Timber Industry (Interim Protection) Bill
TIMBER INDUSTRY (INTERIM PROTECTION) BILL
Consideration of Legislative Assembly's message of 11th March.
The Hon. R. J. WEBSTER (Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy) [2.42]: I move:
Mr ACTING-PRESIDENT: Before I put the question I think I should indicate to the House the nature of the proposed amendments and the special circumstances in which the Legislative Council is invited to consider them. The Legislative Council amended the Timber Industry (Interim Protection) Bill and on 6th March, 1992, transmitted a message to the Legislative Assembly seeking its concurrence in those particular amendments. In ordinary circumstances it would be competent, in accordance with established practice, for the Legislative Assembly to deal only with those actual amendments, either agreeing to them, rejecting them, amending them, or possibly making some further amendment which would be either of a consequential nature or in some way related to them.
In this instance, however, the further amendments proposed by the Legislative Assembly fall outside this scope, and have arisen from a further consideration of the bill in view of the Legislative Council's proposed amendments. Strictly speaking, the Legislative Assembly's proposed further amendments are outside the scope of the standing orders and would normally require the introduction of an amending bill. However, having regard to the special circumstances of this legislation, and the fact that the proposed amendments are in no way in derogation of the principles of the bill, I am of the opinion that it is competent for the Committee to consider the Legislative Assembly's proposed further amendments. In reaching this decision, I am mindful that the Legislative Assembly has given reasons for its request and stated that such action not
be drawn into a precedent by either House. Such a course of action has been adopted on previous occasions when amendments to a bill have been made which have been held to infringe on the prerogatives or privileges of the other House, on the proviso that such action should not be drawn into a precedent.
Motion agreed to.
That the Acting-President do now leave the Chair and the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole for consideration of the Assembly's message on this bill.
Consideration of Legislative Assembly's message.
The Hon. R. J. WEBSTER (Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy) [2.45]: I move:
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Leader of the Opposition) [2.46]: The Opposition welcomes the Government's backdown on the Timber Industry (Interim Protection) Bill.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: Where was the honourable member for Blacktown the other night when the Leader of the Opposition appeared on television?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Why would the Minister for Conservation and Land Management not debate with me on the "7.30 Report"? All along the Opposition has recognised that because of the bungling of this Government and the Forestry Commission, the jobs of timber workers could be at risk. That is why we have agreed all along that there needed to be an interim exemption of some forestry and logging activity from part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, that is, the part of the Act which requires environmental impact statements for any development which might -
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: On a point of order. It is impossible for Hansard to record any of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition because there is so much interruption from the Government benches.
The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby: On the point of order. It is not only impossible for Hansard to hear; it is impossible for members on the crossbenches to hear what is being said in the debate. If we are to regard these amendments with any degree of seriousness, we must be able to hear the arguments that are being put forward. I ask that you restrain members on both sides of the Chamber.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (The Hon. Beryl Evans): Order! The Committee is dealing with important amendments to an important bill. I ask that each speaker be heard in silence.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Of course one can understand why Government members do not want to hear what the Opposition has to say on these matters. Part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act requires environmental impact assessments for any development which might substantially affect an environment. The exemption to the requirements of part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act is the key provision of the Timber Industry (Interim Protection) Bill. That exemption could have become law last Friday but for this desperate Government's desperate need to divert attention from the Smiles, Packard and Blackmore crises. Last Friday the Government had the numbers in both this House and the lower House to ensure that the bill was passed through both Houses in its unamended form. Instead it deliberately
created a conflict between the two Houses to ensure that the bill could not be passed last Friday. In one of the most amazing, cynical and sinister manoeuvres this Parliament has ever seen, the Government took a dive on the crucial vote in the lower House by pulling four of its own members from the Chamber. They included the Leader of Government in the lower House, Mr Tim Moore, the honourable members for Gladesville and Baulkham Hills and the National Party member for Murrumbidgee.
If the Government's claim is correct, that is why 150 timber workers in this State lost their jobs on Monday and the taxpayers of this State have to foot the bill for the entirely unnecessary recall of Parliament this week. The Opposition makes no apology for the amendments it moved last Friday in the lower House. They would have enhanced environmental safeguards under the bill, without in any way putting jobs at risk. The Government has now proposed its own amendments to the bill. They, and the other undertakings the Government has finally given, substantially meet the purpose and intent of the Opposition amendments. The Opposition will not quibble about whether the amendments are in the Government's words or the Opposition's words; all it cares about is their substance. For those reasons, the Opposition will support the Minister's motion.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [2.50]: Over the past 12 years the Forestry Commission has been quite contemptuous of the environment and of the environmental laws of this State. It has known for some time that it needed to do environmental impact studies of old growth forests before it allowed their destruction, but has resisted doing so. The Forestry Commission has managed to persuade the Greiner-Murray Government yet again to exempt it from the provisions of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, as it tried to do during the previous term of that Government. At that time - when the Australian Democrats held the balance of power - this House threw out the legislation. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile voted with the Government to exempt the Forestry Commission from the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. Once again, Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile has supported the Government, which has led to the recall of the House and this impasse today. One would have thought that Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile had discovered he had some responsibility as a Christian to protect the environment, but he has forgotten that. His loyalty to the Greiner-Murray Government is stronger than any Christian principles he may hold.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: On a point of order. Under Standing Orders 80 and 81 I ask the honourable member to withdraw his remarks. He has impugned my actions in this House, and this reflects on me.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: On the point of order. I believe what I said is perfectly true and that the honourable member has forgotten his Christian principles about protecting God's Creation. Nevertheless, I withdraw my comments.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! The honourable member may continue.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Gabrielle Kibble made it very clear that the Department of Planning does not have the resources to assess environmental impact statements. In a briefing note dated 25th July, 1991, co-signed by Mr Urwin, Leader of the Natural Resources Unit, and Mr R. Power, Manager of the Heritage Branch, to the Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy, she said:
That the Committee do not insist upon its amendments Nos. 2, 8 and 9 disagreed with by the Assembly.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! I remind the honourable member that he must confine his remarks to the amendments only and is not to speak to the bill.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Absolutely. That is why I am talking about the Department of Planning.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! I am not asking whether the honourable member agrees with me; I am telling him that he will speak only to the amendments.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: That is what I am doing, Madam Temporary Chairman. Gabrielle Kibble said that the Department of Planning does not have the ability to cope with the environmental impact statements and:
The submission in support of the nomination . . .
The amendment before the Chamber, which provides that the Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy is to be the determining authority for logging operations and is subject to the environmental impact statements obtained by the Forestry Commission under this Act, is clearly unacceptable because the Department of Planning does not have the resources to do that. Gabrielle Kibble said the Department of Planning does not have the money, the capabilities or the expertise to assess environmental impact statements. The department has not shown much love for the environment. One or two of its key advisers have come out strongly in favour of environmentally damaging developments. It would seem odd that the Department of Planning should be asked to look at environmental impact statements when it does not have the ability or the inclination to do so and is not biased towards the environment, having made many decisions recently against the environment. Likewise, the Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy recently made what appears to be an illegal decision in approving the Micalo Island development, about which honourable members will no doubt hear more in due course. Neither the Minister nor the department has the inclination or the capability to assess environmental impact statements prepared for forestry areas.
It is not appropriate for this Chamber to accept this amendment. It is ludicrous to put the determination of environmental impact statements in the hands of a National Party Minister when the National Party itself is anti-environment. It is like putting a wolf in charge of the hens. It would seem to be singularly inappropriate for the Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy, who is a National Party Minister, to be put in charge of the determining authority for logging operations that are subject to environmental impact statements. Honourable members have seen the sign on the twelfth floor in the National Party room saying "Greens cost jobs". Whether the so-called Minister for Conservation and Land Management or the Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy is put in charge of the hens, both would eat the hens if they were given an opportunity. The so-called Minister for Conservation and Land Management the other day said to a group that not one more stick or tree would be in a national park or a wilderness area. It is clear that neither the Minister for Conservation and Land Management - which is a contradiction in terms in relation this Minister - nor the Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy is the appropriate person to look after our forests.
The Minister for Conservation and Land Management should not be called the Minister for Conservation, but more appropriately, the Minister for the destruction of the environment. At least the Forestry Commission will not be the determining authority of its own environmental impact statements. That is a good move. All the environmental impact statements produced by the Forestry Commission of late have been signed by Dr Hans Drielsma. He was a political appointee to the position. The firm of Price Waterhouse, which determined who would be the next person to take over the Forestry
Commission, did not have him on its list. The leading person on its short list was Dr Bruce Leaver from the South Australian Department of Environment and Planning. It transpired that the Minister for Natural Resources at that time asked Price Waterhouse to put Dr Drielsma on the list.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (The Hon. Beryl Evans): Order! Does the Hon. R. S. L. Jones understand the amendments he is discussing?
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I believe so.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! I shall inform him what he may discuss. He may discuss only the numbers being taken out and the licences under the National Parks and Wildlife Act, quarterly reports from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the omission of the words "protected fauna" wherever they occur and the insertion of the words "endangered fauna".
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Thank you. I should be happy to advert to those. The removal of the Director of National Parks and Wildlife and his replacement by the Minister for the Environment means that once again the reporting will be in the hands of a political person rather than an independent, such as Bill Gillooly. That is designed to make sure that the Government has very tight control over the reporting mechanisms. It is quite clear that the reason this has been inserted after having been removed by the upper House, is that the Government wants to torpedo the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act. The first report is to be made on 31st April, 1992. This now means that the parks service is accountable for its actions, whereas the Forestry Commission is not. It clearly is a move against the National Parks and Wildlife Service and an attempt by this Government to torpedo the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act - which has been blamed for putting many jobs at risk. That, of course, is a total lie. Not one job has been at risk nor ever was at risk, for there are plenty of operation areas available. These lies have been perpetuated throughout the media by various National Party Ministers. Once again the Forestry Commission is not accountable; the National Parks and Wildlife Service is. The Minister for the Environment will be reporting quarterly. No doubt the Government will do everything in its power to remove the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act, because this Government, the Premier and National Party Ministers have absolutely no love for endangered fauna. That is very clear. It can be seen from their statements of late. We do not support the Government on this particular motion.
The Hon. P. F. O'GRADY [3.1]: I wish to make a few comments about the bill and the amendments which the Government has moved in the lower House, caving in to pressure which has built up around this issue in the past week or two. The fact that the Minister for the Environment has been totally absent from this debate, of course -
What absolute rubbish! The Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy is to be responsible for sections of these amendments. His own departmental head wrote to him in July of last year, after the Chaelundi decision was handed down, to say that the Department of Planning did not have the expertise to deal with the issues which arose. The Minister has said that he can answer that. I hope that the Minister can say that the Premier is giving him either more resources or some expertise so that the Department of Planning can carry out the functions for which it will be responsible under this
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! I read out the three amendments. If the member reads those he will find that there is very little that he can say in regard to them. What the member is saying bears no relationship to them. I rule the member out of order unless he speaks only to the three amendments that we are now considering.
The Hon. P. F. O'GRADY: Madam Temporary-Chairman, the first amendment reads:
Clause 3. After clause 3(d) insert:
To judge the technical validity or accuracy of these statements, dealing as they do with animal ecology and the scientific aspects of habitat modification, is beyond the resources of the Heritage Council and the Department of Planning.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: On a point of order. I have been very tolerant during this debate because I do like to allow my colleagues to have their say - particularly those colleagues who were not here when this debate took place last Friday. One does have to ask: where was the Hon. R. S. L. Jones last Friday?
The Hon. P. F. O'Grady: On a point of order.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: You cannot take a point of order on a point of order.
The Hon. P. F. O'Grady: What is your point of order?
The Hon. R. J. Webster: Sit down and I will tell you. The Temporary Chairman has already said that we are talking about amendments 2, 8 and 9. For the edification of the Hon. P. F. O'Grady - and I do not believe he was here on Friday, either -
The Hon. P. F. O'Grady: I was here.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: You did not say anything, if you were. It probably would have been better if you had not said anything today. At page 4, clause 8(2) there appears amendment 2. At page 7 - clauses 14 and 15 - are amendments 8 and 9. They are the ones we are discussing. They are before the Committee. As I said to you, when you were prattling on, if you will just wait I will come to the matters of resources and so on later. Just calm yourself down. If you had had something to say on Friday, it might be all right, but you have come into this Chamber today and you are talking a whole lot of rot.
Madam Temporary Chairman, the honourable member is out of order. He is not speaking to the amendments we are discussing.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! The amendments we are discussing relate to the third print of the bill, dealing with clauses 8(2), 14 and 15.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: On a point of order. The fact that this debate is taking place at all is due to unusual circumstances, namely, that the amendments which came from the lower House were outside the leave of the bill. Today we have had a ruling from the Acting-President, in which he concedes that they were outside the leave of the bill and were out of order. It is the generosity of the Opposition that has allowed this debate to continue -
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! They are not the matters we are discussing. When they come up, you may have your say. Will you kindly get in order what we are discussing now - from the third print of the bill, clauses 8(2), 14 and 15. They are the only ones we are discussing. If the Hon. P. F. O'Grady wants to continue on those, he may.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: On a point of order. I understood from the comments of the Leader of the Government in the House before the House met that if the amendments were not going to be put in globo - and apparently there is a problem in that regard - at least the debate could be held in globo, otherwise we will have debate on each amendment. One would have thought that to suit the convenience of the Committee, where comments can be made appropriately about the message as a whole, they should be made now rather than in relation to each particular amendment.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: On the point of order. The Leader of the Opposition, has in his remarks before the Committee today, totally misconstrued the procedural matters that occurred in the lower House. He is now seeking to flout your ruling. The truth is that there will be ample opportunity later in the debate on the further amendments to be put to the Committee, for the Hon. P. F. O'Grady to raise all the matters that he raised earlier. I chose not to take points of order earlier because I believe, as a former Chairman of Committees in another place, in the spirit of the Committee. May I say that if we are obliged to listen twice to what the Hon. P. F. O'Grady has to say I for one would find that an intolerable burden on my time. I ask you to bring the honourable member back to the leave of the amendments.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! I once again read what we are discussing:
(e) to provide that the Minister for Planning is to be the determining authority . . .
If the honourable member wants to speak to amendments 2, 8 and 9 - which is what the discussion is - he may continue.
The Hon. P. F. O'GRADY: I refer to clause 8(2) - that is if I heard the Chair correctly - which relates to the Forestry Commission obtaining environmental impact statements. The reason that the Government has brought this bill before the Parliament is because of the absolute botch-up that the Forestry Commission has made of the timber industry. The person who heads the Forestry Commission is -
We will get to that. The head of the Forestry Commission is here today. He is sitting at the back of the Chamber. It is his organisation which is responsible for the amazing mismanagement of the timber resources of this State.
Not only are we here because of that but, as the Hon. Judith Walker interjects, we are here because -
The Hon. R. J. Webster: On a point of order. As I say, I am loath to interrupt the Hon. P. F. O'Grady but clause 8(2) says:
That the Committee do not insist upon its amendments Nos. 2, 8 and 9 disagreed with by the Assembly.
There is no reference to the Forestry Commission in that clause. I would ask that you bring the Hon. P. F. O'Grady back to the amendments before this House.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: On the point of order. Honourable members do not have a copy of the amendments that have been moved. I am trying to work out from the Legislative Assembly's message which clauses we are dealing with at present. Is it not the normal practice for the Government to provide a list of the amendments that it seeks to move?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! The Committee is dealing with the Legislative Assembly's message.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: On a point of order. As I understand it, the motion is that the Committee do not insist upon its amendments Nos 2, 8 and 9. Opposition members do not have copies of amendments Nos 2, 8 and 9 and that is why they believe they are debating the message.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: They were contained in the minutes of proceedings last Thursday.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: We would like to know what is being debated. The Opposition has been most generous to the Government this afternoon. Opposition members have permitted debate on a matter that in normal circumstances would be entirely out of order. If we are willing to give the Government that courtesy, we expect the same courtesy in return. We want copies of amendments Nos 2, 8 and 9.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: You have got them.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: The Hon. Jan Burnswoods does not have a copy. I have just been handed a copy.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (The Hon. Beryl Evans): Order! They are contained in the minutes of proceedings for last Thursday. I appeal to the Committee to proceed with the matter that is before it.
The Hon. P. F. O'GRADY: I am still confused about what we are debating. If we are debating amendments Nos 2, 8 and 9 -
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: That the Committee not insist upon those amendments.
The Hon. P. F. O'GRADY: Amendment No. 2 was that clause 8(2) be omitted. Before the Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy took a point of order I was referring to the Forestry Commission requirement to obtain environmental impact statements. The Minister's point of order was upheld. Therefore, I seek guidance on this issue. As I was speaking to an amendment which is before the Committee, I ask for some direction. The point I am making is this: I was speaking to clause 8(2), which appears on page 4 of the fourth print of the bill.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: We are dealing with the third print, not the fourth.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: On a point of order. I am amazed by the total ignorance of members of the Opposition. Prior to this Chamber convening today Opposition members had the opportunity to familiarise themselves with what happened in the Legislative Assembly yesterday.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: We have only just been handed the message.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: The Leader of the Opposition is once again misrepresenting the situation. Members of the Opposition merely had to speak to the Clerks to find out what the situation is if they were unable to ascertain the information for themselves. That is exactly what I did. I am not the Minister responsible for this bill in another place; my colleague is. I took the trouble to find out and so should they. The third print of the bill is the bill that we were dealing with in this Chamber last Friday. The fourth print of the bill is the bill as amended by the Legislative Assembly. However, the Committee is dealing with the message relating to the Legislative Council amendments that have not been agreed to by the Legislative Assembly. The sooner Opposition members learn about procedure the better. Instead of complaining to the Temporary Chairman, they should learn about procedure so that they know what they are talking about.
The Hon. P. F. O'GRADY: Last week the Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy walked through these gold gates, yet he now speaks about procedure in this Chamber. If we are to debate the third print of this bill then presumably it should be available in the Chamber for honourable members to refer to it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! If the Hon. P. F. O'Grady does not wish to confine his remarks to the subject-matter before the Committee he should resume his seat.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [3.16]: At this stage I propose to confine my remarks to clauses 8 and 9. The amendments to new clause 8 provide that the Minister for Planning be the determining authority for environmental impact statements prepared by the Forestry Commission. Therefore, I submit it is perfectly correct to speak about the Forestry Commission. A few moments ago a member on the Government benches suggested that that was not possible under the amendment. It has been pointed out already by my colleague and by the Leader of the Opposition that the Minister for Planning is not competent -
The Hon. R. J. Webster: On a point of order. If the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby and other honourable members want to talk about the Forestry Commission, the Minister for Planning being the consent authority, and a whole range of other issues, they should wait until the Committee is dealing with those matters. At present we are debating amendments Nos 2, 8 and 9. The honourable member knows how the Committee works.
The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby: On the point of order. With due deference to the Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy, clause 8 deals with the fact that the Minister for Planning is the determining authority. Therefore, if I talk about the Minister for Planning being the determining authority, I am talking about clause 8.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! At this stage the Committee is debating clause 8(2) of the third print only, and not the whole of clause 8.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: I have a copy of the third print which I obtained last night when I sat in another place to listen to the debate. The Minister has
moved, "That the Committee do not insist upon its amendments Nos. 2, 8 and 9". It does not specify that we should discuss only clause 8(2); it merely refers to clause 8. I will now address my remarks to clause 8(2). This is the crux of the whole problem because it states that any licence, conditions or restrictions contained in any licence issued by the Director of National Parks and Wildlife under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, as originally amended in another place, is not affected by this provision. The Government has seen fit to remove the authority of the Director of National Parks and Wildlife.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: Rubbish!
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: The Minister, by way of interjection, has just said to me, "Rubbish". If what I have said is rubbish, why is it the Government's intention to delete clause 8(2).
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: The Government is putting it back in again. It is back in. The honourable member has got it back to front.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: Will the Minister confirm that clause 8(2) will now remain in the bill before the Committee. If so, why was it deleted from the third print of the bill?
The Hon. R. J. WEBSTER (Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy) [3.21]: In the spirit of co-operation and the general consensus that exists in the Chamber, I say to the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby that the motion before the Chair is "That the Committee do not insist upon its amendments Nos. 2, 8 and 9 disagreed with by the Assembly". It does require some thought but I hope the penny drops.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: On a point of order. Would it be possible for honourable members to have the third print of the bill so that they can follow what honourable members are talking about.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: On the point of order. It is some considerable time since some honourable members opposite left school. They all know they are members of Parliament; they all knew they had to discuss this bill today. If they did not bring the material to the Chamber with them, they should stop whingeing about it not being here and go and find it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! The third print has been in the Chamber all the time.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [3.22]: In view of the explanation I have been given, not by the Minister but by the Clerk, I will now turn my attention to paragraph (b) of clause 8. This means that the third party rights which were placed in the bill in another place have been removed and that under that clause there is retrospective removal of third party rights to challenge the environmental impact statement.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: On a point of order. The question before the Committee is, "That the Committee do not insist upon its amendments Nos. 2, 8 and 9 disagreed with by the Assembly". They are the only matters that the honourable member can speak to.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby will
address the question before the Committee.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: I now turn my attention to clause 9. Clause 9 deals with stopwork orders.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby should be directing remarks to amendment No. 9, not clause 9. The message from the Legislative Assembly deals with amendments Nos 2, 8 and 9. Those are not the numbers of the clauses; they are the numbers of the amendments.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: Amendment No. 9 deals with clauses 14 and 15, which are the amendment of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. Its effect is that now the Minister will be reporting quarterly to both Houses of Parliament on the operation of the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act 1991. It also states that the first such report is to be made by 31st March, 1992. It is our contention that that is too short a period and that the report should be made at a later date. We are now debating this bill on 10th March. It will not be possible for that report to be prepared by the National Parks and Wildlife Service for the Minister's advisers and to be presented to both Houses of Parliament by 31st March. I should like the Minister to address that matter in his reply. Clause 14 as it appears in the third print states that the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act is to be amended by omitting the words "protected fauna" wherever occurring and by inserting instead "endangered fauna". This provision is to remain in the bill. I am glad that the Government has seen fit to admit that it is necessary to protect endangered fauna as much as it is necessary to protect those species that have only been described as protected. There is a significant difference between the two descriptions, especially when we are trying to protect our native heritage. I ask the Minister to explain how the report can be completed by 31st March. At this time the Government should allow for a greater length of time for the quarterly reporting by the Minister to be carried out.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [3.27]: As has been previously stated, the Government moved amendments Nos 2, 8 and 9 and this Chamber supported them last Friday. Following discussions and consultation it has now brought to this Chamber a proposal to retain those three provisions of the bill. The previous amendment would have deleted clause 8(2), the second amendment would have omitted clause 14 and the third amendment would have omitted clause 15. The motion before the Committee will mean the retention of clause 8(2) - and we are quite happy to support its retention - and clause 14 dealing with the issue of protected and endangered fauna. We are happy also to retain clause 15, which deals with quarterly reporting by the Director of National Parks and Wildlife. Obviously concessions must be made. We are pleased that the bill is able to proceed through the Chamber.
The Hon. R. J. WEBSTER (Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy) [3.28]: I am absolutely shocked at how terribly disorganised and shellshocked the rabble opposite is. Thank heavens for Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile because he is the only honourable member not on the Government benches who actually understands the procedures of this Chamber. Without labouring the point, the Labor Party in this State has just been through the wringer. It is almost bizarre to think that -
The Hon. B. H. Vaughan: On a point of order. The thrust of many of the rulings given today has been that of relevance. I submit to you, Madam Temporary Chairman, that the speech of the would-be member for Southern Highlands is irrelevant.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: On the point of order. I have to reply to some of the matters that have been raised by honourable members opposite.
The Hon. P. F. O'Grady: On the point of order.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: I have not started yet.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! The Minister is speaking to the point of order. When he has concluded, the Hon. P. F. O'Grady might seek the call.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: Obviously I have to reply to matters raised by honourable members opposite during the Committee debate. That is exactly what I am doing. The fact that Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile is the only member, apart from Government members, who understands the procedures of this House is of great concern to me - and to this House, I suspect.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! No point of order is involved, but I ask the Minister to complete his answer quickly.
The Hon. R. J. WEBSTER: I will be as quick as I can. It is bizarre that at a time when the Greiner Government is in office thousands of people should demonstrate outside the Parliament against the Labor Party, a party that purports to represent the workers of this State.
The Hon. P. F. O'Grady: On a point of order. The Minister is not referring to any of the amendments under consideration. If the ruling which applies to honourable members on this side of the Chamber is to apply to Government members, I submit that the Minister should be directed not to continue with the matters to which he is referring.
The Hon. B. H. Vaughan: On the point of order. Madam Temporary Chairman, I say again that you have been rather strict in some of your rulings given today. You have allowed no irrelevance whatever. However, you are now allowing some irrelevance from a government which, by the end of last month, has taken 50,547 jobs from the people of New South Wales since it came to office in 1988.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! I will be firm again. No point of order is involved. The points of order are getting completely out of hand. They are in no way relevant. I ask the Minister to conclude speaking to this motion.
The Hon. R. J. WEBSTER: Obviously the matters I am raising are in direct response to matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition. As the Minister who has carriage of this bill in Committee, I believe that I should raise a number of matters. The truth is that the Labor Party has been shellshocked by this debate and by the matters that have been discussed in Committee. It is unprecedented and bizarre to think that thousands of workers, many of them trade unionists, have demonstrated outside the Parliament against the Labor Party when it is in Opposition. Who knows what they will do if the Labor Party ever gets back into government. The matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition and the Hon. P. F. O'Grady in this debate are red herrings. They know that the Labor Party has suffered a massive tactical defeat at the hands of this Government.
The Hon. P. F. O'Grady: Why did you back down?
The Hon. R. J. WEBSTER: There has been no backdown by the Government. As honourable members would know, 21 amendments were moved by the Government in the lower House, and they were all carried. One amendment was moved by the Labor Party, and it was lost. If that is a backdown, I do not know what a backdown is. I shall not delay the Committee further; I will raise a considerable number of matters later. I want to know, however, the answer to this simple question: when this bill came before the House last Friday, where was the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby and the Hon. R. S. L. Jones?
Motion agreed to.
Legislative Council's amendments Nos 2, 8 and 9 not insisted upon.
The Hon. R. J. WEBSTER (Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy) [3.34]: I move:
Nothing in this section affects any licence or any conditions or restrictions contained in any licence issued under the National Parks and Wildlife Act by the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife.
I am aware of the undertakings given on my behalf in another place with respect to the nature of the determination and report required for environmental impact statements and the requirement that the Forestry Commission consult with the Director of Planning regarding the nature of environmental impact statements. In particular, I confirm that the determination of reports furnished by me as Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy will conform to regulation 64 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. I also confirm that the Forestry Commission will be required to consult with the Director of Planning on the director's requirements for environmental impact statements. I have much pleasure in commending these amendments.
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [3.35]: Though the Opposition received this new set of amendments rather late, we have examined them and we will not oppose them. However, we have some remarks to make on them. I shall tell the Committee why we have been somewhat strident today. I would liken what we have seen in the past few days of the activities of the National Party and the Forestry Commission and statements that we have heard today to the biggest sting since Fine Cotton. I have a warning for the Forestry Commission - not just for the obscurantists of the National Party. I have looked at what the Public Accounts Committee has had to say about the Forestry Commission in New South Wales and I have read what the Resources Assessment Commission of the Commonwealth of Australia has said about the Forestry Commission. The matters referred to by those bodies are the reason that we were so insistent that there should be ministerial involvement in the activities of the Forestry Commission. The same should be said for the National Parks and Wildlife Service. We need to return government to the people of New South Wales and to the Parliament - not to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, judicial commissions and the like, which run the State as they like.
Honourable members will find in the Daily Telegraph Mirror and the Sydney Morning Herald summations of the amendments and comment on the extent to which the amendments which have now come to this Committee mirror the proposals of the Australian Labor Party. That is exactly what they do. I remind the Minister, who continually refers to the Labor Party's interest in jobs, of what I said only a moment ago: that the Liberal Party has knocked 50,000 people out of employment since 1988. When honourable members analyse the amendments today, they will understand why we were
prepared to stand and fight. One could only imagine what would have happened if the state of the parties in the upper and lower Houses were not as they are. We have right on our side. We believe that this has been a triumph for us.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: Why did Bob Carr not address the workers outside Parliament House?
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN: The Hon. R. T. M. Bull, the Deputy Government Whip of the Legislative Council, has just asked: why did Bob Carr not address the workers?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition should confine his remarks to the amendments.
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN: I am terribly involved with the amendments. Those who demonstrated outside are the victims of the scam which I spoke about. They still do not know what this legislation is all about. Was it not extraordinary that, when the Sydney Morning Herald went to the trouble of asking over a loudspeaker for anyone among the demonstrators who was unemployed to come to the microphone, not one came forward. I happen to know what people in Grafton and New England have been told by sawmillers. A person told me this morning on the telephone what the National Party has been saying about this legislation. The Minister or his nominees have acted in this way either by way of absolute deceit or because they do not understand what the legislation is about.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [3.40]: It is singularly inappropriate to have the Minister for Planning as the determining authority. I have spoken briefly on this matter previously. The evidence to support my contention is contained in court case No. 40157 of 1991 in the Land and Environment Court, which explained why the Minister should not be in charge of environmental impact statements of the Forestry Commission. The judgment in that court case makes it clear that the Minister acted outside the law by not applying the interim conservation orders sought in respect of three compartments of Chaelundi State Forest. The Minister has demonstrated that he has absolutely no love for the forest or understanding of the values of wildlife. This forest has the richest wildlife areas in the whole of Australia, along the east coast of New South Wales. The Minister did not use his powers as he was obliged to by placing an interim conservation order on those compartments. In that case the judgment stated:
That the Committee agree to the further amendments Nos. 1 to 11 proposed by the Legislative Assembly.
The judgment found further:
It cannot be entertained that a consideration of fauna by an EIS and by the Forestry Commission in its determination can displace or nullify the discretion conferred upon the decision-makers under the Heritage Act.
The judgment continued:
. . . it is clear that the Minister applied the policy without regard to the merits, that is, a general policy not to look to the Heritage Act to protect the natural environment where a State agency is the land manager and had assumed responsibility to look after the State's heritage and the planning route under Part V of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act had been pursued. It seems to me that the Minister had adopted and carried on the policy adopted by his predecessor, by the Planning Department and the Heritage Council.
This course of action was recommended by the Department of Planning, by Gabrielle Kibble in her memorandum of 25th July, 1991, and co-signed by Mr N. Urwin, leader of the Natural Resources Unit and R. Power, manager of the heritage branch. They recommended:
The issue of the merits of the application, it appears to me, was avoided in the decision-making. The merits were not addressed because of the policy which more or less abandoned the application of the Heritage Act in respect of the State's natural heritage, except in very rare instances. In my opinion this is impermissible. It misapprehends the administrative duties imposed by the statute.
All of this is related to the first amendment, which will enable the Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy to be the determining authority on environmental impact statements, which is, as I said, like putting the wolf in charge of the chickens. As sure as anything those chickens will all die. The Minister acted on the incorrect advice of the Director of Planning. Therefore it is clear that neither the Minister, the Director of Planning, nor the Department of Planning is capable of being the determining authority. In that same memorandum the Director of Planning said:
. . . that the Minister decline to use section 136 of the Heritage Act for the protection of compartments 181, 198 and 200, Chaelundi State Forest.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: On a point of order. I am loath to interrupt the honourable member, but the applications of the Heritage Act are not related to these amendments. The honourable member is quoting from a judgment of a particular court. The truth is that the Heritage Act has no relevance to the matters before the Committee at present. I ask that the honourable member be brought back to deal with the amendments.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: On the point of order. The Minister was not listening to what I was saying. I was referring to a briefing, which presumably the Minister has not read. That briefing talks about the capability of the Department of Planning to assess wilderness values. The department claims that it is incapable of making that assessment. Obviously the Minister either misunderstood what I said or did not listen. What I said is relevant to the first proposed amendment.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! No point of order is involved, but I ask the Hon. R. S. L. Jones to confine his remarks to the amendments being considered. Furthermore, I ask that he precis the material contained in the documents to which he is referring and not read them at length.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I intended to read only that one sentence. I hope the Minister is aware that his department is completely incapable of assessing wilderness values.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: That was last July. I shall tell the honourable member about the present situation.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Do you think things have changed in the last five or six months?
The Hon. R. J. Webster: Yes.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Are you going to give them more resources?
The Hon. R. J. Webster: Yes.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I wonder who? Is it perhaps Neville Apitz? The Minister has been shown to have no love for the environment, even though on many occasions in the past three or four years he has mouthed environmental concerns and used recycled paper for press releases. By his actions he has shown that he has no genuine love for the environment because recently he made what was apparently, according to our legal advice, an illegal decision to approve the Micalo Island development. The Minister is suspect when it comes to handling environmental impact statements. He approved an environmentally damaging development and even telephoned the proponents of that development before making public his decision. That was astonishing to many people up north. The Minister has used his powers under section 101 on two or perhaps three occasions to approve developments that were environmentally highly contentious. Though the Minister makes grand statements about replanting shrubs around coal-fired power stations and all the small details about using recycled paper, when it comes to big decisions the Minister is on the side of his development mates and makes decisions against the environment. Clearly the Minister should not be making decisions about environmental impact statements. At least it is a good thing that the Forestry Commission itself will now be unable to sign its own environmental impact statements. Over the past 12 years it has been loath to produce those studies but has been forced to do so by a series of court cases. The Forestry Commission and the commissioner have been reluctant to produce those studies because the appointment of Dr Hans Drielsma was a political appointment by Mr Ian Causley. Dr Drielsma was not recommended by Price Waterhouse. They spent a lot of taxpayers' money investigating the next appointment.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: On a point of order. I find it increasingly intolerable that under parliamentary privilege the Hon. R. S. L. Jones on this and other occasions has impugned the character of people. The truth is that Dr Hans Drielsma and the Director of Planning, Gabrielle Kibble - both of whom have been referred to by the honourable member - were appointed by the Government following a public selection process. They are non-political public servants. Their reputations should not be impugned by any member of this House. If an honourable member chooses to do that, he should do so by way of substantive motion, not in the snivelling, weaseling way in which the Hon. R. S. L. Jones has done.
The Hon. P. F. O'Grady: On the point of order. I can understand the Minister's sensitivity in regard to the issues he has raised.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: I have not raised them; the Hon. R. S. L. Jones has raised them.
The Hon. P. F. O'Grady: You have raised them in taking the point of order.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: Do you disagree?
The Hon. P. F. O'Grady: Given the role that the Director of the Forestry Commission has played in orchestrating this campaign -
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (The Hon. Beryl Evans): Order! The honourable member will address the Chair.
The Hon. P. F. O'Grady: I submit that it is within the ambit of this debate -
The Hon. R. J. Webster: To attack an individual is not within the ambit.
The Hon. P. F. O'Grady: - that the Director of the Forestry Commission and the Director of Planning be referred to.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: On the point of order. Obviously the Minister does not have the information that I have, which is that Hans Drielsma was not on the Price Waterhouse short list and was not chosen by the independent consultant but was put on the list by Mr Ian Causley. Even though he was on the bottom of the list, he was put on it at the request of Ian Causley and then he was made the commissioner.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! I uphold the point of order. I ask the Hon. R. S. L. Jones to withdraw his remarks.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: To withdraw which remarks?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! I uphold the point of order taken by the Minister. It is not in order for a member to make disrespectful remarks about members of the public service. The Minister has accused the honourable member of having done that, and I ask the Hon. R. S. L. Jones to withdraw those remarks.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: I cannot withdraw those remarks. They were perfectly true. That person is not a member of this Chamber or the other Chamber and I am not obliged to withdraw the remarks.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! Does the Hon. R. S. L. Jones refuse to withdraw his remarks?
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Yes, I am afraid I do. I do not believe I am obliged to withdraw those remarks, because they do not refer to a member of this House or the other House.
The Hon. P. F. O'Grady: Further to the point of order. I seek clarification of the remarks that the Minister is seeking to have withdrawn.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: I cannot recall the exact words used by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones but he impugned the professional reputation of both the head of the Forestry Commission and the Director of the Department of Planning by inferring or saying that they were unsuitable to hold those offices.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: I did not impugn the head of the Department of Planning. I merely quoted from a document by her in which she gave incorrect advice, which is on the public record, to the Minister, who then took that advice and made an illegal decision.
The Hon. B. H. Vaughan: On the point of order. So that all honourable members may know what is happening - because on occasions in this House they do not - I ask whether the remarks that the Hon. R. S. L. Jones is being asked to withdraw are his remarks or in something he quoted?
The Hon. R. J. Webster: His remarks.
The Hon. B. H. Vaughan: His own remarks?
The Hon. R. J. Webster: His own remarks.
The Hon. B. H. Vaughan: I thought the Hon. R. S. L. Jones said that they were not his remarks, that he had read them somewhere?
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Further to the point of order. Some confusion has occurred. The Minister referred to two people, Gabrielle Kibble and Dr Hans Drielsma. The information or remarks about Gabrielle Kibble came from a briefing paper to the Minister signed by Gabrielle Kibble. They were recommendations by her not to use his powers under the Heritage Act. That decision, as determined in a court case, was incorrect. That court determined that she gave the Minister incorrect information, which the Minister then acted upon and made an illegal decision.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: On the point of order. I understood that the Hon. R. S. L. Jones was referring to the events of the briefing organised by the Minister for Conservation and Land Management last week, during which the point was made on many occasions that the Director of the Forestry Commission - by being present when people from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and other relevant bureaucrats, including the Director of the Department of Planning, were not present - had put himself in a situation of appearing to be politically involved in this matter. A heated debate took place for several hours at that briefing. I thought the Hon. R. S. L. Jones was referring to the situation in which the Forestry Commission had been placed, partly through the actions of both the Minister for Conservation and Land Management and the Minister for the Environment.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: On the point of order. Madam Temporary Chairman, could you enlighten me on the source of your authority, whether by standing order or President's rulings, to require the Hon. R. S. L. Jones to withdraw remarks about two public servants?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! I ask the Minister whether his point of order was in respect of a member or a person?
The Hon. R. J. Webster: I took a point of order because I took offence at attacks on two senior public servants by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones. I suggested to you, Madam Temporary Chairman, that you should ask the honourable member to desist from those attacks. That was the substance of my point of order.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: On the point of order. It is now quite apparent that the point of order has no basis at all. If the Minister thinks that by taking a point of order he can require another member to either withdraw comments made about a person who is not a member of this House or to desist from making those comments, he has a very strange idea of the rights of honourable members to speak in this Chamber. Parliamentary practice requires that honourable members may not reflect adversely upon other members. During all my association with parliaments I have never heard the proposition that a member can be forced to withdraw comments made about people who are not members of Parliament. Whether one agrees with the comments made by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones is not to the point. I am not suggesting that the Opposition, in supporting the Hon. R. S. L. Jones on the point of order, agrees in any way with the comments that he may have made. If the point is upheld, a very dangerous precedent may arise whereby members may be prevented from making comments about members of the community, whether they are members of the public service or not. If a ruling were to restrict a member's right to speak freely in the Parliament, the Opposition would regard that ruling as very dangerous and would have to dissent from it.
The Hon. B. H. Vaughan: Further to the point of order. I agree with what the Leader of the Opposition said but I believe no precedent will arise out of what has happened because the member did not breach standing orders. However, a convention
is that members ought not to reflect upon a judge, a public servant or even people outside on the street - though reflections on people outside on the street are made in this Chamber every day of the week.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: Further to the point of order. That was exactly the point that I took. Despite the statesmanlike remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, he knows full well that it has always been a tradition of this Parliament that attacks on public servants should be made by way of substantive motions, not in the snivelling manner it has been done in this Chamber. The suggestion that Hans Drielsma is a political appointment by the Government is a slur on Dr Drielsma's professional integrity. I have no hesitation in suggesting that the Hon. R. S. L. Jones should desist from making those remarks and withdraw them.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Further to the point of order. The Minister apparently resents the fact that I am saying that Dr Hans Drielsma was a political appointment. It is patently obvious that the appointment was political at the direction of the Minister for Natural Resources. The Minister directed Price Waterhouse to put Dr Hans Drielsma on the second list of people to be appointed. Hans Drielsma was not on the first list; he was put on the second list, at the foot of it, at the direction of the Minister to Price Waterhouse, who did so reluctantly. As a result of that, the Minister for Natural Resources chose the candidate least preferred by Price Waterhouse. Mr Drielsma was not the choice of Price Waterhouse. That firm, at great expense to the taxpayers, was asked to produce a list of people. That list was not necessary because the Minister chose the person he wanted.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! I shall abide by Standing Order 80, which states:
To judge the technical validity or accuracy of these statements, dealing as they do with animal ecology and the scientific aspects of habitat modification, is beyond the resources of the Heritage Council and the Department of Planning.
However, I remind honourable members that in their parliamentary behaviour they should not seek to destroy the reputations of others or be disrespectful of public servants.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I was not being disrespectful of Dr Hans Drielsma; I was merely pointing out that he was a political appointee.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! The Hon. R. S. L. Jones should continue his remarks.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: The Forestry Commission has been in charge of our forests for many years. In that time the commission has not planted any eucalypts but has sold out our forests for the lowest possible royalties. That is why the State is in crisis. That is why the Timber Industry (Interim Protection) Bill is being debated. The Forestry Commission has mismanaged our forests for many years through an hereditary hierarchy that has carried on a policy of destroying forests and giving them away to companies such as Harris Daishowa for almost nothing. A handful of jobs would not be at risk if the Forestry Commission had managed our forests properly during the past 40 years and if it had started eucalypt plantations 40 years ago, as it should have done.
Progress reported and leave granted to sit again.
The ACTING-PRESIDENT: Order! Pursuant to sessional orders, business is interrupted for the taking of questions.
No Member shall use offensive words against either House of the Legislature, or any Member thereof; nor against any Statute, unless when moving for its repeal.