Budget Estimates and Related Papers
Financial Year 2003-04
Debate resumed from 2 September.
Mr LYNCH (Liverpool) [10.00 a.m.]: I wish to make a contribution to the debate on this year's budget. Over the term of this Government, since 1995, the electorate of Liverpool has been the recipient of record amounts of capital expenditure. This year's budget is no exception. These capital allocations are designed to deal with two general problems. Historically, the electorate of Liverpool has not received its fair share of capital funding. Accordingly, the last eight years have been an effort to catch up on the provision of facilities. In addition, south-west Sydney has experienced dramatic and substantial growth in recent years. Obviously, it is necessary to have substantial expenditure to meet the needs generated by that growth. These are the two major challenges to be met by government in Liverpool.
The challenges are rendered more serious by the fact that Liverpool traditionally has been regarded in broad terms as a materially poor or working-class community. Whatever label is applied, it is undoubtedly the case that simply relying on the marketplace is not an acceptable option for many who live in my area. Relying on the marketplace for the allocation of resources and facilities is fine if you are rich and powerful, but it does not offer a lot of assistance to many of the people I represent, who need publicly owned institutions and structures to meet their needs—public hospitals, public education and public transport.
The allocations I first mention are $6.8 million for the Liverpool-Parramatta transitway in my electorate and $18 million for Hoxton Park Road. These amounts follow on from previous allocations and are aimed at completing these related projects. The transitway is important public transport infrastructure. It has been in operation for some time, although not all the work associated with it has been completed. In my experience the reception of the transitway and its operation has been generally positive. If nothing else, the sight of government-owned buses in Liverpool has been widely welcomed. It has been the fulfilment of a longstanding demand from the residents of Liverpool to have government bus services west of Auburn. I look forward to the further extension of government buses in Liverpool and south-west Sydney.
The service provided by the transitway is significant. Apart from being a regular and high quality bus service, it provides important cross-country connections between different suburbs that run contrary to the traditional radial connections in Sydney's transport system. Associated with the development of the transitway is a widening of Hoxton Park Road, which is one of the major roadways in Liverpool. It services, in particular, many of the new release areas both in the electorate of Liverpool and the adjoining electorate of Macquarie Fields. In recent times negotiating that road has become something of a nightmare, especially in peak periods. Together with the construction of the transitway, Hoxton Park Road was to be widened between Hill Road and Banks Road.
What had been a road with one lane of traffic either way has been developed into a six-lane road, with two lanes reserved for the transitway and four lanes for general traffic. In particular, this removes the biggest single bottleneck on the road, which was the bridge over Maxwells Creek near to the intersection with Hill Road. In addition to the road being widened a number of new traffic lights have been installed in situations where they were desperately needed. This applies in particular to the intersection of Hoxton Park Road with Joadja Road. Also involved with this work is a widening of Hoxton Park Road between the Liverpool City Council chambers and Hill Road. This is currently a four-lane road with two lanes of general traffic in either direction. It must be widened to provide two extra lanes for the transitway.
The real issue was that as things were, physically there was not enough room for this to happen. Therefore, the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] compulsorily acquired about 40 houses along the northern side of Hoxton Park Road. This was certainly necessary for the transitway to proceed. However, it was devastating for the residents who lived there, especially the longer-term residents. I know a number of the residents and some of them are friends of mine. One could only have great sympathy for their situation. No project as large as this can ever be developed without some complicating issues arising. For example, I note that one of the contractors retained by the RTA was in breach of its occupational health and safety, and industrial obligations. A constituent who was an organiser with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union raised those issues with me. I note that the issues were satisfactorily resolved, and the contractor was brought back to its obligations through the intervention of the office of Minister Scully.
Another issue that has arisen that has not been resolved involves the land adjacent to Hoxton Park Road that adjoins the rear of the properties in Dale Avenue, Liverpool. This land was part of that acquired by the RTA, but which the RTA does not need to widen Hoxton Park Road. It is often referred to as the residue land. This residue land has been the subject of considerable concern and controversy, which stems from the quite unacceptable proposal by the RTA to develop the land for medium-density housing. The essential problem is that this land is quite unsuitable for that purpose. It is very long and narrow—its width is about half a residential block. The RTA seems driven by an insatiable desire to make money and it is treating some of the residents of Liverpool with contempt. The proposal they make is the ultimate in gun-barrel, medium-density development.
I have previously reported to the House on this development. One of the justifications trotted out was that the Auditor-General would criticise the RTA if it did not develop this land, but that is nonsense. In a letter to me dated 11 February 2003 the Auditor-General made it clear that this was not the case. There is not only considerable residential opposition to the proposal, but also considerable concern by Liverpool City Council. A number of councillors have said to me that they cannot see how the RTA could prepare plans for that site that they, the councillors, would be comfortable supporting, given the shape and location of the land. I urge the councillors to reject any application for medium-density development lodged for that land. If the RTA sells this land to a developer before development approval is granted I would urge the relevant Minister to alert any such developer to both the extent of residential opposition and my comments in this place on that topic.
Another issue associated with the Liverpool to Parramatta transitway is damage to properties caused by the construction of the transitway. I have spoken on that topic in May this year. A number of residents living near to the construction work for the transitway noticed damage to their houses after the construction work was carried out. These residents include Mr and Mrs Lyons in Rundle Road, Mr and Mrs Hay in Banks Road and Mr and Mrs Fitzpatrick of Sanderling Street. All of these residents submitted plans to the contractor, Barclay Mowlem, who in turn in each case referred the claims to their consultants, Abacheck. Not surprisingly, Barclay Mowlem's consultants found that nothing that had been done by Barclay Mowlem was in any way responsible for any damage that had occurred and nothing that had occurred was caused by the construction work. That is a quite unsatisfactory position. It forces my constituents to make repairs at their own cost or institute legal proceedings—once again, if they are financially able.
Since I raised this issue in the House there has been a deafening silence from the Minister for Transport Services, Mr Costa. Perhaps he might respond on that issue. The time involved in the construction of the transitway in Liverpool has been significant. It has certainly taken much longer than anticipated. One constituent of mine who served in Vietnam noted that airports are built in a fraction of the time that it has taken so far to build this road. However, the work is continuing and I look forward to its completion. There are other substantial roadworks within my electorate. In particular, there is a substantial allocation of $6.5 million towards a portion of Elizabeth Drive and Cowpasture Road—a project that I know is dear to the heart of the Minister as well as to me. This will allow the continuation of the widening of Cowpasture Road to two lanes in each direction from Elizabeth Drive to Frederick Road and the north Liverpool Road intersection. That intersection now has traffic lights installed in place of the roundabout as part of this work.
Elizabeth Drive has also been widened to two lanes each way from Cowpasture Road to Windsor Road, which is one of the entrances to the suburb of Cecil Hills. These are very welcome improvements to this area. They will in particular be of great assistance in accessing Cecil Hills. They will also be of benefit to general users of these two roads. Indeed I know anecdotally that the journey times for those travelling to Liverpool in the morning on Elizabeth Drive have improved recently because of this work. There is however one problem that I should highlight with this work and it relates to the cavalier and arrogant attitude of the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] in relation to Gabriella Avenue and Frederick Road. Gabriella Avenue intersects at a T intersection with Frederick Road. The next nearest intersection with Frederick Road is with Cowpasture Road and north Liverpool Road. The RTA unilaterally, without either warning or consultation, closed off this intersection for right-hand turns into Gabriella Road from Frederick Road.
This was unacceptable for two reasons. First, the process was appalling. The residents, the bus company, the local council, and even the local member were not advised that this was going to happen. Additionally, the closure is unnecessary and will cause great difficulties for many residents. I conducted my own survey of the area and 96 per cent of respondents to the survey opposed the RTA proposal to prohibit right-hand turns. Essentially, everyone, apart from some RTA boffins, opposed the closure. The RTA agreed to reopen it temporarily, which it did. In fact, it was the least it could do, bearing in mind it was a council road and not an RTA Road. However, the RTA has now returned to the attack. Once again it has done so without advising the local member of the substance of what it was going to do. I think the RTA has made a clear decision that I am not its toady, so it will therefore ignore me. The RTA prepared another report, which was presented to the Liverpool traffic committee. Once again it seeks prohibition of right-hand turns into Gabriella Road from Frederick Road. Other members of the traffic committee have not supported this. The council opposes it. It is an unnecessary bureaucratic and obnoxious proposal. The RTA should desist from pursuing that option.
The budget papers also contain amounts in relation to the Western Sydney Orbital or, as it is now known, the M7. When constructed, this will be a valuable addition to transport infrastructure in south-western and western Sydney. It will allow quicker movement of large vehicles, or vehicles generally, and vehicles that use it will avoid a plethora of currently existing intersections and traffic lights. That will have a number of environmental advantages, to say nothing of efficiency gains and a reduction in frustration levels. It also has the advantage for residents of vehicles, especially heavy vehicles, not occupying roads that are used by residents. However, there are two issues of concern in particular about the M7. The first is that the toll is to be imposed on users of the road. This stems directly from the Federal Government, which has the financial responsibility to fund the road.
The Howard Government is happy for new roads to be built in country areas, from which so many of its members of Parliament originate, without tolls, but when it comes to western Sydney, we have to cop a toll. The second issue relates to the location of the roadway. It is far too close to the western edge of the suburb of Cecil Hills. While the funding of the road is a Federal responsibility, the construction of the road is actually carried out by the RTA. The RTA is behaving in an appalling fashion in relation to the positioning of the road. Many people who purchased properties at Cecil Hills, which is a new suburb, did so with all due diligence. They noticed a line on various maps that showed the proposed route of what was then called the orbital. It seemed to be well away from houses and did not cause any concerns, so they proceeded to buy their houses, having conducted very sensible and responsible searches. Then, after many had bought houses, the RTA changed the plans for where the road would be. It was then much closer to houses, much further to the east. In some cases it would be within 100 metres of houses. That was disgraceful, of course.
A significant community campaign and, can I say, energetic and enthusiastic representations from the State member of Parliament, led to an improvement in this proposal, with the route being moved somewhat to the west. However, it is still too close to houses and well to the east of where it had been marked upon maps, which maps were the basis for residents purchasing houses. For some people, this alteration to the revised RTA plans made no difference at all. These cases—residue land at Dale Avenue, damage to houses during transitway construction, prohibition of right-hand turns into Gabriella Avenue and the location of the M7, go toward explaining why it is that the RTA has earned the reputation in some places of being the enemy of Liverpool and of being a blight upon the residents of my area.
The budget also makes an allowance for education. There is capital expenditure to complete some developments at Liverpool Technical and Further Education [TAFE]. This follows substantial capital investment in both Liverpool TAFE and Miller TAFE in very recent years. There has also been substantial capital investment in my electorate in new schools at Cecil Hills and new buildings at Green Valley Public School and substantial changes at Busby West Public School. Much money has been spent on improved fencing to increase the level of security. However, there are still some needs in some of the schools. It is appropriate and useful to itemise some of these here. Liverpool Boys High School has a long and proud tradition in Sydney's south-west. Among other luminaries, one person who attended the school as a student is the present Minister for Infrastructure and Planning, and Minister for Natural Resources. However there are some issues with some of the structures at the school, in particular, classrooms that were already old when the Minister attended the school.
The rooms that are a particular problem are adjacent to Lachlan Street. They are timber buildings which are movable, although they seem to be intended, and have at all relevant times been intended, to be permanent. The concern is that the rooms in these buildings often become just too hot in which to teach or study. The rooms are of a weatherboard and timber construction with a tin roof, without insulation. They are set on asphalt. There is precious little, if any, shade from trees. At the request of staff, I inspected the rooms late last year. Teachers had records of temperatures in the room. On 25 November last year, for example, the temperature in room 43 reached 45 degrees Celsius by 2.15 p.m. The response I have received to my representations to date has not been particularly helpful.
The newest high school within my electorate is Cecil Hills High School. While its facilities are, by definition, newer than those in other schools in my electorate, there are still needs to be addressed. In particular, there is a need for a security fence to be erected around the school to protect it. Many schools in my electorate over recent times have been provided with security fences. This partly results from representations and private member's statements that I have been making. However, no good deed, it is said, goes unpunished. The erection of security fences around one particular school will sometimes displace the problem from that school to another school that is without a fence, and to some extent that may have happened at Cecil Hills High School. The President of the Parents and Citizens Committee of Cecil Hills High School wrote to me in June this year, stating in part:
During the first half of 2003, the school has been subject to a number of graffiti attacks and a security breach resulting in the loss of thirteen computers. The P & C would be most grateful if you could make representations on their behalf for security fencing.
Another school with a similar problem is the Hinchinbrook Public School. The parents and citizens association has also requested a security fence. Penny Dow is secretary of the parents and citizens association. She wrote to me at the end of last year, and part of her letter states:
It appears that the school is one of the most targeted schools at present for break, enter, steal and malicious damage offences.
After the last school holidays ten classrooms were vandalised and since then doors have been set fire to and numerous other instances have occurred.
The letter enclosed a written report from the crime prevention officer at the Green Valley local area police command which recorded that in October 2002, Hinchinbrook Public School accounted for a full quarter of all break, enter, and steal offences and over a quarter of malicious damage offences at educational facilities within the patrol area. I have been advised that the school has been included in the safer schools plan to receive security fencing. However, this still seems to be several years off and is cold comfort to the school community. Another school with an urgent need is the James Busby High School, which has a pressing and real need for a new school hall. The school council has been conducting a campaign for a hall for some time. The school council president, Margaret Carroll, most recently sent me a letter dated 10 June this year. Part of that letter states:
In the last correspondence I pointed out that James Busby High School is classified as a disadvantaged school under the Federal Government's disadvantaged schools program. I feel a lack of a hall is adding to our students' disadvantage. It is very difficult to enhance the culture of the school when there is no opportunity to have whole school formal assemblies. It is not possible to hold a school musical, to have a presentation day, to have indoor sports or to accommodate all of our students for the school certificate and higher school certificate examinations. Trial formal exams are very difficult to conduct. There no space for students during wet weather. The school staff, students and parents all feel that a school hall is necessary if we are to lift standards in our growing school.
There is a problem also with Busby West Public School. Part of a letter to me dated 30 May 2003 states:
Last week I was informed by officers of the Department of Education and Training (Properties) that there was a shortfall of some $600,000 in available funds which would force the postponement of the construction of the library. Properties officers suggested that this delay may be until the 2004-05 budget, but as this is only guesswork I am concerned that this delay will go on and on. The new library is to be part of a demountable replacement program (the current demountable library has been on site for 8 years).
There was considerable coverage given to the announcement in 2002 prior to the election that Busby West P.S. was to get a new administration block, library and car park and I know that the community, children and staff will be disappointed with the latest decision to defer the construction of a library to some time in the future. My greatest concern is that the construction of the library cannot be guaranteed for a particular year.
[Extension of time agreed to.]
I would ask the Treasurer, the Minister and the department to address all those real concerns at Liverpool Boys High School, Cecil Hills High School, Hinchinbrook Public School, James Busby High School and Busby West Public School. I prefaced my comments about education expenditure by saying that there has been considerable expenditure in the Liverpool electorate, and it is certainly appropriate that I note that. However, as I also said, some ongoing needs ought to be addressed. Another substantial expenditure in the budget for my electorate is for Sydney Water, that is, for the Georges River program. It is a $100 million upgrade of sewerage systems in south-western Sydney. It is important, given the substantial urban development in the region. We have to be able to provide the facilities to cope with the massive growth, and that includes sewerage facilities. On that basis this program is obviously very necessary.
Any program of such a size inevitably involves a degree of inconvenience for local residents. This inconvenience has been taken way beyond anything reasonable by the pompous and arrogant behaviour of Sydney Water and its contractors. They have exhibited absolute bastardry in their attitude to the constituents whom I represent. The relevant Minister, Frank Sartor, has been of no assistance. Sydney Water says that it needs to upgrade sewerage facilities. Largely, this means that it needs to lay new pipes. Sydney Water has concluded that in one of the most densely populated portions of my electorate it needs to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, involving construction, excavation and tunnelling. Sydney Water would not try that on in any other part of Sydney!
I have spoken about this issue before, so I will not labour the point now but simply note that in my view people responsible for deciding that work should be undertaken for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in the most densely populated part of my electorate, and over a lengthy period, are not fit to fulfil any function involving contact with or impact upon the public. In relation to this project there is another equally serious act of misbehaviour by Sydney Water. It constructed one large pit for its project in Balmain Street, Cartwright. The residents at 2 Balmain Street, the Dela Cruz family, believe that their house was damaged by that work. On the face of what the Dela Cruz family told me I thought they had a case that demanded a reasonably serious response. As that did not happen, on 25 June I spoke in this House about the problem, about the damage to their house, which they believed was caused by Sydney Water. That at least elicited some activity.
Subsequently I was handed an engineer's report on behalf of Sydney Water that purported to relieve Sydney Water and its contractors of any liability. I find it quite offensive, but only too predictable, to be the subject of such a misleading and inadequate process. Once I discussed the report with Mr Dela Cruz it became clear that the authors of the report had not gone inside the house to inspect the damage and had not looked underneath the house to inspect the possible origin of the damage. About six weeks ago I drew those matters to Minister Sartor's attention, but I am still to receive a substantial reply. It takes a particular type of monumental stupidity on the part of employees and contractors of bodies such as Sydney Water to think they can continually treat residents with contempt and enthusiastically ignore representations on behalf of such residents by democratically elected parliamentarians. It is absurd to give people such as me copies of reports that have been prepared by people who have not bothered to inspect the problem. I note that this arises from a background of a generally unpleasant and inconvenient experience in the way that the work was carried out. One resident described to me the impact of the work, and wrote:
Noise, machinery/drilling sublimations. Dust over washing and cars. Exit and access inconvenience, causing longer route to area schools, shopping.
That is the background to the work of organisations such as Sydney Water and their contractors in dealing, as they have in the Dela Cruz case and with hours of work. One can only imagine that there will be a fairly adverse response from both residents and people elected to represent them. Other significant expenditure is included in the budget. I note that for Liverpool Hospital $9.1 million has been allocated to update the emergency unit and $6.7 million of that is to be spent this year. One characteristic of Western Sydney is that the hospitals are further from each other than they are in other parts of Sydney; that is, the drawing area that hospitals have to deal with are larger in Western Sydney than in other parts of the city.
In addition, the public transport structures are less adequate than in other parts of Sydney. That means a greater reliance on private motor vehicles and, statistically, that leads to a much higher rate of motor vehicle accidents. Therefore, emergency wards in Western Sydney hospitals become the busiest in the country. I have heard it said that the Liverpool Hospital emergency ward is the busiest in Australia, and that is probably right. While the Government has spent a large amount on that hospital and its facilities, it is equally important to keep expanding those facilities. In that context the continued allocation of money for the expansion of emergency services is very welcome.
Another significant expenditure in the Health portfolio is equally important, although it goes nowhere near attracting as many headlines as do the emergency sections of various hospitals. I refer particularly to the money spent on the mental health unit at Liverpool Hospital. A $26.9 million program has been established to build a new facility at Liverpool Hospital; $10.7 million of that is allocated in this year's budget. One of the untold stories of Western Sydney and Liverpool generally is the very high level of unmet mental health need. It is a real and significant issue, which gets nothing like the public attention it should get. That is not anyone's particular fault but simply the way our society operates—people who do not have a voice tend to get less attention.
We cannot possibly deal with the unmet mental health needs unless the facilities are provided. As with the rest of the health system, most mental health facilities that have been developed over the years have tended to be in the inner city, on the North Shore or in the eastern suburbs; they have not been where the populations have expanded, in Western Sydney. This is an attempt to deal with that historic underfunding, and I am particularly happy that this amount has been allocated.
The Department of Housing has been allocated almost $10 million for capital works, which is certainly welcome but of itself will not go a long way to relieving the waiting lists or the current crisis in private rental accommodation. Of course, the inadequacy of meeting that stems directly from decisions taken by the current Federal Government, which has absolutely no interest in people who are likely to qualify for public housing. However, the New South Wales Government is doing what it can within its financial constraints to deal with that problem. Certainly while the Federal Government continues its class-based policy of punishing anyone who is poor, significant inroads will not be made.
Mr CONSTANCE (Bega) [10.27 a.m.]: What a day to be standing up in the Legislative Assembly to reply to the Budget Speech, a day on which a $1.6 billion plank is in tatters, and with a 34-all vote in caucus yesterday, which I believe has destroyed the confidence in the budget, and also in the Premier and the Treasurer.
Ms Judge: Rubbish! That is healthy debate.
Mr CONSTANCE: I thank the honourable member for Strathfield for her interjection; we know her role in delivering that blow to the Premier. If anything can be said of the 2003-04 New South Wales State budget, it is about its inability to provide a renewed focus on the delivery of better Government services and infrastructure throughout regional New South Wales. It is not a budget that encourages innovative approach to service delivery by government departments; or a budget that delivers a stronger fiscal position to ensure future investment in schools, hospitals, roads and community services. We need holistic reform of Government and we need to support our communities with the necessary funding so that local economies in regional New South Wales can flourish.
As outlined in the budget, capital expenditure in the electorate of Bega will total $36.3 million, yet I do not believe that this level of funding is anywhere near that required to achieve better outcomes and it is certainly nowhere near the level of taxation that was collected by the Government from the people of the Bega electorate. It is what one might call a poor return on investment. We need investment that harnesses the true intellectual capital of regional New South Wales, we need investment that brings greater efficiencies for our local industries and we need investment in our local infrastructure that meets the growing needs of our growing coastal populations.
If this budget has demonstrated anything to the people of New South Wales it is that the Government's books depend entirely upon the success of the State's property market. Our budget surplus is courtesy of the Federal Government's monetary policy and new home buyers scheme. The massive unexpected collection of stamp duty from home buyers ranging from young families to retirees by a Government addicted to tax demonstrates clearly that the economic credentials that the Premier and the Treasurer tout to the people of New South Wales are simply not there.
The Carr Government has demonstrated characteristics of deceit, laziness and greed. These traits are clearly identifiable in budget documents, which confirm that the Government overspent its own budget in 2002-03 by more than $1.4 billion and took an extra $830 million in stamp duty from home buyers. Many in my community are questioning the impact of this budget on their lives and trying to decipher where the truth lies. After all, they were not told before the State election that taxes would be increased. In hindsight, I am sure that TAFE students, trainees and clubs would have had a lot to say during the election campaign had they known of the Government's plans. My job as their State representative is not simply to agree and nod my head but to provide viable solutions, options and strategies, to lobby the Government and to instil faith that a Liberal government will always be open and transparent through the budgetary process.
The Government has ignored the opportunity to rectify the sorry state of rural New South Wales. The drought has caused significant damage to the economic wellbeing of many small businesses and farms, adding to the already high levels of unemployment. There is nothing in this budget to address unemployment in the Bega electorate. If anything, this budget will contribute to the unemployment rate, which currently stands at about 11 per cent. The industries of the south east have been greatly impacted by microeconomic and structural reform, so any incentive for small businesses to employ people is critical. So why is it that the State Government has provided no payroll tax relief and has removed the incentive for employers to take on trainees by now requiring them to pay the workers compensation premiums of those trainees?
There is no integrated approach from the State Government to local or Federal Government initiatives designed to tackle unemployment problems. The last time we saw anything from the Carr Government about this issue it was in the form of a Premier's Department report on the Eurobodalla in 2001. Nothing has come of that report. When I gave my inaugural speech in this place I said that if the people of Bega have one flaw it is that they are willing to endure so much without too much complaint. Their claims for better roads, hospitals and schools are legitimate, and should be heard in this place. The community should be recognised for the role it has played in applying pressure on the Government and in successfully securing some expenditure on essential services in this year's budget.
Funding has been allocated on the back of community and political pressure for the following key initiatives. Some $5 million has been allocated to stage two of the Bega High School upgrade, Merimbula Public School will receive $1.4 million, and $4 million of the $7 million allocated to the Milton-Ulladulla Hospital redevelopment is also included in this year's budget. There is a 9.5 per cent increase in funding for the Southern Area Health Service together with funding for community transport and for the widening of the Princes Highway between Mogo and Moruya. Although that funding has been made available, the people of the Bega community also face increases in stamp duty on home purchases, increases in workers compensation levies for trainees, rising fee structures for TAFE students and courses, and tax increases on clubs that will directly affect local sporting and community groups.
I turn now to the increase in stamp duty and the effect that this has had, and will continue to have, on my constituents. The Government has offered no tax cuts in this regard. Since 1995 the Bega electorate has seen significant increases in stamp duty on homes, with rises of 177 per cent in Batemans Bay, 96 per cent in Moruya, 130 per cent in Narooma, 200 per cent in Merimbula and 95 per cent in Bega. Yet we have seen no matching funding from the State Government in any of our local areas. Property on the far South Coast has become increasingly popular and attractive to city holidaymakers and weekend visitors. This has caused a considerable rise in the value of property, which is great news for existing home owners but not such good news for those trying to buy their first home.
The proposed Coalition plan for stamp duty cuts would deliver significant advantages and more affordable options for first home buyers. Under our plan, the Coalition would cut $880 million from the $2 billion in projected budget surpluses over the next four years. Stamp duty rates on property transfers would be cut by 5 per cent on 1 July 2004. The stamp duty cut would increase to 7.5 per cent from 1 July 2005 and then rise to 10 per cent on 1 July 2006. The city and country thresholds of the First Home Plus Scheme would be equalised. The plan would produce significant results in the Bega electorate. At present the average cost of a house in Bega is $157, 500 and average stamp duty costs $4,003 in addition to the purchase price.
Under the Coalition's plan for stamp duty cuts, in the first year alone we would see a saving of $200 and incremental savings of $300 and $400 in following years. In the Moruya area, where an average home costs $188,000, stamp duty adds $5,088 to the purchase price. In that region the Coalition's planned stamp duty cuts would deliver a saving of $254 in the first year and savings of $382 and $509 in following years. The Labor Government obviously considers these sums trivial and unworthy of saving—it is just pocket change in Sydney. The Government should take on board the Opposition's plan to provide more affordable housing to the people of New South Wales and adopt our approach.
I spoke earlier about job creation and the fact that there are no new job creation incentives in this budget. The Bega electorate already struggles with high unemployment and now it bears the burden of being part of the State that has not recorded the creation of any new full-time jobs since July 2000. In fact, since July 2000, 30,200 full-time jobs have been lost from New South Wales. This compares with Queensland, where 46,000 full-time jobs have been created. We obviously need to drive up the skills level of our population, and this can be best achieved in part through the TAFE system and traineeships. However, TAFE students and trainees in the Bega electorate are the big losers in this year's budget.
The affordability of TAFE courses and the incentives offered to small businesses to take on trainees have been diminished. The financial incentive for employers to give young people traineeships will also disappear. But the Government does not stop there: it continues to reduce opportunities for people to access TAFE courses. This is very disappointing for young people in regional New South Wales and demonstrates the Carr's Government lack of commitment to job creation. Our local schools also face many difficulties. Ulladulla High School has been mentioned constantly in this House but there is nothing in this budget for the students, teachers and parents of that school community.
Many problems are confronting our local public schools. Bega West Public School comprises mostly demountable classrooms and requires new school buildings. Tilba Public School also needs an additional classroom, and the list goes on. Another important aspect of education that does not receive the air time it deserves is the plight of special needs students. We need more funding on the ground for those students in our classrooms because at present many teachers are struggling to meet their needs, and therefore those of the broader school population. I think it is time for the Minister for Roads to take a drive south to Kiama. In short, once again no funds have been allocated for upgrading the Princes Highway below Kiama. It is a disgrace that more than $310 million of the $380 million to be allocated over 10 years will be spent north of Kiama.
The Minister stands condemned for refusing to fund the Princes Highway in this budget when he knows that there have been 6,531 serious accidents on the highway in the past 10 years that have injured and killed more than 4,000 people. The Princes Highway requires additional expenditure of $200 million over the next five years to upgrade it to an acceptable standard. There are several key projects in the Bega electorate. Pambula Bridge needs $10 million in funding, the Bega bypass needs $15 million, strengthening the Brogo River Bridge will cost $1 million, work on Dignams Creek will cost $10 million and work on Victoria Creek will cost $20 million. Wagonga Inlet needs $4 million dollars, the Clyde River Bridge needs $1 million, and the Ulladulla bypass needs $20 million. That makes a total of $81 million that should be spent in my electorate over the next five years. All of those projects are already part of the development plan of the Roads and Traffic Authority, and that plan must be made public.
The alarming car accidents statistics open the door to a discussion of the state of our hospitals and hospital emergency departments—particularly those in Batemans Bay and Bega. Both hospitals have emergency departments that are in need of drastic refurbishment and reconfiguration. The Health budget handed down by the Government for rural and regional New South Wales does nothing to improve these emergency departments. The Southern Area Health Service, in particular, received funding in the order of $158 million, an increase of 9 per cent from last year's budget.
Yet again the people of Bega continue to endure inadequate and failing emergency departments because the Carr Government did not consider it important enough to outline it in this year's budget. There is nothing in this year's budget to provide more infrastructure to the orthopaedic services in Bega hospital. These regional-based services provide orthopaedic cover from Batemans Bay to the Snowy Mountains to northern Victoria, yet we run the risk of losing one orthopaedic surgeon in the next six months, and both orthopaedic surgeons in the next 18 months. They need infrastructure to support the services they provide, in terms of more assistance within the hospital from junior staff, more nurses and a new operating theatre in order to meet the current demands of the community.
Another disgraceful Health issue relates to Peppertree Lodge, based in Queanbeyan, which has a profound impact on residents throughout the Bega electorate. Peppertree Lodge meets the needs of dementia patients with behavioural difficulties and mental health issues, but the Government is closing it down. Last week during the Alcohol Summit we heard a lot about programs that are required to counteract the problems of alcohol abuse in the community. It is outrageous that in the Southern Area Health Service $1.6 million is spent on drug and alcohol rehabilitation for 200,000 people. That means that our community is not offered the same level of funding as other communities throughout this State.
I am also disappointed that this budget does not contain the full gamut of budget documents. Many government departments and agencies that impact on regional New South Wales are not included, such as the Department of Lands, the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Department of State and Regional Development. They are simply not there. They account for more than $4.5 billion in expenditure and their exclusion raises doubts about the budget's fulfilment of the Public Finance and Audit Act. What does the Government say about the development proposals for the Ulladulla harbour and foreshore? I am also particularly interested in the budgetary considerations of State Forests and National Parks.
The green agenda of the Government will result in further structural adjustment for the timber industries in the south-east region during the next 12 months. There is much speculation that 25,000 hectares of State forest reserved for production forest under the South East Regional Forest Agreement will be transferred into the national park estate which will, in effect, impact greatly on the mills and timber contractors in the area, not to mention the need for more resources for the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Those businesses are now in jeopardy due to the actions of the Carr Government. Surely the taxpayers of New South Wales should be provided with a degree of accountability on the use of taxpayer funds under the Forest Industry Structural Adjustment Package, which dedicates taxpayers' dollars to timber contractors.
It is critical that the diverse industries in the Bega electorate are sustained, but under this budget they have been greatly impacted upon by microeconomics and structural reform. Overregulation by government is strangling many of these industries and makes it increasingly difficult to maintain and sustain the environment upon which they rely, rendering our local industries uncompetitive. Already numbers are decreasing, with only 1,422 people now working in agriculture, fishing or timber industries compared with 1,600 only five years ago. With our local industries suffering overregulation, our education and health services are in urgent need of upgrading. The Labor Government deemed it fit to pull the strings tighter on our local clubs and impose an increase on gaming machine taxation.
I think the Labor Government has forgotten that clubs are the third largest employer in the State, employing 39,600 people. The increase in taxes will affect not only members of these clubs but the broader community. They are often generous supporters of local community groups and sporting clubs, and tightening their pockets will inevitably have an effect on other industries in the area. Forty per cent of Australia's clubs are located in New South Wales and, of those, 43 per cent are located in rural and regional areas. This is something we cannot ignore. These clubs are great local employers and often the soul and meeting place for many groups and individuals in regional and rural areas. [Extension of time agreed to.]
In my electorate some of the 25 clubs will close because of this greedy grab for cash. In fact, this process shows that the economic boffin, Michael Egan, has shown up the commercial inexperience of the Premier. In fact, the Premier does not have an economic or commercial bone in his body, and his reliance on the Treasurer is his greatest weakness—just ask caucus! Clubs are great supporters of the community and provide services back to their members. With a large retiree population in my electorate, clubs are important to the social fabric of our community. Club organisations support things such as sporting facilities, health and gym facilities, event facilities, food and beverage outlets, local schools and playgrounds, local hospitals and nursing homes, surf-lifesaving groups, volunteer rescue organisations, and, as I have said, more broadly, emergency services. Much of this is now in jeopardy, thanks to the Premier and the Treasurer.
Building investment by clubs in our local area has been slashed and amalgamations have been put on hold. I am aware that in some instances staff are now being restructured out of their positions. To put it all into perspective, the additional tax per voter that will result from these changes is $238 per voter in the Bega electorate, that is, $11,558,232 taken out of local economies in my electorate. That means jobs, both direct and indirect, and lost social capital. Unfortunately, the delivery of the Carr budget has been a reflection on everything that should not be in politics—arrogance and elitism. The Government has forgotten to stand alongside, support and work with communities that it has pledged to support. It has forgotten that government departments should partner with the community and industry, not create conflict and doubt, as they are doing. In the history of New South Wales no government has raised more money through taxes than this Government. How can we make more for our people when our infrastructure is run down yet the money to fix it all has never been more plentiful?
Mrs PERRY (Auburn) [10.48 a.m.]: Nine years ago the Premier told this Parliament what would drive the Australian Labor Party's policy framework in the State in the coming years. He told us how financial policy, economic development policies and social policies are all interrelated with a common goal: to deliver better services, a better economy, a better State and a better government. As the member for Auburn, I am proud that the 2003-04 State budget has built up on those very principles—principles that are desired for the economy of New South Wales that could only have been achieved through the leadership of this Government, principles that have delivered better services, a better economy and a better government to the very people who put us here.
First and foremost, I commend the Treasurer, Michael Egan, for delivering yet another balanced budget. This State is all the better for his fiscal management and guidance. The Treasurer is right in pointing out that when he first delivered a balanced budget it was a big news story. After delivering his eighth successive balanced budget it now hardly rates a mention. In fact, it has almost become like a given for this Treasurer and this Government. It is important not to lose sight of this unparalleled achievement.
Most importantly, this is a prudent budget, which still manages to provide even more services to the people of New South Wales. It is prudent because it allows for any unforeseeable events that the State might have to contend with. It puts New South Wales in a secure position for the future, something the Carr Government has been committed to since it came to office. For instance, since 1995 the Carr Government has reduced general government debt by 20 per cent. More importantly, the Government has increased spending in priority areas because it understands the needs of the people of New South Wales and how and where they want those services delivered.
I was pleased to note that overall spending increased to $7.138 million—$7 billion for our State's schools, hospitals, roads, railways, public housing and public utilities. I shall now outline the core areas facilitated by the budget. Funding for Education and Training has increased by $542 million on last year's budget; Health by $920 million; Community Services by $162 million; Ageing, Disability and Home Care by $109 million; and Police by $193 million. These are not small numbers, yet against this backdrop the Government has forecast a surplus. Although I always enjoy reflecting on the successes of the Government on a statewide basis, without further ado I would like to reflect upon the budget and what it means to the men and women of the Auburn electorate.
These men and women have placed their faith in the Government, a faith that has been reciprocated with the delivery of this budget. The budget will deliver to the people of Auburn increased investment to improve government services, which, in turn, will help families and small businesses. The key areas of local expenditure will be $7.6 million on local education and training, $13.5 million on corrective services and $23.8 million on local transport. I am happy that so many major infrastructure programs will be funded by this budget. In highlighting where Auburn is set to benefit from budget funding allocations, I will also briefly mention the underlying logic for these allocations. This is not simply an arbitrary exercise in dividing up the pieces of a pie; it is about ensuring that the right size pieces are given to all the people of New South Wales.
In the 2003-04 State budget, capital funding totalling $107 million has been allocated for reducing class size numbers for kindergarten, year 1 and year 2 with additional recurrent funding of $222 million. This is because the Carr Government understands the importance of the earlier years of schooling for our children. It wants to make a difference when students are young so as to maximise their education later in their academic lives. Several improvements and upgrades will also take place to learning centres in my electorate. Upgrades will include the further development of such important educational assets as classrooms, toilets, libraries and enhanced administration facilities.
Berala Public School will receive $3.3 million as part of the $5.3 million upgrade of accommodation at that school, with $1.4 million to be allocated for the completion of stage two of the $5.4 million upgrade of Auburn West Public School. Demountable classrooms will be replaced by new, roomier and more comfortable classrooms. The funds will be used to construct eight new classrooms, a new library, an administration block and a school hall. The first stages of the upgrade have been completed already. Sefton High School will also receive an upgrade to administration and library facilities at a cost of $2.8 million. These improvements again demonstrate the firm commitment by the Carr Government to ensure that each and every student has access to the best facilities that we, as a government, can provide.
The Government has once again shown a robust commitment to ensuring that the best medical facilities and services are provided to the people of this State. That is evidenced by the allocation of $689 million for the Western Sydney Area Health Service. This represents an increase of 11.3 per cent on the last State budget. Some of this funding will go towards upgrading ambulatory care facilities at Auburn Hospital. Auburn Hospital will also receive $1.17 million over the next four years to set up the Diversity Health Institute at that hospital. This is no small feat. We will be leading the world in this area. This highly advanced institute will ensure that people from migrant backgrounds have access to high-quality, effective health care services.
Housing in the Auburn electorate continues to be an area of major need and one that requires a significant degree of attention and assistance. Auburn is part of the greater Western Sydney division of the Department of Housing, which is planing redevelopment work in suburbs including Lidcombe, Auburn and Sefton. Auburn especially will benefit from an allocation of $1.6 million for capital works to assist those in need. This is part of the $396 million budget allocation for upgrading and maintaining public, community and Aboriginal housing. Also, $1 million will be spent on 13 units of public housing at Auburn. The Government has reaffirmed its commitment to enhancing public transport systems in the electorate of Auburn through this budget. It is good news that $400,000 has been allocated for planning the Parramatta to Strathfield bus-only transitway. This transitway will improve travel time and access for residents, businesses and employees in the newer developments at Homebush Bay, Newington and Silverwater.
Although the Government continues to invest in public transport, it also recognises that areas not serviced by public transport need good roads. That is why a total of $1.9 million has been allocated to the Auburn area in 2003-04 to upgrade and enhance roads, safety and travelling conditions. Local residents and businesses have welcomed this allocation. It will help improve and maintain roads in the area. The funding will allow for many beneficial projects. An allocation of $647,000 has been made for road safety initiatives. The logic behind this is that driver education goes a long way towards the prevention of accidents; it is about avoiding accidents before the driver even gets in the car. I believe that is a commendable and commonsense approach.
Also, $85,000 will be spent on the construction of a right-hand turning lane from Auburn Road to the Hume Highway. Another highlight is the funding allocation of $50,000 to continue work on the Homebush Bay to Fairfield cycleway. This cycleway is utilised by many people in the electorate, especially families, and it encourages people to look at alternative forms of transport to the car. Environmental funding will allow for many projects to be undertaken in my electorate, all of which I am very excited about. A total of $125 million is to be spent on new environmental projects and resource management.
The Millennium Parklands at Homebush Bay will become one of the world's great urban parks, and one of the largest. The site will cover a massive 440 hectares. I have already seen the results of the earlier stages of development and they speak for themselves. The Auburn electorate has received funding of $6 million for the further development of the Millennium Parklands. In close proximity to the parklands is the intended site for a boat ramp that can be utilised by the whole community. An allocation of $200,000 will be made for the construction of a boat ramp at Homebush Bay in accordance with the Government's the Sharing Sydney Harbour—Regional Action Plan. It will allow people not only from the electorate of Auburn but also from all over Sydney to come and use Sydney's beautiful waterways for recreational purposes.
The head office of the Rural Fire Service will receive an allocation of $5 million to relocate. This state-of-the-art centre will then be in a more central location and will be able to more effectively respond to emergencies that may occur in any or all directions. Given that Auburn is one of the most multicultural electorates in New South Wales, I am pleased that communities from culturally diverse backgrounds will receive more than $160 million in funding from this year's State budget. I have spoken in this House about the many successes of programs the Government has initiated. The Youth Partnership with Arabic Speaking Communities Program has had such positive results that it has now been extended to address the needs of Pacific Islander communities. Under the budget this program will receive $1.4 million and the same program for Pacific Islander communities will receive $1.1 million over three years.
In an acknowledgement of the importance of intelligent, aware and proactive policing in protecting the safety of the public, I commend the Government for its emphasis in the budget on visible, high-impact street policing, in collaboration with the deployment of new crime technology designed to save valuable police time. The people of Auburn can expect to see more police in the streets, given this Government's funding of more than $20 million for the high-visibility Vikings operations. The State's biggest ever police force will continue to grow. In the past 12 months the New South Wales Government has trained and deployed more than 2,270 more police. Just recently two local area commands in my electorate of Auburn—Flemington and Bankstown—received a total of 26 new local police officers.
Through all of these measures the people of Auburn can expect to be in a better position. The Government has shown itself to possess an unyielding commitment to pursuing to the highest degree measures to ensure that citizens of the Auburn electorate and the wider community have access to the best education, health care, public utilities and employment opportunities that we as a Government can provide. If we get it right now, this will naturally have flow-on effects into the future. And, looking at this budget, I think the future can only be a bright one for the people of New South Wales. I commend the budget to the House. In doing so I congratulate the Premier, the Treasurer, Ministers and my Labor caucus members who contributed to the formation of this fiscally and socially responsible budget.
Mr R. W. TURNER (Orange) [11.01 a.m.]: It is a pleasure this morning to have the opportunity to reply to the Carr-Egan budget for this financial year. For the more than 44,000 voters and their families living in the Orange electorate, the ninth Carr-Egan budget holds very little promise. I searched through the budget papers hoping to see reference to a new police station for Orange, or a funding allocation for the upgrading of the twin bridges at Copper Hill, north of Molong, but to no avail. This is a horror budget, with very little vision, for people in rural communities. We are still suffering the effects of one of the worst droughts in living memory. Some dams in the southern part of the electorate are still carrying only a small amount of water. Our major dam storages of Wyangala and Burrendong currently hold only 11 per cent and 28 per cent respectively, with no promise of future allocations for irrigators on either of those river systems. The main water storage for Orange—at Suma Park—fortunately has lifted quite recently, but as of this morning it still holds only 53.5 per cent of capacity. Spring Creek, the other water storage area, is up to its capacity, but that capacity is limited because the Orange City Council is still awaiting the release of funds from the State Government to help the council with an upgrading of that storage.
Recent rain within the Central West region will hopefully ensure that the canola and wheat crops that have been dry-sown will now start to show some promise of a harvest. There is hope also that some lucerne will be cut. Some farmers are quite surprised at the health of some of their crops despite the low levels of rain they have received so far. Many farmers will now hang onto their stock in the hope that follow-up rains will come through to justify their decision. Many have had to sell off stud breeding stock because they have neither grass nor fodder. Currently, many areas are experiencing a "green" drought. The Government has not recognised these problems, and the long-term effects on our communities, with little in reserve, will be devastating. It will also be devastating to the small businesses that depend on rural communities. They were hoping for some relief in this budget, but it just was not there. The same comment applies for small businesses in towns that are feeling the effects of the drought. Even some infrastructure or capital works projects, which could have offered employment for some rural workers whilst they wait for the recovery that must happen, would have been better than nothing.
I now refer to health issues within the Orange electorate. The Cudal Hospital has become the latest victim of the Carr Government's total neglect of rural areas. Last February the Hon. Tony Kelly—the current Minister for Local Government—masquerading then as the Leader of Country Labor, promised that "work on the $4.5 million redevelopment of the Cudal Hospital would begin in November". I ask the Minister: Which November? The 2003-04 budget papers make no mention of the Cudal Hospital in the new major works within the Department of Health budget. Some money is allocated to program planning for rural hospitals, but Cudal Hospital is not specifically named, as we would expect it should be after Mr Kelly's announcement. If it is to begin in November 2003, it certainly would by now be past the planning stages and should have been the subject of an allocation in this budget. The hospital plays an important part in the economy of Cudal. Prior to its closure in December 2001, it employed a number of local people, and the new hospital as announced was to include a 24-hour emergency care area, a general practitioners' service area and a 10-bed unit for sub-acute and non-acute services and care for elderly residents. It is fairly evident that this was just another ploy by the Government to hoodwink country voters into voting the Carr Labor Government back into power.
We are assured plans for a new base hospital in Orange are proceeding, as is a new mental health unit at Bloomfield, but again nothing specific is set out in the budget. I seek an assurance that the announced start-up date for the new hospital of 2004-05 and a completion date of 2008-09 remain a commitment of this Government. These services cannot come quickly enough. The present base hospital, especially the original hospital area off Sale Street, is dilapidated and in need of urgent maintenance. Patient care by staff and doctors is exemplary. However, a number of areas, especially the bathrooms, leave a lot to be desired. Even in the new section in Dalton Street there is not disabled wheelchair access to the bathrooms. I am aware that maintenance on these areas has commenced, but it is being carried out by Orange Base Hospital maintenance staff and this work is done only when nothing else in the hospital needs attending to. In the meantime, nurses and patients must put up with prolonged disruptions in the bathroom areas. It does not take eight months to renovate four bathrooms.
Orange offers a health service to patients from all over western New South Wales, covering a population base of more than 200,000 people. We have some of the best doctors and specialists in their fields in this State, and it is absolutely essential that funding for a new hospital is provided as a matter of urgency and that these works be completed on schedule. Currently, huge amounts of funding are being wasted in the transportation of patients to Sydney because the local hospital is not able to cope with the demand on its services. I might point out that whilst Orange Base Hospital is officially, or unofficially, however one likes to term it, a campus of the Dubbo clinical school and also takes students from John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle—and we are very pleased with that co-operation with John Hunter Hospital—the Orange hospital does not receive funding appropriate for a training hospital. It has been estimated by specialists working within the hospital that Orange is missing out on at least $2 million per annum in appropriate funding to provide those services.
Funding for the hospital, which is currently $11 million behind budget, and the employment of additional staff need to be undertaken as a matter of urgency. Currently, Orange Base Hospital has only 2½ ventilators in its intensive care ward, with the promise of another one. Patients being brought in by helicopter who could stay in Orange have to be deferred to metropolitan hospitals because they have to be ventilated and no ventilator is available. However, I congratulate the Minister for Health on his recent announcement that this situation is about to change, as he announced that the hospital is to get the appropriate equipment and the additional staff. They cannot come quickly enough. Cowra Hospital should be assured that it will maintain all of the services it currently provides to the people of the area. People from Cowra do not want to have to travel 100 kilometres to Orange to have their babies or to have simple operations. Other hospitals, such as at Molong, Canowindra and Eugowra, also need to receive assurances that their facilities are secure.
Orange enjoys the services of Dudley Private Hospital, part of the Mayne group, which provides health services for people throughout the region. We are very fortunate to have facilities such as the Orange Radiology, the Orange Eye Hospital, and new medical centres in Kite Street and McNamara Street that offer day surgery facilities to people throughout the region. I congratulate all those who are upgrading our private medical facilities, and I call on the State Government to recognise that Orange is providing increasing and excellent medical facilities. I encourage the Government to match the private sector with equal enthusiasm.
Police officers stationed within the Orange police station, part of the Canobolas area command, are expected to work in unreasonable conditions. Obviously, the Carr Government has no intention of improving the situation. Doors within the station have been taken off their hinges to make more room. Quite often officers have to come into the station to write reports because they cannot access a computer to write up their reports while they are on duty. The current budget has no funding at all for a new station, despite the Minister acknowledging the shortfall at that station. Officers coming into Orange are expected to work in unrealistic conditions, yet the Government has refused time and again to do anything about it. It certainly is not a work environment that is conducive to influencing new officers to stay, nor is the conglomeration of five buildings on three sites an efficient working environment.
The Government has seen fit to allocate $188.3 million to the relocation of police headquarters from College Street, Darlinghurst, to Parramatta but it has not allocated one cent to planning an urgently needed new station for Orange. I also call on the Government to recognise the need for 24-hour policing in Cowra and the enormous value of our one-man and two-man police stations situated in Canowindra, Millthorpe, Mandurama, Woodstock, Koorawatha, Gooloogong, Eugowra, Cudal, Manildra, Stuart Town, Molong and Cumnock. This week I will present a petition to the Parliament from residents of Woodstock calling for their police officer to remain stationed at Woodstock and not at other stations. The young people of Woodstock who are inclined to petty vandalism and general misbehaviour are aware of when the officers is or is not on duty. I also have reports from other areas, such as Koorawatha, of young people running amok when they know that their local constable is on duty elsewhere.
I turn now to funding that has been allocated for roads within my electorate. I note that $45 million has been allocated to the Great Western Highway, but many of those projects have simply been regurgitated. Only $50,000 has been allocated this financial year to the twin bridges at Copper Hill north of Molong. For many years these bridges have been the cause of many accidents, some of which, sadly, have been fatal. Recently a car driven by a young girl drove off the bridge over the Molong Creek and landed in a very deep waterhole. Luckily, she was able to get out but the car was not so lucky by the time it was recovered. Another recent accident involved a vehicle going through the side of the bridge that runs over the disused railway line. It landed in the middle of the front yard of a house that is close by, taking out a 60-year-old pine tree.
It is common for truckies travelling along the Mitchell Highway near these bridges to call each other on channel 40 to alert other truckies that they are nearing the bridge. One truck slows down to allow the other truck to go through. If the trucks were to meet on or near the two narrow bridges unannounced, the bad camber of the road and the narrowness of the bridge could contribute to a fatal accident. Truckies recognise the danger, yet the Government does not. I believe the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] has done some soil and noise testing. However, I am reliably informed that the Railways are holding up any future alignment and upgrade of the bridges on this section of the Mitchell Highway.
As the Government has not seen fit to allocate a large amount of money to this project within the budget, I ask that a whole new about-face on this project be adopted. No train has travelled on the Molong to Cumnock line since 1999. Farmers with properties along the line have, in many instances, covered the crossings with gravel. Stock graze along the line, and sleepers and kilometres of railway track have been redeployed to shore up other areas of track throughout the State. Millions of dollars of funding would be needed to open up the line, but that money should be used to completely realign the road. Instead of the new bridge over the railway line we could have a completely new alignment built to 100-kilometre-per-hour standards instead of the current 80 kilometres per hour.
I call on the Government to legislate to officially close the track and totally realign the future roadworks that are needed at Copper Hill and build a new bridge across the Molong Creek. If a train has not travelled on the line for 12 years it is unlikely another one will ever go down that line. It is now a total white elephant. The State Government should have the courage to officially close the line and allow the rerouting of this section of the Mitchell Highway, as well as straightening out a number of road crossings between Molong and Yeoval. However, the Government needs to rethink its commitment to close existing branch lines that are viable and able to carry the huge amounts of grain produced in a good season.
The proposed closure of the Koorawatha-Greenthorpe line and a number of others within the southern area of the Orange electorate must be reconsidered. I note with some concern the $12.219 million allocated to signal box rationalisation and fear that it is part of another broken promise by the Government to transfer State Rail employees from Orange to Newcastle as part of that rationalisation. The Carr-Egan budget has had a hugely negative effect on the future of clubs in country New South Wales. Within my electorate clubs such as the Orange Ex-Services Club, which injects $120,000 into the community through donations to charity groups and schools, will be forced to cut services to the community.
The Orange Ex-Services Club regularly donates the use of its halls to many charities, which enables those charities to raise more money. The Orange Evening and Orange Day View clubs, which raise money for the Smith Family, are two such clubs. If these and other charities are forced to pay for the hire of halls it will mean that charitable organisations, such as the Smith Family, will receive much less funding. Ultimately, the shortfall will have to be taken up by government agencies. The recent Send it Down Hughie concert in Orange, which featured Grant Richardson, Melinda Schneider and Adam Brand, raised $80,000 for rural counselling services in the region. The concert, which was held at the Ex-Services Club, was a sell-out. More than 600 attended.
The club donated all of the staff required, the hall and other services to the benefit of the community, which then meant that funding going to the rural counselling services was the total profit from the evening. The club provides facilities to their members that are unavailable elsewhere. Additional facilities, such as the Ex-Services Country Club, the Bowling Club and Tennis Centre, may have to close because they will now have to pay $170,000 extra this year on top of the $1.3 million they already pay per annum in gaming tax to the State Government. It is envisaged that over the next seven years the additional tax placed on this one club will add a further $3.5 million, which will go to this tax greedy Government. The Premier and the Treasurer must listen to their backbenchers. As a result of a caucus meeting yesterday they must take on board the concerns of their backbenchers, as well as the concerns of my electorate and the concerns of the Opposition. [Extension of time agreed to.]
At present the $120,000 paid out by the club to community organisations stays in the local community and economy. As a result of poker machines in hotels in small towns and villages, many of our small clubs are operating with voluntary labour. In many cases they have no paid labour at all. If the Government removes the GST exemption, small clubs that are virtually in negative revenue already will lose another $10,000 to $15,000 a year. Some of those clubs will decide to close down. Clubs that incur heavy maintenance costs and find they have to pay another $10,000 or $15,000 to the Government will decide to close down, and small towns will lose those facilities. The impact will be seen in the number of employees who lose their jobs. The budget has placed an enormous strain on future regional development, and the clubs industry is just one regional industry that will feel the strain.
Further strain will be felt when employers are forced to pay workers compensation premiums for trainees for the first time from next January. Where does the Government think this ill-conceived idea will get it? All that will do is ensure that apprentices and trainees will be non-existent in the trades in the future. As it is, many trades are short of experienced people. This budget will ensure that the shortages continue. Young people in rural communities are finding it hard enough to find work as a result of the drought and other factors. This budget will be the final straw that breaks the camel's back. Insurance issues have caused enormous problems within the building industry and many builders are choosing not to employ anyone. This budget will ensure that they do not commit themselves to training apprentices.
An article in today's Sydney Morning Herald reports that many builders are not renewing their licences. They are getting out of the industry. Currently there is a shortage of skilled people within the building industry. What will it be like in four years time when the next lot of trained apprentices graduate? They will not be graduating. The Government's impost, plus the additional cost to those attending technical and further education [TAFE] courses, will have a devastating impact on the availability of skilled trades persons for years to come. All in all, I believe this budget has delivered little, if any, good news for New South Wales, and in particular for the Orange electorate.
Orange received $600,000 for the northern bypass, but that amount has to be matched by the ratepayers—which I am totally opposed to—so it is debatable whether it is a benefit. The northern distributor, which will basically become a State highway and a de facto Mitchell Highway, should be funded fully by the State Government as a State highway. In addition, $500,000 was allocated to sealing the Gooloogong road, but that amount will not go very far. The Government promised to complete the sealing of that very important road but has allocated only enough funding for less than half the distance, if the road is built to appropriate main road standards. Darbys Falls received $700,000 to upgrade its water supply, and $1.6 million was allocated to Lachlan Valley Way pavement reconstruction.
During the lead-up to the recent State election, the Orange electorate received a number of visits from Ministers and six visits from the Premier. All sang the praises of the area and its potential to become an important region within New South Wales. Unfortunately, the continued success of the development of the region relies on the Government recognising the importance of infrastructure and adopting a futuristic capital works program to take the Orange electorate well into this century.
The Government must not rely on private enterprise. It must lead by example and provide capital works programs and other support to attract private enterprise development to the region. The Orange electorate has a burgeoning wine industry, a highly recognised and respected health industry including mental health teams and our Careflight medical retrieval team, the Cadia Mine complex, which continues to commit to further exploration and mining within the area, and the Electrolux plant, which is a major employer within Orange. I congratulate Jeff Hort Engineering on its continuing expansion in Orange and on becoming a major contractor to the Electrolux plant.
To ensure future growth in the entire region, the Government must commit funding to improvement of services. We have to have a new police station in Orange. We have to have improved water supplies and sewerage throughout the electorate. The recent drought proved that the electorate's major water supplies need to be upgraded. These include Lake Rowlands near Carcoar, which supplies water to small towns in the region through the Central Tablelands Water Authority. We have to have improved public transport facilities and rail infrastructure. We have a right to expect improved road infrastructure to enable the increased population of the area to move freely and safely.
New South Wales is the highest taxed State in Australia. It would have been a welcome relief if the State Government had recognised the plight of many regional towns and had given more thought to giving, rather than taking. The Government should have provided a visionary budget for regional New South Wales—a budget that would have provided for positive growth rather than the inevitability of losing yet another country seat to Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong in the upcoming boundary redistribution.
Mr WHAN (Monaro) [11.24 a.m.]: I am very pleased to be speaking on the Carr Government's eighth balanced budget in a row. As a Country Labor member this budget is particularly pleasing to me because it demonstrates once again that this Labor Government understands that our job is to provide services for our communities. This nearly $35 billion budget focuses on the things that matter to people in Monaro. More than $8 billion has been allocated for education and training—an increase of $542 million statewide. Included in that is the full funding for total implementation of our key election commitment to reduce class sizes in years K-2. As well, a continuation of the record capital works program in schools has seen Monaro finally start to get ahead of the backlog left by years of National Party disinterest.
For 2003-04, $9.2 billion has been allocated for health, which is an increase of $920 million. Importantly we also see an increase of $803 million for the Department of Community Services, which the Opposition's own election costings showed it would not have delivered. The Carr Government is getting on with the job by approving the largest capital works program ever undertaken by a State government. This record program totals nearly $29 billion over four years, which is an increase of nearly $5.3 billion, or 22 per cent on the previous four years. This year's record $7 billion capital works program is $788 million higher than last year's program—an increase of more than 12 per cent. The Carr Government's eight budget surpluses mean that since 1995 the Carr Government has cut general government net debt by $8 billion. That means savings of around $1 billion in interest payments compared to 1995—vital funds that can now be spent on local hospitals, schools and police.
The Monaro electorate was a big winner in the budget. Key areas of local expenditure this year are $23.5 million on roads, $15.11 million in national parks, $2.17 million for new works in State forests, and $1.53 million for public housing capital works. Roads funding alone in Monaro has increased by more than $5.6 million. Once again the Carr Government is spending more than 60 per cent of the State roads budget on regional roads. Contrast that to the efforts of the Federal Liberal-National Coalition, which continues to refuse to make Highway 1, the Princes Highway, a national road, and which will not even properly fund its national highway responsibilities. The Barton Highway, an important link to Canberra and Queanbeyan and from Yass to Canberra, remains neglected, and the Federal Coalition Government still has not finished duplicating the Hume Highway to Albury.
The Carr Government's 2003 budget has produced good news for Monaro. They include $2 million as part of a $5.8 million upgrade to the Queanbeyan heavy vehicle route, $1.16 million to complete stage two of the new Jerrabomberra Public School—a school that was built by Labor after hard lobbying by local community members, and which already is a welcome addition to the four top quality public schools in Queanbeyan. We have seen $644,000 allocated toward the relocation of the Queanbeyan ambulance station. I am very pleased to state that building work began on that station last month. In addition, $598,000 has been allocated for upgrades to fire brigade equipment, including a fire engine for Braidwood station, and $500,000 has been provided for an additional overtaking lane on the Kings Highway.
The Government has allocated $300,000 for stage one of new noise walls on Canberra Avenue in response to residents and community concerns that existed for many years. In addition $500,000 has been allocated as part of a $1 million overall grant for duplication of Tompsitt Drive, which is a vital road link for Jerrabomberra residents. Jerrabomberra is a very fast-growing area which needs improved access to ensure that traffic congestion is reduced. I am very pleased to note that that commitment was made during the recent election campaign. I thank Carl Scully for being such a responsive Minister. The budget also provides $1.31 million to complete improvements to the Cooma North Public School and $500,000 has been allocated as part of the $1.5 million accommodation upgrade at the Jindabyne Sport and Recreation Centre. This budget represents the start of the $5 million project to build the new Jindabyne Central School—again a great credit to strong community lobbying, led by Councillor Leanne Atkinson, and to Premier Bob Carr for listening to a growing town.
An amount of $500,000 has been allocated for reconstruction and widening works on the Cooma to Jindabyne Road, $75,000 for guardrails on the Snowy Mountains Highway, $150,000 for rehabilitation work on the tailings dam near Bredbo, $110,000 for national parks near Eden and $10,000 for new navigation aids at Eden. I welcome also the allocation in the budget of $200,000 for rehabilitation of the Lake George Mine at Captains Flat. Lake George Mine closed many years ago but it continues to need work. Captains Flat is a small community that was sometimes forgotten in the past. However, in recent years the Carr Government has given the community confidence by providing a new water supply and has now provided funding for the rehabilitation of the mine.
I acknowledge the role of the Captains Flat Community Association and Councillor Claudia Nye in lobbying for those projects. That effort was backed up by previous State Labor candidate, John Durst, myself and, on the mine works, a local man named Terry Kiernan. The mine funding will be spent on an assessment of the mine processing area and initial clean-up and safety works. Remedial works are expected to include removal of waste ore and structures from the processing area, removal and disposal of soil and the fencing and closure of potentially hazardous openings.
I was pleased that the 2003 budget delivered the first component of $6.7 million in new funding through the National Parks and Wildlife Service for feral pest control. Over the next four years the Government will deliver 16 times more funding for feral pest control than the last Coalition Government in its last four years in office. Most of this year's funding to the Monaro electorate is for important dog control programs. The programs that have already been implemented are producing results but we urgently need to get the programs up and running in the remaining areas, including the Adaminaby area in particular. One of the interesting parts of the commentary on the budget came from a National Party member of the Legislative Council who apparently represents the Monaro area. That member of the upper House obviously could find nothing locally to criticise so she ran a story claiming that the Government had failed to fund the new Queanbeyan hospital. I note that the Leader of the National Party parroted that claim in a poorly researched budget reply speech.
Premier Carr made a commitment, following my urging and the community's hard work, to fund a $30 million redevelopment of the Queanbeyan hospital campus: a complete rebuild of the hospital and community and mental health facilities. According to the National Party, the money should have been in the 2003-04 budget. It is a pity its members did not bother to read the election commitment, which specifically stated that the first $5 million in funding would be allocated in 2005-06, with further capital funding in 2006-07 and 2007-08. Most local residents who care about their hospital would be pleased to know that the planning and consultation process is under way. It takes more than a few months to properly plan a hospital and take into account complicated needs and factors such as the cross-border links. In the Monaro electorate the links with the Australian Capital Territory health system become very important. Obviously, they need to be properly integrated.
The locals need to know that the Queanbeyan hospital campus redevelopment is right on track, and I have assured them of that. In fact, under this Government health funding overall in Monaro is well up on the levels provided by previous coalition governments. During the election campaign I pointed out to residents that funding for the Southern Area Health Service had increased by more than 60 per cent since the election of the Carr Government. In this budget that funding increased by another 9.5 per cent to $158 million for 2003-04. Of course, health costs continue to increase and in our area the failings of the Howard Government continue to place massive strain on our health system.
We have done well by increasing State funding despite the Howard Government's heartless funding cuts. The evidence of the Commonwealth's failure is in its own Budget Paper No. 2, issued earlier this year, which lists over $900 million as a saving from health care agreements. That is saving Peter Costello and John Howard money, but it is not saving any lives. In my area we are doing well to provide services, where one in five beds at Cooma hospital are taken up by people needing aged care. And we are doing well when Queanbeyan's emergency department has to cope with the burden of those who could consult a general practitioner but cannot access bulk billing in that city. In the Monaro only 38 per cent of services are bulk billed, the second lowest figure in Australia. Delivering health services is tough in these times but at least the people of Monaro know that the New South Wales Government cares about their health services.
As I said earlier, a government's job is to efficiently deliver services for the people. To do that we have to raise enough tax to deliver the services people demand. Opposition members have told us over and over that they think there should be less tax but more spending. As was said during the election campaign this year, everyone knows we cannot have both. Our hospitals and schools are important and that is why I will not shy away from the need to raise enough tax to fund them. Since the budget was delivered I have listened carefully to the concerns of local clubs, TAFE teachers and students. I have listened and done my job as the local member to balance their concerns against the need to fund services. Everyone would rather pay less but most people do not begrudge paying tax when they can know that important services that are being funded.
New South Wales, with the third-lowest revenue per person of any of the States and Territories, does well to fund the services for the tax it receives. It is easy for the Opposition to run around saying it would fund everything and also cut taxes. However, a good Opposition would let the community know its alternative and how it would fund that alternative. It is a sign of the weakness of this Opposition that it has gone for the former option. As a former Federal Australian Labor Party candidate I have listened to some good budget replies in which the Leader of the Opposition set out an agenda and policy. Earlier this year I watched Simon Crean present in detail how he would fund a program to save Medicare and really help our State-run hospitals. And, of course, I listened with interest to the New South Wales Leader of the Opposition's budget reply. Hansard records 21 paragraphs of speech, of which 19 paragraphs are just unconstructive whingeing.
The Leader of the Opposition included just one initiative: spending $880 million—which could be used to fund hospitals and schools—on stamp duty cuts that would do nothing to help first home buyers. He, along with John Howard, prefers to completely ignore the massive GST slug on home builders, which pushes up the prices significantly. The Leader of the Opposition made no mention of what he would do for schools or hospitals and, interestingly, his speech made not a single mention of poker machine taxes. However, in the fashion typical of this Coalition his backbenchers followed up by putting up their grab bag of projects that they thought should have been funded. They wandered around their electorates trying to get away with letting community groups think they would fund their wish lists and also reduced taxes.
In Monaro we saw the Leader of the Opposition trailing around, agreeing with everybody but committing to nothing. He was accompanied in Monaro by the honourable member for Bega, who may still be trying to work out where his electorate is. This morning he spoke about a lack of assistance on job promotion in the Bega electorate. If he had been around in the past few years he would have know that the Bega Cheese factory has undertaken a major expansion, with the assistance of $40 million of State Government loans—two loans of $20 million. The Bega Cheese factory now employs a couple of hundred more people as a result of those loans and a small Federal Government grant.
I saw a picture of the Leader of the Opposition in Bombala, although most Bombala residents would not have known him. During the election campaign the National Party was so proud of the bloke they wanted as Premier that they did not even mention his name or have a single poster with his photograph on it. I was disappointed by that. But I got a good idea of what the local conservatives thought of him when I asked one National Party volunteer whether they had forgotten their John Brogden posters. His laughter told me that he thought that that was a very funny joke. Of course, I am into truth in advertising, so when I was standing next to one National Party volunteer and a person took the how-to-vote paper, I suggested to her that she was taking advice on how to vote for John Brogden. The National Party volunteer looked at me and said "That was a very low trick".
I return to the budget. I listened carefully to the budget response by the leader of the National Party, which was again a big whinge but contained no constructive ideas for regional New South Wales. What a contrast to the Carr Government's list of achievements and initiatives in the Monaro electorate! I have been interested to hear some of the contributions from other Opposition backbenchers. As a new member, I was surprised by the way their speeches highlighted the massive policy differences between some of the John Howard acolytes and some of the National Party members. I am amazed to hear some city Liberals lecturing us about how we should not collect so much tax in New South Wales but, a couple of breaths later, speaking rapturously about how much they admire the Howard Government's goods and services tax [GST]. They are expressing admiration for a Federal Government that has broken all records for the amount of tax collected from Australians. This year the Federal Government will collect more than $210 billion in tax from Australians.
I do not begrudge the Federal Government's collecting $210 billion in tax so long as it is spent on the right things. The provision of more university places for nurses and doctors would help us to cope with staff shortages in our hospitals. I think most Australians would support that expenditure well ahead of expenditure on George Bush's war. Better funding for public hospitals should have come a long way ahead of the failed private health rebate. The Federal Government will collect more than $210 billion in tax and New South Wales will receive just $15.5 billion of that funding. This year New South Wales will receive only a 1.7 per cent increase in Commonwealth grants. During the last election campaign National Party officials ran around Monaro claiming that the State Government should be funding anything and everything because they claimed we were rolling in GST revenue. The truth is—and the budget papers confirm it—that this year we will need $608 million in budget-balancing assistance simply to maintain the levels of revenue we would have received had the GST not been introduced.
The New South Wales Government collects total revenue of $14.198 billion and, as the Treasurer pointed out on budget day, for every dollar New South Wales taxpayers pay to the State Treasury we pay $5 to the Commonwealth Treasury. Yet good Labor management has delivered eight budget surpluses and our State's net worth will grow to more than $100 billion this year. Meanwhile, the Federal Government presides over a net worth of negative $101 billion—and it continues to attempt to flog Telstra, an asset of the Australian people. The reality is that the people of New South Wales voted Labor back into government in March and elected me to represent the electorate of Monaro because they know that Labor's sound economic management will deliver more for them than a grab bag of unfunded and unrealistic Opposition promises.
The people of Monaro are smart enough to know that those Opposition members who stand in this place and tell us that they want taxes to be cut by billions of dollars while at the same time demanding new railways, tunnels and hospitals are not being fair dinkum. The people of Monaro have seen in the 2003-04 budget the down payment on their decision to elect a Country Labor member. We have seen important projects get under way. As I said before, funding has been allocated for Jindabyne Central School, a great achievement for a town that has never had public secondary education. Construction of the Queanbeyan ambulance station has begun after a wait of 16 years and funding has been delivered for Tompsitt Drive. The Government has delivered on its election promises in Monaro. This is a solid Labor budget that delivers for Monaro and gets on with the job for regional New South Wales.
Mr CANSDELL (Clarence) [11.42 a.m.]: The Clarence electorate welcomes all funding that it received in the recent State budget but I must record my disappointment at the omission of funding provisions for the ongoing maintenance dredging of the Clarence River. I draw the attention of the House to the significance of the port of the Yamba to the regional economy of the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales. At present Yamba is referred to as a clayton's port as the navigation channel is choked with silt because it has not been dredged or maintained for 40 years. The Clarence River is silting up and impacting on all marine industries. The last maintenance dredging work was undertaken in the 1960s. Some 1,200 families in my electorate derive their income either directly or indirectly from the river.
The river dredging issue can be divided into two categories: the requirements of big ships and the requirements of small ships. Other areas in addition to the main channel need to be dredged to a uniform depth. The outer bar should be dredged and Hickey Island and Whiting Beach channel should be deepened to allow 24-hour access to the marina. The Dart Island area also requires dredging as the risk of collision is extremely high and presents a danger to all vessels, including the ferry. The current state of the river is cause for concern on safety, trading, fishing, commercial and recreational and local economic—including tourism—grounds. The potential of the Clarence is enormous. With deeper boating channels, Yamba would be a viable port, dealing with commercial freight and tuna fishing boats, each of which could contribute an estimated $1 million to their base port, and offering increased tourism opportunities and an increased number of visiting pleasure craft and large boats based at the marina. Dredging the river port is the single most effective activity that could be undertaken to turn around the economy of the region.
Businesses, organisations and river users are adversely affected by the silting of navigation channels in the Clarence River. The Clarence River Fishermen's Co-operative Ltd [CRFC] is the largest fishermen's co-operative in New South Wales, turning over some $25 million to $30 million and supplying 21 per cent of fresh seafood sold through the Sydney fish markets. The CRFC is a significant exporter, earning valuable export dollars and reducing imports. It has more than 200 shareholders, who in turn employ their own deckhands and crew. In addition to more than 80 full-time staff, it is estimated that more than 600 individuals and their families rely on the CRFC as their main source of income. The future viability of this industry depends on safe access to the ocean and reliable navigation channels.
A representative of the Yamba Boatharbour Marina said only last week that because no maintenance dredging works had been carried out on the lower river's boating channels most boating channels in the area had suffered considerable siltation to the point where many are now un-navigable, or at best navigable only during reasonably high tides. Recreational boating has been severely affected by the silting of boating channels. This is having a significant impact on the Yamba Boatharbour Marina and those businesses that rely upon it for their livelihood. Built in 1994, the marina was an employment base for some 40 people in 1998-99. Today there are three vacant workshops and a vacant office and the cruise boat, offshore fishing charter business and the Bare Boat charter operator have been lost to the area. The marina now provides employment for only 21 people plus two part-time workers.
The Yamba Boatharbour Marina is severely affected by the constant grounding of cruising vessels attempting to access Yamba. This difficulty of access, together with the fact that the water depth is not adequate to allow vessels to cruise the lower river's boating channels, is the major reason that many customers do not spend more time in the area. Yamba is fast gaining the reputation of being not an easy port of call for anyone other than the very experienced. Hence an increasing number of vessels, and their dollars, bypass Yamba and push on to other ports, namely Southport and Moreton Bay in Queensland. Where the existing navigation channel rounds Dart Island it is considered by many, due to its narrowness and lack of visibility, to be an area where an accident is waiting to happen. The lack of a suitable, safe access channel into Yamba is the reason the area is bypassed by most of the larger vessels plying our coast, many of which, once docked, are often opened for inspection by schoolchildren and the general public. A reopening of the channel between Hickey and Dart islands would eliminate the current dangers and, as a consequence, Yamba would be viewed as a much more desirable port of call.
The Clarence River ferry, which carries up to 180 passengers, is experiencing problems with navigation and at low tide must idle over shallow sections. The limited navigation channel is also increasing the risk of collision with other vessels, particularly travelling yachts and cruisers that do not know the area. This service is recognised by the Roads and Traffic Authority as being a public transport necessity. The increased navigation problems result in increased travelling time and increased fuel costs, which are significant over a year. The Island Trader, which ships to Lord Howe Island, is experiencing difficulties in several areas—on the main bar, in Whiting Beach Channel leads, the Yamba marina approaches and in the Dart Island channel. The water is not as deep as it was and this could lead to increased transit time and increased costs and could increase the risks of grounding and collision. The economic value of the Island Trader to the Clarence Valley is estimated to be more than $4 million annually. If the Island Trader were to move to a safer port the impact would be felt by a wide range of businesses that supply Lord Howe Island. It would also impact on local jobs and staffing.
Yamba Shipping has experienced many problems moving freight in and out of the port. Waiting for high tides causes delays and incurs time and dollar penalties. This has a negative impact on the port's ability to procure and sustain business. For example, delays caused by lack of depth for ships to move incurred a loss of $50,000 by Koppers Timber Preservation Pty Ltd for one shipment. The port has lost the ability to attract new business because of the dangerous shallow bar and the silted river. Koppers is the biggest single exporter remaining in the region and 50 per cent of its business in Grafton depends on being able to export out of Yamba. If Koppers were forced to use another port—for example, Brisbane—it would be put out of the export markets, with the consequent loss of both direct and indirect jobs. The viability of the Grafton plant would be put at severe risk.
The Coastguard records an increase in the number of vessels—20 in the 12 months to December 2002—running aground in the boating channels leading to the marina and the tavern. Safety is of concern. On one occasion a woman was injured and required medical assistance. Vessels approaching at night experience great difficulty. The port of Yamba has now become significant for the refuelling of petrol-driven vessels. Iluka is the first refuelling point south of Southport. In the past few days three vessels approached the moderately breaking bar. The crew felt it was unsafe to come into the port and opted to carry on to the next port. The Coastguard is concerned about the increased safety risks to boating users and to the lives of volunteer coastguards. Another major concern is the increased cost burden to this voluntary organisation in fuel, boat maintenance, et cetera. Recreational fishers and recreational boating users are also affected. These river users are experiencing many problems.
The Clarence River is becoming known as a difficult area to navigate, and recreational users are looking elsewhere. Recreational users have a large input into the local economy in terms of their expenditure on fuel, bait, boat maintenance, accommodation, food, restaurants, et cetera. Potential mishaps are inevitable, with collisions, groundings and the danger of loss of life a reality. Unfortunately, Yamba is not well regarded as a port to visit. Shipping companies cannot afford delays. Koppers' vessels cost in the region of $US5,000 per day to run. In relation to contributions to the local economy, the Clarence River Fishing Co-operative currently turns over $25-30 million and supports 600 individuals and their families; Yamba shipping, $300,000; Island Trader, $4 million plus; Norfolk Island and New Zealand Trade, $5 million to 10 million; and Koppers turned over $5 million to 10 million last year.
Potential economic growth after dredging of the river would include the attraction of timber boats, with each boat contributing approximately $1 million to the community. The marina could attract larger travelling cruise boats and other larger boats may use the marina as their base if access is easy and safe. Berth fees, maintenance, repair work, accessories, fuel, food, et cetera, would benefit. That would have a flow-on effect of creating more jobs at the marina. Easy and safe access on the river would increase boat-building activities and repairs for larger vessels, which, I am told, would provide a flow-on effect of providing more than 100 jobs. Tourism is becoming a significant industry in the Clarence Valley. The Clarence River is currently underutilised as a tourist attraction. Again, easy and safe access on the river would enable the area to promote this industry. This would result in increased visitations and employment for local operators starting business ventures based on the river system. Local trade would benefit from all of the industries to which I have referred. Realistically, Goodwood Island operations would double its present usage.
Dredging of the shipping channels and the development of the port of Yamba is about turning a lifestyle region which has become a welfare sinkhole into a region which can contribute to the State's economy. In the past requests to the State Government to maintain the navigation channel and improve port facilities have gone unnoticed. Losing industry and jobs in any regional community is devastating. Losing industry and jobs on the North Coast has become a regular fact of life; it is par for the course. After all, we live in a lifestyle region in a country with a generous welfare program.
Madam ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Andrews): Order! Members who want to conduct private conversations should do so outside the Chamber.
Mr BARR (Manly) [11.54 a.m.]: I will speak about the good, the bad and the ugly in this State budget. The good is the value of capital works in the pipeline for Manly, which is unprecedented for the area. The first is the widening by two lanes of the Spit Bridge. In March 2002 I put forward a proposal to the State Government. The development application is currently before the Minister for Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources and I look forward to that $35 million project being expedited. As the local member, what can I do quickly to facilitate an improvement in the transport system in our area? An alternative proposal that was a feature of the recent State election campaign was for a tunnel that would cost more than $1 billion. In my view, that would not solve the problems. The public recognised that it is better to have a tangible proposal that can be achieved than to be presented with back-of-the-envelope, pie-in-the-sky scenarios. I am pleased that this proposal has reached its present stage so quickly, and I call on the Minister to assent to the application so that the project can be commenced.
Not long ago the former Minister for Transport announced that over the next three years Sydney Buses would purchase 400 new buses, of which 155 would go to the northern beaches area. That important commitment to public transport represents $67.5 million for the northern beaches area. Manly Wharf will be upgraded at a cost of $9.6 million, of which $2 million has been allocated this financial year to improve facilities for passengers, who are presently herded like cattle behind ugly gates. Improvements are currently taking place in the retail part of the wharf and work on improving the facilities for commuters will commence next year. A bus shelter will be built on West Esplanade. That does not sound like a big deal, but it is of enormous importance for those who catch buses to Fairlight and Balgowlah in all elements, including wind and rain. Fortunately, this winter was not as arduous as previous winters. The development application has been approved and work should commence shortly.
In relation to education, the final $600,000 from a project costing more than $17 million has been allocated to the senior Freshwater High School. That is an important gesture to public education on the northern beaches, which faced the possibility not long ago of the closure of one or two high schools. However, this innovative and imaginative project will create a senior high school and a multi-campus college with feeders from various high schools in my area. This morning I attended the 102nd anniversary ceremony of the raising of the Australian flag at that school, at which time the new school flag was also flown. The students are proud of their school and facilities, which augers well for public education in my area. We must have strong, viable high school and primary school sectors, and this initiative is one of the best ways of ensuring that. Since nationhood our system of education has been geared towards allowing everyone equal access to education so they can realise their full potential. To do that we must have a well-funded public education system.
Manly West Public School has received an allocation of $180,000 on a dollar-for-dollar basis for a library, and the school community has made an enormous effort to match that funding. The new $3 million classroom block at Harbord Public School has been completed and this budget contains funding for commencement of the $2.5 million upgrade of existing classrooms. The Harbord school community is very pleased with the new wing and is now looking forward to further refurbishment. However, not all schools have fared so well. North Balgowlah Public School is in dire need of an upgrade. Problems at the school have been reported in both the metropolitan and local media.
Funding of $300,000 has been available for capital works that were to be determined by the school community, that is, the administration block. However, the department, in its wisdom, did not regard that project as the highest priority and a master plan is to be devised and capital funding made available to ensure better facilities at the school. I will canvass that matter over the next year or so. I regard it as downright ugly that TAFE fees will increase by 300 per cent. Those fees used to be called administration charges, and they differed depending on whether people undertook an advanced certificate course or a diploma course. It is a misnomer to call this fee an administration charge because the fee was the same irrespective of the course. However, despite the lack of justification, there were significant discrepancies between associate diploma courses and certificate courses.
TAFE plays a vital role in all communities. It is a wonderful institution but it has been battered by repeated structural changes over the years. The most significant change was the so-called Metherell reforms in 1988, from which TAFE has not fully recovered. Successive governments have tried to improve the efficiency of TAFE and I suggest that TAFE is now paying the price for the Government's present education reforms, such as reduced class sizes. TAFE is being unfairly targeted, and I have suggested on more than one occasion in this Chamber that if the Government is serious about reform and achieving savings, it should consider the number of TAFE institutes.
The introduction of institutes was the result of the Metherell structural changes. Initially networks were set up to make colleges more autonomous but with a loose backup network. As was predicted at the time, those networks became large bureaucracies which required significant funding. The networks have been reduced from 24 to 11 institutes instead of a single head office located in Castlereagh Street. Each institute has human resources, quality control and information technology personnel and involves significant replication. That is not cost-effective and is inefficient. For example, originally TAFE industrial relations was under the control of the director of personnel and industrial relations, who looked after the entire State, perhaps with the assistance of a head teacher, who sought a bureaucratic career path. Today we have a multiplicity of bureaucracies right across the State, and that needs to be addressed.
Morale amongst TAFE staff is low, so it is incumbent upon the Government to make the system more responsive and more efficient. Jacking up fees to this degree runs contrary to the whole notion of TAFE, that is, to provide people with an opportunity to repeat the Higher School Certificate [HSC], to allow mature-age people to complete the HSC or to enable students to undertake vocational courses so they have a career path. TAFE is a venerable institution that has served the community well over many years, and I am disappointed with the increase in TAFE fees.
I am pleased that the Government has reaffirmed its commitment to build a new Manly hospital. Recently in Parliament I asked the Minister whether the Government would honour its commitment. The Minister replied, in short, "Yes. The Government made a commitment to build a new Manly hospital at a more accessible and suitable site in the Manly-Warringah area. I am happy to reaffirm that commitment for the honourable member for Manly." That is terrific, but now we want a site determined and funding allocated. Consultation and planning has continued for more than four years but my constituents have yet to see any tangible results. I call on the Government to expedite the process. Almost $2 million has been spent upgrading facilities at the existing Manly hospital. That is necessary because, in the interim, people on the northern beaches are entitled to have appropriate services.
I have spoken about the good, the bad and the ugly. The bad is that bus and ferry fares are to rise again. It is a narrow accounting approach to suggest fare increases so that buses can pay their own way. We need to consider the externalities. The more people who use public transport the less need there is for more roads, and there is less maintenance. Therefore, in the long term, all steps must be taken to keep public transport fares as low as possible because other savings can be made, admittedly in other departments—those savings will not appear in the State Transit Authority budget. However, everyone benefits when more people travel on public transport. Realistically, we should look at other ways to compute the costs of public transport so that exhaust emissions from motor vehicles, which account for 80 per cent of Sydney's air pollution, are factored into the equation. We should focus much more on reducing air pollution levels.
The Alcohol Summit, which was held in Parliament House last week, involved issues similar to those canvassed in the Drug Summit held in May 1999. It is apparent that the level of funding needs to be increased. The Northern Area Health Service has only one detoxification unit and many areas do not have access to any detoxification units. Additional funding is needed for rehabilitation and training nursing staff so that they are better equipped to deal with problems. When patients present at hospitals or clinics they are often treated for their immediate condition, not for underlying problems that may be drug or alcohol related. The core curriculum for nurses should include more training for alcohol-related issues.
Several clinics in my area are functioning and dealing with training and rehabilitation. For all of these, the story is much the same: they need a government commitment to more funding so that they can do their work. We had the Alcohol Summit, just as we had the Drug Summit, because we recognised there are serious issues facing all of New South Wales and each and every one of our electorates. The Alcohol Summit recognised those serious problems. We have to find ways of educating, rehabilitating and detoxing people who are in need of those services, so that New South Wales can properly come to grips with this sort of issue.
I will conclude on an issue that has been around for the 4½ years that I have been a member of this Parliament, and that is Seaforth TAFE. It was closed 3½ years ago, and remains closed. Its interior is still the same as it was when its doors closed. Down the road is Brookvale TAFE, which is straining at the seams. The battle that was fought to try to save Seaforth TAFE resulted in compromises being made by those fighting for its retention, in the sense that initially both the Higher School Certificate programs and much of the art area were to be moved off the peninsula. That means there would not be access to the Higher School Certificate on the peninsula. The compromise made at the time—under pressure—was to move those programs to the Brookvale campus.
The problem is that, in the indecent rush to close Seaforth TAFE, proper planning was not carried out. There are no laboratories at the Brookvale site, whereas there are three laboratories at the Seaforth site. Art students work in very cramped conditions; accommodation is at a premium at Brookvale. I have suggested to the Minister for Police and the Minister for Education and Training that the Seaforth campus be reopened as a site co-located with Pioneer Clubhouse. Pioneer Clubhouse is an organisation that operates out of an old bowling club on Quirk Street in Balgowlah for the benefit of people with mental problems. It is a unique model. The clubhouse is a place where people can go to talk with one another. It is not a clinic. It is more about these people gaining confidence and being able to go out and find employment. If a person who is employed at the clubhouse is ill someone else from the clubhouse will replace that person for the day.
Therefore the employers know that workers will be present every day. This is a very valuable local community resource. The clubhouse faces eviction from its current council depot site, which is to be redeveloped. I have suggested that Pioneer Clubhouse be co-located as an annex of Brookvale TAFE or, alternatively, as a community college. I have also put proposals to the Ministers concerning the possibility of a language school. My first priority, though, would be that it remain in public education hands. Certainly, it should remain as an educational facility. That is what the community wants. Given the demographics of the area, that is how it should remain. The latest census, that for 2002, shows a significant increase in the number of children aged zero to 15 years. These children and young adults will need school and TAFE facilities. In no circumstance should Seaforth TAFE be sold off for a quick money gain when it should become part of a vital TAFE or other education system.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Gaudry.