Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012



About this Item
SpeakersSage Mrs Roza; Amery Mr Richard; Hazzard Mr Brad; Acting-Speaker (Ms Sonia Hornery); Mihailuk Ms Tania; Issa Mr Tony; Zangari Mr Guy; Gibbons Ms Melanie; Barr Mr Clayton; Bassett Mr Bart; Bromhead Mr Stephen; Owen Mr Tim; Moore Ms Clover; Maguire Mr Daryl; Davies Mrs Tanya; Parker Mr Jamie; Acting-Speaker (Mr Gareth Ward); Patterson Mr Chris; Barilaro Mr John; Coure Mr Mark; Rees Mr Nathan; Acting-Speaker (Mr Lee Evans); Williams Mr John
BusinessBill, Bill Introduced, Second Reading, Motion, Agreement in Principle



SYDNEY WATER CATCHMENT MANAGEMENT AMENDMENT (BOARD MEMBERS) BILL 2012
Page: 10932
    Second Reading
      Debate resumed from 4 April 2012.

      Mrs ROZA SAGE (Blue Mountains) [10.11 a.m.]: I am pleased to note a requirement of the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012 that the board must include members with qualifications and experience relevant to catchment management and protection. This will ensure that board members have the proper skills to manage the catchment and protect the valuable environmental assets within national parks within the greater Blue Mountains, including the Blue Mountains National Park, Kanangra-Boyd National Park and Nattai National Park. I am pleased also that the bill will require board members to have practical knowledge of, and experience in, local government and planning in the catchment area. Because of a range of unique factors in my electorate, development in the Blue Mountains area is very carefully monitored and controlled, given its location within Sydney's drinking water catchment, the proximity of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage National Park and the risk of bushfire in some areas.
        These factors make it essential that organisations such as the Sydney Catchment Authority have a good understanding of the local government and planning process to ensure that regulation remains efficient, effective and workable. In order to protect our drinking water catchments the authority has a range of regulatory functions, including managing access to inner catchment special areas and working with councils to ensure that developments and activities demonstrate a neutral or beneficial effect on water quality. Since its inception, the authority has delivered, under the guidance of its board, high-quality raw water to its principal customers: Sydney Water, Wingecarribee Shire Council and Shoalhaven City Council. Sydney Water takes very seriously its responsibility of ensuring optimal drinking water and undertakes stringent environmental investigations when initiating projects. During its time the board has guided the authority's policies and long-term strategic plans, and worked to ensure that the authority meets its public health and environmental requirements. The board also has overseen the effective, efficient and economical management of the authority.
          The authority regularly works in partnership with local councils and landowners in order to achieve its objectives. For example, the authority has worked with local councils to develop systems that would assist councils to assess the water quality impacts of developments in order to determine whether the developments meet the neutral or beneficial effects test. Most importantly, the authority has met its water quality and quantity objectives while at the same time maintaining an enviable occupational health and safety record. In addition, the authority has maintained highly effective incident response and emergency systems that are used in the event of bushfires, floods, algal bloom outbreaks and other incidents. As well, the authority has expanded its knowledge about catchment management and the risks posed by pollutants through science, modelling, mapping and other tools.

          The authority has undertaken organisational realignments to ensure efficient delivery of its core responsibilities now and into the future. The changes proposed in this bill will further improve the authority's governance and, therefore, assist it to continue to achieve its statutory objectives and allow it to further improve the management of the catchment. The bill will allow for merit selection of board members to ensure that eligible members of the community will have equal opportunity for selection. It is only fair and reasonable that the best people with the best skills are appointed to afford the best possible stewardship of the Sydney Catchment Authority. That is why I am amazed that the Opposition would not even think that merit selection has some positive effect on the board. However, "merit" was not in the dictionary of the previous, Labor Government, with its many across-the-board appointments.

          A broader selection process will provide the Minister with a wider choice from which to select the best possible candidate for the job. I am further amazed that merit selection for such an important board is not part of current procedure for appointments of members. The Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill provides for a sensible, commonsense approach to appointing board members. It allows for merit selection to a board that oversees one of New South Wales's most valuable assets—its water supply. The bill allows for representation across the full spectrum of stakeholders. This will ensure that the authority has a quality board with a skill set encompassing all requirement areas, and that can only be good for the people of Sydney and its surrounds. This procedure is long overdue. I commend the bill to the House.

          Mr RICHARD AMERY (Mount Druitt) [10.17 a.m.]: The Opposition opposes the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012. The member for Marrickville and the member for Keira already have outlined some reasons for that opposition. Members of the Opposition are consistent in their approach to this bill. Simply stated, the bill's objective is to amend the Sydney Water Catchment Management Act 1998 to change the constitution of the Sydney Catchment Authority Board. Everything the member for Blue Mountains said about merit selection and appointing the best people to the board may happen, but the bill contains no provisions to ensure that that will happen. Although the bill comprises but a few pages, like so many of these types of bills introduced by the Government it will have a major impact on the community for which the Sydney Catchment Authority was established to serve.

          The bill will establish a Sydney Catchment Authority Board comprising a chief executive officer and not fewer than four and not more than eight board members. Consequently, at any one time the Sydney Catchment Authority Board could meet with as few as five board members in attendance, they being the chief executive officer and four representatives appointed by the Minister, or as many as nine board members in attendance—a more substantial representation. The member for Blue Mountains and other Government members talked about merit selection. The bill refers to qualifications, but members should be aware of the one consistent component of appointment to the board—members appointed by the Minister must be persons who, in the opinion of the Minister, each or together possess those qualifications.
              It should not be suggested that this is anything different from what has been in place previously in various forms. The Minister has the final say, and I am not saying there is anything wrong with that. Any suggestion that this legislation puts in place an independent merit structure result is confined to the speech notes given to Government members. Although the bill contains only a few lines, I have some questions about them that I hope the Minister will answer in her reply to the debate. Paragraph (a) to (g) of proposed section 7 (3) as set out in item [1] of schedule 1 provide a number of qualifications and criteria that the Minister must take into account before a person is appointed to the board. For example, paragraph (a) provides for "qualifications and experience relevant to catchment management and protection".
              My question is: What does the Government mean by "qualifications"? For example, does a person need to have a university degree and expertise in a particular field before they qualify for appointment? Can a person who has worked in a government agency or private industry for decades and has experience not be appointed? What does the Government mean by the word "qualifications"? Paragraph (b) provides for "qualifications and experience relevant to water quality and public health". Qualifications relevant to water quality and public health are important, and I have no objection to that provision. That sort of technical and scientific expertise is necessary, and someone with that expertise would be welcome on the board. Paragraph (c) provides for "qualifications and experience relevant to running a commercial entity".

          Does that mean that only business people in the Sydney catchment with a university degree or other education qualification can be appointed to the board? Does the provision exclude from appointment a person who may have been running a successful business in the catchment for decades? Does the clause prevent a business person who does not have a university qualification from being appointed to the board? That seems to be the suggestion. Perhaps the bill should provide for "qualifications and/or experience in the running of a commercial entity". That would be a much more appropriate way to deal with the situation.
              Paragraph (d) provides for "qualifications and experience relevant to water supply planning and asset management". That provision does not cause any major problems. However, I have a problem with paragraph (e), which provides for "practical knowledge of, and experience in, agriculture and industry in the catchment area". I note that the word "qualifications" is not included in that paragraph. So a business person must have a degree or qualification. We will look at the definitions before we work out what that means. In terms of farming issues, a person with industry or farming experience, but no qualifications in that field, can be appointed to the board.

          I would like the Minister to answer my questions or at least flag that, when the regulations are drafted, the terms "qualifications" and "experience" will be more clearly defined. I know that some aspects of the bill lend themselves to explaining that. Previous speakers have mentioned what is excluded from the bill. This bill provides for the replacement of the current Sydney Catchment Authority Board. The member for Blue Mountains said the selection of board members was not based on merit because of many negative aspects presided over by the former Government. However, she also referred to the positive relationship she had with the current board. There seems to be an inconsistency between her experiences and the speech notes that have been provided to her.

          The Opposition has a couple of issues with the process for selection of board members. Currently, the board of the Sydney Catchment Authority includes a nominee of the Nature Conservation Council, the Farmers Association and a councillor from a local government area. Those persons or organisations are excluded from this bill. Why is that the case? The Opposition believes that a sinister motive is involved. If there is no sinister motive, the Government could have included them as nominees and still meet the other qualifications. What does it matter that the board has 8, 10 or 11 members? [Extension of time agreed to.]

          The issue relating to the New South Wales Farmers Association warrants some scrutiny. The association does not have a long history of supporting the Labor Party. Its members are spread throughout New South Wales and cover every facet of farming and primary production, including environmental management, water management and so on. The association is a peak body when it comes to dealing with governments, industry and farmer organisations. What is wrong with the Farmers Association nominating a representative who may fit the criteria in the bill?

          Ms Melanie Gibbons: That can still happen.

          Mr RICHARD AMERY: The member for Menai said that that can happen. Of course it can happen but it will not necessarily happen. Is there a provision in the bill that stops the Minister from appointing a primary producer in the catchment who may be sympathetic to the Government line on environmental and catchment management issues but who does not necessarily represent all the farming and primary production interests within the catchment? Farmers and primary producers in the Hawkesbury-Nepean district will be interested to know who is representing them. As I said, the Farmers Association is not affiliated to the Labor Party and it will nominate a person who it considers represents all the farming and primary production industries in the catchment.

          Why should farmers have a representative on the board? I point out that the Sydney catchment is still a large farming and primary production area of New South Wales. Indeed, in years gone by estimates of annual primary production in the Sydney catchment have totalled up to $1 billion, depending on seasonal issues and various industries. In recent times dairy farmers have moved out of the catchment but the Hawkesbury-Nepean area—members representing the Hawkesbury would be aware of this—has been protected. Primary production in the area is protected by large tracts of flood prone lands in that part of the State, as well as in south-western Sydney. As a result we will always have primary production in the catchment.

          There is nothing wrong with allowing the Farmers Association, the peak body representing primary producers, to nominate its representative on the catchment board. The Farmers Association has had difficulties with governments in the past. Certainly, when I was the Minister for Agriculture the association was strident in putting its views, some of which may have been inconsistent with those of the Government. However, I respected the association's views and the fact that it be represented on various catchment boards throughout New South Wales. The association's record of contribution on various authorities, committees and boards in the State makes it worthy of inclusion in this bill as the peak body representing primary producers on the board.

          Another organisation excluded from membership is the Nature Conservation Council. Stating the obvious, the Nature Conservation Council is a peak environmental group. It nominates people to various catchment management and native vegetation boards throughout the State. It is recognised by all sides of politics as an organisation that represents the environmental movement. In the past the council has had difficulties with both sides of politics. It has made ambit claims on issues such as environmental flows and farming management, and its representatives have come into conflict with Farmers Association representatives on many boards. Disputes and disagreements between board members is healthy and promotes appropriate outcomes from bodies such as the Sydney Catchment Authority.

          To exclude them comes down to what we believe is the motive of this Government. It is easy for the Minister to appoint to this board a person who professes to have some history in the environmental movement and a view consistent with the Government on issues such as environmental flows, development of farming communities, development of residential areas adjacent to various farming activities and so on. The Government would appoint such a person with no merit involved in the selection. I believe it is in the community's interests—and it is critical to the balance required on the board—to appoint somebody who forcefully advocates the environmental argument. However, I do not agree with some of those views. Yesterday the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Infrastructure NSW referred in this House to striking a balance, which for this Government is either doing nothing or doing very little as is the case on this occasion. There will be no cross-interest outcomes from this organisation.

          The catchment management board, which is not exclusively a commercial entity, must make some commercial decisions. Yesterday the member for Parramatta referred in his speech to the commercial aspects of the Sydney Catchment Authority Board and said that basically it was a commercial entity. He was proud of the fact—I made a note of his comment—that the Sydney Catchment Authority Board had reduced staff by 17 per cent. Sometimes a reduction in staff is necessary but I never thought a member in this place would brag about such a reduction as being a worthwhile achievement. That is another area about which members should express concern.

          My final concern relates to the exclusion of local government members. I have never worked in local government but it represents across-the-board planning and environmental and water management issues. I cannot understand why members of the Local Government Association or members of local government will not be appointed to this board. If the Government were honest about what it was trying to do it would include all the provisions in this bill and ensure that some representative appointments were not excluded. We all know that this bill is about getting rid of dissent. As the member for Keira pointed out yesterday, this bill should be rejected. The Opposition opposes the bill.

          Mr BRAD HAZZARD (Wakehurst—Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Infrastructure NSW) [10.32 a.m.]: It is a pleasure to speak in support of the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012. I listened with interest to the contribution of the member for Mount Druitt which was mired in the usual conspiracy theory that the Government does not have the best interests of the community at heart. I think the member is mixing up this Government with the former Labor Government, of which he was a part.

          Mr Richard Amery: We flushed you out.

          Mr BRAD HAZZARD: Time and again the former Labor Government failed to consider what was in the best interests of the community and more often than not it considered what was in the interests of the Labor Party. Nothing is more important than the provision of safe and clean water. The Sydney Water Catchment Management Act 1998 was established to negate some of the problems that occurred under previous management structures. Most members would recollect that from time to time there have been problems in Sydney. For example, I recollect the concern expressed by the community when there were issues relating to giardia and cryptosporidium in the Sydney water supply. This legislation highlights the legislative structure that is in place and it reflects the need to have people on the Sydney Catchment Authority Board who have appropriate expertise to deal with any issues that emerge when managing a water supply for a population of approximately four million.

          The member for Mount Druitt said that the Government was excluding certain groups. The Government is not excluding certain groups; it is simply stating that the people on this board must have expertise in a number of areas in order to ensure that our water supply is safe. It may well be that people who are working for the Nature Conservation Council, a local government authority, or the NSW Farmers Association have the expertise to make a substantive contribution to the Sydney Catchment Authority Board. Various advocacy groups, which generally do a good job on behalf of their members and the broader community, are simply categorising representative groups from various boards and authorities, which often is not appropriate. I applaud the proposal by the New South Wales Government to focus on the expertise of those who are appointed to such boards rather than on the organisations to which they have been elected or by which they have been employed. That would generate a much more sensible outcome for the community. This Government is not embarking on a conspiracy theory as suggested by the member for Mount Druitt. That is not part of this Government's agenda.

          Mr Richard Amery: I have reasonable cause to suspect.

          Mr BRAD HAZZARD: Taking into account the background of the member for Mount Druitt, I can understand his cynicism.

          Mr Tim Owen: Once a copper always a copper.

          Mr BRAD HAZZARD: Exactly. The member for Mount Druitt has a propensity for assuming that everyone in this place is guilty.

          Mr Richard Amery: Only the Liberal members.

          Mrs Jillian Skinner: That is an unbiased point of view.

          Mr BRAD HAZZARD: That is an unbiased point of view.

          Mr Richard Amery: Thank God for The Nationals.

          ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery): Order! Members will come to order and the member for Mount Druitt will cease interjecting.

          Mr BRAD HAZZARD: It may be a light-hearted observation from my colleagues but I think the member for Mount Druitt, decent human being that he is, has formulated views from past experiences when he was a member of a Labor government for 16 years. This legislation aims to afford the Minister an opportunity to do what Ministers should do—that is, put people with the greatest level of expertise on a board that will advise us on how to achieve a safe and healthy water supply for four million Sydneysiders. Contrary to what the member for Mount Druitt said, this legislation does not exclude various parties.

          Mr Richard Amery: They are just not there.

          Mr BRAD HAZZARD: By the sound of it, the member is not there. As I was saying before I was interrupted, this legislation will give the Minister an opportunity to put people with expertise on the board. The fact that somebody comes from the NSW Farmers Association does not mean that he or she would necessarily have the necessary expertise to deal with the sorts of issues that one would have to deal with in the provision of safe and clean water. Such a person might have expertise in general agricultural issues but not necessarily the expertise required for water—a highly technical science. The same issue obviously applies to the other two groups to which we have referred. I say to them and more broadly to the community that the Government's intention is not to exclude anybody. In fact those bodies may still find themselves with representatives on the board if they have people with the expertise and a scientific background in the issues surrounding water. I recall another cynical outburst from the member for Mount Druitt.

          Dr Geoff Lee: Shameful.

          Mr BRAD HAZZARD: It was a shameful outburst. The member for Mount Druitt referred to striking a balance and said that this Government was doing nothing or doing very little. I think he was confused as that is what occurred under the former Labor Government. The former Labor Government did very little or nothing unless it was in its interests. It was a pleasure for me to speak in this second reading debate—something that I have been unable to do for the past six years. I thank the House for enabling members once again to speak in second reading debates rather than the horrendous agreement in principle debates to which we have been subjected.

          Mr Richard Amery: I agree with that bit.

          Mr BRAD HAZZARD: The member for Mount Druitt agrees with me for which I thank him.

          Ms TANIA MIHAILUK (Bankstown) [10.41 a.m.]: I join my colleagues the members representing the electorates of Marrickville, Mount Druitt, Keira and Cabramatta in opposing the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012.

          Mr Tony Issa: An overrated bill.

          Ms TANIA MIHAILUK: It is pretty easy to read. The bill is quite short and easy to read, even for the member for Granville. This bill is the latest evidence of the O'Farrell Government's complete disregard for the environment and proper governance. The Government has set itself the task of dismantling piece by piece the environmental protections established by the previous Government. The bill aims to remove community representatives from the board of the Sydney Catchment Authority. Presently, the board must include a nominee of the Nature Conservation Council, the NSW Farmers Association and a councillor from a local government area within the catchment. The Government believes that these specifications are too restrictive and it would prefer to have more say in the appointment of board members. In her second reading speech the Minister said that the present specification "does not allow for representation across the full spectrum of stakeholders". I refer the Minister to the Sydney Water Catchment Management Act 1998, the principal Act, which her bill aims to amend. Part 2, section 7 states that the board is to consist of:
              (a1) the Chief Executive, and

              (b) not fewer than 4 and not more than 8 members appointed by the Minister:
                  (i) one of whom is to be a nominee of the NSW Farmers' Association, and

                  (ii) one of whom is to be a nominee of the Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales, and

                  (iii) one of whom is to be a person (selected by the Minister) who is an elected councillor of a local government area within the catchment area
          If the Minister reads the Act it will become abundantly clear to her that she has complete discretion to appoint up to five out of eight board members in addition to the chief executive. The only further requirement placed upon the Minister is:
              The persons appointed by the Minister must each or together have expertise in the areas of protection of the environment and public health, and such other expertise as the Minister considers necessary.
          ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery): Order! There is too much audible conversation from Government members.

          Ms TANIA MIHAILUK: They do not like hearing the truth. The existing Act provides considerable discretion to the Minister. The only logical explanation for this bill is that the Minister intends to remove the representatives of the Conservation Council, the NSW Farmers Association or the local government area. I refer members of this House to the current board of the Sydney Water Catchment Authority as it appears on its website. The board comprises Mr Robert Rollinson, a businessman with over 40 years of experience.

          ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery): Order! The member for Oatley has interrupted twice. I do not want there to be a third time.

          Ms TANIA MIHAILUK: Mr Rollinson has held chief and senior executive positions in companies throughout Australia and overseas, including the Macquarie Group, Chase Manhattan Bank and Pacific Power. He holds an honours degree in engineering, a Master of Engineering Science and is a Fellow of the Institute of Engineers Australia. Mr John Asquith is the Nature Conservation Council nominee. He has a Bachelor of Engineering and Master of Arts degree. He is also Chairman of the Community Environment Network and a member of the Hunter-Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority Board and the Hunter National Parks and Wildlife Service Advisory Committee. He was previously a trustee of the New South Wales Environmental Trust and a member of the New South Wales Bushfire Coordinating Committee. He is another individual with tremendous experience.

          Dr Stephen Corbett is the Director of the Centre of Population Health, Sydney West Area Health Service. He has worked for the Sydney West Area Health Service since 2003 and was previously the Director of the Environment Branch of NSW Health. Mr Larry Whipper is the Deputy Mayor of Wingecarribee Shire Council, where he is serving his third term as a councillor. As such he is the local government representative on the Sydney Catchment Authority Board. Mr Whipper has a long history of advocating for environmental causes. Kenneth Wheelwright is the NSW Farmers Association nominee. He has a Bachelor of Rural Science degree from the University of New England, a Bachelor of Business degree from Charles Sturt University and has received training in holistic management. He is a farmer and manages a grazing property on the Wollondilly River.

          Those five members make up the Sydney Catchment Authority Board, appear to have tremendous experience and would make a great contribution to the authority. In layman's terms, the board includes a businessman, a farmer, an activist, a medical doctor and a local politician. Between them these board members have a variety of qualifications as is to be expected for such an important body. Members of this place can see that these board members have experience in conservation and environment issues. Furthermore, the Government fails to mention that under the existing Act the Minister has the discretion to appoint another three to four members to add to the existing board. If the Minister truly felt that the board required additional representation or had to accommodate some Liberal mates, she has the opportunity to do so. This bill embodies the kind of dirty politics that the O'Farrell Government does best.

          ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery): Order! Government members will remain silent.

          Ms TANIA MIHAILUK: The only explanation for this bill is that the Government feels that there are too many pro-conservation and pro-environment members on the board and it aims to remove them. I condemn the Minister for bringing this bill to the House and I oppose the bill.

          Mr TONY ISSA (Granville) [10.47 a.m.]: I support this reform, the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012, because this Government is about reform and providing people with opportunities. I take on board what the member for Bankstown said earlier. On behalf of the Government I thank the people who have been on the board and who over many years have contributed to the catchment. As the Leader of the House stated, nothing will stop these people from applying to be on the board if they are qualified—and I believe they do have some qualifications—but this bill leaves the door open for other people to bring new ideas and expertise to the new board. I do not think there is anything wrong with that. My only concern is that Opposition members do not seem to understand the consequences of the bill.

          Mr Guy Zangari: Do you?

          ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery): Order! Opposition members will remain silent.

          Mr TONY ISSA: We do because we drafted the bill; Opposition members do not. We should help Opposition members to understand the consequences of this bill. The bill does not exclude anybody; everyone is entitled to reapply to be a member of the board but there is an opportunity for people to bring in new ideas. The opportunity to supply fresh and clean water at a reasonable price is vital to the residents of Sydney, including the residents of my electorate of Granville.

          Dr Geoff Lee: A good electorate too.

          Mr TONY ISSA: It is. Today we are talking about water quality and also about price. The Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012 strengthens the governance and management arrangements of the Sydney Catchment Authority. In order to maintain such a high-quality water supply, and help keep water prices down for customers in Sydney, the board must have the right skills, experience and expertise. This bill introduces the requirement that the board include qualifications and experience relevant to running a commercial entity. This will help to ensure that the Sydney Catchment Authority is run efficiently, manages its risks properly, and provides the best possible service to its customers. This will help the board plan for the future and make sure it is well placed to adapt to changes in the future.

          Another requirement is that the board include qualifications and experience relevant to water supply planning and asset management, as well as qualifications and experience relevant to water quality and public health, and with knowledge and experience in local government planning in the catchment area. The bill does not seek to exclude anyone from local government, or farmers or industry. It does not say that. The Sydney Catchment Authority manages assets worth around $1.3 billion. It is extremely important that those assets are managed effectively, and therefore the board should have the necessary qualifications and experience to enable it to do so. Managing a water supply network for more than four million people requires significant forward planning and capital works. Qualifications and experience relevant to water supply planning will ensure that this is undertaken responsibly: if works are needed, they will be done; if they are not needed, they will not be undertaken unnecessarily.

          This mix of skills will help to ensure that Sydney maintains a high-quality, secure and clean water supply. It will ensure also that water is delivered cost effectively, and will help to keep down household bills. Yesterday the member for Cabramatta spoke about a celebration that took place at Warragamba Dam; a thousand people went to the dam to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of that facility. He did not speak about the content of the bill and the benefits that this bill will bring to the board of the Sydney Water Catchment Authority. I think the member does not understand the bill and has lost contact with the community in his area. A member spoke about the lack of representation of local government on the board. Because I have been in local government for 25 years, it does not mean that I am qualified to do a heart transplant at the Westmead Hospital because that is within my electorate and my local government area. Not every person working in local government has the qualifications required to be on the Sydney Water Catchment Authority.

          This bill will give people with varying qualifications and experience an opportunity to serve on the board which will bring the new blood and fresh ideas that are necessary to move this State forward. That is what this bill is about. We do not want to live in the shadows of the past; we must move out of the dark, come back to the light, and provide something good for the community. For those reasons, I have great pleasure in supporting the bill. I am pleased to be recorded in Hansard as supporting the bill, because the people of New South Wales will be able to look back in years to come at what the Government delivered for the people of this State. They will see that the Coalition Government did the right thing by the people of New South Wales, while the Opposition continues to be negative and condemns all the good work that this Government is doing. I commend the bill to the House.

          Mr GUY ZANGARI (Fairfield) [10.54 a.m.]: Let us return to normality in this debate, following the verbiage from the member for Granville. This morning I speak in debate on the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012. I note that the bill seeks to alter the process by which the members of the board of the Sydney Water Catchment Authority are selected, and provides for the cumulative material background and experiences that should be represented on the board. I have grave concerns about the direction and the new make-up of the board of the Sydney Water Catchment Authority. This amendment, on paper, is deceptively simple. The crux of the instrument is found in item [1] of the schedule to the bill which seeks to replace section 7 of the Sydney Water Catchment Management Act 1991.

          Subsection (3) of new section 7 introduces a series of professional backgrounds and skills that are to govern the selection process when determining the make-up of the Sydney Catchment Authority Board. Subsection (3) (a) calls for appointees with qualifications and experience relevant to catchment management and protection; subsection (3) (b) calls for appointees with qualifications and experience relevant to water quality and public health; subsection (3) (c) calls for appointees with qualifications and experience relevant to running a commercial entity; subsection (3) (d) calls for appointees with qualifications and experience relevant to water supply planning and asset management; subsection (3) (e) calls for appointees with practical knowledge of, and experience in, agriculture and industry in the catchment area; and subsection (3) (f) calls for appointees with practical knowledge of, and experience in, local government and planning in the catchment area. As currently stipulated, the amendments seek to create a board which cumulatively embodies that professional experience and those skill sets.

          This amendment provides the Minister with more flexibility in selecting the members of the board, however that is at the expense of a series of important safeguards that are reflected in the current provisions that this bill seeks to amend. Firstly, the current provisions have greater safeguards in place to ensure that environmental concerns are given due consideration. The current provisions reserve a seat on the board for a nominee from the Nature Conservation Council. This is an important consideration as the local environment in and around the catchment authority will have a direct effect on the quality of our drinking water. Almost all living organisms need water to survive. Our society, even at its most basic level, cannot function without water. We need water to feed our plants and animals; it provides the elementary building blocks of our food chain. As such the quality of our water is paramount for the day-to-day survival of individuals and our community. Playing down the significance of environmental considerations, as this instrument does, not only removes the intended safeguards that the original provisions create, but more importantly will put at risk the quality of our drinking water.

          What is evident is the importance of commercial imperatives that this amendment seeks to place in the board of the water catchment authority. Whilst I recognise the need for the Government to ensure that the board continues to provide sustainable services to the community, treating Sydney's water supply as just another commercial utility will only pave the way for the degradation of the quality of our drinking water. Further, the removal of guaranteed representations from important stakeholder groups such as the NSW Farmers Association and a local council from within the catchment area I fear would politicise the catchment authority. These groups have a vested interest in the way the catchment authority is managed. Removing their input to the important planning stages and implementation of procedures and policies that govern how Sydney's water supply is collected, stored and distributed could have an adverse affect on farmers and local residents. The amendments proposed in this legislation place at risk the quality of our drinking water. I urge the Minister to reconsider removing safeguards that were put in place to ensure important considerations such as environmental concerns are not removed. I oppose the bill.

          Ms MELANIE GIBBONS (Menai) [10.59 a.m.]: I support the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012. Water is our most precious resource. The long-term viability of catchment areas and the efficient and informed governing of the Sydney Catchment Authority are vital for residents of our largest metropolitan centre so that we have access to clean water, sourced in the most cost-efficient and environmentally friendly way. In any successful business or enterprise those appointed to run it must have the relevant expertise and experience for it to be successful and financially responsible and to deliver the expectations of the community. Under the current legislation, those appointed to the board of the Sydney Catchment Authority must be nominees from the NSW Farmers Association, the Nature Conservation Council of NSW and a local council. Those serving on the Sydney Catchment Authority require a comprehensive skills set and an appropriate level of experience in order for the authority to fulfil its obligations to the residents of metropolitan Sydney and ensure the quality and density of the water supply into the future.

          The bill will change the current legislation to allow eligible members of the community equal opportunity to apply for placement on the Sydney Water Catchment Authority board. This great nation is known for its ever-changing environmental conditions—"droughts and flooding rains" as Dorothea Mackellar would have it. The long-term management of the water catchment in Sydney throughout these varying conditions is vital for the continuation of agriculture and industry, particularly in times of long-term drought. An ever-changing climate and a rapidly growing population are also important considerations of the water catchment authority, and these considerations must be met with a board selected on the basis of its combined expertise, relevant qualifications and specialised skills set.

          The current legislation may not allow for the appointment of the best possible recruits, whose expertise would help the Sydney Catchment Authority to reach its major objectives and address these important considerations in a timely and cost-effective manner. This occurs simply because the pool from which the Government can select them is rigidly defined and particularly limited. The authority manages five primary catchment areas with a current capacity of 2.5 million megalitres of water. Within these catchment areas are 21 storage dams, including Warragamba, which is the main source of drinking water supply for metropolitan Sydney and one of the largest domestic dams in the world. Why should not those managing the containment of so much of this precious resource be the most qualified for the position on the basis of their skills set and expertise?

          Under the new legislation, the principal objectives of the Sydney Catchment Authority remain the same: to ensure water quality for public health and safety; to promote sustainable development and protect the environment; and to manage the catchment infrastructure with economic and efficient commercial principals. The board is responsible for the implementation of policies to ensure that these principal objectives are met. The positions will be advertised publicly and applications made available to all who seek to submit. What better way to ensure the long-term viability of our most precious resource than to recruit members of the community who have experience and qualifications in the appropriate fields?

          The board will consist of a chief executive officer and between four and eight members appointed by the Minister based on merit. While an individual member of the board may not demonstrate all of the selection criteria, the sum of all members will represent a well-rounded and diverse range of experience and expertise. The board will represent those who individually or collectively share qualifications and experience relevant to catchment management and protection, water quality and public health, water supply planning, running a commercial entity, asset management, agriculture and industry, particularly relating to the catchment area, local government and planning and other expertise the Minister considers necessary in the implementation of the objectives of the authority.
            The bill does not preclude members from the NSW Farmers Association, the Nature Conservation Council or a local councillor from applying for membership of the board. That suggestion has been raised but the bill does not preclude those people from applying. On the contrary, this bill simply puts in place the principles of merit-based selection and equal opportunity. Should a member of one of the previously mentioned associations be the best person for the job according to their skill set, expertise and experience, they will be appointed accordingly. This legislation will bring the Sydney Catchment Authority into line with other State- and Federal-owned corporations, such as Sydney Water, which already selects its board on the basis of members' skills sets and expertise and not on the notion of association or council membership.
              In order for the catchment authority to fulfil its short- and long-term objectives, the selection criteria for board members must be broadened to give the best possible outcome for the future of water catchment and management in New South Wales. The amendment to the Sydney Water Catchment Management Act aims to do just that. It is important that we do not forget the reasons for the existence of the Sydney Catchment Authority. In 1998 the vast majority of residents in the Sydney catchment area were affected when dangerous pathogens were discovered in the water supply. Giardia and cryptosporidium were discovered in routine testing of the supply and it was assumed that these pathogens originated from Warragamba Dam. This discovery led to the issuing of several health warnings and to media reports in which residents were warned to avoid consuming water directly from the tap and instead boil their water before consumption.
                Widespread public confusion severely affected the faith of the community in the quality of the drinking water being provided to them. This lack of confidence in a major State Government service provider was to be overcome with the implementation of the Sydney Catchment Authority and new regulations to ensure the safety and long-term management of the supply. This experience has taught us to address the water management cycle in a holistic manner. We now appreciate and consider the impact of development on water quality, the planning of catchment placements to ensure the protection and security of our water supply, and the human impacts on the catchments. The catchment authority has been and will continue to be the authority on which we rely to ensure this holistic approach remains.
                  In the changing environment in which we live the authority must focus on the competing demands on the catchment, including urban development, water quality and even coal seam gas and mining exploration. The skills required to address these demands and lead this organisation have evolved considerably from when the authority was established in the late 1990s as a response to the contamination. While the original philosophy behind the authority's creation remains the same today, the demands on its resources are continually evolving. It therefore follows that the skills sets of those who form the culture and lead the organisation also must be flexible, resourced and well experienced in all facets of the water cycle. Water is a priceless resource. Our community demands that we maintain our focus on this resource. This legislation is an important piece of reform for the future of this priceless resource in New South Wales. I congratulate the Minister and commend the bill to the House.

                  Mr CLAYTON BARR (Cessnock) [11.07 a.m.]: I oppose the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012 but I welcome its appearance in the House because it reveals something about the nature of this Coalition Government that currently reigns over New South Wales and the deliberately deceitful way in which it goes about its business. The NSW Plan 2021, which is designed to underpin the decision-making and legislation brought into this House by the Government, speaks frequently about transparency, openness, community consultation, access to the public and other similar objectives. That is great; they are terrific concepts and phrases and ones we should all aspire to regardless of which side of politics we represent. Unfortunately, the Government trots out those words in public but comes in here and in the quiet of this Chamber and away from the public gaze does something completely opposite: it introduces legislation to make sure it removes transparency and public access from the process.
                    The Sydney Water Catchment Management Act 1998, which is currently in force, prescribes who can or cannot be on the board of the authority. However, it also provides that certain persons are to be appointed to the board—people with backgrounds of particular expertise and holding community positions. People who were engaged in what was happening in their communities were to be on the board. Today we are debating a bill that prescribes who is to be on the board. In essence, we are debating the same issue, except that two or three positions prescribed by the Act to be on this board of up to eight members are being removed under this bill. This bill is not about giving the Minister opportunity and scope because the Act already provides for that. This bill is not about making sure members of the board have the necessary expertise because the Act already provides for that. This bill is only about removing those bodies from the management board. That is all it is about.

                    I refer to the commitment of transparency and openness in the NSW Plan 2021 and put to the House that this bill is anything but transparent and open. This bill is all about deceit and removing people from this management group who should be a part of it. It is important to have board members with on-the-ground experience and genuine common sense in amongst members with expertise. Let us face it, sometimes experts do not have a great grasp on community needs. Experts know a lot more than I do about a whole range of matters but what I am really good at, as are all members of this House, is dealing with people. We specialise and are experts in dealing with people.

                    I will give an example. In the recently released Upper Hunter Strategic Regional Land Use Plan the experts, the people with expertise, included Putty. I welcome the presence in the Chamber of the Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality and Racing and member for Upper Hunter because he can testify that the water around Putty does not go into the Hunter catchment; it goes into the Sydney catchment. Putty is the only community included in the Upper Hunter Strategic Regional Land Use Plan whose water flows to Sydney, not to the Hunter. The experts deemed to include Putty as part of that strategy. If a community representative with on-the-ground common sense and real life experiences in relation to Putty were on the board that matter would have been discovered earlier. A community meeting was held in the Upper Hunter, attended by the Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality and Racing and other Ministers and the people of Putty explained to the meeting the failings of the strategic land use plan.

                    The aim of this bill is to remove and exclude certain persons, in particular, farmers. I believe that many farmers meet the requirements set out in new section 7 (3) (a) to (g), and those opposite have said that they can apply to be members of the board. However, new section 9 (4) states that the Minister "may" advertise publicly for appointments—but also she may not. By default new section 9 (4), which uses the word "may", highlights that people who are not asked, invited or selected to participate may not have an opportunity to apply. Members opposite spoke about a range of different committees, groups and boards that have brought together certain persons for the purpose of decision-making and they talked in glowing terms about the selection and appointment of such persons. They said that this legislation provides greater opportunity for people to be selected and appointed, even though the Minister "may" publicly advertise, if she deems fit.

                    This legislation specifically relates to who will or will not be a member of the board. It is not about acquiring greater expertise because that is already available in the legislation. The legislation as it stands gives the Minister full scope to appoint members with expertise to the board. Currently, the board comprises four to eight members, three of whom are prescribed, leaving five positions. I am not an expert in a lot of things but I can do maths up to the number eight, maybe not beyond. According to the legislation as it stands, three of the positions are prescribed and five positions are available for people with expertise to be appointed by the Minister.

                    Mr Stuart Ayres: Hand signals are not recorded in Hansard.

                    Mr CLAYTON BARR: I can think of one. The bill before the House is all about removing people from the board, despite what members opposite say.

                    Mr George Souris: He should not have said that, his words get recorded.

                    Mr CLAYTON BARR: As do mine—I thought about it before I said it. This bill removes people from the board. The people of New South Wales should be alarmed and aware when this type of legislation comes before the House. It is in direct contradiction to public statements made by the Government about openness, transparency and access and all those wonderful objectives that both sides of Parliament should aspire to. Those words are spoken in public but they are not transferred into legislation in this House. I oppose the bill.

                    Mr BART BASSETT (Londonderry) [11.15 a.m.]: I support the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012. It is timely that we are debating this bill in the wake of flooding across large areas of the State, including large sections of my electorate which take in the Hawkesbury-Nepean River catchment. Ostensibly, the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill contains provisions that will allow the Minister to appoint members to the Sydney Catchment Authority Board from a wider pool than the current Act allows.

                    The present Act requires the board to include nominees from the NSW Farmers Association, the Nature Conservation Council and a councillor from local government. The bill will remove this restriction and enable the appointment from a broader range of suitably qualified people with the required skill sets, qualifications and experiences who can contribute to good corporate governance, long-term strategic planning and management of the Sydney Catchment Authority. It is important that the board of the catchment management authority, which has responsibility under the Act for the catchment, storage and quality control of 2.5 million megalitres of potable water that is stored in 21 dams, comprises the best available talent.

                    Water security is one of the most important issues facing society in the twenty-first century. That statement may sound a bit paradoxical considering that we recently have seen flooding across large parts of the State, but that came after a long and protracted drought. I represent an electorate that has large parts of the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment areas that fall below Warragamba Dam. Therefore, I am passionate about ensuring that we have a reliable supply of potable water for our population during times of drought but also, at the other end of climatic extremes, proper mitigation measures to reduce the risk of flooding and the terrible damage it brings to our community through personal suffering, loss of life damage to property and infrastructure. The need to address this issue is not only one of moral responsibility to protect people but also an economic one, as billions of dollars are lost through loss of property, businesses, agriculture, utilities and infrastructure.

                    While this bill deals specifically with the selection criteria for the Sydney Catchment Authority Board, I will diverge slightly and make some broader comments on the direction we should be taking in relation to our strategic framework for the management of two key and fundamental issues: water storage and flood mitigation. We must learn from recent experiences where the extremes of drought and flooding caused social, personal and economic hardship. As members would be aware, during the recent floods Sydney's main storage dam, Warragamba, reached 100 per cent capacity for the first time this century. Downstream the Hawkesbury-Nepean River burst its banks and forced the closure of two main bridges at North Richmond and Windsor and several smaller bridges.

                    There has been a great deal of commentary and discussion in the community centring on the decision of the catchment management authority to wait until the dam reached full capacity before releasing water. While I welcome the discussion and debate and will come back to address this issue, it is important to defend the actions of the catchment management authority and the Government, as they were following the correct operational procedures currently in place. Warragamba Dam was built more than half a century ago as a storage dam to supply Sydney's increasing population. While it is easy to forget now that we are saturated with rain, there was a time not so long ago when we experienced one of the worst droughts on record, with storage levels falling to as low as 24 per cent in Sydney's dams and in some country areas, such as Goulbourn, the supply almost ran dry.

                    It is important that we have the storage capacity to supply Sydney's water needs well into the future. The actions of the Sydney Catchment Authority concerning the release were all done in accordance with the mandate to manage Warragamba as a water storage dam. The Wivenhoe Dam in Queensland was purpose built following the 1974 Brisbane floods as a flood mitigation dam. As a member whose electorate covers large parts of the flood plain, I believe we need to review the legislative, regulatory and governance arrangements concerning the management of our catchment.

                    The Sydney Metropolitan Water Plan, which aims to secure Sydney's water supply, contains some good ideas. However, on reflection it was nothing more than an expensive exercise that achieved very little. With Sydney's population expected to reach 5.3 million by 2031, which will result in an obvious increase in demand for water for residential and commercial uses, we must have a plan that is backed by strong leadership from the Government, not one put together to get through the next electoral cycle. There is no silver bullet that will solve the problems of water shortages and any long-term plan requires a multifaceted approach. The strategic objectives of the metropolitan water plan were to provide a secure supply of water to meet the medium-term needs of a growing city while keeping long-term goals in mind, to help protect the health of our precious rivers, to ensure that our water supplies are adequate during drought and to minimise costs to the community.

                    According to the latest figures available from the 2010 review of the plan, Sydney consumes about 600 million litres of water annually. By 2015 about a quarter of Sydney's water requirements will be sourced from alternatives to the dams. The former Government did not do enough to address the problems and ignored one key area that could address the issues and help secure our water supply—that is, recycling. Given the billions of dollars spent to build the desalination plant, we should make it work better. I recently wrote to the Minister for Primary Industries, who has legislative responsibility for the catchment management authority, about the potential to use Warragamba Dam for flood mitigation. That would enable the early and timed release of water. In my correspondence to the Minister for Primary Industries I said in part:
                        One of the major issues discussed over many years is the need to use Warragamba Dam for the dual purposes of potable water storage and flood mitigation.

                        Currently the dam is only used for water storage with water only released into the lower catchment on a periodic basis in accordance with compensation agreements that were entered into with irrigators over the loss of water as a consequence of the construction of the Dam.

                        As a short term measure consideration should be given to amending the operational procedures of the Sydney Catchment Authority to operating the dam as a partial flood mitigation asset, which could be achievable because of the desalination plant.

                        It may be possible to run lower water levels at the dam by offsetting any loss of water with potable water produced by the desalination plant. This would achieve the immediate objective of utilising the dam as a flood mitigation asset that could reduce the risk of flooding or minimise the scale if flooding does occur.

                    While I have covered a range of subjects in my contribution to the bill, the amendments are a small but necessary step in the right direction and they will open up the membership of the authority's board to a wider range of men and women who can make a positive contribution to protect the pristine ecological quality within the catchment area, which covers 16,000 square kilometres, and manage the authority's statutory objectives. I commend the bill to the House.

                    Mr STEPHEN BROMHEAD (Myall Lakes) [11.24 a.m.]: I support the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill. The bill states:
                        The object of this Bill is to amend the Sydney Water Catchment Management Act 1998 to change the constitution of the Sydney Catchment Authority Board (the Board) so as to provide that the members who are appointed by the Minister must each or together have a specific range of relevant qualifications, experience, knowledge and expertise.

                    The bill also states:

                        Schedule 1 [1] provides that the members of the Board who are appointed by the Minister must each or together have specified relevant qualifications, experience, knowledge and expertise and such other expertise as the Minister considers necessary for the Sydney Catchment Authority to realise its objectives. For example, the specified qualifications and expertise include those relevant to catchment management and protection and water supply planning and asset management.

                        Currently, the Minister must appoint members to the Board who each or together have expertise in the areas of the protection of the environment and public health and such other expertise as the Minister considers necessary for the Authority to realise its objectives. Two of those appointed members must be nominees of specific stakeholder groups and one other must be an elected councillor of a local government area within the catchment area.

                    Section 14 of the Act states:

                        (1) The principal objectives of the SCA are as follows:
                            (a) to ensure that the catchment areas and the catchment infrastructure works are managed and protected so as to promote water quality, the protection of public health and public safety, and the protection of the environment.

                            (b) to ensure that water supplied by it complies with appropriate standards of quality.

                            (c) where its activities affect the environment, to conduct its operations in compliance with the principles of ecologically sustainable development contained in section 6 (2) of the Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991.

                            (d) to manage the SCA's catchment infrastructure works efficiently and economically and in accordance with sound commercial principles.

                    This bill does not change those objectives. Section 7 of the Act provides that the board will consist of the executive, the chief executive and not fewer than four and not more than eight members appointed by the Minister. It also defines each of the matters the Minister must take into consideration and the expertise that the board should contain. It was interesting to listen to the contributions made by members opposite. They indulged in scaremongering and spoke of sinister motives and dissent. The Labor Party is projecting. Sigmund Freud did extensive research on this phenomenon. It involves a person projecting his or her motives or modus operandi on to another. After 16 years in government members opposite look at everything that this Government does through their own jaundiced eyes. This Government is introducing important measures that will protect Sydney's water supply. After 16 years in government we know that the Labor Party has no credibility. To be able to attack someone legitimately, one must have credibility. We experienced 16 years of mismanagement—

                    ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery): Order! I ask the member to return to the leave of the bill.

                    Mr STEPHEN BROMHEAD: Members opposite must have credibility to mount a legitimate argument. Given that they have no credibility, they should not be attacking the Government. The former Government spent $500 million on the Rozelle metro without turning a sod. It wasted $500 million.

                    ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery): Order! I ask the member to return to the leave of the bill. I understand that we have some visitors from the Armidale School, who are guests of the member for Northern Tablelands. I also understand that the Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality and Racing attended that school.
                      Mr George Souris: I did.

                      ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery): The Armidale School has a wonderful heritage. We welcome the students and hope that they learn a great deal about Sydney water and catchment management. We are dealing with the second reading stage of the very exciting Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill. I am sure the member will return to the leave of the bill and speak specifically to it.
                        Mr STEPHEN BROMHEAD: My stepson attended that fine school. During debate members can address the points raised by opposing members, and that is what I intend to do. To be able to attack the Government, members opposite must have credibility—and they should not simply take my word for that. Rodney Cavalier, a Labor Party heavy, said that the worst government New South Wales has ever seen—

                        Ms Carmel Tebbutt: Point of order: I fail to see Rodney Cavalier's name mentioned anywhere in the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012, which we are currently debating. I ask you to draw the member back to the leave of the bill.

                        ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery): Order! We are dealing with the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012. The member will refer to the bill. This is the fourth time that I have asked the member to return to the leave of the bill.

                        Mr STEPHEN BROMHEAD: In debate on the bill, those on the other side attacked the Government on its management, and said that it is all about dissent and ulterior motives. I note that the member for Marrickville was not in the Chamber throughout the debate.
                          Ms Carmel Tebbutt: I spoke on it yesterday.

                          Mr STEPHEN BROMHEAD: Therefore she would not have heard what her colleagues were saying. Those on the other side of the Chamber have a jaundiced view. The heavies of the Labor Party have said that the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party is in a diabolical state. Those opposite are trying to attack our credibility on management. They have none of their own, yet they are trying to tell the Government what to do. This legislation is about managing water in New South Wales but the basic principles of governance have broken down in the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party. Those opposite have a history of 16 years of mismanagement and incompetence but they want to tell this Government how to provide good governance.

                          Ms Carmel Tebbutt: This is about the catchment management authority.

                          ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Gareth Ward): Order! The member for Marrickville will come to order. The member for Myall Lakes will be heard in silence.
                            [Interruption]
                              ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Gareth Ward): Order! I call the member for Marrickville to order.

                              Mr STEPHEN BROMHEAD: Item [1] of schedule 1 to the bill outlines who can be appointed to the board. It does not say that members of local government, an environmental lobby or the National Farmers' Federation cannot be appointed to the board. The legislation provides that if a person has the expertise, that person can apply to be a board member, regardless of whether that person is a member of a local council, the National Farmers' Federation or an environmental lobby group. Nothing could be fairer; nothing could be more transparent; nothing could be better than that. The last thing anyone would want is for someone from local government, the National Farmers' Federation, the NSW Farmers Association or an environmental lobby group who has no idea about water catchment and the management of water, to be placed on the board.

                              This is good legislation. People should understand that Labor is attacking this legislation as a result of its jaundiced view formed during 16 years of the worst government in New South Wales history. They are not my words; they are the words of Senator Steve Hutchins, the former Australian Labor Party President, who said, "New South Wales Labor is in Opposition after four of the most shameful years in history." There they sit, on the other side of the House, trying to tell the Government what to do. I commend the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012 to the House.

                              Mr TIM OWEN (Newcastle) [11.34 a.m.]: I do not know why we are debating this bill because what we are talking about makes absolute sense. Nevertheless, I will put my views forward. The objects of the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012 are to amend the Sydney Water Catchment Management Act 1998 and to change the constitution of the Sydney Catchment Authority Board to provide that members who are appointed by the Minister must each, or together, have a specific range of relevant qualifications, experience, knowledge and expertise—a logical step. Currently the Minister must appoint members to the board who each, or together, have expertise in protection of the environment and public health, and such other expertise as the Minister considers necessary for the authority to realise its objectives. Two of the appointed board members must be nominees of specific stakeholder groups and one other must be elected as a councillor of a local government area within the catchment area.

                              The authority manages a total of 21 storage dams that, together, can hold more than 2.5 million megalitres of water. The area for which the authority is responsible occupies 16,000 square metres and consists of five primary catchment areas. The authority's vision is to ensure healthy catchments and quality water for the Sydney region. There are a number of objectives: first, to ensure that the catchment areas and the catchment infrastructure works are managed and protected so as to promote water quality; secondly, to ensure that water supplied by it complies with appropriate standards and quality; thirdly, where its activities affect the environment, to conduct its operations in compliance with the principles of ecologically sustainable development; and fourthly, to manage the Sydney Catchment Authority's catchment infrastructure and the works efficiently and effectively. I do not know what the argument is about because the bill does not change any of those objectives.

                              The board will consist of a chief executive of the authority and between four and eight members. Those members must include one nominee each from the NSW Farmers Association, the Nature Conservation Council of NSW and an elected councillor from a council within the catchment area. As the Minister has stated, whilst selection based on defined stakeholder groups can sometimes be effective, it does not allow for representation across the full spectrum of stakeholders. It can also inhibit the Minister from selecting the best person for the job at any given time. That is the right and prerogative of the Minister. The Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012 specifies the required skills and expertise for the board to operate effectively. It does not preclude members of the NSW Farmers Association, the Nature Conservation Council or a representative from the local council from seeking appointment to the board—provided that they have the necessary skills and expertise.

                              The bill will ensure full merit-based selection, as is required for selection for members of any board in any business across this country. This will ensure that eligible members of the community have an equal opportunity to be selected for the board. This approach is in line with government policy at both the State and Federal levels. Currently the board requires people, individually or collectively, to have expertise in only the protection of the environment and in public health, and other expertise that the Minister considers necessary to fill the authority's objectives. This bill also will bring governance arrangements for the Sydney Catchment Authority into line with those for other statutory authorities, such as catchment management authorities and State-owned corporations, such as Sydney Water.

                              The Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012 also provides for the selection criteria to be expanded in recognition of the board's important strategic role and the authority's statutory objectives. Board members will be required to possess qualifications and experience relevant to catchment management and protection, water quality, public health, running a commercial entity, water supply planning and asset management. Those are the qualifications that one would expect members of the Sydney Water Catchment Management Board to have, as opposed to those who have to be selected from the NSW Farmers Association or from an environmental council. Board members should also have experience in agriculture, industry, local government and planning in the catchment area.

                              None of those areas of expertise is precluded in this amendment. Broadening the criteria for board membership in this way will result in board members having a comprehensive set of skills that will suit their important role. This bill proposes sensible amendments to introduce merit-based selection for board membership. It will provide the Sydney Water Catchment Management Board with appropriate skills and expertise, and provide for the broadest stakeholder representation. That is a smart approach to the way such boards should be set up. I commend the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012 to the House.

                              Ms CLOVER MOORE (Sydney) [11.40 a.m.]: I make a brief contribution to debate on the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012. The bill removes the requirement for the Sydney Catchment Authority to include nominees from the NSW Farmers Association, the Nature Conservation Council of NSW and a local councillor, and expands the expertise and experience required of board members. I am concerned that this bill could remove the representation of the Nature Conservation Council, possibly even before the current nominee's term has expired. The Minister has said that the bill is about giving her the discretion to nominate the best person for the board. In the past the Nature Conservation Council has offered the Minister a choice of three nominees, and the Minister has wide discretion to appoint an additional five members. The current legislation provides for a broad range of expertise and experience, and gives the Minister ample discretion to establish a board that can ensure the best outcome for Sydney's catchment.

                              The Sydney Catchment Authority supplies water to more than 4.5 million people—almost 60 per cent of the State's population. It is essential that, first and foremost, the board works to protect the integrity of Sydney's drinking water through the environmental sustainability of the local ecosystem. I share the concern of the environment community that this bill is the result of lobbying from the mining industry. The Sydney Catchment Authority has been concerned with the impacts of longwall mining and potential pollution from coal seam gas exploration within and adjacent to Sydney Catchment Authority land. It has appointed two in-house scientists to assess mining impacts so as not to rely solely on biased proponents' environmental reports. The authority has made submissions on longwall mining proposals and it has opposed coal seam gas exploration on its land.

                              Mining activity can have devastating effects on water supplies. Clearing land and pollution from dust, chemicals, waste water and subsidence can contaminate water, rendering it unsafe to drink and harming the ecosystems that support it. Riverbeds can crack, leading to loss of water, and rehabilitation of waterways after mining operations have occurred has had little success. I share community concern that the board should not include anyone with a pecuniary interest in the mining and gas industries, including employees, consultants and contractors, and associated lobbying companies. The aim of the board must be to continue to protect Sydney's drinking water. A clean, healthy and sustainable water supply is essential to Sydney's wellbeing. I share widespread community concern that the potential to remove the Nature Conservation Council of NSW from the Sydney Catchment Authority Board is not in our best interest.

                              Mr DARYL MAGUIRE (Wagga Wagga) [11.42 a.m.]: I had not intended to make a contribution to debate on the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012, but having listened intently to the debate it is important that I have my say. Some members opposite have expressed concern that the bill amounts to a conspiracy theory. The intent of the bill is to allow the Minister to appoint people to the board on merit. I fail to understand how, after nearly four months in opposition, previous Labor Government members and others newly elected to this place cannot understand that we live in a world that should be transparent and one that seeks to have the very best people appointed to organisations managing public assets. The bill provides that the very best qualified people in specific areas be appointed by the Minister. There is no conspiracy theory. The bill is all about transparency. It is about ensuring that the Sydney Catchment Management Authority continues to deliver for the people in Sydney's catchment.

                              The member for Sydney, for example, wants to exclude certain groups or organisations from the board's membership. The former Labor Government, along with The Greens and others, was able to exclude various organisations or people from holding positions in different areas, and it was able to exclude developers from having a say, attending a function or giving a donation. The O'Farrell Government is not about exclusion; it is about inclusion. People have different skill sets to offer to the hundreds of organisations relied on by government to develop policies and to introduce legislation to this Parliament—that is the way the system works. The O'Farrell Government does not exclude people because of their background, et cetera.

                              The Sydney Catchment Authority is responsible for managing Sydney's drinking water catchment; the management of infrastructure and assets, including a large number of dams—the largest of which is Warragamba Dam; ensuring that the quality of Sydney's raw water supply is maintained; managing these works in an efficient and economic manner; and protecting human health and the environment of the catchment. I have read the bill and its accompanying notes. For all the conspiracy theories spoken about in this debate, no-one is precluded from applying to be a board member. Current members can in fact apply to be part of the new organisation. It is wrong to suggest that people such as farmers and others would be excluded.

                              The bill will allow the Minister to ensure that the board reflects the broader New South Wales community. That may mean the current skill set of the board membership remains the same, or it may mean that in some areas extra skills are needed to give the board the academic qualifications required to enable it to operate at a higher level. For example, think about the expectations of parliamentarians and councillors; everyone expects better—rightly so. From time to time debate is had about the job we do and community expectation. This bill will ensure that the Government lives up to those expectations and the Minister will be able to appoint those who can provide the very best for the management of the Sydney catchment.

                              The current issues surrounding the Murray-Darling Basin make water topical—I appreciate that the catchment does not contribute to the Murray-Darling Basin. Water is the foundation of life; it is a most important resource. Presently throughout the Riverina, western New South Wales and the Murray-Darling Basin debate is taking place about the Federal Government's plan to reduce water entitlements. Expertise is needed there as well, and part of the debate concerns the use of scientific data in making decisions. Indeed, in Wagga Wagga irrigators I met with last week are disputing the scientific information being used to reduce their entitlements in the valley in which they are housed. Those irrigators should be able to use the very best scientific expertise to guide them when putting their case as to why their water entitlements should not be reduced or what other measures should be implemented.

                              If a bill such as this were being implemented in the Riverina those irrigators would want the best representatives on their boards who would offer the best expertise to help make the right decisions. I thank members for allowing me to make this brief contribution. The management of water will not be depleted in any way. Indeed, as time goes on and the debate continues we will rely more and more on the expertise and scientific information provided by those who are qualified. It will be debated; it will not always be agreed on but in the end we will rely on it. That is why it is important for the Government to be able to appoint on merit rather than on particular views or because someone belongs to an organisation that is—

                              Mr John Williams: Aligned—

                              Mr DARYL MAGUIRE: Yes, or perhaps even politically sponsored. The days of clandestine organisations operating under the guise of some community-based group, being sponsored by a union, the Labor Party or whatever, are gone. The Government wants the very best merit-based selection. The bill will deliver that and I commend it to the House.

                              Mrs TANYA DAVIES (Mulgoa) [11.51 a.m.]: I support the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012. The Sydney Water Catchment Management Act 1998 constitutes the Sydney Catchment Authority and establishes the Sydney Catchment Authority Board. The authority manages a total of 21 storage dams that together can hold more than 2.5 million megalitres of water. The dams include Warragamba Dam, which is one of the largest domestic water supply dams in the world and the main source of the drinking water supply for Sydney.

                              Mr Jai Rowell: It's a good dam.

                              Mrs TANYA DAVIES: I acknowledge the interjection of the member for Wollondilly. Warragamba Dam, which is a fantastic dam, impacts on my electorate of Mulgoa. The management of Warragamba Dam impacts on my electorate, particularly during periods of heavy rain as we had recently. Also, the release of additional water from Warragamba Dam has at times caused some minor flooding in my electorate. The skills and expertise of the Sydney Catchment Authority Board are essential to ensure that we have the best board members because their decisions impact on my constituents. The area for which the authority is responsible occupies 16,000 square kilometres and consists of five primary catchment areas. The authority's vision is to ensure healthy catchments and quality water for the Sydney region. The principal statutory objectives of the authority, as specified in section 14 of the Act, are:
                                  (a) to ensure that the catchment areas and the catchment infrastructure works are managed and protected so as to promote water quality, the protection of public health and public safety, and the protection of the environment,

                                  (b) to ensure that water supplied by it complies with appropriate standards of quality,

                                  (c) where its activities affect the environment, to conduct its operations in compliance with the principles of ecologically sustainable development contained in section 6 (2) of the Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991,

                                  (d) to manage the SCA's catchment infrastructure works efficiently and economically and in accordance with sound commercial principles.
                              It is important that we put on record that this bill does not change any of those objectives. The Sydney Catchment Authority Board currently consists of a chief executive and between four and eight members appointed by the Minister. The members must include one nominee each from the New South Wales Farmers Association and the Nature Conservation Council NSW, and an elected councillor from a council within the catchment area. The Sydney Catchment Authority Board is responsible for the policies and long-term strategic plans of the authority, endeavouring to ensure that the board meets its public health and environmental requirements and overseeing the effective and economical management of the authority.

                              While selection based on defined stakeholder groups can sometimes be effective, it does not allow for representation across the full spectrum of stakeholders. This is where the bill makes some slight changes. The bill amends the board appointment process from one based on defined stakeholder representation to one based on merit. This will ensure that the board has the appropriate skills and experience for the job and that eligible members of the community have an equal opportunity to be selected for the board. Interestingly, some members in this House oppose the bill. Effectively, they are seeking to limit certain persons with skills and expertise from taking a wonderful opportunity to participate in the management of Sydney's water supply. In opposing the bill they are seeking to limit the broad spectrum of skills, knowledge and experience that is necessary on boards such as the Sydney Catchment Authority Board.

                              The bill is endeavouring to specify what skills and expertise are necessary for the board to operate effectively. We are not saying that current board members nominated by the New South Wales Farmers Association or the Nature Conservation Council, or the local councillor, do not have the expertise, skills or experience to be re-appointed to the board. We are simply saying that they most certainly can participate in the appointment process, but we are opening the gates to ensure that other individuals from across the community with knowledge, experience and skills in these areas have the opportunity to participate in a fair and merit-based selection process so that the best board can be formed. I encourage suitably qualified individuals from any organisation to participate in the selection process.

                              The amendments require full merit-based selection. This will ensure that eligible members of the community have an equal opportunity to be selected for the board. The approach taken in this bill is in line with government policy at both the State and Federal levels. It will also bring governance arrangements for the Sydney Catchment Authority into line with those for other statutory authorities, such as the Sydney Catchment Authority Board, and for State-owned corporations such as Sydney Water. Once again this bill demonstrates the Government's commitment to open and transparent government process. Members of the board, individually or collectively, will be required to have qualifications and experience relevant to catchment management and protection, water quality and public health, running a commercial entity, and water supply planning and asset management.

                              As well, members of the board, whether individually or collectively, must have practical knowledge of and experience in agriculture and industry, and local government and planning in the catchment area. In addition, the Minister will have the flexibility to specify additional expertise necessary to fulfil the authority's objectives. Extending the selection criteria for board membership in this way will result in the board having the comprehensive skill set needed to fulfil its obligations. The amendments do not mean that every board member will have to meet all the selection criteria, but that the board as a whole, in line with other organisations, must satisfy those requirements. Knowledge of local issues relating to agriculture, industry, local government and planning is particularly important.

                              I commend the bill to the House because the Government is endeavouring to ensure that the best people with the best skills and knowledge are in decision-making positions, leadership positions, positions where a decision that will impact a strategic direction is made with all the right knowledge and expertise possible. Members opposite have mentioned sinister motives. I ask these questions: How is ensuring that the best people are appointed to the board sinister? How is having people with the most grassroots knowledge of the areas covered by the Sydney Catchment Authority in decision-making positions on the board sinister, destructive or negative to the city of Sydney? The bill will ensure that the governance arrangements for the authority will be brought into line with the requirements for other statutory authorities.

                              The specific amendments in this bill will remove the requirement for the board to include nominees from the New South Wales Farmers Association and the Nature Conservation Council, and a local councillor. It will expand the scope of qualifications, experience, practical knowledge and other expertise required for the board, and it will allow the Minister to advertise publicly for all appointments to the board. The bill proposes positive and future thinking changes to the board of the Sydney Water Catchment Management Authority. It is a good, positive bill that leads Sydney in the right direction. The bill will ensure that the right people with the right expertise, knowledge and skills are in a position to make the right decisions and forward plans for this wonderful city of Sydney in which we live. It will ensure that the future quality and health of our water is protected for future generations. I commend the bill to the House.

                              Mr JAMIE PARKER (Balmain) [12.01 p.m.]: I am delighted to be back in Parliament after a short recess and I am pleased to make a contribution to the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012. The Greens are not in favour of the bill because we believe that the Nature Conservation Council and NSW Farmers Association have an important role to play. It is interesting that yesterday the Nature Conservation Council, NSW Farmers Association and The Greens were together outside Parliament House campaigning on coal seam gas issues when today we are in this Chamber—

                              ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Gareth Ward): Order! Government members will come to order. The member for Balmain will be heard in silence. I will not allow that sort of outburst to continue.

                              Mr JAMIE PARKER: I am proud to support the NSW Farmers Association and the Nature Conservation Council, as The Greens did yesterday, to ensure that those organisations have a legitimate part to play in the Sydney Catchment Authority Board.

                              ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Gareth Ward): Order! I call the member for Wollondilly to order.

                              Mr JAMIE PARKER: The Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill will exclude from the board of the Sydney Catchment Authority the nominees of the Nature Conservation Council, the NSW Farmers Association and an elected councillor from a council in the catchment area—in our view, important stakeholders who have a right to be represented. I strongly agree with the Government if no other appointees are able to be appointed to the board, but we know that between four and eight members can be appointed, so the Minister has the power to appoint five other members. There are three members—one from local government, one from the NSW Farmers Association and one from the Nature Conservation Council.

                              We all know that any appointees of the Minister will be in the majority and the five members will be selected on so-called merit, which is subjective, because merit can be viewed differently by different people. We need to ensure that farmers, the Nature Conservation Council and local government are represented. These important stakeholders should be included to prevent any Minister from being overenthusiastic or cavalier. We are yet to see the basis of this so-called merit assessment or who will be undertaking it. If the merit assessment is determined, will the Minister be required to comply with the merit assessment? The Minister should be asked those questions and I ask her to answer them. Is the Minister required to adhere to the determinations of the merit-based process?

                              As I stated, people will not necessarily agree on a person's merit. One of the board members whose position will be abolished will be Mr John Asquith from the Nature Conservation Council. He is the Chairman of the Community Environment Network and a member of the Hunter-Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority Board. Mr Asquith is a member of the Hunter National Parks and Wildlife Service Advisory Committee. He has been a trustee of the NSW Environmental Trust and a member of the NSW Bushfire Coordinating Committee. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree and a Master of Arts degree. He is a member of the board's audit and risk committee and the asset management committee. I would say that Mr Asquith is an excellent member.

                              The member representing the NSW Farmers Association is Mr Kenneth Wheelwright. He manages a grazing property on the upper reaches of the Wollondilly River. He has an active interest in developing sustainable, regenerative and profitable farm management practices. He is also a director of the Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment Management Authority Board. He holds a Bachelor of Rural Science degree from the University of New England, a Bachelor of Business degree from Charles Sturt University and has trained in management. He is also the chair of the board's catchment and water quality committee.

                              Larry Whipper is Deputy Mayor of Wingecarribee Shire Council and is currently in his third term as a councillor. He is a strong environmental advocate and has served as a member of the Robertson Environment Protection Society since 1992. He is a councillor representative on the Hawkesbury-Nepean Local Government Advisory Group. He has served as a member of the Hawkesbury Nepean Catchment Management Board from 2002-03 and as chair of the Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment Management Authority Establishment Team until May 2004. Between July 2006 and November 2007 he was a councillor representative on the Upper Nepean Groundwater Community Reference Group. These are all very solid, upstanding members of the community.

                              Ms Pru Goward: So he can apply.

                              Mr JAMIE PARKER: He can apply.

                              Mr John Williams: He can reapply.

                              Mr JAMIE PARKER: But as I have mentioned it is important to ensure that these key stakeholders are represented and have a place; under one Minister they might be seen as legitimate but under another they might not. This is an important measure to ensure that stakeholders are included. The Minister still has a majority of appointees; the Minister can still have five appointees with only three from stakeholder groups. In our view it is legitimate, good practice and important to include stakeholders.

                              Ms Pru Goward: This is transparent.

                              Mr JAMIE PARKER: The Minister says that it is transparent. Well, this is transparent. What is the selection process and who decides the merit-based process? Does that Minister have to accept the determination of that merit-based process and is the Minister required to comply with it?

                              ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Gareth Ward): Order! The House will come to order. The member for Balmain will be heard in silence.

                              Mr JAMIE PARKER: It is not in the legislation. Therefore, we can assume that the Minister can look at the list of merit-based appointments and decide on a different list if he or she chooses. The legislation does not require the Minister to take the advice of this merit-based process, which has not as yet been confirmed. I would have thought that the member for Murray-Darling, who is interested in a range of issues, would have been keen to support NSW Farmers to have a stakeholder on the board, not as a majority.

                              Mr John Barilaro: They are still entitled to.

                              Mr JAMIE PARKER: They are entitled to—

                              ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Gareth Ward): Order! Government members will come to order.

                              Mr JAMIE PARKER: I welcome the interaction of members opposite because it is striking a nerve. The Nationals members were in this Chamber while the members of the NSW Farmers Association were outside with the majority of the community. We are again supporting New South Wales farmers and it is important to support them in this debate.

                              Mr Paul Toole: Point of order: The member for Balmain should be asked to return to the leave of the bill. His comments are irrelevant.

                              ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Gareth Ward): Order! As much as I appreciate the creative licence of the member for Balmain, he should return to the leave of the bill.

                              Mr Richard Amery: To the point of order: The member for Balmain is speaking to the second reading debate, which is a broad-ranging debate, and not the Committee stage, which deals with individual clauses of the bill. The member is talking about the NSW Farmers Association and its role, which has been dropped from the original legislation. The member is well within the leave of the bill.

                              ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Gareth Ward): Order! Whilst I am happy for members to talk about the membership and composition of the board, the member for Balmain is straying a little too far.

                              Mr JAMIE PARKER: I appreciate the feedback from members in this place because it is clear from debate that these three stakeholders, who are not the majority on the board—the Minister can appoint five—have an important role to play. I acknowledge the Minister's interjection that it was not transparent; I do not defend the former Government's record. I am the first to say that the former Government was not transparent. As a member of the local community I saw firsthand where people were appointed to boards and the process was not transparent. I believe it is important to keep existing stakeholders on the board. It means that Ministers, regardless of their political persuasion, will be required to keep them on the board even though they will be a minority. It will ensure that stakeholders continue to be represented. The case for appointing board members on the basis of their skills and expertise has some merit if the majority of the board is to be appointed to represent stakeholders by some other method. We believe it is important to include stakeholders. The skills these members have are obvious. To make the assumption that environmentalists, farmers or local government representatives do not have the expertise is unrealistic and removing them is not the way to go. The existing arrangements should not be changed.

                              Mr CHRIS PATTERSON (Camden) [12.10 p.m.]: Mr Acting-Speaker—

                              ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Gareth Ward): Order! I remind members that they must seek the call before approaching the table. Government members are denying one of their members the call. I call the member for Camden.

                              Mr CHRIS PATTERSON: I apologise, Mr Acting-Speaker. I speak today on the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012. I am glad the member for Balmain jumped to his feet and got the call ahead of me, but I have to say how disappointed I am that he followed the Labor conspiracy line. All the groups he mentioned can apply to be appointed to the board and can be appointed on merit if they meet the selection criteria. The member for Balmain thinks that marching in the streets in solidarity with him is by itself a criterion for selection. It is not; the selection criteria are aimed at the appointment of people who will contribute their expertise to the board. I encourage any farmers, councillors or members of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW who have the appropriate skills to apply.

                              The Sydney Water Catchment Management Act 1998 constituted the Sydney Catchment Authority and established the Sydney Catchment Authority Board. As it stands now, the board consists of between four and eight members appointed by the Minister. One nominee must come from the NSW Farmers Association, one from the Nature Conservation Council of NSW and one must be an elected councillor from within the catchment area. With these appointed members the board also has a chief executive officer. The Sydney Catchment Authority Board has a number of principal objectives. The board ensures that the catchment areas and catchment infrastructure works are managed and to promote water quality, to safeguard public health and safety and to protect the environment. These are extremely serious issues.

                              Another objective of the board is to ensure that water supplied by it complies with the appropriate standards of quality. The board also must ensure where its activities affect the environment that it conducts its operations in compliance with the principles of ecologically sustainable development. It is also entrusted to manage its catchment management infrastructure works efficiently and economically and in accordance with sound commercial principles. For any member on the other side to suggest that the amendments being proposed today will put in doubt the quality of our drinking water or in any way adversely affect our water supply is scaremongering of the worst degree. Such suggestions are unfounded—

                              Mr Mark Coure: Shame.

                              Mr CHRIS PATTERSON: —and shameful. The bill amends the board appointment process from the current situation, which is based on defined stakeholder representation, to a much more responsible and sensible approach of representation based on merit. We are going from stakeholder representation for its own sake to representation based on merit. The member for Balmain singled out the NSW Farmers Association, the Nature Conservation Council of NSW and members of New South Wales councils. I encourage anybody from those organisations with the skills set required to make a positive contribution to the board to apply for a position. They should not be fearful of the application process. If they have the skills and can contribute I am sure they will be looked at favourably.
                                It is critical that board members have appropriate skills and experience for the job that they need to do and the bill also will ensure that eligible members of the community have equal opportunity to be selected. Statutory authorities and State-owned corporations must be accountable and transparent. That is what this Government stands for—accountability and transparency. Statutory authorities must have the most stringent governance arrangements available to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our community. This bill will bring those governance arrangements for this authority into line with requirements for other State authorities. It is unconscionable to suggest that something as significant as the water supply of not only Sydney but also New South Wales should not be managed to the highest standards that we expect from other government authorities. The member for Cessnock stated that, "This bill is only about removing certain bodies from management." This could not be further from the truth and is an example of the scaremongering that I have just mentioned.
                                  The main amendments in the bill will remove the requirement for the board to include nominees from the NSW Farmers Association, the Nature Conservation Council, and a local councillor. It will expand the scope of the qualifications, experience, practical knowledge and other expertise required for the board and also allow the Minister to advertise publicly for all appointments to the board. The member for Cessnock again went back to the conspiracy theory of who is being removed from the board of the authority by this bill. It is a conspiracy theory that, no pun intended, just does not hold water. He stated that we are excluding farmers but then said that under the provisions of the bill they may apply. Clearly we are not excluding any one individual or group from this board; we are aiming to ensure everyone on this board is an expert and contributes to the board and by so doing to the safety and security of our ongoing water supply. Surely the serious matter that we are discussing today—securing Sydney's water supply for present and future generations—must be above conspiracy theories.
                                    It is proposed to commence the amendments on proclamation at which time existing board membership will cease. We are cognisant of providing continuity and for that reason existing board members who meet the selection criteria will be eligible for reappointment on application to the Minister. Let us not forget that the authority manages a total of 21 storage dams that can hold more than 2.5 million megalitres of water. One of those 21 storage dams is Warragamba Dam, which is not only one of the largest domestic water supply dams in the world but also the main source of drinking water for Sydney. The authority is charged with ensuring healthy catchments and quality water supply for the whole Sydney area. Those on the other side have argued that only specific stakeholder groups can offer experience and expertise to this board. With the current make-up of the board, which we are amending today, it is not possible to get representation from all potential stakeholders who may wish to be on the board and represent their own organisations.

                                    The current make-up will not guarantee that the best person for the job is necessarily given the job and the whole idea of this amendment is to ensure that the expertise and skills that are needed for this board to operate as effectively as possible are obtained. I believe that anybody from any association that has the expertise that this board requires should be able to apply. Under the current provisions they may be excluded. Not every board member will have to meet all the selection criteria as set out in this bill, but the board as a whole must satisfy those criteria. The intention of this bill is to have a fair, merit-based selection process for membership of the board. It allows for a broad range of stakeholder representation that has the relevant qualifications, expertise and experience to govern this important authority. This Government is setting the bar for qualified professionals to sit on the authority's board. I commend the bill to the House.

                                    Mr JOHN BARILARO (Monaro) [12.20 p.m.]: I will make a brief contribution to debate on the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012—a bill that is underpinned by commonsense. Unfortunately, that is what was lacking for 16 years from the former Government and that is probably why Opposition members oppose this bill.
                                      Mr Andrew Gee: What is it about?
                                          Mr JOHN BARILARO: I thank the member for Orange for asking what this bill is about. The object of the bill is to amend the Sydney Water Catchment Management Act 1998 to change the constitution of the Sydney Catchment Authority Board to provide that members who are appointed by the Minister must each or together have a specific range of relevant qualifications, experience, knowledge and expertise. The Sydney Water Catchment Management Act 1998 constitutes the Sydney Catchment Authority and establishes its board. The authority manages a total of 21 storage dams that together can hold more than 2.5 million megalitres of water. The area for which the authority is responsible occupies 16,000 square kilometres and consists of five primary catchment areas. The principal statutory objectives of the authority, as specified in section 14 to the Act, are as follows:

                                          (a) to ensure that the catchment areas and the catchment infrastructure works are managed and protected so as to promote water quality, the protection of public health and public safety, and the protection of the environment,

                                          (b) to ensure that water supplied by it complies with appropriate standards of quality,

                                          (c) where its activities affect the environment, to conduct its operations in compliance with the principles of ecologically sustainable development contained in section 6 (2) of the Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991,

                                          (d) to manage the SCA’s catchment infrastructure works efficiently and economically and in accordance with sound commercial principles.
                                          There is nothing wrong with applying sound commercial principles to agencies, boards and government, just as we do in business, because it delivers better value for money for those who receive the service, the infrastructure or the product delivered either by businesses or by government. This bill does not change those objectives. In relation to expertise it is important to be able to cast a wide net across a larger area. The Act provides for the selection of members by the Minister from a number of categories. This bill frees up the Minister so that he or she can now select on merit and obtain expertise from a wider spectrum of stakeholders. In an earlier life I ran a specialised double glazing business which was energy efficient and which manufactured an Australian rather than an imported product. Over a period of 20 years I designed, developed and put together that business. As it was an ongoing process I was surrounded by people with expertise.

                                      It might surprise many members in this House to know that I have some failings and that I do not know everything. I know that it might come as a shock to many members but I do not have an answer for everything. I brought in experts who could help me develop my business and production line. Those experts had human resources experience, occupational health and safety experience, or they could develop the engineering technical detail required to put together the manufactured product. I continue to call on those experts to this day. It could be something as simple as calling on an accountant or those who know how to work with the government of the day to obtain grants for research and development.
                                          As I did not have the relevant knowledge I surrounded myself with talented and skilled people from whom I learned a lot, which enabled my business to grow and prosper. That business still employs many people in the Canberra region, offers apprenticeships and traineeships, and competes with imported products on a platform of quality and service. Those products are not necessarily offered at the cheapest price but at a price that is competitive for what is delivered. One of the slogans we used to use was that no-one regretted buying quality, which is what my business is all about.

                                      Mr Andrew Gee: Barilaro quality.

                                      Mr JOHN BARILARO: I now refer to the bill. It is important to appoint to the board experts from a wide area who are able to contribute to maintaining our water supply—an important commodity in our nation and in our State and, in particular, on farmland in the Monaro. We must continue to put in place mechanisms and safeguards to protect this precious commodity and, more importantly, bring in experts to manage our water supply for future generations. Opposition members did not put forward a legitimate argument as to why this bill fails and they questioned the integrity of the bill, the Government and the Minister in making appointments to the board. Earlier the member for Myall Lakes said that Opposition members were projecting, and with a jaundiced eye.

                                      For more than 16 years the former Government, which lacked foresight and integrity, made appointments to boards and decisions based on political convenience rather than on best policy and good governance. Opposition members criticised this bill based on their experiences over 16 years and on the environment they created. On 26 March 2011 the campaign run by the Liberal-Nationals Coalition was based on transparency, accountability, honesty and good government. This Government will not apply the rules applied by the former Government to the way in which it governs this State. The policies of the Liberal-Nationals Government, which are open and transparent, are based on good governance. In its first 12 months in office the policies implemented by this Government have been based on the right information after consultation with the people of this State.

                                      Mr Andrew Gee: What about Steve?

                                      Mr JOHN BARILARO: What about Steve? Earlier the member for Cessnock questioned the Minister's integrity as he believes this bill was developed to get rid of some board members and stakeholders. This bill does not take away the right of current stakeholders to be members of the new board. Proposed section 7 (3) states:
                                          (3) The members of the Board appointed by the Minister are to be persons who, in the opinion of the Minister, each or together have the following:
                                              (a) qualifications and experience relevant to catchment management and protection,

                                              (b) qualifications and experience relevant to water quality and public health,

                                              (c) qualifications and experience relevant to running a commercial entity,

                                              (d) qualifications and experience relevant to water supply planning and asset management,

                                              (e) practical knowledge of, and experience in, agriculture and industry in the catchment area,

                                              (f) practical knowledge of, and experience in, local government and planning in the catchment area,

                                              (g) such other expertise as the Minister considers necessary to realise the objectives of the SCA.

                                      That is a good point because there is nothing better than having experts from one's community who have local knowledge and who are involved in the community playing a role in a statewide approach. It is good for the types of decisions that are being made in delivering good government. The bill goes on to mention a number of other qualifications. I emphasise that it does not exclude the stakeholders now on the board. In fact, most of them will be able to tick those boxes, make an application and go through the process to be reappointed. There is nothing wrong with that because they should be appointed on the basis of merit and expertise.

                                      The Monaro region has a large water catchment area that is managed by Snowy Hydro. It is important for the economy and the environment and, of course, for the future of the local community. Knowledge of local issues is particularly important for agriculture, industry, local government and planning, and that is reflected in the revised criteria. The requirement to have experience relevant to the running of a commercial entity and to water supply and asset management reflects the level of governance responsibilities that apply to boards of statutory authorities. I could speak about this at length but it is sufficient to say that this bill simply changes the make-up of the board to ensure that we cast a wider net across the State to attract experts who can contribute to better decision-making and better governance. I commend the bill to the House.

                                      Mr MARK COURE (Oatley) [12.30 p.m.]: The Sydney Water Catchment Management Act 1988 constitutes the Sydney Catchment Authority and establishes the authority board. The Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012 does not change the statutory objectives of the Act as detailed in section 14. It simply changes the board appointment process from one based on defined stakeholder representation to one based on merit. These amendments will ensure that board members have appropriate skills and experience and that members of the community with the appropriate skills have equal opportunity to be selected to serve on the board. They also will bring the authority's governance arrangements into line with those that apply to other statutory authorities and other State-owned corporations.

                                      As has been highlighted by a number of Government speakers, the main amendments will remove the requirement for the board to include nominees from the NSW Farmers Association and the Nature Conservation Council and a local councillor. The bill also expands the scope of the qualifications, experience, practical knowledge and other expertise required for board membership. To make it simple for members opposite, the Government is trying to beef up the board's skills. The bill also allows the Minister to advertise publicly for all appointments to the board. Members opposite should note that unlike the Labor Government this Government will not appoint any hacks.

                                      As we all know, members of the former Government appointed their friends from Sussex Street. Unlike the former Government, this Government will appoint people with the appropriate expertise, skills and knowledge. We are getting rid of the rot and ensuring that the boards of our State-owned corporations and authorities have the skills and knowledge they need. Section 14 of the Sydney Water Catchment Management Act deals with the authority's principal statutory objectives. Previous speakers in this debate, including the member for Balmain, have said that this bill changes those objectives. It does not. Section 14 states:

                                          (1) The principal objectives of the SCA are as follows:
                                              (a) to ensure that the catchment areas and the catchment infrastructure works are managed and protected so as to promote water quality, the protection of public health and public safety, and the protection of the environment,

                                              (b) to ensure that water supplied by it complies with appropriate standards of quality,

                                              (c) where its activities affect the environment, to conduct its operations in compliance with the principles of ecologically sustainable development contained in section 6 (2) of the Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991,

                                              (d) to manage the SCA's catchment infrastructure works efficiently and economically and in accordance with sound commercial principles.
                                      This bill does not change any of those objectives and it is important that members opposite realise that. The bill makes important amendments to the Sydney Water Catchment Management Act and it will further professionalise the Sydney Catchment Authority Board, which was established by the Sydney Catchment Authority. To date the board has comprised a chief executive officer and between four and eight members, including a nominee from the NSW Farmers Association and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW and an elected councillor from the catchment area. The amendments in this bill will remove those requirements and in so doing allow the Minister to appoint the best possible person for the job rather than having to emphasise stakeholder representation. That will allow a range of skills sets and talents to be considered and it will ultimately enrich the board and improve its function.

                                      Members must bear in mind the importance of the board and the vital role that it plays in the Sydney Catchment Authority. The authority manages 21 storage dams that hold more than 2.5 million megalitres of water. Of course, as members know, that includes the Warragamba Dam, which is the main source of drinking water for the people of Sydney. Recent rain events have demonstrated how critical the dam is to Sydney's water supply and also to surrounding communities. The spectacular opening of the floodgates after 14 years of drought in December and March demonstrated the capacity of this great dam. The Sydney Catchment Authority is responsible for an area of about 16,000 square kilometres comprising five catchment areas.

                                      It is an enormous responsibility and therefore the authority must have the best possible skills on hand to manage Sydney's water supply. That will be achieved as a result of these amendments, which will ensure that the focus is on merit-based selection. The Minister now will be allowed to advertise all board positions, which is appropriate. As members know, the former Government did not do that but simply appointed its mates from Sussex Street to this and other boards. The people of Sydney appreciate the importance of having a secure, safe and clean water supply. In recent years we have had to deal with the severe impact of the El Nino weather pattern. That has caused a long and stressful drought and more recently intense rainfall. We became accustomed to water restrictions and nightly news updates about dam levels, which reached their lowest point in early February 2007 at 33.8 per cent.

                                      Such extreme circumstances led to major policy decisions being made, such as the building of the Kurnell desalination plant. Therefore, it is incumbent on the Government to ensure that the best candidates nominate for board appointment and, more importantly, that they can be appointed. That is not to suggest that stakeholder representation is necessarily a negative thing or that those individuals will choose not to nominate should a position become available. The amendments in this bill will bring the board into line with other statutory authorities and State-owned corporations that have merit-based selection of board members. I support the sensible reforms introduced by the Minister to improve the efficiency and transparency of the board and I commend the bill to the House.

                                      Mr NATHAN REES (Toongabbie) [12.39 p.m.]: I oppose the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012 on policy grounds. I have listened to contributions to the debate this morning. As a former Minister for Water, I point out that there are legitimate policy reasons for having representatives from the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, the relevant local government areas and farmers on that board. I listened with interest when the member for Monaro said that the bill is about getting the right expertise on the board. Nothing precludes the Minister of the day from adding expertise to the board, even if those three representative positions are retained. Management of the catchment requires the balancing of a number of competing and conflicting imperatives. There is the engineering part, the commercial part, the environmental protection part and the community relations part of the equation. They are all legitimate stakeholders.

                                      There is no single agreed view amongst so-called experts on how to best manage the catchment. They have competing views as to the emphasis that should be placed on, for example, the protection of the environment on the one hand and the commercial and revenue-raising opportunities of the catchment on the other. A balanced approach is required. The catchment area is part of the world heritage listed area of the Blue Mountains National Park. Indeed, when Lake Burragorang is full, if one stands at the Three Sisters one can see the upper reaches of the lake, such is its proximity to the national park. It is entirely legitimate that nature conservation principles and considerations should be brought to bear on deliberations of the Sydney Catchment Authority Board.

                                      As the member for Oatley pointed out, in February 2007 the level of Warragamba Dam was at 33 per cent. If we had not had water restrictions in the previous couple of years and had not been transferring water up from the Shoalhaven River, Warragamba Dam would have been at 8 per cent. That figure of 8 per cent is alarming on its own, but when one considers that it would have meant Australia's major city running out of water and its citizens drinking mud, that would have brought the national economy to a standstill and had enormous implications for Australia's recovery post the global financial crisis.

                                      The provision of potable water to Australia's largest city, together with the provision of electricity, is the biggest utility challenge government has and one it has to get right. But because of the sensitivity of the catchment area, it requires a balance between environmental imperatives and the legitimate commercial interests of the Sydney Catchment Authority and its stakeholders, the taxpayers of New South Wales. The inclusion of local council representatives on this board is legitimate. Katoomba, Penrith, Wollondilly and Wingecarribee—probably the four key councils—are legitimate stakeholders in the management of the catchment area. Their constituents use the area for passive recreation and many of their constituents are employed by the Sydney Catchment Authority and/or the water board.

                                      Because of those community relations, that stakeholder engagement is a legitimate part of the management of the catchment. There exists small rural landholdings that operate in a symbiotic manner with the Sydney Catchment Authority and a representative of the farmers or the agricultural interests on the board is also legitimate. The conservation principles that are brought to bear by the representatives of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW on the board are legitimate. A large part of the catchment area is in a world heritage and national heritage listed area. If the Minister of the day wants additional expertise on the board, there is no impediment to the Minister importing such expertise.

                                      As the member for Bankstown mentioned, when I was Minister I appointed Bob Rollinson to the board. Bob Rollinson has had an extraordinary private sector career. There was a blue-green algae outbreak in the upper reaches of the dam that dozens of so-called experts had told me could not be fixed. I appointed Bob Rollinson who, together with Michael Bullen, Chief Executive of the Sydney Catchment Authority Board, fixed the problem. They removed a serious threat to the safety of the drinking water supply. The presence of these nominees on the board of the Sydney Catchment Authority is entirely legitimate. Together with the provision of electricity, there is no more important provision of any utility anywhere in Australia than the provision of a potable water supply to Sydney.

                                      Those opposite have inherited a plan from us that guarantees the water supply in Sydney for the next 50 years. The desalination plant guarantees to augment the supply by an extra 14 per cent, with a further 14 per cent available if required. Notwithstanding significant population growth, the massive water recycling schemes and water restrictions that were implemented under the Labor Government have guaranteed the water supply in Sydney for another 50 years. The plan for water delivery in Sydney is a good one, but in order for it to remain so and in order to balance the differing and competing considerations it is legitimate that the board comprise people with expertise that is not strictly engineering or commercial.

                                      That is the purpose of having those nominees on the board; it is in recognition of the fact that this is a sensitive area to manage and that there are competing views on the best way to manage. The current board is well run. I take the opportunity to note that, despite this being the driest continent in the world and despite the statistics outlined by the member for Oatley in a well-informed contribution to this debate, this Government does not have a Minister for Water. This is the driest continent in the world and we have been through the worst drought in the century but we do not have a Minister for Water.

                                      Mr Stuart Ayres: Point of order: Clearly, the member for Burrinjuck has responsibility for water in this Government.

                                      ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Lee Evans): Order! I uphold the point of order.
                                        Mr NATHAN REES: To the point of order: In relation to the Acts for water as they relate to New South Wales, the member for Burrinjuck has responsibility for irrigation water, groundwater and water other than in the Sydney catchment area. As I understand it, the Hon. Greg Pearce is the portfolio and shareholding Minister for the Sydney Catchment Authority and Sydney Water.
                                          Mr Andrew Constance: So we do have a Minister.
                                            Mr NATHAN REES: He is not the Minister for Water; he is the Minister for Finance. That supports my point about a conflict between the financial imperatives of running the catchment and the conservation side. There are sound policy reasons for the presence of these representatives on the board. Earlier Minister Hazzard spoke about the giardia and cryptosporidium outbreak in September 1998. Reference was made to the McClelland report, which was the most comprehensive examination of the water supply network ever undertaken in Sydney. A number of recommendations came out of the McClelland report to guarantee and safeguard the supply of Sydney's water. One of the recommendations was the presence of these people on the Sydney Catchment Authority Board, for sound policy reasons. It is a retrograde step to remove this requirement. The options are there for the Minister to import expertise into the board if the Minister believes there is a necessity for it, but it is critical that those other legitimate stakeholders also have a seat at the table. We oppose the Sydney Water Catchment Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012.
                                              Mr JOHN WILLIAMS (Murray-Darling) [12.47 p.m.]: The debate on the Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment (Board Members) Bill 2012 has encouraged me to speak on an issue outside my electorate because I cannot believe what I am hearing from members opposite. I cannot believe that members opposite will oppose this change, which is about good management. I have not had a look at the make-up of the current board, but I am immediately cynical. Maybe Joe Scimone sits on the board and has made a phone call. I do not know who from the previous Government was promised an appointment for favours given, but there is a whale in the bay. I have not heard so much garbage delivered in this place about a change towards good management.

                                              The Greens—amazingly, the new friends of New South Wales farmers—also have spoken in this debate. When a point of order was taken during his speech, the member for Balmain received the support of the member for Mount Druitt. But the member for Balmain demonstrated how The Greens work because he immediately turned on the member for Mount Druitt and tore him up in the process. We have seen some amazing things in this debate. The fact is that The Greens have never been friends of the farmers. The changes in this amendment bill are simply about good business management—and this is a business.
                                                As the previous speaker, the member for Toongabbie, alluded to, it also involves the engineering aspect of the catchment area. It is generally only run-off that is being collected in these storage dams. There is no science involved or anything to interfere with current natural resources. Interestingly, the member for Balmain commented that the representative from the Nature Conservation Council should be there to "block". That is an interesting scenario. They do block: they block progress. This bill is about the business of providing Sydney's water supply. The member for Balmain also suggested there was something clandestine about the bill. He questioned how these people were to be appointed. Yes, the Minister will make a decision behind closed doors, but new section 7 (3) of item [1] states:

                                                    The members of the Board appointed by the Minister are to be persons who, in the opinion of the Minister, each or together have the following:

                                                    (a) qualifications and experience relevant to catchment management and protection,

                                                    (b) qualifications and experience relevant to water quality and public health,

                                                    (c) qualifications and experience relevant to running a commercial entity,

                                                    (d) qualifications and experience relevant to water supply planning and asset management,

                                                    (e) practical knowledge of, and experience in, agriculture and industry in the catchment area,

                                                    (f) practical knowledge of, and experience in, local government and planning in the catchment area, and

                                                    (g) such other expertise as the Minister considers necessary to realise the objectives of the SCA.
                                                Obviously, the member for Balmain has realised that the current environmental representatives on the board do not meet those qualifications and that they will be excluded if they reapply. That is the only threat to them. In future those who apply for positions on the board will have to meet that criteria. It is not about the Minister acting in secrecy; it is about the management of a very large business charged with Sydney's water supply. It is not natural resource management; it is the collection of the catchment area run-off and the recognition of any threats to public health that might result from adverse farming activities and so on. As I said earlier, for all intents and purposes the current board representation could remain as it is. However, for some reason the Opposition has decided this is a bad management decision.

                                                We have seen how the former Government managed the organisations it was charged to appoint people to. Those who were owed favours by the former Government were appointed as board members as payback. Their appointment had nothing to do with qualifications. They only had to take a position on a board and put their hand out. What a nice payback! But things have changed. The bill is all about getting the best people for the job. In saying that, I make no criticism of the current board members. The Government has a duty to manage the assets that fall under its umbrella of management in the best possible way. Therefore, the people charged with the job of managing those assets must be appointed on merit and they must be the most qualified to do the job. I am amazed that the Opposition opposes this good management practice.

                                                Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Kevin Anderson and set down as an order of the day for a later hour.
                                                  [The Acting-Speaker (Mr Lee Evans) left the chair at 12.55 p.m. The House resumed at 2.15 p.m.]