APPROPRIATION BILL PARLIAMENTARY APPROPRIATION BILL
BUSINESS FRANCHISE LICENCES (PETROLEUM PRODUCTS) AMENDMENT BILL
MOTOR VEHICLES TAXATION (AMENDMENT) BILL
ROAD IMPROVEMENT (SPECIAL FUNDING) AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
Ms ALLAN (Blacktown) [7.30]: Before I begin my remarks about the Budget, I note that I will be followed in the debate by the honourable member for The Hills, who will be delivering his maiden speech. I take this opportunity to congratulate him on his recent election. It is with some disappointment that I comment on the allocations in the Budget for the environment, planning and women's affairs portfolios. Listening to the Budget Speech delivered by the Treasurer, I was hopeful that having a fresh-faced environment Minister and at last having a Minister for the Status of Women, the citizens of New South Wales might experience a reinvigoration of the State Government's approach to these important portfolios. Unfortunately, that has not been the case in the 1993-94 Budget. The budget allocations for the environment, planning and women's affairs reflect the low Cabinet ranking of the Ministers responsible for those portfolios. They obviously do not have the clout to get a fair deal from the Treasurer.
The Treasurer's Budget Speech was significant in that neither the environment nor planning portfolios rated a single mention. Using that as a measure of importance, I suppose New South Wales women should be thankful that they at least received a token two-paragraph mention in the Treasurer's speech. A detailed examination of the Budget reveals a litany of underspending on environmental programs, blowouts in capital works programs and wrong priorities. A prime example is the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The Budget Papers reveal an item listed as a program of road maintenance and reconstruction works in the Kosciusko National Park. The program is listed as beginning in 1987 and has a completion date of 1997. The total cost over the 10-year period is listed as more than $33 million. However, when one compares that item with the same item listed in the Budget Papers for the 1989-1990 financial year,
one realises that the program is now three years behind schedule. It was originally intended to cost $10 million, so the $33 million listed this year represents a blowout of more than 200 per cent, or $23 million.
Park service programs generally have suffered under the Budget, as they have during the past four to five years of the present Government. For instance, the walking tracks in the Bouddi National Park in the electorate of the Minister for the Environment are a disgrace. This morning I attended a briefing session in the Minister's office. I noticed that he had two nicely framed posters on his wall. One was of the Bouddi National Park and the other was of the Weddin Mountains National Park. The Minister was responsible for the proposals to establish both of those national parks. He has those pictures strung out widely across his wall, and I hope he gets the opportunity to add a few more to his collection. However, the funding in the present Budget for the National Parks and Wildlife Service indicates that there will not be too many more additions to the picture gallery in the Minister's office.
Unfortunately, the standards are declining in the national parks pictured on the Minister's wall. In other national parks similar degradation is occurring. One of Australia's premier coastal walks from Little Beach to Maitland Bay in the Bouddi National Park is based on tracks which are crumbling and decaying and have already begun to erode. A mountain goat would have trouble walking along that track. The poor management of this track is a microcosm of what is occurring in national parks throughout New South Wales. In the marginal electorate of Murwillumbah the walking tracks in the Mount Warning National Park are disintegrating and have the potential to endanger the many tourists visiting that area. That issue has been raised in debate in this Parliament on a number of occasions, yet no additional money has been allocated in the Budget for the improvement of that particular track.
During the past few months several tragic accidents have occurred in our national parks because of the state of various walking and other tracks within the parks. It was only after one such tragic incident in the Sydney Harbour National Park that the Government was forced to act and make sure that funds were provided to fix a problem in a particular safety fence. Unfortunately, those incidents will continue to occur because insufficient money is made available in the Budget not only for any extension of the operations of the National Parks and Wildlife Service but also for the maintenance of its existing recreational activities.
The land acquisition component of the budget of the National Parks and Wildlife Service has also remained stagnant. The continued failure of the Government to guarantee long-term significant funding for land acquisition threatens biodiversity in New South Wales as sensitive land, whether coastal or inland, is lost to development. It is symbolic that the Government continues to give a higher priority to the acquisition of land for new waste dumps than to the expansion of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. I have made that point in the past about previous budgets brought down by this Government, but it continues to be the case. In the next financial year the Government will spend $10 million on establishment costs for dumps or landfill sites, compared with a paltry $3.4 million for land acquisition for national parks.
To match the poor funding allocated to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Government has failed to determine about 13 wilderness reports from the Director of National Parks and Wildlife under the Wilderness Act of 1987. That means, in effect, that the declaration of wilderness areas in this State is frozen. That may please some members of the Government's backbench, particularly those in the National Party who represent some of the electorates where these wilderness areas have been assessed. However, it does not please the majority of people in the State who believe very strongly that any government, either conservative or Labor, must have a strong commitment to the full, successful and active implementation of the Wilderness Act. There is no money whatsoever in this Budget to ensure that the Wilderness Act is implemented in New South Wales.
In its five years in office the Government has created very few national parks, and the Budget does nothing to ensure that more national parks or bigger areas of national parks will be created. Perhaps the one great achievement that both the current Minister for the Environment and the former Minister for the Environment can claim is that they have created the smallest national parks in the history of this State. That is in contrast with what a future Carr Government would promise. We have already undertaken to restore nature conservation to a high priority by creating 20 new national parks and 10 new wilderness areas in our first term of office. Despite the bleating of the National Party about the wilderness, that is an objective we intend to fulfil.
Another area of concern in the Budget is the Waste Recycling and Processing Service. The listing of $10 million for the purchase of new landfill sites, to which I have already referred, is a very interesting item. The Minister for the Environment has still not provided the Parliament with the Government's detailed response to the report of the Joint Select Committee upon Waste Management. Instead, he is proceeding full steam - if he is capable of proceeding full steam on any issue - with the establishment of new landfill sites without any community consultation. While I and other honourable members in this Chamber and in the Legislative Council have been sitting for some months on the Joint Select Committee upon Waste Management, looking at future strategies to solve Sydney's vast waste disposal problems, there is - as the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Racing is well aware - provision within the current Budget for a simple, very crude, and ultimately very unsatisfactory, solution: the creation of new landfill sites. I know that my colleague the honourable member for Riverstone was surprised to read in the
Budget Papers of the State Government's plan to create a new dump at Schofields in his electorate at a cost of $1.6 million.
Whilst the Government has taken the politically expedient path of not creating mega landfill sites in marginal seats such as Sutherland, it has proceeded with a tired, worn out and failed strategy to create a new landfill in western Sydney - again, without community consultation and without even asking local communities whether they want or need such a dump. The capital works budget for the Waste Recycling and Processing Service, or WRAPS as it is better known, should have concentrated more on creative solutions to Sydney's waste problems and on the development of comprehensive recycling and composting programs, rather than simply finding, wherever it can, vacant blocks of land or vacant sites for new landfill.
An aspect of the Budget which is of immediate concern to me is the allocation for the Environment Protection Authority. The Environment Protection Authority has been allocated $275,000 for the inaugural state of the environment report, which was due to be tabled in this House by 31st October. Miraculously, it actually appeared this afternoon after the Minister for the Environment read about some sections of it in the Sydney Morning Herald. In the few hours since it became publicly available I have not had a chance to study it closely, but from what I have read of the document today and previously, perhaps we should argue that the Environment Protection Authority has wasted a lot of money already in respect of the work that it has done. If honourable members examine this document they will see that, rather than initiating up-to-date research on the state of our waterways or calling on current research, several chapters of the report rely almost totally on data that is between eight and 10 years old. The document is basically an uncritical narrative that provides no solutions to the pollution problems affecting the State. The Environment Protection Authority's excuse for not having up-to-date data is to claim in its report:
End of story so far as the Environment Protection Authority is concerned, despite the fact that at least $275,000 has been allocated for that document. It is inexcusable, given the expenditure of a quarter of a million dollars in funding, that the Government cannot produce more recent information and research. Although the drafts of the report that I have seen to date identify several environmental problems - in fact, I do not believe any of them are new and I am sure that will be confirmed in the document released today - they fail to outline the Government's strategy to reduce the impact of pollution on the environment. I was hopeful that that was going to be rectified in the final report, but even a very quick look at it this evening shows me that it is full of generalities and platitudes, and has very few substantial strategies for solving some of the State's major environmental challenges.
The Government continues to refuse to outline how it is going to fund a very vital part of its environmental commitments in this State referred to at length in the Budget document entitled "The Environment", by the Minister for the Environment. The Government fails to outline how it is going to fund a $7 billion, 20-year Clean Waterways Program. The special environmental levy which has just ceased raised only $491 million, according to this document. The Opposition has already expressed its serious concern about the Premier's $200 million dividend raid on the board, which has obviously compromised the Water Board's ability to fund its capital works programs and commitments. That issue was the subject of quite intensive study by the committee of which I and other members of this House are members, the Joint Select Committee upon the Sydney Water Board.
To keep the $7 billion clean waterways commitment the State Government, however, must outline where the money is to come from to fund the rest of the program and how it will guarantee public accountability. That has still not been done despite these glossy publications that the Government has produced on the Budget. The only way that that is going to be achieved is if the Government introduces legislation to guarantee the future of the Clean Waterways Program and the promised expenditure to ensure annual reporting functions. It is not going to be good enough for documents, such as that released by the Minister as a companion document to the Budget Papers, to wax lyrical about the achievements of the Clean Waterways Program and its absolutely essential contribution to the State Government's strategy for improving the New South Wales environment. It must show how the achievements of that program to date are going to be maintained and how more is going to be achieved under that program. I am sure the Joint Select Committee upon the Sydney Water Board will address those issues but it is imperative that the Government addresses them in any debate about the Budget.
A further area of concern to me is urban affairs and planning. The Government has missed an ideal opportunity in this year's Budget to better manage Sydney's growth and create more than 25,000 new jobs. The Fahey Government's poor management of Sydney's planning has led to Sydney's urban sprawl and the related environmental impacts - declining air and water quality and the creation of satellite cities without proper community services and accessible public transport. That is an issue that we in the Opposition, in particular my parliamentary leader, have been talking about for some time - and there have been very good reasons to talk about it. In particular, the problem of Sydney's air pollution has focused the minds of the people of Sydney on those very issues. Sydney will have the Olympic Games in the year 2000 and I believe we will all be obsessed with this issue during the next seven years. Obviously, we want to ensure that we provide suitable services - housing, tourist and accommodation opportunities, and access to public and private
transport - for people who will visit our city and use those facilities in that year. But leading up to that time we need to ensure that all of that is put in place, and this particular Budget is an opportunity for us to ensure that the framework is there. [Extension of time agreed to.]
A Carr Labor government would promote, with private financial backing, the rejuvenation of vacant industrial land into residential housing at Waterloo, Zetland and Rosebery through a South Sydney urban renewal plan. We would seek to lift Sydney's central business district population to 15,000 as soon as possible through new incentives for the building industry. We would kickstart the $700 million Walsh Bay development, which would be put out to tender. All those initiatives could have been taken up by the current Government for the next financial year, but none of those initiatives has been addressed in the Budget.
The Government's appalling record on the status of women is one that I have documented in previous speeches in this House. The Government is increasingly making more announcements relating to women's services but they tend to remain just ink on Government press releases. Very little of that ink has flown through to the women who require the services. Labor believes that women should enjoy equal opportunity in society. The crucial factors in achieving this are women's equity before the law and economic independence. Before 1988 this State led the world in law reform and services for women. Under the former Premier and the current Premier many of the programs initiated pre-1988 have been dismantled and the central role of women in New South Wales in formulating Government policy has declined. The coalition Government's abandonment of specialist programs and its push to mainstream in all areas of government have set back many advances women have made.
One thing we can be thankful for is that some of the policy initiatives planned by Labor have been taken on by the current Government. One example comes from Labor's 1991 women's policy, in which a women's information service was foreshadowed to provide, through a 008 phone line, an information and referral service. Late last month the Government announced a 008 referral service. We are pleased that the Government has finally put our policy into practice. For years Labor has been calling for real action to deal with the tragedy of domestic violence, but this Government has largely ignored the problem. In 1991 the New South Wales domestic violence committee released its domestic violence strategic plan, with its blueprint for dealing with domestic violence. The report concluded with this warning:
The Government's Clean Waterways Program is developing estimates of the relative impact of urban runoff and sewage discharges in Sydney. There are no available results to date.
So what did the Government choose to do in 1991? As usual, very little. The report sat gathering dust while the Premier claimed that women's refuges were to blame for breaking up families, refuges that gave women and children somewhere to go to escape violent home life. What an embarrassment that particular statement was. The Budget Papers show what has happened to refuges. Grants and subsidies for the State's refuges suffered a cut in spending last financial year. Budget Paper No. 3 reveals that $68.84 million was allocated to refuges but only $66.097 million was spent, despite half the money coming from the Commonwealth Government. Despite the fact that we are moving into the International Year of the Family, assistance for families was also slashed. Of the allocation of $59.6 million, only $53.8 million was spent.
During a time of great need, it is a disgrace that the Government saves money by not providing basic services. This underspending by the Government has become endemic. One of the most glaring holes in the Budget is women's health services. The Fahey Government has provided no new money for women's health initiatives in the Budget. Fortunately, women have been assisted in health matters through Commonwealth Government funding. More recently, since the creation of a separate portfolio on the status of women, we have seen an increase in the Government's record about its planned performance in women's health, domestic violence, law reform and community services for women. The real test, however, in the next 12 months and in the subsequent time that is left for this Government is going to be to what extent the new Minister for the Status of Women is going to be able to elevate her portfolio to show that it is of genuine concern to this Government.
I do not think that women in New South Wales, as I expressed in a comparable speech in the budget debate this time last year, will be impressed by lip-service from anyone, whether it is the Premier, the Minister responsible for the status of women - or members of the Opposition for that matter. They will not be impressed merely by promises and slogans. They will assess the performance of this Government and future governments, Labor or conservative, on the basis of what they can do to help women and families generally in society to deal with their various problems. Unfortunately, in my opinion, there is not a great deal of promise in this Budget. Last year I spent my whole speech referring to women's affairs because I believed that the Government was severely neglecting that area. As I said, we now see an increase in the rhetoric but are yet to see if it is matched by performance.
I am sure the Minister for the Environment will be pleased that this year I have mentioned some of the issues for which he has responsibility. I do not believe that a speech to the Budget is a one-off. The only way to see significant improvement in performance in key areas of environment, planning, and the status of women is to have constant scrutiny of the performance of the relevant Ministers. Over the next 12 months, because there will be so much discussion about the Olympic Games, there will be much focus on the Department of Planning and the
Minister for Planning and his performance. I assure the Parliament that the Opposition will play a significant role in ensuring that the planning and environment portfolios generally are managed successfully. Finally, a number of other environment areas are of concern to me and I will be seeking to raise some of those in the estimates committee.
Mr RICHARDSON (The Hills) [7.57]: When, following my pre-selection, I was campaigning in the seat of The Hills I promised my campaign team that if we won a resounding victory I would take a message to this place. Well, we won that resounding victory and I am here today to deliver that message. For the sake of the record I would like to reiterate the result. Compared with an average swing against the Government of the day in by-elections in 17 safe seats of 14.25 per cent over the past 10 years, we recorded a swing of 1.6 per cent to the Liberal Party. Stunned for a response, the best the Opposition could muster was, "It was a mediocre result". I have to say that if that was a mediocre result then roll on 1995. The Opposition will be lucky to field a bowls pair in the Inter-Parliamentary Championships. It was a magnificent win, not just for the Government, not just for the people of The Hills, not just for stability and progress in New South Wales, but for the true believers of the Liberal Party.
Yes, we have our true believers too. They are the backbone of the Australian nation: the small business people, the managers, the families who characterise The Hills. They are the ones who are generating the wealth, generating the jobs and generating the right sort of caring environment in which to raise children. They are the real workers of this country, people who labour not 35 or 40 hours a week but 70 or 80 hours a week without asking for overtime, yet still found time to man the street tables, still found time to walk the roads and footpaths of The Hills doorknocking and letterboxing, and who still found time to make sure a how-to-vote slip went into every elector's hand on polling day. These are the men and women who, through their efforts, created that ringing endorsement of the Government on 28th August, and I want to express my thanks for their hard work. They include my campaign manager, Cliff Hoare, Gordon Bubb, and a former member for The Hills, Fred Caterson. Two of them are here tonight.
I should also like to express my appreciation to those of my colleagues who campaigned in The Hills so diligently, particularly the Premier who gave unstintingly of his time during those three weeks in August. Perhaps the name of the Federal Treasurer, Mr Dawkins, should be added to that roll of honour for his carefully crafted Budget, delivered with an impeccable sense of timing halfway through the campaign. Unfortunately, apart from their stalwart support for me, Mr Dawkins and his leader, Paul Keating, have done little else for the people of The Hills. One of the bills coming before the Parliament is the Endangered and Other Threatened Species Conservation Bill. The only endangered species we have in my electorate is the small business person, who was squeezed first by Mr Keating's high interest rates, then by his recession and now by his Treasurer's Budget - if it ever passes the Senate that is. They, like the other residents of The Hills, rose en masse on 28th August to decisively reject the politics of divisiveness and confrontation that characterised the non-government forces in this Parliament.
There was a strong anti-Labor feeling in The Hills. The Leader of the Opposition was wise not to stand a candidate - he could only have been embarrassed. But the mood was just as staunchly anti-Independent. We did not have to tell the voters what the issues were; they told us in their thousands over and over again: we do not want any more Independents in Parliament. The people of The Hills have long memories. They can recall that day of infamy - 24th June, 1992 - when the triumvirate of the honourable member for Bligh, the honourable member for South Coast and the honourable member for Manly goose-stepped their way down Macquarie Street and demanded Nick Greiner's and Tim Moore's head on a platter. They are the same trio who, faced subsequently with a Supreme Court verdict that Greiner and Moore were not guilty of corruption, proclaimed sanctimoniously, "But they were morally guilty". The people of The Hills did not buy that line; and they did not buy the idea that three people representing electorates as far distant as Bligh, Manly and South Coast should determine who their member of Parliament should be.
I am not going to attempt to defend the actions of my predecessor Tony Packard in relation to the Listening Devices Act. That matter has been fully canvassed by the media and by the courts. But it is worth noting that Tony Packard was a good local member, someone who tried his utmost to help his constituents. He also did his best to cut through the straitjacket of red tape that tends to bind the public service. In this respect he was a man after my own heart. Tony was also a tireless worker for charity and the community. He was Deputy National President of the Variety Club of Australia for four years, Chairman of the Baulkham Hills Orange Blossom Festival for seven years, and on the committee of the Breakthrough Foundation, a charity formed to help homeless children. These achievements should transcend any transgressions that he has made, for which he already paid dearly. Or will Mark Antony's words be his political epitaph: "The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones". So let it not be with Packard.
The people of The Hills see the Independents as stooges of Labor, willing accomplices in a power game that can only be detrimental to this State. In the last sitting week of this Parliament we heard several members of the Government, as well as the honourable member for Tamworth - seemingly the only genuine Independent in this place - cry out in frustration at the way in which Labor's antics were
thwarting the processes of good government. That spoiling game, the Labor tactic of playing the man and not the ball, is too well-known to need further enunciation. Two weeks of question time were dominated by the Treasurer's defamation settlement, while major issues went unmentioned.
What I must question, Mr Speaker, is the role of the Independents in all this. We are well aware that Labor will stoop to any level, dredge through any slime, sift through any dirt to denigrate members of the Government. They are like delinquent children who, bored with video games and television, go on a rampage of destruction, smashing windows, looting, and vandalising cars and property. But I would like to tell the Opposition that the people of The Hills have seen through their little charade; they understand the bruising, spoiling game they are playing and the gridiron tactics that distract from the ability of the Government to govern. And it astounds me - as it astounds them - that the alleged Independents, the defenders of the faith, the self-appointed moral guardians of the Parliament, should be aiding and abetting their destructive endeavours.
If there is any ratbaggery, any skulduggery, any bloodymindedness going, we can be sure the honourable member for Bligh, the honourable member for Manly and the honourable member for South Coast will be in the thick of it. The Daily Telegraph Mirror summed it up neatly on 14th September when Labor's bill to retain the Government Cleaning Service was imminent:
The success of the domestic violence strategic plan in addressing the issues of domestic violence in New South Wales will depend on the will and the expertise of those required to implement the recommendations, allocation of adequate resources and a community commitment to the elimination of violence against women.
The honourable member for Manly promotes the idea that all parliamentarians should vote on all legislation according to individual conscience. My colleague the Hon. S. B. Mutch highlighted the weaknesses of this approach in a debate with him at the University of Sydney Union last year. Independents claim they must take an informed position on every piece of legislation, but it is clearly impossible for any one human being to understand the nuances of all bills presented to Parliament. As a result, decisions are made based not on reasoning and logic but on gut feeling and emotion.
Independents, like minority parties, know they will never hold the reins of power. The honourable members of the Opposition, on the other hand, have occupied the Treasury benches and almost certainly will again one day - although not, I venture to suggest, for a long time to come. The ultimate sanction for them is the knowledge that one day they might have to administer their excesses. They understand the party system. As the British independent parliamentarian A. P. Herbert once remarked, "All cannot be fly-halves; there must be a scrum". The Independents feed on publicity like a crow feeds on carrion. They claim to reach their decisions independently, but there is an awful air of inevitability about the way they operate. Next time one of them makes a weighty pronouncement to the media on some alleged malfeasance by the Government, I will put money on the other two each making their own statements of outraged moral probity at carefully staggered 24-hour intervals, thereby maximising their coverage. The amazing thing is, the usually astute press have not yet seen through this masquerade. But the people of The Hills have, Mr Speaker. That is why they overwhelmingly endorsed a Liberal candidate on 28th August. And I am delighted to be able to say that in this Budget the Government has fully vindicated their faith.
The Hills is a predominantly residential electorate, extending from Beecroft in the south to Rouse Hill in the west and almost to Galston in the north. There is a mix of housing ranging from standard family homes on quarter-acre blocks to two-hectare properties around Dural and Kenthurst. There is an extensive light industrial area in Castle Hill, with new business parks either planned or under construction at Dural, Parklea and Mungerie Park. I am proud to announce that Cathay Pacific has selected the new Northwest Business Park at Parklea as the site for its worldwide data processing operations. The district has a real sense of community. This was exemplified during this year's Orange Blossom Festival, which was opened by the Premier on 11th September. More than 25,000 people turned out to watch a two-hour parade of floats, bands and marching girls.
As one of the fastest growing areas in Sydney, The Hills is inevitably experiencing growing pains. Roads have long been the major local issue. One of the great benefits of the by-election was the way in which it focused media attention on our traffic problems. In a time of financial stringency, when capital works spending is down 1.8 per cent as many projects reach finality, the Government has increased spending on roads in The Hills by 37.6 per cent to $24.2 million. To put this in perspective, it compares with an outlay of just $866,000 in the last full year of the Unsworth Government. Labor was happier building monuments to itself in the inner city than it was providing basic facilities like roads and railways for the people of New South Wales. More than half the $24 million is being spent on widening Pennant Hills Road from four to six lanes and providing an underpass at Thompsons Corner. An accident at the corner of Copeland Road and Pennant Hills Road two weeks ago created a traffic jam four kilometres long. Under Labor, by the year 2000 this would have been the norm rather than the exception.
When Fred Caterson made his maiden speech in this place in 1976 he lamented the fact that, despite years of planning, work had not yet started on the Castlereagh Expressway, now known as the F2 or M2. This Budget allocates $3 million for the acquisition of properties along the route of the M2, while advertisements were placed in the Sydney Morning Herald several weeks ago inviting expressions of interest from the private sector in building the road. There is no choice to constructing the M2. Without it The Hills will become like Manhattan Island, gridlocked for several hours of the
day. There is no choice other than to build the M2. But, it is not without its penalties. The route of the expressway has been moved westward out of its original corridor, preserving Pennant Hills golf course, but seriously disadvantaging those living in Lamorna Avenue, Beecroft, and Coral Tree Drive and Carmen Drive, Carlingford, who now find the expressway, which should have been a row of houses and a roadway distant, abutting their backyards. If the new route stays, I am sure the Minister for Transport and Minister for Roads will view these residents' request for compensation sympathetically.
People living alongside the section of the motorway to the west of Pennant Hills Road have other problems. A set of tollgates is to be built here, at the base of a hill and within a hundred metres of some houses. Not surprisingly, residents are apprehensive about the thought of trucks grinding to a halt at the tollgates, then snarling their way up the hill to the top of the ridge. A more appropriate place to locate the tollgates would be further west, where the road is flatter and the buffer zone of bush considerably greater. I shall exercise my best endeavours to ensure that that occurs.
Residents of Kellyville, on the other hand, will be pleased to know that the Budget allocates $1.35 million for the Gilbert Road bypass, which will divert through traffic around Castle Hill shopping centre. Also, more than $3.4 million is set aside for much needed improvements to New Line Road. Water and sewerage are important in any developing area. The Government has allocated $265,000 for the construction of a water pumping station at Dural South and $300,000 towards provision of an alternative electricity supply and a grit dewatering facility at Castle Hill sewage treatment plant. But the bulk of Water Board money is inevitably being spent on the Rouse Hill development, which is scheduled to come on stream in April next year. Rouse Hill is one of the biggest housing developments in the history of this State. Stage one will eventually house 90,000 people in 30,000 new homes to be built in Kellyville, Rouse Hill and Parklea, making The Hills district the growth centre of Sydney, a fact I would ask the honourable member for Bligh and the honourable member for South Coast to bear in mind before they make any more public pronouncements about funding for the area.
Nine new primary schools, two high schools and one Catholic high school will be needed. A further 55,000 homes for 160,000 more people are planned for stages two and three, creating a city the size of Canberra. A development of this magnitude will inevitably impact on the surrounding neighbourhoods and the environment. The new Rouse Hill sewage treatment plant will be the most advanced in the world, with tertiary treatment, recycling of waste water and the incorporation of wetlands to act as a final filter. It will ultimately discharge into Cattai Creek and the Hawkesbury River. The Government is taking steps to monitor the discharge adequately to ensure that no further pollution occurs of this highly stressed watercourse. Baulkham Hills Council is apprehensive about the implications of the development for its finances. It will have to acquire $36 million worth of open space from an annual income of just $45 million. New regional arterial roads will cost $20 million and upgrading of existing roads to cope with construction traffic will cost $11 million. The money is supposed to come from section 94 contributions, but they will not all be available until the project is completed, some time next century. Ensuring that projects like Rouse Hill and the M2 go ahead with a minimum of impact on existing residents of the area, the environment and council finances will be one of my primary tasks as the member for The Hills in the years ahead.
The other big issue in The Hills is dual occupancy. I applaud the initiative of the Government in forcing councils to accept a broader and denser mix of housing. Sydney is one of the biggest cities in the world in terms of area and one of the least densely populated. Clearly, the urban sprawl cannot continue unchecked. Urban consolidation works best in established areas where there are already facilities such as child care centres, community halls, roads, and especially public transport links. Unfortunately, most applications for dual occupancies in my electorate are not for additional dwellings on existing blocks of land but for villas and duplexes in new subdivisions, often far removed from public transport. This has tended to increase rather than reduce traffic congestion and sewerage problems. Last year 351 development applications for dual occupancies were lodged with Hornsby Council, second only in the State to Blacktown, which is a bigger local government area. Council planning has tended to lag behind the new rules and it has been the Government, often unfairly, which has shouldered the blame.
Hornsby Council, under its previous mayor, Steven Pringle, addressed the problem by drafting its own local environment plan with the assistance and encouragement of the Minister for Planning. The plan meets overall housing density targets by creating a new high density zone around Hornsby station. This will allow the council to increase the minimum subdivision size for single dwellings from 300 square metres to 500 square metres and for multiunit dwellings from 200 square metres to 300 square metres. This was a particular initiative of my predecessor, Tony Packard, who did a great job of liaising between the council and the Minister to make it a reality. I feel sure that this plan will be used as a model by other councils in New South Wales. I commend it to them. In fact, the Government has already invited Baulkham Hills Council, which is also approving a large number of dual occupancy applications, to submit a similar LEP. Unfortunately, there is no major railway junction like Hornsby in the shire - in fact there is no railway station in my electorate - so the job of Baulkham Hills Council inevitably will be more difficult. There are proposals currently before the Government for the construction of light and even heavy railway lines into the area. Given our traffic problems and accelerating pattern of growth, I would hope they are given favourable consideration. [Extension of time agreed to.]
While there are 10 primary schools in my electorate, through some strokes of the electoral commissioners' pens it contains only one high school. Fortunately, it is an excellent school. I visited it a couple of weeks ago. I dropped in on the common room when the teachers were discussing outcomes for the children. The interest they were taking is a tribute to them and it is a tribute to the education department that such a fine school exists. An annual highlight of the school is the school musical. The school was built 30 years ago and with appropriate maintenance should last at least another 30. The Budget allocated $410,000 for this work. Overall, the Treasurer is to be congratulated for bringing down a Budget which at a time of falling revenues, particularly in the property area, manages to combine significant increases in priority areas of spending with a $100 million cut in the deficit to $890 million. It is a Budget which confers considerable benefits on the people of The Hills, and it stands in stark contrast to the horror Federal Budget brought down in August by Mr Dawkins in Canberra. I must say that I do not share the view of the honourable member for Blacktown on aspects of the Budget so far as they relate to my electorate.
I should now like to turn my attention to defamation, an area in which as a journalist, editor, author and publisher for almost 25 years I have considerable interest. Lest I be accused of earlier being unduly critical of the Independents, I commend them for their encouragement of the Government's reform measures in this area. The honourable member for Cronulla also deserves a pat on the back for his chairing of the legislation committee of this House and for the report which he presented to the Law Reform Commission in October last year. I know that many of my colleagues are ambivalent about defamation law reform. While they perceive the desirability of maintaining or enhancing free speech in a democracy, they also wish to ensure that the press is not given carte blanche to run riot with their lives and reputations. I am sure many honourable members on the other side of the House share their concerns. It is, however, clear that current New South Wales defamation laws are not working.
The recent case involving the artist Vladas Meskenas resulted in the latest in a long line of ludicrous verdicts. Mr Meskenas argued that he was defamed five years ago by the Director of the New South Wales Art Gallery, Mr Edmund Capon, who was quoted in an article in the Sun-Herald as saying of a painting by Mr Meskenas of the businessman Rene Rivkin, "It's simply a rotten picture. It's no good at all . . . I looked at the picture and thought _Yuk!'". We have all heard the saying, "I may not know much about art, but I know what I like". There is no doubt that Mr Capon is a learned and knowledgeable art critic and an arbiter of public taste. But his pronouncement on Mr Meskenas's work was as subjective as any layperson's. As the Sydney Morning Herald pointed out, had Mr Capon told the court that he thought Mr Meskenas was an inferior painter he could have used the defence of comment. But because he made his remarks about the painting, and Mr Meskenas imputed from them that Mr Capon was implying that he was an inferior artist, no such defence exists. It sounds like something from the darkest recesses of Franz Kafka's mind. Unfortunately, it is not fiction. Welcome to the laws of defamation New South Wales style, 1993.
The verdict has important ramifications for free speech. It may prove impossible in the future for art critics to criticise; theatre, restaurant, music and book reviewers to review; car testers to test; and sports commentators to comment, which I think would be a problem in the year 2000. The only place where men and women would not be afraid to voice their opinions would be here in Parliament where we have the protection of absolute privilege. After the case Mr Meskenas declared, "I got what I wanted - my good name". He is deluding himself. In reality he refocused the public's attention five years after the event on a matter which would otherwise have enjoyed five minutes' currency. And one is inevitably left wondering: Why was he so supersensitive? Was Edmund Capon perhaps right? The time frame is all important if a defamed person is to have any chance of restoring his injured reputation - or, in Mr Meskenas's case, his wounded pride. In Western Australia a defamation action must be started within a year of publication of the material involved. In New South Wales the time limit is six years, the same as for other civil litigation. Given the nature of defamation, this is patently absurd.
I should like to give another example of what an ass the current law is. Eight years ago Dural dentist Dr Phillip Westley-Smith defended a defamation action brought by a former employee of his, Mr Bill Lord. His offence - if it can be called such - was to write the single word "dishonesty" on a confidential social security form as the reason for dismissing Mr Lord as the manager of a motel he owned. The jury found for Mr Lord and awarded $127,000 damages. Dr Westley-Smith's opinion of his former employee might have reached at most six or seven people, including others in the motel industry to whom he spoke. There was no widespread broadcasting of that opinion, no mass media or 72-point headlines. Imagine how many hundreds of millions of dollars that same jury might have awarded if the matter had been published in the Sun-Herald with a circulation of more than 600,000! Mr Lord's reputation was so severely tarnished that within a few weeks of leaving Dr Westley-Smith's employ he had a new job at a considerably higher salary!
It could be argued that the defence of qualified privilege under section 22 of the Defamation Act 1974 should have applied in this instance, but section 22 rarely seems to prevail even in instances like this, which is not related to the media. The action cost Dr Westley-Smith more than $400,000 and left him an embittered and disillusioned man. The damages were reduced on appeal to $50,000, but the Appeal Court judges were reluctant to overturn a jury verdict, even though they acknowledged that Mr Lord and his wife
were less than truthful witnesses. Having read the transcript of the trial - a matter, I might add, that took considerably more time than preparing my maiden speech - I have little doubt that a judge would have found in Dr Westley-Smith's favour.
This opens up the question of the role of the jury in defamation cases. The complexity of the law means that often juries have to be led by the hand through it like a blind man through a minefield. This tends to double the average length of a trial. It can be argued that perhaps juries should be retained to determine whether an article or broadcast has defamatory imputations, but I am frankly sceptical that they would do this any better than a judge. Cases like the two I have cited, and the equally impenetrable Andrew Ettingshausen and Blue Angel verdicts, strengthen the arguments for abolishing the jury in defamation trials.
Alternatively, in the interests of justice, one might consider allowing the defendant to choose between a judge and a jury, rather than both parties having to agree to a judge, as is the case at present. There was in fact a common denominator in both the Westley-Smith and the Meskenas cases - the prosecuting barrister, Mr Clive Evatt. Mr Evatt was struck off the bar in 1968 for professional misconduct in charging excessive fees to the recipients of accident damages. When he was readmitted in 1981, in keeping with his track record, he turned his tongue to one of the most lucrative areas of practice, defamation law. The Sydney Morning Herald estimates that he will earn $85,000 for the Meskenas case. Mr Meskenas will get $100. It is pretty easy to tell who are the major beneficiaries of the current laws - and they are neither plaintiff nor defendant.
The key principles governing any reform of defamation law should be: to maintain or enhance freedom of speech; to reduce costs for litigants and defendants; to safeguard against malicious or negligent injury to reputation; and to provide an affordable and accessible mechanism whereby reputation may be restored. The Annenberg Proposal would meet the last three of these aims. This is a suggestion for a national United States statute advanced by Northwestern University. Every potential plaintiff would have to seek a retraction or opportunity to reply before starting a defamation action. If an adequate retraction or reply is published within 30 days, no action may be brought.
There are problems associated with the format of the reply. How big should it be? How should one word it? But overall the proposal has merit. In fact, anything which can restore a plaintiff's damaged reputation without the need for expensive and time-consuming litigation is worthy of consideration. I am also attracted to the notion that plaintiffs should have to prove falsity if they wish to recover damages. The current emphasis is on the defendant proving truth if a defence of justification is pleaded. The legislation committee opted for a defence of truth alone - the common law defence permitted in several other States. Unfortunately, this leaves open the possibility of the media pursuing purely private matters without the countervailing justification of public interest. The compromise was to introduce another tort of privacy. I personally find this clumsy and suspect it would create as many problems as it would solve.
No maiden speech made on the first parliamentary sitting day after Sydney was awarded the Year 2000 Olympic Games would be complete without mentioning our great success in Monte Carlo. The Games will provide a tremendous stimulus to the New South Wales and Australian economies. They will also signify to the world our coming of age as a nation, without the need for republican posturing. I am looking forward to seeing our athletes spurred on to greater heights. I know that in my electorate there are many young people who are already trying harder in anticipation of competing against the world in seven years' time.
I would like to congratulate all those associated with Sydney's triumph: the Premier; Rod McGeoch; our two International Olympic Committee members, Kevan Gosper and Phil Coles; John Coates, President of the Australian Olympic Committee; Graham Lovett; Nick Greiner; the honourable member for Vaucluse, who I understand raised millions for the bid; and especially the Minister for the Olympic bid, who was its driving force. I thank the House for its indulgence in allowing me to canvass such a wide range of issues. I look forward to representing the people of The Hills for many years to come.
Mr PRICE (Waratah) [8.26]: I congratulate the honourable member for The Hills on his maiden speech. I trust that his time in this place will be of benefit to both him and his constituents. I wish to comment on a number of items in Budget Paper No. 2. In the first 20-odd pages of that document a clear signal is given of government underexpenditure during the previous year of about 0.6 per cent, or $100 million, which I am sure helped to keep the theoretical deficit of this State below $1 billion. I guess that is valid creative accounting, but it is not necessarily indicative of the Government's commitment and claimed intent to improve employment opportunities. Item 3.3, Budget receipts, shows that 40 per cent of total State income comprises Federal allocations, a significant funding component. A real increase has been demonstrated in that provision, which I am sure has allowed the Government to bring down such a budget.
Though the Budget is not expansionary in any way, it is at least geared to an attempt to maintain the status quo, provided that this year's expenditure is in fact spent. If that expenditure is not made, employment opportunities will fall and progress of the State's capital works will continue to lag further behind. Many people will become concerned that future budgets may include even less capital expenditure as we prepare for the Olympics. I do not have any difficulty about this State preparing for the Olympics. However, I am sure that underexpenditure on capital items during the two years prior to the success at Monte Carlo has meant not only that a
number of projects have not proceeded, but also that employment levels and job opportunities have permanently shrunk below the level that should have been anticipated in this State.
Item 3.3 of Budget Paper No. 2 also indicates that New South Wales should receive about $638 million in tobacco receipts - an extraordinarily large amount from a drug that the community is attempting to rid itself of. I am a non-smoker, but with smoking banned in the Parliament and in public places, I find it paradoxical that our taxing system will be sorely depleted and may disappear altogether, should that idea catch on. I hope the idea does catch on, but I wonder how we will compensate for that type of budget deficit, should it occur. Likewise, this State raises about $1 billion through a variety of gambling taxes - a hefty amount to be replaced through any other taxing mechanism. In other words, we have locked ourselves by and large into the misery cycle of many families who cannot afford that kind of expenditure. The amount generated from racing alone is in excess of $300 million. Poker machine taxation is, likewise, more than $300 million; keno alone is $5.4 million; and lotteries and lotto $228 million. The Government relies on extraordinary gambling amounts in order to keep the alleged level of State taxing low. I wonder whether we shall be able to rely on those sorts of taxes in future and whether indeed we have a moral right so to do.
I refer to the untied road grants provided by the Federal Government. It is worth pointing out that of the total grants of $451.8 million some $51.8 million may now be applied to other programs in general within the State. The State has no right to criticise the Federal Government for reducing road expenditure when the State asked for, and was granted, approval to disburse more than $50 million on other programs that were not necessarily road and highway related. I will talk on that matter in greater detail. I refer to Budget Paper No. 4, in particular the contribution of the Roads and Traffic Authority to the progress of the national freeway, the F3. Where the F3 Freeway empties on to the country roads in my electorate at a town called Minmi there is great confusion and disorder, partly brought about by what appears to be relatively slow action and rather poor co-operation between the State and Federal bodies in terms of how the available money should be applied in this area.
A number of problems are associated with that particular highway, which will be open to the public in December, and they are all concerned with the connectors. Honourable members could argue that the Federal Government should pay all the bill or that perhaps the State and local government should share some of the bill. Nevertheless, through and local traffic which uses those highways and connectors is severely disadvantaged. I note from the documents supplied to me by Treasury that by and large the road funding for my electorate - the capital works - is almost completely issued by the Federal Government. Yet I notice that the key areas that require attention are completely overlooked.
It is proposed that, as a result of a recent environmental impact statement issued to the community, and responded to by the public, advice will be given to the Federal Minister for Road Transport that Lenaghans Drive be upgraded. Lenaghans Drive is a simple, country road which connects Minmi with Beresfield and eventually East Maitland. It is single lane each way and has been subject to one set of upgradings. Because of some form of miscalculation it is proposed by the RTA that a further reconstruction and new construction program take place. A reconstruction on the existing carriageway and a stage one construction of a new and parallel carriageway, and a stage two construction of a third parallel carriageway, will allow the original Lenaghans Drive to revert to local use while the other two newer sections will form part of the national highway structure until such time as a route is determined from Minmi to Branxton on the New England Highway. That process is continuing and I understand there will not be final resolution of that matter for two months.
All national highway traffic heading north along the New England Highway will travel through Minmi and on to near Beresfield before travelling either north to Armidale or south to the Hexham Bridge to join the Pacific Highway, but there has been absolutely no preparation for that increase in traffic. We have a problem at least at two major intersections. At one of those intersections there have been in excess of 30 deaths over the last 30 years and still we argue about the construction of a grade separated intersection. There is no apparent problem with the site. The RTA owns a large parcel of land alongside the highway where the intersection could be constructed. On two occasions there have been offers of substantial Federal assistance to allow this program to proceed. What is happening? We are talking about it. Each year one or two people lose their lives. I appeal to the Minister concerned to take a second look at how co-operation with the Federal department could allow this intersection to be reconstructed, the grade separated overpass to be built and some sanity and safety restored to that area.
The intersection is commonly identified as the Anderson Drive intersection with the New England Highway at Tarro and it is vital that it be reconstructed immediately before there is any more carnage in that area. That would allow the 8,500 people who live in the suburbs of Tarro, Woodberry and Beresfield to go to work, to the shops, and to conduct their normal lives. There is one way in and out and local traffic has to contend with high traffic that is potentially hostile. We are talking about traffic moving at about 90 kilometres an hour, but once construction is completed it is envisaged that the speed limit will increase to 100 kilometres an hour. A similar problem exists at the northern end of Anderson Drive, Beresfield, on the New England Highway, where two people were killed recently. The current road rearrangement, while temporary works continue nearby, creates a problem with a tremendous bank-up of traffic and a complete inability of people to safely enter or leave the suburb of Beresfield.
These problems cannot continue. The money is available. I understand the project has been planned, yet we see no progress. I have spoken to the Federal Minister in Canberra and received some direct relief by way of having soundproof fencing authorised for the cutting adjacent to the John Renshaw Drive, which is the Cessnock connection with the New England Highway at Beresfield. That $400,000 will provide immediate relief and I understand tenders closed for the work two days ago. I hope that wall will be constructed soon. It will only relieve the problem; it will not eliminate it. At that particular site, and as an absolute emergency and temporary measure, a set of traffic lights has been installed. Though the lights solve a temporary traffic problem, they create a difficulty with noise and a build-up of traffic in three directions
Those problems will be partly alleviated by the reconstruction of the carriageway on Weakleys Drive. That program is not mentioned in this year's works, although I understand that emergency Federal funding has been made available to the department to undertake this work, which is proceeding. Very little is known about it; very little publicity has been given to it. The local residents and those commuters who use Weakleys Drive to get through to Lenaghans Drive and eventually out to Lake Macquarie, where they work, are being diverted unreasonably. That diversion will continue at least until 17th December. This has been a foulup of monumental proportions. Everyone knew what would happen, yet the budget provisions do not demonstrate any real method of preventing the problems that are now occurring. Local government has complained bitterly. RTA officers have been diligent in their planning but, when it comes to the political arm, the silence has been deafening.
The problem continues. The road surface is inadequate where the highway heads north along John Renshaw Drive towards Kurri Kurri and Cessnock. Some widening is taking place but it appears to be substandard. Commuters who work in Newcastle or at points south of Cessnock and Kurri Kurri should at least have the benefit of a safe carriageway until they join the temporary national highway. The problem will not be eliminated quickly. It should be addressed not tomorrow, and not the next day. It should have been addressed yesterday, and today will not be soon enough. I turn now to the problems with State Highway 23. That excellent thoroughfare is the State's newest highway. It has an 80-kilometre surface and is working well. However, the associated environmental problems are staggering. The highway was constructed with soundproofing in mind. In many places soundproofing was progressively constructed as the highway was built. A number of areas were left unprotected because it was unclear what effect passing traffic would have on those areas.
I refer particularly to the area adjacent to and behind Vale Street in Birmingham Gardens; Vale Street in Shortland; and Sandgate Road, Shortland, where no barriers have been erected. The traffic noise is deafening. For something like 20 years prior to the construction of the new highway, people had to tolerate a temporary national highway running down a normal residential street. They were promised by successive engineering groups that all would be well, that when the new highway was built the noise would transfer to the back, sound barriers would be erected and although the noise would not be eliminated it would certainly be greatly reduced. However, because the Roads and Traffic Authority has varied its decibel rating for this protection in the past several years during the construction of the new highway, the residents are no longer eligible for that protection. The decibel rating has risen from 60 to 68, but that reading cannot be achieved. Although residents still have some noise at the front of their homes, the noise is substantially higher at the rear. [Extension of time agreed to.]
The Newcastle Council supports me on this issue. People's lives are being made a misery and something must be done. Not only should sound barriers be erected, but consideration should be given to resurfacing the highway with pre-mix to try to deaden the noise that seems to result from high-speed tyres. The people affected will certainly have no rest when they have a $53 million brand new highway at their back doors that is doubling the problem. This is a major problem in my electorate and I hope the Government and the Minister will address it urgently. The problems with both the connectors to the national highway and State Highway 23 are real and are extraordinarily unfair to the people who have lived there for many years and have put up with so much in silence.
I should now like to address some of the problems in my electorate associated with the Department of Health. I note particularly that page 34 of Budget Paper No. 4 shows that $2.6 million has been allocated for the refurbishment of building 3 at the Mater hospital. That is an excellent allocation and follows the Minister's pre-empting comments at the hospital several months ago. However, at best that refurbishment will give the Mater hospital only marginal ability to break even. It demonstrates clearly the lack of beds in the region administered by the Hunter Area Health Service. Present estimates are that the region is short of approximately 180 acute care beds. That shortage has been brought about partly by the closure of Wallsend hospital and has certainly been contributed to by the earthquake condition that prevails at Royal Newcastle Hospital and, to a lesser degree, at the Mater hospital at Waratah.
The Wallsend hospital has been retained in public ownership and is being converted to a nursing home, which will take patients from the Dudley men's home. It has already taken all the remaining patients at the Newcastle Western Suburbs Hospital. I understand that particular hospital site is to be used as a training centre. Bed numbers have not increased since the opening of the John Hunter Hospital, which is on the edge of my electorate. The occupancy rate at that hospital is currently running at 98 per cent, which is ludicrous. If there was a major accident of
reasonable proportions, the injured people could not be treated. Long-term recuperative patients have nowhere to go. They have to be farmed out to private hospitals in the area. It has not yet been demonstrated to me that that is economic and of benefit to the community. I do not believe it is; I believe it is dangerous. The continuation of the present level of bed numbers will prevent the people of the region being cared for.
That cannot be more clearly demonstrated than by reference to the problems associated with the treatment of cancer patients at the Newmed II oncology unit at the Mater hospital in Waratah. That oncology centre treats about 50 patients a day. Recently the centre received some adverse publicity because an additional linear accelerator is required. A third linear accelerator of the required size could be fitted into the two existing bunkers and would allow the employment of a further radiology crew to provide the treatment. There has been a bank-up of patients because without that facility 20 patients a day cannot be treated. Everyone has been working overtime merely to clear the backlog. How long can professionals such as radiologists be kept working in radioactive units in the oncology centre simply to overcome the problem of a well publicised backlog?
That is a short-term measure. It has been demonstrated on a number of occasions that money is available to purchase a new linear accelerator. Radiologists are trained at the University of Newcastle. That training course was established because, at the time the first two linear accelerator units were installed at the Mater hospital, it was found that there were no properly trained people in the country. Canadians had to be brought in to train locals to operate the machines. Many of those trainees were on contracts. A university course was then started to resolve that problem. Of all the graduates who have undertaken the course in the past two years, how many have been recruited and kept in Newcastle? One only. So the trainees are being taught for the benefit of other areas. That is ludicrous, and the problem must be resolved.
The oncology unit, which has an excellent reputation, has an obligation not only to the Newcastle and Hunter communities. The unit now treats patients from the area between Gosford and the Queensland border. Doctors from all over that area refer patients to specialists in the Hunter region and they in turn send the patients to the oncology unit at Waratah for treatment. The unit has taken a load off the metropolitan hospitals in Sydney which undertake similar treatment, yet no compensation has been made available to the Hunter to acknowledge the relief given to the Sydney hospitals. No consideration has been given to the future. A further linear accelerator would not only relieve the load but would allow additional trained personnel to remain in the area at a relatively nominal ongoing cost. This problem has attracted a great deal of public attention. It has attracted the attention of the Newcastle Herald. The editorial of Monday, 16th August, highlighted some of the problems in a way all honourable members would understand. I will quote briefly from it:
In the absence of evidence of widespread community approval of their activity, they would be well-advised to remember the ethical limits of their electoral endorsement.
Where does that money come from? It comes from weekly contributions of the major industries and from telethons. The most successful telethons in the world are run by Channel 3 in Newcastle specifically for cancer work, for research and for the provision of new and ancillary equipment. Funds are also raised by doctors. The last time major construction took place in relation to the linear accelerators the doctors' trust funds contributed $100,000. A local cancer appeal in Newcastle contributed $200,000, and the Maitland cancer appeal contributed $50,000. The community has put its money where its mouth is.
Certainly the Government contributed 50 per cent but it is time to consider that matter again because those funds are still being raised and are still available to the community and to the Department of Health. All that is needed is matching funding. It would solve a big problem and would relieve the need for overtime for professional staff. I have some difficulty with this notion of overtime because people are not at their best if they are working an extra four or six hours a day for weeks on end. We have to overcome that problem because we are dealing with people's lives. We are not putting nuts on bolts or bolts in holes; we are looking after people who are sick and some who are dying. They deserve better treatment than souped up overtime to get over what is seen to be a momentary public and political hiccup in health services in the region. It is wrong. It needs change and it needs that change now.
I have been putting questions on notice for 12 months about the issue of bed strength. I do not know how one persuades the professionals within the Department of Health that additional beds are required in the region. I have been putting questions on notice about this issue for the past 12 months. They no longer talk about bed figures; they give some vague answer with no numbers. Apparently the Department of Health does not think we need beds any more, particularly acute beds. If I can go outside my electorate, the community has been waiting for a long time for a significant start on Maitland Hospital, and what they have at the moment is a planning commitment. It will be many years before those additional beds are available - if they become available at all, the way things are going. There will be other strains on our budget and I think honourable members know what that strain will be. It will continue for the next five or six years and we will need to be pretty careful about how and where we spend our money.
I believe that hospitals such as the Royal Newcastle Hospital and certainly Wallsend hospital should be refurbished ready for the long-term
recuperative patients that are clogging the beds at the John Hunter Hospital at the moment. Acute care people over the age of 60 cannot be repaired and sent back to their homes in 24 hours. The re-admission rate in the region is significantly high and has to be reduced. The Budget makes no provision for any of that at all. The promised additional beds for the Mater hospital bring them up to an absolutely marginal, minimal rate of operation. We cannot expect the 490,000 people who live in the Hunter region to accept that as reasonable. We have taken a considerable load off the metropolitan hospitals, and continue to do so. The Government has an obligation to recognise that and the fact that it is a teaching hospital associated with the University of Newcastle medical school, and should act accordingly.
They are the major problems that concern my electorate and my constituents. They are broad and certainly go across the boundaries of the electorate, but they are recognised by all members from the Hunter as real problems and problems that I am sure no member from the region, of whatever political persuasion, would question. It is important that these issues of roads and health be addressed. If we do not get satisfaction soon, the cost will be tremendous and it will compound, and whichever party is in government at the time will have to pay dearly for the lax way in which these matters have been handled. Heart disease in the Cessnock area is among the highest in the State; asthma in children in the Central Coast and the Hunter region is the highest in the State; and melanoma is significantly higher. I want to talk briefly about melanoma research because it is something that does not seem to be supported, other than by private contributions from citizens. I will quote from an article in the Newcastle Herald on 19th August:
A new linear accelerator is a big-ticket item, with estimates putting its cost at about $700,000. Another $100,000 could be needed to house it properly. In any overall discussion of health spending, there might be a case to pause before committing such a large sum of money. Examination might reveal other areas where such spending could do more good for more people. But such arguments have no place in the current discussion. Other people have already put their money where their mouths are, donating millions of dollars over the past decade with the specific intention that it should be spent on cancer research and treatment.
Melanoma is related to the sun and to the fact that a lot of people spend some time on the beach. The reason is not important. Melanomas have to be treated and research is essential, although I understand that, at the moment, all research is private. It is time the Government recognised its obligation and funded research in that most important cancer area. We should take advantage of the resources that we have and should not abandon it to the private sector absolutely. The Government has an obligation to maintain these services and maintain them well, and give the State the opportunity to be a world leader in research and health in this area.
Mr HUMPHERSON (Davidson) [8.55]: I am delighted to speak to the debate on this year's Budget and also to be the Government member who followed the honourable member for The Hills in his maiden speech in this place. I join other members of this House in congratulating him on his excellent presentation and wish him well in his future career. I acknowledge the excellent result he achieved in The Hills by-election. I believe it sends a number of strong signals, first to the Leader of the Opposition for not standing a candidate in The Hills and, indeed, for not being in the country for the period of the by-election; and, most importantly, to the Independents in this House and those who may aspire to be here. The Independents should recognise the message that came from the people of The Hills, that they did not wish to have an Independent represent them in this Chamber.
I congratulate the Treasurer, the Hon. Peter Collins, on bringing down his first Budget as Treasurer of this State. It was a commonsense and compassionate budget and one which concentrated on those priorities which the people of this State wish to see money expended on. It seeks to contain debt and focus on the priorities which the Government believes are worth while, in particular health and education. It is notable that past inequities in Federal funding have been partially redressed by the recent funding made available to New South Wales. Nevertheless, we continue to subsidise the other States of Australia by $1.2 billion, which equates to $200 for every man, woman and child in New South Wales.
The Treasurer has been able to bring down a budget with a deficit of $890 million, which is a significant improvement on last year's deficit of $1,200 million-odd, and the forecast for the next three years is to steadily reduce that debt in order to maintain the State's triple-A credit rating and ensure that we have a steady and reliable financial position as we move towards the year 2000. It is worth putting the $21 billion recurrent and capital budget into perspective, as the Treasurer did some three weeks ago. It equates to $3,500 for every man, woman and child in New South Wales. Health was the main recipient in this Budget, with an allocation of $823 per person. Other allocations included the following per person amounts: education, $815; superannuation, $451; transport and communication, $429; law and order, $305; community services, $196, and recreation and culture, $85 - all significant priorities. But, clearly, the focus was on health and education, both of which received significant increases in real terms over the last Budget.
I would like to touch now on government trading enterprises which continue to contribute an increasing amount of revenue to the State. There has been criticism from the Opposition in regard to that. New South Wales has an investment of $71 billion in government trading enterprises. Investors would expect to get of the order of $5 billion a year return on such an investment, reflecting the cost of having capital invested in various types of infrastructure, yet they do not. For the first time New South Wales will exceed the $1 billion revenue for government trading enterprises in this year's Budget.
It is worth comparing the record. When the Labor Unsworth Government was in office it contributed, through government trading enterprises, only $129,000 in 1987-88. Compare that with the
figure for the last financial year of $956 million under the State coalition Government - a significant improvement. It is worth while singling out Pacific Power, which contributed $559 million in revenue to the State. That reflects not only increased revenue but an increase in productivity of 40 per cent within that organisation. Notwithstanding that, power charges in New South Wales are among the best in Australia and compare more than favourably with international power charges. One of the reasons that often seem to be forgotten by the critics for having dividends payable by government trading enterprises is the discipline it imposes on those organisations. It imposes a financial discipline, which encourages efficiency, enables us to draw comparisons with the private sector, and ensures and encourages that those organisations are responsive to their customers. It would be irresponsible in many respects not to require dividends to be paid by government trading enterprises.
I turn now to my electorate, the State seat of Davidson, which received an appropriate allocation of capital funds in the areas primarily of roads, education, environment and housing. Lindfield Public School received $190,000 towards maintenance and upgrading works that are sorely needed as part of the cyclic maintenance program. As part of that program, Forest High School, a school which has a long history but which sadly has lacked funding in recent years and received no attention at all from the previous Labor Government, will receive $60,000 for much needed works in regard to floor coverings and heating. Roseville Public School will continue its building program and $371,000 is to be spent on much needed facilities. As part of the maintenance program Roseville Public School will be well placed to serve its students well into the next century. Brookvale TAFE, as part of the new northern beaches TAFE system, will receive $80,000 towards a ceramic kiln oven. That college contributes significantly to the local area in providing services and education to local residents.
Killarney Heights High School, though it has not received funding in this year's Budget, is enthusiastic about funding for a multipurpose hall. Killarney Heights High is the only secondary school in the mid-north region that does not have a hall of some form for sport or assemblies. The school has worked long and hard to bring that to the attention of various Ministers over the years. I thank the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs, for meeting with representatives of the school some weeks ago and giving them hope that their needs will be met and they will be given the opportunity to seek funding in the near future.
I acknowledge the contribution to the rail system between Lindfield and Roseville of $20,000 odd to renew bridge parapets and $1.5 million for various works along the northern line, including a signalling system from which all people in my electorate will benefit. I particularly acknowledge the $5.4 million commuter parking station being established at Gordon. That will benefit significantly constituents at the Roseville end of my electorate through to Belrose and the Forest area, because many of them commute to the city and to North Sydney. In the wake of the successful Sydney bid for the year 2000 Olympics I am pleased to see augmentation of the transit north scheme, or that a mass transit scheme for the northern peninsula area is still very much on the go. There is enormous public support for some form of rail system which will connect the Manly-Warringah Peninsular to the northern rail line. Not only will that enable appropriate development in the Manly-Warringah area, but also will alleviate some of the massive congestion in peak hours on the Roseville and Spit bridges and on Warringah Road.
I acknowledge continuing funding for Forestway, the busiest two-lane road in the Sydney area and therefore in New South Wales. Forestway will receive funding to enable the completion by June 1994 of the widening and upgrading of that road to four lines in its entire length from Warringah Road in the south through to Mona Vale Road in the north. That will also include the upgrading and installation of traffic signals at the Morgan Road intersection, which will benefit not only those who travel along Forestway but also those residents of Wesley Gardens and Glenaeon retirement villages. Funding will continue in a number of other areas. Pedestrian crossings will be developed in Starkey Street, Forestville and John Oxley Drive, Davidson. Continuing works will repair Allambie Road. Warringah council will receive a variety of funding, including of the order of $200,000 for council-determined grants and traffic facilities. Ku-ring-gai council, which also falls partially within my electorate, will receive $193,000 in a regional road grant.
Davidson is fortunate to encompass Garigal National Park, which borders much of the electorate. Garigal National Park will receive funding for improvement to the entry station under Roseville Bridge, for maintenance and improvements of the seawall to Bantry Bay munitions depot and rehabilitation and revegetation along Wakehurst Parkway at Narrabeen. The most significant environmental investment in capital terms occurring in Davidson this year is the acquisition of land at Bare Creek tip in Belrose by the waste service for some $6 million. This will achieve a number of things. It will secure land for the waste service for the next three or four years for landfill disposal. It will also enable the development over time of recycling and waste management facilities, hopefully involving the private sector; but certainly the local people of Davidson will reap the benefit of the development of both passive and active recreational facilities that will be developed on that land. Certainly a number of sporting organisations in the electorate are keen to see some of these developments come to fruition.
The Water Board will be investing about $600,000 in the Ku-ring-gai Warringah reservoir pumping station. Significantly some $2.5 million will be spent on two housing projects for the elderly and disabled in the electorate of Davidson this year, a project at Brookvale which will see the completion of
22 units for disabled and elderly persons and 36 units in a project at Forestville, which it is hoped will be under way in the next few months. The Forestville project, though much needed, certainly raised the interest of local residents. Over a period of time a number of compromises have been made by the Department of Housing, and I like to think with my assistance, to address the concerns of some of the adjoining residents. I believe that when the project is completed and the residents move in, the local residents who adjoin the project will be more than happy with the style of the development and the type of people who live there.
I refer now to health. I acknowledge that there has been a 4.6 per cent increase in the health budget in real terms this year. I congratulate the Minister for Health for the work he has done. He worked very hard in the early part of this year to gain extra funding from the Federal Government because of an increase in the Medicare levy. The Minister has done New South Wales proud. That extra funding certainly assisted in the budget. The shadow minister for health initially advocated that the State Government should accept the original offer of the Federal Government on the matter. That effectively would have shortchanged New South Wales by about $70 million. Because the Minister for Health held out and insisted on a fair share of revenue, this State got its fair share.
It is worth looking at this Government's achievements over the past five years in the area of health. There is often talk about the number of hospital beds, which is not a true measure of the health services provided to the citizens of this State. The length of stays in hospital is probably one of the most objective measures in regard to the provision of health services. Over the past five years the length of stays figure has reduced from 9.2 days to 6.5 days. That reflects appropriate and better management in the health system, as well as some of the improved technology available in the health system. To have that technology in place requires strategic investment. Total admissions during the past five years - which would be of interest to many people - have increased by about 200,000 patients a year, from 950,000 patients five years ago to 1.15 million last year.
I will identify increases that have occurred in the Northern Area Health Service. Only last week the honourable member for Manly, notwithstanding about a 5 per cent increase in the health budget, saw fit to criticise the health budget, in particular identifying the Manly Hospital. He asserted that there had been a reduction in services in the Northern Area Health Service. That is completely wrong; he failed to check his facts. Improvements in efficiency in the Manly Hospital and other hospitals in the area will continue. In real terms, the Northern Area Health Service has had a substantial increase in its budget. [Extension of time agreed to.]
I wish to refer now to debt. Superannuation liabilities in this State equate to about $14.8 billion. There was much debate at the end of last session about how that money should be best managed. The Government now has in place a strategy which will see a steady reduction in that liability by about $6.4 million by the year 2004 or 2005. That is an important part of reducing the debt because it is passed on to future generations in this State. Such a reduction was never achieved under the former Labor Government. Indeed, that Government had no recognition of what debt was. It continued to incur substantial debts, particularly in the superannuation area, with little regard to the cost that will be borne by our children.
The State Bank has been debated at various times. The Opposition seems to be flagging some reservations about selling the State Bank. Today during question time the Treasurer commented about the parallels that can be drawn with regard to the sale of banks overseas. Many countries are selling their banks. They recognise that it is not an appropriate role for governments to be involved with banks because they should be concentrating on their core business. The Commonwealth Government has already sold parts of the Commonwealth Bank and is introducing another float to sell further portions of that bank to private ownership. The former Labor Government in Victoria sold off its State Bank in recent times.
I turn my attention now to some comments of the Leader of the Opposition with respect to the State Budget. I was most interested to sit through his address, which lacked conviction. I was surprised that his colleagues behind him did not show any great enthusiasm or empathy for his comments. The Leader of the Opposition has made promises which would be very costly, in the order of $2 billion to $5 billion. Quite simply, if the Leader of the Opposition were in a position to implement those promises, there would be a funding shortfall of up to $5 billion. His promises can never be met and will never be met.
Strong parallels can be drawn between what the Leader of the Opposition said with regard to this Budget and what the Prime Minister promised at the March Federal election. The Prime Minister made promises, again with regard to taxes, with the object of being re-elected. The promises the Prime Minister made during the Federal election campaign - purely in the expectation that there was a remote chance of getting into government - should never have been made, will never be met and were never intended to be met. The objective was to address the promises as best he could.
The Leader of the Opposition will say anything, do anything, or promise anything that puts a gloss on his leadership, and on the Opposition of this State, to give himself a remote chance of being elected. The Opposition will not, cannot, and does not intend to deliver those promises. The Leader of the Opposition said that a Carr Labor Government means business. He also went on to say that if business can show that the regulations in this State are a hindrance and unnecessary his government will abolish them. The Labor Party's track record is clearly to the contrary.
A perfect example of this is industrial relations. The Labor Party's industrial relations policy is a burden on many businesses in this State, particularly small business. In recent times the State Opposition initially opposed this Government's industrial relations bill and also opposed amendments introduced last year and other amendments, which recently had to be withdrawn by the Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment because of such opposition. It is interesting to look at the parallels with the Federal Government. The Federal Minister for Industrial Relations, Laurie Brereton, is also kowtowing to the demands of the unions.
The Federal Minister has backed off from the changes he originally proposed with regard to industrial relations and enterprise bargaining. The unions are now completely satisfied; business gets nothing and employees in the non-union workplace get nothing. The protection that business had so far as secondary boycotts are concerned have been watered down or taken away. That exemplifies that the Leader of the Opposition is prepared to give a message which cannot be sustained or substantiated. He has a message for every audience - a message for the big end of town and a message for the small end of town. We cannot believe what the Leader of the Opposition says. All he comes up with is ad hoc policy, ad hoc statements and promises which cannot and never will be delivered.
The parallels that can be drawn between the Federal and State arms of the Labor Party, between the Federal Government under Paul Keating and the State Opposition under Bob Carr, are many. Bob Carr says that he will reduce debt, increase efficiency and look for productivity gains. He wants voluntary redundancy, natural attrition and redeployment. Yet the facts fail to match the rhetoric. As the Premier said, we recognise the problems and difficulties of being in government in this State. We do not intend to leave the burden for future Australians. We are meeting today's needs without sacrificing our children's future. The Leader of the Opposition, in another part of his speech, said, "Labor will ensure that its new programs meet priorities. We will do that by attacking waste and mismanagement, cutting spending and streamlining administration".
When Labor has been in Government when has it ever done that? It did not attack waste or mismanagement. In fact, it gave a perfect example of what mismanagement is in government. It did not cut spending; it certainly did not streamline administration. They were the challenges that were left for the coalition Government when it came to power in 1988. The Government has done a remarkable job in meeting those challenges since then. I do not have to remind honourable members opposite that Darling Harbour was a perfect example of mismanagement and overexpenditure. I could go on and on about the efficiency of Pacific Power. The Chief Secretary and Minister for Administrative Services knows of the savings from privatisation of the Government Cleaning Service, $37 million to $40 million a year with all the safety nets and protections for the people who now work in the service.
In this speech on the Budget, following shortly after Sydney's successful bid for the year 2000 Olympics, I acknowledge the tremendous work done by the bid team, including the Premier, the Minister responsible for the Olympic bid, Rod McGeoch, the Australian Olympic Committee representatives and all those people who participated in a voluntary or other fashion. The huge community support throughout Sydney enabled us to defeat substantial opposition, most particularly from Beijing. It was no small achievement. Many throughout the world recognised that Sydney offered a beautiful city in a natural environment. The people of Sydney love sport and embrace a variety of multicultural communities. The different aspects of the Sydney community played a large part in our being awarded the Olympic Games in the year 2000. I am sure we will all work together not only in a party political and parliamentary sense but as a community to ensure that the Olympics in Sydney are everything we hope they will be. They represent a goal for the future and the hopes of the younger generations in particular. They will act as a catalyst to engender confidence in all sectors of the community, particularly business in the tourism area, which will gain substantially not only in the year 2000 but over the next seven years.
I suspect that between now and 2000 two million more visitors than we would normally expect will visit Sydney. Some 156,000 jobs will be generated and $7.3 billion will boost the economy as a result of the bid. They are not small benefits that will flow on to the people of Australia and Sydney as a result of the work that has been done. Obviously there are substantial financial considerations in putting together the infrastructure for the Games. In concluding my speech on the Budget I am pleased to commend the Treasurer for bringing down his first Budget, which, as I said at the beginning of my speech, is a commonsense and compassionate budget. I also congratulate all those who participated in assisting Sydney in winning the bid for the year 2000 Olympics.
Mr IEMMA (Hurstville) [9.25]: I am pleased to follow the honourable member for Davidson in this debate because the last part of his speech dwelt on promises. He had quite a bit to say about promises. The greatest failure of the Budget is the promise of job creation through a State economic development strategy. Just like the Budget handed down last year which promised jobs, jobs, jobs - 18,000 jobs through a $650 million boost to capital works - the greatest failure was the Premier not delivering on that promise. At best we got no more than 6,000 jobs and $327 million from the capital works budget left unspent. This time around the Premier has changed his tune, and so has the Treasurer. Now the Premier does not want to know about job creation; jobs and unemployment are mainly a Federal responsibility. He was quoted as saying that jobs in the main are the Federal Government's responsibility. As I said, that is in contrast with what he said last year and what former Premier Greiner said in the early years of his first term. He took a great deal of credit for New
South Wales outperforming other States. He boasted that it was all to do with the prudent economic management of the State Government. But when things turned sour so did the tune: jobs and job creation are now the responsibility of the Federal Government, not the State Government.
This Budget not only does not promise more jobs but continues on the path embarked on back in 1988 of shedding public sector jobs. The Budget provides for another 10,000 job losses in the public sector. The capital works program will be $234 million less than it was last year. That alone will cost another 4,000 jobs, which will bring the number of job losses since the Government came to office to 58,000. On the Premier's own multiplier calculation of two indirect jobs for every one direct job, another 116,000 indirect jobs will have been lost in the private sector, a total of 174,000 since the Government came to office. What a great record! During the debate many Government members had a lot to say about compassion and caring. One has to wonder, with a record like that, what their definition of compassion and caring is. A good indication is the provisions made for redundancies and for training and retraining. One has to wonder about a government that in the end spends more money on redundancies and putting people out of work than it does on putting people into work. In 1992-1993 the Government spent $248 million on redundancies, $50 million more than in its original estimates. Yet the training budget provides for a miserable $34 million for employment programs to help get people back into work.
A good example may be found in the job assist scheme, which was set up to help those who suffered job losses under this Government's significant restructuring of the public sector. That scheme was set up to help people re-enter the work force. Budget provision for that scheme is the princely sum of $2.5 million to help people find a job, whereas almost $250 million has been allocated to show them out the door. What a contrast, but that is a clear indication of the Government's priorities. Job losses of that magnitude cost this State lost income and lost economic activity. The simple solution of showing people the door has an effect on all Australians because of the added burden that the Federal Government has to carry through the social security system.
As my colleague the honourable member for Bathurst mentioned in his contribution, increased social security benefits paid after New South Wales public sector job redundancies are estimated at about $1.2 billion. It is quite a neat trick for the Government to shuffle those people off the State payroll, where they are supported by the State taxpayer, and shuffle that responsibility on to the Federal Government. In any assessment of a government's compassion and level of care, jobs and employment comprise one measure. Public housing is another indicator that should always be studied, for it is a fairly good measure of the heart of any government and of the sort of safety net it puts under those who are unfortunate enough not to be able to afford their own home.
Nothing highlights this Government's lack of action in that area more than the provision it has made for the public housing allocation in the coming year. Many Government members have paraded in their contributions the fact that 20 units of public housing will be built at one place, 30 units at another, and that they will cost $1 million, $2 million or $3 million. They claim that is a great achievement. All up, in the coming year the Government will build 3,100 public housing units, and that is paraded as a great achievement. That figure is 100 less than the number of units constructed in 1991-92, and expenditure for that year was 32 per cent less than what was spent in 1985. Given that about 80,000 people are on the public housing waiting list, the response of this Government at a time of severe recession is inadequate to deal with the great housing problems in this State. The people who are suffering as a result are those battlers who are really looking for some form of assistance from the Government to show that it does have a heart.
The Hurstville electorate covers two Department of Housing regions. The L1 Canterbury-Bankstown region has a waiting list of 4,851 people seeking accommodation. The response of the Government to that waiting list has been to spend nothing in the L1 Hurstville region. The Government will provide no extra money for new units of public housing to satisfy those 4,851 on the waiting list. What will they do? They will have to wait longer and spend more of their limited income and resources on private rental. The crisis continues for them in their attempts to satisfy their housing needs. The waiting list for the L2 St George-Sutherland region has 3,338 names on it. Those people, however, fare significantly better than those in the Canterbury-Bankstown area. People in the L2 area hit the jackpot: they will get eight new units of public housing in the forthcoming year - six in Hurstville and two in Penshurst - to satisfy a demand of 3,338.
Any member who thinks that response is in any way a satisfactory answer to real housing problems is looking in the wrong direction. The Government cannot get away with saying it is meeting the needs of public housing tenants by building 3,100 units in the forthcoming financial year - less than what was spent in 1985. In 1985 we enjoyed an economic boom but were not experiencing the levels of homelessness being experienced today. Any government with those factors in front of it should come up with a better response than the New South Wales Government has managed in this Budget.
I turn to other aspects of the Budget that do not deliver for the people of Hurstville. I raised one issue during the last parliamentary sittings that affects Beverley Hills Primary School and the promise made in 1991 about noise mounds for that school. The school sits at the intersection of King Georges Road and Stoney Creek Road. In the 1991-92 Budget that school was promised some noise mounds that would cost about $200,000, but they did not eventuate. Parents of students at that school and their teachers have been campaigning ever since the Government
reneged on its promise to build those noise mounds and to allocate money for that purpose. The Government gave every indication throughout 1992 and this year that significant relief would be provided for students at that school.
Ever since the M5 Motorway terminated at King Georges Road, the increase in traffic has been significant. Traffic along King Georges Road and Stoney Creek Road has created enormous problems for Beverly Hills Primary School students. Parents and teachers have been waiting for the Government to deliver on its promise. Yet again in this year's Budget, as in last year's Budget, the Government's promise did not eventuate. The honourable member for Davidson had plenty to say about promises. However, an examination of Budget allocations provides examples of commitments in every electorate that have not been delivered. Beverly Hills Primary School is a classic example where that kind of promise was made.
Among those waiting for some good news out of the Budget - which did not occur - were those waiting for the State Government to match the efforts of the Commonwealth Government in funding the Hurstville Leisure Centre, a $5 million project that began in 1991 with a survey conducted by Hurstville Council amongst the people of Hurstville. That project was continued through the efforts of Federal member Leo Macleay and myself in getting $450,000 from the Commonwealth Government under the Commonwealth community recreation and sporting facilities program. The council was successful in getting two grants from the last two Federal budgets for the Hurstville Leisure Centre, but unfortunately we have not been able to get any money out of the State Government from the regional sports facilities program. In fact, the council, the residents and I have been told there is no money in the regional sports facilities program and that at best we would have to make a contribution to the leisure centre out of the capital assistance program and from the grants that members receive of $35,000 to $45,000 from their CAP allocations.
We will have to be happy with that amount of money. Most members know that the CAP grants, though a worthwhile program, do not go too far when a member has a great deal of unmet demand in his electorate. When one talks of a project in the order of $5 million, such as the Hurstville Leisure Centre, the CAP grants will not go far towards building that leisure centre. The State Government has been asked by Hurstville Council to contribute $350,000 from the regional sports facilities program so that it can, in some way, match the efforts of the Commonwealth in contributing $450,000. Hurstville Council is prepared to commit $1.5 million to the project. The corporate sector in Hurstville has indicated to the council that should the State Government contribute, it would be willing to assist with corporate sponsorship for the project. That would complete the participation of all levels of government and all significant groups within the community in Hurstville in that project. Unfortunately, the only level of government that has not been able to come up with some funding has been the State Government. The Budget was a great disappointment in not providing any funds from the regional facilities program for that leisure centre. The Minister for Sport, Recreation and Racing should look closely at this matter, particularly now that Sydney has won the Olympics. The facilities provided at that leisure centre can be used as a training facility for the coming Olympics.
The people of Hurstville had a significant win in the Budget with Hannans Road Primary School, where the parents and students will finally get their multipurpose hall - something that they and I have campaigned for over the past couple of years. The Government's decision to finally allocate the money for that hall is significant because it will complete stage 3 of Hannans Road Primary School. The hall is known within the Hurstville electorate as the missing link because after the 1988 election result the hall was ditched by the then Minister, Terry Metherell. The school was quite upset at that decision, given that the former member for Georges River, as the electorate was known then, Frank Walker, had successfully provided for stages 1 and 2, the library block and administration block. One could quite well imagine the sense of outrage the parents felt after the 1988 election to have had the third stage, the hall, ditched. The significance to Hannans Road Primary School is that it is disadvantaged and the only State school in my electorate that does not have a hall or facilities to provide protection for the students at assemblies and presentation days.
The $385,000 allocated to the project in this financial year is a long overdue decision that is most welcome. The total cost of the project is approximately $650,000. The only disappointment is that the Government did not allocate the money in one financial year but split it into two years. The Department of School Education insisted that the upgrading of the parking facilities at Hannans Road Primary School not proceed. That is a silly condition, given that a condition for approval of the development application put to Canterbury Council will be that the parking facilities be upgraded. On the one hand, it is pleasing that the Government has finally been forced into funding the long promised hall, though there is a danger that the development application will face some problems in its passage through the council if the Government maintains its decision not to provide funding to upgrade the parking facilities.
Mr BLACKMORE (Maitland) [9.45]: It gives me great pleasure to participate in the debate on the Appropriation Bill this evening. To hear the report on the Government's positive agenda for New South Wales for the year ahead gives one great confidence and assurance. I welcome the financial responsibility displayed in this Budget. The measures recommended will help the gradual increase of business confidence now becoming evident in the economy. With the proposals designed for the reining in of State debt, it is commendable that the burden of interest repayments will be lightened for the taxpayers. In the Budget the Government has identified areas of pressing need and has allocated the funds that are necessary to improve
these services. The Government has delivered a Budget that not only provides cash where it is needed but also signals a positive stand against inefficiency in government services and the continued fight against the deficit.
I am grateful that the Maitland electorate will this year receive an extra $17.9 million under the terms of the Budget. The benefits are widely spread over a range of initiatives and regional needs. This Budget means better services and more construction jobs for Maitland. The record expenditure on the core priorities of health, education and transport in the Maitland electorate will make a positive contribution to the local economy. This will be achieved through a major rebuilding development and upgrading of services at Maitland Hospital; a positive stimulus to the public housing accommodation in Maitland; a massive program of road and rail works, including the Xplorer and Endeavour series and, of course, the upgrading of the XPT trains; and improvements in education, including major building construction at present in progress, and the upgrading of and repairs to school buildings in the electorate. The allocation of $4.8 million for water and sewerage, which has been listed in the Hunter capital program for 1993-94 for Grahamstown reservoir program augmentation, is very welcome news and appreciated by all residents of the Williams Valley. For too long the residents of Williams Valley have lived with the real fear that their valley, which has fertile grazing land and family homesteads, will be flooded to make way for the Tillegra dam. The capital injection to raise the wall of Grahamstown Dam will increase the water capacity, which should cater for the needs of the Hunter district for many years to come.
I refer to roads and transport. Consistent with the commonsense approach of this Government, there has been a slight reduction in road funding. Commensurate with that, the capital works program has been substantially increased by 15.4 per cent to allow for a massive rail rebuilding program. I am pleased to say, however, that the Maitland electorate has an allocation of $6.9 million from the State's road budget for the maintenance of its road assets. The total State Budget included a significant increase for works under the 3 x 3 fuel levy. Total State funding for road improvement under the 3 x 3 program has been increased by $20 million to $230 million this year. Funding of $697,000 has been made available from the 3 x 3 fuel levy this year for works, either wholly or partly within the electorate of Maitland. Works under the 3 x 3 program this year will include the realignment of the Raymond Terrace Road - a very much travelled road in the electorate of Maitland. The 3 x 3 fuel levy, which is now extended to 1995, will continue to provide the public with the benefits of improvements, particularly to the road network, safer driving conditions and reduced operating costs due to roadworks being completed more expeditiously.
The highlights of the budget for the roads enhancement program in the Maitland electorate include the New England Highway. I am pleased to say that funding has been made available for the construction of traffic control facilities from Aberglasslyn Road to Racecourse Road, Rutherford. The State Government's massive rail rebuilding program continues in this financial year with a mammoth record capital works budget of $742 million. The continuation of the transformation of CityRail facilities and infrastructure to world-class standards will absorb more than $545 million, while $57 million will be allocated to CountryLink facilities. Freight Rail will invest more than $130 million on projects that will enhance its services and assets. CityRail will spend $57 million on the acquisition of the new Endeavour diesel trains, which will operate early next year in the South Coast, Southern Highlands and Hunter regions
CountryLink will also spend $11 million acquiring new XPT power cars and carriages and refurbishing the existing XPT fleet. An amount of $19 million will be invested in the Xplorer diesel train project. These new high-performance trains will operate in the northwest of the State and in Canberra. The first service to Tamworth has already commenced. An additional $5 million will continue the country station upgrading and refurbishment program of popular rail travel centres. Freight Rail's investment includes $26 million towards the construction of 350 new coal waggons. An additional $12 million will be spent on improvements in Freight Rail's maintenance depot, and consolidation and upgrading of metropolitan freight yards.
A further $18 million will be spent on providing a state-of-the-art train radio system on freight trains and upgrading Freight Rail's communication network. This had been a problem in the Maitland electorate. Communication had been non-existent in some areas with black spots. An additional $57 million will be spent on track upgrading, signalling modernisation and bridgeworks throughout rural New South Wales, with $165 million being spent on the CityRail network. In addition to these projects, local residents will benefit from the expenditure of $4.2 million on projects in the Maitland electorate. Freight Rail will spend $3.9 million upgrading the coal tracks and bridges throughout the Maitland electorate and the Hunter region. A further $100,000 has been allocated for upgrading equipment at Freight Rail's Martins Creek quarry.
The Budget provides an allocation to the Department of Housing of $2.362 million for the construction of public housing in the Maitland electorate. That will provide a substantial boost to the Maitland economy and represents a major input into public housing development in the Maitland electorate, with construction to take place in the Maitland, Tenambit, East Maitland, Metford and Rutherford areas. This is part of the commitment of $3.634 million to provide more public housing in my electorate. Local builders will benefit from the additional funds and job opportunities will be created for skilled and unskilled labour. Public housing accommodation will continue to receive my support as I am mindful of, and sympathetic to, those people
who have to endure the long and tedious waiting lists. I was interested in the reference in the Treasurer's Budget Speech to the reform of the Department of Housing and to learn that the reforms will target service to the community, which can only mean more housing options and an improvement in services to the clients.
For me the highlight of the Budget is the allocation of $5 million to allow the redevelopment of Maitland Hospital to commence. This allocation will provide funds for an emergency unit, an admission-discharge unit, medical imaging, a central sterile supply and linen handling, integrated day surgery-operating suite and a medical records unit. The major work will eventually result in a 40-bed medical ward, a 40-bed surgical ward and a 24-bed psychiatric unit. I have pushed long and hard for this redevelopment project, lobbying whenever the opportunity arose, and this allocation has certainly given me great personal satisfaction and gratification. It also negates all the talk and innuendo casting doubt on the Government's intention to build a public hospital in Maitland. One of the conditions of approval by Maitland Council for this project to proceed was the demolition of the former nurses home, which could not commence until evidence had been sighted in the Budget for the funding of the redevelopment. Now that the funding has been provided, the demolition has begun. Tenders for the construction of the main section of the redevelopment were called on 31st August, so the redevelopment program is well and truly under way.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Wollongong to order.
Mr BLACKMORE: The health budget for the Hunter Area Health Service is a record $379.24 million, an increase of $93.74 million since the 1988 Budget. In real terms that is an increase of 14.37 per cent since the coalition came to office. The budget also includes a special grant of $1.4 million for cardiac surgery at the John Hunter Hospital. Funding of $650,000 has been allocated in the budget for the Mater hospital hospice. Despite the worst recession in many years, the Government's commitment to health care has increased overall by 7.7 per cent. Rural health care has been allocated $914 million this year, an increase of 12 per cent since 1988. The health budget also contains special service funding of $700,000 for programs related to lead exposure and its effect on children, $289 million for mental health services and $414 million for aged and disability services.
Allocations to key programs designed to care for our elderly citizens include an allocation of $39 million for the home and community care program, which provides community-based services to the elderly as an alternative to institutional care. Another $11 million will be spent on aged care assessment for the physical, medical, psychological and social needs of the older members of the community. Cancer and heart disease have been given priority this year and will receive funding of $830 million. Cancer and heart disease are now rated as society's major health problems. Women's health care has also been strengthened by an allocation of $93 million, an increase of $13 million over last year.
The expansion of obstetric services will provide additional medical staff, including a registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology at John Hunter Hospital. The Hunter Area Health Service has approved additional staffing for community health services in Maitland, including a new speech pathologist and a counsellor to be based at East Maitland community health centre. The Hunter Area Health Service is planning to expand dental and mental health services in the lower Hunter. All these improvements reaffirm the commitment of the Government and the Hunter Area Health Service to improving the health of people in the Hunter.
In the 1993-94 Budget the New South Wales Government has continued its commitment to providing first-class educational facilities for young people. In this financial year $383,000 will be spent on the construction of a communal hall at Telarah Public School, and a further $257,000 is to be allocated in 1994-95. The program will begin in March 1994 and should be completed in September 1994. The Budget also allocates $1.58 million to continue the upgrading of Dungog High School. The new classrooms will be ready for the start of the school year in 1994. Repairs and painting totalling $110,000 will be carried out at Dungog infants school; at Dungog High School, $275,000; at Glen William Public School, $15,000; and at Wards River Public School, $10,000; and the Budget will allocate $150,000 for repairs to the roof of the Metford site at the Maitland campus of the Hunter Institute of Technology.
Spending on environmental projects has increased by 11.2 per cent. The continuing expansion of Environment Protection Authority objectives has a particular application to the ecology of the Hunter Valley and especially the electorate of Maitland. The allocation of $126 million for rural initiatives in the public works portfolio will cover rural water schemes, heritage building restoration, coastal and estuary management and flood mitigation works. Also, this year the Government plans to spend approximately $117 million through the coastal and rivers program on waste management and the reparation of land degradation.
The Government continues to support the work of the Hunter Catchment Management Trust with a further allocation of $900,000 in the Budget. Those funds will be used for works in the riverine corridor, undertaken as a joint action between riparian landholders and the Department of Water Resources. This flood mitigation program is approved and partly funded by the Hunter Catchment Management Trust and protects some 200 kilometres of valuable riverine land. Also of major importance to the electorate of Maitland is the Department of Water Resources storage and river water quality management programs. A number of components are involved. One is the investigation of water quality problems in storage, for which $500,000 has been allocated; the second relates
to rivers, for which $2.05 million has been allocated; and the third seeks to develop and set up on the ground solutions to problems, including wetlands, buffer strips and other works at a cost of $930,000. [Extension of time agreed to.]
The department is committed to the streamwatch program, which encourages schools to monitor the quality of water in local waterways, and $250,000 has been allocated to support the program. It is most interesting to note that more than 12,000 schoolchildren have been taught to monitor water quality of local streams through that community action program called streamwatch. They are learning to track down and stop water pollution; 126 schools are working with the Water Board to identify and fix problems - putting science into action. Streamwatch has been used as a model for the national waterwatch program. The future management of water quality in the Hunter River will be escalated with special funding from this year's Budget, which has provided $60,000 to the project to develop a daily model to integrate the extraction and return of water to the Hunter within the river's environmental needs and flows. This project is a good example of working with the community, industry, and State and Federal governments, who are contributing to the total project cost.
A further $3 million has been allocated in the Budget for the continuation of the statewide salt action program. Salt action is the salinity control strategy for New South Wales, based on community planning and action. The program aims to prevent salinity and control waterlogging problems by the combined action of farmers, community groups and government agencies. Salt action brings together the Environment Protection Authority, the Department of Water Resources, New South Wales Agriculture and the Department of Conservation and Land Management, incorporating the Soil Conservation Service. Another initiative of great importance to the electorate of Maitland is the grant of $1 million to the New South Wales Forestry Commission to develop alternative timber resources in the State.
Families hit by the recession, the homeless and the elderly are the main beneficiaries of the 6 per cent increase in spending on social and community services. Another key feature of the Budget is the $2 million boost for the prevention and investigation of child abuse, which brings the total spending in this area to $37.3 million. In another concession to families under stress, the Budget allocates an additional $5 million for child care, including pre-school, day care, residential and foster care. In the Maitland electorate the funding overview for 1993-94 is $1,881,850, divided between 51 funded services. In addition, a $360,000 home for intellectually disabled children is in the course of construction at Bolwarra, Maitland, and a community bus costing $35,000 has been acquired for use at the Stroud Lodge.
Other community services which are key budget initiatives for the electorate of Maitland are: funding for the maintenance and upgrading of Maitland fire station - $62,000 for general repairs including painting of the interior; and $3.75 million for the direct costs of policing services of the police stations at Maitland, Paterson, Lochinvar, East Gresford, Morpeth, Dungog, Stroud and Clarencetown. Community based policing remains a key operational strategy for the New South Wales Police Service. Police are determined to work both with and for the community in preventing crime, detecting offences, reducing the road toll and apprehending offenders. The State emergency services in Maitland are to be equipped with a new flood rescue boat at a cost of $10,000; and the five brigades in the Department of Fire Services will receive a total allocation of $1.57 million. In Maitland the brigade will purchase a light tanker; in Cessnock a total of three vehicles will be added to the bush fire equipment; and in Port Stephens a new fire control centre will be developed at a total cost of $130,000.
The planning of the New South Wales Budget was based on the presumption that Sydney would be the successful bidder for the 2000 Olympic Games. The centrepiece of the Olympic spending plan in 1993-94 was $100 million for sports facilities and associated infrastructure at Homebush Bay. The New South Wales Government plans to spend $800 million over eight years on Olympic-related works. In addition to the annual capital allocation of $40,000, the electorate of Maitland will receive $60,000 for the construction of a swimming pool at Clarencetown, $1,990 for a new cricket wicket for the junior cricket club at Dungog, $3,500 for East Maitland Lions Club for work on the Scouts hall at Thornton, and Maitland Netball Association should receive funding for the establishment of 14 tar-sealed netball courts in Maitland as well as the construction of an artificial surface tennis court at Martins Creek.
I am grateful for the Government's commitment to the improvement of the lifestyle of the citizens of this State, and most especially for the people of the electorate of Maitland. Through the generous budgetary allocations to the core priorities of health, education and transport - the major redevelopment of Maitland Hospital, the massive rail and road upgrading, the stimulus to building construction through the public housing program and the improvements to school buildings - we have a capital works and infrastructure program of record proportion with a widespread potential for job opportunity and economic benefit which will flow to all sections of the community.
The Budget comprehensively addresses all facets of the economy, demonstrating the Government's objective of combining efficient management and administration with compassion and care for the frail, the aged, the disabled, children and families. Whether they live in isolated and remote rural areas or are urban dwellers, they are assured of the same quality of service. In conclusion, I place on record my sincere thanks to the many members of the community for their support and encouragement and I look forward to sharing with them the joy of seeing our citizens establish for themselves an environment of achievement and security.
Mr ROGAN (East Hills) [10.10]: In stark contrast to the honourable member for Maitland and the rosy glow he put on the Government's Budget, I submit that by any objective assessment this Budget fails the people of New South Wales. It fails on a number of accounts, but principally it fails, first, because it continues the poor economic record of New South Wales under this Government; second, it fails to provide justice, equity, compassion and understanding and assistance to those who fall by the wayside and those who have never had a chance from the beginning; and third, it fails to provide the promised, much heralded 1,000 jobs in the Government's last Budget. Indeed, the Budget again highlights the stark differences between the Government's philosophical and slavish economic rationalist approach to privatisation and the Opposition's basic support for efficient government enterprises.
I will provide but a few examples to support my opening comments. I refer first to the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for the year 1992-93, which confirm that the first 12 months of John Fahey's premiership has seen the economic growth of New South Wales fall to the lowest rate of all States. When States like Queensland are growing at a healthy 6.6 per cent and Western Australia and Victoria at well over 4 per cent, it is obvious that New South Wales is holding back the nation's economic and employment recovery. An article that appeared in the Australian on 3rd September, 1993, headed "First State dragging the chain" confirms this. In a number of the economic criteria laid down for economic performance on a two-track recovery, on the basis of retail sales, New South Wales is minus 2 per cent compared with Victoria at 5.8 per cent, Queensland at 4.5 per cent, Western Australia at 12.3 percent, South Australia at 3.5 per cent and Australia as a whole at 3.4 per cent. In regard to home appliances sales, New South Wales is 4.6 per cent, Queensland 21.2 per cent, Western Australia 5.4 per cent, South Australia 7.1 per cent, and Australia as a whole, on average, is 7.5 per cent. For the number of car registrations, New South Wales is minus 6.8 per cent, Victoria 5.6 per cent, Queensland 8.4 per cent, Western Australia 7.8 per cent, South Australia 3.3 per cent, and Australia as a whole is 0.3 per cent. For job growth, New South Wales is minus 41.8 per cent, Victoria minus 14.6 per cent, Queensland 30 per cent, Western Australia 29.4 per cent, South Australia 8.9 per cent, and Australia as a whole is 15.5 per cent.
Is it any wonder that the author of the article, Mr Tom Dusevic, said, "But the retail sales figures also vividly show the two-track nature of the recovery. NSW (like Victoria in 1991 and 1992) continues to be a drag on the growth generated by Queensland and Western Australia". This year's capital works program is lower than last year's - down 4.2 per cent in real terms to $234 million. This, of course, impacts upon jobs in New South Wales, and it is conservatively estimated it will cost both directly and indirectly more than 4,000 jobs. There are also 3,500 jobs to go from key authorities such as Elcom, the electricity distributors, the Sydney and Hunter water authorities, the State Rail Authority and the State Transit Authority. It is interesting to note that since the coalition Government took office the number of people employed in New South Wales has risen by a paltry 37,300, compared with an increase of 332,100 for the rest of Australia. Treasury is forecasting New South Wales employment growth to be less than the national rate in 1993-94.
Again, on economic performance the Government's record on taxes entrenches New South Wales as the highest taxed State and continues to undermine this State's competitiveness. Queensland is expecting a 3.8 per cent growth this financial year compared with 2.6 per cent for New South Wales. Queensland's economy grew by 6.6 per cent last year whilst that of New South Wales grew by a meagre 1 per cent. All of this has happened, though New South Wales received a much better deal than any of the other States from the Commonwealth this year in tax-sharing arrangements. Indeed, Federal funding for New South Wales is up by $284 million this year, which includes a boost in general purpose grants, partly redressing the generous subsidies to other States, especially Queensland. I remind Government members who are critical of the Federal Government and its current policies of what would have been the fate under Hewson if, heaven forbid, he had been voted in by the people of Australia. The treatment that New South Wales has received this year in the tax-sharing arrangements is so generous to this State compared with what would have been given to us by Hewson if he had been the Prime Minister of this nation.
In the area of neglect of health and welfare, justice and equity and child abuse, may I refer to a couple of relevant newspaper clippings. It is not a member of Parliament saying these things but a journalist out in the field who has seen firsthand the impact the State Budget is having upon the community of New South Wales. I refer to an article in the Newcastle Herald of Monday, 13th September. There was a picture of a elderly gentleman, Mr Arthur Matthews, with a walking stick. He was lying on the floor. The article in part read:
Between the periods of 1975-76 and 1988-90 the incidents of melanoma in the Hunter increased by 129 per cent in males and 47 per cent in females compared with the respective increases of 77 per cent and 25 per cent for New South Wales as a whole. High melanoma rates were also recorded in the North Coast and the Central Coast.
More than four months is a long time to wait for a hospital bed when you are in pain.
Particularly when the pain is so agonising that Mr Arthur Matthews, 81, of Edgeworth, finds himself having to 'sometimes crawl around the place (his retirement village unit) to save putting his foot on the ground'.
Mr Matthews went onto Royal Newcastle Hospital's waiting list in late July and hospital authorities said last week that it had been anticipated he would be operated on in late November/early December.
Unsatisfactory indeed. The headline in the Sun-Herald of 12th September read "Elizabeth St, Sydney: 1993". There was a picture of a man, Mila Jiorovi, at home in his filthy mattress in a inner city dosshouse. The article read:
Asked about Mr Matthews's case, the general manager of Newcastle/Eastlakes sector of the Hunter Area Health Service, Mr Peter Gibson, replied that he could say only that the situation was unsatisfactory.
Former NSW mental hospital patients are handing over $300-plus fortnightly invalid pension cheques to sleep in the vomit and urine-soaked filth of an inner-city dosshouse.
This, under a government that proclaims to have some compassion. One could go on at great length about the situation facing these people, and, indeed, Burdekin's report - and he has been commissioned by the Federal Government to prepare a report on the position overall in Australia - released yesterday highlights this. He certainly highlights the awful situation in New South Wales. So much for the justice and equity that was mentioned throughout this year's Budget Speech of the Treasurer and Minister for the Arts to this House only a short while ago.
I now refer to what the Treasurer said with respect to reforms in the electricity industry. I would like to refer, as I have done in speeches in this House in the past, to the very positive reforms initiated in the electricity industry by the former Labor Government, which this Government is now benefiting from but regrettably gives very little credit to. I highlight the fact that it was a former Labor government which initiated a package of legislation in 1987, following the report by now Professor McDonell. That was a comprehensive and far-reaching package of legislation. Indeed, since the initial legislation, again introduced by a Labor government in 1950 to establish the Electricity Commission in the first instance, the 1987 legislation required far greater accountability and proper planning by the Electricity Commission of New South Wales, together with uniform accounting and performance criteria for the State's 25 electricity distribution authorities.
Under this package of legislation, working days lost in the commission and in the power station operations were slashed by two-thirds following the introduction of shift work. In addition to these measures, the current State Government has benefited from a power station building program initiated to meet a resource boom promised by a former Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, but which did not eventuate. As a result of this program, no new power stations need to be built in New South Wales this decade, with significant cost savings to the Government. At a cost of between $2.5 billion and $3.5 billion, honourable members can readily appreciate the savings that this Government has benefited from.
In the Government's first term in office a neat little book transfer of some $600 million of the State's 132 kV transmission system, which off-loaded the State's supply authorities, also meant considerable savings to the Government. The price of coal has not increased during the period that members opposite have been in government; indeed, it has decreased in real terms. One can readily see why this Government is currently reaping massive benefits from dividend payments from the Electricity Commission and the supply authorities.
I refer also to the fact that in this year's Budget this Government is now talking about abolishing the Electricity Development Fund contributions, which are an important source of many payments to electricity supply authorities for various functions. The Electricity Development Fund, according to the Budget Papers, has been restructured. Dividends are now to be paid direct to the Consolidated Fund by the electricity county councils. Community service obligations of county councils are now to be funded directly from the Consolidated Fund. I have serious reservations about this. I have to say that the Consolidated Fund would not, in my view, be prepared to make the sorts of payments for community service obligations to community organisations that have been made previously by the Office of Energy through the Electricity Development Fund.
I wish to refer also to the national grid. In recent times this has been mentioned a lot in the press, particularly in statements by the Minister for Energy and Minister for Local Government and Co-operatives. The Australian Financial Review of 7th September, 1993, quoted the Federal Minister for Resources, Mr Lee. The article stated:
Shocked Department of Community Services officials who saw the hovel - reminiscent of Romanian and Albanian orphanages - estimate it is shared by about 20 intellectually handicapped men, paying around $3,800 a week in rent.
The Federal Government's plans to reform the electricity industry are running off the rails in the face of intransigence by Victoria and NSW.
[Extension of time agreed to.]
The article continued:
Plans for a trial run of a competitive, deregulated electricity market from November 1 are in disarray with Victoria and NSW refusing to co-operate with the proposal on Canberra's terms.
. . . the Minister for Resources, Mr Lee, attacked the two States for delaying the reform process agreed to at the Council of Australian Government's meeting held last June.
The national grid is a way in which we can have a competitive market for electricity and, through that, a more competitive pricing structure to industry, commercial interests and the residential consumers of this State. I believe that answers are required from the Government. Today I placed a number of questions on the Questions and Answers paper. I called upon the Minister for Energy to answer why he has delayed a trial for the new electricity market between the States.
I refer now to a very controversial subject, one which I have an interest in as the shadow minister for minerals and energy; that is, the building of transmission lines and the perceived problem of electromagnetic fields. I will pursue this in greater detail during the estimates committee hearings next week. I have received a number of representations, as I know the Minister would have, from people in the Lismore to Mullumbimby area regarding the proposed powerline between those two centres. There are a number of community groups there, some of which I have met personally and spoken with, who have expressed genuine concern about the lack of consultation with the community so far as the construction of this powerline is concerned.
The group is called the Northern Rivers Energy Action Network. It has produced a number of bulletins. Time does not permit me at this stage to go into greater detail on what the group has had to say. As I have indicated, I will pursue the concerns of the group during the estimates committee hearings. Suffice it to say, as happened with the construction of the powerline between Mount Piper and Marulan, which affected the Oberon farmers, there has been a complete lack of consultation with the residents about the availability of information on the construction of the powerline.
In the time remaining to me I wish to deal with matters of local concern to the electorate of East Hills. I refer first to the construction of a major road linking the Menai area to the northern area. Totally insufficient money has been allocated this year for the construction of the road. In the past couple of days most members would have received in the mail a bulletin from the Road Transport Association, which is scathing in attacking the Government's Budget. It states:
Mr Lee accused "existing monopolies" of doing all they could to "protect their vested interests".
The State Budget's Roads Disaster
NSW road funding slashed and 1,600 road building jobs lost
The Treasurer Peter Collins bites into successful road programs
I can only echo that attack on the Government's road funding in relation to my electorate and the Davies-Fairford road linking Menai to the northern areas. I commend the citizens' action group that has prepared a survey on which I have made representations to the Minister. This shows the volume of traffic on Davies Road, a county road, in a 24-hour period. It is an arterial route, No. 45, linking Newcastle and Wollongong with Sydney. People in adjoining streets are trying to cope with traffic noise and pollution, unsafe road surface, poor drainage and poor access to and from their homes by car and on foot. The residents understandably feel that they can no longer tolerate these conditions and they want the Roads and Traffic Authority to commence work well before the proposed starting date for the works as outlined in the Budget Papers and in the correspondence from the Minister for Transport and Minister for Roads. It has been stated that work on the road will not be commenced before the 1995-96 financial year.
The houses on Davies Road are zoned residential 2A. One hundred and nine houses and 21 villas fronting Davies Road, 164 houses and 91 villas located in streets on the eastern side, and additional houses in side streets on the western side of Davies Road all are affected by noise and poor access. Allowing for two people per household, at least 800 people are directly affected. Many home owners have installed noise-reducing shutters or double-glazed windows, to little effect. The people living along Davies Road have forgotten what it is like to get a good night's sleep. The noise of heavy vehicles hitting potholes in the road at speed would waken the dead according to the report. The residents have no choice but to use Davies Road to gain access to the shopping centre, four schools, a pre-school in Davies Road and their places of residence. The report details that the traffic affects the daily lives of the residents.
Ninety per cent of people surveyed said that traffic noise caused them to awaken from sleep and 10 per cent said it did not. Eighty per cent said that traffic noise caused them difficulty in getting to sleep. In response to whether the people have difficulty in carrying on a conversation outdoors because of traffic noise, 85 per cent said yes and 15 per cent said no. The same proportion of people said that they had trouble carrying on a conversation inside because of traffic noise. The survey showed that in a 24-hour period 23,914 cars, 2,424 trucks, 184 buses, 2,898 waste trucks and 59 big trucks, the so-called BBs - a total of 2,956 heavy vehicles - used the road. The total of all vehicles using the road over a 24-hour period was 26,870. This far exceeds the desirable figures laid down by the NRMA for this type of road. Money needs to be spent on the road now, not in 1996-97 as planned. Only $457,000 has been allocated this year. Last year only $134,000 was spent on the project, which has a total estimated cost of $9,726,000. Not only are the residents of my electorate affected by the road, people from electorates to the south held by Government members and from other electorates use the road daily. It is totally unacceptable to put up with the present road congestion. At peak hours it is unbearable. The condition of the road is totally unacceptable, and the Government should act urgently to review the allocation of funding and to bring forward the proposed work from the presently planned completion date of 1997.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Kerr.
Special rail freight subsidies to petrol companies undermine sensible road funding policies.
House adjourned at 10.41 p.m.