APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
GENERAL GOVERNMENT LIABILITY MANAGEMENT FUND BILL
PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT OPERATIONS AMENDMENT (TRADEABLE EMISSION SCHEMES FUND) BILL
PUBLIC FINANCE AND AUDIT AMENDMENT (BUDGETING AND FINANCIAL REPORTING) BILL
STATE REVENUE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (BUDGET) BILL
GOVERNOR'S SPEECH: ADDRESS-IN-REPLY
Mrs SKINNER (North Shore) [10.07 p.m.]: In this House on 4 June the Leader of the Opposition described this budget as one that fails the real test of compassion and economic responsibility. I want to take up those themes. Much has been said by Government members in this debate about the increase in the health budget, as though that by itself is sufficient to address all the ills of the health system in New South Wales. The reality is that the health budget has increased every year since time began. That by itself is not an answer to the problems in the health system. As to the comment of the Leader of the Opposition that this is a budget that fails the test of economic responsibility, I refer to a comment made by the rating agency Standard and Poor's a couple of years ago when it said that the Carr Government had a perennial problem in forecasting in portfolios such as health. This budget again demonstrates just that.
One has to look at the budget figures carefully because they are difficult to read; one almost requires a doctorate. To track what has been spent and overspent in the budget, one needs to look at the amounts budgeted in the budget figures, the revised amounts that are reported in the annual reports of each department and the actual figures that are also repeated in the annual reports. As a consequence of the time lag, there is always a slight delay in getting the outcomes. Looking at the differences between the actual figures and the revised figures in the health budget—the revised figures being those amounts that include supplementary funding—since the Carr Government came to office in 1995 until 2001 a total of $1.491 billion has been spent over budget. That clearly demonstrates what Standard and Poor's found, that is, that the Carr Government has a perennial problem in forecasting in portfolios such as health.
The reason the Carr Government has been able to get away with that is the windfall gain through property taxes. Only last year a bail-out of $900 million was provided through taxpayers from that source. The other disappointment in the budget, particularly in view of the windfall, is the failure of the Carr Government to show any compassion. That is demonstrated by the failure of the health budget to deliver on the core concerns of most people. Members of Parliament and members of the public know that for seven years I have highlighted some of these concerns—and they are getting worse. Those concerns include increased waiting lists, with more than 52,000 people waiting for elective surgery, compared to 44,000 when the Carr Government came to office. More than 8,000 people have been waiting for more than 12 months, compared to 2,000 when the Carr Government came to office, with an extra 11,000 people waiting for elective medical treatment.
Emergency departments are clogged. Available figures show that in the past few months more than 35,000 people are waiting longer than they should to be treated in emergency departments. Others are waiting far longer than the required eight hours to be admitted to ward beds for treatment. Everyone knows the consequences of that. We have read stories in the newspapers and heard individual patients, doctors and nurses speak about it on radio. I am sure if members are honest they will admit that patients, families and general practitioners have asked them to make sure hospitals in their electorates do better. The Government has been told through many reports it has commissioned that the problems with emergency departments are caused by access block, that is, where patients cannot be admitted to ward beds because the beds are not open.
Since the Government came to office more than 4,300 hospital beds have been closed. The beds are physically available but they cannot be used because there are not enough nurses to look after them. The clogging of emergency departments because of insufficient ward beds creates hardship for patients waiting for treatment and for the doctors and nurses. They are tearing their hair out trying to do the right thing and they are exhausted. A couple of weeks ago the Leader of the Opposition and I spent several hours in the emergency department of Nepean Hospital after many patients had rung radio stations complaining about long delays at the hospital. On that occasion we met two nurses who had been working double shifts, 16 to 18 hours in emergency, with very sick patients. On that night the doctor in charge of the emergency department said that not one of the patients could be treated by a general practitioner because they all had serious conditions.
The budget fails to address the real problem, which is attracting nurses back into the hospital system. The Government undervalues nurses, who are still struggling with pay packages that do not measure up to those of equivalent trained health professionals. Nothing has been done to address the issues that are keeping more than half of our registered nurses out of public hospitals. As a result waiting lists will continue to grow and people's health needs will go unattended. Last weekend the Premier and the Minister for Health attended a garden party at Government House with 460 nurses who had re-entered the hospital work force through a retraining program. I found it distressing that the Government could use the goodwill of those nurses to try to suggest to the public that there is no longer a nursing shortage or a problem in our hospital system.
The Minister knows that is not true. His department's web site indicates that active recruitment is taking place to fill 1,600 nursing vacancies throughout the hospital system. Before I came to the Chamber I printed a document from the web site. It indicates where nurses are required— which area health service, rural or metropolitan—and what specialty of nursing. The recruitment and retention of nurses progress report of September 2001 by the chief nursing officer also contains relevant information. The report states that of the 91,515 nurses currently registered or enrolled with the Nurses Registration Board, approximately 32,000 full-time equivalent nurses are employed in our public health system, which is about 35 per cent.
Therefore, any suggestion that the problem is simply a matter of nurses not being recruited into nurse training and universities does not wash. Nurses are available but they are not happy about working in our public hospitals because of the conditions. The Minister is also aware of that, because he commissioned a survey of nurses not working in public hospitals. That survey, the results of which are also on the Government's web site, shows that a total of 10,089 nurses returned. An analysis reveals several reasons for dissatisfaction with the public hospital system. The first reason was suitable working hours, the second was better pay, the third was support in education, the fourth was improved working conditions and the fifth was management and work process changes.
In the press release about the garden party at Government House last week the Government conveniently left out the most important reason identified by the Nurses Union why nurses are staying away from public hospitals. That reason is pay. The Government knows that is important. In fact, the Industrial Relations Commission is presently hearing a special pay case for nurses. It may come as a surprise to some members of the House to learn that I have attended some of those hearings when I have had the time. When I have been unable to attend, I have had someone attend in my place. It is clear that nurses are unhappy with their salary rates. They keep referring to the 1991 commission ruling, which was a landmark decision in relation to nurses' salaries. At that time the Coalition Government was in office and the Nurses Union has frequently told me of its admiration and respect for the former Minister, Peter Collins, who gave nurses in New South Wales professional rates of pay for the first time ever in Australia. The commission found that the work of nurses was equivalent to that of other health professionals.
That is what this current special hearing is about. Nurses are about 8 per cent out of sync with other health professionals and this case seeks to bring them more in line. The Coalition has indicated it is sympathetic to the call by nurses for extra pay and will give them a pay rise. The Government has said it is not, and it will not. As long as the Government has this bloody-minded view about the value, or lack of value, of nurses, we will continue to have a problem in our health system. It is scandalous that this budget provides nothing to make working in public hospitals more attractive to nurses. Indeed, it demonstrates that the hospital system will be even more difficult for nurses. Figures show that in emergency departments for the next financial year the Government expects an additional 18,000 attendances, yet the number of extra staff is expected to rise by only 56—not only nurses but extra staff, because the figure is not broken down for nurses.
For overnight acute care, which is where the bulk of patients are treated, the Government expects an extra 7,000 patient separations—that is, occasions of treatment—with an extra 527 staff. For same day acute care, the Government expects an extra 3,000 patients with no extra staff. Hospitals must bear an added burden with no comparative increase in staff. The Industrial Relations Commission heard evidence from several sources, including Dr John Dwyer, that highlighted a particular problem. The Government recruited 460 nurses through its retraining program, and I welcome their return. I am interested in nursing partly because I am the daughter of a nurse. I have a great deal of respect for nurses, who I think are the heart of the hospital system—and almost all doctors agree with me on that score. However, the hospital system is unable to recruit nurses as fast as it is losing them, and the retraining program will not address that nursing shortage.
The Government thinks it can grab front-page headlines on the day of the Budget Speech because people do not have time to read the small print. Thus the Government sought kudos from its claim of funding of $504 million on health capital works. However, when we examine the details we discover that only $40 million of that budget will be spent this year. Since Labor came to office it has underspent on health capital works by a total of $116.5 million. Last year was a particularly bad year. When I did a spreadsheet of last year's projects that had carried over from the previous year, I discovered that the Government had underspent on the budgets of 35 out of 45 projects. Nearly all of those projects have been delayed—in some cases, the expected completion date has blown out by two or three years.
I will detail a few of those projects. Government members have talked in this place about the fantastic capital works taking place in their electorates but they should look a little more carefully at the budget papers and read them with a little more discernment. Ambulance infrastructure has been a big problem—the Auditor-General released a most scathing report about it—and last year the budget for that project was underspent by $713,000. The budget for the Blue Mountains acute inpatient unit was underspent last year by $1.6 million and its completion was delayed by a year. The Blue Mountains hospital hydrotherapy pool project was underspent by $262,000 in 2001 and its completion date has blown out by a year. The budget for the Central Coast was underspent by $799,000 last year and completion dates were blown out by a year. Completion of the Central Sydney Area Resource Transition Program, which is the big Royal Prince Alfred Hospital redevelopment, has blown out by two years and its budget was underspent by nearly $10 million last year.
The acute psychiatric inpatient unit at Dubbo was underspent last year by nearly $3 million and its completion date has blown out by a year. The hospital redevelopment was underspent by $267,000 and its completion has blown out by a year. The neonatal emergency transport service, which is very important for sick babies, was underspent last year by nearly $2 million. The budget for the Prince of Wales Hospital spinal, medical and rehabilitation facility was underspent last year by nearly $7 million. The Queanbeyan ambulance station relocation project was underspent by almost $700,000. The Government has identified the Royal North Shore Hospital as its big project this year. However, if we look at the details, we will see that it has been allocated only $3.7 million for new works this year, and the project will not be completed for eight years. This is ludicrous. [Extension of time agreed to.]
An independent consultant engaged by the Department of Health found in November 2000 that, of the 47 hospital buildings he examined, 27 should not be used. A number of the buildings did not comply with building codes and fire standards. The report was the same for every hospital in the Northern Sydney Area Health Service, but the Royal North Shore Hospital was the worst. My constituents use the hospital and I have attended it with my family on occasion. It is a disgrace and it is nothing short of scandalous for this Government suddenly to attempt to take credit for initiating a capital works projects that will not be completed for eight years.
Let us consider the ongoing projects at that hospital. In 1998 the Government allocated funding to upgrade the hospital's emergency, paediatric and maternity departments. Anyone who has visited the hospital's maternity department will know that it was built at the turn of the century. It is a museum. Mr Deputy-Speaker, I heard you refer to the heritage buildings in your electorate. The Royal North Shore Hospital maternity department is also heritage listed, and I am sure that you would not want your wife or daughter to deliver a baby there. It is disgraceful. The nurses, doctors and other staff do a fantastic job in appalling conditions. Work on the department was supposed to begin in 1998 and finish in 2002. The completion date has now blown out to 2004 and the $8 million allocated for the work last year was not spent. That is what this Government thinks of Royal North Shore Hospital: It pays lip service to its problems. Some $600,000 was allocated to upgrade lifts in the hospital but that money was not spent. The consultant's report found that in some buildings there was no lift access to particular floors. That is scandalous in a modern, tertiary level hospital.
Last year's budget allocated funds for several ongoing capital projects under the Rural Hospitals in Smaller Towns Program. That program was underspent by $355,000. The St George Hospital procedural centre project was underspent by $1.7 million and the budget for Tamworth hospital emergency department was underspent by $1 million. The Tweed Heads stage three redevelopment was underspent by $2 million and the Westmead Hospital ambulatory procedural centre project was underspent by $3.5 million. The New South Wales Westmead Hospital breast centre was underspent by $722,000. Only yesterday the Minister for Health spoke in this place about the Government's fantastic achievements with Westmead Hospital. But there we have it: The budget figures speak for themselves. This Government has underspent on the funds that it has allocated for capital works. That is disgraceful.
Turning to my electorate of North Shore, I mentioned that my constituents and I have sought treatment at Royal North Shore Hospital. I have nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for the hospital staff, who I believe are among the best clinicians in this State. However, the condition of the buildings in which they work is nothing short of scandalous. I will give honourable members a snapshot of Royal North Shore Hospital and the conditions facing those clinicians. As I speak, 1,344 people are awaiting elective treatment, 291 of whom have waited for more than a year. In the emergency department in the past month 38 per cent of patients classified as suffering from eminently live-threatening conditions were not seen on time, and 52 per cent of patients classified as suffering from potentially serious conditions were not seen on time. This is the situation confronting my constituents, yet there is no relief in sight for that hospital.
The Treasurer's advice to me about expenditure in my electorate reveals the spin doctoring par excellence of this Government. His pamphlet suggests that $28.8 million will be spent on capital works in North Shore. However, this funding comprises $113,000 for Department of Housing asset management—where that is one would not know; $1.3 million for work at the Department of Mineral Resources at St Leonards, which is not even in my electorate and certainly does not offer any particular benefits for my constituents; $5,000 for computers for the State Emergency Service, which is gratefully received but hardly what one would call a generous gift to the constituents of North Shore; and $22.3 million for upgrades to Taronga Zoo.
Taronga Zoo is a fabulous place. I am proud that it is in my electorate. But it is a place for the people of Australia; it is not just a place for the people of North Shore. To suggest that that is somehow a gift from this Government to the people of North Shore is absolute nonsense. However, these projects do not address one major problem in our area, that is, roads. We urgently require a solution to the traffic congestion on Military Road and Spit Road. I know, and everyone who drives through my electorate knows, that this is a major problem. The Labor Party has acknowledged that it is a major problem. The Labor candidate at the last election and at the election before that identified it as a major issue.
I remind honourable members that the Minister for Roads said shortly after the last election that the Government would find a long-term solution to this problem and implement it immediately. We are still waiting for a solution. I am afraid that we will have to wait until next March when the Coalition is elected to government before we have a solution to that problem. The Opposition has identified its preferred option. Local Liberal members of Parliament have stated that their preferred option is a tunnel starting at the Gore Hill section of the Warringah Freeway and exiting at approximately the northern end of the Burnt Bridge Creek deviation. That would reduce local traffic, which currently streams down Military Road and spills onto alternative shortcut routes in residential streets or commercial areas.
That proposal would make a huge difference to people in my electorate. At the moment Military Road is like a scar across the middle of the area. It divides the community; it makes it difficult for those who are trying to operate small businesses and retail outlets in the area; and it creates a problem for pedestrians trying to cross the road and motorists trying to get from one side of the road to the other. Only today I wrote a letter to a number of chambers of commerce, the police, the Roads and Traffic Authority and councils inviting people to a meeting to try to resolve problems that are getting worse and to try to prevent pedestrian accidents. Sadly, a number of fatalities have occurred in the area in recent months. The only real solution is a long-term one such as a tunnel or something that eases the traffic gridlock, which is a cause of tremendous frustration to motorists and pedestrians.
As a short-term measure I am trying to see whether we cannot come up with some kind of strategy. In 1994, not long after I was elected as a member of Parliament, the then Coalition Government implemented a community awareness strategy involving a partnership between various providers in the area and me to try to raise community awareness of the need for pedestrians to be alert and vigilant when crossing busy roads. I have witnessed accidents in that area. People standing at the traffic lights or just up from the traffic lights see that the traffic is gridlocked, they think they can dart across the road without waiting for the lights to change, but when they try they are hit. I was standing beside an older woman who did just that. She was hit right in front of me and she was killed. Something else that makes my blood curdle is the site of young mothers with children doing exactly same thing. Not only are they setting a bad example for their children, they are also putting the lives of their children at risk. I and a group of people will try to come up with some ideas to address that issue in the short term.
This Government has provided no money to solve traffic problems in my electorate. To add insult to injury, this Government, through the Minister for Roads, located a speed camera at the bottom of Spit Hill. The honourable member for Wakehurst, whose constituents use that route, and I made that suggestion to the Government. However, we stressed that the speed camera should be located on the bend of Spit Hill—the most dangerous stretch of road where accidents and fatalities are occurring. The Government rejected our advice and the advice of the police and located the speed cameras at the base of Spit Hill. Those speed cameras are now the largest revenue raisers in the State. However, not one cent of that money has been ploughed back into the electorate to provide local solutions. To add further insult to injury, the Government installed a second camera in the location suggested earlier by the honourable member for Wakehurst and me. Quite apart from the road infrastructure that is required in my electorate, the last time any real money was spent in that area was under a Coalition government.
I am proud of the fact that all the schools in my electorate were upgraded by a Coalition government. We now have a totally new school building for North Sydney Girls High School. There was a major upgrade of Mosman High School. Bradfield College was opened. A new school hall was built at Neutral Bay Primary School—a hall that I was proud to open. It was a particularly honourable moment for me because 10 years earlier I had been a member of the parents and citizens association of that school and I worked with a group of parents who were agitating for the construction of that school hall. I am now a member of the council of two of my local public primary schools—Neutral Bay Primary School and Beauty Point Primary School. I love Neutral Bay Primary School; I do not seem to be able to leave it. That school needs money spent on infrastructure. Beauty Point Primary School, a small but fabulous school with a caring community, does not have one permanent building. Every building at that school is portable, and the youngest of those buildings is 50 years old. I am working with that community to ensure that the school is upgraded.
North Sydney Boys High School, a fantastic school in a heritage building, has sought funding from the State Government to upgrade its school hall. I have attended presentation days at that school every year since I have been the member for North Shore. Visitors sit in the hall with air from fans weakly wafting across them while everyone on the stage swelters. The Government has not provided a cent towards upgrading that school hall. The parent body and the community have raised the money that has been required so far. I assure honourable members that this is a high priority for me. Labor members in this House often say how fantastic this Government is and how it is always allocating money for projects in their electorates. This Government provides money only for its own members. It does not provide money for all the people in this State, unlike the former Coalition Government.
Mr MARTIN (Bathurst) [10.37 p.m.]: I will put a different light on this budget from that of the honourable member for North Shore, who just delivered a carping, whingeing contribution. She has such a grim outlook on life that one could be forgiven for believing that her staple diet was laxatives. The Carr Government's eighth budget is built on a great Labor tradition. It is the Government's seventh consecutive surplus budget, an achievement unmatched by any government in any jurisdiction in Australia. This Government, which has in place a major capital works program, will be rebuilding the State's infrastructure. The Treasurer has got the large economic picture right—a hallmark of all great Labor governments.
When one thinks of great Premiers one thinks of McKell, McGirr, Renshaw, Cahill and Wran. We can now add Bob Carr to that list. Michael Egan, as Treasurer, has played a vital role in the development of this State. Most Treasurers, because of their occupations and positions, are not the most popular people around. They spend a lot of time saying no. I am sure that the Deputy-Speaker and the honourable member for Cabramatta, the Parliamentary Secretary who is in the Chamber, would agree that the Treasurer has said no to many of their projects. But we do have some wins, and the projects that are subsequently funded are of value to our electorates.
New South Wales has been able to hold on to its triple-A rating, with a big tick from the rating agency. The Carr Government, during its term of office, reduced State debt by $7 million, which means that each year an additional $1.6 billion is available to spend on other services. The Government has a sensible fiscal strategy of paying as we go. A classic example of that was its funding of the Olympic Games. Billions of dollars were spent on the Olympic Games. This State now has first-class playing facilities, transport and other infrastructure that was developed as part of the Olympics. All this was achieved without the State being one red cent in debt, and that is tremendous.
It has also been in stark contrast to the previous Coalition Government. The honourable member for North Shore whinged about what this Government was not doing but she forgot to mention the problems with the Spit Road in the seven years that the Coalition was in government. For some extraordinary reason the money was not spent. The Coalition had a very irresponsible fiscal policy. Like some demented credit card holder it could not control its spending. It spent, spent, spent and it racked up a great deficit. It has taken Treasurer Michael Egan to correct that and leave us in excellent financial shape.
Over the next four years public works spending will be a record $26 million. About $6.4 million of that will sustain some 96,000 jobs. That underpins how important a Government capital works program is. We are rebuilding the State infrastructure, updating our schools, hospitals, roads, et cetera, and also having a big impact on employment. We are going to see improved schools, hospitals, roads and transport. Contrary to the comments made on health by the honourable member for North Shore, I can and will point to great capital works that are going on in my electorate and which add to the work that has been done over the past seven years.
It is interesting that the Opposition opposes the Sydney Harbour Bridge toll increase of 80¢. That money is being spent in Western Sydney and in country New South Wales. National Party members of the Coalition secretly agree with it but they are not prepared to stand up to the Liberal Party and say that it was a wise decision by this Government. The Government policy on road spending is in direct contrast to the Federal Government, which last year had the much-trumpeted Roads to Recovery program, a four-year campaign to invest $1.6 million in rural roads. There was some thought that the Coalition Government is now listening to the bush, but in the first budget after that, the money was gone. So all those councils out there have had their expectations dashed after one year of a four-year program. That has caused consternation. Evans Shire Council and Rylstone Shire Council in my area had their works team set up to do this four-year project and they are now faced with getting rid of staff because the Federal Government has welshed on that deal.
The health expenditure in this budget is a record $8.9 billion with $35 million going into new health initiatives. There is $2 billion on new or refurbished health facilities in the 2002-2003 budget.. I highlight a couple of the important health expenditure items in my electorate. There is the continuing funding of the million dollars for the Blayney District Hospital and health service, known as multi purpose services [MPS], and that project is well under way. The extra $8.2 million is going to rebuild Blayney District Hospital and add extra services. The Rylstone area hospital is being redeveloped in the same way as an MPS; it is a $3 million project. Both these projects have been developed with community consultation. Those communities are looking forward with some excitement to having upgraded and enhanced health facilities in their town. There are some 34 of these projects around the State and, the shadow spokesman for health ought to get out around country New South Wales and find out how impressed rural people are by the new facilities they are getting.
Also there is $500,000 to radiology equipment for Bathurst Base Hospital. This picture archival communications system is the latest technology and allows doctors to have instant access 24 hours a day seven days a week to all their radiology records. It means that they can transmit this to the teaching hospitals in Sydney and get diagnoses from specialists. It is defeating that tyranny of distance for health in country areas. That is a wonderful initiative by the Minister for Health. There is also $400,000 for additional services for people in my electorate with chronic conditions relating to cancer, cardiovascular disease and respiratory illness. Half a million dollars for additional elective surgery procedures in ophthalmology, ear nose and throat and orthopaedics. Bathurst will be getting its fair share of that.
Bathurst electorate has done well in health and I am pleased that there is additional money to go with the half a million dollars that was in last year's budget to continue the planning process for a new program of clinical services for the Mid Western Area Health Service and also the planning processes for the capital needs and particularly for Bathurst Base Hospital. The community there have developed an excellent program in conjunction with the Minister and I am confident that towards the end of this year that planning money will put us in a position to announce what is needed in capital expenditure for a new base hospital for Bathurst. Health has done very well out of this budget right across New South Wales, but particularly in my electorate.
Roads are always a very important feature of budgets and particularly for those living in rural and country New South Wales. The Bathurst electorate has picked up $42 million in this budget and I thank the Minister for that. Some of the projects are ongoing projects to do with the redevelopment of the Great Western Highway. There is $3 million of a $6 million project for the extension of a dual carriageway to Lake Lyell Road at South Bowenfels, just near Lithgow. A $28 million project has got its first planning funding in this budget of some $200,000 is the Great Western Highway River Lett Hill realignment. This is a very steep area coming up out of the Hartley Valley approaching Lithgow from Katoomba, an area where there have been many truck accidents over the years and finally this Government is doing something about that project.
Another project that is under way is a $14 million project for the realignment of the Mid Western Highway at Kings Plains between Blayney and Bathurst. We have been agitating for this project for a number of years. It is a real black spot on that highway, a highway that is taking increasing numbers of large trucks out of the largest inland container terminal in Australia at Blayney. That project is very welcome. Also allocated for that road is $2.5 million of which $50,000 will be spent on planning this year for a replacement bridge at Spring Creek Bridge at Evans Plains. There is further money for the Castlereagh Highway which runs between Lithgow and Mudgee and reconstruction between Lidsdale and Coxs River. This $14.5 million project adds to the $10 million that was spent in the last year, and the allocation this year for the project is another $3.2 million.
Provision is made for realignment of the Castlereagh Highway north of Capertee. A very important initiative by the Government—although I will give John Anderson his due for following up Minister Scully in providing funding, and I notice the member for Hawkesbury sitting opposite will obviously have some interest in this—is the proposal for the Bells Line of Road investigations to see how that can be upgraded as an alternate crossing from the Blue Mountains so that we can have a quicker access to the West. That excellent project is long overdue and I am pleased that the National Party at the Federal level is joining with the State Labor Government.
Let us have the study. Already the sceptics out there are saying it cannot be done, that it will ruin the environment. All that is rubbish. What we need to do is have a proper engineering study to lay it out and just show how that can work. I congratulate Minister Carl Scully for having the courage to show the lead on that. An allocation of $15 million of the road budget is being made on upgrading and reconstruction. There is $4 million for pavement reconstruction to the Great Western Highway and half a million dollars for the Mitchell Highway pavement reconstruction. The Hampton to Oberon Road pavement $500,000 reconstruction is very important because heavy transports are coming out of the important timber industry in Oberon and that means that the road needs extended maintenance.
An allocation of $4 million has been provided for Great Western Highway pavement reconstruction and $500,000 has been provided for Mitchell Highway pavement reconstruction. An allocation of $500,000 has been provided for the Hampton to Oberon road pavement reconstruction, which is welcome because heavy transport generated by the Oberon timber industry means that the road needs continued maintenance. Funding has also been provided to widen the Castlereagh Highway-Jews Creek Bridge. An allocation of $1.2 million has been provided to strengthen the Goulburn to Bathurst road Abercrombie Creek Bridge. Whilst this is an impressive list, not all the projects in my electorate have been funded in this budget. I am still seeking funding for the sealing of 44 kilometres of road from Oberon to Goulburn.
The sealing of 40 kilometres of road along the Bylong Valley Way would provide an all-weather road from the central west right through to the upper Hunter, and connect the New England Highway and the Pacific Highway. In the lead-up to the last Federal election the Federal Minister for Transport, John Anderson, as part of an election stunt, offered $3 million for the establishment of a bridge on basically a four-wheel-drive track between Orange and Mudgee. However, the Minister neglected to say that a further $40 million of roadworks needed to be done on either side of the bridge. In any event, the people did not fall for that. The funding would be much better spent on the Bylong Valley Way.
I am particularly pleased that town fire brigade services have been continually upgraded. Over the last couple of years brand new stations have been established in Portland and Kelso and new fire tenders have been provided for Kandos and Blayney. The current budget provides funding for new fire tenders at Lithgow and Lithgow west. Those tenders cost well over $250,000 each. The continued upgrading of fire services in the town brigades is very welcome.
Once again, there is record expenditure for Rural Fire Services. Because of the terrain of the Bathurst electorate, it is subject to very dangerous bushfires. The hundreds of volunteers who man the 60 or 70 Rural Fire Services brigades in the electorate are receiving additional services. I am pleased that State Forests has allocated one of its new supertankers to Black Springs. Just in the last week the department completed the construction of a helipad at Bathurst. During fire seasons the department's squirrel helicopter, with its 600-litre bucket, will be based there. As an intervention measure, the helicopter will help facilitate the very important firefighting services.
One of the important government organisations in Bathurst is Land and Property Information New South Wales, which was one of the first State Government departments to be decentralised, about 30 years ago. It was formerly known as the Central Mapping Authority, and it comes under the portfolio of the Minister for Information Technology. I am pleased that this budget provides for capital expenditure of $5.8 million for the department, $2.3 million of which is for a new high-tech printing press. Paul Haysom and his team worked very hard to put up a submission and convince Treasury that the new printing press was needed. It provides state-of-the-art technology and gives the department one of the best printing facilities in the State. The organisation does a lot of work for State Government departments and also for the private sector.
An allocation of $1 million has been provided for a "common land cadastre", and a further $2.5 million has been provided for spatial maintenance and delivery system replacement. The funding ensures that Land and Property Information now has high-tech equipment. Last year the Government provided funding for the establishment of a supercomputer at the department, ensuring that Bathurst is able to provide and develop a technology centre. I am pleased that Mary Macintosh, the council, and the computer division of Charles Sturt University have become involved in the project. [Extension of time agreed to.]
This injection of capital funding ensures that Land and Property Information is able to provide a very important technology centre for Bathurst and rural New South Wales. The new technology provides the opportunity to attract software companies to the area, so they can use the supercomputer and all the other facilities and, in conjunction with the university, the Bathurst TAFE college. It is pleasing that the Treasurer's eighth budget has delivered a surplus. There has been responsible spending across a range of government facilities. The money has been targeted to areas where it is needed, and the people of New South Wales will see their infrastructure being continually upgraded. Whilst the Government is allocating record amounts of capital funding, it is also reducing its indebtedness and making more cash available to finance much-needed projects. I commend the budget to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Stoner.