Appropriation Bill; Appropriation (Parliament) Bill; Appropriation (Special Offices) Bill; Insurance Protection Tax Bill; State Revenue Legislation Further Amendment Bill

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SpeakersHunter Mr Jeff; Richardson Mr Michael; Smith Mr Wayne; Rozzoli Mr Kevin
BusinessBill, Second Reading

Page: 14948
    Second Reading

    Debate resumed from 8 June.

    Mr HUNTER (Lake Macquarie) [9.45 p.m.]: Tonight I wish to speak in support of the Carr Government's latest budget, which was handed down a few weeks ago. The budget has certainly given a boost to many projects in the Lake Macquarie electorate. One of the major features of the State budget was the allocation of $2.2 million towards the clean-up of Lake Macquarie. I referred in this House only a week ago to the restoration and rehabilitation program that is being undertaken in Lake Macquarie, which is costing around $13 million. The budget also includes an allocation of $90 million to continue the building of the new Millennium trains, which are being constructed in the Lake Macquarie electorate at the old Cardiff railway workshop. That project is providing employment for many people, not only those who live in the Lake Macquarie electorate but also those who live in the Hunter region. The project has been welcomed by people who live in the Hunter region.

    Funding has also been allocated for planning for a new railway station and transport interchange at Glendale. When completed, that station will service the north Lake Macquarie residential areas as well as the Glendale shopping centre, the regional athletics centre, Cardiff industrial estate and the Cardiff railway workshops, which I mentioned earlier, where the Millennium trains are currently under construction. This year's rail budget includes $2 million for planning for the construction of 40 new intercity carriages for the CityRail network. Many of those carriages will serve the Lake Macquarie electorate on the Newcastle-to-Sydney line. The first carriages will enter into service in 2005, an addition that will be welcomed by the people who live in the Lake Macquarie electorate.

    The budget allocated $1 million to complete planning for the $25 million duplication of the Five Islands Road, which is also known as MR217 and which runs between the Booragul and Speers Point roundabouts. It is a major upgrade and will result in duplication of the road and two bridges across the Five Islands wetland areas. The Roads and Traffic Authority have worked closely with me and the local community, including the local Landcare group, to ensure that all concerns were addressed, including the Teralba Communities concerns about access to the shopping centre. The environmental impact study is under way and is about to be exhibited. Approval will be sought from the Lake Macquarie City Council and it is hoped that work will begin on the project before the end of the coming financial year.

    As I said earlier, this project involves a $25 million upgrade of the road, and that is something that the people who live on the western side of Lake Macquarie know is greatly needed. There only has to be one small accident for the road to be blocked and for the main link to the Newcastle city area to be severed. An amount of $900,000 has been set aside in the budget to construct a new fire station for the Wangi Wangi township. I live in Wangi and I am personally aware that the old fire station certainly needs to be upgraded. The community is also aware of the need and that is why the Government is looking for a new location for the fire station so that the area from Rathmines to Wangi can be better served. The current fire station is located in the township of Wangi at one end of the fire zone. A more central site has now been identified. When completed, the new station will have cost approximately $1.2 million. Hopefully, construction of the new station will be completed during the next financial year, providing a boost to the local township of Wangi Wangi and adjoining suburbs..

    The budget also contains an allocation of $200,000 for planning and acquisition of a site for a new fire station at west Wallsend. I thank the Minister for Emergency Services for visiting my electorate prior to the most recent State election and for meeting with fire crews from west Wallsend, Toronto and Wangi Wangi to discuss their needs and for giving a commitment that, if elected, the Labor Government would ensure that construction of new fire stations would proceed. The new Toronto fire station is almost complete, a $1.2 million project that was funded in the previous two budgets. Wangi Wangi fire station is being funded this year, and also we are moving forward with the west Wallsend project. These are much-welcomed improvements for those townships.

    From the Budget Morisset will gain funding in the amount of $200,000 for further traffic and pedestrian safety improvements in the town's main street. The Roads and Traffic Authority has informed me that it is looking at installing traffic signals in the main street. Certainly consultation will be undertaken with the local community. We are trying to ensure that there is continued good traffic flow through the township and that pedestrian safety also is put at the forefront to protect people who shop in the main street of the town, which forms part of main road 217 and has major traffic movements.

    Funding has been included in the education budget to establish a special school for year 5 to year 10 Lake Macquarie students who have behavioural difficulties. This is one of 11 special schools that will be established across the State under a funding package of $11.4 million to assist students with behavioural difficulties to overcome their problems and remain engaged in education. The Minister for Education and Training said the statewide package will expand upon the highly successful Lomandra School and Plumpton House School programs in Sydney. These two special schools have been highly successful in assisting students with behavioural difficulties. As a result of this success, the department will establish the new school And at this stage it is envisaged that the school will be established in the Toronto area. This important initiative reflects the Government's commitment to ensuring all students have the opportunity to reach their full academic potential.

    I will be working with the local district superintendent of education, Liz Rushton, and the local community to identify the best site in the Lake Macquarie district for the establishment of this alternative school. I would like to congratulate the Minister for Education and Training on taking on board my representations on behalf of the members of the Lake Macquarie community, who have identified the need for this school. There was a gap and some students were missing out on a proper education. This initiative will ensure that students with behavioural difficulties have access to a higher level of support than they have had at any time previously in our local area.

    The education budget for 2001/02 is a record $7.6 billion, including record capital works funding, the latest technology for classrooms, new vocational training programs and innovative behaviour initiatives, to which I have already referred. Some 2,300 tradespeople will be sent out to renovate and renew our old schools across the State. I am looking forward to some of these upgrades taking place in the Lake Macquarie electorate, and will be very pleased to hear the Minister for Education and Training's proposals for schools such as Biddabah Public School, Cooranbong Public School, Morisset High School and a number of other schools in the Lake Macquarie electorate which are in need of improvements.

    As I have said, technology will be boosted in this budget. More than $137 million will be spent to fund various technology initiatives, including the computers in schools program, which will progressively replace 90,000 computers and add another 25,000 computers into classrooms. An expanded Internet service will phase in individual email addresses for teachers and students. These e-learning accounts will give students unprecedented access to information and resources from school or home, a move that will ultimately revolutionise how students learn. An allocation of $10 million will be used over the next two years to train teachers to use the new technology in the classroom. Some $21.5 million over four years will fund individual school-to-work plans for students in years 9 to 12 to help them plan their study and career paths.

    Other key budget initiatives include $464.5 million over four years to further expand the State literacy and numeracy plan, and, as I referred to, funding for new solutions and support for students with disruptive behaviour. Overall, this is very good funding for the education sector which will be greatly appreciated by the residents of the Lake Macquarie electorate. The Department of Sport and Recreation will spend $490,000 over the next financial year to replace ageing accommodation units at the Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation Centre. The work that is done with young students who attend the centre is extremely commendable. I thank the Minister for Sport and Recreation for that ongoing funding for stage four of the upgrade of the accommodation units. I hope to see the Minister at the centre some time during the next 12 months to officially open all four of the new units that have been built over the past few years.

    The State health budget has been allocated record funding, with recurrent health spending reaching an all-time high of $7.77 billion, and in addition $529.2 million in capital spending has been allocated for the rebuilding of hospitals and investment in information technology. I should like to quote from an article appearing on the front page of the 6 June edition of the Lake Macquarie News under the heading "Budget millions for lake". The article reads:
        Work on the $28 million upgrade of Belmont Hospital will begin next year…

        It is part of a $234 million health capital works program for the Hunter over the next seven years.

        It is expected the upgrade will be one of the first projects undertaken as part of the Newcastle Strategy redevelopment.

        The works will include a new emergency department, refurbished wards, operating theatres, extended inpatient facilities and more outpatient, perioperative and rehabilitation services.

        The work will increase the number of patient beds from 84 to 120.

        And, as previously reported a detoxification service will be relocated from Wallsend to Belmont and a new unit built.

        Construction starts on the emergency department in May next year and other works will be progressively started and finished over the next few years.
    The article goes on to list a number of the projects that have gained funding in Lake Macquarie, including $90 million for the Millennium trains, $23.2 million for the continued construction of the West Charlestown bypass, and so on. That is a very positive response from the Lake Macquarie News to the funds allocated for the Lake Macquarie area.

    Funding in the amount of $7 million has been allocated to the police budget to fit first response police cars with mobile data terminals [MDTs]. I was very pleased to attend the Lake Macquarie command last Friday to meet with the local area commander and be shown one of the mobile data terminals in a police car. The local police certainly welcome this new technology initiative. Police cars will now become mobile police stations. This allocation of funds in the budget is an important step in the plan to transform, through technology, operational cars into virtual police stations that give officers instant access to police intelligence anywhere at any time.

    Apart from instant information access, officers in cars equipped with this latest technology will be able to enter data directly via their MDTs. This will free up computer use at police stations and help with smooth changes of shifts. As explained to me by the Lake Macquarie patrol commander, when police attend an incident, rather than returning to their police stations to enter information via the computer at the station they will be able to park their cars at a known local hot spot where there may be crime problems. If it is a two-man car, one of the officers will carry out a police beat in the area, while the other officer will enter the information through the terminal into the main police computer. This will ensure a greater police presence in the local areas of Lake Macquarie. I welcome the initiative and thank the Minister for Police for the funding. Police officers in the Lake Macquarie patrol are very pleased that these units are being installed in their police vehicles over the next 12 months.

    This year's State budget saw the biggest capital works budget ever, with some $22 billion allocated towards capital works. During the next budget period, as I said, the total capital investment program will be $22.2 billion, an increase of $3.1 billion on the $19.1 billion spent in the previous year's budget, and, I might add, that included $1.2 billion spent on the Olympics. This program will sustain some 85,000 jobs in New South Wales. . New schools, hospitals, roads and other essential infrastructure in the general government sector will see spending of $2,625 million. The Treasurer was pleased to point out that 31 new schools will be built and $70 million will be provided for upgrades to at least 1,000 public schools at a cost of $1.12 billion during four years, $400 million more than the previous capital program. There will be a new four-year capital program for health, with a guaranteed investment of $1,982 million. This is an increase of $340 million on the previous four-year program. An amount of $965 million in capital expenditure on roads, in a $2,288 million will be spent on road building and maintenance programs.

    An additional $60 million during the budget period will be provided for country water and sewerage systems in small towns, something that the Lake Macquarie electorate has benefited from in past years. I know that in the southern part of Lake Macquarie at Wyee Point a new sewage system is being installed. I am sure country towns will welcome this allocation of $60 million during the next few years. The Treasurer was pleased to announce that there would be tax cuts in this State budget and said that some $421 million a year in tax cuts would deliver huge benefits to families and businesses. As well as these tax cuts there will only be one tax increase, that is, the recently announced insurance protection tax of $69 million a year. Of course, honourable members know that that is being put in place to deal with the HIH problem.

    The Treasurer pointed out that the debits tax would be abolished from 1 January 2002, 3½ years earlier than planned under the national tax reform arrangements, at a cost of $315 million in the first year. A suspension of the electricity distributors levy, including the transmission operators levy, will take effect from 1 July at a cost of $100 million a year. The abolition of stamp duty on instruments relating to superannuation will take effect from 1 July at a cost of $1 million a year. There is also a lifting of the tax-free threshold for stamp duty on leases from $3,000 to $20,000, and the abolition of lease duty on franchise agreements from 1 July at a cost of $3 million a year. There will also be a lifting of the tax-free threshold for stamp duty on hiring arrangements from $6,000 to $14,000 for ordinary goods hired from 1 July, a cost in the budget of $2 million a year.

    When honourable members look at all the initiatives, the tax cuts and the massive allocation towards capital works contained in the budget we can all agree that it certainly is a very worthy budget.. The people of the Lake Macquarie electorate will certainly welcome the initiatives in the budget for the Lake Macquarie area. Once again I thank the Treasurer and the Ministers involved for the funding that is coming to the Lake Macquarie electorate. I commend the budget to the House.

    Mr RICHARDSON (The Hills) [10.03 p.m.]: I was interested to hear that the interpretation of the budget by the honourable member for Lake Macquarie is very different from mine. In his speech the Treasurer made much of his projected $368 million surplus. Indeed, reading Budget Paper No. 2 could lead one to believe that the Government is peopled by fiscal geniuses. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that the surplus has been achieved by this Government, being the highest taxing Government in Australia, and the highest taxing New South Wales Government in history. Mr Egan talks about the $237 million in tax cuts he is implementing this financial year—I heard the honourable member for Lake Macquarie mention those—including the abolition of the regressive bank debits tax from 1 January 1 2002, yet they pale into insignificance alongside the massive increases in taxes he has introduced in previous years.

    Do honourable members remember 1997? In that one year the Treasurer introduced an electricity distributors' levy, increased the rate of land tax from 1.65 per cent to 1.8 per cent, introduced the tax on the family home, increased poker machines taxes to 30 per cent for clubs making a profit of more than a million dollars, doubled the rate of general insurance duty to 5 per cent, introduced the bed tax, increased the health insurance levy from $1.26 to $1.66 a week per family, and doubled the parking space levy from $200 to $400. Not bad for one year! From those new tax measures alone he raked in more than $450 million. That did not include the general creep that has been going on for years in State revenue raising, nor the infamous Howard and Costello tax package from the previous year when the Treasurer increased stamp duty on motor vehicles from 2.5 to 3.0 per cent, included employer superannuation contributions in the payroll tax base—another tax on a tax—and raised the land tax rate from 1.5 to 1.65 per cent.

    In fact, the total land tax take is up from $580 million in 1995-96—this Government's first budget—to $965 million this financial year. In many instances the brunt of the increase is being borne not by wealthy corporations but by self-funded retirees, many of them my constituents, who cannot pass on the increases to their tenants and who are unable to sell their property or properties because of capital gains tax implications. The current rate of land tax of 1.7 per cent is still 0.2 per cent higher than it was when Labor came to power. The amount of payroll tax collected is up from $2.88 billion when Labor was first elected to $4.29 billion in this year's budget, and the rate of 6 per cent is 2 per cent more than the Treasurer promised in 1995 to cut it to by 2000.

    Last year, the Government had a windfall increase in revenues of $700 million, all of it taken from the pockets of New South Wales taxpayers. The Treasurer talks about the Government's largesse in providing money from the previous year's surplus to assist the victims of the HIH collapse, completely ignoring the fact that the Government is obliged, as the nominal defendant, to pick up the tab for compulsory insurance in the motor vehicle third party areas, and the $20 to $30 million a year he is already ripping off New South Wales families by adding stamp duty to the GST, and in many cases the fire levy. The stamp duty should be calculated on the base premium. Calculating it on the grossed up figure of premium, plus fire levy, plus GST is totally dishonest. It is contrary to the guidelines issued by the Commonwealth. I have estimated that this tax on a tax is costing families in my electorate $26 each.

    There is also a new tax, the insurance protection tax, to help fund the Government's liabilities. This is a further tax on a tax. It will raise $69 million this year. Added to the $25 million double tax windfall the total is $94 million a year, continuing for the foreseeable future. So the Government's much lauded HIH bailout is largely self-funding and, as the Sydney Morning Herald pointed out on 30 May, it will actually add to the budget surplus for this year and the next few years. In fact, this Government has made an art form of dressing up taxes as something else. For example, the recreational fishing licence will cost up to 20¢ in the dollar to collect, making it grossly inefficient—the average cost of raising taxes is just 0.56¢ in the dollar—and will raise between $6 and $30million in a year. Most of the money will be used to buy out commercial fishing licences.

    The revenue from the licences went into Consolidated Revenue and the revenue used to buy them out should come from the same pot of money. Instead, people who have been able to dangle a line in saltwater all their lives will now be required to fork out, and it is their money that will be used to buy out the commercial licences. Then there are fines, mainly for traffic offences. The budget estimates that the take from motorists has risen $72 million from a budget estimate of $226 million to $298 million, and it is budgeting for an incredible $335 million this year, or 61 per cent more than it budgeted for last year! Do not tell me this is about saving lives. Those 50 new fixed speed cameras the Government is installing will be more profitable than 95 per cent of Australian public companies.

    The Government boasts about this year's $2.625 billion capital works program yet it was precisely because of its failure to spend during 2000-01 that the Australian economy went into reverse at the end of last year. In fact, capital works spending last year was cut by 8 per cent and, as a consequence, the construction industry slumped by 40 percent in this State in the December quarter, and the New South Wales economy as a whole contracted by 3.6 per cent, dragging the whole country to the brink of recession. When things are booming in New South Wales the Premier is quick to take credit but when things turn sour it is always someone else's fault. That is a most unfortunate character trait. The Treasurer makes much of the number of people who will be treated in our public hospital system this year, including more than 1.8 million in emergency departments. I will tell honourable members about my own experience in an emergency department the week before the budget was brought down. I contracted septicaemia, which is a life-threatening condition. I rang Hornsby hospital at 4.30 in the morning.

    Mr McManus: They saved you.

    Mr RICHARDSON: The Parliamentary Secretary has not heard my story. I was shivering and running a temperature. I rang the hospital and I was told to come in, which I did. I was put on an intravenous [IV] antibiotic drip and I was discharged at about 10.30 that morning. However, the problem was not fixed, and by the following Tuesday when I travelled to Lismore on a Public Bodies Review Committee trip I was not feeling very well. I had a splitting headache and was feeling most uncomfortable by lunchtime. By the time I took the plane back to Sydney I was running a temperature again. My wife took me back to Hornsby hospital and by the time I got there I was running a temperature of 39.5 degrees Celsius—or 104 degrees on the old scale—and my temperature did not come down for more than 24 hours. I was put back on an IV drip in the sub-acute emergency department of Hornsby hospital. That was an experience that I commend to every honourable member: everyone should learn what the public hospital system in this State is all about.

    Mr McManus: Why did you leave in the first place?

    Mr RICHARDSON: I was discharged by the doctors. As I lay in my hospital bed I watched many people being wheeled in and out of the ward. I stayed there overnight and was to stay for a further night. Patients were discharging themselves from the sub-acute emergency department of Hornsby hospital because they could not stand it any longer. One fellow who came in with a peptic ulcer said he had only two hours sleep and that he felt worse in the morning than he did when he was admitted. He discharged himself. Senior citizens were lying in the corridors. Why? Because this Government has grossly underfunded the public hospital system in this State—I discussed this matter with Hornsby hospital subsequently—and because it has closed beds and whole wards in that hospital. There is nowhere to put the patients who come to the emergency department.

    That is an absolute disgrace. I was eventually transferred by ambulance from Hornsby hospital to The Hills private hospital. The Government is driving patients away from the public hospital system and into the private hospital system by closing wards and promoting elective surgery over and above genuine life-saving emergency procedures. That is absolutely appalling. Hornsby hospital is one of two hospitals that serve my electorate, the other being Westmead hospital. There is welcome capital works funding for Westmead in the budget—and not before time. Doctors at that hospital have spoken to me about the need for such funding for some years.

    I turn now to Public Transport capital works funding. Public Transport in my area is pretty restricted. We know what happened to the much-vaunted Parramatta to Chatswood rail link: it was reduced to Epping to Chatswood. I should have a talk to the honourable member for Blacktown about that: that is another issue about which he seems to be at odds with the Government at the moment. Some $145 million has been allocated in the budget to the Epping to Chatswood rail line, which will conveniently bypass The Hills district.

    There is absolutely nothing in the budget for the Epping to Castle Hill rail link. I think it is mythical. I certainly do not expect to see that rail link in my lifetime—and I do not expect my children to see it either. The budget allocates $13 million for planning bus transitways, two of which—we debated this issue earlier today—are intended to serve my electorate in 2009 and 2010. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that they will receive as much attention from this Government as the Epping to Castle Hill rail link.

    We have learned that there are 12 fewer police in the Police Service than there were at the last election. It is small wonder that crime is on the rise. In her budget speech the Leader of the Opposition pointed out that assaults have risen by 56.7 per cent since Labor was elected, sexual assaults are up by 54 per cent, and break and enters have increased by 31 per cent. In the Baulkham Hills shire in my electorate the incidence of robbery without a weapon has doubled in the past year, the number of burglaries has increased by 42 per cent, stealing from a person has increased 100 per cent, and car theft is up by 20 per cent. Recently a car was stolen from a home in Castle Hill at gunpoint—I am sure that you read about that incident, Madam Acting Speaker.

    Virtually every school in my electorate has been burgled. Thieves took $5,000 from the safe at Glenhaven School, including $4,000 of parents and citizens association money—the proceeds of the uniform shop—of which only $1,500 was insured. Yet we have the spectacle of the Minister for Education and Training coming into this Chamber and boasting about his $45 million school security system. That system is so flawed—even he has admitted it—that professional thieves have worked out how to bypass it. They certainly did that at Glenhaven School.

    Pennant Hills High School—it is situated just outside my electorate but has many students from my area—was virtually destroyed just over a week ago when 12 classrooms were burnt down. When previously one classroom was burnt the department employed a security guard. I do not know where he was—perhaps he was asleep or wandering around another part of the school—when somebody broke in and burnt down another 12 classrooms.

    These are problems in my electorate but they are symptomatic of the problems throughout New South Wales. How has the Government responded to these problems? It has effectively closed Pennant Hills police station in my electorate. People can no longer go there to report crimes or talk to police officers about policing matters—I am sure that you recognise the pattern, Madam Acting Speaker. People must now telephone the police assistance line or 000—and we have heard about the problems people having ringing those numbers. The Government has left the people of The Hills, and of New South Wales as a whole, virtually defenceless.

    While schools in my electorate continue to prosper—there are excellent, enthusiastic students and fine parent bodies—we see in the budget that the number of students in State secondary schools will continue to decrease by a further 3,000 to 302,780 next year against a backdrop of continually increasing enrolments in private schools. That is an indictment of the Government. It has nothing to do with Federal Government resourcing and everything to do with parents' poor perceptions of what the public education system has to offer. It is so poor that the Teachers Federation and parents and citizens associations have got together and found $500,000 to conduct their own inquiry into public education in this State. That is an absolutely unprecedented move. As someone who was educated at a State school, I think this is an appalling state of affairs.

    The Government must address this problem and ensure that every child has access to the same quality of education no matter where he or she lives in New South Wales and no matter what his or her parents' economic circumstances. We must allow our children to realise their full potential. Yet while the Government clings to the rhetoric of class warfare and fails to address issues such as discipline and quality—not equality—of learning outcomes, parents will continue to opt with their feet and their wallets. Where are the surveys that have been conducted of parents who have opted out? Where is the evidence that the Government is taking steps to address their concerns and the drift to private schools?

    Having said that, there are undeniably some goodies in the budget for my electorate for which my constituents and I are grateful. They include $47 million for Windsor Road as part of the $323 million package announced by the Government. While $47 million will be spent largely on Old Windsor Road next year, it is certainly a welcome improvement on the $13.5 million that was allocated last year. Some $4 million has been allocated for the new, much-needed Kellyville High School. As honourable members are probably aware, my electorate is the most populous in the State. There is an enormous amount of growth in Kellyville, and schools are desperately needed.

    An allocation of $2.4 million is made for Cherrybrook High School. Unfortunately, the completion date for those essential works has been put back until 2002-03—shades of the County Drive exercise, which I will come to in a moment. An allocation of $1.9 million is made for a new assembly hall, canteen and library at the West Pennant Hills Public School, which is one of the three oldest schools in this State. It is one of the original public schools in New South Wales, and it celebrated its sesquicentenary last year. I have been lobbying for these funds for the past eight years, since I was first elected. The principal and the school community were over the moon when I rang to tell them the good news.

    There is $1.8 million to finish work on the intersection of County Drive and Castle Hill Road. This is something of a sore point. Almost five years ago, in September 1996, local residents, Hornsby councillors and I knocked down the great wall of Cherrybrook to highlight the need to fund County Drive. That issue was aired on television and in the Daily Telegraph. The Government committed to providing the funds to finish the intersection, but here we are, nearly five years later, and the intersection is still not completed. I had a look at that work last week and I can tell the House that it will not be finished by the end of this year. I can see absolutely no way that that will happen. Indeed, I talked to the workers there, and they also could not see any way it would happen.

    The budget provides nothing for New Line Road, which is in desperate need of widening. It is a very dangerous road; there have been deaths along it. If for no other reason, funding should be provided because of its high accident rate. There is nothing in the budget for Showground Road in Castle Hill, and nothing for the Hastings Road and Old Northern Road intersection. Also, there is nothing for the eastern ring road around the Castle Hill town centre. I was, however, pleased to learn that the Government has just acquired a property at Glenhaven to which the Castle Hill fire station is to be relocated, at a cost of $860,000.

    Mr McManus: We have done something right! Unbelievable!

    Mr RICHARDSON: Not a lot. The relocation will mean that the whole of Cherrybrook will be within 10 minutes of the fire station. Currently it can take about 20 minutes for fire engines to reach a fire, and that is far too long. Overall, this is a budget that taxes much and delivers little in the way of basic services to the people of New South Wales. This budget represents the worst of all possible worlds: the Carr Government is the highest taxing State government in Australia, and the highest taxing government in the history of New South Wales. As I have said, the Government is delivering very little in the way of public education. People are voting with their feet. The budget delivers very little in the way of basic hospital services, and very little in the way of public transport services. Crime is out of control in this State. I repeat that, overall, this is a budget that delivers very little for the people of New South Wales.

    Mr W. D. SMITH (South Coast) [10.24 p.m.]: I will comment but briefly on the contribution of the honourable member for The Hills. He is an excellent thespian; I have not seen such a performance for some time. He should be on stage. I have great pride and pleasure in speaking to the 2001-02 budget. This is my third State budget speech, and I have to say that I am no less enthusiastic about this budget than I was about the first budget to which I spoke, in 1999, because the Carr Labor Government continues to manage the finances of New South Wales responsibly and intelligently. The Government continues to consider the long-term impacts of monetary decisions and maintains visionary values in all areas of policy, which are so well appreciated by our communities across the State. It is indeed an honour to be a member of a Government that does more than talk about commitments, that actually listens and acts practically on the concerns of our people and families and on the demands of our communities. The Government can be congratulated on this budget and on demonstrating to the electorate its confidence in its ability to stand as one of the best fiscal managers in the world.

    I would like first to consider the budget allocations for country and regional New South Wales. Given the recent success of the Country Labor Conference, which was convened on the South Coast, and the significance of the issues and concerns raised over that weekend, country and regional matters are highly deserving of considerable attention. I am delighted that the Carr Government has stood by its commitment to families in country New South Wales and ensured that regional areas are given their fair share of attention and support. I am very proud that we are the first government in New South Wales to produce a separate budget paper for rural and regional areas. And, what is more, that has come as a result of Country Labor's diligent efforts to ensure a fair go for the country.

    May I remind the House that 42 per cent of New South Wales residents live outside Sydney. Almost half of the population of this State is spread across country New South Wales. I thank the Government for providing 48 per cent of the State's public works and road maintenance expenditure to the 42 per cent of non-Sydney residents—evidence that this Government is not Sydney-centric. Also, the 28 per cent of the State's residents living outside Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong and the Central Coast will benefit from 34 per cent of the State's public works and road maintenance expenditure—again, evidence of this Government's acknowledgment of the importance of rural and regional New South Wales. Country families are being heard, and they are seeing results from the Carr Labor Government. As well as providing funding for roads, education and health, the budget is providing a record allocation of $875 million for the Agriculture and Land and Water Conservation portfolios, an increase of $49 million on last year's funding.

    This year's record budget of more than $7,630 million for education, an increase of more than $1,840 million, is testament to the Carr Government's commitment to the "knowledge nation", to the need to ensure that all young people have fair access to education and training, and that schools are given the credit and attention they deserve in providing education to our students. I thank the Government for this very welcome commitment. The Schools Improvement Plan is also extremely welcome, with an allocation of $1.1 billion over the next four years. Health, of course, is another budget area that attracts much attention. Through this budget, the Government has demonstrated a compassionate perception of health issues and has been able to implement a very reasonable and responsible program for communities across the State. With an increase of $506 million over last year's allocation, the Health budget allocation of $8,302 million is massive, and welcome. Thank you for this attention to public health.

    Roads and transport never fail to stir interest at any time. There is always as much demand for improvements to transport services as there is for roads—and, in between, new technologies are attracting considerable attention on all sides. I acknowledge supersonic rail, for instance, and solar-powered sailing vessels. How we reconcile the practical development of technology with the day-to-day management of roads and transport, especially given the huge expense, is certainly a challenge. Given the travelling distances between cities and States, we have no alternative but to concentrate on improving road networks, access to services, and improvements to those services.

    Given the travelling distance between roads, cities and States, we have no alternative other than to concentrate on improvements to road networks and access and improvements to services. The transport arrangements in Sydney during the 2000 Olympics, for buses and trains and on the roads, were handled superbly. This Government proved to the world that it is more than capable of managing a huge tide of people through transport services. Since that experience, the Government has made the efficiency of our transport network and improvements to our roads a number one priority. I thank the Government for allocating an extra $296 million to the rail system during 2000-01 and for the increase in rail funding of $1 billion over the next four years. Roads also win with $2,289 million for this year's roads program, compared to $2,200 million in last year's budget.

    I appreciate greatly the increases in funding for community and disability services. Again, issues in these areas have raised emotional concern from our communities. I am pleased that the Government is again increasing funding allocations for these important services. It is important to note that the allocation in the 1994-95 budget, the last budget brought down by the Coalition, for the community, aged and disability portfolio was $981 million. Today the allocation is more than $1,791 million, almost double the amount in the Coalition's last budget. I am very pleased to welcome the $318 million for home and community care, an increase of 9 per cent, as well as an increase of $30 million to $390 million for disability services. That is an acknowledgement of the vulnerability and specific needs not only of those with a disability but of their carers as well.

    Action on the drug problem is highly appreciated. The extension of the adult Drug Court trial at a cost of $14.3 million is welcomed. The availability of a variety of options is essential for our communities across the State to make inroads into this area. Any family that has not been affected in some way, shape or form by drug use or abuse is very fortunate. I now turn to my electorate of South Coast. Many honourable members on both sides of the House have come to know my region well since my election in 1999. The Carr Labor Government has aided this recognition and made a commitment to the needs of my community. The recent country conference highlighted the interest in the South Coast and proved beyond doubt that we are moving ahead rapidly in terms of jobs, infrastructure, investment, roads and development. Once again we are benefiting in a major way from allocations in this budget. My communities are very appreciative of the Government's support, attention and, I might add, affection as Ministers visit my electorate and get to know personally my constituents.

    Confidence in business and development is improving dramatically. Honourable members would be aware of a number of success stories over the past 12 months in my electorate. Some of those success stories include: the Solar Sailor enterprise; Brands Shoalhaven, which promotes Shoalhaven-made products; the Nowra Green Waste Power Plant, Ocean and Earth surf gear; and Jervis Bay Adventure Tours new boat, Sea Change. Then there is Probiotec, an amazing enterprise, which uses shark cartilage to manufacture pain relief products. The contracts for construction of the Department of Local Government building in Nowra have been signed. We are looking forward to the opening in 2003.

    Numerous aspects of the budget are relevant to the South Coast. I am delighted with the allocation of $36.7 million for capital works and services. That funding, which will sustain about 551 jobs, provides $8.6 million for roads, $1 million for education and $2.78 million for public housing. Funding for roads is one of the biggest issues for the South Coast, as it is, I am sure, for all rural and regional electorates. The Princes Highway is the major artery carrying traffic through all of the South Coast, the Illawarra and the far South Coast. Significant roadworks have been carried out on the Princes Highway over the past two years. I have seen the extent of improvements all along the Princes Highway. The communities who have been pressing for decades for attention to their section of the highway can see that they are being heard and that the work is getting done.

    In Shoalhaven and the South Coast I am very pleased with the allocation of $1 million for improvements to the Princes Highway at south Nowra, a controversial section of road. The exits and entrances of the many businesses situated on that road cause all sorts of traffic problems. I am also pleased with the $1 million allocation for the widening of Condies Creek Bridge. A $100,000 allocation has been made available for an overtaking lane on the Princes Highway at Milton-Ulladulla. An allocation of $1.6 million has been granted for Main Road 92. The Bomaderry to Moss Vale Road, over Cambewarra Mountain, has been allocated $1 million for widening works. Those works are most welcome because of the steepness of the road, its winding nature, the many hairpin bends and occasional rock falls. A roundabout will soon be constructed at the intersection of Albatross Road and Berry Street. An allocation of $100,000 has bee made in this budget for that project. At present that intersection presents difficulties to drivers, particularly at knock-off time when workers from HMAS Albatross make their way home.

    Community services is another area which has heavy demands placed on its resources. In the South Coast region, the demands come from people of all ages in various situations, such as the elderly, the disabled, families in crisis, young people and children. The Department of Community Services does a very good job to help many in our community with problems. I am pleased that we were given two or more much-needed child protection workers in Nowra. I am also very pleased to see that we have gained extra support in this year's budget, with $35 million for child and family services. I thank the Government for the support. Also, the overall increase in the budget for community services will help the South Coast region. I am pleased that we will benefit from increases in home and community care funding, with a boost of more than $10.5 million. This takes the New South Wales total contribution to $127.4 million, boosting the program to $317.9 million.

    The South Coast has done very well again with health services, and I am delighted to see such support from the Government. It has a clear understanding of the health and medical concerns in the region. I realise the South Coast is one of many regions which has high demands placed on its health and medical services due to the high proportion of elderly residents and young families. I am pleased to say that in this year's budget the Illawarra Area Health Service recurrent funding allocation has reached an all-time high of $246 million, including extra funding of $17 million, or 7.5 per cent. The Government's guarantee to provide three-year forward planning also continues, with annual budgets now guaranteed until 2003-04.

    The new funding means an increase in health services for the people on the South Coast. These include additional resources for rehabilitation, extended care services at Shoalhaven Hospital and the establishment of an oncology outreach service to Shoalhaven. The increased health services will also include: the enhancement of clinical haematology services, including the establishment of an outreach service to Shoalhaven; enhancements in orthopaedic services in the Shoalhaven, which is also very welcome; and significant enhancements in the delivery of child and adolescent mental health services across the region. In addition, $12 million has been allocated this year for work on the $28 million Shoalhaven Hospital redevelopment. I thank the Government for this support. The redevelopment of Shoalhaven Hospital will place our medical and health services, with modern practices and technologies, among the best in the State.

    I am very proud that our hospital systems are moving with the times. The demands on health services seem to be ever-increasing. The Government should be praised for its efforts to support an extremely complicated entity. Public housing is another area with ever-increasing demands. I am sure that many members face a constant demand for help from constituents who need housing. It happens to be one of the most difficult issues we have to deal with. I thank the Government for its support for public housing on the South Coast in this budget. We have been given a boost in accommodation with 27 public housing units set for construction. This housing budget includes funding of $1.25 million for 19 new units of public housing in Nowra and $1.5 million for eight units for Aboriginal people. As part of the Department of Housing of the South Eastern Region 2001-02 program, maintenance works will be increased. I thank the Government for providing the south-eastern region with $17.57 million for improvements to public housing and renewing communities.

    It may be of interest to honourable members that the east Nowra public tenants community is interested in establishing a community garden. The site has been selected and the Department of Housing is organising meetings for tenants to start planning. Under this budget we will see the completion and commencement of 37 new homes for people in need in the South Coast area, which represents a $3.326 million investment. Extra homes will be leased for government-subsidised housing. One of the most exciting announcements in the budget for the South Coast region has been the $1.5 million allocation for the establishment of a marine centre near Jervis Bay. The main focus of that centre will be marine research. The establishment of the centre will be in collaboration with Wollongong University.

    This project will provide several benefits for the South Coast. It will give undergraduates and researchers access to a diverse marine environment to study ecosystems. It will look at the best ways of managing and establishing aquaculture in marine areas. It will attract visitors as a tourist site and result in more high-level job prospects. It will place the South Coast as an area of excellence in learning, science and conservation. Government departments will work closely with the centre. New South Wales Fisheries, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Marine Parks Authority are among those departments to be housed in the building. I am extremely happy about this centre. I believe that the prospects for the South Coast are immense.

    I thank the Government for its strong support for this project. I hope that the Commonwealth Government can work in partnership with the State and with Wollongong University to give financial support to this $5 million project. The South Coast region has done well under this budget in the areas of education and training. Two of the most welcome aspects for education in the region have been the funding announcements for East Nowra Public School hall and Nowra Public School hall. When the Premier announced in March that East Nowra Public School would have its school hall the response from the principal, teachers and parents was overwhelming.

    Many disadvantaged children attend this school. The school struggles and at times there is a belief that it does not get the positive attention that it deserves. When the announcement was made about the hall members of the school community were thrilled. I was also absolutely delighted. The Government has allocated $83,000 to begin the $1.5 million school hall project. An amount of $923,000 has been allocated for the completion of Nowra Public School hall.

    I thank the Government for its support and interest in education on the South Coast. In addition, $45,000 has been allocated to commence a $435,000 access centre at Vincentia for TAFE students. They will have access to local teaching and learning facilities without having to travel to the institute's larger South Coast campuses. In conclusion, I commend the Premier and the Treasurer for the sentiments they expressed in relation to the people of New South Wales. Once again this Government has given the people of New South Wales a responsible budget. Once again this Government has shown that it cares about those issues that are most important to our communities. I commend the bill to the House.

    Mr ROZZOLI (Hawkesbury) [10.43 p.m.]: It is with regret that I cannot compliment the previous speaker on his thespian powers, nor can I compliment him on his sense of logic when addressing budgetary matters. This budget is based on a number of fallacies. This budget is based on quicksand. We see in the budget papers a number of shining examples of progress in the capital works area, but we know from past experience that most of that work will gradually disappear and be swallowed up by the sands of time.

    The fallacy that is underscored in this budget is a trap into which this Government falls all the time, that is, that spending more money or appearing to allocate more money in the budget actually means that it is doing something. Announcements are made that so much money will be spent on such and such a project and that that is good. Twelve months later, when we review what has been done, we find that a lot of that money was not spent. When we look at what has happened on the ground, even if the money has been spent somewhere along the line, it does not materialise into benefits for the community.

    This budget is strong on capital works but weak on caring. It is a budget which one may say in a somewhat cavalier fashion might even be worthy of a conservative government because it is capital-works based. It puts a lot of money into the hands of developers and construction companies, and into the big end of town, but it does very little for social justice or for the poor or disadvantaged. I am not saying that conservative budgets are necessarily like that, but it is a criticism that is often levelled at conservative budgets. That criticism can be levelled directly at this budget. I will address a few things later as an illustration of that.

    The overall impression that one gains from reading the commentators on this budget is that it is a budget of missed opportunity. This Government, in comparison with previous governments, has more money at its disposal now than at any time since it came to office. It has been a period during which it has been blessed with buoyant revenue. In a sense, I am glad that it has been in a period of buoyant revenue. However, one would like to think that some material benefits accrued to the community as a result of that buoyant revenue.

    Earlier today when we debated the subsequent use of the Olympic site at Homebush there was speculation about the cost of the Olympic Games and how it was impossible to measure that cost. We know that much of the money that was spent on the Olympic Games disappeared into this quicksand, which seems to be a bête noir of this Government. The money is there and will purportedly be spent on something, but no material benefit is to be seen by the community.

    Mr McManus: The Olympics were of no benefit?

    Mr ROZZOLI: To respond to the interjection of the Parliamentary Secretary, the benefit was not there in measure of the amount of money that was spent on the Olympic Games. There was not the return that there should have been. We could have done what was done for less money than was spent. There was enormous waste in many of the operations that surrounded the Olympic Games.

    Mr McManus: No-one else has ever said that.

    Mr ROZZOLI: I disagree with that statement. Many people have said that. In fact, it is a commonly held belief in the community. This Government has failed to listen to the community. It never listens to the community. This Government will not listen to the community on workers compensation issues. It turns its back on the community when it comes to workers compensation issues. I look forward to challenging it on that issue when that legislation is debated during the next few days. The public, in addition to its distrust of Olympic expenditure figures and the benefit that that was available to the community, does not trust those who have been given the carriage of our budgets.

    I am not necessarily criticising politicians, Ministers or even the Treasurer, although I do not have a particular affection for the Treasurer. Any Treasurer bases much of his rhetoric and his strategy on the advice that he is given by the little gnomes in Treasury—those people with stainless steel hearts and iced water running through their veins who look only at the monetary bottom line of everything and not at the social justice equation.

    We look at actuaries, accountants and business managers across the scene today and the evidence we see of their ability to manage economies and business mechanisms leaves us feeling that they really do not know what they are doing. Their advice on the valid expenditure of money that will give us a good return on that expenditure does not add up. All the columns of figures in budget papers delivered with glossy rhetoric leaves us with no confidence that they mean anything. So much of the current legislation that the Government introduces into this Parliament demonstrates its complete lack of understanding of business management—whether it is the fault of the Government or those who advise it—and how to achieve cost-effective results from expenditure.

    As I have given the Government a fairly heavy serve on its general strategy, I will now turn to two or three items in the budget that apply to the Hawkesbury electorate. I draw the attention of honourable members to the money allocated to Windsor Road, money extracted from the Government with almost ancient dental techniques to do the right thing by the community that the road services. We are grateful for the money the Government has announced over the next five years, and we are grateful for the relatively small amount of money in this year's budget, which we hope is the forerunner of additional expenditure as the programs gather momentum. We sincerely hope that the Government will stick to its promise to deliver on that $323 million over the next five years.

    It gives me a lot of pleasure to see an allocation in the budget for the reconstruction of the Rouse Hill Public School, which is desperately in need of rebuilding. It is a demountable school that, for various reasons, will be relocated. The school has very good educational quality outcomes, but it deserves to have permanent classrooms and the features of a modern school. The schools in the Hawkesbury electorate are generally in pretty good condition because they have had a very good member for many years who has looked after their interests through a series of governments. But I draw the attention of the House to the parlous conditions that exist at Galston Public School and East Kurrajong Public School, both of which are demountable schools. It would be reassuring to know that plans for those schools were in the pipeline to a much greater extent than they appear to be at the moment.

    A curious item of budget expenditure—$40 million-odd—relates to the new South Windsor Women's Prison. Many people in my community do not support the building of a prison, but not for the normal reasons that people oppose prisons in their area, such as security. They believe that the $40 million earmarked for the prison may be better spent on initiatives to deal with issues that lead women into crime, and subsequently into prison. This matter was considered by an upper House committee investigating the burgeoning prison population. The committee recommended that before the Government committed itself to the expense of building a new prison it should thoroughly investigate the best way to spend such an amount of money. I raised this matter in the House recently in a private members' statement. The Minister at the table at the time, the Hon. Faye Lo Po', indicated that she would look into it because the matter had been brought to her attention as the local member for Penrith.

    There is a real question mark as to whether building a new women's prison in South Windsor is a reasonable and a valid way to spend $40 million-odd, and that endorses my earlier comments about whether this Government really understands efficacy in terms of cost expenditure relative to benefit outcomes. This budget completely fails the vulnerable in our community. Despite some additional money for the Department of Community Services the budget does not provide basic funding for many urgently needed services that fall within the DOCS area. DOCS officers are absolutely snowed under with work. They are incapable of meeting the challenges before them, not because they are not dedicated, not because they are not conscientious and not because they are not trained, but simply because there are not enough hours in the day for the limited number of workers to do the job they have to do. It is not an easy job. In most cases it is very stressful.

    The burn-out rate in DOCS is quite high. DOCS officers need resources to support them if they are to support people in crisis. Some weeks ago a summit on homelessness was held at Parliament House. I am proud to say that it was organised by a member of the Labor Party, the Hon. Janelle Saffin, MLC, a member of the Greens, Ian Cohen, MLC, and me. It was a non-partisan, non-political event that brought together 180 delegates who were experts in the field of homelessness, not only people who deliver services to the homeless, but homeless people themselves—people who live on the streets, some of whom live within a few hundred metres of Parliament House. Without exception, they drew attention to the absolute paucity of resources delivered by government, both Federal and State—I will not exonerate Federal Government from responsibility—in areas of absolute need.

    This Government, through the Governor General, Sir William Deane, launched a policy on homelessness. I am sure that Sir William Deane launched the policy with all due respect for its subject matter, thinking that he was launching something meaningful and useful, but which contributes almost nothing to resolving the problem of homelessness. Homelessness is a growing problem in our community. It is now entrapping families. When I was first involved with homelessness more than 25 years ago the average homeless person was a derelict old drunk male who had spent a lot of money getting where he was. But the scene of homelessness has changed dramatically. The age has dropped from an average of 50 to 28, because many of the homeless are now 17, 18 or 19. The number of women caught in the homelessness trap has increased dramatically in that time.

    The number of families now caught in the homelessness trap is increasing rapidly. One of the big factors that came out of the summit as a cause of homelessness is gambling. There has been an absolute breakout in problems generated by the proliferation of gambling opportunities in this State. There is an absolute crying need for resources to be put at the cutting edge of social issues. This Government—apart from ensuring that the finance that was in place before remains, with perhaps a little bit added here and there to catch up with general inflation and cost overruns—has provided very little in the budget to tackle social issues problems.

    There was certainly no emphasis whatsoever in the Treasurer's Budget Speech on social issues. He was obsessed with capital works, like the good capitalist he actually is, and he denied the existence of massive social justice issues. He abrogated his responsibility for social justice issues. Despite all the statements about money being spent on law and order, we are not getting results on the ground. The recent outbreak of robberies and so forth in the Hawkesbury area is alarming. We were doing quite well in Hawkesbury in keeping most of our crime statistics under control, but in recent times they seem to have broken out alarmingly.

    Education is in a very sorry state of affairs. Only today I answered an email from a concerned citizen who advised me that the TAFE at Ultimo was going to lose another 64 or 67 positions, and these are in critical areas of delivery of classroom facilities for students. Despite what the Government says about putting more money into education, the outcomes on the ground are failing all the time. The Teachers Federation is putting $1 million of its own funds into a public education inquiry to do the work that the Government should be doing to investigate shortfalls in education and the reason for the steady drift from public sector education to private sector education. The Teachers Federation and the Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations are rightly very concerned about this drift. They are so concerned about the Government's lack of action in this area they are putting $1 million of their own money into an inquiry to be headed by Tony Vinson—a very independent chairperson—to try to come up with solutions to a problem the Government is failing to address.

    The Government talks about increases in the budget for public sector housing. The number of housing units to be built out of this budget allocation is pitiful when one looks at the almost 100,000 people currently on the public housing list. One of the saddest things I have to face—and I suppose every member of Parliament has to face—is the people who come in and say, "I have put in an application for public housing and I have been told I will have to wait five years, seven years or 10 years." For someone who is 56 or 57 that is a long while to wait, and it is an absolute disgrace to have to tell a young person with a couple of children who may not be in the best of health that they have to wait five or six years for public housing. This budget completely fails to address social justice issues, and it is a disgrace for a Labor Government.

    Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Whelan.