot with household waste. The introduction of this legislation satisfies a commitment that the Opposition has made to the communities of Londonderry, Castlereagh and Penrith to introduce legislation to stop the overtopping plans going ahead. Though I lead for the Opposition in this debate, I look forward to the contributions to this debate of the honourable member for Penrith and the honourable member for St Marys on behalf of their constituents in the Penrith region.
The bill will force the Government to prepare an environmental impact statement on its overtopping plan. It will face the impossible task of trying to justify its proposal on environmental grounds. The Government will then have to get approval for its plan from the local council. Given that the local council has clearly indicated its opposition to the expansion proposal, this will not occur either. If the Fahey
Government fails to see its error in pushing this megatip and does not support the legislation, the Minister will be able to keep the megatip plan alive.
The Minister for the Environment wants to turn this depot into a megadump, which he had previously claimed would be banned from New South Wales under his green paper on waste management. So much for the green paper's words on waste management. His secret plans were revealed in the Sydney Morning Herald
on 18th December, 1992. That newspaper obtained government documents which clearly show that the Minister wanted to overtop the depot with garbage without so much as an environmental impact statement. The briefing note to the Minister clearly shows the Fahey Government is wedded to the megatip plan. The document says, in part:
Advice from the Waste Service is that there is some doubt over the interpretation that can be applied to SEPP 3, the planning instrument that enables the depots to exist. SEPP 3 says that the facility can operate as a liquid waste depot and that landscaping and pollution control measures can be carried out on site.
The fact that the facility can be operated as a liquid waste depot appears to mean that the putrescible waste received there in the past and used as absorbent material in the liquid waste disposal cells, was received legitimately. The use of putrescible waste for absorbency is . . . liquid waste depot operational practice. However, as the overtopping proposal does not involve the receipt of liquid wastes, it cannot be said that the depot is operating as a liquid waste disposal depot. Herein lies the problem.
It is interesting that the Minister's briefing note stated that it is a "problem" that the overtopping proposal is not covered by State environment planning policy 3. The only reason why the Government sees this as a problem is because it knows its overtopping plans are illegal. The briefing note to Mr Hartcher explicitly stated this when it advised:
As you would be aware, one of the reasons for overtopping the site with wastes is to improve the site's drainage characteristics and allow landscaping to be carried out. The Waste Service has suggested, therefore, that the receipt of putrescible waste is legal under SEPP 3 as it is for pollution control and landscaping. The Service has been advised by its barrister, however, that it is drawing a long bow in arguing this way. This is due to the fact that the volume of waste to be received under the overtopping proposal is large, making its receipt primarily for the purposes of disposal rather than landscaping or pollution control. Ultimately, I believe the correct definition of the meaning of SEPP 3 can only be determined by a court.
Despite all of the above, the EPA has issued the Service a licence to operate as a putrescible waste depot. Of course, if SEPP 3 can be proven to preclude use of the depot for the receipt of putrescible waste, the licence may be invalid too.
The whole future of the site is in jeopardy. The Minister for the Environment has said that there is no overtopping proposal. This morning he is claiming responsibility for making sure that that does not occur. He likes to think of himself as the great consultant and community listener. He has to stop misleading the people in western Sydney about his megatip plan. Today the Sydney Morning Herald
reports the poor public credibility felt by the residents of western Sydney for the Water Board.
The Waste Recycling and Processing Service, the organisation for which the Minister for the Environment has responsibility, faces a major problem with its public credibility. The Minister should learn before he has been in his job too long that if he links his political future and public credibility with an organisation such as WRAPS his public credibility on this issue will rapidly disappear. I offer that gratuitous advice to the Minister for the Environment so that he does not make the same mistakes on this issue that his predecessor made.
The former Minister for Environment incurred the indefinite odium of the residents of western Sydney. Not only did he alienate and abuse local government authorities such as Penrith City Council as well as individuals on the council such as Alderman Lo Po'; he even abused the community of western Sydney. The present Minister for the Environment considers his reputation precious but if he does not abandon these proposals the people of western Sydney will lose patience with him as well. He misled the people about his megatip plans for Sutherland and he was forced to back down.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Hazzard):
Order! I call the honourable member for Davidson to order.
Robbed of the dumping ground in the electorate of the honourable member for Sutherland, the Minister is pushing Castlereagh, because it is in a Labor electorate. The Fahey Government has given up all hope of winning back seats in western Sydney. It knows there is no political future for it in the area so it has abandoned any creative attempts to deal with waste disposal and has gone back to dumping waste in Labor electorates, which has been always the case.
The people of western Sydney, unlike the Fahey Government, are concerned not only about the disposal of waste in their area; they are concerned about the pollution of the Hawkesbury-Nepean river system and the impact on it of the continuous dumping of dangerous waste. Also, they are concerned about basic issues such as the increase of traffic on their roads as these tankers full of waste trundle through the streets from Lidcombe to Castlereagh. Less than half an hour ago the House had a dissertation from an ignorant Minister on the relationship between the aqueous waste depot at Lidcombe and the disposal site at Castlereagh. Does he not realise that the material that goes to Lidcombe now also has to be transported through Labor electorates to be ultimately dumped in the seat of the honourable member for Londonderry?
The Minister has a precious feeling about the depot at Lidcombe. I have had the opportunity of inspecting that depot on at least one occasion since 1988 and I agree that it is an efficient operation. But at this time the Government is discussing the future of that depot if Sydney is successful in getting the Olympic Games. The Minister should speak to his colleague the Minister for Transport and Minister for Tourism, who is in charge of Sydney's Olympic bid,
about what he thinks of the viability of the aqueous waste depot at Lidcombe. No one in the group working so effectively to get the Olympics for Sydney in the year 2000 is enthusiastic for the depot to remain there. I wonder where it will be put?
The odds increasingly favour Sydney's Olympic bid. Would it not be convenient to locate the aqueous waste depot close to the Castlereagh depot? The honourable member for Londonderry is already leaning forward in his seat. He knows that the next major fight he will have after he wins this one will be to stop the transfer of the aqueous waste depot to his area. Where will the Minister for the Environment be on that issue? He will have to retract his statements and find alternative accommodation for the aqueous waste site as quickly as possible if Sydney gets the Olympics in the year 2000.
The Labor Party is not willing to let the Minister sneak his proposal through while Parliament is considering waste management issues. We do not want a new megatip for the west. When the terms of reference for the Joint Select Committee on Waste Management were determined it was wrong for the Minister to actively preclude consideration of these issues. The committee is having very successful discussions at the moment but unfortunately we are not in a position to debate the issues raised in the bill of the honourable member for Londonderry.
The Minister for the Environment dealt extensively in his speech with the history of the Castlereagh site. There is no doubt that before 1988 a number of poor decisions were made about its continuing and future operations. I was pleased that the Minister for the Environment quoted a statement I made to Penrith newspapers two years ago. I enjoy being quoted accurately in the Parliament, as opposed to being misquoted in recent days. I do not resile from the criticisms that I have continuously made about past decisions on the site. The Labor Party has really listened to what the community has been saying about the site and has taken into account the increasing scientific and medical evidence that suggests this site is a danger. We are not stationed in the 1950s as are the Premier and the Minister for the Environment. They do not want to change despite the mounting evidence suggesting that the site is not appropriate for its existing usage - there is plenty of concern in the community about that - and the Government's proposal to overtop the site.
The Labor Party was prepared to change its view on the issue and is unapologetic about that. Every member of Parliament from western Sydney who will participate in this debate is singularly unapologetic about our performance on this issue. Are the Minister and the Government prepared to change on this issue? WRAPS is still making decisions for the future of management of waste disposal but is it prepared to change? The attempt by the Government to overtop the Castlereagh site shows that it has not been able to change. The legislation of the honourable member for Londonderry shows that we are going to drag them kicking and screaming out of the 1950s.
This morning the Minister showed us what an optimist he is. He talked about his excitement at fixing the problem of Look At Me Now Headland, which has been a problem only since 1989. He is going to ensure that we have a Bongil Bongil national park at Coffs Harbour. I bet that is news to the honourable member for Coffs Harbour, who has consistently opposed the proposal. I bet the Minister has not shared these optimistic thoughts with National Party members. We know what they think about what goes on in Coffs Harbour, if not other areas of New South Wales, on environmental issues. The naive optimism the Minister showed on these hard environmental issues that have caused concern for people at least since the change of government, if not before, was almost lovable. And during the past two hours he has demonstrated that he will apply that same naive optimism to fixing the Castlereagh problem, and without this legislation.
The Minister already has signalled to the House that he opposes the legislation. He is going to carry forward the free flowing warmth of the natural medicine party, medical party, or "hmm party", which are running for the next election. Minister, you would do better in that party than in your own party at present. However, a number of environmental or non-environmental hardheads in his party, or Cabinet, are going to stop him doing a number of things - including saving the people of western Sydney from having this dump remain and expand in their area, which is what this bill is all about.
Constituents of mine are in the gallery today, representatives from Our Lady Queen of Peace School which is located in the electorate of the honourable member for Smithfield but which covers an area of western Sydney that draws from Greystanes and Wentworthville and crosses across the electorate boundary. I am pleased they are here. They are interested in the future of western Sydney and in particular waste issues. I continue to be impressed by the sophistication and understanding that primary schoolchildren have on waste issues. A number of members opposite agree with me; these children are the future. My eight-year-old son often has discussions with me about these issues. I do not know where he learns this, but it is obviously from school, or perhaps from listening to his mother on radio each morning.
Do you tape record all your interviews?
There is not enough tape left in the library to do that.
Order! I call the honourable member for Ermington to order.
Three years ago, in this Chamber, I said that schoolchildren in our society have a far greater analysis of waste issues than do many members of Parliament. Despite the existence of the waste committee and the number of debates on this issue, there is an amazing ignorance demonstrated by members of Parliament and by highly paid senior
public servants who advise us on these issues. The Opposition is still not receiving advice - which is quite obvious to schoolchildren - that dangerous materials and household and hazardous wastes cannot continue to be dumped. The community continues to dump them, thinking it will be safe. I have inspected the Castlereagh waste disposal depot site - where the land is so absorbent - which has been claimed to be full of heavy clay and so stable that nothing will ever go wrong.
I look forward to the reports referred to by the Minister for the Environment, particularly the risk assessment report that will be prepared for this site. Of all the reports that ever will be prepared for this site the risk assessment report will be the best. This report is not being prepared by WRAPS officers, not by people who want to continue to dump material in that area, but by the bankers, economists, financiers who know the future value and future use of that particular site. I call on the Minister now to give a guarantee that as soon as that risk assessment report is prepared it will be made available to the public. I predict that that report will be most damning for this particular site. That report will stop the future housing development of that area that has been talked about over decades. We will know then how dangerous is that particular area.
I and my colleagues strongly support the bill. I am looking forward to support from the Independents for this legislation. I call on the Government to go back to the drawing-board, take the matter back to the Cabinet, have another look at it. It is important that the Government pass this legislation. As the honourable member for Bligh said just two hours ago, let us try to establish bipartisanship on this major issue for the people of western Sydney.
(Ermington) [11.26]: With regard to the Castlereagh Liquid Waste Disposal Depot Bill, I shall make reflections upon and observations about Labor's responsibility in this regard. First, I shall give an overview of the progress, the sensible and scientifically appropriate progress that has been embraced by this Government, unlike that of its predecessors with regard to waste disposal at the Castlereagh site. I join with the honourable member for Blacktown in commending the young Australians who are in the gallery today for their particular interest and deep understanding of waste issues which, as the honourable member for Blacktown says, often is far superior to that of many of our parliamentary colleagues and some in the community. This is a community problem and young Australians are largely leading the way in dealing genuinely with issues about waste. However, schoolchildren do not always have a deep understanding of the complex details that will be addressed in the second audit that this Government is currently undertaking at Castlereagh.
Essentially, this Gibson bill is intended to stop any further activity at Castlereagh. Though not wanting to pre-empt any audit reports, I am not sure that simply putting a full stop on activity at Castlereagh today is in any way shape or form the answer to waste disposal. Stopping the non-liquid primary solids and sludges going to the site and being received by the depot until an environmental impact study has been completed certainly will prevent the absorption and containment of wastes of a liquid sort which otherwise would be at the site. This bill, in that sense, will stop any consideration of the overtopping proposal. I accept that that is one of the objects of the honourable member. As such it certainly arrests this development and disregards the necessity for scientific studies with respect to this particular site.
In that regard I commend the Minister and his predecessor who, on 17th February and 9th April respectively, announced two commissions of audit into the depot. The first of those audits in scientific terms with regard to independent assessment and critique of the environmental management, cleared the due diligence programs at that facility. The second of those reports, currently being undertaken - of which the terms of reference were discussed in considerable detail by the Minister - seeks to broaden in scientific terms the necessary studies that need to be undertaken before the Government gives a green light to any further development of the site. That essential point needs to be emphasised.
A lot of hot air has come from honourable members opposite alleging that the Government already has made decisions about overtopping and the expansion of the Castlereagh site. The Government shares one thing in common with the Opposition of today which was not shared a few years ago when the present Opposition formed the then Government, as the honourable member for Blacktown indicated. That position has evolved. Allegedly, the present Opposition is now listening to the community. The honourable member for Blacktown apologised for her predecessors in government when she reflected on the fact that today her colleagues are listening. The Government agrees with the Opposition in one regard; we are not proposing to proceed with any further development at Castlereagh until such time, and only until such time, as the second reading speech is given the green light in environmental terms, not just in waste management terms or political terms.
In that context the risk assessment - which, as the honourable member for Blacktown rightly points out, is a dynamic and important study indeed - will be critical to whether the Waste Recycling and Processing Service is permitted by the Government to continue with what may prove to be necessary waste management expansion. It needs to be emphasised strongly that the Government has got real about waste management. For the first time in the history of this Parliament a joint select committee into waste management in New South Wales- - not merely a legislation committee - has been established by the Government. That committee comprised representatives of this place and the other place. For the first time in the history of this or any other Australian Parliament, the Government has
established, in conjunction with that joint select committee, reference groups under the auspices of the Parliament that will embrace the community at large, the environment movement, waste managers and, importantly, local government.
The New South Wales Government is the first and only government in Australia to separate the regulator from the deregulator. The Waste Management Authority has been dismantled and has been replaced as a processor by the Waste Recycling and Processing Service. The Environment Protection Authority has undertaken to assess, at arm's-length from the determining authority, the relative merits - environmental, community, waste management - not only of the Castlereagh site but of all waste management sites. That has already been done in relation to the first audit report undertaken under the auspices of the Environment Protection Authority. Let me make it clear once again that the Government has got real about involving the community, the Parliament and those outside the former Waste Management Authority. The Government has shown how genuine and sincere it is.
When the Minister for the Environment launched the second audit on 17th February, he decided to broaden the philosophy first espoused by his predecessor. Even though the Opposition seeks to indulge in wild guesses about what the audit may or may not determine, the Government is not attempting to pre-empt any recommendations that may be made. The Government is prepared to commit itself to doing things in an environmentally sensitive way and to taking that audit into consideration in absolute terms.
I want to ask the honourable member for Londonderry where he was on 17th February. That is the big question. At that time I was in Jamaica, but even I am aware where he was on that day. On 17th February, the honourable member for Londonderry attended the launch of the second audit with two Government members - Anne Cohen, the Chief Secretary and Minister for Administrative Services, and Kevin Rozzoli, the Speaker. The very member of this House who seeks in many respects to discredit the Government process, who calls for scientific studies and who ridicules the whole process, was seen in the crowd at the launch of the second audit.
That has brought home to the community only too well the duplicity - and I use that word deliberately - of many members of the Opposition in regard to this whole political venture. That is what this issue represents to the Opposition. An examination of the history of waste management reveals that Bob Carr, as the environment Minister in the previous Labor Government, was responsible for the escalation of the operation of the Castlereagh tip. I am not reported in the Parramatta Advertiser
as making that claim; the honourable member for Blacktown, Pam Allan, was publicised in the Penrith media when she made that claim.
She hissed his name.
She hissed his name. In that regard she appears to be consistent, because that seems to be one of the few times the honourable member for Blacktown has acknowledged the Castlereagh issue. The date is left indelibly in the memories of many members of this Parliament, and the quote will be repeated regularly in this debate. The 14th August, 1990, was a famous day in the life of the honourable member for Blacktown because it was a day of honesty for her. On that day she said, "The depot was operating the whole time we were in government and we did virtually nothing about it". That is plain English. All members of this House would understand that statement. The honourable member for Blacktown, the shadow minister for the environment, said that her Government and her Minister, Bob Carr, did nothing. This Government is doing a hell of a lot, if I might be so bold as to use those words. The Government is doing it all.
The previous Labor Government did nothing. In fact, when it last had the opportunity to make decisions as opposed to indulging in rhetoric, the Australian Labor Party turned Castlereagh tip into the largest depot in New South Wales. What an outstanding achievement! It was one of the hallmarks of that Labor administration: the biggest dump in New South Wales was in western Sydney. I hasten to add that under the previous coalition Government the Castlereagh depot was not the biggest tip. If I reflect on the previous Labor Government in that way, I should have the honesty and integrity to make a comparison to demonstrate clearly and unequivocally that what I have said is correct.
Under Labor the size of the depot was not increased by a factor of two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight or nine. The size of the depot was increased by a double-digit factor, a two-bob each-way approach. It was increased to 10 times the size it was under the coalition. When the coalition was in government the site was small indeed, no more than 40 hectares. Under Labor, under Bob Carr, under Pam's friends, the depot was increased to 357 hectares in area. The site would make a wonderful John Sands jigsaw puzzle. Perkins Paste Pam is good at cutting and pasting Water Board memoranda - out with the scissors, out with the Perkins Paste, and out with the truth. I invite the honourable member for Blacktown to accompany me so that we can launch together the Labor jigsaw on waste management for the west. [Extension of time agreed to
The jigsaw should be matched with a little whodunit quiz. The community at large can be asked the questions I am seeking to elucidate. Who increased the size of the Castlereagh depot as a waste dump tenfold? Labor. Who increased the Castlereagh site from 40 hectares to 357 hectares? Labor. Who did not conduct any environmental audits on the Castlereagh site? Labor. Who conducted the first environmental audit on the Castlereagh site? The coalition Government. Who is conducting the second environmental audit on the Castlereagh site? The coalition Government. Who has promised to take environmental and scientific factors into consideration for the first time?
The answers are coming thick and fast from this side of the House, because it is another coalition achievement. What a whodunit quiz that would be! It is trivial in the sense that those sorts of questions should not have to be asked, but it is important that one gets the facts right for the Australian Labor Party. Pam and I will sit down and try to put the jigsaw puzzle together. I propose to give honourable members the tonnages by which solid waste quantities increased under Labor. Under Labor solid waste in New South Wales increased from 2,257,824 tonnes per year to 3,360,173 tonnes per year. In other words, under Labor solid waste quantities increased by 33 per cent.
It would be fair for many in the community - particularly the intelligent representatives of our school community who have joined us in the gallery today - to ask: How can you blame a government for increasing waste? If I were in a school classroom, that would be the first question I would want to ask the teacher. If there was validity to that claim, political parties would have to demonstrate that they could reverse the trend if elected to government. They would have to be able to prove that waste does not grow exponentially because the community is generating it. Waste can be controlled, but under a Labor government it increased by 33 per cent. They are facts and not disputed by anyone.
Waste generation, having grown by a third under Bob Carr as environment Minister, fell by 17 per cent under the present Government, with Tim Moore and Chris Hartcher taking responsibility as ministers for the environment. The reduction in waste is the result of a plethora of policy initiatives in recycling that the Government has embraced - because of action, not rhetoric. It is fair to say that there has been a reduction to 2.8 million tonnes from 3.3 million tonnes despite the fact that the actual volume of waste - given population and commercial factors - has been growing at an even greater rate than was the situation under Labor.
I have quoted figures that are indisputable, figures that the scientific community, and everyone else, acknowledges because the tonnages can be measured. It is a fair and accurate measurement. In 1988, 204,191 tonnes of waste was disposed of at Castlereagh depot - under Bob Carr, the man who did nothing about Castlereagh when in government but who in Opposition has luxuriated in rhetorical promises, political flurry and scare campaigns in relation to the issue. I am being very precise about this, so there can be no dispute. The honourable member for Londonderry would have everyone believe that the Government is responsible for an explosion of waste disposal at Londonderry. Under a government said to be heathen when it came to environmental dumping, waste has fallen to 42,194 tonnes. In other words, under the present Government, the amount of waste disposed of at Castlereagh has fallen to 21 per cent of what it was.
Only because of Lidcombe.
The honourable member opposite wants to make excuses. I am not interested in excuses; I am interested in reality. The fact of the matter is that, under a Labor government, more than 200,000 tonnes of waste were dumped at Castlereagh. The Government has conducted one environmental audit and is currently conducting a second environmental audit - and they are the first that have ever been done on the site. Labor did nothing about it - the volume has dropped from 200,000 tonnes to 40,000 tonnes, only 21 per cent of what Carr dumped on Castlereagh. I want to say to the Minister for the Environment, to his predecessor, to WRAPS, and to its predecessor, the Waste Management Authority, that that is an outstanding achievement of which I am enormously proud. The Government is serious about waste reduction. Under Carr, the previous Government was serious about waste regeneration, especially at Castlereagh.
The honourable member for Londonderry has joined us in the Chamber. He is back. He has been doing a dump job on his colleagues outside, no doubt. In the Penrith City Star
of 14th July, 1992, the honourable member was quoted as having said that he would introduce a private member's bill in September, and that he would attempt to persuade the Minister to have independent tests carried out. Now, of course, he has criticised the audit. The article said:
Mr Gibson said the audit being carried out on the depot by the environmental consultancy firm, AGC Woodward-Clyde, was not necessary and scientists would be better equipped to determine properly if toxic waste from the dump was leaching into the ground water.
I am sure that the people of Castlereagh do not like such comments from their local member about an audit not being necessary. I was confused, as I am sure honourable members and those in the gallery would be. On the one hand, the honourable member wants a scientific study; on the other hand, for the first time, the Government has got its finger out of the proverbial, so to speak. It has undertaken an audit, and is being damned for it. In other words, the Government is doing what is fundamentally necessary, conducting an investigation at arm's-length from government, the Waste Management Authority and its successor, WRAPS, and independently assessing the necessity or otherwise of environmental controls at that site, yet the honourable member for Londonderry puts up his hands and says it is not necessary.
The honourable member has conducted a scare campaign to the effect that a study is required. Having got one, he now says he does not want it. The honourable member wants to continue to kick the Government that has improved on the record of its predecessor. The honourable member for Penrith said in Hansard
on 19th March, 1992, that all waste will not disappear, something has to be left in the end. There was a recognition on her part that there needs to be a waste site. As mayor of Penrith City Council in 1987, she was a member of the very board that was responsible for commencing the examination of the
area north of the Great Western Highway that established the site. The honourable member for Penrith, the mayor of Penrith at the time, was responsible for the siting of the dump at Castlereagh. That is clear. I have spoken recently with the chief executive of the authority, and - [Time expired
Mrs LO PO'
(Penrith) [11.46]: First I dispense with the honourable member for Ermington. His penchant for bitchery and malice is well known. He is doing no good in his own party and the Opposition treats him as somebody who is quite insignificant. The Minister for the Environment, according to the honourable member for Londonderry, is a nice guy. We all know that, but he is a disappointment as a Minister.
If that is not malicious, what is? On one hand you attack me, and then you call him a disappointment.
Mrs LO PO':
If the honourable member for Ermington is so sensitive, I will not say anything to him again. The Minister spoke about how he could do nothing because of a decision by the previous Government. That is a weak-kneed proposition. This Government had no compunction about turning around the organisation of the Water Board, about sacking members of the State Rail Authority, or about moving the Darling Harbour casino, because there were Ministers who opposed it. The Minister has said he can do nothing about what he has been left with, because it was instituted by the Labor Government. If the Minister had a will to oppose it, he would have done something about it. He cannot hide behind the skirts of a previous government. He is the Minister and, therefore, has control. If he does not like the situation, he should do something about it. The Minister should not say he cannot do anything about it, because Bob Carr did it.
Of all honourable members in this Parliament I know most about the Londonderry tip. It was begun in 1972 by the Askin Government when I was the President of PRANG, Penrith Residents Against Noxious Garbage. I still see myself in that role, in many ways. We opposed the siting of the dump and we opposed every aspect of it. It did us no good at all. When there was a change of government, it is true the Labor Government retained it. I was appointed to the Metropolitan Waste Disposal Authority as it was then known. Only two Labor people have ever served on the authority - Janice Crosio initially, and, when she entered Parliament, I was appointed. Unlike the situation that exists today with this Government stacking the memberships of boards, there was only one Labor representative on the authority at a time.
I ask the honourable member for Ermington, if Bob Carr approved the establishment of the dump, why was the decision not acted upon? Two disasters have occurred since I left the authority: first, the proposal for the Londonderry tip; and, second, the decision to overtop. The Minister and the honourable member have said that Bob Carr had consent to do this in 1986. If that is so, I would like to ask why did he not proceed? Why does the honourable member think he did not do it? Why would he activate something that he thought was unpalatable? Why was it not proceeded with by the Labor Government, if Bob Carr was determined to do it? This Government likes the idea. It treats the western suburbs with no respect. I am sad that the honourable member for Davidson will speak after me in this debate. I should like to hear this boy from the North Shore tell honourable members what he knows about western Sydney. His knowledge of western Sydney would fit in a thimble.
Order! Honourable members will cease interjecting and the honourable member for Penrith will direct her remarks through the Chair.
Mrs LO PO':
The residents of Londonderry, having lost the battle to prevent establishment of the tip in 1973 or 1974, hoped that the tip, when full, would become a golf course. The topography of the land is flat as a plate and it would make a superb golf course. For the past several years Londonderry residents have had to contend with additional traffic driving to and from the tip. Contaminants leaching into the soil have caused some residents to suffer an allergic reaction which has burnt their skin. Jim Fleming, the owner of Jewel food markets, has a phenyl level in his soil which is thought to be the result of leaching from the dump. Despite all of that, it has been suggested that once the tip is filled it could become a golf course.
I understand that though a clay plug would have to be spread over the ground, the site would never be suitable for arenas to accommodate body contact sports - games of rugby union, rugby league or soccer. A golf course appears to be the way to go. But residents have been told that the Government intends to permit rubbish to be piled three storeys high on the site. The Minister has said that this is what Londonderry needs. I assure him that Londonderry does not need a monstrous mountain of rubbish. When the Government sought to have its Londonderry tip legislation passed in this House it was thwarted by the Opposition, so the Government proposed another type of tip - Londonderry tip mark 2 - but it cannot be dressed up any differently. The Government has lost the plot on what to do with rubbish.
The green paper issued by the Government is really a blueprint on how to dump on western Sydney. Since the green paper was circulated, my council has been approached by several groups wanting to dump on western Sydney. The Minister has done nothing for the residents of Londonderry by issuing a green paper. He has merely opened the door for people to make megabucks from putrescible garbage. The Minister has a responsibility to take charge of his portfolio. He should not dredge up activities that happened six years ago and say, "Because someone gave permission six years ago I am compelled to do it now". That is a weak argument. It ill behoves the Minister to take this stance. Bob Carr is not in charge of your portfolio, Minister; you are!
Just once I would like to hear members of the coalition make a genuine speech about the environment without using prepared notes. They never speak passionately about the environment. They always read a calculated summary of what they want the people to hear. Has no one on the Government benches any compassion for the residents of Londonderry? If they were to live there and deal with this problem every day, they would understand the situation. The honourable member for Londonderry has instanced the suffering of many families. The volume of traffic in Londonderry is an enormous problem. If there are doubts about the safety of this facility, the Government should close it until its inquiries are complete. Why is the Government permitting the dump to be used while investigations are under way? How fair dinkum is the Government? Is the inquiry a mere facade, and will the tip continue no matter what?
This issue has several limbs. Had the Government closed down the tip until the second study was completed, the residents would have considered the Government to be fair dinkum. The Government's proposal has no sincerity. It appears that the Minister is determined that Londonderry will be a rubbish repository. When the liquid waste transfer station was established Londonderry residents celebrated; they thought that finally they would get rid of the tip. But they were told that it was an adjunct to the liquid waste treatment plant and that the two must function together. The day is fast approaching - and it could be today - when the residents of Londonderry will say to the Minister that enough is enough. They do not want this facility.
At the moment there is doubt about what happens in the storage cells. Honourable members can imagine that rubbish piled three storeys high on top of the cells will have the effect of compressing the liquid so that it squirts out the bottom like a garlic press. I cannot believe that the Minister in his heart believes that this is the way to go. I would be delighted to hear the Minister inform honourable members of his feelings about this issue without using notes prepared by his boffins. If one of the many quarries in the Minister's electorate of Gosford were to be used as a rubbish depot, he would go spare, and justifiably so. Government members are not fair dinkum about this issue. The honourable member for Londonderry certainly is. He lives with it every day. He meets with his constituents every day and he knows the tip facility like the back of his hand. Honourable members opposite have no evidence to suggest that the tip is an asset for Londonderry. I am pleased to support the closure of the tip.
For more than 20 years the residents of Londonderry have lobbied for the closure of this tip and now they are told that another facility will be placed on top of it. The concept is ludicrous. No matter how many times the Minister for the Environment, the honourable member for Ermington, or the honourable member for Davidson say that this was a Labor Party plot, the reality is that the Labor Party never proceeded with it, and for good reason. Penrith City Council would never have permitted the establishment of this facility, but its planning powers were taken away. The Labor Party has nothing to answer for. As for the stupidity of the Minister stating that the Londonderry tip was Labor's plan and plot, I remind the Minister that the former member for Penrith, Guy Matheson, said that and he is no longer here; the former Minister for the Environment tried that and he is no longer here. So be careful, Minister, it is a trap for young players. You are the Minister, and you know what should happen. The tip should be closed. The people of Londonderry have suffered enough. Instead of this pile of rubbish three storeys high, I ask that the people of Londonderry be given the golf course that they expected 20 years ago.
When this facility is closed, as undoubtedly it will be, I will look forward to seeing the site restored to a landscaped golf course for the people of Londonderry. I congratulate the honourable member for Londonderry on the stand he has taken. He has pursued this issue relentlessly. He has had the backing of many good people. The residents of Londonderry are expert in lobbying for what they want. They won a huge concession from the Government with the abandonment of the proposed Londonderry tip. I note the presence of John Hook in the Chamber and I know that he was not overthrilled with the outcome. This tip should not go ahead. It should be stopped. There is no value in it for the people of Londonderry, and 20 years of suffering is long enough.
(Davidson) [11.59]: I am pleased to have the opportunity to make some comments on this issue, both in the broad sense and in response to specific assertions made by those who preceded me, particularly Opposition members. I can accept and understand members being passionate and, indeed, parochial about their areas - as were the honourable member for Londonderry and the honourable member for Penrith - as I take the same approach with regard to local issues. However, I also adopt a global approach and take into account what is in the interests of the citizens of Sydney and New South Wales. We need a balanced and sensible approach, rather than a purely parochial approach.
As a result of comments made by members opposite with respect to this issue, I feel more emphasis has been placed on parochial issues than on the interests of all citizens of Sydney. The objective of the Castlereagh Liquid Waste Disposal Depot Bill is to close this facility. Putrescible waste will not be able to be disposed of there. I will dispute and dispel the assertions made with respect to overtopping. In his speech a short while ago the Minister for the Environment said, quite unequivocally, that there would be no overtopping at Castlereagh until the second audit has been completed and after full consideration of all aspects of environmental impact.
The previous two speakers from the Opposition side did not acknowledge the Minister's assurance. They both made reference to the coalition Government
of this State owning that proposal. As was asserted by the Minister, it was the proposal of Bob Carr when he was Minister for the Environment when the Labor Party was in government. He endorsed the overtopping of Castlereagh and approved the development application for that overtopping. It has not happened yet because the tip is not full, but it was his proposal. He took the power away from the local council. It is his proposal which is still on the books. The Minister for the Environment has made it quite clear that he will ignore the decision which was made by Mr Carr at that time and go for a proper environmental process.
This bill will prevent disposal of any putrescible waste at the Castlereagh depot for any reason or purpose until such time as an environmental impact statement has been carried out. An obvious question needs to be asked: given that we have a process that has been occurring for 19 years and which has already been subject to environmental impact statements and environmental audits - audits which are currently under way - why is there a need to carry out yet another environmental impact statement at this time? In the electorate of Davidson there are two tips - the Bare Creek tip and the "brickie" tip, both of which the Warringah council has a keen interest in. The Bare Creek landfill depot is fast approaching the end of its useful life; it has been there for many years and has accepted landfill from many areas outside of Warringah.
Many of the local councils on the North Shore dispose of their putrescible waste at the Bare Creek tip, and have done so for many years. A waste transfer station, which is near completion, will replace the Bare Creek tip. That area of Sydney was willing to accept putrescible waste from outside its immediate council area because it recognised that that was in the interests of many people beyond its local constituency. As I have said, the Bare Creek tip is nearing the end of its life and a transfer station is nearing completion. We need to address the problem of where putrescible waste will go. It is currently intended that that waste will be taken to Castlereagh; that will commence in the second half of this year.
However, this bill seeks to deny the disposal of putrescible waste at Castlereagh, leaving very little option for the disposal of putrescible waste anywhere in Sydney. Some may argue - in fact, it is the only logical conclusion that one can reach - that the honourable member for Londonderry, in moving this bill, intends that all putrescible waste in Sydney should go to Lucas Heights, in the southern area of Sydney. The Government does not wish to send more waste to Lucas Heights, given that of the 40-odd councils in Sydney 23 send their waste there.
The transfer station which is being developed at Bare Creek, Fraser Road, in my electorate, has been designed to have flexibility to accept several types of waste and recyclable and processable materials. It has four pits, rather than the traditional two or three. One pit will be used for bulk paper recycling; one for wood waste; one for non-putrescible waste; and one for putrescible waste. There will be a sorting of the materials which are disposed of at Bare Creek to extend, as far as is reasonably achievable, the limited life available in the Sydney region for disposable of putrescible waste. If the bill goes ahead, waste will only be able to be accepted after considerable delay. Commissioning and conducting the EIS which is proposed may take so long as to compromise the receipt and disposal of waste from Baulkham Hills and northeast Sydney. This will have significant ramifications for councils in the area and may affect the efficiency of local government waste minimisation programs, which have moved forward in leaps and bounds under the guidance of the coalition Government.
In Sydney only 5.3 years of putrescible landfill space is left. If the Wran Government's overtopping at Castlereagh were to continue, it would extend its life by only two years. Currently the Joint Select Committee on Waste Management, which is chaired by the honourable member for Camden, is reviewing public responses to the Minister's green paper. This process involves genuine public consultation on the issue of waste management. It will examine means of reducing the waste stream by 50 per cent, which is a worthwhile objective. The honourable member for Ermington spoke earlier and indicated that the Government has actually reduced the amount of waste disposal in Sydney, whereas under the previous Labor Government it increased substantially over its time in office. Thanks to the waste management policy of the coalition Government, the amount of waste going to landfill in Sydney has decreased by 21 per cent in the past two years.
I will elaborate on the four major parts of the waste management policy which have considerably helped to decrease the Sydney waste stream. First are the higher waste disposal charges for commercial wastes that were introduced in 1989 - the year after the Government took office. This has encouraged the private sector to establish non-putrescible disposal facilities for industrial and commercial waste. The environmental cost has been properly reflected in the charges for disposal of commercial waste. Second, waste management planning has been required of industry by the Waste Management Authority since 1990 - that was a world first, apart from a smaller program in Rhode Island. This, combined with the increased waste disposal charges, has provided a practical incentive for companies to introduce better waste management practices. As a result, the annual disposal bills of some companies have reduced, despite an increase in disposal charges. The third part is the council recycling rebate scheme introduced in 1991 - again a world-leading concept. Councils receive a rebate of $20 for every tonne of waste they recycle.
Indeed, Pittwater and Warringah councils have recycled an average of 2.5 thousand tonnes of waste every quarter for the past couple of years. The fourth aspect of waste management policy is that last year differential pricing, which offers incentives to source separate, was introduced under the waste service sort-
and-save campaign. This policy provides a financial incentive for waste generators to separate wastes into recyclable, processable and non-recyclable materials prior to transportation to the disposal facility.
Separated recyclable waste is accepted free of charge, processable waste is accepted at a discount, but a premium applies to non-separated loads containing recyclable materials. That policy offers incentives for recyclable materials to be simply and easily separated and taken out of the waste stream. The Government's genuine and open approach to waste management is exemplified by the green paper, by the committee established to examine waste management, and by the stage one and stage two audits at Castlereagh to investigate some of the allegations made about waste disposal in that area. [Extension of time agreed to.
The essence of the bill is to stop non-liquid wastes, primarily solids and sludges, being received at the Castlereagh depot until an environmental impact statement has been completed. As solid waste is necessary for the absorption and containment of waste, the bill would effectively close down the depot. The bill will also stop any consideration of an overtopping proposal, for the Minister has already given an undertaking to this House that such a proposal will not be supported without full consideration of its environmental impact.
The stage one audit recommendations included establishing a more effective waste tracking system, improvements to operational and managerial processes, procedures and systems. That audit did not find on the available evidence any indication of waste leaking from the depot. Many claims have been made. For a long time concerns have been expressed in the media about the adverse impact of the operation of the Castlereagh depot, and the honourable member for Londonderry has featured in some of those reports. However, those claims often encourage fears and concerns in the community which in large part are unfounded, yet no evidence has been provided to substantiate those claims.
This issue should be put into perspective. Highly toxic and intractable wastes are not accepted at Castlereagh tip. Ground water monitoring at Castlereagh tip was undertaken by means of 200 bore holes inside and outside the site, to depths of between 7 and 25 metres. Monitoring conducted on a regular basis showed that any movement of liquid is insignificant and is contained within the operational site. In 1990 Greenpeace was given access to monitoring data reports on the Castlereagh depot. Greenpeace reported 18 instances of detectable levels of phenyl in ground and surface waters, and identified or referred to them as leaks. But the highest level recorded, on 16th September, 1987, was 8.5 ppm, which is barely above the level at which humans can detect phenyls in water by smell.
Those levels are much lower than the levels at which harmful health effects have been observed in animals. The United States agency for toxic substances and disease registry studied the toxicology of phenyl and found that at those levels no harmful effects could be observed in animals or, presumably as a result of those tests, in humans. Phenyl, also known as carbolic acid, is present in many consumer products including ointments, ear and nose drops, cold sore lotions, mouth washes, gargles, toothache drops, analgesic drugs, throat lozenges and antiseptic lotions. It has been found in drinking water, air, automobile exhausts, and so on.
Studies of humans and animals show that once phenyl has entered the body through inhalation, through the skin or by consumption of food and water, it leaves the body in urine within 24 hours. However, many substances that enter the body - for example, when benzine is inhaled - may change phenyl in the body before excretion. Greenpeace did not seek to prove that any contaminants were leaking from the site and was unable to identify any adverse effects on the local ecology. As the Minister said in regard to the wide-ranging effects of preventing disposal of putrescible waste at Castlereagh, such disposal is necessary for sludge from the aqueous plant at Lidcombe. Co-disposal is necessary so that both types of waste can be mixed at Castlereagh.
The result, whether intentional or otherwise, is that the aqueous disposal plant at Lidcombe will be put at risk. Yet no solution has been offered by the honourable member for Londonderry or other members opposite. They have sought to deny or prevent waste disposal at Castlereagh without considering the alternative options. They have not acknowledged the limited landfill areas available in Sydney. They have not taken a more global approach but have looked at the issue purely from their own backyards in the western area of Sydney. Why not take a more global approach and think of the needs of all residents of Sydney and New South Wales? The approach by members opposite is typical of their views on other issues, but waste disposal is not quite that simple.
The Minister endorsed the first audit at Castlereagh. The honourable member for Londonderry, by his presence at the launch, effectively endorsed the second audit of Castlereagh. That process should continue. Honourable members should await the outcome of that second audit before pre-empting it. The bill effectively seeks to pre-empt the second audit, which should be allowed to reach completion. As the Minister quoted, the honourable member for Londonderry "has faith in the Minister".
Order! The honourable member for Londonderry has a right of reply if he wishes to make any further contribution to this debate.
Penrith council continued using Castlereagh tip until two years ago, and recognised that tip as a resource and a necessary part of the waste management disposal process in Sydney. I do not blame any member for being parochial or concerned about his or her constituents or local area. But those concerns should be balanced pragmatically and reasonably with the needs and concerns of residents in all areas of Sydney, north, south, central and west.
Order! I call the honourable member for Penrith to order.
I am as equally concerned about the needs of people living in the central, western and southern regions of Sydney as I am about those who live in the area that I represent. [Time expired
Mr A. S. AQUILINA
(St Marys) [12.19]: I support the Castlereagh Liquid Waste Depot Bill and congratulate the honourable member for Londonderry on introducing it. Honourable members opposite seem to forget the purpose of the bill. The honourable member for Londonderry pointed out that numerous Government speakers have not looked at the bill. The purpose of the bill is to ensure that the depot is not used for other forms of waste disposal unless the environmental assessment provisions of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act have been complied with. That is a simple rule that one would think the Government would stick to. What is wrong with having an environmental impact study done?
Why does the Minister for the Environment not believe that the people of western Sydney deserve to have such a study on the tip? It is no good looking to the past and saying that people in the past made certain decisions. That has no bearing on this bill. It is no good arguing that it is the fault of Bob Carr or anybody else. The Government and the Minister have to deal with the problem now. The people of Londonderry and the people of western Sydney will not stand by and allow rubbish to be transported from Lidcombe and other parts of Sydney, including the North Shore, through their area.
Why does the honourable member for Davidson oppose an environmental impact statement? He stated that such a requirement would mean that the tip in his electorate would be in jeopardy. We are concerned about western Sydney and the rest of New South Wales. The megatip could be the first of many other such tips. The Government should conduct an environmental impact study and look at ways of getting rid of toxic waste without affecting the people of Londonderry or any other part of New South Wales. I am concerned at liquid waste and many hundreds of tonnes of rubbish collected elsewhere being brought through the electorate of St Marys and the city of Penrith. If waste was appropriately treated at Lidcombe aqueous treatment works, it would not need to be transported to Londonderry. The Minister has stated that the toxins must be transported to Londonderry liquid waste depot and absorbed with other rubbish which has not been specified. He has claimed that will improve the situation but we do not know what effect that will have on the environment.
Let us look at official data on contamination of ground water under the site and surrounding properties. Section 4 on page 4 of the AGC Woodward-Clyde Pty Limited report states that important analysis and monitoring should occur where toxic leachate is expected to have been assessed and that only the slowest leaching substances least likely to travel were sampled. The truly nasty toxins at Castlereagh which ought to have been tested have not been tested. The honourable member for Londonderry has said that over and over again. Yet the Government, after receiving a recently published audit report, has said that everything is fine. Anyone who would believe this Government would believe anything. Let us look at what has happened to the people of Londonderry and their properties. On 24th September, 1992, the honourable member for Londonderry reported the tragedy of three families living one street away from the Castlereagh liquid waste dump. These are the real issues that affect the people of our State and these are the issues that the Government ought to be addressing. The honourable member stated:
During the past four or fives years there has been born in each of those families a child with a cleft palate. That is not mere coincidence: the odds of it happening would be millions to one. At times animals go berserk at Castlereagh for no reason. After rain children cannot walk in the back yards because if they do their feet get burnt. Within two days the crops of 20 market-gardeners in that area were lost, without apparent reason. Experts who came to the area could not find a reason for the crops dying. For three consecutive days before the growers knew something was wrong their crops went to market.
One wonders at what happened to the people who consumed those crops. For many years the honourable member for Londonderry has been calling for an investigation of the Castlereagh dump. The Opposition is concerned that further damage to the environment could occur. We are not prepared to accept that the solution is to allow other waste materials to be added to the environment in Londonderry, to be leached into the water table and perhaps even into the nearby Nepean River. We cannot trust this Government. Why does the Government not want an environmental impact statement? The audit that the Minister has said would take place cannot be effective if records do not tell us what is being delivered to the dump. On 24th September the honourable member for Londonderry stated in this House:
In this State toxic waste is unchecked and uncontrolled. At the Castlereagh site there is no emergency procedures plan, and that is an indictment of the administration of the dump. The report noted also that neither head office nor the site had copies of relevant legislation or regulations pertaining to the site, nor did they have records or inventories or accidental spillages at the site.
We know that spillages have occurred. I understand that there was a death at Castlereagh waste depot. We do not know how that death occurred and we do not know the reasons for the accidents that occur. We do not know the effect the various toxins have had on people working at the waste depot and on those living around it. How can this Government be trusted when it does not even have records showing what has been delivered to the dump? As the honourable member for Londonderry said, toxic waste in this State is unchecked and uncontrolled. That is of real concern. How can we trust a Government that is prepared to build a mountain of rubbish three storeys high in a most sensitive environment of western
Sydney when it knows that the toxic waste that has been dumped at Castlereagh in the seat of Londonderry has caused considerable anguish and physical, emotional and psychological damage to the people of Londonderry and their environment?
I have already spoken about the effect on some of the families in that area, but it is not only the families in the area surrounding the Castlereagh depot that are concerned; the people of the city of Penrith are concerned, and that includes the people in my electorate of St Marys. The people in the electorate of the honourable member for Londonderry and further afield in the seat of the honourable member for Mount Druitt are concerned about how the rubbish to be transported through their cities will affect their amenity.
All honourable members ought to seriously weigh the environmental impact of the Government's proposal. Why does the Government continue to say that the solution is to provide three storeys of rubbish in that sensitive environment? Why does the Government continue to say this is the only answer? Why does the Government not place a moratorium on further dumping of rubbish? Why does the Government not set up a select committee to inquire into all possible means of eradicating our waste other than dumping rubbish at the Castlereagh depot?
These are the issues in this debate. We are not concerned to know who made the decision to start the liquid waste disposal in the first place - even though it was a Liberal Government - and not what occurred between times. We are talking about here and now, about the needs of the people in outer western Sydney. We could be talking about the needs of the people of the State if we allowed this proposal to go ahead. All honourable members can be sure as night follows day and day follows night that if this proposal goes ahead other Labor seats will face tip proposals similar to that which the Government is prepared to give people in Londonderry and in the city of Penrith.
The Opposition will not be able to say what should occur in those areas because the Government is not prepared to undertake an environmental impact study. My big question simply is this: the people of Londonderry, Penrith and outer western Sydney are saying, "Why does the Government not undertake an environmental impact study?" What is the Government afraid of? Why does the Government not come clean? Why is the Government not truly honest to the people of outer western Sydney?
(Moorebank) [12.34]: I join other members in congratulating the honourable member for Londonderry on his vigorous and, at times, lonely pursuit of this issue over the years that he has been a member of Parliament, and in fact years before that. It is a credit to any member of Parliament that despite the criticism oftentimes of his own party - let alone that of those who advocate this proposal in his electorate - he has stayed with the issue. He deserves the congratulations of the House.
A fundamental flaw in the Government's argument is that the depot at Londonderry need not require an environmental impact study or any further environmental scrutiny other than that contained in State environmental planning policy No. 3. Members on the Government side have said that adequate controls exist within present planning instruments to permit sufficient environmental scrutiny to allow the expansion of the Londonderry tip facility to include putrescible waste. The Government protests that its actions in the establishment of the waste management green paper are sufficient in terms of their scope of study to manage the environmental impacts of that proposal.
The Government cannot have it both ways. While I was listening to the Minister and the honourable member for Ermington and the less than lucid comments from the honourable member for Davidson, I read the Government's waste management green paper. As I opened it I saw the Minister's photo and the caption claiming what a great job this will be. I then turned to pages 6 and 7 where the green paper stated:
The operators of land fills and other waste facilities are no longer expected to "police" their own activities, an arrangement that has not enjoyed public confidence.
That last comment is an understatement. The Minister, in two sections headed "Community-Based Decision-Making" and "Recognition of Local Community's Rights", stated:
In the past, the State Government was responsible for the establishment of new waste facilities, with Local Councils approving the Development Applications. Where Councils were unwilling to grant such approval, the Government was able to use its planning powers to refer the matter to a Commission of Inquiry for adjudication. The Government recognises that this approach is no longer acceptable or workable. This "Green Paper" outlines Government's proposals for ensuring that the Local Community has an active role in deciding where new waste facilities should be located.
In future, the Government's approach would be to recognise that local communities should be given the opportunity to participate actively in decisions which affect the environment in which they live. The Government believes that local communities should be compensated for the loss of "amenity values" resulting from the location of waste management facilities in their area. Such compensation could be financial or in the form of improved community facilities, parks and the like. Under such a voluntary and democratic-decision making process, the situation of one community being "forced" to accept waste from other communities without any form of compensation, would be a thing of the past.
What a contradiction! The Minister's own management green paper espouses community participation, an object which the Opposition endorses and supports, yet on the other hand the Minister seeks to maintain this piece of paper, first established in June 1981, called State environmental planning policy No.3, which precludes totally any form of community participation. I will not read into the Hansard
the sum total of the provisions for environmental assessment in this SEPP, but even if I did, it would not take very long. This document does not contain a great deal that requires any form of environmental assessment although, certainly, it is a country mile
from what the Government apparently proposes by way of community participation under its waste management green paper and the joint select committee currently running.
What the honourable member for Londonderry proposes in his bill - but what no speaker on the Government side seems to want to acknowledge despite the clear demonstration by the honourable member for St Marys - is nothing more than to provoke the procedures under part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act to require, should work be done on that site that is of a significant nature in its effect on the environment, that an environmental impact study be conducted. This is not earth shattering, it is not new. Those provisions have applied to all sites on every site, on every development in New South Wales that has a significant effect on the environment except those covered by SEPPs or special exclusions by various governments over the years.
The Castlereagh Liquid Waste Disposal Bill seeks to invoke those requirements on this site. It is a totally reasonable proposition, one which the Government seems to endorse rhetorically in its waste management green paper discussion booklet but one with which the Government absolutely refuses to deal when a member of Parliament - congratulated by both sides of the House for his action - seeks to enact his concern by requiring the Waste Management Authority - now the Waste Recycling and Processing Service - to act like any other organisation with a proposal that would significantly affect the environment; that is, to conduct an environmental impact study. During the past 12 months in this House there have been serious debates about the need for government authorities to prepare environmental impact statements and to have the determination on those statements made by people other than the proponents of the activity.
Therefore I am surprised that the Government refuses to move away from State environmental planning policy 3 on the basis of some paltry excuse that it is examining the issue and will return to it later. I am surprised also that some members of the Government - in fact, members of the National Party, which is a surprise in itself - have conceded already that what the honourable member for Londonderry is proposing is entirely reasonable. On 30th June, 1992, when the Deputy Premier introduced the natural resources package, he identified clearly that the conduct of environmental impact statements is a problem for governments of all persuasions. He said:
Under the present scheme established by Part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, State Government Agencies such as the Forestry Commission and the Roads and Traffic Authority -
One could also include the Waste Recycling and Processing Service:
- must take into account the likely environmental impact of their proposed activities before proceeding. Ultimately, however, the decision as to whether or not an activity is to proceed rests with the agency. Even where an activity is likely to have a significant effect on the environment and the agency must therefore prepare or obtain an environmental impact statement, the agency itself nevertheless makes the decision about whether to go ahead with the activity. It is argued that the agency is unlikely to be perceived as sufficiently objective in making that decision. There is a lack of public confidence that the agency will give sufficient weight to environmental considerations in arriving at that decision.
I have not checked, but I believe that almost exactly the same words about the need to ensure public confidence in the decision-making process relating to environmental considerations appear in the Minister's green paper on waste management. If the Deputy Premier, of all people, introduces a bill into this House which endorses the concept of public participation in environmental assessments and takes the next step of establishing a committee to legislate for changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, why can the Minister for the Environment not concede the point as well? I might add that the Natural Resources Management Council Bill was the only bill unanimously supported by the committee; the remainder of the package was thrown out.
After all, environmental assessments fall within the portfolio responsibilities of the Minister for the Environment. Why would a proper environmental assessment not be demanded of a proposal that will add three storeys of rubbish to a liquid waste depot? Is the Minister pretending that that will not have a significant effect on the environment? If he suggests that is so, he cannot be serious. He should go to Londonderry and suggest to the local residents that three storeys of garbage on top of an already established depot, which has enormous problems, will not have a significant effect. The argument is unsustainable and the Minister is embarrassed trying to maintain it, particularly on the spurious basis that he has set up a committee to examine the problem.
Honourable members know what happened to the last committee that was set up to examine this problem. Its report was voted down by the House. I suggest that the honourable member for Londonderry has had a gutful of waiting for a decision; he wants something done. He has introduced a bill and brought the issue forward for determination by this Parliament. The Parliament owes it to itself and the community of New South Wales to move down this track.
I propose to go further. When the bill reaches the Committee stage, I will move an amendment that will enforce the principle I have espoused in a series of debates in this House, that is, to ensure the separation of the proponent of an activity from the consent authority. I will seek to further amend the bill to ensure that the Minister for Planning is appointed as the consent authority for any proposal under clause 5 of the bill. That is an entirely reasonable proposition, which is supported by the Deputy Premier and a number of Government members. The Minister for Conservation and Land Management, another National Party member, has
taken similar steps in his own areas of responsibility. On 4th March, 1992, in relation to the Timber Industry (Interim Protection) Bill, he said:
We will move to end the practice of the forestry regulating itself and transfer that role to the Department of Conservation and Land Management.
A Cabinet subcommittee is also considering ways of transferring the determining authority away from the agency involved.
[Mr Speaker left the chair at 12.44 p.m. The House resumed at 2.15 p.m.