Legislative Council; General Purpose Standing Committees; Transport and Tourism

About this Item
SpeakersLangton The Hon Brian; Goldsmith The Hon Dr Marlene; Sham-Ho The Hon Helen; Cohen The Hon Ian; Obeid The Hon Eddie; Macdonald The Hon Ian
BusinessBudget, Committee, Estimates Committee

General Purpose Standing Committee No. 4
Monday, 2 June 1997
The Committee met at 9.30 a.m.
The Hon. I. M. Macdonald (Chair)

The Hon. I. Cohen
The Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith
The Hon. E. M. Obeid
The Hon. R. B. Rowland Smith


The Hon. B. J. Langton, Minister for Transport, and Minister for Tourism

Department of Transport
Mr I. Robinson, Acting Director-General
Mr P. Hayes, Acting Executive Director, Commercial Policy

Freight Rail Corporation
Mr L. DiBartolomeo, Chief Executive
Mr G. Pedersen, General Manager, Finance and Strategy

Rail Access Corporation
Ms J. Stack, Chief Executive
Mr A. Richardson, Chief Financial Officer

Railway Services Authority
Mr T. Ogg, Chief Executive
Mr F. Morrison, Chief Financial Officer

State Rail Authority
Mr D. Hill, Chief Executive
Mr D. Staun, General Manager, Corporate Finance

State Transit Authority
Mr J. Stott, Chief Executive
Mr P. Dunn, General Manager, Corporate Policy and Resources

Tourism New South Wales
Mr A. Thirlwell, Chief Executive
Ms C. Miller, Manager, Financial Services

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CHAIR: I declare this General Purpose Standing Committee on the budget estimates for transport and tourism open. At this meeting the Committee will examine the proposed expenditure from the Consolidated Fund for the portfolio areas of transport and tourism. Before questions commence some procedural matters need to be dealt with. While resolution 7 of the budget estimates committee reference provides that a member of the Committee and any Minister present to answer questions -

Mr LANGTON: On a point of order. I draw your attention to the fact that the table is being approached contrary to the standing orders.

CHAIR: An attendant is present. If anyone has any material they would like to hand to the Committee, could they give that to the attendant to hand to the members. While resolution 7 of the budget estimates reference provides that a committee member and any Minister present to answer questions may have staff present to assist them during the hearing of evidence and may refer to those staff at any time, I remind members' staff and any other members that they should follow the procedure I have just outlined. Where possible, messages for members should be given to the attendant. To the members of the media, the Committee resolved this morning that the press and public be admitted to the proceedings of the Committee. So that you will be aware of the position, Standing Order 252 of the Legislative Council provides:
      Evidence taken by any Select Committee of the House, and documents presented to such Committee which have not been reported to the House, may not, except with the permission of a Committee, be disclosed or published by any Member of such Committee or by any other person.

In reporting the proceedings of this Committee, as with reporting all proceedings of both Houses of Parliament, the media must take responsibility for what it publishes and what interpretation it places on anything that is said before the Committee. In order to accurately complete Questions and Answers, the Committee Clerk requires that members complete and sign the appropriate form when a question is taken or given on notice. For the benefit of members and Hansard I ask departmental officials to identify themselves by name, position and department or agency before answering each question.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: I refer the Minister to Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, page 627. I note that in the financial year 1997-98 $1,792,927 million will be spent on Recurrent Services in the Department of Transport. How much of this will be achieved through asset sales?


The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: Do I take it that there will be minimal asset sales in the Department of Transport in 1997-98?


The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: Will there be nil asset sales in the Department of Transport?

Mr LANGTON: Mr Chairman, I take a point of order. The honourable member for Ermington is again approaching the table contrary to the standing orders.

CHAIR: The Minister is correct. I ask that Mr Photios avoid approaching the table.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: What will happen with asset sales in State Rail?

Mr LANGTON: There is an ongoing program of asset sales within the rail authorities as opposed to the Department of Transport. Obviously, the rail authorities will continue to sell assets that have been identified as surplus. Those sales are predicated on overcoming specific critical issues surrounding each site and achieving the income in the 1997-98 financial year. A number of properties have been identified by consultants on behalf of Treasury in consultation with State Rail officers. Proceeds will go to the State budget consistent with an agreement signed by the previous Government. As you are aware, the previous Government transferred its debt to Treasury in about 1989-90, which was a sum in excess of $2 billion. The agreement signed by the former Government at that time identified that any asset sales would return to Treasury. That agreement is still in place and as part of that ongoing program of selling identified surplus assets it has been agreed that some of those proceeds will return to the State Rail budget in the next year. It is in the vicinity of about $90 million at this stage.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: As $90 million is a substantial amount of money, I ask the Minister to identify some of the properties.

Mr LANGTON: I am prepared to provide that answer on notice.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: Is the Minister confident of achieving the targeted level of asset sales?

Mr LANGTON: It is a matter of ongoing negotiations with Treasury and obviously all rail
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authorities will be working diligently with Treasury to ensure that the level identified will be achieved.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: Given that these funds will revert to Treasury, if the Department of Transport does not achieve its targeted amount in asset sales, where will the cuts to the department's budget occur?

Mr LANGTON: Which department?

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: The Department of Transport overall - the general department including State Rail. If the whole transport portfolio does not achieve the targeted amount of asset sales -

Mr LANGTON: I am very confident we will achieve our target.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: In Budget Paper No. 2, page 4-197, for the Department of Transport for the financial years 1997-98 and 1998-99 the figures are $1,792 million and $1,528 million respectively, which represent roughly a $264 million cut to the budget for this financial year. Where will this cut occur?

Mr LANGTON: That is a very creative way of looking at a budget paper.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: Those are the two figures and the difference between them represents a cut for the two years.

Mr LANGTON: Would you tell me exactly the figures you are looking at?

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: The first is $1,792.9 million and in the next year the estimate is $1,528.6 million. For 1998-99 there is a cut of approximately $264 million to the Department of Transport budget.

Mr LANGTON: That is the year out, not the current year. That is not even this year or next year; it is the year after. I am happy to answer questions about the 1996-97 budget, which is the year we are in, or the 1997-98 budget, which is the budget we should probably talk about. I did not contemplate that we would be talking about the budget after that. Perhaps we could answer that question at next year's estimates hearings.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: I beg your pardon, it is an estimate projected for 1998-99. It is the next year’s budget figure.

Mr LANGTON: No, it is the year after.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: Could the Minister tell the Committee if there are any planned job cuts for the Department of Transport?

Mr LANGTON: There are no planned job cuts in the Department of Transport.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: I return to my earlier question. Why do the budget papers contain a projected cut?

Mr LANGTON: It is not the current budget. It is not the budget under discussion. That figure relates to the financial year after that. I presumed we were talking about the 1997-98 budget.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: That figure is written in the budget papers. Therefore, I have every right to ask why it has been included when the Minister cannot project it.

Mr LANGTON: This is really a fascinating way of looking at estimates. If we are able -

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: We are talking about estimates.

Mr LANGTON: No. You have asked me a question, I will answer it. If there is a smaller allocation in a particular portfolio, the coalition's interpretation has always been that there is a cut. If there is an increase in the allocation, your interpretation is that there is a budget blow-out. You cannot have it both ways, it is one or the other. Across the transport folios the Government is cutting out the waste and mismanagement which it inherited from the previous Government. We are doing things better, more efficiently and over the years we will continue to improve the efficiency of the way we deliver public transport in this State. We will be able to do that without cutting services.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: I put my question another way. For 1996-97, 1997-98 and 1998-99 you have given three figures. I have every right to know.

Mr LANGTON: I gave the answer.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: Why is there an increase, where is it, and why is there such a big decrease in allocation in the Department of Transport? If you have put the figures there you must have a plan for that increase and decrease. Where has the money gone? My question is as simple as that. It is on paper, it is in your estimates.

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Mr LANGTON: The allocation for 1997-98 over 1996-97 is an increase of a minuscule amount - from $1,789 million to $1,792 million. That is in the projections.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: To what area has the increase gone?

Mr LANGTON: It has gone into providing public transport services in New South Wales. We provide a large number of different services. One of the short-term costs in the transport portfolio has been the cost of setting up new organisations. That is a short-term cost which will deliver real savings in the medium to longer term. For 1997-98 that is a very minuscule increase, but the savings will be achieved in the medium to longer term. That is how we are able to estimate a reduction in the following year.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: I ask you the same question, put another way. You projected from this year's estimate that there will be a cut. Where is this cut projected to?

Mr LANGTON: No, not a cut - an improvement in efficiency across the organisation.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: Where do you get your proficiency?

Mr LANGTON: I have enormous proficiency and I can achieve efficiency as well.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: That is why we are here. Where is the proficiency achieved, in which area? Your Department of Transport is quite a big area. I would like to know where the $264 million projected cut will be made. Where do you get your efficiency?

Mr LANGTON: We are getting efficiencies through the ongoing implementation of rail reform. That will improve the productivity of every part of the rail industry in New South Wales. For example, it will improve the productivity and efficiency of the Railway Services Authority. As the Hon. Helen Sham-Ho would be aware, the work which the Railway Services Authority has done for many years on behalf of the railway industry will continue to be put out to contestability. Therefore, there will be ongoing improvements in efficiency in what they achieve. Also, there will be ongoing improvements in efficiency in the service which is delivered by the Rail Access Corporation. The corporation will continue to be able to reduce its access charges, for example, by having the work that it contracts out for maintenance of the infrastructure reduced over the years.

That has flow-on effects and reduces the access charges which are payable by government and private operators, for example, by the State Rail Authority, CityRail and Countrylink and also FreightCorp. Efficiencies flow through reduced access charges and improvements in efficiency in the Railway Services Authority. All these bring ongoing and continuing improvements in efficiency. We are able to deliver the same services more efficiently and more cost effectively.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: I will be more specific. Will there be any major capital work projects shelved as a result of these cuts?

Mr LANGTON: No. In fact, I can give you a very specific answer. The year-out budget that you are looking at, not the one we are supposed to be looking at today, but the one you seem to be fixated upon, does not include capital, so that would be additional. New capital is not included in that figure.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: So there are no planned job cuts to the department in your projected cut?

Mr LANGTON: No job cuts in the Department of Transport at all, no.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: Further to the question asked by my colleague, are there any planned job cuts in the State Rail Authority?

Mr LANGTON: No, we do not have any job cuts planned in the State Rail Authority. There will be ongoing improvements in efficiency and, in fact, we have already restored a number of services which your Government cut. For example, we are running rail services to Broken Hill and Griffith, which were not available for a long time. Obviously those increased services give the Government opportunities for job growth. We will continue to press every part of Government, including the railway industry, for improvement in efficiency. In the State Rail Authority there is no specific target for job cuts.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: I note that $61 million has been allocated for redundancies in the SRA and RSA for 1997-98. This follows $27.3 million spent in last year's budget on rail redundancies. How many jobs went last year and how many jobs will go this year?

Mr LANGTON: In the forward year, 1997-98, $61 million is allocated, but it is worth while considering what happened and is happening in 1996-97. The original allocation for 1996-97 was
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$70 million and the cost will be about $27.3 million. That compares with previous years when the Liberal Party was in Government. I will quickly go through them: 1990-91 $133.8 million, 1991-92 $139.7 million, 1992-93 $150 million, 1993-94 $141.7 million, 1994-95 $125 million.

It is strange that a member of the coalition would ask me about job losses as the former Government cut 18,000 jobs from the rail industry over the thankfully short time that it was in Government. As I said, the original allocation for 1996-97 was about $70 million, and that number was reduced significantly. We will end up with an expenditure of about $27.3 million for the current year. It is worth while pointing out that the largest proportion of redundancy funding is to cover accrued superannuation and leave entitlements and only a small proportion - about 15 per cent - relates to severance payments. Obviously the Government has a policy of not getting rid of people for the sake of it. Under this Government there will be no forced redundancies. We will continue to manage the improvements in efficiency and any job reductions which may result from that in a sensitive way. We will work in a cooperative way with management and unions.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: I note that the Minister is critical of coalition job losses and now proposes to cut deeper. Considering the difficult choices concerning cuts already made, and that the Minister is continuing to make, how many jobs will go? That is the question I asked earlier and I ask it again.

Mr LANGTON: The Government has allocated $61 million for redundancies in the forward year. The actual number will be determined based on workload and new work which is able to be picked up by the Railway Services Authority and FreightCorp. I will not put a figure on that. We allocated $70 million for the current year and only $27 million was spent. We have allocated $61 million for the year out, 1997-98. The actual number will be determined as we go through the year.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: I refer to Budget Paper No. 4, page 106, Acquisition of New Suburban Passenger Rolling Stock. An amount of $12 million has been allocated for what I presume is the fourth generation train project. Given this allocation, how many new passenger carriages will be on the tracks in the coming financial year?

Mr LANGTON: I did not expect a dorothy dixer, Dr Goldsmith, but I thank you for it. With the completion of the Tangara project, the State Rail Authority is currently finalising the specification to invite tenders for the design and construction of a fourth generation of suburban passenger trains.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: We are aware of that, Mr Chair. All I am interested in is the number of carriages that will be on the lines in the current financial year.

Mr LANGTON: You asked the question, and I will answer it the way I want to answer it. It is expected that advertisements calling for the preregistration of interested tenderers will be placed on Wednesday this week. Consideration has been given to veering from the historical path on these matters. Evaluation has suggested that there would be benefits in requiring potential suppliers to provide maintenance for the new rolling stock. In addition, examination of financing options has indicated that the SRA could look at leasing arrangements and these matters are being built into the tendering process. The process will comprise inviting expressions of interest, selecting a short list of companies, issuing a draft specification for comment, finalising the specification, inviting tenderers from the short list and then awarding the contract. The process will take around six months and the SRA anticipates awarding the contract by late 1997 or, at the latest, the first part of 1998.

The Government is confident that the late 1997 target will be achieved. The first train should be in regular passenger operation by the end of 1999. At least half of the contract number of carriages should be available for service in the first half of 2000. The fourth generation train will be more technologically advanced than the Tangara and more importantly will permit significantly increased seating capacity, improved interior space and lower maintenance costs. It is planned at this stage to initially purchase an additional 80 carriages at a cost of about $2.5 million each. CityRail's current fleet of approximately 1,500 carriages is sufficient to meet needs until 1999. This is supported by action taken to maximise utilisation of the existing fleet. On the basis of projected continuing growth in demand for CityRail services additional carriages will be required beyond 1999.

In addition, some of the original double-deck carriages date back to 1964. Technically they are obsolete and will need replacing in the period 2000 to 2002. The 80 new carriages will address those needs. CityRail has extensively researched customer requirements through focus groups, surveys and other customer input. This information will be made available to industry to ensure the most effective design possible. Significant factors to be addressed
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include security, climate control, passenger information and general space requirements. It is envisaged that the trains will be built as four-carriage, double-deck sets; seating will be as comfortable and as spacious as possible, vestibules will be access-friendly and directional seating will be installed. The Government is committed to this program to upgrade the rail system. This major investment is a tangible example of that commitment. I invite everyone to read the national daily newspapers on Wednesday in which they will see the ad for preregistration.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: I ask the Minister to revert back to some paragraphs in his answer -

Mr LANGTON: Revert back? That is tautological, Dr Goldsmith. As a schoolteacher I would not expect you to use that sort of language. Sorry, I withdraw and apologise.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: I refer the Minister to what he said several paragraphs back in his answer. I take it that he stated that there will be no new trains until the end of 1999?

Mr LANGTON: That is right.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: That is an interesting answer. Referring to what I was discussing earlier, the Minister was unable to give me a projected figure for job cuts for this year. Given that $27 million was spent on redundancies last year, will the Minister inform the Committee how many redundancies that allocation funded?

Mr LANGTON: For the current year so far 177.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: On pages 4-161 and 4-162 of Budget Paper No. 2 it is said that all funding arrangements for the four rail entities - Rail Access Corporation, State Rail Authority, Freight Rail Corporation and Railway Services Authority - are now undertaken on a commercial basis to ensure cross-subsidies are removed. What mechanisms are in place to ensure cash flows between the four rail entities are fully transparent and accounted for so that budget blow-outs will not occur? When there is cross-subsidisation there must be some kind of mechanism.

Mr LANGTON: Yes, that is right. The Government has got rid of the cross-subsidisation which existed under your Government. The Government has made the interagency payments transparent through its process of rail reform which was introduced by legislation on 1 July last year. For the first time that provides accountability and gets rid of the cross-subsidies upon which the previous Government funded the railway industry in New South Wales. Those figures are now there for all to see in the budget papers. The payments between agencies are there, they are transparent and there are no longer any hidden cross-subsidies.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: I need clarification on the mechanisms.

Mr LANGTON: I need clarification of the question. I am not sure what she is driving at.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: I will move to another question on the State Rail Authority budget. Page 635 of Budget Paper No. 3, Operating Statement, Expenses, shows that the SRA maintenance grant has been cut by $19.4 million this financial year. How much was the cut from the rail maintenance budget last year to reach the actual allocation for this year? You did not have it last year.

Mr LANGTON: I am sorry, can you ask that question again, I missed the last bit of it.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: The SRA maintenance grant has been cut between last year and this year. How much was the cut from the rail maintenance last year to reach the actual allocation for this year?

Mr LANGTON: There is no cut in the 1996-97 budget from last year. In fact, there was an increase. Are you asking me about 1997-98?

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: Yes, the current budget.

Mr LANGTON: Referring to your previous question, one of the interesting things the Government has done is that by more clearly identifying where the money is going we are able to give a much more accurate reflection on what is happening within the rail industry. If you have a look at those figures you referred to on page 635 and do a sum of the line before the one you quoted, which is an increase in SRA capital grant from $244 million to $300 million, and add that to the $118 million or the $99 million one will see that there has been a significant increase in the total. In the past under the accounting methods introduced by the previous Government there was a very grey line between capital and maintenance.

The Government has delineated that much more clearly to ensure that what is spent on capital
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is actually capital, and what is spent on maintenance is maintenance. But under the maintenance heading there is a small decrease in that funding. Maintenance works are subject to significant fluctuations due to the short-term nature of many of the projects. The number of projects can vary significantly from year to year, and the level of maintenance funding is sufficient to ensure safety and operation efficiency, and to ensure that neither safety nor operational efficiency are downgraded. As you will see, the total amount spent on capital and maintenance has significantly increased.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I refer to Budget Paper No. 3, page 630, subprogram 66.1.1. Could the Minister indicate the specific funding to improve rail services, particularly the Lismore to Murwillumbah line, to provide much needed public transport to the north coast? If there is not funding, is there any funding for feasibility or other studies?

Mr LANGTON: As I said earlier, the Government, within a very short period of time after its election in 1995, reintroduced rail services to Broken Hill and to Griffith. I was determined to ensure that the lines that were closed and services that were cut by the former Government were looked at to see if the services could be reintroduced. Two specific projects have been identified as feasible. The department and the State Rail Authority have been looking at where services may be able to be reintroduced. The one that has been identified is one which is currently the subject of a feasibility study. I expect we will have an answer in the near future. I am not sure exactly when we will have the results of that study but it is certainly being done at the moment.

The Hon. I. COHEN: The study is under way?

Mr LANGTON: The study is under way. The other one identified is Kandos to Mudgee and Gulgong. On the weekend I was at Mudgee and I met with the Mudgee rail link people out there. They are obviously extraordinarily dedicated and very keen to have rail services on the Kandos, Mudgee, Gulgong line reintroduced. I indicated to them that I would be very happy to assist in funding a feasibility study on the reopening of that line as well.

The Hon. I. COHEN: In Budget Paper No. 1, the Budget Speech, the Treasurer stated there will be an increase in the capacity of the Richmond rail line at a cost of $12.9 million. Will that provide better and more frequent services to the community? If not, what will the money for that allocation be spent on?

Mr LANGTON: It is to do exactly that. The Richmond line currently provides a level of service which is, as the Hon. I. Cohen is no doubt aware, insufficient to cater for the projected population growth in the north-west sector. The configuration of the line also results in an unacceptable level of reliability - I am sure Mr Hill will agree with me - with services often needing to be terminated due to problems on the Richmond line or elsewhere in the metropolitan network. The Government has committed money in next year's budget to amplify the capacity of the Richmond line. The project includes an additional track from Blacktown to Marayong, a passing loop and new platform at Clarendon, track enhancements at Riverstone and Mulgrave and improved signalling.

CityRail will be able to provide a 15-minute peak hour frequency to Riverstone and service reliability on the line therefore will be greatly improved. The project will cater for demand for rail services associated with anticipated population increases in the area to the year 2016. Design work associated with the project is in progress, and site work is planned to commence later this year. The project will be commissioned in conjunction with the related Blacktown area resignalling project in June 1999.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I refer to Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, page 633, program 66.2. Will the Minister indicate how FreightCorp is implementing its objective of attracting new customers, considering the continued community concern regarding freight transport by road? How much activity is there to attract freight movements away from road to rail? What program and funding is in place to achieve this? What is the basis of the reform program referred to on page 4-163 of Budget Paper No. 2?

Mr LANGTON: I assure the Hon. I. Cohen that the Government is absolutely determined to redress what I have always called the imbalance of road over rail for freight around New South Wales. Rail freight, particularly FreightCorp, is very well positioned to be able to compete with not only other private rail freight operators but also with the road freight industry. However, I will ask the managing director of FreightCorp to address the specifics of the question.

Mr DIBARTOLOMEO: As the Minister indicated, FreightCorp has been established to not only bring about efficiencies in its operation but it is targeted at increasing the volume of freight currently on rail within New South Wales. Just this year, for instance, FreightCorp's tonnage has increased from 65 million tonnes and we expect to conclude this
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financial year just a touch over 70 million tonnes. That sort of growth is expected over the next three to four years. In fact, we expect to be well over the 80 million tonne mark by the end of the decade.

That growth is coming from a number of areas. Coal is obviously a significant proportion of it, but more importantly in regard to the rail versus road debate, a number of strategies are in place, particularly one that is known as the intermodal strategy. That strategy looks at establishing a series of intermodal facilities across the State bringing containerised freight to a centralised location from where it can then be rail hauled to Sydney both for domestic freight and export-bound freight. We are looking at using export-bound containers that normally travel back to the bush empty as effective vehicles for taking freight from the city to country areas.

Our general freight increase is expected to be fairly significant. We are able to do that not through greater government funding but through efficiencies that FreightCorp has been able to make. We receive community service obligation payments for some freight being maintained on rail at the moment. That will reduce over the next three to four years, not because of any reduction in freight - in fact the opposite will occur; freight will increase - but simply by sharing with the Department of Transport the benefits of the reform so that our CSOs will actually decline over the next three to four years.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I refer to Budget Paper No. 3, page 630, subprogram 66.1.1, Development, Co-ordination and Planning of Transport Services. Is there an allocation to implement the greater western Sydney transport strategy?

Mr LANGTON: There is not a specific allocation. To give a little bit of history, when I came to this job in April 1995 the department was looking at the Sydney integrated transport strategy. I determined at that stage that the specific problems of transport in western Sydney were such that there needed to be a discrete western Sydney transport strategy. We therefore set about developing that and once it was developed in draft form we went out to the broadest possible community to get its feedback on that strategy.

That process has been ongoing now for many months and it is probably the most extensive program of consultation that any government has been involved in at any time. To some extent that has caused a difficulty in that it has built up expectations that lots of things are going to happen very quickly. That is not to say that they are not, but the situation we are at at the moment is that all of the community feedback has been received and the Department of Transport and I are now finalising that document, which will go to Cabinet. Once approved by Cabinet it will be released.

I am not in a position to say exactly what the final recommendations are going to be, or what the funding implications are. I can say, however, to give a straight answer to your question, that there is not a specific allocation in the budget papers for the implementation of that strategy, simply because the strategy has not been finalised. I assure the honourable member that the general directions which have been identified as being required within that strategy are in line with general government policy. I also assure the honourable member that what is required to improve public transport in western Sydney will be provided.

The Hon. I. COHEN: Was that document not completed more than seven months ago?

Mr LANGTON: The draft was completed. There has been a lot of confusion as to what was completed and what was not. What was completed was community input into a draft document. As I have tried to explain to a number of people who have approached me about it, when I received that document, that was not the finishing point, it was the starting point. I am happy to get everyone's comments on a document, but at that stage it requires the input of government policy, if you like, and government general direction to complete a document which can be approved by Cabinet and be a government document. What was completed seven months ago was not the finishing point, it was the starting point for government input into the process and that is the process we are going through at the moment.

The Hon. I. COHEN: Will the Minister give a projection as to when that strategy will be released?

Mr LANGTON: As soon as possible.

The Hon. I. COHEN: Will it be five months, six months, or before the next election?

Mr LANGTON: I cannot tell the honourable member when a document is going to go to Cabinet - I cannot say when any matter will go before Cabinet - but I can tell him that it will be sooner rather than later.

The Hon. I. COHEN: Will the Minister indicate to the Committee what amount of money has been spent on this process so far?

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Mr LANGTON: I do not know that I have that figure. I will take that question on notice.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I refer to page 630 of Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, subprogram 66.1.1, Development, Co-ordination and Planning of Transport Services. In relation to the State Transit Authority, what funding is available to assess the changing needs of the community? Are you able to provide reports and studies that indicate these trends in the recommendation and implementation programs and/or funding allocations?

Mr LANGTON: Would you repeat the first part of your question?

The Hon. I. COHEN: In regard to the State Transit Authority, what funding is available to assess the changing needs of the community? Are you assessing the changing needs of the community?

Mr LANGTON: Obviously.

The Hon. I. COHEN: What funding has been allocated?

Mr LANGTON: It is all part of the general funding. The State Transit Authority does not, for example, run services or buy buses in a vacuum. It does that on the basis of assessing what is required. We have made many policy decisions in the past few years which reflect exactly that. For example, compressed natural gas, new low-floor and ultra low-floor buses have been bought. Mini buses are already in operation in Newcastle, and there are six in Sydney. That has all been done to meet differing types of demands; we are meeting those demands as we go along. It is all part of the ongoing recurrent and capital budget. Some of the improvements that have been made in a very short period of time are extraordinarily significant, in fact probably of national significance. May I relate an anecdote: a man now in his fifties, who has been a paraplegic since he was aged 16, three weeks ago went to work by public transport for the first time since he was 16 years of age. He was able to do that because of the new buses and the new accessibility that the Government has introduced into the system. I will ask Mr Stott to provide additional detail.

Mr STOTT: The State Transit Authority runs a regular program of service reviews and it funds that from its normal receipts through the fare box. State Transit has just completed a major review of the northern beaches area and those timetables and new services are now in place and are showing a steady improvement in patronage, roughly three per cent since implementation. We are now starting on the eastern suburbs and Waverley area. That will take two or three months and, towards the end of the year, we will see Waverley services going into place. We work on the basis of major reviews as and when necessary, but in practice we see a review of a particular area probably once every two years. Of course, if rail timetables change our services change to fit in with them.

The Hon. I. COHEN: Considering that information, would the Minister be able to provide reports and studies that indicate those trends and recommendations?

Mr LANGTON: I would be delighted to do that and I will certainly take that question on notice. Let me provide a few other details. Since 1994-95 passenger journeys on State Transit services have increased by more than 13 million per annum. A number of improvements that have been introduced include more services - in fact there have been approximately 200 new State Transit services in the past two years, particularly new cross-regional services; increased frequency of services, mainly outside peak periods; improved customer service; flexible ticketing; passenger information; improved accessibility features, and I have referred to some of those; regular service reviews to match changing community needs; and, of course, the upgrading of the fleet.

Any new buses purchased by State Transit offer far better accommodation than has been the case in the past. Specific improvements have included the introduction of weekend services between Spit Junction and the city; an all-night service from the city to Mona Vale via North Sydney; new services between Drummoyne and Hurstville, and Earlwood to Rockdale via Arncliffe; the introduction of a shuttle service between Kings Cross, the Queen Victoria Building and The Rocks; and late-night services between West Ryde and the city. A number of things have happened, but I will be pleased to provide the honourable member with the other information.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I appreciate that, but they are all urban services; no rural services. There is a breakdown in transport facilities in rural areas, particularly, as I mentioned earlier, on the north coast. Would the Minister care to comment on that in regard to people-specific needs?

Mr LANGTON: That is not a State Transit issue. State Transit operates buses and ferries only in Sydney and Newcastle. We have been able to maintain and increase the patronage that we are gaining on rail services throughout New South
Page 9720
Wales, particularly in respect of the north coast. There is one thing that the Government has done that I believe is significant. I recently introduced legislation into the lower House relating to the Passenger Transport Act which will ensure that there are continued improvements in the services provided by the private bus industry. The Passenger Transport Act, introduced into the New South Wales Parliament in 1990, received bipartisan support.

The Government realised the need for continuing improvements in that legislation and that is why I recently introduced amendments to the legislation. Those amendments will ensure increasing improvement in the level of service provided by private bus operators. Acknowledging that private buses provide the great majority of the public transport task within New South Wales, we have been working very closely with the private bus industry to ensure that its levels of service improve, not only in respect of timetables and frequency of service but also the complete range of services they provide relating to access to information, timetables and lost property.

The Hon. I. COHEN: One of the departmental officers earlier mentioned the northern beaches. What has been the outcome of the section 22 committee which examined public transport options for the northern beaches? Has there been implementation of any recommendations of the section 22 committee?

Mr LANGTON: As I am sure the honourable member would be aware, the section 22 committee is essentially a matter for the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning. It is not a transport committee as such: it is a Department of Urban Affairs and Planning Committee. However, the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning and I have examined a number of short-term and longer-term recommendations of the section 22 committee. Some of the short-term options are already being implemented in conjunction with the Roads and Traffic Authority. For example, we are considering dedicated bus lanes, lay-bys and those sorts of things. Some short-term recommendations are being implemented now within the three portfolios, and the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning and I will continue to liaise on the implementation of the longer-term recommendations.

The Hon. I. COHEN: Have funds been allocated for continued community consultation to resolve the needs of the community in this area?

Mr LANGTON: There has been a relentless period of community consultation in relation to the Warringah transport strategy. I do not have a budget for community consultation, simply because the section 22 committee was specifically within the portfolio of the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I refer to a statement you made during the estimates committees in 1995 when you assured me that there would be ample opportunity for wide community debate and input into the report and its recommendations.

Mr LANGTON: That has been happening for two years, I would have thought. I have seen any number of references to it in committee reports. I am sure the honourable member would be aware that the Government extended the terms of the section 22 committee to ensure that everyone was satisfied that they had had their say and their input.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I refer again to page 630 of Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, subprogram 66.1.1, Development, Co-ordination and Planning of Transport Services. Will you detail the expenditure of $106 million shown against the line item Light Rail Project, under the heading Operating Statement? Is there an allocation for a feasibility study in respect of an extension of the light rail link from Central railway to the University of New South Wales, for example?

Mr LANGTON: That refers to the Ultimo-Pyrmont light rail route that is currently under construction. I believe operations will commence next month. That funding specifically refers to the Ultimo-Pyrmont rail link. The honourable member would be aware that a number of other things have happened, however. One is that the Department of Transport is conducting an environmental impact statement on two extension proposals, one heading out west to Catherine Street at Lilyfield and the other from Central railway to Circular Quay and return. Those studies are ongoing. That is two extensions to the existing core route of the Ultimo-Pyrmont line. In addition, we are investigating the feasibility of light rail on the Sunnyholt Road corridor.

You would also be aware that the Minister for Roads and I announced last week that a feasibility study will be conducted into a light rail route to the eastern suburbs. Overall, the Public Transport Advisory Council has a specific term of reference, a specific program to investigate light rail in Sydney generally. A number of things are happening in regard to light rail, but hopefully they will be coordinated under the Public Transport Advisory Council so that light rail can be coordinated not only
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within the Sydney metropolitan area but more broadly.

The Hon. I. COHEN: Does that include the service to the University of New South Wales?

Mr LANGTON: Yes. I am pleased to say that the $300,000 which the Minister for Roads and I announced last week will come from the roads budget.

The Hon. I. COHEN: For the light rail feasibility studies?

Mr LANGTON: For the feasibility studies relating to light rail out to the east, yes.

The Hon. I. COHEN: When you say out to the east, is that the possible eastern suburbs line, parallel to or even replacing heavy rail? Are we talking about the University of New South Wales?

Mr LANGTON: We are talking about Moore Park to the university, yes. You would be aware that expressions of interest were called for in regard to an extension of the heavy rail line from Bondi Junction to Bondi Beach.

The Hon. I. COHEN: Is there any feasibility study which considers the alternative? The community has expressed interest in having a light rail line instead of heavy rail to Bondi Beach.

Mr LANGTON: The short answer is no. I have read with interest calls for a light rail line from Bondi Junction to Bondi Beach. I find it a bit difficult, however, to understand how that would assist the coordination of public transport when the whole idea behind public transport and getting more people on to public transport is coordination. It would not seem to be in the interests of public transport coordination to have people hop off a train at Bondi Junction and then hop onto a different mode of transport to go to Bondi Beach. I would have thought that continuing the heavy rail line to Bondi Beach would make a lot more sense.

The Hon. I. COHEN: Many in the community, including me, are interested in saving your department significant amounts of money by considering a light rail system that goes all the way to Martin Place, partly replacing the heavy rail system.

Mr LANGTON: I am delighted to advise you that one of the specific conditions of calling for expressions of interest for an extension of the rail line between Bondi Junction and Bondi Beach was that it would be at no cost to government. If you can save money from nothing, I would be delighted to see it.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I refer to Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, page 630, subprogram 66.1.1. What funds are available for the implementation of cycleways across the State? Will the Minister identify the specific programs by location? I remind the Minister of his pre-election commitment; I have his press release, which I hold and guard dearly.

Mr LANGTON: Cycleways are a matter for the Minister for Roads. However, I would be delighted to give you a dissertation on what the transport authorities have done to include access for cyclists, including abolishing the fare for carrying a bike off peak and the design of the new-generation trains to accommodate cyclists. The Government has done a range of things to improve accessibility for bicycles. In fact, the implementation of our bicycle lock-up at a number of rail interchanges and ferry wharves has been welcomed by the cycling community, and in particular by Bicycle New South Wales. We will continue to work with that body to improve the link between cycling and public transport.

The Hon. E. M. OBEID: I refer to Budget Paper No. 2, pages 4-160 and 4-165, which refer to expenditure under the school students transport scheme. Will the Minister outline why estimated costs for 1997-98 under the scheme have expanded, considering the savings made from the reform process undertaken in 1996-97?

Mr LANGTON: The Government introduced a number of measures in the 1995-96 and 1996-97 financial years to curb the increasing cost of the scheme. Under the school student transport scheme operators are paid according to two methods. Operators providing regular passenger services under a commercial contract with the Department of Transport are paid for each child carried. Operators in rural areas providing dedicated school bus services under a non-commercial contract are paid according to a remuneration formula established by the independent accounting firm Price Waterhouse.

For non-commercial contract holders payment is made via the Price Waterhouse formula. That formula consists of several parameters that take into account the actual cost of running a school bus service, plus a rate of return on the investment. The Department of Transport and the New South Wales Bus and Coach Association agreed to the SSTS non-commercial contract payment rate being based on the Price Waterhouse formula, annual inflationary
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adjustments, and periodic rate adjustments justified by a review of the operating costs that make up the payment rate.

The recent cut in payments resulted from an independent review of bus operator input costs conducted in 1995-96 by Price Waterhouse, which was the firm that conducted the initial review. The original payment rate was based on a survey of bus operating costs by Travers Morgan Pty Ltd in 1985. Clearly, an updated survey of bus operating costs was long overdue. The Price Waterhouse review was based on a survey of non-commercial operators. There were 523 responses to the survey out of a total of 1,831 non-commercial contract holders in New South Wales. Price Waterhouse concluded that this updated survey was more representative of the costs of operating a non-commercial contract school bus than the cost established by the survey in 1985. The updated review drew heavily on survey responses from rural operators. Following this independent review the department adjusted the SSTS payments to non-commercial operators to reflect the new costs, once they were factored into the agreed Price Waterhouse formula, in accordance with the department's contractual agreements with operators.

The new payments commenced on 1 July 1996, and the rate of return was not reduced at that time. The SSTS payment reductions for non-commercial contracts only occurred after the review of current operating costs by Price Waterhouse and following agreement with the Bus and Coach Association, which represents the overwhelming majority of private bus operators in New South Wales. Under the Passenger Transport Act 1990, non-commercial contracts do not have the same automatic right of renewal as that which is afforded to commercial contracts. The Department of Transport and the BCA also agreed that in return for the SSTS payment reductions, non-commercial operators would be given a further five-year contract at the conclusion of their current contracts without having to go through a tender process.

The new arrangements have reduced payments to non-commercial bus operators in total by 5 per cent from $101.7 million in 1995-96 to $96.8 million in 1996-97. Operators providing school bus services under commercial contracts are paid for each child carried. Prior to the reforms operators were paid the authorised concession fare for 92 per cent of the passes on issue. The 92 per cent figure was obtained by subtracting the average student absenteeism rate in New South Wales schools. However, a survey conducted by the Department of Transport on school pass usage revealed a usage rate of only 77 per cent in metropolitan areas and 79 per cent in rural areas. Under the recent changes to the payments -

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: On a point of order. Mr Chairman, I draw your attention to page 14 of the sessional orders for these hearings, which states that an answer to a question must be limited to four minutes. The Minister has now exceeded that time.

The Hon. E. M. OBEID: I refer the Minister to the allocation for the taxi transport subsidy scheme. What is the purpose of the additional $2.7 million allocation for 1997-98, bringing the total allocation to $13.041 million?

Mr LANGTON: The taxi transport subsidy scheme has provided subsidised high-quality door-to-door taxi services for eligible participants since November 1981. Since its introduction the New South Wales scheme has been a pioneer throughout Australia, with all other States introducing similar taxi fare concession schemes. When it commenced operation in 1981 there were only 680 participants; today there are over 38,000. The scheme provides eligible participants with the means of independent travel, thereby ensuring that they can enjoy all the benefits of working and living in the community.

Participants are free to travel at any time, for any purpose to any destination within New South Wales. Unlike some other States, New South Wales has no ceiling on the number of travel vouchers a participant is entitled to receive. The New South Wales scheme is also unlike any of its interstate counterparts since it places no travel destination restrictions on the use of dockets. Eligible participants with severe and permanent disabilities receive a 50 per cent subsidy from the scheme for every taxi journey they make. The limit set for each journey is $25. That means participants are required to pay only half of every taxi journey with a fare of $50 - that is $25 - from their own pockets.

All taxis can accept this part payment for service and all new taxi drivers are specially trained to assist passengers with various disabilities. Last year these passengers took more than 800,000 taxi journeys to and from work, shopping and normal social activities. Another feature of the scheme is the introduction of the share-the-fare arrangement, under which participants can use dockets to allow them to travel together. Each participant pays only 25 per cent of the fare in cash and 25 per cent by docket for the balance of the journey when they travel together. The scheme is available only to those with a permanent disability. A temporary
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illness or injury will not qualify a person for admission to the scheme. In order to become a participant in the scheme, one must suffer ambulatory disability, visual disability, epilepsy, intellectual disability, speech-communication difficulties, deafness, or loss of use of upper limbs.

In late 1995 I gave instructions to the Department of Transport to review the eligibility criteria for the scheme. The result was that from 1 December 1995 the eligibility criteria were significantly relaxed. This has since permitted many thousands of disabled members of the community to join the scheme. The additional $2.7 million allocated in the budget is dedicated to further ensure that disabled persons who meet the eligibility criteria are able to participate in the scheme.

The Hon. E. M. OBEID: I refer to Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, page 628. How will the Government ensure that taxi operators and drivers comply with the requirements of the Government's taxi reform package, particularly in the areas of vehicle presentation and quality?

Mr LANGTON: There was a great deal of community concern about the level of quality provided by taxi services generally, so the Government established the taxi compliance task force last year as part of the taxi reform package. The task force will enable the Department of Transport to have a coordinated on-road enforcement presence to ensure that operators, drivers and networks comply with the reforms that I announced in May last year. The task force will also augment the department's resources so that every taxi operator and booking service will be likely to be subject to a regular auditing program.

Concerns in regard to vehicle presentation and quality were echoed by a Roads and Traffic Authority statewide audit in 1995. This on-road audit of heavy vehicles and public passenger vehicles involve random inspections. Over 280 taxis were inspected at Sydney airport as part of that audit. As a result of that the Government has decided to implement higher roadworthiness standards. A roadworthiness assurance system, incorporating a vehicle maintenance program and clearly auditable processes, is now a fundamental part of taxi operator accreditation standards. These standards require auditable information systems, clearly defined accountabilities and responsibilities, and better education of maintenance staff and drivers.

Any taxi found in Sydney, Newcastle or Wollongong with a major or dangerous defect will be sent for inspection every two months at an RTA authorised heavy vehicle inspection station. The task force undertakes vehicle quality inspections at both city and suburban ranks. The complete metropolitan transport district is covered by the task force. The initial activity of the task force focused on warning drivers and operators; this has gradually changed to issuing infringement notices to reinforce the required compliance with accreditation standards. For example, since August 1996 the taxi compliance task force has averaged an on-road presence of two days per week. These days vary on a weekly basis to enable various areas to be targeted.

We have had some success with that. A pre-Christmas enforcement activity was conducted from 16 to 24 December. During this campaign the task force inspected 1,254 taxis, of which 114 were defective and immediately put off the road. The task force also issued 152 non-compliance notices and 91 infringement notices. So far, 780 taxi ranks have been inspected, 6,014 taxis have been inspected, and 543 non-compliance notices and 171 infringement notices have been issued. That shows that the department and the task force are committed to ensuring that the standard is increased. I believe that there has been a measurable and visible improvement in the standard of taxis on our roads.

The Hon. E. M. OBEID: I ask a further question on CityRail passenger security. Page 4-165 of Budget Paper No. 2 indicates an amount of $5 million has been allocated for station security. What initiatives has the Government taken in regard to the security of CityRail customers?

Mr LANGTON: Obviously, the Government regards the security of rail customers as its number one priority. That is demonstrated by the range of initiatives taken to improve security across the CityRail network. Transit police numbers have been increased and uniformed private security guards introduced to patrol both trains and stations. The Nightsafe program, using two carriages on Tangara trains at night, has been extended, and Tangara-type customer-to-crew help points is planned for provision in earlier double-deck rolling stock which is being upgraded. A security audit of all metropolitan stations has been conducted to identify the need for additional security measures, and a similar audit is proposed for all other stations on the network. The Transport Safety Bureau has been established within the Department of Transport to oversee safety issues on all forms of public transport and, to assist the bureau, a transport safety advisory committee was created to facilitate input from all sections of the community.

Page 9724

In addition, in line with the Government's commitment to the people of New South Wales, CityRail is implementing a safe station program which will provide a specially selected network of 62 stations with enhanced security. That will include a staff presence from the first train to the last train, high-intensity lighting, closed-circuit television cameras and platform passenger help points. The safe stations were selected on the basis of patronage levels, present and future availability of easy access facilities, proximity to transport interchanges, distribution across the network, availability of Nightride bus services and security risk factors as determined by incident reporting and other input.

During 1996-97 nine additional stations were equipped with locally monitored closed-circuit television and contracts will be let shortly for similar work at East Hills, Fairfield, Glenfield, Kingsgrove, Moss Vale, Picton and Riverwood. In addition, high-intensity lighting is being trialled at three stations, with design nearing completion for seven additional sites. The design for CCTV at all remaining safe stations, together with a scope of works for the remote monitoring of CCTV, is also being completed. A $5 million allocation has been made in 1997-98 towards the continuation of this program. In this regard CCTV is proposed for Central, Town Hall, Wynyard, Katoomba, Richmond, Seven Hills, Riverstone, Newcastle, Broadmeadow and Springwood.

There will also be work on providing high-intensity lighting at 14 additional locations and on extending help points. At present, Cabramatta, Granville, Hornsby and Redfern have police facilities. In the 1997-98 budget $400,000 has been allocated to provide these facilities at other locations, including Strathfield, Sutherland, Sydenham, Penrith, Campbelltown, Blacktown, Ashfield and Parramatta; and $100,000 has also been allocated to upgrade the CityRail protective services security control centre.

The Hon. E. M. OBEID: On page 78 of Budget Paper No. 4 there is a list of works in progress in the department. Can the Minister tell the Committee the status of each of those projects?

Mr LANGTON: The budget contains initiatives for improving services and facilities for public transport users in western Sydney. First, in relation to the rail system, major infrastructure programs include the East Hills amplification, $36 million, and the Richmond line amplification, which I talked about earlier, combined with the $157.3 million allocated to the ongoing construction of the New Southern Railway. That will provide a much more efficient and reliable system to serve rail passengers in the greater west and south-west Sydney. As members would be aware, in last year's budget money was allocated for an interchange station between the New Southern Railway and the Illawarra line, and for improved crossover points where the East Hills line comes into Tempe to improve the efficiency of that line out to Glenfield and Campbelltown.

Some station improvements in western Sydney include Liverpool station, $5 million; Yennora, $0.7 million; Merrylands, $1 million; Leumeah station footbridge, $350,000; Springwood easy access, $2 million; Bankstown easy access, $2.3 million; Kingswood station upgrade, $430,000; Werrington station, $430,000; and Campbelltown station upgrade, $300,000. Major rolling stock expenditure to benefit western Sydney includes $43 million in the current year for the Auburn main train contracts for major maintenance. Money has been spent on Penrith overnight stabling security; $480,000 has been spent on Campbelltown, Penrith and Liverpool stabling maintenance; and about $600,000 in the current year has been spent on stabling work at Auburn and Flemington stations. Residents of western Sydney will also benefit from the $23 million investment being made to refurbish existing passenger carriages and the $12 million investment in new rolling stock. As I mentioned earlier, that relates specifically to the new generation of trains.

Safety improvements include proposals to install police shopfronts at those stations I mentioned earlier: Strathfield, Penrith, Campbelltown, Blacktown and Parramatta. Facilities at these stations will include offices, interview rooms and equipment to staff the stations during critical times - some for as long as 12 to 16 hours a day. The benefits of such visible facilities are that the travelling public, especially the elderly and the vulnerable, will be afforded improved safety with the presence of police officers. Western Sydney residents will continue to benefit from schemes such as the school student transport scheme, the taxi transport subsidy scheme and the community transport program, which is almost $2 million in the 1997-98 year. The RTA public transport infrastructure improvement program is improving priority for buses and making transfers easier at railway interchanges and commercial centres. Projects under the program include upgrading of bus priority routes in Parramatta central business district, improving Wentworthville interchange and replacing level crossings at Leumeah and Quakers Hill.

CHAIR: Budget Paper No. 4, page 109, contains an allocation of $157.3 million for the New
Page 9725
Southern Railway. Can the Minister advise at what stage this project is in the construction program?

Mr LANGTON: After commencing site works in August 1995, construction of the New Southern Railway is progressing well and will be completed by May 2000. This joint development between the private and public sectors will link the East Hills line to the city with stations at Green Square, Mascot, and both the domestic and international terminals. In fact, yesterday I was looking at work on the Green Square and Mascot railway stations, and it is progressing very well. An interchange station will also be constructed at north Arncliffe. That was not included in the original contract. I am not sure why the former Government did not think it was wise to have an interchange station between the New Southern Railway line and the Illawarra line. However, this Government, as it has had to do so many times, picked up the broken pieces left behind. The Government will pay for and own the tunnels and tracks. This component of the project - about 80 per cent of the total cost - is being designed and built, and will be maintained, by the private sector. The private sector will also build, own and operate the stations, except north Arncliffe, under a 30-year concession, after which they will revert to public ownership.

By improving public transport access to the airport and central industrial area, the New Southern Railway will provide the potential to reduce road congestion and vehicle emissions. The urban stimulus of a significant transport connection through this area will also boost the Government's urban consolidation aims by providing a predicted 13,000 new dwellings with housing for 30,000 residents. As train services will be provided by CityRail, people using residential and commercial developments in the vicinity of stations will have direct access to the entire CityRail network. Budget Paper No. 4 shows the total project cost of $633.7 million. The allocation of $157.3 million in the next financial year represents the largest allocation in the life of the contract and reflects the amount paid to the private sector contractor for the extent of work to be carried out.

During this year the soft ground tunnelling will continue from Tempe and the tunnel boring machine will reach the already constructed international terminal station box. In fact, that happened at 5 p.m. last Friday. Anyone who wants to go and look at that great project is welcome to do so. From there, the boring machine will continue tunnelling towards Mascot; it is envisaged that the tunnel boring machine will reach Mascot station in July 1998. In the hard rock tunnel section of the route between Green Square and Central there has been extensive work. From the Green Square construction area, 1.2 kilometres of the tunnel have already been constructed. Substantial progress is also being made on the construction of the interchange station at the junction of the New Southern Railway with the East Hills and Illawarra lines.

The Government has made the commitment to build that station to ensure that the public gains the maximum benefit from the construction of this line. The allocation of funding for that is contained on page 107 of Budget Paper No. 4. That will fund escalators at north Arncliffe station. Substantial progress has been made. The line will now provide a good interchange from the Illawarra line to the New Southern Railway line, providing people from the Illawarra and southern Sydney with access to the station. The activity which will be undertaken in 1997-98 will be the most significant and certainly the most intense of the project.

CHAIR: Being a country person, I would like more detail on a matter you touched on earlier. Will the allocations in Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, page 364, ensure the continuation of rural rail services?

Mr LANGTON: In February 1997 the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal released an interim report on its review of pricing principles for Countrylink. The tribunal's recommendations were wide ranging and focused on the most efficient ways in which government could provide long-distance passenger transport services to the community. It outlined the following options for the Government to consider: replacing some country rail services with bus and coach services; tendering out services on a competitive basis; a range of efficiency improvements, including closing travel centres which could lead to a reduction in costs and subsidy requirements; and reintroduction of the administration fee for pensioners when booking journeys with their free travel vouchers.

I made it clear to the Committee that no CountryRail services will be cut, no travel centres will be closed and pensioners will not be charged for their pensioner travel vouchers. The Government has made a commitment to maintaining rural rail services. As I have mentioned a couple of times already, it was this Government that reintroduced passenger rail services to both Broken Hill and Griffith. The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal report clearly points to areas in which cost savings could be achieved. State Rail is examining the IPART recommendations and will review a number of options to achieve cost savings. Cost
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recovery is an issue that this Government and Countrylink have worked hard to address, with passenger journeys increasing by 18 per cent and passenger revenue increasing by 11.3 per cent since the Government took office in April 1995.

The Government is committed to providing travel centres, particularly in country areas. However, it is also committed to providing those services at an efficient cost. In order to reduce costs, Countrylink has undertaken a review of the staff numbers employed in the travel centres and its stations. Countrylink currently employs 874 staff, and it is considered that the task could be performed more efficiently. The Government has, of course, stated consistently that any improvements in efficiency at State Rail, and particularly at Countrylink, will be made in a way that does not affect the level of services provided and certainly does not affect the number of country rail lines open and the country rail services provided. In the 1997-98 budget the Government is examining advertising expenditure and will cut that cost. It is also planned that Countrylink head office costs will be reduced. Savings are now being made and will be made in 1997-98.

The Government will seek further efficiency improvements in the years to come also. In response to the IPART suggestion that $1.5 million per annum could be saved by reducing commission paid to travel agents, Countrylink proposes to undertake a thorough review of its sales and marketing strategies to address the issue of distribution costs. Countrylink recognises that it is convenient for many customers to deal with travel agents, particularly in towns without railway stations. The Government is under no obligation to adopt the IPART report in full, but does acknowledge that the report contains some worthwhile proposals that should be examined. I emphasise that no rural rail services will be cut and there will be no reintroduction of the booking fee for pensioners.

The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: I refer the Minister to Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, page 627. The Committee is aware that the Government has given an undertaking to construct three new wharves along the Parramatta River, one being at Cabarita and the other two in the Ryde local government area. Could the Minister advise the Committee on progress of those projects?

Mr LANGTON: The wharves, which are designed to enable the expansion of the Parramatta River ferry service, are scheduled for construction in 1998-99 with funds from the parking space levy. Development approval has already been received from Concord Council for the wharf at Cabarita. That work is not scheduled in the current year, but certainly work will progress on the design, development and community consultation for that project so that the work can commence immediately funds are allocated in the 1998-99 budget. The Department of Transport has allocated $1.45 million in 1998-99 from the parking space levy for construction of the wharf. As I have said, the Government will continue to work on that project in the 1997-98 year to ensure that work can commence immediately the funds are made available.

With regard to the two wharves proposed for the Ryde local government area, studies are currently being undertaken to determine the most suitable sites. The initial recommendations were that one should be at Looking Glass Point, Gladesville, and one at Kissing Point Park, Putney. Those recommendations were discussed by the Department of Transport with the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning and the Ryde City Council. Other sites discussed were Putney Park, on the former Forestry Commission site in Pallisier Road, or Putney Point, at the end of Pallisier Road, as well as Punt Road.

[Short adjournment]

CHAIR: The Committee will allocate the remaining time evenly between the portfolios. Accordingly, the Opposition's next 15 minutes will be questions on transport and then 15 minutes on tourism. The Hon. I. Cohen will ask questions on transport for two minutes 14 seconds and on tourism for half an hour. The Government will ask questions on tourism for half an hour and the Opposition will then have half an hour. Subject to any objection from the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith and the Hon. Helen Sham-Ho, I shall allow the Hon. I. Cohen to ask questions on transport for two minutes 14 seconds so that the Minister's staff may return to their offices.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: I consider this a gross malapportionment of portfolio times in this Committee.

The Hon. E. M. OBEID: Is that a question?

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: The question to the Minister is in relation to jobs in the Rail Services Authority. In the 1997-98 period how many employment positions will be deleted by the Rail Services Authority?

Mr LANGTON: In my portfolio there is an organisation called the Railway Services Authority. I assume that is the one you are referring to, is it?

Page 9727

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: Of course.

Mr LANGTON: As I indicated earlier, $61 million has been allocated for redundancies in the 1997-98 year. In the 1996-97 year $70 million was allocated across the portfolio. However, only $20-odd million of that will be expended. I also said that job reductions across the portfolio will be determined as the year goes on, depending on a large number of things. I am not going to put a figure on what the reduction will be in position numbers in any rail authority. It will be determined by many things: access pricing, how much new work Freight Corp gains, how many contracts the Railway Services Authority gains. It is impossible to predict.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: Has money been allocated in this budget for the Parramatta to Hornsby rail link?

Mr LANGTON: As you know, the Government committed itself to commencing that work in its first term of office, a commitment that is totally on track. Contrary to some reports emanating from the Opposition, the Government never made any commitment to finish work in any specified period. It said it would commence work within its first term. As you are aware, we still have two years in office. We said we would look at Parramatta to Epping, but as honourable members would be aware, that commitment was extended to look at the entire corridor from Parramatta to Chatswood, which is ongoing work. Enormous detail has been undertaken with the feasibility of the whole Parramatta to Chatswood corridor. The Government will look at the results of that feasibility study when it is completed. The narrow focus of Parramatta to Epping was insufficient for consideration of the total rail transport needs of Sydney. That is why the brief was extended and why the Government is looking at that corridor. The Government's commitment to commence work in its first term is on track.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: If the work is ongoing, perhaps the Minister could refer me to where it is mentioned in the budget papers, as it is something I could not find?

Mr LANGTON: Feasibility studies do not always appear as line items in budgets. I am sure that if I were to list in the budget papers every single study being undertaken across the transport portfolio -

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: The Minister now has his answer. Perhaps he can give me an answer.

Mr LANGTON: I am sorry?

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: The Minister has now been given his answer. Perhaps he can provide me with some illumination?

Mr LANGTON: Well, given you are being given your questions because you seem incapable of coming up with your own - let alone reading the ones you are given - yes, I take advice.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: On a point of order. That was quite uncalled for and it was also untrue. The previous question was entirely mine.

CHAIR: What are the details of the point of order?

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: I take offence to the Minister's attitude. I find it quite offensive.

The Hon. E. M. OBEID: On the point of order. The Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith instigated the line of questioning, so she should cop it.

Mr LANGTON: I withdraw the remark. The Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith obviously is capable of reading questions given to her. What was your question again? I have lost track because you kept interrupting.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: The Minister said that this is ongoing work. How much has been allocated in this budget?

Mr LANGTON: It is included in the RAC capital grants in Budget Paper No. 3 at page 635.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: In a lump sum?


The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: How much has been allocated specifically for that project?

Mr LANGTON: I will come back to you on that.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: When does the Government intend to commence construction?

Mr LANGTON: In the first term of office.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: You are running out of time.

Page 9728

Mr LANGTON: We have two years to go.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: I refer to Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, page 632. Under Program Receipts it states that $7.8 million will be raised by doubling the central business district parking space levy. What new projects does the Government intend to spend this money on?

Mr LANGTON: The premise of your question is incorrect in that $7.8 million was from the $200 figure, not from doubling the levy.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: How much is the doubling?

Mr LANGTON: Doubling would be $7.8 million times two. It is $15.6 million.

CHAIR: Minister, if you require help from members of your staff, they will have to come forward and speak.

Mr LANGTON: I am sorry. It will be over $15 million. Of course, again that will not be for the full year because it still has to go through the budget process. The addition has not been specifically allocated in the new budget, but obviously that revenue will be spent on transport-loaded projects.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: What projects?

Mr LANGTON: Some of the projects that will be constructed within the current year's program include a number of wharves that I mentioned earlier, a number of bus-rail interchanges, ferry wharves, the Liverpool bus-rail interchange, the Rockdale bus-rail interchange, and the Abbotsford wharf, which I mentioned along with other wharves. There are a number of projects across the portfolio, including the bicycle lockers at railway stations and ferry wharves. I am happy to take that question on notice and provide a full list of all projects concerned.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: Budget Paper No. 4, page 104, Rail Access Corporation, Program Overview, states that the capital program provides expenditure to renew assets, improve operating efficiency and increase revenue and that major growth projects include works on various lines. The allocation for that work is stated as $237,891 million. Has money been allocated in this budget for construction of the $7 million stormwater tunnel affecting residents of Wombarra and Scarborough?


The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: When will construction of this work, which is vital to the Sydney to Wollongong rail line, commence?

Mr LANGTON: The work will commence as soon as we are able to get final approval from Wollongong City Council. It has been an enormous process of consultation with all interested parties. We hope to get that approval as soon as possible. The money is allocated in the budget to enable that construction.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: Do you know the actual date?

Mr LANGTON: No, I do not, because we are waiting for final approval. This has been a long ongoing process. We are determined to make sure that we make that rail line to Wollongong as safe as possible. We have engaged in the most detailed program of community consultation and expert advice has been sought on a number of different drainage options. In July 1996 the issue was referred to the northern suburbs flood plain management committee to review project options. That committee was an existing body established to review flooding issues in the northern Illawarra area.

This committee was established under an approved government process involving local councils and the Department of Land and Water Conservation. A recommendation from the committee on a preferred drainage option has not been received but hopefully it will be received in the near future. During this process the continued risks associated with the operation of the line have been managed. But, of course, we all acknowledge that a long-term solution needs to be put in place. We have made a commitment in this budget to constructing that tunnel. I am hopeful that all the parties will come to an agreement and that we will receive the final approval as soon as possible.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: Minister, in your answer you talked about risk. I am concerned about the safety of the line while work remains uncompleted.

Mr LANGTON: I am satisfied absolutely, totally and unequivocally.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: What risk management do you have in place?

Mr LANGTON: The Rail Access Corporation, which is the owner of that rail line, is committed to maintaining the lines and to maintaining the integrity of those lines. It has put in
Page 9729
place the most stringent measures to ensure that all the lines are as safe as they can be. It has done that in relation to the southern line, the Illawarra line.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: Does the budget allocation of $237.9 million contain funding for the construction of the Maldon to Dombarton rail line?

Mr LANGTON: We are committed, as the Hon. Helen Sham-Ho well knows, to completing the line from Maldon to Dombarton - a line that her Government stopped work on at a cost of many millions of dollars to taxpayers. Work was progressing until the former Government put a stop to it. As I said, the contract payout on that was quite substantial. The Maldon-Dombarton line is part of the infrastructure and responsibility of the Rail Access Corporation. That corporation advises me that it is continuing to monitor and evaluate this project as part of its strategic planning process. It will determine the need for that work, the timing of it and the required funds.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: Budget Paper No. 3 states that $1.27 billion has been allocated for spending on rail in 1997-98. How far does this figure fall short of the Minister's budget bid?

Mr LANGTON: In this budget I received more than I received in last year's budget and I am absolutely delighted with what I got.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: Why did Treasury cut your original bid?

Mr LANGTON: I do not know. Obviously the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith has never had, and probably never will have, the experience of being a Minister. It is a process whereby one goes in with one's bids and asks for everything one can possibly get. I do not know any Minister in the history of the Westminster system, going back several hundred years, who has got exactly what he wanted. Obviously a wish list is very extensive and in public transport there is always more work that can be done. I am delighted that this year I received more than last year and that I am able to do everything within the transport portfolio that I would have liked to have done.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: Is the Minister confident that this allocation is enough to provide a viable public transport system?

Mr LANGTON: Absolutely.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: Does the Minister have to report to a budget committee on a bimonthly basis on the financial performance of rail agencies, job cuts and other savings?

Mr LANGTON: Like this Committee, the budget committee of Cabinet is a standing committee. In other words, it meets 12 months of the year and reviews all portfolios and budgets. That is its job. This morning on radio I heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the lower House talking about how Treasury and the budget committee should have an ongoing brief to look at the budgets, and they are doing that with all budgets. And I agree with him.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I refer to Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, page 639 - and this can be a yes or no answer. Is there any plan for smart card implementation for public transport services?

Mr LANGTON: There is, and it has been a very detailed process. Obviously different and competing technologies are involved. It is most important to ensure that we get integrated ticketing, probably through smart card technology, but it is a matter of getting the right one and one which will work not only for all transport but can be integrated into other things as well. We have interdepartmental committees working with the private industry, buses, taxis, et cetera, on that issue. We are working heavily on that.

The Hon. I. COHEN: Has there been any public consultation on that issue, particularly in terms of privacy?

Mr LANGTON: The Public Transport Authority and the Public Transport Advisory Council have it as a standing reference. The Public Transport Advisory Council is representative of commuters, public users, environmental groups, et cetera. They have a standing reference to look at integrated ticketing and obviously smart card technology flows out of that.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I refer to Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, page 630, subprogram 66.1.1, Development, Co-ordination and Planning of Transport Services. What provision is there in the budget for ferry services to Manly? Are those services suffering a loss? Will the services remain? In consideration of the environmental damage to seagrass beds that JetCats are causing, will there be a change to the nature of the services?

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Mr LANGTON: I would not be telling any secrets if I told the Hon. I. Cohen that the Manly ferries and the Manly JetCats do not break even. They have been subsidised to a greater or lesser extent since they were introduced. In fact, off the top of my head I think the Manly ferries are subsidised to the extent of about 60 cents per trip whereas the JetCats are subsidised to a figure of about $4 per trip. However, they provide a good service and the combination -

[Time expired.]

CHAIR: The Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith has asked a question on notice which was answered by the Minister. I seek leave to table that document.

Leave granted.
      The Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith asked:
      In relation to Budget Paper No. 2 on Page 1-13 under Departmental Payments Page - Other:
      What Committees and Inquiries exist in your portfolio? Please provide all details in the format of the table below.
      Name of Agency
      Name of Committee or Inquiry
      Type* (Eg.
      Departmental Committee; Community; Commonwealth/State
      Date Constituted
      Expiry Date/ Reporting Date
      Chairperson and Members
      Remuneration details (if any)
      Answer -
      The diversion of public resources necessary to answer this question is not justifiable.

CHAIR: The Committee will now deal with the tourism portfolio.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: I draw the Minister's attention to Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, page 637, Financial Summary. The total current payments budget for 1996-97 was $40.2 million. For 1997-98 it is $38.8 million total current payments. What is the purpose of this cut? What has been cut?

Mr LANGTON: The two specific areas that we have been able to make savings in this year, or part of it, is due to a decrease in cooperative expenditure as a result of a corresponding decrease in industry cash contributions, and that is a direct result of the decrease in the Federal tourism budget. The reduction in the Federal tourism budget has meant that there is not the cooperative matching industry contribution; so that has reduced that figure by a bit over $1 million. Also, there was a $800,000 one-off community awareness program, Tourism is Everybody's Business, in 1996-97.

Most members might recall the very good series of four television commercials, on Eaglereach resort, the wildlife park in western Sydney, the fish markets and TAFE training. Those two items make up for the decrease in the 1997-98 budget. I am sorry, my chief executive advises me that that was in recurrent payments whereas if you look at the figures the budget actually increased from $33.147 million to $33.209 million.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: Minister, on 11 September 1995 you issued a media statement saying that the State Government will not introduce a bed tax and that "on numerous occasions in public and private meetings with tourism representatives I have expressed my long held opposition to the introduction of a bed tax". In the light of these statements do you support the State Government's decision to introduce a 10 per cent bed tax? If so, on what basis have you seen fit to change your long held view on this matter?

Mr LANGTON: The accommodation levy is one which has been introduced as part of the budget process by the Treasurer. It is not a matter for my portfolio.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: I note that the Minister has answered questions on this matter in the House, Mr Chairman. The Minister has not seen it as being outside his portfolio when answering questions in the House.

CHAIR: What is your question?

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: Is there reason for the change of policy that the Minister is now not willing to answer questions on the matter?

Mr LANGTON: I am happy to answer questions about anything. I am simply saying that the accommodation levy is not in the tourism portfolio, it is part of the budget process. In fact, over the weekend I looked at the Hansard from the Treasurer's estimate committee hearings last
Page 9731
Thursday night wherein the Treasurer answered a large number of questions about this issue. Quite obviously, it is a matter for the Treasurer and it is within his portfolio, it is not in this portfolio.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: Perhaps the Minister was not listening to my question. My question related to his prior views on this matter and his current views.

Mr LANGTON: I have answered the question, Mr Chairman.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: As Minister for Tourism was the Minister consulted about the 10 per cent bed tax prior to the announcement in the State budget?

The Hon. E. M. OBEID: On a point of order. Where is the topic of this question referred to in the budget papers?

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: It is in the Budget Speech. I draw the Chair's attention to the Budget Speech and I also draw the Hon. E. M. Obeid's attention to the fact that the sessional orders have been changed for committee inquiries. There is now much broader latitude in the asking of questions.

The Hon. E. M. OBEID: Could the honourable member refer to the line item?

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: It is not a line item in the Budget Speech, as the honourable member should know. It is on page 27.

The Hon. E. M. OBEID: The Budget Speech belongs to the Treasurer, not to the Minister for Transport.

CHAIR: The Hon. E. M. Obeid has raised a point of order. I presume the point of order is to the effect that the questions relating to bed tax are outside the terms of this Committee given that they are questions to be dealt with by the Treasurer.

The Hon. E. M. OBEID: The Minister is not the Minister responsible for the levying of taxes.

CHAIR: I will accept that point of order and ask the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith to continue with questions other than on bed tax.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: The effect of this tax on the tourism portfolio is entirely relevant to this portfolio.

CHAIR: Do you want to pursue this issue?

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: On a point of order.

CHAIR: The room will be cleared so that the Committee can deal with a procedural issue.

[Short adjournment.]

CHAIR: The Committee has determined that members of the Committee may ask the Minister any question, even questions that relate to the bed tax, but that he has the prerogative to answer as he sees fit.

Mr LANGTON: Thank you.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that this is a general social justice question. Country people who come to Sydney will have to pay the bed tax to stay at Sydney hotels, which are already extremely expensive. City people travelling to the country, of course, will not have to pay the bed tax. Given the fact that country New South Wales is continuing to suffer from the ongoing effects of the rural crisis and the fact that there is great financial hardship there, under the social justice rubric that this Government proclaims to have - and I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that there is a social justice budget statement and it is a general one - how does the Minister justify what he is doing to tourists coming to Sydney from the country, or country people who have to come here for business reasons?

Mr LANGTON: I have done nothing personally. The Government has introduced, through the budget process, a proposal for an accommodation levy. I am happy to answer specific questions about the budget of Tourism New South Wales, and policy questions in relation to Tourism New South Wales. However, I am unable within the standing orders to give a personal opinion or to talk about matters which are outside the leave of the Tourism New South Wales budget.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: Minister, requesting a justification is not asking for an opinion. There has to be a rationale for a decision. Were the needs of country people considered in framing this tax, or was the Minister not consulted at all -

Mr LANGTON: I have already answered the question.

Page 9732

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: - in its implications for tourism in New South Wales?

Mr LANGTON: I have answered that question.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: Will the Minister tell the Committee what consideration was given to the situation in which accommodation providers find themselves in respect of pre-existing contracts that cannot be altered, forcing those accommodation providers to absorb completely the 10 per cent bed tax to be introduced by the Government?

Mr LANGTON: Again, that is a matter for the Treasurer.

The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: Mr Chairman, given the Minister's refusal to consider the horrendous implications of the bed tax for his portfolio area - it is a major decision with enormous implications for everyone involved in it - the Opposition is now leaving this Committee because it is obviously a farce. This is a gagging of debate, and it is either incompetence or callousness on the part of the Minister.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I refer to page 641 of Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, subprogram 67.1.2, Marketing. Can the Minister outline the specific regional marketing and development activities amounting to $2.3 million outlined in the current payment breakdown at page 4-167 of Budget Paper No. 2?

Mr LANGTON: There is a record allocation in the 1997-98 budget for regional tourism generally. The Government allocated a record $5.46 million in the 1995-96 and 1996-97 budgets and that has been increased to $7.05 million in the 1997-98 budget. The Government is absolutely determined to ensure that the benefits of tourism are spread right across the State and a large number of programs are in place to achieve that. We want to make sure that, for a start, we achieve a greater integration across all the different programs that are conducted by Tourism New South Wales, and that they all have a regional focus. We want to increase economies of scale to build on the communications impact for the regional tourism industry and to make sure there is a more strategic use of funds to achieve identified statewide objectives.

Within the 1997-98 funding the following allocations have been made: $4.9 million for marketing, $840,000 for market development, $619,000 for industry development and $692,000 for regional tourism organisation support. The real key to the success of this is the partnership between the State Government, local government and the local tourism industry, through its regional tourism organisations, to ensure we get the maximum benefit out of that strategy. Some of the things which are being done within that $7.05 million budget include: a completion of the second phase of the regional tourism strategy, which will provide an exciting milestone for regional tourism development; strong growth in regional brand awareness in appropriate domestic and international markets; and integrated infrastructure development linking accommodation, attractions and transport meeting market demand.

There will also be five regional flagship events with high domestic awareness; strong growth in visitation and integration with all levels of tourism marketing; significant national awareness and response to regional New South Wales' most competitive types of holidays; strong industry participation and leadership in regional tourism organisation activities, in partnership with local government and all relevant State government agencies; effective regional tourism organisation and management practices and high level of self-sufficiency - I have to say that I see that as one of the most important points; and regional New South Wales experiencing above average domestic and international market growth. The Government has also introduced a number of regional flagship events for the 1996-97 year which will obviously flow through into 1997-98. Within that strategy $480,000 will be provided for the regional flagship events program.

For example: Bathurst has the car races, Tamworth has the Country Music Festival, Goulburn has the Blues Festival and the Southern Highlands has the Shakespeare Festival. We are attempting to find a regional flagship event which will ensure one major hook in each of these centres upon which year-round tourism can be built. I have a list of the other programs, which I will briefly outline. They are: the Harvest Festival at Murwillumbah, the Port Macquarie Band Festival, the Hunter Valley horse expo in Scone, the Australian Springtime Flora Festival in Gosford, the Greater West Games in western Sydney, Tulip Time at Bowral, the Merimbula Jazz Festival, the Festival of Food and Wine by the Sea at Ulladulla, the Blues Music Festival at Goulburn, which I mentioned earlier, the Bathurst 1000 car races, the Tamworth country theatre all-year-round country music and the Australian National Festival of the Voice in Wagga Wagga.

Page 9733

This strategy is designed to determine a hallmark flagship event in a regional area upon which year-round tourism can be built. We are beginning to see that in Tamworth, which is established as the country music capital of New South Wales. Rather than having an event for a week or two in January, we want to make sure that it is spread out over the whole year, and I believe we can do that through these flagship events. I repeat, the key to success in regional tourism is cooperation and partnership.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I refer to page 639 of Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, subprogram 67.1.1, Strategic Planning. What funding allocation has been provided for walking tracks? Has there been broad community consultation as well as environmental assessment?

Mr LANGTON: The role of Tourism New South Wales is not all that well understood. Our role is to basically market the brand "New South Wales". Marketing is the key focus of that organisation. There is no budget allocation for constructing anything - for example, a toilet block at Echo Point. The job of Tourism New South Wales is to market. Within that concept, obviously we are trying to market a lot of the sorts of things that have been referred to, for example, nature-based tourism and ecotourism, but we do that by talking about the whole as opposed to specific projects.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I refer to a paper on regional tourism suggesting that the Government will match the $5.1 million earmarked for regional tourism. This was referred to in the 1994-95 budget. It is an overall strategy, looking at significant walking tracks - and I am not referring to toilet facilities or whatnot - for example, the projected walking tracks from Point Danger in Queensland right through to Australia's most easterly point at Byron Bay, which the Minister would perhaps agree is a significant aspect to an ecotourism strategy.

Mr LANGTON: I repeat, the job of Tourism New South Wales is to do the broad planning as opposed to the specific construction.

The Hon. I. COHEN: This was part of your pre-election promise.

Mr LANGTON: I am not disagreeing with the honourable member. All I am saying is that we do not examine specific issues, except when they are done by the local regional tourism organisation. We have a master plan for nature-based tourism and ecotourism. That is transmitted to the regional tourism organisations to assist them to assist local operators or local councils to develop the specifics of walking tracks, et cetera. It is a broad statewide master plan of ecotourism and associated tourism. That is transmitted so that the broad statewide strategy goes down through the regional tourism organisations to assist local operators or local councils to develop these projects. One area which is out of the tourism budget and out of the tourism portfolio, but still within my portfolio, is a program that has been established in the Department of Transport to develop a concept of rails to trails on disused rail lines. If the honourable member wishes me to do so, I will be happy to provide some detail on that. To answer the basic question, the master plan of Tourism New South Wales is to develop the broad statewide strategies which are telescoped down to the regional tourist organisations that are responsible for specific projects, but using the statewide tourism master plan as the basis for developing those local plans.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I would be interested in obtaining information about rails to trails.

Mr LANGTON: I will make sure you receive as much information as I can possibly find.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I presume that would include issues like the Bellingen-Dorrigo scenic railway.

Mr LANGTON: I do not know if that is specifically on the list, but I will certainly give you all the information I can find on that project. I have been personally involved with that project because of my interest in cycling, and I particularly asked the Department of Transport to fully cooperate in the development of the rails to trails project.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I refer to Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, page 641, subprogram 67.1.2, Marketing. Due to the potential impact of the city bed tax, what is the Government's allocation for regional promotion of services?

Mr LANGTON: I suppose it gets back to my original answer, which was that $7.05 million has been allocated for regional tourism in the 1997-98 budget. That encompasses a broad range of initiatives right across New South Wales. The strategy, which was first developed in 1996-97, saw Tourism New South Wales, local government and the industry forge closer links. These links provided more competitive regional tourism product, contemporary tourism infrastructure and improved product and destinational marketing to meet the changing needs of both our domestic and international visitors.

Page 9734

As I said, $7.05 million has been allocated for the coming year to support the continued growth and development of tourism in the regions. The regional tourism strategy has recently been reviewed. The reviewed strategy will see a significant change to the way State funds are used for marketing and development. This will include a greater integration across Tourism New South Wales programs, the increase in economies of scale to increase the communications impact, and more strategic use of funds. Within that program is $4.9 million for marketing, $840,000 for market development, $690,000 for industry development, and $692,000 for support of regional tourism organisations.

The Government has implemented probably the most sophisticated regional tourism strategy that has been developed in the country. The Premier loses no opportunities to impress upon me and my chief executive that he has a specific, keen and well-known interest in promoting regional tourism. We have increased the budget. We are doing everything we possibly can to develop regional tourism, and the way to do that is to make the regional tourism organisations work. When I first took over this portfolio two years ago it was difficult to get cooperation within those regional tourism organisations.

In Young recently I spoke to representatives of the capital country regional tourism organisation, and I said that it was a challenge for the two levels of government and the industry to work together. It is difficult to get 16 local government areas to work together, which is what happens there. They readily agreed with my proposition, but they also agreed that it is happening. They agreed that cooperation between the councils, the regional tourism organisation and the local operators is improving out of sight. Through such cooperation and coordination we will see the real benefits.

For example, I do not want to single out any town in particular, but there is no point in a town wanting to be the town that has the big something, the winery, the fun park, or the cave. Not every town in New South Wales will be able to do that, but that range of activities and attractions can be provided within a region. It is a matter of some of those individual towns and cities being a little less parochial, and understanding that they can benefit by cooperating with the other members of the local regional tourism organisation to develop the whole. We have that maturity and the cooperation, and we are seeing the benefits in regional and rural New South Wales.

The Hon. I. COHEN: In terms of that regional tourism, can you indicate what component, if any, is going towards decentralised conferencing or promoting conferencing in decentralised areas?

Mr LANGTON: I shall ask Mr Tony Thirlwell, Chief Executive and General Manager of Tourism New South Wales, to answer that question.

Mr THIRLWELL: Without going into a lot of detail - and I can provide more information later - my recollection is that some funding is provided for promotion of regional conferencing, in particular in Coffs Harbour and also in Albury, which are very active in this area. Specific marketing programs are being developed not only for their leisure marketing but also for the meetings industry in those sectors. I will provide the honourable member with more information.

The Hon. I. COHEN: Is there any promotion in Newcastle and Wollongong of adequate facilities?

Mr LANGTON: I am delighted to say that last year Tourism New South Wales held its annual conference in Newcastle, and in 1997 its annual conference will be held in Wollongong.

The Hon. I. COHEN: Is that self-promotion?

Mr LANGTON: We are doing our bit to take conferences out of Sydney. The conference in Newcastle last year was a huge success, and there was a degree of professionalism in the presentation, standards of accommodation, and standards of ancillary matters which conference and convention delegates want. The standard was equal to anything you would find in Sydney, and I am sure the Wollongong conference will do just as well.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I refer to Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, page 641, subprogram 67.1.2, Marketing. Can you identify the specific funding for ecotourism marketing?

Mr LANGTON: There is not a specific allocation there; it is within the regional tourism budget.

Mr THIRLWELL: If I may expand, basically the regional tourism strategy works on the basis that regional areas of New South Wales can apply for funding under a number of programs. Some of those are eco-based. The northern rivers area - what we call tropical New South Wales - is very keen on ecotourism. The southern highlands-Illawarra area is developing some plans in ecotourism. Proposals are put to us and we fund a number of them. We have certainly funded a number of regional plans which accommodate an ecotourism, or what we prefer to call nature-based tourism, component. That will vary
Page 9735
across the State and, depending on the marketing strategy of the region concerned, the nature-based tourism component will be stronger in some regions.

As I said, the northern rivers is very strong, but it is probably not quite as strong in the central west. What we are trying to do with the regional strategy is to give a structure to the State which allows individual components. As you might recall, we have 16 regional tourism organisations. They are different because they are in different areas of the State. We are trying to get them to develop tourism as it relates to their region, to their natural assets, and also to their local communities.

The Hon. I. COHEN: To follow that point, and referring to the same area of the budget papers, is funding available for the development of an ecotourism accreditation process?

Mr THIRLWELL: Can I take that question on notice? We have been working with some of the organisations and the ecotourism association in the northern rivers area, but I am not up to date on that process.

The Hon. I. COHEN: Perhaps the Minister will enlighten me, considering it was part of his pre-election policy to achieve a quality product in the area of ecotourism.

Mr LANGTON: I will take that question on notice and provide you with details of the progress on nature-based tourism.

The Hon. I. COHEN: So you do not know whether that is occurring or how it is currently being assessed?

Mr THIRLWELL: Not at this stage. We do have a nature-based task force, which is the interdepartmental committee comprising national parks, forests, fisheries, botanic gardens and tourism to develop processes for better managing nature-based tourism across the State, particularly where Government assets are involved. We can provide details of progress on that. The accreditation process is largely a self-regulatory operation, and we have been trying to help the industry with some planning funds to develop self-regulating, self-accreditation systems in nature-based tourism. Also, the Outdoor Tour Operators Association, the Tourist Attraction Association and a range of associations need professional help and guidance. But we are not in a position to run their businesses for them. We are trying to help them run their businesses more efficiently and more effectively.

Mr LANGTON: The Outdoor Tour Operators Association is working with its members, and we are assisting them to develop their self-accreditation, if you like.

The Hon. I. COHEN: The first part of my question related to identifying specific funding for ecotourism marketing. I am interested to know if there is any specific funding for the accreditation process. I am concerned that accreditation is left up to the industry and that there is no input from your department.

Mr LANGTON: There is enormous input from the department.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I would like some feedback. Perhaps I should put my question on notice. Are there any plans for specific accreditation by your department or by government authorities to regulate and assess the industry rather than leaving them to their own devices?

Mr LANGTON: I understand your question; it is a very good one. Would you be happy if I provided you with a full brief?

The Hon. I. COHEN: Yes, I would appreciate that. Is there any allocation of funds in terms of the negative impacts of that type of tourism; is there an assessment of negative impacts when considering nature-based or conservation-based ecotourism? There is significant potential for it.

Mr THIRLWELL: We are funding 11 regional tourism plans this year. A key component in all that planning, as it was in the master plan, is to develop the positive aspects of tourism, particularly in new dollars to the States and job creation, but it is also recognised that in a number of areas the impact of natural environment and the society of a number of our regional areas is very important to manage. All those plans consider that balance. We have specific involvement with the development of a plan between the Illawarra and the southern highlands which is very much ecotourism-based. We have ongoing discussions with local government, which generally has the carriage of the management of these programs.

We are working closely with the Blue Mountains City Council in regard to Echo Point, and we are working closely with Manly Council in regard to The Corso and the Manly beachfront. We have had discussions with Waverley Council in regard to Bondi. At the end of the day most of the decisions rest with local government, but we are
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providing some funding for financing planning and, where possible, accessing some Federal Government funds. The Federal Government has a regional tourism fund, and we have provided a lot of support for local governments and the National Parks and Wildlife Service to access Federal funding for infrastructure development such as walkways, et cetera.

The Hon. I. COHEN: Is the recognition of Aboriginal significance left up to industry?

Mr LANGTON: No, quite the contrary. Tourism New South Wales works very hard to develop indigenous and cultural tourism. I think we all recognise that opportunities exist, and many cultural attractions that have been organised have also acknowledged that. They also acknowledge that visitors enjoy experiencing the cultural activities and the way of life of locals, whether they be indigenous or otherwise. In this context culture is defined in a very broad way, and that is the way of life of a place, where it has come from, where it is now, and where it might be going.

Cultural tourism can be considered as travelling to experience and learn about the way of life of a place in an enjoyable and informative way. Aboriginal arts and culture represent a distinctive and unique component of the Australian identity. There is an opportunity for Sydney to be seen as much more than the Opera House and Sydney Harbour, with the potential to claim this city as one of the cultural cavities of the Asia-Pacific region. Tourism New South Wales has appointed an Aboriginal tourism coordinator and he is facilitating the development of new and existing Aboriginal tourism product. The work of this coordinator, for which Aboriginality was a requirement, is enabling the identification of opportunities for the participation of Aboriginal people in the tourism industry.

We have established a database of Aboriginal tourism operators, and we are linking those operators with mainstream tourism activities. We are not simply saying that Aboriginal or indigenous tourism is out there on its own. It must be developed by Aboriginal people. Aboriginal culture and heritage must be explained by Aboriginal people, not by white people. It must fit into the overall tourism strategy of an area - in other words, it should be one component as opposed to being the only thing to do. We want to develop Aboriginal tourism that is right and authentic while at the same time being part of the overall tourism strategy. Not long ago I introduced a document called "Indigenous Tourism Product Development Principles" as a guide for the private sector in developing tourism product with an Aboriginal leaning. Tourism operators should abide by those principles, rather than do something that is not authentic. They are principles by which to develop their product as an indigenous product.

The Hon. I. COHEN: Do you have any funding or a framework for consultation with indigenous and traditional owners in affected areas ?

Mr LANGTON: That is being done through our Aboriginal tourism coordinator. Les Ahoy is doing a magnificent job in making contact with every possible person throughout the State involved in indigenous tourism. He is ensuring that their tourism product is developed according to the principles and in a way that fits into our overall tourism strategy. I have been advised that Les Ahoy has successfully introduced eight new indigenous tourism products to the Australian tourism exchange, which is to be held in Melbourne in a couple of weeks time. It has been very successful.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I refer to Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, page 639, the strategic planning subprogram. Has funding been allocated for assessment of the social impact of increased tourism development on the community? For example, has the impact of drugs, prostitution and crime associated with tourist development been assessed?

Mr LANGTON: I am not aware. I defer to Mr Thirlwell.

Mr THIRLWELL: A survey of consumer attitudes to tourism was conducted two years ago, which the Premier launched at our tourism conference in Parramatta at the end of 1995. We intend to repeat that survey every couple of years; it is not possible to do so every year. That survey was positive in terms of attitudes to tourism. Of course, some concern was expressed about the impact of tourism on the environment, as well as about Japanese investment and how much of that is returned to the Australian economy. Overall, the survey was positive. We can provide a copy to you.

The Hon. I. COHEN: That is a survey relating to one side of the coin. I am talking about negative impacts on communities inundated by tourists. Negative impacts are well established in northern New South Wales. Is there any government funding to assess the drugs, prostitution and crime problems often associated with tourist infrastructure?

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Mr LANGTON: I am not aware of any specific study of those aspects of tourism, but I am aware of a particular problem at Byron Bay. I have been up there a couple of times, and I know that the chief executive has been there. If there are any specific studies I shall ensure that I get copies of them and make them available to the Hon. I. Cohen.

Mr THIRLWELL: I would like to think that those problems are not necessarily related to tourism, but there are a number of issues. The survey undertaken looked at broad communities and attitudes, and included most of New South Wales. That survey will be repeated. Some of the issues raised by the Hon. I. Cohen are general societal issues and not necessarily related to tourism. I am not saying that tourism is totally blameless, but I would be unhappy to see all the problems sheeted home to a tourism impact.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I am suggesting that in certain areas there is a correlation between those problems and an inundation of tourists. It may be timely to provide funding to assess those associated problems in tourist areas.

Mr THIRLWELL: I have just been advised - I recall that I spoke to the shires association last week - that $40,000 of this year's budget will be allocated to working with local government on a visitor impact management model. We will look at the impact of increased tourism on local communities and determine how that can be better managed by local government.

The Hon. I. COHEN: That is all very good. However, I would like it noted that there are problems, particularly in coastal areas. I refer to Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, page 639, subprogram 67.1.1. What funding is allocated to achieve the strategic direction of - I am quoting Budget Paper No. 2, page 4-166 - " . . . demonstrated community . . . support for the development of the tourism industry"?

Mr THIRLWELL: Basically through the survey material, plus closely monitoring the media. In particular, we monitor regional New South Wales media and the issues that are alive in various communities. I try to meet with local government operators as much as I can. For instance, I met with Byron Bay councillors earlier this year to discuss issues at Byron Bay. One of my managers met Blue Mountains city councillors last Friday night. We are continually working with local government as these bodies have the authority to deliver tourism at a local level to their communities.

The Committee proceeded to deliberate on the recommendation of the vote.

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