Wednesday, 25th November, 1992
Mr Speaker (The Hon. Kevin Richard Rozzoli) took the chair at 2.15 p.m.
Mr Speaker offered the Prayer.
MATTER FOR URGENT CONSIDERATION
Mr Speaker advised the House that he had received from the Leader of the Opposition notice of a matter for urgent consideration, which would be set down for debate at the conclusion of formal business.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
WATER BOARD ENVIRONMENTAL LEVY
Mr CARR: My question without notice is directed to the Premier. Why did the Water Board reduce capital spending from the environmental levy by $11 million last year? Why did the board accumulate unspent funds of $51 million from the environmental levy, equivalent to $44 per ratepayer? Why is the Government ripping off Water Board ratepayers, planning special levies in western Sydney, and holding back capital works?
Mr FAHEY: As all honourable members know, the Water Board has extended its capital works program significantly in recent years. The details sought by the Leader of the Opposition - or the details he sought to spread out into the public arena - are matters about which I will obtain further information.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Blacktown to order. I call the honourable member for Smithfield to order.
Mr FAHEY: The honourable member for Blacktown continues to interject every time I get to my feet. She continues to circulate stories of a scurrilous nature and continues to try to set the agenda. Only a few weeks ago - throw anything out and hope that it sticks - in the estimates committee the honourable member for Blacktown decided to try the scattergun approach to everything. Her question to my colleague the Minister for the Environment related to the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Rockdale to order.
Mr FAHEY: The question that was asked was, did the National Parks and Wildlife Service provide a helicopter from Bowral to Sydney on the day my first Cabinet was sworn in, which I think was about a week after I became Premier -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Bulli to order.
Mr Knight: On a point of order. It would appear that the Premier is now answering a question -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Campbelltown is trivialising a point of order. Because of the noise in the Chamber I did not hear what the point of order was. All I heard was a preamble, which was quite out of order.
Mr Knight: My point of order is that the Premier was asked some specific questions by the Leader of the Opposition. He appears to be debating matters which he heard from the estimates committee and now he appears to be attempting to answer a question from the honourable member for Blacktown that the Government could not answer on that occasion.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Campbelltown well knows the tradition of this House that Ministers may answer interjections. If members do not want that to happen, they should not interject. The Premier is completely in order.
Mr FAHEY: The honourable member for Blacktown said with a scatterbrain or scattergun approach to this whole argument -
Ms Allan: That is a pathetic response.
Mr FAHEY: It is not a pathetic response. The honourable member should listen; she might learn how to behave in the future.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Riverstone to order.
Mr FAHEY: The honourable member asked whether a helicopter, belonging to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, was used to convey my son from Bowral to Sydney the day that Cabinet was sworn in. A letter was produced to indicate that that was not the case; my son has not been in a helicopter for 14 years. The honourable member's question implied impropriety; she throws out scurrilous rumours but she should see where it all falls down. That is the type of totally irresponsible behaviour we see from members opposite.
Mr Carr: On a point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The level of interjection and the attitude of members in the Chamber are quite unacceptable. Though we are nearing the end of the session and tempers may be wearing thin, that is no excuse for the sort of behaviour that we have witnessed in the House today.
Mr Carr: Helicopters excite me as much as they do the Premier, but my question made no reference to helicopters. My question was about unspent Water Board funds and about increased charges.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the Opposition knows that there is no point of order.
Mr FAHEY: The details sought by the Leader of the Opposition are not matters within my immediate grasp. I will certainly obtain that information and release it in the appropriate fashion.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Londonderry to order.
PACIFIC POWER CENTRAL COAST MINES TENDER PROCESS
Mr CHAPPELL: I address my question without notice to the Minister for Conservation and Land Management and Minister for Energy. Is the Minister aware of concern by the United Mineworkers Federation about the tendering process for the sale of Pacific Power's Central Coast mines? What action is he taking on the matter?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Wallsend to order.
Mr WEST: I am aware of the miners' strike that is occurring on the Central Coast and I am aware also of the reasons that have been given for that strike. The miners want an inquiry into the tendering process that Pacific Power went through for the proposed sale of eight coalmines on the Central Coast.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Maitland to order.
Mr WEST: The end result of the process was that Pacific Power decided not to sell five of the mines. It decided to close one mine and drastically wind back operations in another. As all honourable members know, negotiations are continuing for the management buy-out of Munmorah mine. Newvale mine will be closed, resulting in 114 jobs being lost by the end of January. Awaba mine will have its work force cut from 143 to 60 - and those 60 jobs depend on Pacific Power winning export contracts for coal from its Newstan mine. If Pacific Power wins export contracts, Awaba will be able to make up the difference in Newstan's contract with Eraring power station; if it does not, those 60 jobs will have to go, also. Today, nine miners are 100 metres below the surface at the Newvale mine, holding their own strike. They are there because their brother unionists voted that they should turn a business decision made by Pacific Power into an industrial dispute, which, in turn, has become a political dispute as a result of the actions of the Leader of the Opposition. One of the great tenets of democracy is that justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done. I have every confidence that Pacific Power has done the right thing. I have every confidence that the three accountancy firms, the two legal firms and the two management consultancy firms, all of which were involved, gave Pacific Power honest and fair advice.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Newcastle to order.
Mr WEST: The Government has done the right thing. Pacific Power has advised me that the tendering process that is of concern to the United Mineworkers Federation was conducted within government guidelines. However, it is obvious that in the eyes of the unions the Government has not been seen to do the right thing. The question is: what do we do about that? We can leave the miners down the pit and pretend they do not exist; or, we can move to take away their severance payments and their redundancy payments. When I announced the decision to close the mine I announced also that 197 workers would lose their jobs. I said that the Government would be firm in its decision but compassionate in the way it carried it out. I told the House that, on average, the miners would receive payouts of $60,000 each. Further, I told the House that we would do everything to help those miners find new employment.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Bulli to order for the second time.
Mr WEST: I do not want those striking miners to have to stay down that pit over Christmas.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Hurstville to order.
Mr WEST: If their union wants an inquiry into the sale tendering process, I indicate to the House that I will facilitate that. Earlier today I asked the Independent Commission Against Corruption to consider the tendering process that Pacific Power went through with these mines.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Lake Macquarie to order.
Mr WEST: I have done that not because I believe there is any corruption; I have done it because I believe that those men who are facing the loss of their jobs should be able to see that justice was done. We have nothing to fear; we have nothing to hide. The management decision to end mining operations at Newvale at the end of November and to go into a decommissioning period until the end of January must stand. No contract exists for Newvale or Awaba. We have given those working in those mines a two-year breathing space. Over that two-year period we have mined coal which we do not need; now there is a $70 million stockpile of coal from those mines. We cannot continue to do that. During this process, when we opened the mines to competition, there has been a dramatic improvement in productivity. Coal prices, in real terms - as I have consistently told the House - have decreased by 15 per cent since 1988; output has increased from 3,600 tonnes a year per person to 4,500 tonnes a year per person.
The Government offered eight mines for sale and of all the computations only one bid for one mine was close to valuation. Since that process began, five of Pacific Power's mines have shown that they could compete with private sector mines. Unfortunately, Newvale and Awaba did not have work practices that would allow them to compete. There have been huge improvements at Awaba. That is why there is an opportunity for some respite there, but there have been few improvements at Newvale. Productivity at Newvale is the lowest of all of Pacific Power's mines. Despite a 33 per cent improvement since 1987-88, it remains a poor performer and is uncompetitive by industry standards. The Leader of the Opposition has consistently told lies on this issue. He has used the men at Newvale as political pawns. Not once has he or his energy spokesman come to me and said: "What can we do for these miners? Can we talk about it? How can we resolve the problem?"
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is too much interjection.
Mr WEST: The Leader of the Opposition has consistently strutted up to the Central Coast with his media circus. At the beginning of this week he stormed his way into the Newvale mine and threw away all sense of decency. His actions at Newvale -
Mr Bowman: On a point of order. There is deliberate misrepresentation -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member for Swansea knows that no point of order is involved. Order! I call the honourable member for Drummoyne to order.
Mr WEST: The Leader of the Opposition threw away all sense of decency when he strutted into the Newvale mine on Monday. His actions were in no way different from the actions taken by the people with extreme environmental views who stormed the Forestry Commission offices last week. They are the actions that the ordinary, fair-minded citizens of this State would despise. The action I have taken today will allow the miners to come to the surface and to spend Christmas with their families.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Broken Hill to order.
Mr WEST: Through this request to the Independent Commission Against Corruption to examine the tendering process, I want to be able to prove to those miners that we have done the right thing. We have to recognise the ability of the Independent Commission Against Corruption to inquire into that. I also have to draw to the attention of the House another concern. I am sure honourable members are well aware that the Independent Commission Against Corruption has already advised the Government on the terms of the tendering process. This decision has been taken by Pacific Power fully within that process. But if every time a tender is called in this State members opposite have it referred somewhere else and there is commercial exposure of the private dealings of the companies involved, no further commercial tendering will take place. The so-called concerned people opposite who say they are interested in the economy of this State and support the development of the State, as a result of the actions they are consistently taking, will see no more tenders.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Wallsend to order for the second time.
Mr WEST: This reference is vital. I believe that the Independent Commission Against Corruption will be able to satisfy the Parliament that the advice I have received from Pacific Power is indeed the correct advice.
ABOLITION OF PENALTY RATES
Mr E. T. PAGE: I direct my question without notice to the Premier and Treasurer. Is he aware that his Parliamentary Secretary, the honourable member for Vaucluse, said at a Liberal Party function in Parliament House on Monday night -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is too much interjection from the Government benches. I will hear the question in silence.
Mr E. T. PAGE: I direct my question without notice to the Premier and Treasurer. Is he aware -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Chair does not appreciate members of the Government interjecting when a question is being asked, nor does it appreciate members interjecting in a form that makes it difficult for the Chair to identify the offending member. If such a practice continues, I shall call members to order at random. If the member who is called was not the offender at the time, that is the member's problem. The honourable member for Coogee has the call. I shall hear the question in silence.
Mr E. T. PAGE: Is he aware that his Parliamentary Secretary, the honourable member for Vaucluse, said -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Coogee is now trifling with the House. He will ask his question.
Mr E. T. PAGE: Is he aware that his Parliamentary Secretary, the honourable member for Vaucluse, said at a Liberal Party function in Parliament House on Monday night that penalty rates will be abolished next year? Does this confirm that he is planning to follow the industrial program of Victoria's Premier Kennett?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Sutherland to order.
Mr FAHEY: First, I inform the House that this is not a question without notice because the honourable member for Coogee left his question lying around. I checked with my Parliamentary Secretary, the honourable member for Vaucluse, where he was on Monday night. I believe he attended a dinner at Parliament House on Monday night, so I was aware of that before the honourable member for Coogee sought the call. Second, I was aware that in the course of discussing in a jocular fashion the changes that would occur in Australia next year when the Hewson government comes to office in Canberra mention was made that there would be a great deal of enlightenment in the manner in which the economy was organised and there would certainly be some changes for the better.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Smithfield to order for the second time.
Mr FAHEY: Let me conclude on the basis that I have had some time to consider the answer because I knew what the question was going to be. My Parliamentary Secretary, regrettably, is not a Cabinet Minister - and that was his choice. Cabinet has not considered the question of penalty loadings, holiday pay loadings or any such matters because in New South Wales the industrial relations system allows for enterprise agreements and for these matters to be negotiated on an individual workplace basis.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Hurstville to order for the second time.
Mr FAHEY: As for the tragedy that occurred in Victoria under the administration of Labor - a tragedy in every sense of the word - it was necessary for the new Government to take very drastic action to overcome the problems that had arisen. It will take an enormously long time to overcome those problems, which, unfortunately, have an impact on the whole of Australia.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Bulli to order for the third time.
Mr FAHEY: Sadly, all Australians are affected by the decisions made over several years by the Victorian Labor administrations of Kirner and Cain.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the Minister for the Environment to order. I call the honourable member for Auburn to order. I call the Leader of the Opposition to order. I call the honourable member for Sutherland to order for the second time.
Mr FAHEY: The action was necessary in Victoria to address a problem of huge proportions in its economy.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Kiama to order.
Mr FAHEY: The honourable member for Coogee ought to keep up with the daily papers. What I have said on numerous occasions probably even appeared in the Eastern Herald. He may read that.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Coogee to order.
Mr FAHEY: There is no proposal in this State to bring forward any legislation that would have an impact on holiday pay loadings or other loadings. The Cabinet has not considered it, the Minister for Industrial Relations has not considered it or discussed it with me, and I have not considered it. I have absolutely no plans to introduce such a proposal, because it is up to individual workers, individual employers, and individual workplaces to determine their conditions of employment. I conclude by adding that I fully support the broad remarks of the honourable member for Vaucluse on the need for monumental change in the management of the economy of this country. That is within the context of what the honourable member for Vaucluse said on Monday night, and that would be supported by all responsible Australians. They will demonstrate that when the election is called.
FEDERAL ROAD FUNDING; AND ALBURY TO SYDNEY DUAL CARRIAGEWAY
Mr SCHULTZ: I address my question without notice to the Deputy Premier, Minister for Public Works and Minister for Roads. By how much has the Federal Government reduced road funding to New South Wales, and how far behind schedule is the Commonwealth in the construction of a dual carriageway between Albury and Sydney?
Mr W. T. J. MURRAY: I thank the honourable member for Burrinjuck for his question. Given that the Hume Highway traverses the Burrinjuck electorate, the honourable member has personal knowledge of the impact of the actions of the Federal Government. The year the Hawke Government came to office a further levy of 2c a litre was put on petrol for the Australian Bicentennial Road Development Fund. The levy was established to undertake road development, but under a cosy relationship with the Federal Labor Government and the former Wran Government money was syphoned off to buy buses and ferries in Sydney. That surcharge still applies today. However, the level of road funding from the Federal Government has fallen dramatically during the same period, despite the fact that the Federal Government collects 26c from every litre of petrol sold and returns only 5.5c to the road network. It is fair to say that the Commonwealth has cheated New South Wales. Nowhere is this more evident than in reduced funding for the Hume Highway. Since coming to government in 1983 the Federal Labor Government has reduced funding to New South Wales by about $500 million. In 1983-84 New South Wales received $562 million, in 1991-92 dollar terms, compared to $439 million in 1991-92.
Reduced funding in the years since 1983 amounts to $500 million. Even the Federal Government's own 1986 Cameron committee recommended that New South Wales should receive a larger share of Commonwealth funding. The committee in its report recommended that New South Wales should receive 36 per cent of all Federal road funds. On 11th June, 1984, a press release was put out by the then Federal Minister for Road Transport, Peter Morris, and his New South Wales counterpart, Laurie Brereton. In the press release the two Ministers said that the dual carriageway of the Hume Highway from Albury to Sydney would be completed by 1988, the bicentennial year. They had an interesting program, which included the completion of the Goulburn bypass by the bicentennial year. That bypass will be opened on Sunday by the Premier and Mr Brown. The Cullerin Range deviation, scheduled to be completed in 1987-88, will be opened in June 1993. The Cullerin deviation to Yass bypass will be opened in April 1996. All those projects had been scheduled to be completed and open by 1988, the bicentennial year.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Ashfield to order.
Mr W. T. J. MURRAY: Even the Jugiong bypass was to be opened in 1987, but that will not be finished until 1995. Even the Albury traffic management route has not been drawn up, and the Federal Government refuses to build it, yet that was scheduled to be finished in 1991-92. Considering that the Commonwealth Government has total responsibility for the construction and maintenance of the Hume Highway, the enormous reduction in funding has meant that by November this year 202 kilometres, or almost one-third of the highway, is not dual carriageway. The original commitment was achievable and very much warranted given that the highway is the busiest in New South Wales and the primary freight route between Sydney and Melbourne. At the current level of funding it is expected that upgrading of the Hume Highway will not be completed until after the turn of the century - 20 years too late.
It is a disgrace that when this nation needs to be more efficient its most important national road is congested, slow, inefficient, and in some locations unsafe. A recent business editorial pointed out that transport reforms account for almost half the benefits available to microeconomic reform. The process of construction of that highway, together with transport links and efficiency of ports and railways, is critical to the national economy. The development must take place. The Federal Government must return that money to the roads, and especially to the Hume Highway. If an additional 2c of the petrol levy were returned to New South Wales, the resulting $135 million could be used to fast track work on the Hume Highway. The problem remains firmly in the hands of Bob Brown, the Minister for Land Transport. He spends more time worrying about whose name appears on plaques and in press statements than in getting on with the job of road building by making sure that his Prime Minister's one nation program is implemented in this State. The Federal Minister seems to be more adept at handing out a million dollars here and there in his own electorate than at recognising the needs of this State and this nation. The sooner he recognises those needs, the better it will be for all Australians.
EASTERN CREEK GRAND PRIX ADVERTISING
Mr KNIGHT: I direct my question without notice to the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Racing. Did the P.B.L. Marketing bid to run the next Eastern Creek Grand Prix offer $1 million in national advertising to attract interstate visitors? Why did the Minister tell the estimates committee on 10th November that the P.B.L. Marketing bid did not include direct advertising and was similar to the successful bid by the Auto Cycle Union of New South Wales?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Blacktown to order for the second time.
Mr SCHIPP: If anyone is right in the head in regard to the grand prix, it should be the honourable member for Blacktown. It is interesting to note the strong support for the grand prix in the Blacktown council area, particularly through the Blacktown media. The honourable member's attitude - and I might say the attitude of the Opposition - to the grand prix is not well regarded. A number of members representing electorates in western Sydney are on a loser with this grand prix. I told the estimates committee what the facts are in relation to the P.B.L. bid. I also said I would not give the confidential details of either bid, but $1 million for advertising was not included in any bid. It was, as I also said, a proposal in kind in what could be called support advertising through news coverage and other matters which could be calculated to
represent a figure of $1 million or something in excess of that. I told the estimates committee the exact situation. I do not know why the honourable member is unable to accept that the Auto Cycle Union of New South Wales is not a prime organisation to run the grand prix. If ever a group had a stake in motor cycle racing in this State, it is that union. The decision that has been made is the right one. I wish the ACU all the best in the grand prix. I also enjoy the support coming from the wider community for Eastern Creek and the grand prix.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Ermington to order.
Mr SCHIPP: A member opposite is having a snooze. I wonder where she will be when the next grand prix is held.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Londonderry to order for the second time.
Mr SCHIPP: The honourable member for Campbelltown admitted to the Campbelltown Chronicle of 24th November that he is ambitious but that a frontbench job is not the be-all and end-all. He said his decision to desert the left-wing and join the right was a difficult one, that he was still committed to reform but no longer believed that socialism was the answer. The honourable member was reported as saying, "The left is chasing an elusive socialist dream". Those opposite are dreamers. They have no policy and cannot offer facts to support their position.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Heffron to order. I call the honourable member for Ermington to order for the second time. I call the honourable member for Campbelltown to order.
Mr SCHIPP: We hope to see the revhead opposite at the grand prix again. It was a great show, I understand.
IMPACT OF NEW MEDICARE AGREEMENT
Mr FRASER: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Health. What attempts have been made by the Federal Government to negotiate on the proposed new Medicare agreement? What advice has the Minister received about the long-term impact of the proposed agreement?
Mr PHILLIPS: The honourable member for Coffs Harbour, unlike most members on the other side, clearly understands the importance of the Medicare negotiations because of his fight for improvements at the hospital at Coffs Harbour. He understands also how important the next five years will be for health services in New South Wales and Australia. The fact is that there have been no real negotiations with the Federal Government over Medicare. To examine why, one needs to understand how the Federal Government goes about what it calls negotiations. Despite the agreement being five years old, and despite an enormous amount of research and strategy which have been done, not until the last six or seven months is a paper slipped in, which is very vague in its approach and content, with the statement, "We want this to pass through. We want to debate this at the next health Ministers' conference and we want it approved and signed by the end of the year". The first thing is to ambush. The second thing is to slip out a vague brief. Details of the agreement are not given. A fax is sent out as the basis of the negotiations. Next, the statement is made, "That is the agreement, and we want you to sign it". The full details are not given. The next thing is to fix a deal with Labor mates
in the Labor States, to buy them off. That is what the Federal Government has done - except for one failure. The States are picked off. Hang the direction of health services in Australia. That is how the Federal Government negotiates.
A method of bribing is included in the contracts. Despite the fact that New South Wales will lose $500 million under the Medicare agreement over the next five years, the Federal Government says, "If you sign the agreement now, the States that sign up quickly will be given a little bit of money to address the waiting list problem now". States that take the bribe get a short-term gain and long-term pain. That is the way the Federal Government negotiates. At the Australian Health Ministers' Conference in Adelaide the Federal Government made sure that only one thing was talked about all day. Hang the rest of the agreement, one item is concentrated on, the conference is shut down and there is no other meeting. That is the way the Federal Government negotiates.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to order.
Mr PHILLIPS: The Federal Government keeps changing the documents. It does not negotiate with the States or address the real problem; it just keeps changing the documents. We are up to document No. 3 now and we understand there is a fourth coming. And there are still no negotiations on the real issues with the States. Then the Federal Government introduces legislation into the Federal Parliament. If that legislation gets through the Federal Parliament, it is game, set and match; everybody will be locked into the agreement. The deal is that if a State Government does not sign, it does not get the money. But it is worse than that. We have not seen the agreements. We do not know what we are asked to sign up for. One of the requirements is that the States must introduce legislation complementary to the Commonwealth legislation or they will not get the money. That is the way the Federal Government negotiates. After that range of things has been done, the Federal Minister disappears overseas after saying to his staff, "Don't you dare talk to the States about the Medicare agreement until I get back". That is how the Federal Government handles Medicare negotiations.
Those tactics will not work. They are the tactics that were used in 1984 and in 1988. On both occasions the States bought a lemon. They were bought off. The States were picked off. They bought an arrangement that has sent them downhill ever since. The cash starved States may be slow learners when it comes to the Medicare negotiations, but they do know when they have had enough. The four Liberal States have got together. Last Friday for the second time they agreed that they will not lie down for the Federal Government before a number of the major negotiating points are agreed. Victoria and New South Wales comprise more than 50 per cent of the health care needs of this nation. It is time that the Federal Government should listen to the genuine concerns of the States. The Federal Government's tactics will not work. We have also spoken to the Australian Democrats in Canberra and to other senators. The alarm bells have gone off for the Democrats. The legislation that went through the lower House in 40 minutes has been flicked to a Senate committee. That inquiry will be held during December. New South Wales and other States and interested parties will be making submissions to that Senate committee. It gets worse than that. The Federal Government tried to pick off Western Australia. In Western Australia there is a guy whom I regard as one of the great champions of health care in Australia, Keith Wilson.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Ermington to order for the third time.
Mr PHILLIPS: Keith Wilson is the most experienced health Minister in this country - going back to the mid-1980s. That State Labor Minister has had enough of the way the Federal Government was handling the Medicare negotiations. I shall read a few comments from a statement he made after he resigned. He said:
The process leading up to the implementation of the second agreement in 1988 was nothing short of a farce, with only superficial pretence on the part of the Commonwealth of its representing a partnership between the Commonwealth and the States. The Commonwealth laid down the terms and the States were blackmailed into signing by the threat of "no sign - no money".
Nothing much had changed. The statement continued:
The States caved in one by one, with WA being the last reluctantly to sign what we considered a wholly unsatisfactory agreement.
Later in the statement he said:
In the area of hospital funding we have been left with a situation which I described at the Hospital Survival conference in Melbourne last May as "the most inefficient and ramshackle hospital funding system one could imagine . . . including continuing the myth that the Medicare levy provides the funds."
Later he said:
However, my second objective of achieving appropriate funding of hospital services in WA, namely the re-enforcement of private health insurance, has not been addressed in the current re-negotiations.
The Federal Minister has made it clear that it is not and will not be on the agenda other than in some general recognition of the right of choice.
He went on to say:
The failure to encourage those ordinary Western Australians who are prepared to make provision for their own health needs is simply a failure to apply common sense.
Finally, he said:
Someone has to be answerable ultimately for these continuing failures. No-one in Canberra is prepared to be.
After a long period in providing health care services and a long period in Labor politics he resigned as Western Australian Minister for Health as a protest at the manner of the Federal Government negotiations. The Federal Government must realise that this is not politics; this is a serious matter confronting the States. They are caught in the pincer movement of a reduced share of funding from the Federal Government and thousands of people bailing out of private health insurance. The Commonwealth has this opportunity to rescue the negotiations from their present state of crisis. The Federal Government should ensure that the roles and responsibilities of the Federal and State governments are addressed at the Heads of Government meeting in Perth on 1st December. What we want is the facing of structural issues. We are not only concerned about money; we are also concerned about the structural problems. The Federal Government should hold off the legislative process until genuine negotiations have been held. The Federal Government must start genuine negotiations with the States with a preparedness to address the real issues. The principles of Medicare will be upheld by the States. We support the principles of Medicare. But, if the Federal Government does not solve the basic structural problems, in the long term Medicare will be in danger of collapsing. The
Federal Government must grow up in its handling of negotiations with the States. Under the present offer the losses that will face New South Wales and the problems that will confront the other States mean that New South Wales cannot and will not sign the Medicare agreement until there is a sensible approach to the negotiations.
PUBLIC HOSPITAL FUND RAISING REVENUE
Dr REFSHAUGE: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Health. Why is the Department of Health taking profits from hospital fund raising activities such as hospital shops, lamington stalls and fêtes? How much money will the department earn from the invaluable work of thousands of hospital volunteers?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Kogarah to order. I call the honourable member for Newcastle to order for the second time.
Mr PHILLIPS: This State has a $4.6 billion hospital system and is experiencing crisis funding problems with the Federal Government. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is on the public record as saying of the proposed Medicare agreement, "This is a great deal for New South Wales, we will only lose $500 million during the next five years. We should stop politicking and sign up". But he has been very hushed since Keith Wilson resigned.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to order for the second time.
Mr PHILLIPS: To suggest that I as the Minister, or the Government, would consider taking money from the volunteers who are running the canteens and putting it into the Consolidated Fund for redistribution is absolute nonsense.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the Leader of the Opposition to order for the second time.
Mr PHILLIPS: I clearly recognise, as all honourable members do, the tremendous work performed by volunteers in the health system through the Hospital Auxiliary Service. Each year the work of volunteers raises about $3.5 million which is contributed to the hospitals. They put work into raising the money. They work closely with the hospitals to ensure that the money is spent on projects applicable to the hospitals. They do a great job. To suggest that the Government would redirect that money is scurrilous and nonsensical.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ADVISORY COUNCIL
Mr HUMPHERSON: I address my question without notice to the Chief Secretary and Minister for Administrative Services. What is the purpose of the Government's Domestic Violence Advisory Council, and how will it operate? What other initiatives is the Government undertaking to combat domestic violence?
Mrs COHEN: I commend the honourable member for Davidson for his interest in a problem that affects the lives and well-being of far too many women in this State and around Australia. As he mentioned, the Government has decided to set up a special Domestic Violence Advisory Council to deal with issues of domestic violence and to co-ordinate the Government's response to it. The formation of the council was a key recommendation of the domestic violence strategic plan, which was released last year
after six months of consultation with women's groups throughout the State. The strategic plan has already been instrumental in helping New South Wales to be a leading State in combating domestic violence, a problem with enormous cost for individuals and the community.
The new Domestic Violence Advisory Council will have a vital role in monitoring the continued implementation of the strategic plan, as well as in acting as a watchdog body to ensure that the Government's initiatives in combating domestic violence are properly co-ordinated and long lasting. The council also will have the task of supporting community initiatives in tackling this problem, disseminating information to the community, advising the Government on service provision and establishing much needed data collection systems. As well, the council will have a role in developing and co-ordinating training programs for health, welfare, housing and legal workers in this State to ensure prompt and effective responses to victims of domestic violence and, of course, their children.
The advisory council also will provide support for the State's 75 local domestic violence committees and will enhance co-operation with other States in tackling this problem. For example, links can be developed with Commonwealth bodies such as the Family Court to encourage appropriate responses to domestic violence and further reforms. The council will be supported by a special four-member domestic violence unit, which will be established within the Women's Co-ordination Unit. Also it will assist in developing and co-ordinating policies and responses to domestic violence. The decision to establish the advisory council is the latest in a series of initiatives taken by the Government in the past two years to specifically combat violence against women. Many of these initiatives have been part of the implementation of the strategic plan. Other major achievements of the plan have included changes to public housing practices, the establishment of a telephone advice service and the specialised training of hundreds of professionals. More than 500 professionals now have been trained throughout the State in the New South Wales domestic violence core training program.
Recently the Minister for Housing announced that in future his department will ensure that the perpetrators of the violence are evicted rather than the victims. Another of my colleagues in the other place, the Attorney General, has introduced legislation to enable interstate protection orders to be registered and enforced in New South Wales. That development has been long awaited by the women of this State. The victims of domestic violence are also receiving important information and advice when they need it most. My colleague the Minister for Community Services and Assistant Minister for Health has established a 24-hour 008 telephone advice service to help answer the queries of these women and to deal with their needs. In addition, the Women's Co-ordination Unit, which is within my own portfolio, distributes 135,000 domestic violence information pamphlets each year.
In May this year the police were given increased powers to deal with cases of domestic violence. Officers are now required to apply for apprehended violence orders on behalf of victims. The seizure of guns is now mandatory in cases of domestic violence. Research indicates that domestic violence costs the community hundreds of millions of dollars each year, but the toll this problem takes on the lives of thousands of women throughout this State cannot be established. Last year 12,000 apprehended violence orders were taken out in New South Wales. That figure reflects the fact that, on average, 230 women a week apply for these orders. Much more must be done to combat this problem. The establishment of the Domestic Violence Advisory Council is a great step in helping to find solutions to one of the worst problems facing women in this State.
SYDNEY AMBULANCE STATION CLOSURES
Mrs GRUSOVIN: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Health. Will the Minister confirm that a leaked memo to senior supervisors in the Ambulance Service proposes that Sydney metropolitan ambulance stations be closed on a shift-by-shift basis because of staff shortages? Does this plan target for closure the stations at Mascot, Maroubra, Marrickville and Belrose?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the Minister for Natural Resources to order. I call the honourable member for Heffron to order for the second time. I call the honourable member for Monaro to order.
Mr PHILLIPS: The question asked by the honourable member for Heffron relates to the Ambulance Service and where it is coming from. When the Government inherited the Ambulance Service it inherited an organisation which had been given no real direction and no leadership.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The behaviour of members during question time has been appalling. A considerable number of members have been called to order one, two or three times. All members who have been called to order are now deemed to be on three calls. Any one of them who attracts my attention again risks being ordered to leave the House immediately.
Mr PHILLIPS: The problem with the Ambulance Service in those days was that it had a very narrow focus. In that organisation the career path of officers was towards the top and, as they could not go anywhere else, the organisation became very top heavy. Since the coalition came to office, the Ambulance Service has been revitalised; it has been given new direction; it is getting new blood on board; and, I suppose, is getting a new lease of life. Under the previous Minister a new ambulance board was formed. That board, which includes representatives from the Labor Council, has been doing an enormous amount of work in producing a future direction for the Ambulance Service. The board is addressing the major issues of education and restructuring. Some of those changes that have occurred and are being progressively put in place include efficiency, productivity and fleet management - all of those issues.
I would have to say the ambulance board and the new executive that has been progressively appointed are doing an excellent job. I do not know about the specific issues raised by the honourable member for Heffron but I do know that the ambulance board and the ambulance executive are considering arrangements to improve efficiency and improve the network. New South Wales has one of the best ambulance services one could ask for; it has a tremendous response time. If the board makes recommendations to me about changing the network, I have a responsibility to give those recommendations serious consideration. I do not know about the specific issues raised by the honourable member for Heffron but I know about a press release, apparently distributed to members of Parliament, and signed by Shane Nicholls. It says, "Shane Nicholls of the Unemployed People's Association - "
Mr Knight: On a point of order. This relates to a matter of privilege. I suggest, for the honourable member's own protection, and the Minister's own consideration, that he may wish to speak to the Premier's bodyguard before he continues.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order involved in the matter raised by the honourable member for Campbelltown, who is very much in danger of leaving the Chamber.
Dr Refshauge: I seek your indulgence. Although it is not strictly a point of order, I am following up on the comments of the honourable member for Campbelltown. There is significant concern about the issue being raised by the Minister for Health at the moment. I am not attempting to thwart his attack on the Opposition when I say that I think every honourable member would urge the Minister to desist from using that particular example. There are much wider ramifications than might appear on the surface.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No point of order is involved. The Chair has no right or power to direct how the Minister should answer a question. The Minister has heard what has been said; it is a matter for him.
Mr PHILLIPS: This is a public document; it is a press release. I am sure the honourable member for Heffron is quite capable of defending herself in regard to this issue. However, in the interests of fairness, I am happy to fold the press release, put it aside and make sure that I relate it to the honourable member for Heffron, to ensure that she understands the attitude taken by one of her constituents.
SYDNEY AMBULANCE STATION CLOSURES
Mrs GRUSOVIN: I ask a supplementary question of the Minister for Health. Will the Minister announce publicly, prior to closure of the ambulance stations he intends to close, the stations that will remain?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Oxley to order.
Mr PHILLIPS: My staff and I pride ourselves in conducting a very consultative office on all the issues of change which are very important. For example, some weeks ago the Government tabled in the Parliament a bill with regard to a complaints commission, and I am quite happy for it to remain on the table of the House. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Opposition spokesman on health, has been happy to work with me to ensure a bipartisan approach to these important issues. I have not hidden anything about the possible changes in respect of Concord. Since September of last year I have been flagging the fact that negotiations in respect of Concord are taking place with the Federal Government. When heads of agreement have been finalised there will be a number of months of consultation with the community about the impact of the Concord changes.
I assure the honourable member for Heffron - and I do not know whether she is right or not - that if the Ambulance Service is considering a change in some of the network and reaches the point of making a recommendation to me, that recommendation will receive full consultation and input from people before a decision is implemented. It is an operational matter, and a matter on which I will take very strong advice from the Ambulance Service. What the Government is doing in respect of health is getting on with restructuring and rebuilding a health system that was run down when we took it over; the Government is leading with the dollars, in spite of the recession; the Government is doing its bit in spite of the Federal Government; and whatever changes the Government is making will improve the health system and benefit the people of New South Wales.
Mr PHILLIPS: I wish to add to the answer I gave earlier to a question asked by the honourable member for Heffron. I have been advised by the Ambulance Service that closure of any of the stations mentioned by the honourable member can be
categorically ruled out. When I said in my answer earlier that I would give the honourable member the information that I had been given, and I was attempting to be helpful, I did not mean to upset her. If I did, I apologise.
IMPLEMENTATION OF RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE ROYAL
COMMISSION INTO ABORIGINAL DEATHS IN CUSTODY
Mr GRIFFITHS: Yesterday I gave an undertaking to provide to the honourable member for Manly an answer to his question without notice concerning Aboriginal deaths in custody. Responsibility for implementation of 339 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody has been allocated to those departments directly affected. The Police Service has been given responsibility for 80 recommendations which directly target its activities. Forty-five of the recommendations of the royal commission deal with custodial health and safety; those recommendations are numbers 122 to 167. The Police Service is responsible for implementation of 37 of those. So far, 29 recommendations have been implemented; they are numbers 122 to 126, 131 and 132, 134 to 139, 141 to 148 and 158 to 165. Eight are still in the implementation process; their numbers are 127 to 130, 133, 140, 149 and 166. A Police Service implementation task force continues to work towards full implementation of the remaining recommendations for which it has been allocated responsibility. I cannot comment on those custodial and health recommendations for which other agencies have been allocated responsibility.
Mr Cochran: On a point of order. The honourable member for Heffron, who has just left the Chamber, used bad language in the Chamber.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have already warned a number of members that they are deemed to be on three calls. I am sure some of those who were deemed to be on three calls were again being disorderly and could have been directed to leave the Chamber. I ask honourable members to co-operate in allowing the business of the House to proceed in an orderly fashion. As I have said on many occasions, the sort of spectacle we have seen today in the House tarnishes the image of Parliament. I am not certain what agenda disorderly members are following or what they hope to achieve by their actions. Their disorderly conduct, however, can only diminish the reputation and standing of the Parliament and parliamentarians in this country. The honourable member for Monaro will make his point of order, which I will hear in silence.
Mr Cochran: The honourable member for Heffron has departed the Chamber, but prior to doing so she directed unseemly language at the Minister for Health. I ask that she be requested to return to the Chamber and apologise not only to you, Mr Speaker, but also to the Minister.
Mr Anderson: On the point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not intend to take any action on the point of order.
Mr Anderson: An assertion was made in the point of order and I want to make a submission on it.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have ruled there is no point of order. I do not intend to proceed further with the matter. I did not hear the allegedly offensive words. I urge honourable members, following what has been a difficult question time, to leave matters where they stand.
[Notices of Motions]
Mr Moss: I desire to give notice that tomorrow I shall move:
(1) That this House views with grave concern the Government's intention to announce on 4th December, 1992, the closure of either the Canterbury Hospital or Western Suburbs Hospital and the consequential redundancy of workers at the Canterbury Hospital irrespective of which hospital is to close.
(2) As the closure of the Canterbury Hospital would have a devastating effect on its feeder region, the Canterbury municipality, that the Minister for Health be called upon to give a thorough explanation as to the Government's intentions with respect to the future of the Canterbury Hospital.
Mr West: On a point of order. As the notice of motion given by the honourable member for Canterbury anticipates a Government decision which has not been given, I submit it is out of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I was minded to intervene and advise the honourable member for Canterbury that his motion, being largely speculative, may well infringe the rules of this House on a number of grounds, and that I may have to rule it out of order. I will look at the motion in detail, but I warn the honourable member for Canterbury that his notice of motion is unlikely to be printed.
Mr Moss: That being the case, I wish to give notice that tomorrow -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The rules of the House provide that a member cannot move two motions consecutively. The House will sit tomorrow and the honourable member can move another motion then if he so wishes.
Dr Refshauge: I desire to give notice that tomorrow I shall move:
That this House views with grave concern the Government's proposal to close either the Canterbury Hospital or Western Suburbs Hospital and the consequential redundancy of workers at the Canterbury Hospital irrespective of which hospital is to close.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Again, there is an element of speculation in the notice of motion in that it refers to proposals rather than action taken. I make the same comment: I will look at the matters. But I just give that warning.
Mr Whelan: On a matter of privilege. Mr Speaker, if it is your intention to rule out a motion by a member that involves a proposed action by the Government, whether it be true or not, would you advise the House and provide leave for the Opposition to move dissent against your ruling should you so rule that the motion moved by the honourable member for Canterbury -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Though the honourable member for Ashfield may not have finished making his point, the words he has just uttered could well be construed as being intimidatory of the Chair. I have said that I will consider the matters, not that I have made a decision. The honourable member for Ashfield may be assured that any decision I make will be in accordance with the standing orders and rules of this House.
F6 Freeway Emergency Telephones
Petition praying that the House will consider the installation of emergency telephones on the F6 Freeway from Yallah to the north of Wollongong, received from Mr Rumble.
Newcastle Rail Services
Petition praying that the rail line between Civic railway station and Newcastle railway station not be closed, received from Mr Gaudry.
State Rail Authority Heritage Buildings
Petition praying that heritage buildings in the Newcastle region be allowed to be used by arts and crafts people and that Newcastle Contemporary Artists Incorporated be given approval to occupy a building on the Honeysuckle land for use as a gallery of contemporary art and cultural workshop, received from Mr Gaudry.
Adamstown School Buildings
Petition praying that the House support the continued public ownership of the Adamstown School buildings, received from Mr Gaudry.
Summary Offences Act
Petition praying that the House will amend section 4 of the Summary Offences Act, received from Mr Whelan.
Hunter Sewer Service Access Charge
Petition praying that the parameters of the sewer service access charge of the Hunter Water Corporation be modified, received from Mr Hunter.
Public Hospital Privatisation
Petition praying that the House will reverse the Government's decision to privatise public hospitals, received from Mr Hunter.
Hunter Area Health Service
Petition praying that the House reject any proposal to amalgamate the Hunter Area Health Service with any other area health service, received from Mr Hunter.
Petition praying that because of dissatisfaction with the rationalisation of health services the House prevent the downgrading and possible closure of services at Lidcombe Hospital, received from Mr Shedden.
Ingleburn and Macquarie Fields Police Stations
Petition praying that the House provide, as a matter of urgency, a permanent police station at Ingleburn and upgrade the existing police station at Macquarie Fields, received from Mr Knowles.
Court House for Toronto
Petition praying that the Government provide for the construction of a court house complex for Toronto, received from Mr Hunter.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Days and Hours of Sitting
Motion by Mr West agreed to:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the House shall meet for the dispatch of business as follows -
(1) Thursday, 26th November, 1992, at 9.30 a.m., with Government Business taking precedence at such sitting;
(2) Friday 27th November, 1992, at 9.00 a.m., with General Business taking precedence pursuant to Sessional Order until 2.15 p.m.;
(3) At each sitting Questions Without Notice shall be taken at 2.15 p.m., followed by the routine of business as set out by Sessional Order.
SELECT COMMITTEE UPON STATE OWNED COAL MINES
Matter for Urgent Consideration
Mr CARR (Maroubra - Leader of the Opposition)[3.28]: I move:
That a Select Committee be established to inquire into and report upon:
1. (a) the administration of State owned coal mines by the Electricity Commission of New South Wales and the circumstances relating to the closure of Newvale, the winding down of Awaba State Mine, the sale of Munmorah and Liddell State Mines.
(b) the tendering process and all costs including expenditure on consultants, and associated matters relating to the attempted sale of Elcom and Newcom Mines.
(c) the tendering process associated with coal supplied to Pacific Power Stations including the administration of contracts.
(d) the future employment of mine workers employed in State owned coal mines and the future viability of such mines.
2. That such committee consist of:
(a) three members supporting the Government nominated by the Leader of the House in writing to the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly.
(b) two members supporting the Opposition nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in writing to the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly.
3. That at any meeting of the committee three members shall constitute a quorum.
4. That the committee have leave to sit during the sittings or any adjournment of the House; to adjourn from place to place; to make visits of inspection within New South Wales; and have power to take evidence and send for persons and papers and to report from time to time.
5. That should the House stand adjourned and the Committee agree to any report before the House resumes sitting:
(a) the committee have leave to send any such report, minutes and evidence taken before it to the Clerk of the House;
(b) the documents shall be printed and published and the Clerk shall forthwith take such action as is necessary to give effect to the order of the House; and
(c) the documents shall be laid upon the Table of the House at its next sitting.
As I speak, 12 miners are 100 metres below ground in Newvale mine on the Central Coast. They have told me that if this motion is carried by the Parliament their sit-in will finish. They are looking to this Parliament for a resolution of the question of their sacking and the management by Pacific Power of the mines under its control. They are sitting in until Parliament makes a decision on their request for an inquiry into the decision to close the mine, which will wipe out 200 jobs. They are looking to this Parliament to make a decision on the matter. The Parliament should establish the inquiry I have proposed. During question time the Minister for Conservation and Land Management and Minister for Energy announced that he supports an inquiry by the Independent Commission Against Corruption. With due respect, that is a cop out; an ICAC inquiry is not required in this matter. The terms of reference I have proposed for an inquiry of this Parliament cover not only the tendering process but also questions of economics, finance and employment. Those questions are crucial; they are far broader than questions of alleged corruption, as the honourable member for Newcastle has pointed out. Allegations of corruption have barely figured in this matter, and they are not germane to what the miners are seeking. Unlike the Minister, I have been to the mine; I have spoken to the miners, and I know what they want. They want the decision of Pacific Power to close that mine and to sack 200 miners reviewed by this Parliament. Why should they not have that?
On 27th June the Premier and Treasurer assured everyone who worked for the New South Wales public sector that their jobs were safe. I have the Premier's statement here; there were no ifs or buts excluding employees of Pacific Power. I have read his statement a number of times and cannot find a qualifying clause that excludes employees of Pacific Power or other government trading enterprises. The requirement for a qualification did not come into the Premier's head at that time, muddled as it is. On 27th June the Premier said that there would be a freeze on cutbacks in Government jobs for at least a year. He said, "There are no plans, and will not be any plans, to cut jobs here, there or anywhere else for a period of at least one year". I do not think the miners pretend they have great academic qualifications or that they have researched semantics. But it would be reasonable for anyone to conclude that the Premier's words meant that if they worked for the Government, their jobs were safe. There was an unqualified assurance. On 27th June the Premier said to public sector employees, "There will be a period of calm and peace so people can plan their own lives with some degree of certainty". That is a reasonably explicit assurance to those miners. He went on to say, "I think people do need certainty from the point of view of where Government is taking them". In the light of that statement, it would be fair for the miners to assume that the decision of the Greiner Government to sack them, to sell or close the mines was frozen for at least 12 months. That is what the Premier told public sector employees.
Let us not say that Parliament does not have scope in this matter, let us not
advance the old Pickard defence that it is a commercial decision made by the Pacific Power board. The Opposition will not buy that. We are talking about a statutory authority with an income of $3.1 billion, assets of $10.5 billion - one of the biggest businesses in this country - which is answerable to the Parliament, as the Parliament asserted when it rejected the Government's version of corporatisation for Elcom advanced earlier this year. Pacific Power is answerable to this Parliament for its management decisions, such as the closing or privatisation of mines; its decisions ought to be reviewable by this Parliament. I place on the record the assurance of John Maitland, the President of the United Mineworkers Federation of Australia, that the miners will end their sit-in with the establishment of the proposed committee. I am asking the Parliament to send a message down the pit later this afternoon. Those miners, who have behaved with all the pride that is part of their contribution to the history of the Labor movement in this State, should come up from the pit, join their families, and prepare a case they can put to a committee of the Parliament. That is what this motion seeks.
Let me touch on some of the factors which established the need for an inquiry. The Newvale mine, which has the capacity to produce at least 30,000 tonnes of high quality, low ash coal a month, will be closed; no provision has been made for care and maintenance of the mine; there are still reserves in that mine of 100 million tonnes of high quality, low ash coal at Newvale; 113 miners at Newvale will lose their jobs, despite the fact that their productivity had earned them, up to the closure decision four weeks ago, weekly bonuses of more than $200. These bonuses are based on higher tonnage per man. In fact, the week the Premier and Treasurer closed Newvale mine, miners there received a $346 bonus based on higher output. The production cost per tonne at Newvale is $28, compared with $40 a tonne at the Munmorah mine - which was recently sold in a buy-out for an undisclosed sum. Why was the sum not disclosed?
The Opposition wants to know why the Government spent $2 million on consultants alone in preparing valuation and sale documents for the disposal of the Central Coast and Hunter Valley State owned coalmines. The Opposition wants to know why the process took almost two years and absorbed more than $2 million of taxpayers' money. The only result of this expensive and drawn out process has been the sacking of 200 miners after the closure of Newvale mine and the winding down of Awaba mine; the threat of further job losses, calculated on company figures to be high as 280; the reported sale of Liddell for $18.3 million, well below the value of forward contracts for coal, and only a fraction of the estimated $30 million of capital equipment at the mine site; and the sale of the Munmorah mine, at a price not divulged to New South Wales taxpayers. The Opposition wants to know why the Hambros proposal to buy the eight State owned coalmines on the Central Coast and in the Hunter Valley, for a reported $347 million, was rejected. The miners federation, in conjunction with that merchant bank, made a bid structured on the same principles as those underlying the Liddell sale.
The Opposition is particularly concerned about that bid because Hambros gave an undertaking that there would be no sackings following its successful purchase of the mines. Yet it missed out. The opportunity to secure jobs and to build the miners federation into the ownership of mines - a valuable proposition I should have thought - has been rejected by the Government. What was Coal and Allied's tender bid? Did it offer a comparable amount to Hambros to buy all the mines? What guarantees did it give with respect to employment? New South Wales taxpayers still do not know how much was paid for Munmorah or whether they have gained any benefit through the sale. They do not know what capital equipment or coal reserves have been handed over in the deal. Taxpayers were told that the State received $18.3 million from the Liddell sale, but Pacific Power's annual report for the year ended June 1992 shows a $8.37 million loss
on the disposal of the State owned coalmine. In addition, there is the question of whether taxpayers have been saddled with the debts - like the Port Kembla coal loader where we lose the asset but keep the debt. The debt acquired in building up the asset stays with the public sector after privatisation, but the asset is sold off. Where is the benefit to the public in that deal?
Pacific Power has a target profit of $4.6 million for 1992-93. Pacific Power initially made a profit of $13.4 million last year, before adjustment for extraordinary items, including valuation changes and debt write-offs, which resulted in an adjusted loss of $34 million. Included in the abnormal items was a loss due to the lower valuation of assets of $102 million - these assets involve property, plant and equipment. In 1991-92 labour costs were down from $134 million to $104 million. In 1991-92, sale revenue was down $78 million due to the Government's actions in not awarding sales contracts from the Newvale and Awaba mines to Elcom. The Opposition wants a parliamentary committee to examine that sort of data. Are we really arguing that Pacific Power, in handling the sale of these assets, with unemployment implications in the Hunter - 500 miners are currently unemployed in that area - should not be subject to the review of the parliamentary committee? Is that the proposition the Government is putting to the Opposition? It leads the Opposition to ask: what does the Government have to hide? [Time expired.]
Mr WEST (Orange - Minister for Conservation and Land Management, and Minister for Energy) [3.38]: As I said during question time, the Government has nothing to hide with respect to this issue - nothing at all. The Government is more than happy for an inquiry to take place. Let me examine some of the hypocrisy and lies peddled by the Leader of the Opposition during this exercise. He says that he knows what the miners want. The Government knows that the miners want their jobs, but the miners have also asked for details about the tendering process. They have asked 35 questions, each relating to the tendering process. What does the Opposition have to hide in allowing this to go to the Independent Commission Against Corruption? That is the proper place for tendering processes to be examined, as they have in the past. I challenge every member of the Opposition and the Independents to consider seriously what they really want to achieve. Is it really part of a continuing political process? What they fail to recognise is that this decision, made two years ago, immediately led to the loss of a contract in a private coalmine. Newvale and Awaba mines have continued to operate and to build up a $70 million stockpile in coal that cannot be used at this stage. If the Government had closed Newvale mine and scaled back Awaba when the competitive tenders were first awarded, the $70 million stockpile would not have been created.
Opposition members want to know about the Hambros deal. I have referred to that on a number of occasions in the House because it has been the subject of debate for some time. However, I shall place some of the details on the record. The Hambros offers were evaluated by Pacific Power as providing a small net up-front payment and benefits that would accrue over an extended period of 12 to 15 years. It was considered by Pacific Power that there was a substantial risk that Hambros appeared reluctant to accept by providing a significant initial payment for the mines. Two offers were received from Hambros, both of which involved a public float to provide for the initial payment for the mines. Though no float has taken place, members whose electorates are affected would know that a float was considered by one of the private coalowners. It understood the risk involved and decided not to proceed. On the basis that the private sector made that decision, why would the Government and Pacific Power seriously consider a bid that involved a risk in the same vein? The Leader of the Opposition wanted to know about the Coal and Allied bid. Again, those details should be handled by the ICAC. Every
tender made by every private sector organisation would have to be made available to a parliamentary inquiry. If that occurs, in future the Opposition will find that no private sector organisation will be willing to commit itself to a government tender because it will not want its commercial-in-confidence matters spread across the newspapers of this State.
Four points are specifically raised in the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition. In part (a) he talks about the administration of State owned coalmines by Pacific Power and the circumstances relating to it. I have clearly stated on all occasions that in December 1990 the Government called for expressions of interest in those eight coalmines. A month earlier Newvale and Awaba had failed in open competition to win contracts with Pacific Power. The sale process then moved through the tender stage in May 1991. Tenders were reopened in October and closed in December last year. Since then there have been negotiations and renegotiations with the bidders, and all but one failed to come within a commercial valuation. We have had enormous difficulties. There are no export contracts at this stage. Negotiations, however, are continuing for the sale of Munmorah mine. Again, members opposite are concerned about that sale. I do not know why they continue to dispute the figures of the sale of Liddell mine. Clearly, it was sold in 1991 for $18.3 million to Cumnock Coal. Part (b) of the motion deals with the tendering process. The valuation and tendering process did cost $2.05 million. The extent and range of the tenders led to a detailed tendering process involving 15 consultants in areas ranging from legal through to management.
Part (c) of the motion of the Leader of the Opposition deals particularly with the tendering process associated with coal supplies to power stations run by Pacific Power. Honourable members must recognise that Pacific Power has ended its tied contract system and opened its mines to competition from the private sector. Should the Government say that it will cancel legal, binding contracts with private sector mines so that it can keep government employees in employment? Does the Opposition say that it is all right for miners employed in private sector mines to lose their jobs because there are no contracts in the private mines but that miners who work in mines that formerly had tied contracts should not lose their jobs? What about the workers in Chain Valley? That colliery had its supply stopped when it lost its contract two years ago. Part (d) raises the future of mineworkers. I have expressed my concern during question time, and I indicated when I announced the closure some weeks ago that the Government will do all it can to assist the miners. But the Opposition is concentrating on the loss of 200 jobs; it has not recognised the 1,700 workers on the Central Coast who now have greater security than they have had in the past through the five- and ten-year contracts. The Opposition should concentrate on that.
The Opposition is hypocritical. Its argument is all about constituencies. Labor Party members represent seats on the Central Coast where coalminers reside so they have to beat their chests on this issue. But when forestry workers in the electorates of my colleagues on this side of the House were sacked the Opposition was silent. It trampled those people. This time last year the Opposition introduced legislation in this House that would have an impact on the jobs of forestry workers. It did not worry about them; it cares only for its constituencies. I make one final point. This is an historic motion in that it is the first to be moved by the Labor Party under the suspension rule that was passed yesterday with the support of the three Independents. The Opposition said it wanted the opportunity to raise matters that arose suddenly. But on the front page of the Newcastle Herald this morning the Leader of the Opposition is reported to have claimed that yesterday's decision was a victory for the coalminers on the Central Coast because
the Parliament, with the support of the Independents, had voted to change the standing orders. The politics of this are being dragged out. I am talking about the lives of the miners and their families. I, like everybody else, do not want them to spend Christmas apart from their families. I made the decision today to refer the jurisdiction and probity of the tendering process to the Independent Commission Against Corruption because that is the proper body to examine those issues. I can provide copies to members opposite of the letter I sent Mr Temby earlier this afternoon that clearly asks him to undertake that inquiry. As I said earlier, justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.
Mr ROGAN (East Hills) [3.48]: I have no doubt at all about the sincerity of the feelings of the Minister for Conservation and Land Management and Minister for Energy towards miners, their families and their jobs. However I question the Government's strategy in referring the tendering process to the Independent Commission Against Corruption for investigation and report. The Opposition is not alleging that the process was corrupt but that there was maladministration, incompetency and, at the end of the day, a threat to miners' jobs and a threat to the resource. This inquiry should be established urgently along the lines described by the Leader of the Opposition to investigate this whole murky area of tendering for the sale of Pacific Power coalmines. The inquiry could investigate the closure of one mine, the partial winding down of another and tendering for contracts to supply power stations. An inquiry will enable the great mineral resources of this State to be properly mastered, but it is of greater importance that the future employment prospects of miners in the Hunter Valley and on the Central Coast should be properly inquired into. I wish to outline facts that justify the Opposition's approach. Newvale mine, the subject of the sit-in by the miners, is being closed. I allege that mine was mismanaged by the former manager, who is no longer employed there. Due to his mismanagement, operating costs of recovering coal from that mine were about $44 a tonne, and for that reason the mine lost out in open bidding for supplying coal to power stations. However, a change occurred following the closure of tenders and awarding of coal contracts. Ironically, as a consequence of the change in that mine's management, miners were recovering coal at a cost of $27 a tonne, which is comparable to the rates achieved by any private mine or Pacific Power coalmines on that part of the coast.
The coal recovered has been described to me as the sweetest coal in the State. This clean coal, especially that from the Northern seam, has an ash content of 12.5 per cent. Coal of that quality is good enough to export anywhere; any of our overseas customers would be delighted to receive it. That coal can be won but is at great risk of being sterilised by the action of the Government in closing down Newvale, an action that may render the mine inoperable in the future. The Opposition wants all these allegations investigated fully by an all-party committee. Another matter should also be investigated. At the very time of the 572,978 tonnes coal supply shortfall as at July 1992 - a shortfall that could have been taken up by Awaba mine, which is being wound down - the Government contracted for Eraring power station to take Ulan coal. A million and a half tonnes of coal will be freighted in by rail to that power station from a great distance. The coal to be freighted to the power station, which itself is in a clean coal area, has a sulphur content of .07 to .082. A desirable level is .05. The sulphur content of coal from the Newvale mine is about .03, as I am sure Hunter Valley grape growers are fully aware. The Opposition wants the Government to place a moratorium on the operation of Newvale mine and keep it working while the parliamentary committee fully investigates all the circumstances of the closure. Any lesser action by the Government would be irresponsible, given that Newvale coal is clean. [Time expired.]
Mr CHAPPELL (Northern Tablelands) [3.53]: The sulphur content of Newvale coal may be of interest, but in 1991-92 the output per man employed at Newvale was 3,230 tonnes - by far the lowest productivity output of all Central Coast mines. That indisputable fact weighed heavily on Pacific Power in reaching its decision, which was debated yesterday in this House. This is just another ploy by the Opposition to attempt to dominate the House and assert the powers of Parliament over and above the proper role of the elected government of the day to get on with the process of governing. It has been said many times that nothing is certain but death and taxes. One other thing that is certain in this day and age is change. The debate hinges on change - not just in the coal industry but in every industry in Australia and throughout the world. Over the past decade hundreds of thousands of people have left farming, manufacturing, transport and many other industries. Thousands have lost jobs in motor vehicle maintenance. In every country town and suburb in this State thousands of people have left industries because jobs are no longer available. So it is in the mining industry and especially in coalmining. The ongoing restructuring of our industries cannot be denied or turned back.
The Opposition pretends it is a proper course for the Government or for a government trading enterprise to try to stop the tide of change. The Opposition suggests that job losses at Newvale can be stopped - in other words that the coal industry can be prevented from being competitive - because that mine is a public enterprise, and that this course would not be possible in a private enterprise. The Opposition is having itself on and the people of New South Wales. The Government cannot stem the tide of change and has to live with it. An unfortunate consequence is that from time to time public sector employees, for example those at Newvale, will feel the harsh winds of change as others have throughout the world. No one gets pleasure from seeing jobs going out of the public sector. Every honourable member has had to put up with the electoral effects of an accelerated rate of change in the private and public sectors. We cannot walk away from change. The power generating industry must achieve productivity gains. The 15 per cent productivity increase achieved by Pacific Power and its mines in two years cannot be denied.
The power generating industry must be given an opportunity to meet the challenges facing all industries throughout the length and breadth of this nation. We are talking about national productivity and national survival. At the heart of this debate is quality of life for every man, woman and child in Australia, not just the effects of change on Newvale coalmine. Real live flesh and blood families may be affected by mine closures, but it must be realised that similar change has occurred in every other private and public sector industry. The difficulties caused by change must be faced by governments but will have to be lived with. If the Opposition ever returns to office it will face those difficulties. The Opposition's smart use of parliamentary tactics in an attempt to flick pass the issue and force people in this State to accept its will is untenable and stupid. The Minister has proposed what I believe to be the only way of testing the probity of the tendering process, and that is to refer it to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, not to another parliamentary committee. There are enough of those. The Opposition having questioned the probity of the tendering process, members of this House should consider the matter independently and refer it to the ICAC. The Government's proposal to submit the question of the probity of the tendering process to the ICAC is the preferred approach. [Time expired.]
Mr BOWMAN (Swansea) [3.58]: I move:
That the motion be amended by adding the following paragraph:
6. That this House calls upon the Government to reopen the closed mines pending the Parliamentary Select Committee's report.
I have moved the amendment because in view of the possible readiness of a majority of this House to support a select committee inquiry it seems only reasonable that we should act so as not to preclude one possible consequence of the deliberations of the committee being realised. That is to say, should evidence emerge that would justify keeping the mines open - I say if; I am not saying it definitely will - and the committee were to so recommend, it would be offensive to find that the passage of time had made that not possible or possible only after expenditure of considerable money. The amendment is not intended to pre-empt or to attempt to pre-empt the findings of the select committee; it is to ensure that, should the committee's findings so recommend, there will be the possibility of re-opening mines which are scheduled for closure. It will just keep the opportunities open and the various options available. Should the evidence before the select committee prompt recommendations that a mine be closed, after consideration that course could be followed. But were it the case that the mines had been allowed to close and a certain amount of delay had occurred and there was damage to the mines, it might be difficult without considerable expense to reopen the mines. The work force might no longer be available, et cetera.
I recommend the amendment to members who would support the establishment of the select committee for the amendment would round out the proposition before the House. I firmly support the proposition. I do not claim that we know all the evidence or that we have all the facts at our disposal. I do not suggest that there have been massive leaks which prove to us the Government has not acted competently. We just present our view that we are very much not persuaded that those things that might have been done have been done in order to maximise the returns to the people of New South Wales of those coalmining and electricity generating operations. We are not suggesting that there has been any sort of corruption. With all due respect to the Minister for Conservation and Land Management and Minister for Energy, the Independent Commission Against Corruption proposal is a red herring. We have said that there are some nasty rumours around and so on, but we have very carefully and deliberately refrained from making accusations of corruption. We are not saying that something has been done that is crook; all we are saying is that the management does need examination to give people the opportunity of being assured that it has been competent, that there has not been the domination of short-term views to the detriment of the long-term interests of the people of New South Wales. I strongly support the motion and urge the House to accept the amendment.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Before I call the Leader of the Opposition for what would normally be the closure of this debate I draw to the attention of honourable members an extraordinary situation that faces the House. I think we are powerless to do much about it. An amendment has been moved; the question should be put. The House has no right to debate the amendment before it. I suggest the matter be referred to the Standing Orders and Procedures Committee. This clearly could involve the denial of the rights of members. In the case of matters of public importance, of course, there is a provision that the question be not amended.
Mr CARR (Maroubra - Leader of the Opposition) [4.3], in reply: I am delighted to say that I accept the amendment moved by my colleague the honourable member for Swansea. I would have included it in my motion but I did not want to stretch my luck. If the Parliament finds it acceptable, I am delighted, but nowhere near as delighted as 13 miners down the pit at Newvale, and their families.
Mr West: An extra one went down, did he? You said 12 a moment ago.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Mr CARR: You are totally humiliated so -
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Mr West: You should be ashamed of yourself.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the Leader of the Opposition to order. I call the Minister for Conservation and Land Management to order. That is no way in which this debate should be conducted.
Mr CARR: At the risk of provoking the Minister, let me say again that I am delighted to accept the amendment that requires him to keep the mine operating while the parliamentary inquiry proceeds. In opposing my motion the Minister said that the parliamentary inquiry will mean that every tender will be made public, which will mean that no one will tender for public contracts again. That is absurd. The parliamentary inquiry will look into one tender. The strongest argument the Minister was able to advance falls to pieces upon examination. He referred again to the Independent Commission Against Corruption reference. As the honourable member for Swansea said, that is an absurd red herring. The gravamen of this motion is not an allegation of corruption but of bad finance, bad economics and a cavalier attitude to doing away with jobs. There are three arguments why the motion should be carried.
Mr Cochran: That is the first time in your life you have worried about jobs.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Monaro to order.
Mr CARR: The old quartermaster general gets a bit excited. He has never heard a shot fired in anger.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Burrinjuck to order.
Mr CARR: The first is that there is a real debate about the figures, the data. I say to the Independent members of this Parliament: where there is a genuine difference about figures, about data, about facts, suspend your judgment and go for an inquiry. The second argument is simply about jobs. Here sits a government that since the onset of recession has axed 52,000 jobs in New South Wales.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Burrinjuck to order for the second time.
Mr CARR: The new Premier promised an improvement but the axing has got more vigorous.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Port Stephens to order.
Mr CARR: The new Premier has lived up to none of his promises on jobs. What has happened to the 200 jobs in the Hunter exposes the phonyness of Fahey's commitments on employment. On 27th June the Premier pretended that he would give priority to jobs but he has not honoured that commitment. The third argument in favour
of an inquiry is this: because Elcom is a huge undertaking, one of the biggest businesses in Australia, will it be disadvantaged in any way by a parliamentary inquiry based on the principle of its accountability to the Parliament? If the arguments for the disposal of the mine and the axing of 200 jobs are so strong, let them be subjected to, and examined by, a parliamentary inquiry. Because there is a real debate about figures a prima facie case exists for an inquiry. This is all about jobs. The urgency of an inquiry is underlined. Elcom ought to be accountable to the Parliament. That is the argument that clinches the case for my motion.
Question - That the amendment be agreed to - put.
The House divided.
Mr A. S. Aquilina
Mr J. J. Aquilina
Mrs Lo Po'
Mr J. H. Murray
Mr E. T. Page
Mr W. T. J. Murray
Mr D. L. Page
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That the motion as amended be agreed to - put.
The House divided.
Mr A. S. Aquilina
Mr J. J. Aquilina
Mrs Lo Po'
Mr J. H. Murray
Mr E. T. Page
Mr W. T. J. Murray
Mr D. L. Page
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion as amended agreed to.
REPRESENTATIVE OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY ON THE COUNCIL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES
Motion, by leave, by Mr West agreed to:
That Malcolm John Kerr be discharged from attendance upon the Council of the University of New South Wales and that Jeremy Stirton Prevost Kinross be elected as the representative of the Legislative Assembly on the Council of the University of New South Wales in pursuance of the provisions of section 9 of the University of New South Wales Act 1989.
COMMITTEE UPON THE NATIONAL PARKS AND WILDLIFE (ABORIGINAL OWNERSHIP) AMENDMENT BILL
Report - Evidence
Mr ZAMMIT (Strathfield) [4.23]: I bring up and lay upon the table of the House the report of the Legislation Committee upon the National Parks and Wildlife (Aboriginal Ownership) Amendment Bill 1991 (No. 2); the Aboriginal Land Rights (Aboriginal Ownership) Amendment Bill 1991 (No. 2); and the National Parks and Wildlife (Aboriginal Ownership) Amendment Bill 1992, together with the minutes of evidence taken before the committee.
Ordered to be printed.
Mr ZAMMIT: The committee recommends a number of changes that affect central features of the legislation. Those amendments are seen by the committee as crucial if the legislation is to satisfy the Government's objectives and fairly meet the needs of the Aboriginal community. Those Government objectives are:
(i) the return of certain lands of special cultural significance to the Aboriginal community;
(ii) to provide, through a board of management, for the Aboriginal community to have the principal responsibility for the management of those lands, in co-operation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service; and
(iii) to retain the status of those lands as a national park, historic site or nature reserve with associated rights of access and enjoyment of them by the Australian community.
These objectives have given rise to difficult and contentious issues all of which have been fully addressed by the committee in its report. The Legislative Assembly granted the committee leave to make a visit of inspection to Broken Hill, Mootwingee National Park and Historic Site, Mount Grenfell Historic Site, Mount Yarrowyck Nature Reserve, Uluru National Park and Kakadu National Park. Those visits produced an invaluable opportunity to discuss the proposals with the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community. The committee's report makes 29 substantive recommendations. This is indicative that the committee identified some serious shortcomings in the legislation. Appended to the report is a copy of the bill as introduced, but showing the amendments proposed by the committee. Also accompanying the report are the amendments which, for the purposes
of the sessional orders, the committee considers should be proposed to the Committee of the Whole to implement the recommendations. Those amendments and the revised bill were drafted by the Parliamentary Counsel on the instructions of the committee. I would like to thank the Parliamentary Counsel and his officers for their assistance.
The committee received 46 written submissions and those were considered in detail. The committee conducted several full days of public hearings in Sydney and at Broken Hill, during which 51 persons gave evidence to the committee on the legislative proposals. Several main issues were identified in the submissions and evidence and I wish briefly to touch upon the most contentious of them, as they go to the heart of the legislation. The first is the proposal that will allow the national park estate listed in schedule 4 to be vested in fee simple in an Aboriginal land council in return for a lease back to the Crown. Some people argued this was discriminatory on the basis that it gave benefits to Aborigines that were not available to non-Aborigines. Those persons argued that the land should be owned by all Australians. That claim of discrimination was fully examined by the Crown solicitor in terms of the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act. His advice to the committee shows conclusively that the legislation is not discriminatory, because it represents a special measure for the purpose of securing adequate advancement of the traditional Aboriginal owners.
A further argument against Aboriginal ownership put to the committee was that Aboriginal interests in their heritage would be satisfied by giving them overall control of the management of the schedule 4 areas, rather than ownership of them. The Minister in his evidence strongly reaffirmed the New South Wales Government view that ownership is intrinsic to the bill because of its legal, cultural and religious importance to Aboriginal people. Management alone, he said, does not satisfy those needs. The committee supports that approach. A final objection to ownership was that some members of the public just do not want the lands returned to the Aborigines. The committee considers that type of attitude ignores the wider objectives of the New South Wales Government, the Commonwealth Government and the governments of all other States in regard to the process of reconciliation between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. Those Government objectives recognise that the land needs of Aboriginal people are an important element in effecting a change in race relations in Australia. Views opposing the legislation were met with equal sincerity by persons in favour of it.
A further principal matter of contention was the nature of the compulsory lease back arrangement from the Aboriginal Land Council in this State to the Crown. That provides for a 30-year lease at a $1 rental renewable indefinitely at the option of the Crown. The lease cannot be terminated except by Act of Parliament. That arrangement was seen as excessively one-sided by many people. Perhaps the severest criticism came from the New South Wales Bar Association which described it as an arrangement under which the Aboriginal Land Council received a bare title with immediate loss of virtually all the attendant rights of land ownership. The peak conservation groups put this even more bluntly, describing the lease back arrangement as a "Clayton's ownership of purely symbolic owners who had no real options available to them". The committee has fairly addressed this issue in its recommendation and draft amendments.
Another issue of an equally difficult nature is the question of the financial arrangement necessary to support the legislative scheme. Each schedule 4 area, when vested in an Aboriginal land council, will be under the control of a board of management working in co-operation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service. That board of management will have a majority of Aboriginal persons. The proposed legislation contemplates separate funding arrangements for each schedule 4 area. However, it does not deal with the regular provision of funds for each separate account. The legislation
as it stands makes funding dependent on the priorities of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The 1991 report of the Public Accounts Committee found the National Parks and Wildlife Service to have a grave insufficiency of financial and human resources. At present, capital works programs of the National Parks and Wildlife Service direct funding away from, not into, schedule 4 areas. The issue of a reliable funding base needs to be constructively addressed to ensure the success of the legislation in the event that Parliament proceeds with it.
The Aboriginal community has made it plain to the committee that it is looking forward to this legislation as an important step towards the further rejuvenation of its culture in New South Wales. It is not solely a question of the return of ownership of culturally significant lands, but of making it possible for those lands to be effectively managed by Aboriginal management boards for the wider Australian community. My committee considers that there are two sources from which specific and regular sums can be paid into the National Parks and Wildlife Fund for the use of a board of management. The first source of funding should be provision of specific and annual sums from the Consolidated Fund into the account set up under part 10 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act. This should be an amount sufficient to meet the estimated expenses to be incurred by each board of management in connection with the preparation of plans of management and in the care, control and management of a national park, historic site or nature reserve. The second funding source should be the payment of an annual realistic rental in return for the grant of the lease by the Aboriginal land council in respect of the area under its control.
I thank the Minister and his predecessor for supporting a number of extensions of time so that the committee could complete its deliberations. However, the need for more time was not of the committee's making. It arose principally from the inadequate consultation with the community that had preceded the introduction of this legislation. I believe that the committee's report and its recommendations will be found by the community at large to have equitably addressed the shortcomings of the legislation. It will also be found to vindicate fully the Government's decision to set up legislation committees so that landmark bills, such as this one, can be evaluated on a bipartisan basis with public involvement. I thank all members of the committee and its staff for their professional and sincere contribution to the work of the committee. I commend the report to the House.
FIRST STATE SUPERANNUATION BILL
STATE AUTHORITIES SUPERANNUATION (SCHEME CLOSURE) AMENDMENT BILL
SUPERANNUATION LEGISLATION (SUPERANNUATION GUARANTEE CHARGE) AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from 24th November.
Mr THOMPSON (Rockdale) [4.32]: At the outset I wish to comment briefly on the contributions made last night by the Premier and Treasurer and the honourable member for Davidson. It is instructive to see the extent of humbug to which the Premier and Treasurer is prepared to go on this issue; it simply knows no bounds. He said that the Commonwealth superannuation guarantee will cause a massive employer cost blowout. This is totally at odds with the facts, and I will say more about that later. The Premier had the gall to skite about the State's triple-A rating and his Government's
prudent fiscal conduct which underpins it. That myth has been well and truly exposed before in this House. It is patently false. In the face of damning evidence, he does his credibility no good to continue with this self-delusion, and I will say more about that later also.
So far as the contribution by the honourable member for Davidson is concerned, my eyes - and I think the eyes of all honourable members who were present in the Chamber at the time - glazed over after a few minutes of listening to him. He spoke of a confused mishmash, which was a perfect description of the state of the Government's collective mind on this issue. Also last night the honourable member for Cessnock moved a further amendment to the bill which complemented the amendment previously moved by the honourable member for Drummoyne. I agree that there is some foundation to the concerns expressed about the superannuation issue and the question of the unfunded liability. I further agree that it is important to preserve this State's triple-A rating and note that in doing that the Labor Opposition has played a key role. People are upset at the arrogant manner in which the Government has attempted to deal with the problems. Like a bull in a china shop, the Government acts unilaterally and, when everything crashes down around its ears, it wonders why and looks for scapegoats to bear the blame for its own stupidity.
This legislation must be considered against the background of the condition of New South Wales finances generally. The New South Wales triple-A rating is pertinent in our considerations of that. Because of the financial mismanagement of the Greiner and Fahey governments, the finances of New South Wales are now in a parlous state. The massive 32.5 per cent increase in taxes and charges in New South Wales since 1988 - compared with an increase of only 23.8 per cent for the rest of Australia - has been squandered on fiascos and extravagances such as Eastern Creek, the senior executive service, consultants, ministerial and other office fitouts and incompetent accommodation priorities. Instead of applying these massive tax increases to contain or reduce the State's growing debt and liability, most of the additional revenue has been frittered away. When the Greiner Government assumed office in 1988 the State's triple-A credit rating was unquestioned. It is now in great danger as a result of the Government's failure to control the growth of both recurrent spending and unfunded liabilities.
Clearly the catalyst for this legislation was most certainly the announcement in August that during the final two years of John Fahey's ministerial stewardship of the State Superannuation Board, the fund lost $1.5 billion from the value of its property portfolio. This massive loss resulted from the board's over-investment in central business district office developments and its continued investments in such projects as the partially completed Governor Macquarie Tower and the yet to be commenced Governor Phillip Tower even after the central business district market had collapsed. Given the impact of these losses on the value of the State's unfunded superannuation liability and the earlier warning by the credit rating agency Moody's that the State's credit rating depended upon the containment of its unfunded liabilities, the State's triple-A rating was in imminent peril. The Government considered that it was therefore vital to ease immediately the concern of the credit rating agencies, which explains the panic weekend announcement three days after the release of the superannuation board's annual report that the existing SASS scheme would be closed off. In commenting on this decision of the Government, the New South Wales Labor Council said:
No consultation occurred with the Labor Council of New South Wales, relevant unions, the board of SASS, other employers, current members or prospective members of the scheme. No warning was given of the intent to close the scheme. No opportunity was given to have the
reasons for the closure scrutinised by anyone, including this Parliament. The Government simply has no mandate to close off the SASS.
The Labor Council said also:
A careful analysis of documents presented by Government on the reasons for the closure of SASS and their calculations of costs cause much concern for a number of reasons, the major being the lack of supporting material to substantiate their costings and the lack of relevance of some costs given. There is no reference by the Government to the fact that the SGC is to be paid by salary sacrifice.
The savings under this legislation over the next decade may not even pay for the recent $1.5 billion loss on the superannuation board's property portfolio, nor will they address in any way the additional $30 billion in unfunded liabilities for existing schemes which will accumulate over the next 25 years if the Government continues with its reckless policy of significantly underfunding those schemes. It is a cause for serious alarm that at the recent estimates committees the Premier was either unwilling or unable to say how much the accruing liability for this year will fall short of this year's budget sector superannuation allocation of $639 million. What happened in the wake of the Government's panic-stricken announcement on that fateful weekend? The court overruled it. Justice Allen threw the Government out of court. So it appealed. What happened then? The Supreme Court of New South Wales threw it out again. The court rejected the Fahey Government's appeal and said that the Government's closure of the State authority superannuation scheme "is and always was invalid and of no legal effect". That is the genius of this Government. Its actions on a serious matter, with far reaching consequences, were judged to be invalid and of no legal effect. The appeal was heard by Justice Kirby, Justice Mahoney and Justice Priestley. When considering the background of the bill, it is important to bear in mind what they said. Justice Kirby said of the Government's claim to have power to close State Super:
Far from such direct and unambiguous authority being expressly spelled out, in my view the language of S46(1)(f) must be tortured, mangled and manipulated to sustain the validity of the order made on the advice of the Executive here. Far from there being a necessary intentment in the statute, every indication in the statute (and its predecessors) cries out in protest against what was done.
That is a damning indictment of the Government. Justice Kirby said, " . . . cries out in protest against what was done". He went on to say:
Only Parliament, which created it, can close down such a scheme to all future entrants. The limited power to "amend" . . . cannot be puffed up and distorted by the Executive Government, to permit without Parliament's approval, to do what was done here.
The Government is rudderless, lacking any sort of firm leadership. The mumbling, bumbling, fumbling performances of the Premier and Treasurer must have even the most complacent and thickest of Government members deeply concerned about the state of affairs. The Government lacks firm leadership and resorts to knee jerk panic measures to cover its lack of foresight and its patent inability to manage responsibly the State's finances. There seems to be no doubt that the superannuation figures are pretty startling. They need, indeed demand, thorough inquiry. The amendment will ensure that this necessary examination is carried out - it must be carried out. The Government has a dreadful and shameful record of inaccuracy and inadequacy in its cost projections. We have the sham and the bungling of the Eastern Creek fiasco, the black hole of $100
million, the fiascos of the senior executive service, consultants and so on. These are just some of the many instances of the fiscal ineptitude and outright dishonesty of the Government. The amendment should not be seen as obstructing proper superannuation planning; no objective person could possibly interpret the Government's pathetic actions to date as being reasonable or responsible. Its actions have been ill-considered and inept; in fact, the Government has been castigated by the highest court in New South Wales. We must have an accurate assessment of the position; the costing must be thoroughly checked, and the Government's funding proposals must be put under the microscope. The amendment addresses these key issues.
I referred earlier to the fact that the superannuation guarantee charge will be paid for through salary sacrifice. I agree with advice given to the Government by the Labor Council of New South Wales, on behalf of the relevant unions, that across-the-board wage and salary amelioration is the only practical outcome of the Federal Government's policy of diverting earned increments to superannuation. The diversion of an earned wage and salary increment to superannuation was the principle adopted in the June 1986 national wage decision, which resulted in the 3 per cent of ordinary time earnings contribution to productivity superannuation. The Labor Council said:
The fundamental difference between the 3% productivity super and the Superannuation Guarantee (SG) is that, whereas the 3% productivity super was an additional superannuation requirement, the SG is a minimum requirement. The SG can be absorbed by existing superannuation.
The Labor Council continued:
It follows that all those employers who are already providing superannuation at or above the SG level will make savings because they will participate in the elimination of wage and salary increases earned by productivity improvements, sufficient to pay for the SG.
Further savings will arise because the benefits and contributions under those existing schemes will be based on earnings lower than they would have had there been no SG.
The superannuation guarantee charge will save the New South Wales Government, the statutory authorities and other employers who have adequate superannuation in place substantial sums of money in the next 10 years. The superannuation guarantee gives rise to no employer cost for employees who are superannuated at the superannuation guarantee level only. The contribution is covered by wage and salary increases forgone. The Commonwealth Industrial Relations Act has been amended to require the commission to have regard to the superannuation guarantee in national wage determinations. The Federal Treasurer is on record as stating that the guarantee will be financed out of productivity improvements and will not impose cost increases not supported by productivity on employers. A report released by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia on 10th November, stated:
Whether trade unions accept it or not, Australia cannot afford both real wage increases and the SGC. We believe the only way the oncosts involved in the SGC can be minimised is by ensuring there will be minimum wage increases. Whilst the SGC is levied on employers, it will be essentially employees, not employers, who will be paying the cost.
[Extension of time agreed to.]
Last night the Premier misled the House by making out that the superannuation guarantee charge was an additional employer cost; in other words, by proposing that the SGC will be the only superannuation made available to non-contributors and future new
entrants to the public sector, the employers will effectively not be providing any superannuation subsidy because the employees will be paying for the SGC themselves through forgone wage increases. To reduce such an important condition of employment as superannuation to a paltry level, as is proposed by the Government, which currently provides inadequate income in retirement, is akin to reducing the total remuneration paid to employees. Clearly, there are a number of assumptions that can be used in calculating the position of superannuation funds now and into the future. The bill, and the Government's actions which preceded it, are precipitate and ill-conceived.
As the amendments imply, the Government's superannuation legislation, particularly the accuracy of the Government's costing projections and its funding proposals, require close examination. The stakes are high. The State's famous triple-A credit rating is at stake. Through ineptitude and fiscal bungling the triple-A rating is at risk and under constant review. We must ensure - I believe that a select committee is the appropriate vehicle to do it - that the funding program for existing superannuation schemes is adequate so as to achieve a manageable level of unfunded liabilities and finance current and future benefit payments. The Labor Party is being very responsible in this; it is not blindly obstructing change. We want to ensure that problems are properly and authoritatively identified and quantified. Let us have all of the figures properly examined. Only then should we take a decision which will have such obvious far-reaching effects, not only on the State's finances but also on the working conditions of current and future State public servants. These people are the backbone of public administration in New South Wales.
The Government has shown itself incapable of acting properly if left to its own initiative. We have ample proof of that in the haphazard manner in which it has acted to date on this issue. The highest court in the State has held the Government up to ridicule. The Government is hopeless and helpless. The question of this Government's capacity to run this State in a fair and reasonable manner has been aired a fair bit lately in this place - and quite rightly so. The myth that the Government has New South Wales in a better financial condition and performing better than the other States has been well and truly exploded. The farce - indeed, the ludicrous farce - of the Government being tossed out of court on two occasions on the superannuation issue is symptomatic of a government in crisis; it is a government of fiscal clowns and nincompoops in crisis. The New South Wales economy is adrift - like the Government. Statistic after statistic shows that New South Wales is slipping drastically. The New South Wales Treasury, in its recent overview of the State's economy, stated:
During the winter months, the New South Wales economy once again weakened relative to the other States. In particular, it performed worse than the other States in all the labour market areas except overtime hours worked. The average indicator ranking shows New South Wales has slipped to equal fourth place with Tasmania with an average indicator of just 2.9 out of a potential 6. Only South Australia performed worse.
It says in effect that, based on all relevant indicators, the New South Wales economy is performing at a level below the national average, but the Government continues to try to pull the wool over the eyes of the people; it continues to assert its financial probity and prudence but the people are waking up to it. The Government which took the credit when the news was good now disowns responsibility when the news is bad, and getting worse. That is the background against which the superannuation issue must be considered. The responsibilities involved in getting the superannuation settings right are clearly beyond the competence of the Government. A select committee as proposed by the amendment would be able to put the spotlight on the true position of the fund's finances, thoroughly check the Government's costing projections and examine and
establish the level of funding needed to prevent a calamitous blow-out in the real level of unfunded liabilities to ensure the capacity of the State to meet current and future benefit payments. The responsibility for this vital exercise must be given to a select committee of the Parliament because the Government cannot be trusted to act properly or responsibly if left to its own devices. The maintenance of our triple-A credit rating could well depend upon the outcome of this debate.
The Government's record of failed microeconomic reform, failed industrial relations reform and abandoned taxation reform is destroying the climate for investment and economic growth in New South Wales. The Government is adrift and is taking the economy with it. International ratings agencies have the State under constant scrutiny. It is only through the co-operation and responsibility of the Labor Opposition that the triple-A rating still exists. The Government got the triple-A rating from the previous Labor Government together with the lowest level of debt as a proportion of State economy of any State in Australia, including Queensland. It also got a budget surplus, which it has now turned into a massive budget deficit when the GIO fiddle is taken into account. That is why the Opposition and the people of New South Wales cannot trust the Government to manage properly the massive consequences of the superannuation situation. A select committee of the Parliament will ensure that the facts are nailed down and that a proper ground for sound decisions is laid. The future of the working people of the State is intertwined, and they deserve to have the superannuation issue fully and honestly examined. The amendment will allow that to be done. I quote a few paragraphs from a letter from the New South Wales Teachers Federation signed by Greg Smith, the Acting General Secretary. The Teachers Federation represents one of the biggest groups of contributors to the State superannuation scheme:
In examining the actions of the Fahey Government on this matter it should be recognised that:
at no stage has the Government sought to negotiate on the issue of a fair and equitable superannuation scheme for public sector employees;
there has been no consultation with public sector unions, the Superannuation Board or other employers affected by the legislation;
no critical examination of the Government's figures has been permitted despite requests for this to be allowed;
the Government has failed to accept that its actions were illegal and has attempted to use retrospective legislation as a vehicle for covering its "improper" actions.
No consideration has been given to those people who are eligible to join SASS but are currently not members. The profile of this group demonstrates that overwhelmingly it is made up of women and persons who earn well below average weekly earnings.
The Government has offered lip-service on initiatives for women but its action represents an attack on women and the poorly paid in the public sector.
Mr ZAMMIT (Strathfield) [4.52]: I have been in this Parliament for close on nine years, and I have never heard more confused debate from the other side than on this issue. I feel very privileged to have been a member of the Cabinet expenditure review committee because my service on that committee gave me a very good insight into how a government is run, how it should be run, and the constant concern of making sure that New South Wales does not lose its triple-A rating. Everything that committee members
did centred on ensuring that we do not lose that rating. We have been through some very difficult times in the past 3½ years. Everyone acknowledges there has been a lot of pain, but equally there has been a lot of gain. The honourable member for Rockdale mentioned that New South Wales was left to the Greiner Government in a very rosy financial state. Let us consider the situation as we found it when we came to government in 1988. The coalition thought that the debt was $26 billion, but it was only when we came to government that we found that it was nearer to $46 billion, because the former Government treated borrowings as income. Opposition members should not talk about leaving the State in excellent financial shape we found ourselves with a debt of $46 billion and a commitment to paying interest that was very substantial.
Mr McBride: What have you done in five years?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for The Entrance to order.
Mr ZAMMIT: Where is the money obtained for governments to repay the debt servicing charge? It comes from consolidated revenue, which means that that amount of money is not used to fund schools or hospitals.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Penrith to order.
Mr ZAMMIT: That debt has been reduced and the interest rate has been dramatically cut down. The honourable member for Rockdale also made a stupid comment about the sale of the GIO. I do not remember his exact words, but they were to the effect that the proceeds of the sale were not applied to the things that he thought they should have been applied. When the State Bank of Victoria was sold, the first thing the Victorian Government did was apply the proceeds to reduce the net debt, saying, "We have reduced the net debt through the sale of the State Bank". It would have been very easy for the Premier and Treasurer to have applied the proceeds of the sale of the GIO to the State Budget. If he had, the Budget would have been in surplus by some $300 or $400 million. But, being decent and honest in the way that he presented the Budget to the people of New South Wales, the Premier did not do that. In my speech on the Budget I congratulated the Premier and Treasurer on the step he took. It would have been very easy for him to apply the money to the Budget and say, "We have a surplus". The Victorians have done that. The Federal Government has done it. It applied the proceeds of the sale of Qantas, which has not yet been sold, to its budget and said that it had a debt of $13.5 billion instead of $15 billion.
I support the State Authorities Superannuation (Scheme Closure) Amendment Bill. The Government had no option but to close the scheme for two reasons. The first is that in its August 1991 Budget the Commonwealth Government announced its intention to legislate a superannuation guarantee for all workers set at 3 per cent regardless of whether they had prior superannuation arrangements. It was presumed that this action would effectively give every worker in the employ of the New South Wales Government a flat 3 per cent rise and that business had the ability to absorb an extra 3 per cent payroll expense regardless of the particular enterprise. This was an absolutely disgraceful imposition in a world clearly moving towards enterprise arrangements. Without doubt it is doomsday legislation for the Keating Government. It was, quite simply, a pay-off to the trade union bosses, as at that stage in August the Government was absolutely certain that when it went to the polls, as it planned to do, in December it would finally be absolved of the responsibility of running Australia.
In May 1992 a Senate inquiry on superannuation pointed out that the extra cost of this legislation would be about $5.3 billion for all State and Territory governments by the year 2000. Those concerns about massive imposts on governments fell on deaf ears. The States continued to argue that they should be exempted from this outrageous imposition. Calculations by the New South Wales Government showed that by the year 2002 the extra cost would be about $2.4 billion over and above what had been budgeted for. The Premier - at that time the Minister for Industrial Relations - considered that this was a totally unacceptable burden, given that unfunded superannuation was already at the level of $14.1 billion and would grow at the rate of approximately $1.2 billion a year without the superannuation guarantee charge. That would have a severe impact on the State's budget. The Government decided that the only viable action would be to protect the rights of existing scheme members, close off the scheme and set up a new scheme, which would provide the mandatory level of cover specified in the Commonwealth legislation. In the commercial world, a huge percentage of workers were not covered by any superannuation and because of incentives in the tax system were using their own money to take care of their retirement.
Honourable members have been told categorically that New South Wales is being watched by the credit agencies Standard and Poor's and Moody's, and that unless the Government is careful about how taxpayers' moneys are spent this State's credit rating could be downgraded. Downgrading would put this State into a different interest scale, with the result that an extra $100 million or $150 million extra a year would be needed to fund its debt. If that occurs, how many schools, hospitals and services will be affected? How much more difficult will it be for any government to govern New South Wales with that added burden, which is increasing by $1.2 billion a year? Today in Australia if a person runs a business and pays an employee $300 a week the payroll cost is closer to $600 because of the oncosts, such as sick pay, holiday pay, long service leave and superannuation.
Mr Jeffery: And the loadings.
Mr ZAMMIT: And the loadings. That is completely unacceptable. We are already paying a heavy price. This State cannot withstand the added burden of servicing a debt that is rising by $1.2 billion a year. Credit ratings may be downgraded. In Australia and throughout the world there is increasing focus on unfunded public sector superannuation. There is a clear difference between the socialist attitude to unfunded liabilities and the attitude of this responsible coalition Government. Our coalition colleagues in Victoria are being vilified for their decisive action on this same issue. The Victorian Government had to take that action because that State's unfunded liability was at crisis proportions. Victoria's total debt is about $56 billion, and $18 billion of that debt arises from the unfunded State superannuation scheme, even though that State's most expensive superannuation scheme was closed in 1988. In other words, four years ago the previous Victorian Labor Government realised the dire straits it was in and made some effort to overcome its difficulties, but that effort obviously was not good enough. The same predicament will occur in New South Wales unless this action is taken now. The Government is not on its own. It has bitten the bullet with this measure. The French Government, which is considering similar legislation, has predicted that its State pensions will rise from a current level of 19 per cent of budget to between 31 per cent and 42 per cent by the year 2040. Those huge sums are enough to destroy the financial capacity of any government to govern. [Extension of time agreed to.]
The situation in Italy is even worse. That country spends almost 14 per cent of its gross domestic product on pensions. The only way to solve the problem is to move to a scheme that is funded out of recurrent expenditure, as an on-budget item by each department set at the Federal rate of 3 per cent. Anyone wishing to take out extra cover can do so with any one of the life assurance companies and set aside their own funds for their own future. There is an argument that some people will not take out extra cover. But to retain a sensible social safety net, if a company can organise an enterprise trade-off, it is a good idea to help people save for their future and transfer responsibility to them, away from State and Federal governments. That has occurred in the past, and the resultant albatross, if left untouched, has the potential to cause a downgrading of the triple-A credit rating that this State currently enjoys. I urge the Opposition to think carefully about its proposal and to consider the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition in caucus when he argued strongly against the proposal but was overruled. I do not want to verbal him but I understand he warned in caucus that if this occurred the triple-A rating could come under great threat. The Opposition showed its real level of responsibility in overturning the wishes of the Leader of the Opposition, who on that occasion acted sensibly in an attempt to ensure that nothing affects this State's triple-A rating. The Opposition is taking a very grave step. Standard and Poor's and Moody's are watching this State and will focus on it even more closely if the Opposition proposal is carried.
Mr McBRIDE (The Entrance) [5.8]: When the Government is in a hole, such as the hole it is in with the unfunded liability of the State superannuation scheme, it has the same old conservative knee jerk reaction - kick the worker. When the Government is in trouble and in doubt the worker has to pay - not the fat cats, not those on the brokered contracts enjoyed by the senior executive service, the details of which are kept confidential. Hundreds of thousands of public servants, the attendants in this Parliament, the table officers, the office workers, labourers and people right down the line who need the most help are those who will be affected. The 800 State Rail Authority workers at Chullora are the sorts of people who have been affected by closure of the scheme. The 200 Central Coast miners who last week lost their jobs through a decision of the Government, the 80 at Awaba and the 120 at Newvale, which we visited on Monday, are the people who pay the price when the Government gets into trouble.
When the people who had lost their jobs - the Christmas present of this Government - came to this House and voiced their disapproval of the Premier, who promised the people of New South Wales jobs for Christmas, Mr Speaker threw them out. He threw them out of their House, the people's House. That shows the sort of contempt that this Government and this Premier have for the workers of our State. Let us look at the First State Super fiasco, another example of belting the worker. In August the financial wizards opposite - the honourable member for Murrumbidgee and his friends - discovered there was a problem with unfunded liability. What did they do? Simple: the worker must pay. What about Parliament? No, we will leave that out; forget Parliament. What about consultation? I remember the Premier after the 25th May, 1991, result saying that once a week he would consult the people of New South Wales. There was no consultation: forget it, we do not do that. What about negotiation? The Government will be forced to negotiate now. On a Sunday the Attorney General, John Hannaford, announced a new scheme. That is typical of this Government: decisions behind closed doors, sudden announcements, no consultation. It finished with egg all over its face again. We witnessed with the Metherell affair - and the son of Metherell, the honourable member for Davidson, is sitting opposite - the typical style of this Government. Greiner has gone but the style remains unchanged. Fahey does not have a blueprint for this Government so he is still using the old plan.
Yesterday someone even suggested that we should bring back Nick. That is how desperate honourable members opposite are. After seeing how good Fahey is they are even prepared to accept the former Premier. Ill-conceived, rushed decision-making is the hallmark of this Government. The honourable member for Davidson will get used to it. Remember Eastern Creek? The Government has crashed again. It just keeps going on and on. The courts have had their say: on 21st October Mr Justice Allen of the Supreme Court ruled that the closure of the State authorities superannuation scheme by order of the Governor in Council was beyond the Government's power and unreasonable. That is the same way it was with the Metherell case, was it not? The decision was made behind closed doors, and where did it end up? Before the Independent Commission Against Corruption. And now we have the present member for Davidson.
Mr Humpherson: Aren't you lucky?
Mr McBRIDE: We are lucky, mate. If we keep getting people like you, we will be on the Government side quicker than I thought.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for The Entrance will address the question before the House.
Mr McBRIDE: Mr Justice Kirby of the Court of Appeal went even further. He said of the Government's claim to have power to close the State superannuation scheme:
Far from such direct and unambiguous authority being expressly spelled out, in my view the language of S46(1)(f) must be tortured, mangled and manipulated -
Does this not sound familiar?
- to sustain the validity of the order made on the advice of the Executive here. Far from being a necessary intentment in the statute, every indication in the statute (and its predecessors) cries out in protest against what was done.
He went on to say:
Only Parliament, which created it can close down such a scheme to all future entrants. The limited power to "amend" cannot be puffed up -
Does that not sound like the Government?
- and distorted by the Executive Government, to permit without Parliament's approval, to do what was done here.
The workers were denied justice and the authority of Parliament was usurped.
Mr Merton: On a point of order. As entertaining as the honourable member's speech might be, I have noticed for some minutes - and they have been painful minutes - that the honourable member is reading his speech verbatim. Accordingly, I object. I ask that he not refer to copious notes but present something to the House that obviously belongs to him and not to a speech writer.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for The Entrance would be well aware that the Chair is not in favour of members reading speeches verbatim. The inference that could be drawn - fair or unfair - is that the speech is prepared by someone else, thus giving a voice to someone outside the Parliament, which is against our parliamentary traditions. The honourable member should refer only to his notes and desist from reading his speech.
Mr McBRIDE: They are my notes.
Mr Merton: Then you will not need to read them, will you?
Mr McBRIDE: I am only new here. I just need a little bit of help. Can the Minister not give me a little help? The Government deliberately set out to dud the 100,000 public servants eligible under the scheme who, for whatever reason -
Mr Merton: Mr Speaker, the honourable member is deliberately flouting your ruling.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for The Entrance has not been a member of this House for long. If, as he asserts, he wrote his speech, he obviously would be well aware of its contents. Therefore, he would not need to read the speech word for word. It being 5.15 p.m., pursuant to sessional orders, the debate is interrupted.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENTS
PUBLIC HOUSING APPLICANT FLORENCE ALFORD
Mr GIBSON (Londonderry) [5.15]: I raise a subject I have spoken on many times in this Chamber, and that is the plight of public housing in New South Wales, particularly in western Sydney. For a long time I have been saying that reallocation of public housing stock would permit many people on the waiting list to be accommodated. Tonight I raise the predicament of a constituent of mine, Florence Alford of Dharruk. Florence has spent most of her life in western Sydney. In July 1984 she applied for public housing, a one-bedroom apartment - not a big ask. Her family had grown up and she was looking for somewhere to spend her latter years in peace. She was told by staff of the Housing Commission that it might take three or four years before she would be allocated such accommodation. In July 1987 she inquired, not unreasonably, how her application was faring as she had been on the waiting list for three years.
She was informed that there was no record of her application on the computers. She raised the case with me and was supported by people who had accompanied her when she applied. There were many meetings, telephone calls and inquiries between the family and the department from 1987 to 1991, and she was placed on the waiting list from 1987. She pursued her claim that she had applied in 1984 and in the end was asked to go to the regional office at Parramatta to view her original file. She did this in October 1991. It was no surprise to her to find that she was recorded as having applied in 1984. The Department of Housing claimed that a mistake had been made in the restructuring of the computer system. She had been told that her application had been lost or, even worse, it was suggested that she may not even have applied. Finally, after seven years of waiting, she was told that she was recorded as applying and should have been housed many years before.
It took from October 1991 until January 1992, after many meetings, to put her back on the waiting list as having applied in 1984. The average waiting time for accommodation in this part of Sydney is between three and four years but she had been waiting eight years. I would have thought the department would bend over backwards to help someone in such a predicament. But it has not. She was promised accommodation very soon. She was told she would be put at the top of the list. She has
been waiting almost a year since then. I say in all sincerity to the Government that as we are not too far from the festive season this granny should be given a granny apartment as a Christmas present. The Minister should go out of his way to ensure that accommodation in the part of western Sydney in which this lady wants to live is found. It is because of a mistake by the Department of Housing that she has not already been accommodated. She has been on the waiting list twice as long as it takes on average to house people in this part of western Sydney. The Budget provided no joy for this lady: in the portion of Mount Druitt in the electorate of Londonderry only 25 units of accommodation will be built in the coming 12 months. At Richmond only about 18 units will be provided. And there are 8,000 people on the waiting list. In the part of Penrith that I represent the figures are similar. This lady has been patient. She has more patience than I or most other people. She has not complained, but she has a genuine gripe. There is no risk in the world that in this instance the Department of Housing has acted wrongly. The Government should ensure that she receives accommodation before Christmas.
Mr PETER McENNALLY AND BURWOOD MUNICIPAL COUNCIL
Mr HUMPHERSON (Davidson) [5.20]: I wish to refer to the problems that a constituent of mine, Mr Peter McEnnally, has experienced in his dealings with Burwood Municipal Council. Mr McEnnally owns warehousing premises in Burwood. He has advised me that officers of Burwood Municipal Council have contributed significantly to the loss of a sale of his property and have contributed also to major delays in obtaining consent to sublease some of the premises. Apparently the core of the problem is that council officers have demanded that an easement through Mr McEnnally's property be dedicated to the council at no cost to the council. It is intended that the easement would connect existing stormwater drains under streets on either side of Mr McEnnally's premises. However, the desired easement is located through the site of an existing building. On a number of occasions Mr McEnnally has advised the council that he will not dedicate the easement and if the council wishes to pursue the matter, it should resume the easement and compensate him for it.
Council officers have persistently demanded that Mr McEnnally dedicate the easement. They have maintained that no sale will occur without the prospective purchaser being aware of the proposed easement and, likewise, no subdivision will be permitted or any other consent granted if the easement is not dedicated. Mr McEnnally wrote to the council expressing concern about his dealings with council officers. He informed the council that he had been requested to dedicate the easement at no cost to the council and made it clear in no uncertain terms that if the council wished to pursue the matter, it should resume the easement and compensate him for it. To date he has received no response. Mr McEnnally has advised me of a number of dealings with council officers that are of concern. When he went to pick up a recent building application in relation to some minor amendments to the premises, he was told he had to pay a bond for footpath protection. He subsequently discovered that an engineer from the council had attended his premises, taken photographs and made drawings of a driveway crossing.
On further investigation Mr McEnnally discovered that the drawings of the crossing, in relation to which the bond was supposed to protect him, did not relate to the crossing that would be used. The crossing which was to be used was traversed daily by articulated vehicles delivering heavy loads. Last week two engineers attended Mr McEnnally's premises unannounced. They entered, were discourteous, and inspected stormwater pits. Mr McEnnally felt that the actions of those officers were most
unwarranted. Recently when a prospective purchaser of Mr McEnnally's property attended the council, he was advised by council officers that a condition of any development application to change the use of the warehouse would be the dedication of a stormwater easement through the existing premises.
None of this has been put in writing; it has all been communicated verbally. Mr McEnnally has raised the matter regularly, but council officers have been adamant. Council staff have advised him that they do not make the rules; they merely administer them. Obviously there are a number of similar examples throughout local government. Actions such as those I have referred to by council officers can have a major impact on the investment confidence of business and industry. Such obstructive practices also result in costly delays. I ask the Minister for Local Government to investigate the matter and advise whether the action of the council officers is standard and acceptable practice and whether the council will provide some written advice to Mr McEnnally that he is not required to dedicate the easement unless a total redevelopment of the premises takes place.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STATEMENT
Mr KNOWLES (Moorebank) [5.25]: I express my anger and disgust about what I regard as the hypocrisy of the Government in presenting yesterday the report and recommendations of the Western Sydney Economic Development Committee. For the moment I will leave aside the fact that it has taken the Government five years to discover western Sydney and the fact that the report resembles a not too dissimilar report with which I was connected in 1987 and 1988. I will not accuse the Government of plagiarism but the report comes very close to it. I encourage honourable members to compare the two documents. I want to focus on one of the principal findings of the report of the economic development committee. That committee found that one of the most fundamental issues for the State and Federal governments was the fast tracking of the airport at Badgerys Creek. The committee found that the construction of the airport would have a major impact on employment and growth in the region.
The report of the committee refers continually to the creation of economic activity and the ultimate generation of 40,000 jobs at Badgerys Creek over 20 years. The report was unanimously supported by all members of the committee. Therefore, I cannot reconcile the view of the committee - which was chaired by Stuart Fowler and had some fairly important people among its members - with the view expressed by one member of the committee, Dr John Saunders, the Director-General of the Department of State Development, on behalf of the State Government to the Federal Government's Joint Standing Committee on Public Works, which was examining the development of stage one of the Badgerys Creek airport. The views are entirely contradictory. I should like to quote from the State submission as presented by Dr Saunders. He said:
It is the Government's firm view that a staged development is more economically responsible and it will complement the gradual development of the South Creek Valley sector . . . it is a judgment based upon market research and assessment of low growth for airport usage in the Sydney region and in relation to east coast airports. So the judgment is well founded and well researched at this time, and my understanding is there is sufficient lead time and flexibility in the approach to the phased development of the Badgerys Creek Airport to anticipate low growth or demand growth and move the development to meet that demand.
That is an extraordinary view when one compares it to Dr Saunders' support for the recommendations in the greater western Sydney economic development statement. Dr Saunders supported his statement to the joint public works committee by saying that
market research into demand conditions at Badgerys Creek airport, to which he had referred in his report, was available. Unfortunately the Western Sydney Economic Development Committee has never seen that information. I regard the construction of an airport at Badgerys Creek as absolutely vital to the growth prospects of western Sydney. For too long development in western Sydney has been encouraged by population-led growth. The report says that there should be a re-focus on employment-led growth. That is the only way western Sydney will get out of the enormous hole in which it finds itself and reduce the high levels of unemployment that it faces into the next century.
However, the Government has a double standard. It presents a report to Parliament that promotes the fast tracking of western Sydney, and at the same time a Government representative trots along to a parliamentary inquiry and promotes the slow phased development of Badgerys Creek. The Government must let the people of western Sydney know where it stands on Badgerys Creek. Ministers cannot come into this Parliament and trumpet, with the help of glossy brochures, that the Government supports the fast tracking of Badgerys Creek and at the same time have a Government representative present a formal official view to a parliamentary inquiry that the Government wants to go slow. The Government is playing a cruel hoax on the people of western Sydney, and it must reconcile these conflicting views.
I challenge the Minister for State Development to explain the inconsistency between his director-general's views as expressed to the parliamentary inquiry, and the views that the director-general supported with the western Sydney economic development committee. If that inconsistency is not explained, all we can expect is that this will be yet one more report to sit on a shelf without government commitment. The people of western Sydney will soon come to learn that all the Government is presenting them with is more statements about what they need, but without actually doing anything about it. It is time for the Government to come clean on the Badgerys Creek airport issue, to attempt to address important issues by recognising the report of the western Sydney economic development committee as being a leading focus on that area's economic growth rather than its population growth, with the creation of 40,000 jobs over 20 years in that airport development. That is vital to our future. I urge the Minister to explain the true position of the Government. [Time expired.]
Mr AND Mrs FAINT, HILLGROVE
Mr CHAPPELL (Northern Tablelands) [5.30]: I wish to raise a matter of concern to Mr and Mrs Cliff Faint of Hillgrove in the electorate Northern Tablelands. It is a concern shared by many others who suffer difficulties with their ability to manage their land and maintain or improve their asset. Mr and Mrs Faint hold land known as portion 20 in Crown lease 1931/5 in the Parish of Ferryman, County of Sandon. The Faints have been awaiting the processing of an application for conversion of that portion to freehold and that has now been recorded as conditional purchase 1989/55. However, the processing of the application has been held up by the moratorium placed on land conversions by former Premier Greiner more than two years ago. In the meantime, the National Parks and Wildlife Service has indicated an interest in about half of that portion of land for future addition to the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, as it borders the escarpment to the gorge country which forms a part of the national park. I understand the interest of the National Parks and Wildlife Service relates mainly to a significant stand of a species of eucalypt, known as the Hillgrove spotted gum.
The parks service is happy to allow the conversion to freehold of the balance of the land. The concern of the Faints is that they will lose control of the land for low level grazing, for which it has been used for some 60 years - and, perhaps more importantly, that they will lose total control of the dog proof fence which they erected 60 years ago and have maintained ever since. They and their neighbours regard the fence as an integral part of the protection of their cattle and sheep. It is part of an extensive network of fence protection which borders some of the most productive grazing lands on the eastern edge of the New England tablelands. The situation confronting Mr and Mrs Faint is very much the same as that which confronts many other landholders in the electorate of Northern Tablelands and, no doubt, beyond. But there is an added dimension. Mr and Mrs Faint, as is the situation with a number of other people, would be willing to enter into a conservation agreement with the National Parks and Wildlife Service to ensure that the particular interest of the service in the land is well and truly protected while the Faints carry out their normal productive enterprise.
That is an approach which I have long advocated and have spoken about before in this Parliament and in many other forums. As I have argued in other cases, my constituents have protected their land to the point where the National Parks and Wildlife Service still has an interest in it; the service believes it has environmental value. If that is the case after 60 years of habitation and grazing use, they have not been doing anything very wrong, have they? Mr and Mrs Faint have already proved by their actions and by their farming methods that they are in sympathy with their environment and that their landholdings have been held in good stead for the people of New South Wales, for future generations. All of us - landowners, leaseholders, policy makers, industry leaders - have come a long way in recent years in our understanding of environmental issues. We are, almost without exception, prepared to make the extra effort to ensure that the interests of the land - its long-term viability - and the interests of the community are well protected. The Faints, as do many other farming families, want to pass their land to their sons.
I am strongly of the view that the "either or" approach of recent years is entirely wrong. The principle of an exclusive, single use of land in most instances is unnecessarily restrictive and burdensome. It is a burden not only on the landowner involved, but also on the community which is increasingly being called upon to pay the costs of management of the land, when in fact there is already someone ready and willing to do it, someone who has proved capable of doing it in sympathy with the environment. I believe there is a viable, indeed even desirable, middle ground: the Government should establish a procedure in relation to Crown land which is the subject of a conversion application which would, in some cases at least, lead to the conversion to freehold, subject to conditions. Those conditions would protect the community interest in the environmental feature which happened to be part of that property. Such agreements would not always be achievable but, where they are achievable, let us go ahead and achieve them. Mr and Mrs Faint's property is but a case in point. I ask the Minister for Conservation and Land Management to look closely at this matter to see if the remaining class of titles still subject to the moratorium can be released. Second, I ask the Minister to initiate discussions with the Minister for the Environment in an attempt to find some common sense which will see both the long-term historic interest of the landholders involved and the community interest protected. I am sure it can be done. It is the responsibility of this Government to ensure that it is done. I shall continue to press for it until it is done.
Mr MERTON (Baulkham Hills - Minister for Justice, and Minister for Emergency Services) [5.35]: I would like to thank the hard working honourable member for Northern Tablelands for bringing this matter to the attention of the House. I
congratulate and commend him on the excellent way in which he has presented it. I will be pleased to convey the content of this particularly important matter to the relevant Minister who, in due course, will be in touch with the honourable member.
CONSUMER CLAIMS TRIBUNAL
Mr DAVOREN (Lakemba) [5.36]: A number of shortcomings have come to my attention which concern the Consumer Claims Tribunal. A gentleman, Mr Hogan, who has been a long-time constituent of mine, bought a vehicle from Nissan Australia and found problems with the paintwork. He raised the issue on a number of occasions during the warranty period, but nothing transpired. He took the next step of drawing the matter to the attention of the Consumer Claims Tribunal. He has attended the tribunal on three occasions, and on each occasion, at some expense to himself, he took with him a paint expert from the University of New South Wales. Nissan Australia's own expert was one of its motor mechanics. The referee seems to have taken no notice, and is still bubbling along and has not made a decision, despite the advice given by the expert who accompanied Mr Hogan.
The other instance relates to a gentleman who operates a furniture emporium at Punchbowl. About 15 months ago a lady came into the store and ordered a specially made corner lounge suite. It was delivered on 22nd June last year, some three weeks after the order had been placed, at a cost of $1,780 - which included special cushions which the customer ordered. The customer accepted delivery but, 15 months later, without first approaching the furniture store, took the matter to the Consumer Claims Tribunal, alleging that some of the stitching was not as one would expect. It took her 15 months to discover that. The store owner appeared at the Consumer Claims Tribunal and presented his version of events and heard the customer's side of the story, and the referee examined the lounge suite. My understanding is that the referee at the Consumer Claims Tribunal has legal expertise. I do not know that that would cover expertise in respect of lounge suites - apparently, it does not cover too much expertise in the paintwork on motor vehicles - nevertheless, the referee examined the lounge suite. The next thing that the owner of the furniture shop knew was that he was served with a writ of execution issued by Burwood court.
As Minister West said today, one of the excellent features of the British system is that justice must not only be done but must appear to be done. Certainly in the two cases I have mentioned justice may have been done - slowly in the case of Mr Hogan - but it does not appear to have been done. I have written to the Minister for Consumer Affairs about these two matters. I hope that the Minister will follow my advice, investigate these matters and arrange to have the Consumer Claims Tribunal operate as was proposed in the legislation. Consumers must now pay additional money to have matters heard by the Consumer Claims Tribunal and they expect to receive justice. I ask that the Minister for Consumer Affairs examine the two matters I have raised and ensure that the Consumer Claims Tribunal operates as it should.
WATERFALL BRIDGE PROPOSAL
Mr KERR (Cronulla) [5.40]: Once again I bring to the attention of the House the urgent need for a bridge to be constructed at Waterfall. Such a bridge would service the Bundeena, Maianbar and Wattamolla communities. These communities have been pressing for the construction of this bridge. The previous Labor Government was lobbied for this bridge over the 12-year period it was in office. However, when the money became available residents were informed that it would be used for redeveloping Darling
Harbour. Fortunately, after 1988 this Government came to office and, even more fortuitously, the Hon. Bruce Baird a former Cronulla boy, was appointed Minister for Transport. As honourable members will be aware, you can take the boy out of the Sutherland shire but you cannot take the Sutherland shire out of the boy. The Minister moved quickly to ensure that an environmental impact study was carried out in respect of this issue. I understand that the Roads and Traffic Authority and the National Parks and Wildlife Service successfully completed that study. I emphasise again the urgency of this issue.
The bridge is necessary. It is a great stroke of luck that lives have not been lost when people in these communities have been ill or injured. When the river floods the journey to the nearest medical centre or hospital is considerably lengthened. After heavy rainfall the road across the Audley weir is cut off, isolating the people of Bundeena from the affairs of normal life. In those circumstances when someone is critically ill there is a potentially life-threatening situation. The bridge is needed for more reasons than merely facilitating commerce. As I said, it would actually save people's lives. The communities of Bundeena and Maianbar have been more than patient in this matter. Over the years they have shown a great deal of stoicism in dealing with the appropriate authorities. I pay tribute to the people who carried on their civic duties for so long and so patiently. Once again I ask the Government to look at the proposal to construct the bridge expeditiously so that we can all get on with our business.
Mr MERTON (Baulkham Hills - Minister for Justice, and Minister for Emergency Services) [5.43]: I congratulate the honourable member for Cronulla who, in this Parliament, has an enviable record for going in to bat on behalf of his constituents, and this issue is no exception to the rule. The matter he has raised is of paramount importance, and as such I am pleased to advise that I have received information from the Minister's office which reads as follows:
Tenders for the construction of the Waterfall bridge over the Hacking River in the Royal National Park have been received and are currently being assessed. It is expected that the successful tender will be announced within a month and that work on the bridge will commence early next year and be completed by November 1993. The construction of the bridge will overcome the current problem caused by the flooding of the Hacking River which results in the closure of the weirs at Audley and Waterfall. As a result of these floods, local residents have been forced to detour 21 kilometres, via Stanwell Tops, to gain access to the Princes Highway. The construction of the bridge will guarantee a flood free route for the communities of Bundeena, Maianbar and Wattamolla. The environmental impact statement, which was jointly determined by the Roads and Traffic Authority and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, has specified that all work will proceed subject to strict environmental controls.
This area of New South Wales, with its magnificent views, facilities and surroundings, is probably the most picturesque in the State. The information that I have just given to the House will certainly assist the constituents of the honourable member for Cronulla.
SILICONE BREAST IMPLANTS
Ms NORI (Port Jackson) [5.45]: Tonight I wish to speak about the problems faced by women who have had silicone mammary implants. In January 1991 Dow Corning, the American supplier of silicone implants, made it clear in a letter to all plastic surgeons that the removal of the implants should be considered if persistent immunological response was suspected, yet Australian women are having difficulty in getting their plastic surgeons to take this advice seriously. It is of great concern to me that, in Australia at least, doctors generally were not warning their patients of the potential dangers of silicone implants, yet in the United States of America Dow Corning
warned all doctors in 1985. Clearly, by about 1977 the problems associated with this type of plastic surgery were becoming obvious. One of the problems is that women not covered by private health funds have to pay $3,500 to $4,500 to have their implants removed. The public hospital system has long waiting lists. One woman from Glen Innes was quoted $14,000 to have the implants removed. Very few people have that amount of money to spare. In many cases it is quite urgent that the implants be removed.
Other practices of Australian doctors concern me also. In a booklet from Dow Corning, which was issued in 1991, a warning was given of the problems of a procedure known as a closed capsulotomy, which is basically a manual manipulation of the breasts to relieve a capsule that may build up as a result of the implant. That procedure can be performed manually in open surgery with an incision, or it can be performed in a surgery. The warning from Dow Corning is quite clear, that Dow Corning cannot warrant the integrity of the implant if a closed capsulotomy is performed. The booklet goes on to say that it could rupture the implant, and honourable members know the implications of a ruptured implant. Doctors are still performing these manual manipulations. Doctor Anstee from Victoria has performed five such manipulations on Carolyn Dodge in the past five years, the most recent being in September-October 1992. This is the same doctor who, in the Australian of 28th May, said that he did not do implants, though I have a statutory declaration from Pam McCullen who states that she had implants inserted by Doctor Anstee on 11th April, 1980. I have here a letter from Mrs L. Davies of Newcastle in which she said:
Then I had another operation to replace the infected one. This was also unsuccessful as the implant started falling out and was also badly infected. On my next visit to the doctor he pulled the implant out whilst I was in his surgery and sent me home with a three-inch hole in my chest oozing with infection and told me to come back in three months' time and see what could be done. So I spent the next three months with one breast and a large hole in my chest and in a state of shock.
My understanding is that the proper procedure in such an instance would have been to pack the wound, stitch it and supply daily injections to make sure that it was sterile. That was Dr Howell. Poor Mrs Davies goes on to say:
I have also spent thousands of dollars on medical bills and still owe hundreds which I have no way of paying. When I asked the doctor if he thought the implants were safe he told me they were perfectly safe and he would not use any other kind.
It is noteworthy that in the last few days the doctor has sued this woman $350 for an unpaid bill. There is also the case of Mrs Burec who was told by one specialist that the pain which followed her original mammaplasty had all the hallmarks of an abnormal behaviour illness and he did not consider her a suitable subject for any further surgery, unless it was clearly indicated. She was shoved from pillar to post; no one would take her seriously. Fortunately, a doctor took out the implants, only to discover ruptured breast implants, with silicone in one cohesive mass on each side. Women are being put through the mill. I ask the plastic surgery fraternity in Australia - I am sure that they are not all guilty of this kind of behaviour - to take these women seriously; there are thousands of women throughout Australia who are suffering terribly because of what I believe to be the incompetence and negligence of Dow Corning and, perhaps to some extent, the negligence of the medical profession. I urge the doctors to take the concerns of women seriously, to stop telling them that they are just nut cases, sending them home to take a valium, saying that there is nothing wrong when the silicone is oozing inside them and creating all sorts of incredible problems. [Time expired.]
ADAMINABY ACCESS ROAD
Mr COCHRAN (Monaro) [5.50]: I rise on behalf of the residents of Adaminaby, a town located approximately 32 miles northwest of Cooma - a place well known to me, as my home town. For a number of years, since Adaminaby was moved from its former location on Lake Eucumbene, the town has been isolated because the only link road between it and any form of civilisation and possibility of growth is the road between Cooma and Adaminaby and Adaminaby and Tumut - the Snowy Mountains Highway. With the assistance of the Deputy Premier, Minister for Public Works, and Minister for Roads, I aim to approach both the Cooma-Monaro shire and Snowy River shire with the object of establishing a major link along the existing road between Adaminaby, Shannons Flat and Canberra. This road is a vital link between Adaminaby and a populated area which will provide access for the residents of Canberra and Queanbeyan to the snowfields of Mount Selwyn. During the past 20 years or so since the Adaminaby township was moved various undertakings have been given by governments, and local councils - including the Snowy River shire and the Cooma-Monaro shire at different times - to provide assistance to the residents of Adaminaby in having the road upgraded. To date, absolutely nothing has happened on the New South Wales side; however, in recent times the Australian Capital Territory Government has taken up the issue and developed the road for some 30-odd kilometres. It is now up to the New South Wales Government and the two shires involved - after all, it is a local road - to take up the matter and develop the road in order to provide Adaminaby with a secure future.
Mount Selwyn is an area represented by the honourable member for Burrinjuck and me. The area is growing rapidly and increasing in popularity for skiers from the Canberra region. I believe that the reconstruction of the road - now known as the back road between Adaminaby, Shannons Flat and Canberra - would provide greater opportunities for Adaminaby to grow. To have this happen, unfortunately, there will have to be some compromise between the Cooma-Monaro shire and the Snowy River shire. The problem is that the township of Adaminaby is currently within the Snowy River shire, however, the main part of the road linking Adaminaby and Canberra is in the Cooma-Monaro shire. It is simply of no advantage at all for the Cooma-Monaro shire to have this road upgraded to a degree which will advantage only Adaminaby. However, as far as the Snow River shire is concerned, the development of this road would be of great advantage to its ratepayers and there would be a proliferation of development in the area and an increase in the population - which at the moment is on the wain - permanent residency within Adaminaby would increase and the opportunity for tourism would be greatly enhanced.
I am sure that the honourable member for Burrinjuck would join with me in asking the Minister for Justice and Minister for Emergency Services, to take on board the suggestion that negotiations be encouraged between the two shires. The Deputy Premier, Minister for Public Works, and Minister for Roads may even look at some special grant to provide the necessary funding to these shires under a special funding program to allow this road to be developed and the future of Adaminaby to be secure. I pay tribute to one of the Snowy River shire councillors, Lee Stewart, who for many years has taken this issue on board and raised it consistently in the public forum. As I have mentioned, he has been successful in raising the issue with the Australian Capital Territory Government. I pay tribute to the Australian Capital Territory Government for its success in developing the road. I believe that this is one of the great opportunities for developing an access link not only for the people of Adaminaby but for the people of Canberra. It will provide great opportunities for those people to more speedily get to the snow fields which they enjoy and provide an enhancement to the snow fields of Mount Selwyn.
Mr MERTON (Baulkham Hills - Minister for Justice, and Minister for
Emergency Services) [5.55]: I have noted the matters raised by the honourable member for Monaro whom, in the time I have been in this place, I have regarded as a tireless worker, a man who is community based and a champion for the rights of his constituents over many years. I will bring these important issues before the relevant Minister, who will no doubt contact him. I thank the honourable member for the excellent way he has brought these matters forward and the industrious way and time he spent in preparing his submission.
ILLAWARRA HEALTH SERVICES AND DEATH OF Mrs EVELINE CARR
Mr MARKHAM (Keira) [5.57]: Three constituents of mine have raised with me their concerns about the Illawarra area health service and the Illawarra regional hospital. I raise these issues because of my deep concern for three women whose mother passed away at Bulli hospital on 19th September this year. I speak on behalf of Mrs Jennifer Eshman, Mrs Kathleen Starr and Mrs Colleen Horan. They wrote to me recently with respect to the death of their mother and what transpired over the prior period of two months. She was put in and out of hospitals in the Wollongong region. I hope that the Minister for Health takes this on board. At the end of my address I will raise some questions which have been asked by these women. Their letter states:
We are writing to you in relation to our late mother, Mrs. Eveline Carr who passed away at Bulli Hospital on 19th September 1992.
For your information we enclose a list setting out the dates and sequence of events leading up to our mother's death.
It is some five or six pages long. The letter continues:
The major part of our mother's hospitalisation prior to her death was at the Wollongong Hospital.
It is deeply disturbing to us to find that our mother was the victim of a system which was negligent and sadly lacking in communication and compassion at the Wollongong Hospital.
Our mother was a very much loved person with three daughters who loved her very much and cared for her welfare. Many of our questions remain unanswered and we write to you in hope that you may provide us with answers and prevent the same thing happening to another patient, particularly someone without the loving support of a family.
We await your reply and thank you for your assistance.
That is a very disturbing letter; I have no doubt that everyone in this Chamber would agree. Mrs Carr was admitted to Wollongong hospital on Monday, 3rd July. I am not going to go through the full list, which outlines each day right through to Saturday, 19th September. She was in and out of hospital, she was vomiting and had blood transfusions. At times the family could not get information concerning their mother. That needs to be looked at very closely. I have raised this issue in the House instead of going to the Minister because over the last six or so months I have raised a number of issues similar to this with him and he has replied to me sometimes three months later. I believe that this particular instance needs to be looked at as soon as possible. I would like to go to the final days of Mrs Carr's life. Her daughters described what happened in the attachment to their letter, part of which read as follows:
Staff very understanding but being in ward very difficult transferred back to Bulli.
In other words Mrs Carr was very sick and was not able to lay quietly. She was transferred back to Bulli hospital because of "lack of motivation". The attachment continued:
Mother passed away Hospital rang but she was gone before we got there.
That is pretty dramatic. The attachment continued:
I am writing this to ask questions:
And these are the questions I wish the Minister to answer:
1. Why wasn't my mother properly tested the 1st time she went to hospital?
2. How could there be such a dispute about her vomiting when this was the reason she was kept in Hospital?
3. Why was she discharged from ward 18 when Dr Watt wasn't notified and what does "LACK OF MOTIVATION" mean?
4. How can Sisters complain to families about patients when they know nothing about them. Don't they have to read a patient's chart before caring for them.
5. How can social workers say that she is going to Bulli for rehab when it doesn't exist?
6. Why did it take from 4th August to 4th September for any thing to be done about her throat?
The problems within Wollongong Hospital is total lack of communication.
I get these sorts of complaints all the time. This case highlights the serious problem with services provided by the Illawarra Area Health Service through Illawarra hospitals to patients. The concern of those sisters is that other people might suffer because of the lack of care in these areas.
Mr SCHULTZ (Burrinjuck) [6.1]: I rise on a matter of deep concern to me and, more importantly, to fruit growers generally in the Burrinjuck electorate and, more specifically, to those apple growers at Batlow. My concern specifically relates to the lack of progress by Federal authorities in preventing the importation of host plant material from countries in which the disease fire blight is known to exist. The apparent lack of progress on a national scale in preventing such importations could have a catastrophic effect on the fruit industry. It would certainly also have a catastrophic effect on employment in the township of Batlow and surrounding districts and would create enormous economic hardship for rural people already suffering from a rural recession. I will quote from a report commissioned and funded by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, commonly referred to as AQIS. The report entitled "Consequences of Establishment of Fire Blight in Australia" is by W. P. Roberts of the Bureau of Rural Resources, dated February 1991. It stated:
Recent interest in fire blight was stimulated by a New Zealand proposal to export apples to Australia. Fire blight is a serious bacterial disease of apples and pears that is absent from Australia but present in many countries, including New Zealand . . .
If fire blight were to establish in Australia, the models predicted that most apple and pear growing regions would be expected to experience severe fire blight in most seasons. This is because the major apple varieties grown in Australia are susceptible to fire blight and the pear varieties are highly susceptible, and because weather conditions in Australia would frequently be favourable for disease development.
The report continued:
Fire blight is present in New Zealand and under Regulation 21 of Australia's Quarantine (Plants) Regulations, imports of apples from New Zealand are only allowed from districts where fire blight does not exist. The agreement proposed by New Zealand incorporated several steps, including local area freedom, inspection, testing and fruit treatment, to minimise the risk of establishment of fire blight in Australia. The "Assessment of New Zealand's Proposal to Export Apples to Australia - an AQIS Position Paper" . . . concluded that the risks associated with the proposal were such that it should not be approved.
The report concluded:
Modelling work using various approaches predicted that the disease is likely to be severe in most areas of Australia. In Tasmania the disease may only be of low to moderate severity. Australian losses of fruit production could range up to 50% for pears and up to 20% for apples based on the worst case analysis of every major producing area infected. Predicted losses for only a single area (other than the Goulburn Valley) are approximately 3% for apples and 1% for pears.
The report is damning of the proposal by New Zealand to export apples to Australia. The importing of apples to Australia is in this instance totally in the hands of the Federal Government. My concern is the apparent lack of progress at a national level. Because of this lack of action, the New South Wales Government should complement the initiative taken by the Tasmanian Government, which recently amended its Plant Diseases Act to prohibit importation into Tasmania of any plants and fruits which host the disease from any country, State or Territory in which fire blight exists or has been known to exist. I raise this matter so that the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs, whom I have written to on this matter, can seriously consider the urgency for the New South Wales Government to complement the initiative of the Tasmanian Government and immediately take action to amend the Plant Diseases Act to prohibit the importation of all plants and fruit which are host to the disease fire blight in the interests of protecting a very valuable agricultural resource in the New South Wales countryside and, more particularly, to protect the export market created by those involved in the apple industry at Batlow.
Mr MERTON (Baulkham Hills - Minister for Justice, and Minister for Emergency Services) [6.6]: I commend the hard-working member for Burrinjuck, who is chairman of the Government justice committee, on his enviable record of achievements in his electorate and in the Parliament. His raising of the issues tonight was no exception to his high standard of presentation. The matters he raises certainly are important and must be considered, and I will immediately bring them to the attention of the relevant Minister, who no doubt will get in touch with the honourable member.
Private members' statements noted.
[Mr Acting-Speaker (Mr Hazzard) left the chair at 6.7 p.m. The House resumed at 7.30 p.m.]
FIRST STATE SUPERANNUATION BILL
STATE AUTHORITIES SUPERANNUATION (SCHEME CLOSURE) AMENDMENT BILL
SUPERANNUATION LEGISLATION (SUPERANNUATION GUARANTEE CHARGE) AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
Mr McBRIDE (The Entrance) [7.30]: The objective of the Government's actions in introducing the bills is to deliberately dud the 100,000 public servants eligible for the scheme who, for whatever reason, have not as yet taken up that condition of employment. The logical and simple new scheme is clearly inferior, with employee contributions dropping from 14.5 per cent to 4 per cent. Given notice, these employees would have exercised their options and joined the State Authorities Superannuation Scheme. The intent of the Government was to ambush these workers and take away their rights by stealth, in the same way it has taken away the jobs of coalminers on the Central Coast. What was the catalyst for this attack on the conditions of public sector employees of this State? The SASS fund lost $1.5 billion from the value of the superannuation board's property portfolio over the last two years. Who has had ministerial stewardship of the State Superannuation Board for those two years? None other than Premier John Fahey. More important, who is to pay for this failure by the board and the Premier - the people who are responsible for the failure, the people who are vested with the care and control of superannuation fund moneys, the directors of the fund or the responsible Minister? Who, then, is to pay for this failure? The same people who seem to always pay when this Government stuffs up - the lowly paid workers of this State.
Long-suffering employees of this State, those public servants who have put up with the constant mismanagement of the finances of this State, again are the panacea for this Government's budgetary problems. When will the Government realise that the citizens of this State are not merely entries in a book, numbers on a line or ink on a balance sheet, but are human beings who have a right to expect justice from the government of the day. They have families, children, mortgages and commitments. They are struggling to provide a future for their children and themselves. I instance the mine workers who were outside Parliament last week. A miner from Edgeworth, a father of two young children, with a mortgage and money owing on his car, asked me, "What do I do this Christmas now that I have lost my job?" The problem with the Government is that it does not think through the human impact of its decisions. When has the Government ever shown any semblance of compassion for people destroyed by its managerial decisions? It is about time the Government developed a heart and thought through the social impact of its decisions. Can the Government expect the support and confidence of the people when, in the last two weeks - two months after the launch of its jobs, jobs, jobs Budget - it has axed 1000 jobs, those of two hundred miners on the Central Coast and 800 State Rail Authority workers at Chullora. Last week we found that the Government not only is cutting jobs but also has not lived up to its commitment in regard to apprentices in government employment. I quote an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday, 19th November:
Mr Fahey was party to an announcement by Mr Greiner last December to help young people get jobs.
The State Government admitted yesterday that the number of apprentices it employed had fallen by 9 per cent. The employment of apprentices at government departments and authorities declined over the year ended 1992 from 2219 to 2019
In the last 12 months 200 apprentice positions have been eliminated by a government which had announced in the Budget Speech that confidence creates jobs. What sort of confidence will be created in the community as the Government continually does away with jobs? Using the Government's own multiplier - a factor of three - that was applied in the Budget Papers, it is estimated that the direct loss of 1,000 jobs will result in 3,000 jobs lost. In the Budget two months ago the Government announced 18,000 jobs, but two months later it has done away with 3,000 jobs. Where will those 18,000 jobs come from? What sort of impact will these actions of the Government have? What sort of message does this action send to employers and businesses in this State? The message is clear: batten down the hatches and hang on; the Government has given up its commitment to get the economy going and create jobs. Approaching Christmas, what sort of confidence will government employees have for the future of their employment? What impact will this have on consumer spending during the vital Christmas period? The actions of the Government could not be better calculated to diminish the confidence of workers in this State. I quote from the Premier's Budget Speech:
Over the last couple of years, economic hardship has become a sad fact of life for too many people in New South Wales.
The national recession has taken a disastrous toll. Families have suffered falling living standards, breadwinners have faced unemployment, school leavers have had to learn about being out of a job, before enjoying the benefits of having one.
The State Government is also under economic pressure. At this time when members of the public need most support -
[Extension of time agreed to.]
What sort of support is the Government giving to its employees when it is constantly doing away with their positions. Premier Fahey continued in his Budget Speech:
In my first Budget as Premier and Treasurer I have endeavoured to balance the needs of the present with a commitment to building a future.
It is a Budget that will create real jobs for the unemployed, improve services to the community, and rekindle optimism in difficult times.
That is the question. What sort of optimism is the Government's action creating or rekindling, and what sorts of jobs is the Government creating when it has done away with 3,000 jobs in two months? The Premier continued in his speech:
The first priority of this year's budget strategy is to create genuine employment.
The cynicism in that statement is unbelievable:
The central pillar of this year's Budget is a one-time boost to our already record capital program which will create jobs, provide services and flow-on to stimulate the State's whole economy.
How are the Government's actions stimulating the economy? The Premier further stated:
It will greatly stimulate economic activity and lay the ground work for New South Wales to emerge from the recession in better shape than any other State.
The most notable statement by the Premier is on public sector employment, at page 7 of his Budget Speech:
Two months ago I foreshadowed a 12 month moratorium on retrenchments in the
Government. I now affirm that policy.
The Premier stands indicted as a result of that statement. This year 200 apprentice positions have disappeared from government employment. The First State Superannuation Bill fiasco is just another example of the Government's betrayal of the workers of the State. Again the public service sector is being treated with contempt. There has been no discussion and no debate. The Government's strategy was to deliberately ambush government employees. At page 8359 of Hansard in his second reading speech the Minister for Finance, Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Ethnic Affairs says:
The closure of SASS was announced on 16th August, 1992, by the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations, the Hon. John Hannaford.
On page 8360 he continues:
On 28th August, 1992, the Premier, and Treasurer, the Hon. John Fahey, M.P. wrote to all employees of the Government through chief executive officers explaining the Government's decisions and informing them of the effect on their future superannuation entitlements of the SGC and the Government's closure of the SASS.
This was seen in relation to TAFE, and has been seen in every aspect of the Government's decision-making: it makes the decision and then announces it to the people affected. The debate over the unfunded burden of the State is not resolved. The views of the unions not surprisingly disagree with the views of the Government. The proposal of the Opposition's amendment to refer the matter to a parliamentary select committee will ensure that the financial arguments will be thoroughly reviewed, and the financial estimates, the impact on employees and the burden on the State can be properly assessed so that a fair and equitable recommendation can be given to this Parliament. If the Government is sincere, that is what it should do. But as we have seen thus far, there has been very little sincerity by the Government. I urge the Government to accept the Opposition's amendment. Let the Parliament thoroughly review the Government's new proposals fairly and impartially. That is all the Opposition asks. We do not want midnight decisions forced on the people of New South Wales. We want a proper review, a proper appraisal, and a fair and just settlement for those State government employees. I urge the Government to take the opportunity to put Premier Fahey's budget philosophy into action and to put some confidence back into the public sector workers of this State. In closing I would like to quote from the honourable member for Camden, Mr Fahey, as reported in Hansard at page 16611 on 19th November, 1987:
. . . it would appear that all superannuation benefits must be increased to make them worth while and meaningful to workers who wish to be independent in their days of retirement. . . . If members of the work force can achieve independence in their days of retirement, that will be of massive benefit to the taxpayers of this country and to the overall economic viability of this country. It is a target that we should continue to strive to achieve.
Those are the words of a very young John Fahey when he was the honourable member for Camden in 1987. The Opposition is asking the Premier and Government to do today what Mr Fahey recommended in 1987.
Mr CRUICKSHANK (Murrumbidgee) [7.43]: I am thankful for the opportunity to say a few words in relation to this superannuation bill. The rambling of Opposition members horrified me; nothing was said in recognition of the unfunded liability problems. The basis of the debate is the massive superannuation scheme unfunded liability. This problem seems to have continued from the days of Jack Lang. For the first time we have a government taking a responsible view towards a problem that has been shown in almost every country of the world - where governments try to sustain
unfunded superannuation liabilities - to always end in disaster. The Curran report shows the unfunded liability cannot be sustained. All we hear from the Opposition are words about workers seeking comfort in their old age through superannuation. For the first time New South Wales has a government that is trying to entrench that future comfort, instead of a pay as you go scheme funded from an ever-decreasing tax base, so that younger people are paying for the superannuation schemes of today's retirees.
It is amazing that governments can even contemplate what has been happening with unfunded superannuation schemes. Employers in the private sector are doing the very same thing. Where will they end up? They will end up in the slammer, where governments morally should be if they are going to sustain unfunded superannuation schemes. It is totally immoral, to say nothing of being illegal, yet the Opposition rabble is trying to block the first responsible effort in the whole of the nation to try to rectify the problem. Of course there will be pain; that is why the gutless politicians of the past never did anything about it. The Fahey Government has come forward and is taking responsible action to remedy the unfunded superannuation liabilities with which it is confronted. What the mob opposite -
Mr McManus: Rabble.
Mr CRUICKSHANK: All right, rabble.
Mr McManus: Scumbags.
Mr CRUICKSHANK: I do not get down to the level that your boss does. He loves it. It is his stock in trade. He thinks somehow that will impress the electorate.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Tink): Order! I call the honourable member for Bulli to order.
Mr CRUICKSHANK: Does anyone think that the rest of the world looks upon the affairs of this State and takes no notice? Is it thought that people like Standard and Poor's, Moody's, and the investors of the world look at the performance of the Government in this State and say: "Oh well, so what if it has a $80 billion unfunded superannuation liability! That is nothing; we all have that sort of thing"? The French Government will raise pension contributions from the current 19 per cent of payroll to between 31 and 42 per cent by 2040. Exactly the same problem exists in this country. We have one of the highest credit ratings, and that will not be retained if governments are not prepared to make microeconomic reform. That is what the Government is doing. All that is heard from the Opposition is a litany of supposed crimes of the Government, what it has done and what it has not done. The Government has done nothing which it has not been forced to do out of fiscal responsibility. The New York fire brigade lost its entire tax base and could not pay anybody their entitlements from the superannuation scheme. If we continue in this same manner in this country, we will have the same result.
We are talking about the credibility of government, and the illegality and immorality of government behaviour. It is beyond me why anyone would want to try to block this microeconomic reform of the Government. That is the approach being taken by the socialists. Under the pretence of a claim that they have the working man's welfare at heart, they think up a scheme or committee to reveal all kinds of behaviour on the part of the State Government. It will demonstrate they do not have the people's welfare at heart. No matter what the Opposition tries to dig up, it will not find anything else to do
other than what is now being done by the Government. If the Opposition were to find another approach, it would only result in the State heading further and further down the path of unfunded liability, with further blowouts.
This is the first government that has made any attempt to rectify the situation. The Government is trying to restore a sense of responsible behaviour to the actions of government. Governments can no longer flout the prudential rules that they are elected to obey. It would be the understatement of the year to say that such behaviour is undemocratic. As I said, it is illegal and immoral. The electorate will not stand for it any longer. Anybody who has observed what has happened at recent State elections, what has happened in Victoria, and what has happened with WA Inc knows that governments can no longer do the sorts of things they have done in the past. The previous activities of government have impacted on people with jobs. Total unfunded public sector superannuation liabilities in Australia are $80 billion. It is bordering on criminal to have that degree of unfunded liability in a superannuation scheme. The liability of the Commonwealth is $33 billion; New South Wales, $14 billion; Victoria, $18 billion; Queensland $3 billion; South Australia, $2.9 billion; Western Australia, $3.9 billion - I do not know how much will be left after the mess has been cleaned up there - and Tasmania, $1.8 billion.
It is the habit of governments nationwide to indulge in unfunded superannuation schemes. This bill is the beginning of the end of any further blowouts in unfunded superannuation schemes. This Government has taken this step but the Opposition is trying to block it. Nothing from any committee will cause us to come to a different conclusion about the necessity of what is proposed in the bill. Blockage of this bill will mean that New South Wales Labor is keeping the people of Australia in jeopardy. The whole nation should be grateful that the Fahey Government is initiating this reform to try to sort out the mess. The other day a question was asked about whether the New South Wales Government supports the Fightback package. I support it wholeheartedly. For the first time an opposition has said before an election that it would bring government under control. That is exactly what the Fahey Government is trying to do with this bill. This will provide long-lasting benefits for the country. The superannuation bills will protect our credit rating and provide long-term benefits for public sector employees throughout Australia. Introducing this bill is one of the finest actions taken by this Government since it came to office. I support the bill.
Mrs LO PO' (Penrith) [7.55]: I could never match the vivacity of the honourable member for Murrumbidgee, and I shall not try. This piece of legislation is the hallmark of this Government. It lacks consultation and it attacks the workers. This Government has a history of doing both. The Government has not consulted with those who will be affected by this churlish piece of legislation. Most workers found out about the intention to close off the fund from an announcement in the media one Sunday evening in August. I understand that when the scheme was being considered a committee met for two years, yet the Minister believes that the current scheme can be closed by a mere announcement one Sunday evening. No consultation occurred with the Labor Council, relevant unions, the State Authorities Superannuation Board, other employers and current or prospective members. No warning was given. No opportunity was given for scrutiny. No mandate was given to the Government to make the proposed changes.
There is great concern regarding the reasons given for the closure of the scheme. There is also great misunderstanding regarding the new Federal superannuation guarantee charge. Workers will forgo increases in salaries to receive payments under the charge.
Yet it would appear that the Government panicked about the 3 per cent superannuation guarantee charge being brought in. It did not consult or seek input from those affected but unilaterally closed the scheme. Of course, what is generally understood by those other than members of the Government is that the SGC will be financed by the employees themselves. The 3 per cent SGC will be traded off for productivity gains made by the work force and wages and salaries will be forgone. The Committee for Economic Development for Australia said this in its report about superannuation:
Whether trade unions accept it or not, Australia cannot afford both real wage increases and the SGC.
It went on to say:
While the SGC is levied on employers it will be essentially employees, not employers, who will be paying the cost.
All this seems very rational to everyone except those in the Government. They panicked, announced the scheme's closure and came up with another scheme. That can hardly be described as a long and thoughtful process. What actuarial advice was sought? How could a government actuary who understood how the SGC works be panicked into closing the State Authorities Superannuation Scheme? He or she either was not consulted or was not listened to by a desperate government. The Government offers as other reasons for the closure of the system the unfunded liabilities. There is grave doubt about the validity of the Government's figures in this respect. Documents distributed by concerned members set out an argument for good management to overcome the massive blowouts that the Government is concerned about. One document says in part that of the latest figure of unfunded liabilities of $2.1 billion, more than $1 billion is owed by the State Rail Authority and more than $500 million by other areas of the Crown. The document states:
Most other employers have controlled their liabilities and have planned funding arrangements. Many liabilities are fully funded now. With the anticipated reduction in costs to employers through wage offsets, the future growth of unfunded liabilities would be a matter of effective management, rather than an uncontrolled blow-out in costs.
In other words, the pressure is on the Government to be an efficient employer. Constantly we hear from Government members, particularly the honourable member for Murrumbidgee, about their competency and capacity in management. What we now understand is that they have been slack and careless and have not behaved as other employers have in regard to the funding of the liabilities of the SRA and other areas of the Crown. Again I ask: what was the advice of the Government Actuary? Is the snap closure of the current scheme the work of the Government Actuary or a knee-jerk reaction? The Government squandered this opportunity by creating its own financial debacle at Eastern Creek, known on the North Shore as the Government's black hole; by creating the senior executive service and its accompanying largesse; by creating pools and pools of consultants at huge cost - $100 million in the Water Board alone - by creating delusions of grandeur with Ministers who have asked for more lavish fitouts for their offices; and by creating a need to service huge rents for accommodation while buildings such as the Department of Education building in Bridge Street remain vacant. They are all squandered opportunities for this Government to put its money where its mouth is by being an efficient employer and not just talking about it. History does repeat itself, and in that respect I want to quote from Hansard of 17th November, 1987. The member speaking was the late Hon. Pat Hills, who said:
Automatic pension indexation in the State Superannuation Fund was introduced in 1974 by the previous coalition Government. I emphasize that last statement. The Labor Opposition
supported that proposal. But what happened was that the Government of the day -
And I am talking about former colleagues of the present coalition Government:
- did not take into account increases in funding; it just let the fund run along. The impact of the introduction of such pension indexation can be gauged by the fact that the unfunded liability of the State Superannuation Fund had increased from $535 million in the 1972 valuation - that is, before pension indexation was introduced - to $2,556 million in 1975, after indexation was introduced - an increase of 477 per cent. That decision was taken by the previous coalition Government. I do not hear the honourable members opposite interject. Perhaps they did not know that. Because the coalition Government did not take action to provide for the increase in liability arising from indexation, in just three years the unfunded liability increased by the amount I mentioned. The coalition Government did not attempt to do anything about it.
Here we have the honourable member for Murrumbidgee castigating the Opposition, telling it how slack it has been, when he and his colleagues in former times have been no different. Another reason given for the closure of the scheme was that the level of benefit is too generous. This generosity was determined by this very Parliament in the mid-1980s and was pegged at 11.4 per cent of earnings. The error this Government has made is to add on the 3 per cent superannuation guarantee charge and deduce that the figure will be 14.5 per cent. Again I ask: did an actuary advise the Government of this? Does the Government understand that if the level is pegged at 11.4 per cent, the 3 per cent SGC paid for by employees will transpose employer contributions into employee contributions? Another reason given for the closure of the scheme is that non-members have chosen not to join. What a paltry excuse to close the scheme! There are many reasons that compel non-participation on behalf of members. When superannuation was made optional rather than compulsory, many of my female teaching colleagues opted out of the scheme for a variety of reasons that relate to supporting a family and paying off a mortgage. But this is not an excuse to close the scheme.
Another excuse for the closure of the scheme is that the State Superannuation Investment and Management Corporation appeared to lose $1.5 billion over the last two years. It is well documented that the corporation had invested too heavily in the central business district and had to write down its property portfolio. The Government obviously panicked. In summary, what we have seen is too hasty action by this Government. It looked at a set of circumstances and overreacted. The motion moved by the honourable member for Drummoyne is that the State Authorities Superannuation Scheme be referred to a select committee to analyse all aspects of the scheme. I believe it probably will find things, although the honourable member for Murrumbidgee believes nothing further can be found. He probably believes also that the world is flat! I urge members to support the motion of the honourable member for Drummoyne. It will give time to approach any adjustments in a more reasoned fashion.
Dr MACDONALD (Manly) [8.3]: This is landmark legislation. The closure of the State Authorities Superannuation Scheme will have a significant impact not only on the State's economy but also on budgetary considerations, not to mention the effect on up to 100,000 people who are at present not in the SASS and will be excluded from it. This is one of the most important pieces of legislation to come before this House, yet it has been introduced without the normal processes of consultation. That must be stated clearly at the outset. Apparently the Government has erred in the way in which it has handled this matter. It has erred in the sense that it has tried to deal with it
administratively. It did it by way of an abrupt closure in August. However, that was challenged in the courts twice and on both occasions the Government lost. The Government acted prematurely in closing the scheme. It erred in its actions and has not undertaken the usual process of consultation.
The Government now argues that we must act urgently on this issue. It argues that as the weeks go by there will be enormous consequences to the economy of the State. I would like to remind the House that this concern about unfunded liabilities and the risks involved in this type of defined benefits scheme were alluded to by Moody's 12 months ago - in fact, on 11th December, 1991. I contend that it is not a sustainable argument for the Government now to put that the scheme must be closed quickly, that we must not worry about the consequences of that or about a thorough examination of the implications, that we must do it and we must do it now, because for 11 months we have been aware of it. For the past few days the Government has been arguing the point. In fact, for the past two days the Independents have been in close consultation with the Government on this matter. The Government has been arguing that for every month that goes by the cost to the State will be approximately $10 million. That is a round figure but it is the type of figure being bandied about. I argue: why did the Government not introduce this legislation long ago? For instance, last December we knew about it and Moody's were aware of it.
What has the non-introduction of this legislation cost this State? The Government argues that the legislation must be introduced now and passed within the next few weeks. Not only that, it was willing to introduce it retrospectively. The Government holds itself out as a responsible financial manager. A real argument can be mounted that it has been irresponsible in the way in which it has dealt with this issue. However, I would be willing to accept the urgency of the issue and the need for the closure of the scheme, but only provisionally. I would accept it only on the proviso that there be a meaningful inquiry and a commitment following the outcome of that inquiry to act on the findings. As I have said, the Independents have had discussions with the Premier and with the Attorney General, as well as with the Leader of the House, and those negotiations have now broken down. The Independents have not been able to achieve what they wanted, that is, in simple terms, a meaningful inquiry that would be independent and would be conducted with the proviso that the Government be required to act on its findings.
The Government has asked for support and as an act of faith has asked for support to reduce financial risk and financial exposure. That is the argument it mounts, supported by reasoned and lengthy documents. It is asking that this Parliament support the closure of the SASS because of the financial risk involved. However, the Government also claims that if it meets the demands that we have made relating to the terms of reference of the inquiry and the composition of the inquiry, that would be a political risk. I ask honourable members to dwell on that point. There should be an independent committee. I argue that the composition of the committee should not be dominated by Government members, that it should be balanced to reflect the membership of this House. I argue also for a clear commitment in the terms of reference for enabling legislation to be introduced in accordance with the recommendations of the committee. Otherwise it will be a Clayton's committee, that is, a committee driven by the Government, and the outcome will be totally predictable. If the Government is asking for the support of this House to close the SASS and then to establish a committee, that committee must have some teeth. It should not be a paper committee; it must have teeth.
Why is the Government so worried? It has argued continually that the figures can be easily substantiated. It claims to have actuarial evidence that the closure is necessary. Why does the Government fear the recommendations of a parliamentary committee? Will the committee in some way call the Government's bluff? If the Government is not willing to agree to the terms of reference for the committee, it may put financial management at risk. The legislation seeks to replace a generous defined benefit scheme with a scheme which, under the superannuation guarantee charge, will have minimal benefits. The Government is prepared to leave the present scheme open until 18th December and intends to move amendments to secure that result. I appreciate that that will be at a cost. The Government has provided figures to show that if 11,000 people join the scheme before 18th December, the cost will be something like $30 million a year. If all members of the State Authorities Non-Contributory Superannuation Scheme joined - in other words, 92,000 people - the figure would be something like $254 million. Those figures are considerable.
I accept that the decision to delay the closure of the scheme until 18th December is a concession by the Government. But is it a meaningful concession? Much has been said by the Public Service Association about the rights of those who cannot afford to join the scheme. Even if the scheme is left open until 18th December, how will that benefit those who are impecunious and those who perhaps have mortgages and cannot afford to join the scheme and make contributions? Will they be adequately provided for in the First State Superannuation Scheme? That matter will need to be addressed by the parliamentary select committee. The committee will have to examine the effect of the closure of the SASS on those who are left behind. The SASS may well be an adequate scheme. It has the advantage of being portable. Indeed, after the year 2000 government contributions to the scheme would be about 9 per cent. The Labor Council and the Public Service Association have asked whether that will be by wage sacrifice. That matter will also need to be examined by the committee. What will contributors obtain from First State Super? Will it lead only to wage sacrifice?
The other compelling argument is that the SASS, a generous scheme, is being replaced by FSS, a mean minimal benefit scheme. Under the standards set for the superannuation guarantee charge, FSS is the absolute minimum. Is that appropriate? Public servants, who are often on low salaries, have now lost the security which was formerly one of the benefits of public service employment. Why should they have the mean minimal FSS scheme foisted on them? It has been argued that salaries in the public service are improving, but those gains may be illusory; they may have been obtained through restructuring. Will the exclusion of certain public servants from the SASS after 18th December amount to a breach of their contracts of employment? That matter will also need to be examined by the committee. What about social equity? Not very much has been said about that matter in this place. A group of public servants is being asked to bear the cost of unfunded liabilities. The existing superannuation scheme is arguably far too expensive and will cause a blowout in liabilities.
Why is this particular group of public servants expected to bear the brunt of that? Where is the social equity in that? What about the enormously generous superannuation scheme for members of Parliament? Should that scheme not also be scrutinised by any parliamentary committee? What about the judges? What about the senior executive service, the senior public servants? If the benefits of any scheme are to be reduced, that reduction should be spread more evenly. The committee should examine that matter and be given the opportunity to make recommendations that can be acted upon. Much has been said about unfunded liabilities, but what are the true figures? Convincing figures have been supplied by the Labor Council. Those figures suggest that the unfunded
liabilities are not nearly as great as has been suggested; they have been adjusted for inflation. That is one set of figures. The Public Service Association has supplied another set of figures for which it argues strongly. The figures compare the unfunded liabilities for judges, police, Parliament, SSF members and the SASS. They are also convincing. I am seeking to establish the need for a committee with teeth because variable figures are being supplied. A key set of figures comes from a shadow cabinet briefing note. A strong case has been put to the Australian Labor Party. [Extension of time agreed to.]
The following argument was put to the Labor caucus:
Notwithstanding this increase -
That is the increase to $588 million on the previous year's contributions. In other words, in 1991-92 employer contributions increased to $1.789 million. These figures were supplied to the Labor Party. The argument continued:
- the unfunded liabilities of the State's Superannuation Schemes increased by $799 million - from $13.349 million in 1991 to $14.148 million in 1992.
Those are the sorts of figures contained in the ALP document. That is another variation. I have been provided also with some figures by the Government in relation to unfunded liabilities. Those figures were prepared by Mr Russell, a United Kingdom superannuation expert, who spoke to a paper titled "Unfunded Benefits - Are they a Time Bomb About to Explode?" The paper contained some interesting figures in relation to what is happening in France and Italy. Mr Russell pointed out that the French Government has predicted that even if the value of its pensions remains unchanged, contributions for State pensions will increase from 19 per cent of payroll to 42 per cent by the year 2040. The situation in Italy is even worse. These different sets of figures are all well argued, but the Government is asking this House to accept the necessity for the closure of the SASS on at least one basis, that is, unfunded liabilities. However, the figures are not consistent.
If the necessity for closure is accepted by a balanced and independent committee, surely its recommendations will be followed by the introduction of meaningful legislation. I am impressed by the arguments that capping is needed, that the scheme may be out of control, and that a shift is needed from defined benefits to contribution schemes. Those reasons provide compelling support for closure of the scheme within a couple of weeks. But the rider should be added that there must be a meaningful escape clause under which change can be implemented early in the new year if the necessity for closing the scheme proves to be unsubstantiated. What happened when the SASS was introduced in 1987? Was an actuarial costing done? It has been claimed that it was not. That is a serious matter. The SASS was introduced by the previous Labor Government in 1987. I want to place on record that I am quoting from a government document; it is not an independent assessment. The document states that the 1987-88 changes increased superannuation costs to government employees by several hundred million dollars a year, yet no actuarial costing was carried out. So much for the Labor Party's responsible management in 1987! The committee should also examine overseas experience. The Senate conducted an inquiry into superannuation and I understand it recommended strongly in favour of the need for capping. The Senate committee examined various overseas arrangements, and that is something I look forward to being involved in on the proposed committee.
The role of any committee and the terms of reference for that committee need to be broad and deep. In fact, this committee should carry out its deliberations before closure of this superannuation scheme and not after; it should asses the adequacy of FSS
before rather than after its establishment. If we respond to the Government's claim that unless the scheme is closed urgently it will cost the State enormous amounts of money and impact on the budget, perhaps we should support the Government as an act of faith. But we would do so only on the proviso that the committee that follows the closure, the committee that in fact will be looking at the matter after the event, is given some teeth. I signal the fact that the Independents will be moving an amendment to the motion for the establishment of the parliamentary select committee which will impose on the Government an obligation to introduce legislation in accordance with the findings and the recommendations of that committee. I do not see how any member of this place could agree to the establishment of a parliamentary legislation committee which will examine retrospectively the closure of the fund without compelling the Government to act in accordance with enabling legislation and implement the recommendations of that committee. I shall support the closure of this scheme on 18th December and will seek to strengthen the terms of reference by requiring the Government to implement the recommendations of the parliamentary select committee.
Mr HATTON (South Coast) [8.21]: The Independents have had a very tough time over this legislation. We have had discussions with the Australian Labor Party; extensive discussions with the Government, particularly last Thursday night with the Attorney General, and today with the Premier, the Leader of the House, Mr West, and the Attorney General and advisers; and we have also had discussions with the Labor Council, actuaries, the Public Service Association and others. The situation is represented very simply by the Government: this is a simple matter of a $14 billion unfunded liability for a superannuation fund - panic, panic. The Government's view is that this will cause a big problem in its yearly budget, culminating in a huge problem by the year 2000. Unlike others, the Government did not put to us the proposition that actuarial studies and projections are an inexact science; they are even more inexact than economics. The fact is various projections will be made, depending on the property market. Taking an eight-year cycle, if one makes a projection at the lower end of the property market - which is the present status of the market - obviously the result will be a big unfunded liability. If one makes a projection at the top end of the property market, the result will be a smaller unfunded liability. If one makes a projection based on the mean, the result will be somewhere near the mark. But one can make those projections only on historical evidence and current evidence of how the property market will behave.
Projections must be made in respect of future investments; the returns on those investments; what the economy will do; how that will be affected by the international influences at work in the finance market; how many people will join the scheme, and at what pace they will join the scheme; and a whole range of things. There is nothing precise in this situation. However, the philosophical approach could be adopted of issuing a paper, as happens in Queensland, that argues about what type of debt is involved. There is a lot of debate over that matter. Alternatively, one could take the view, as some European countries do, that we should not worry too much about having an unfunded liability; that the contributions should be collected and then paid out as necessary, with governments trimming their financial sails accordingly. In the middle of all those positions are three Independents who have to make up their minds about the future of tens of thousands of public servants in this State. It was put to us that Moody's might well downgrade the State's triple-A rating. If anybody has done anything for the triple-A rating in this State, it has been the Independents by supporting the Government. We supported the sale of the GIO; we supported the introduction of a mini-budget, for which we copped the flak; and under our charter of reforms we have supported the budget measures. We have done our best. We have assured Moody's that we, in a responsible fashion, will line up behind the Government and support responsible financial measures.
On 11th December last year Treasury told us that there was a liability in this superannuation scheme of approximately $14 billion. The Government has known that for almost 12 months. One could hardly blame the Independents for pushing for the establishment of a committee on the proviso that the scheme not be closed until February. The Government could have taken action in respect of this matter a long time ago. It could have done what it did not do with the unions - negotiate. It could have discussed with the unions what the new system will offer; how the new system could be improved; and what will happen to the 98,000 people, many of whom are women, who will be disadvantaged by the closure of the scheme. Some of these people could not afford to enter the scheme and were hoping to do so in future years; they were keeping their options open. The Premier said in this House, "Shock and horror - we have over 90,000 people who could join the scheme. Another 150,000 or 180,000 part-time employees could join the scheme. It will cost us $35 million for every 10,000 people who join the scheme. That will create an enormous liability". Anybody who knows anything about the history of this fund will know that that is not the reality. Only 2,500 people have joined the fund each year. There was a rush to join, but in spite of that and in spite of the union campaign I understand that less than 10,000 people joined.
The Government was rushed to court; it could not close the scheme. Consequently the Attorney General advised people that they should not join the scheme as there would be no advantage in doing so. The unions said, "You should join the scheme. Get on the bus; it is pulling out". So the people knew that they should get on the bus, but even then less than 10,000 people joined the scheme in those months. So the number is 98,000. That was a panic projection; it was wrong advice from Treasury. If that advice was that the liability would be a particular amount, it was wrong advice. Technically, the advice should have spoken of a potential liability. Politically and practically the Treasury advice was wrong. The Independents looked at what it should do. We looked at the different projections and the different approaches and so on. We met with the Public Service Association. It told us that the new First State Superannuation Scheme was one of the worst public service schemes in the Commonwealth, delivering 4 per cent, perhaps 9 per cent by the year 2000. It told us also that the Government proposal does not provide for an adequate pension in the future. When we were negotiating with the Government - I want the Opposition to take this on board - we wanted to ensure that the committee would ensure that FSS would cater for these people, many of whom are earning an average of $27,500 a year. We had to look at what these people had to look forward to. They must be able to look forward to a reasonable pension at the other end. We had to consider whether we, as three Independents, should take that away from them despite the arguments put forward.
As the honourable member for Manly has stated, it is not good enough for people on senior executive service packages of between $80,000 and $160,000 a year - with all sorts of goodies thrown in and a nice arrangement at the end - giving advice that those earning $27,500 should not receive the benefits provided by this scheme. Those SES officers were standing in judgment. We suggested they should examine the judges' scheme - 240-odd judges at half a million dollars a head - and the scheme for members of Parliament and the SES, and compare them with the proposed scheme. How much do those schemes cost the State? Of course I understand the practical politics. If there are tens of thousands of public servants, that is where the bulk of the debt is created and the problem needs to be addressed at that point. But let me talk about fairness and equity. That is the sort of proposal the Independents put to the Government and attempted to negotiate. On 11th December the Government definitely knew about the level of liability. The Independents met with Moody's on 13th December, and I understand Moody's knew at that time what the situation was. We were impressed by
the arguments put forward on both sides. However, we wanted to act responsibly in accordance with the undertakings we had given. We were not bound to do that in this particular case, but we wanted to act responsibility. We wanted to close the scheme. We proposed the setting up of a committee to examine not only the SASS but also the First State scheme, the parliamentary scheme, the judges' scheme and the SES scheme. At the end of the process we wanted a guarantee that, if things were not as they were represented to us - and we have no way of knowing, no independent empirical evidence to tell us whether the Government's projections are right or reasonable - the Government would facilitate a message from the Governor to introduce a financial bill, something that the Independents and the Opposition are not able to do.
That issue was the subject of lengthy negotiations in the presence of the Premier only today. Finally, we had to agree to disagree. The disagreement related to two points in particular - the Government would not agree to a committee that was not government controlled; and the Government would not give a guarantee that it would facilitate a bill to correct any financial problems. The Independents were in a lose, lose, lose situation. We had been asked to support the Government and close the scheme and disadvantage tens of thousands of public servants. The Opposition has now put forward the proposal that the scheme should close on 18th December. The Opposition should bear in mind that that proposal was negotiated with the Independents last Thursday. Even were the scheme to close on 18th December, some people would be disadvantaged. The Independents proposed to force that closure by supporting the Government; we proposed to force people into a First State scheme - and we did not know how generous it was or whether it could be improved - recommendations will be made by a committee over which the Government has control, it having the majority of members on the committee; and at the end of the process we will be unable to introduce a bill to do anything about it. The negotiations broke down in spite of the fact that both sides had endeavoured to reach agreement. I do not complain about that. It was a fair negotiation process but we could not agree. Imagine my shock when tonight the honourable member for Manly said to me, "Do you know what is happening? The Opposition has virtually agreed to what we rejected, with some significant omissions - for example, not looking at the First State scheme, at judges, at the SES and the parliamentarians' scheme. Not only that, it has the agreement of the Labor Council and the unions". [Extension of time agreed to.]
The Independents had almost reached agreement with the Government. The PSA met with the Independents and put a very powerful case. It raised some additional points that we had not considered, and we took those on board. Now we are told - and I do not know how true it is - that the PSA is happy to accept the situation as at last Thursday. I still believe our position was honourable, just, fair and proper, and I wish I could adhere to it today. It is quite clear that we have been outmaneouvred - and I pay respect to the Government for that; I do not hold grudges. That was a good political move but, at the end of the day, if the select committee is established as a government dominated committee, with the Independents having no way of introducing a financial bill, there will be no proper examination of the adequacy of the First State scheme, which tens of thousands of New South Wales citizens will be forced to join. There are no hardship clauses to cover those people who may be away on long service leave or sick leave between now and 18th December and who are unable to get on board the bus because they did not know about the closure - I did not know about it myself until five minutes ago.
Mr Hazzard: What have you been doing all week?
Mr HATTON: I have been talking to the Premier most of the week, so it seems. It is a cosy position for the Government and a good position for the credit rating of the State; it is not such a good position for New South Wales public servants. The motion will be passed with bipartisan support but I believe that, morally, the House should take into account all other schemes. How can I say to people in the SAS scheme, "You have a pretty good scheme. That was what you looked forward to. Many of you worked conscientiously and well on low salaries. We are going to close that scheme. All of the people in that scheme will keep their benefits but from now on it is a different story", if the committee which is considering the issue does not also say, in respect of members of Parliament, "Okay, members of Parliament, you joined under a set of rules. You will be looked after under those rules. Future members of Parliament will not be looked after as generously". If there are economic constraints, those constraints should apply to members of Parliament, judges and members of the SES who advise the Government - though I do not point the finger at any particular department - and who are very generously looked after. That is how I feel. If the unions have come to an agreement, how can I dispute that? They represent their members. I am proud of the fact that the three Independents tried and tried hard. We lost the fight. However, I believe the select committee should have broader terms of reference in the name of fairness and that often misused phrase, a level playing field.
Mr A. S. AQUILINA (St Marys) [8.38]: With the greatest respect to the honourable member for South Coast I do not believe that this issue is about people making the right decisions because they happen to be members of the Government, Independent, or people attempting to obtain the best political mileage out of a decision. From what has been said, I believe that the final resolution of this issue will provide a fairer and better system of examining the problems associated with superannuation than was proposed originally by the Government. Honourable members must remember the way in which the Government attempted to bring the change into operation. In August this year, without consultation, the State Authorities Superannuation Scheme was closed to new members. It was to be replaced with a new, inferior scheme for public sector employees, the First State Superannuation Scheme - which will meet only the bare minimum of superannuation conditions required by the Federal Government.
Loyal servants who have worked in the public service, in some cases for decades, would prefer to stay in the public service rather than go into private enterprise. Those people are prepared to accept lower wages and poor working conditions in the expectation that they will at least receive some major superannuation benefits at the end of their term of employment. This Government's action is cynical in the extreme. The Opposition will not allow this legislation to be passed without some sort of change. When the Government announced that it was to change the superannuation scheme it attempted to do so by an order signed by the Governor. That was rightly declared invalid by Mr Justice Allen. The Government appealed, but the original ruling was upheld by Mr Justice Kirby and Mr Justice Priestley. The justices rightly said, "It is up to the Parliament to decide the future of the scheme". The union movement, rightly and fairly, has called for an open inquiry into the State Authorities Superannuation Scheme so that rational decisions can be made, with the full facts available, and so that people's lives can be properly considered before the Government makes a decision with one stroke of a pen.
So far the Government has been unwilling to table material and to discuss figures. It has indicated that, if this superannuation scheme is to continue, there will be many large, unfunded liabilities. I believe the Government's figures are fairly rubbery. Opposition speaker after Opposition speaker, people in the union movement and others outside this Chamber have made it clear that the Government's figures are not correct.
What do we do when there is disagreement about the figures presented by the Government - a Government that is not prepared to initiate an inquiry into the State Authorities Superannuation Scheme? The Government has attempted to force a decision by almost putting a gun to the heads of members of Parliament and by saying that what could be at stake is the State's triple-A rating. More is at stake than the triple-A rating and more is at stake than this State's financial benefits.
Mr Jeffery: You do not care about the triple-A rating?
Mr A. S. AQUILINA: I remind Government members that I do care about this State's economic development and I do care about the triple-A rating. But that should not be the be-all and end-all when we are considering the lives and futures of our loyal workers in the public service. The New South Wales Government has indicated that its main reason for wanting to change the superannuation scheme was the generosity of the 4.5 per cent benefit and its inappropriateness for our public servants. But not everyone will receive a 4.5 per cent benefit. Labor Council of New South Wales estimates suggest that employer contributions are only around 9 per cent to 10 per cent. Those people who have been working for many years - in some cases decades - for the public for fairly basic wages hope to be able to maintain, through their superannuation schemes, a reasonable standard of living when they retire. They have every right to expect the scheme to continue. People make life decisions and they have every right to expect that those decisions will be respected by the masters. Unfortunately, it appears that this Government sees itself as the master and the workers as slaves.
The Government intended to get the Governor to order that these changes should be made to the superannuation scheme. When that was declared invalid by Mr Justice Allen the Government appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Government may well be shamed into realising that what the Opposition has been saying all along is right - that the future of the scheme should be decided by the Parliament. A select committee should be established to examine all the issues involved. All the facts and figures ought to be presented to the Parliament by that committee. As I said earlier, more is at stake than the State's triple-A rating. People's lives are at stake. Workers believed that the Government would have the decency to discuss with them the proposed changes. That is pretty straightforward. The Opposition has asked for the appointment of a select committee to consider the accuracy of the Government's costing projections and to determine whether the Government's program for funding existing superannuation schemes is adequate to achieve a manageable level of unfunded liabilities and to finance future benefit payments. That is only fair. The Parliament, which represents the people of this State, should have an opportunity to make those decisions. The Parliament, on behalf of the people, should make decisions about the future of the workers.
The committee will also need to examine and report on the adequacy of the First State Superannuation Scheme. The committee needs to examine and report on the comparisons between the SASS and other Government superannuation schemes. The committee needs to deliberate for a decent length of time. We cannot expect decisions to be taken willy-nilly about people's livelihoods and their future lifestyles. So it is only appropriate for a select committee to be established. That committee should be given a reasonable time to report back to the Parliament. It has been suggested by the Opposition that 22nd February, 1993, would be the most reasonable time for that committee to report to the Parliament. If a select committee is established the populace of New South Wales - in particular those workers who are part of the public service - will realise that the Parliament, if not the Government, cares enough about its workers to consider their needs and to implement fair and appropriate changes that will not be a burden to them.
One of the reasons for superannuation liabilities being an unsustainable burden to New South Wales is the downturn in property values, which in turn affected superannuation funds. Property based taxes are the mainstay of the Government's revenue and the downturn in the property market has artificially inflated the cost of superannuation. I believe that downturn has now bottomed out. [Extension of time agreed to.]
The State's liabilities and superannuation payouts are so high because the Government has sacked many of its workers. They have been given the golden handshake, which is no longer golden, and certainly will not be golden under the Government's proposal. The people of this State look to a government that has responsibility and respect for its workers. The Government should consider the needs of loyal and hard-working public servants and their families. Honourable members should be concerned for future public servants. If the superannuation scheme for public servants is to be downgraded to the point that employees will not be attracted to the public service, what will the public service be like in the future? What can we expect of our future public servants?
Mr Jeffery: At present a lot of kids are wanting jobs.
Mr A. S. AQUILINA: The honourable member interjects and says that a lot of kids are wanting jobs. The Government is attempting to take advantage of the economic situation. The employment rate in New South Wales is much worse than that of other States. The Government, through this legislation, shows a disdain, a lack of care and a total disrespect for the public servants of this State. The bottom line is that we ought to consider all the facts. A select committee would consult with the employees and then make a dispassionate judgment based on the facts. If the Government's proposal is not amended it will adversely affect public servants and their families. The crux of our democratic system is consultation, discussion, consideration and responsible decision-making. A select committee comprising Opposition, Government and Independent members would do that. I commend the Opposition's proposal and I hope that the Government will accept the proposal that a select committee be established.
Ms MOORE (Bligh) [8.55]: I have major concerns about this legislation. I support the comments made by my Independent colleague the honourable member for Manly that it is landmark legislation. It will have an impact on the economy, on the Budget and on the lives of more than 100,000 public servants, with whom there has been no consultation. The courts found that the abrupt closure of the superannuation scheme was invalid. The Independents have been informed by the Government that urgent action was needed, even though the Government had known for at least 12 months that Moody's was aware of the unfunded liability of the SASS. The Independents have received conflicting information about the unfunded liability. If the public service superannuation scheme is to be closed and a new scheme is to be created, surely the schemes that affect parliamentarians, judges and the senior executive service should be examined.
The SASS was closed without any consultation. It was a snap decision designed to catch out as many people as possible. That decision has been thrown out twice by the courts. There is no doubt that the Government's changes are unfair to ordinary public servants, and they should be opposed on equity and social justice grounds. The increase in the maximum rate to 14.5 per cent was implemented in lieu of a wage rise. However, only some employees who would have received that wage rise opted to contribute to the expanded scheme and the others, for whatever reason - and a number of members have elaborated on what those reasons were - did not become contributors, but may have planned to do so in the future when they were more financially secure. Regardless, they expected to be able to become contributors.
The Government should not have tried to close this scheme by ministerial pronouncement without negotiating with employees. I thought that the coalition approach - the Fahey and Howard approach - was all for fair, direct negotiations between employees and employers without interference of the State. Superannuation seems to be an exception to the rule. It is useless to oppose changes to the existing scheme on the grounds of equity if the problem of unfunded liability is of such magnitude that it jeopardises the security of the scheme, or indeed, the State's economy. This leads me to the conflicting information, which was ably summed up by the Sydney Morning Herald of 16th September. In part the article stated:
The NSW Government will save more than $2 billion in the next ten years by closing the State superannuation scheme to new members . . . the Labor Council has called the closure unfair because, it says, the SASS scheme had only $2.25 billion in unfunded liabilities, not $14 billion, as the Government claimed.
I have been informed by a representative of the State Authorities Superannuation Board that the problem with unfunded liabilities is not in the SASS, rather it is in the State superannuation fund, the police superannuation fund, and the pension funds of parliamentarians and judges. Closing the SASS will not reduce these liabilities. Further, I have been informed that the government business enterprises are now funding their liability over a 30-year period, and most are meeting their current costs on a yearly basis. There is a surplus of at least $1.5 billion in the State's superannuation fund on employees' reserves. This is to be released to help fund employer costs. There are unfunded liabilities of about $1.2 billion for university staff, but that is a Commonwealth responsibility, not the State's. The unfunded liability growth has been arrested over the past year and, given the matters I have referred to, will decline. The State Treasury has an unfunded liability of about $10 billion, not $15 billion, and it has eased its funding over the past two years during the recession. It can begin to fund slowly and gradually over 30 to 40 years as we emerge from the recession. Further, I am informed that the author does not believe that the Government's figures, which show a $40 billion blowout, are representative of 1992 dollars, as the matters I have just mentioned have not been taken into account. The depressed property market is a cyclical issue and the $1.6 billion write-down in values over the past two years is an unrealised cost which it will recover in the future. The issue can only be properly resolved if it is presented to a parliamentary committee for examination. If Moody's are given all the up-to-date facts, it should not be able to use the unfunded liability figures as a reason for downgrading.
This is typical of the conflicting information that the Independents have been presented with, and is the reason the Independents supported the establishment of a parliamentary committee. In recent days the Independents have been under extraordinary pressure, particularly from the Premier, to support this legislation - because it was urgent; because the State's budget was at issue; and because our triple-A rating was at issue. The Independents and the Leader of the Opposition played an important part in ensuring that the State kept its triple-A rating. As the honourable member for South Coast said, the Independents have contributed to that rating being maintained through their agreement with the Government to ensure supply, and through their support of the public float of the GIO and the mini-budget. I resent the pressure put on the Independents by the Premier in recent days. I do not accept his arguments about urgency - that this matter must be dealt with this week or else the triple-A rating will be in jeopardy. In an article in the Australian Financial Review of January 1992 Professor Bob Walker pointed out the problem of unfunded liability being faced by the State. He said:
In what must be an Australian record, surpassing the losses of Ariadne and the Bond Corporation, the NSW Government has acknowledged that it made a $3 billion error in its "whole of government" financial statements.
The error related to the Government's liabilities for superannuation entitlements and arose through "double counting".
The 1991 NSW consolidated statements report that "the provision for employees' entitlement in prior years' accounts had been overstated by $3,000 million due to the double counting of the unfunded liability for superannuation.
"The liability for 1990 . . . had been adjusted directly to accumulated funds."
Mark that the note refers to the accounts of "prior years", not "the prior year's accounts".
This statement implies that the errors were not only in the 1990 accounts . . .
So it is not just November 1992; we are referring back to 1990, 1989 and 1988 accounts as well. The article continued:
NSW Treasury officials have confirmed that the error was made as far back as 1988, but that the 1987 figures (produced by the Curran Commission of Audit) were accurate.
The Independents have been under pressure in recent days from the Premier about the urgency surrounding closure. He said that the most responsible decision, the only decision, we can possibly take is closure now. But the Government has known about this problem for more than three years. I have a real problem with agreeing to closure now, before the parliamentary committee has determined whether this is the right decision to take and makes an assessment about all those other schemes - not just the SASS scheme but the parliamentarians' scheme, the judges' scheme and the SES benefits. I am concerned that the Opposition has done an about-turn and is supporting closure. Negotiations between the Independents and the Government broke down. We could reach a responsible negotiated position with the Government that is fair and just for public servants, and responsible to the State. I believed that closure would not be agreed to tonight but that a parliamentary committee would be established. The proper time for closure will be after the parliamentary committee has deliberated next year, after consultation and proper and thorough examination and discussion - and all those things that we heard from the Opposition tonight. But apparently that will not be the case.
The Opposition has decided to support closure. The amended legislation to extend the closure to 18th December is obviously an undeniable improvement, although I believe closure should not proceed until the committee has made its deliberations. The nature of the issue and the question of whether or not workers will pay for the management mistakes of previous years are the sorts of questions that remain unanswered. The scheme must apply to such groups as parliamentarians, judges and the SES. I believe - and in this I am supported by my Independent colleagues - that a parliamentary committee would recommend enabling legislation to ensure justice for public servants who have suffered as a result of the decision to close without consultation.
Mr YEADON (Granville) [9.6]: I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Drummoyne to refer this legislation to a select committee of the lower House for further investigation, and I do so for two crucial reasons. First, there is a question mark hanging over the figures that have been bandied about by the Government in relation to the unfunded liability of the State Authorities Superannuation Scheme. The second reason relates to the manner in which this whole legislation has been dealt with by the Government. Of relevance also are the events leading to the court case and the Government's thwarted attempt to close down this superannuation scheme. I support the contention of all members on this side of the House: we in no way seek
to jeopardise the triple-A financial rating of New South Wales. That is the furthest thing from our minds. We are cognisant of the importance of maintaining a triple-A rating - a triple-A rating that was left to this Government when Labor lost office in 1988. It has been under constant threat since that time; there is no doubt about that.
The triple-A rating is regarded as important, but the Parliament has a responsibility to look after the interests of the people of New South Wales, including those of public servants. Some members on the Government side of the House may regard public servants as second-class citizens, but I certainly do not. Their interests need to be looked after and maintained. The Parliament has an obligation to protect their interests. We will not be dictated to by financial rating agencies, and we will not allow the Government to use announcements that emanate from those rating agencies as a means of stampeding this Parliament into taking action that would be unjust for future public servants. The problem with the figures put forward by the Government is fundamental, I believe. Even today, as was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Premier made pronouncements about how important it is that this superannuation scheme close down. Again the amount of $14.1 billion was cited as the unfunded liability in relation to that superannuation scheme. That is a false and misleading figure. It has been bandied around since this issue came on to the political agenda.
It is quite clear that that $14.1 billion relates to all superannuation schemes for the public sector in New South Wales, not just to the SASS. Indeed, if we look at the figures in relation to unfunded liability on superannuation schemes, we see that at present the SASS has the lowest amount of unfunded liability. For example, the SASS has an unfunded liability of $2.103 billion; the State Superannuation Fund, which was closed in 1987, has an unfunded liability of $9.590 billion; the police superannuation scheme, which also closed in 1987, has an unfunded liability of $3.003 billion; the parliamentary superannuation scheme has an unfunded liability of $0.051 billion; and the judiciary has an unfunded liability of $0.124 billion. A small amount of the unfunded liability of $14.1 billion relates to the State Authorities Superannuation Scheme. The Government's credibility with regard to the figures that have been bandied around is in absolute tatters. It is incumbent upon this Parliament not to accept everything which has been said about the scheme. It has been suggested that 100,000 employees are eligible to join the scheme. That may be so, but they have not all joined the public service in the past two, three or 12 months; some have decided not to join the scheme and many may decide never to join the scheme if it remains open.
The Government has taken a snapshot of the present situation; it has not looked at the situation over a considerable period, which I think is absolutely necessary, given that superannuation is a long-term issue. The Government has simply taken a historical snapshot of the unfunded liability and used it to scare the people of New South Wales and to stampede the members of this Parliament into closing down that scheme. No one can have faith in these figures. The conduct of the Government in its attempt to close the scheme must ring alarm bells for all members of the House. An attempt was made to ram the Government's agenda through and close the scheme down. We now know that that attempt ran foul of the courts. The Supreme Court of New South Wales rejected the Government's appeal against Justice Allen's decision that the Government's closure of the State Authorities Superannuation Scheme "is and always was invalid and of no legal effect". It is quite instructive to note Mr Justice Kirby's pronouncements in relation to this matter when it went to appeal. He stated:
Far from such direct and unambiguous authority being expressly spelled out, in my view the language of S46(1)(f) must be tortured, mangled and manipulated to sustain the validity of the order made on the advice of the Executive here. Far from there being a necessary intentment in the statute, every indication in the statute (and its predecessors) cries out in protest against what was done.
Only Parliament, which created it can close down such a scheme to all future entrants. The limited power to "amend" . . . cannot be puffed up and distorted by the Executive government, to permit without Parliament's approval, to do what was done here.
That is a scathing indictment of the conduct the Government engaged in to close this scheme down. The Government is now attempting to ram retrospective legislation through the Parliament to bring about the closure of the scheme, using a veneer of financial desperation to bring that about. As I have indicated, superannuation is a long-term proposition; by definition, it is income for people in their retirement. Because of the long-term nature of superannuation there must be a thorough and proper examination of it by the Parliament to ascertain that what is being put in place is proper, just and necessary. Actuaries have estimated that savings generated by existing members would more than meet the extra costs incurred above the superannuation guarantee charge level if existing benefits were to remain as they are at present. Such issues must be fully investigated. I am not saying that actuarial advice is absolute and sacrosanct, but there is enough doubt to require a thorough investigation.
The issue should not be assessed nor decisions made in relation to the future operation of the scheme in the present economic recession, bearing in mind depressed government revenue as a result of that recession. Indeed, the development of appropriate infrastructure by government is far more important than the funding of superannuation liabilities. I am sure that the Minister for Finance will agree that a prosperous business sector and economy means increased revenue for the Government. The Government should turn its attention to those sorts of matters. It may find that in the long term its unfunded liability proposition is -
Mr Jeffery: Do not complain to us, tell Keating that.
Mr YEADON: The State Government has the carriage of State matters, not the Federal Government. I suggest that it is more appropriate that the New South Wales Government turns its attention to those propositions. There is no doubt that the Government has fudged the figures in order to hide its financial mismanagement. Clearly, financial rating agencies would not threaten the downgrading of the State's triple-A financial rating on the basis of unfunded superannuation liabilities alone; all aspects of financial management of government are taken into account by the financial agencies before such a decision is made. It is true that due to the losses of the State Superannuation Board in recent times there has been a dramatic drop in the amount of funds available to the superannuation scheme. Indeed, $1.5 billion was slashed from the value of central business district property investments by the superannuation board. Again, I emphasise that we should not look at that sort of downturn in isolation, in a historical snapshot. Undoubtedly those assets will increase in value in the years to come; they will appear on the black side of the ledger and put the unfunded liability for superannuation schemes in a far better light over the long term. It appears that the Government has not considered the current financial problems which exist in relation to the property investment; they are temporary problems and they will be adequately addressed in the long term.
Using the current financial climate and concern for the triple-A rating, the Government has pushed its agenda to take whatever it can out of the hides of workers in this State - on this occasion, workers in the public service. During the past few months, despite the assurances of the Premier and Treasurer that there would be no further job losses in the public service, a wide range of jobs have been lost in western Sydney on the railways, on the North Coast in coalmines, and so forth. The Government is extracting everything it possibly can from the hides of workers, despite the fact that there have been massive increases in taxes and charges in this State since 1988. Those taxes and charges have simply been squandered on a whole range of financial fiascos, including Eastern Creek, the senior executive service, and consultants. The Government has not contained the State debt with its increases in taxes and charges. It has simply squandered and wasted funds. It is incumbent upon the Parliament not to simply stand by and allow that type of mismanagement to be taken out on the hides of public servants. I have an open mind about what might be the end result regarding the unfunded liabilities of these superannuation schemes, in particular the State Authorities Superannuation Scheme, but it is essential that we be fully apprised of the actual figures. The Government has no credibility, given the figures it has bandied about and the approach it has taken to the matter. The only way to get down to the facts and to make an objective assessment of the unfunded superannuation liabilities is to refer the bill to a legislation committee and have that committee make recommendations to the Parliament for the future.
Amendment of amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr SOURIS (Upper Hunter - Minister for Finance, Assistant Treasurer, and Minister for Ethnic Affairs) [9.21], in reply: On behalf of the Government I will reply to the debate and give the Opposition an undertaking, following discussions that have taken place today which led to the withdrawal of the two amendments foreshadowed by the Opposition. I note with pleasure that the withdrawal of the Opposition amendments has been made so that the legislation will be able to pass through this House rather than be deferred, which would have been the effect of the amendments. The withdrawal of the amendments will enable a better opportunity to establish the select committee, which was the intention of the amendments. The Government undertakes to agree to the establishment of a select committee which will canvass the actuarial aspects of the closure of the superannuation scheme. I undertake further to make relevant comparisons with all the other existing public sector superannuation schemes. After this second reading debate has concluded the Government will support the Opposition and give leave for the suspension of standing orders so that the select committee can be established.
The essence of these adjustments would be to give complete certainty to people in the community, the Government and the Opposition that the closure of the superannuation scheme will occur on a specified date, 18th December, 1992. Any eligible persons who make an application up to and including midnight on that date will be accepted into the superannuation scheme with full and ordinary rights indefinitely for the duration of their tenure of employment. The closure of the scheme on that date will remove uncertainty beyond that date regarding the select committee or any other matter. The alternative proposed in the amendments moved by the Opposition would have meant that between 18th December and an indeterminate date in the future there would have been considerable concern that any applicants in that period would have had their entitlements limited to those that accrued in that short period between 18th December and the closure. That would have been unsatisfactory for everyone, including the applicants. A period up until the 18th of next month will be allowed during which eligible applicants
can decide whether they will join the superannuation scheme. At the Committee stage I will be moving amendments, which I have tabled. They will tidy up the legislation. The principal amendment will change the closure date from 16th August, 1992, to 19th December, 1992. That will mean that midnight on 18th December will be the time of closure.
I put on record the Government's position regarding these superannuation schemes and what would have been the argument put forward by the Government if the Opposition had pursued its amendments, possibly with the support of the Independent members, to defer the closure of the scheme thereby creating the uncertainty to which I referred. The State would have had to provide for an increase in liabilities of $2.4 billion over the next 10 years if the Government had been unable to secure the passage through Parliament of legislation to close the existing overly-generous State Authorities Superannuation Scheme and replace it with a new scheme based on the community standards set by the Federal Labor Government. Under the existing policy, even to meet the cost of benefits as they emerged for employees of budget sector agencies, the additional cash cost would have amounted to $10 million in 1992-93 and increased to an additional $185 million a year by the year 2002-3. The action to close SASS was aimed at placing a cap on unfunded superannuation liabilities and putting in place a strategy to reduce the level of unfunded liabilities over time. Under the Government's strategy unfunded liabilities were projected to stand at less than $30 billion by the year 2030 and would have increased to more than $140 billion over the same period. For every additional 106 people joining the SASS it was estimated that the additional liability would have been of the order of $30 million in the first 12 months.
Based on the level of applications for membership received since the Government's intention to close SASS was announced on 16th August, 1992, up to 3,000 applications a month could have been received. That would have translated into additional liabilities accruing at a rate of more than $10 million a month. If the legislation had been delayed until March 1993 - which I believe would have been the effect of the amendments that have been withdrawn - the additional liability imposed on the community would have been of the order of $70 million a year. Superannuation reform is an integral part of the budget strategy. At the time of the last review the credit rating agencies assessed this to be an extremely important reform initiative. Inability to achieve parliamentary support would be interpreted unfavourably by the rating agencies, in terms of a failure to deliver on financial reform and an inability to effectively implement the Government's legislative program.
In the event of a downgrading of the credit rating of New South Wales, there would be an immediate impact on the cost of debt. For each single downward move, the additional cost is about $30 million per annum. Victoria is four notches from the top. If New South Wales were to be downgraded to the level of Victoria, the additional cost could be between $70 and $100 million per annum. This would be additional to the costs of the failure to achieve superannuation reform. Moreover, any downgrading would have a significant impact on business and consumer confidence, which would in turn impact on the State's budget position through low economic growth and hence lower revenue. In view of the experience of South Australia and Victoria, this flow-on impact would have been very substantial. The earlier decision of the Independents and the Opposition effectively puts the interests of public servants - that is, service providers - above that of the community, the consumers of service.
The increased costs imposed by this decision would have needed to be addressed by budget savings if we were to maintain a credible and responsible financial strategy. In order to establish credibility, we would have needed to have developed strategies directed at achieving savings of about $185 million, which is equivalent, for example, to increasing class sizes in primary and secondary education by an extra 2½ pupils per class or reducing teacher numbers by 5,000, slashing police numbers by 5,000 or broadly 30 per cent of the current Police Service, or closing two major hospitals of the equivalent of St George Hospital or Liverpool Hospital or four hospitals of the size of Sutherland Hospital. Careful consideration would also have needed to be given to the Olympic project to assess whether the State could afford such a substantial commitment in addition to the potential huge increase in liability caused by this decision.
The State capital works program would have been reassessed to provide savings this year to offset the increased costs of this decision, and options would be developed for cuts in future years to assist in meeting the savings target. The cuts that would have been made to achieve these savings would all have been fully identified so that the parliamentarians responsible for these decisions could take full responsibility for the consequence of their actions. In view of this, I invited the Independents to submit to me their proposals for savings, which would have been fully considered in the budget process had this action taken place. I welcome the decision by the Opposition to change its caucus established position, a position which had been promoted and promulgated by the Opposition frontbench but which failed to achieve caucus support, seriously eroding the strength of leadership of the Leader of the Opposition. In any case, the subsequent change by the Opposition in withdrawing these amendments is very much welcomed by the Government and will make the closure of the superannuation scheme an area of complete certainty, with the knowledge that it will close on 18th December, 1992.
Motion agreed to.
Bills read a second time.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Chappell): Order! The Committee will deal initially with the First State Superannuation Bill.
Mr SOURIS (Upper Hunter - Minister for Finance, Assistant Treasurer, and Minister for Ethnic Affairs) [9.34], by leave: I move the following amendments in globo:
1. Page 3, clause 8, line 23. Omit "employer", insert instead "employee".
2. Page 5, clause 13, line 35. After "contributions", insert "or a member who has ceased under this Act to be liable for payment of the basic death or invalidity premium".
3. Page 5. After line 35, insert:
Member may opt out of basic death or invalidity cover
14. (1) A member's cover for the basic death or invalidity benefit ceases to be in force on notification by the member to the Board that the member is to cease to provide for the cover.
(2) The Board may make rules for or with respect to:
the giving of notice for the purposes of this section
liability for payment of the basic death or invalidity premium after giving notice under this section
entitlement or otherwise to refunds of the basic death or invalidity premium after giving notice under this section
4. Page 6, clause 14, lines 3-5. Omit "but is not to exceed 20 per cent of the compulsory contributions payable by the employer in respect of the member", insert instead ", having regard to the amount of the basic death or invalidity benefit cover".
5. Page 6, clause 16, line 14. After "to", insert "the manner in which the basic death or invalidity premium is to be determined in respect of employees or any class of employees, the periods for which employer contributions are required to be made under this Act in respect of employees or classes of employees,".
6. Page 7, clause 19, line 2. After "to", insert "the periods for which employee contributions are required to be made under this Act by employees or classes of employees".
7. Page 10, clause 31, lines 12-18. Omit all words on those lines, insert instead "accordance with rules made by the Board for the purposes of this section, after obtaining actuarial advice".
8. Page 10, clause 31. Before line 19 insert:
(2) The Board may make rules for or with respect to the determination of benefits under this section and the rules may provide that different benefits are payable in respect of different classes of employees.
(3) Despite any other provision of this section or rules made under this section, the amount of the benefit is not to be more than the amount received by the Board from any person providing cover for the basic death or invalidity benefit.
9. Page 10, clause 32. After line 23, insert:
(2) Despite subsection (1), the amount of the benefit is not to be more than the amount received by the Board from any person providing cover for the additional death or invalidity benefit.
10. Page 30, Schedule 4, lines 5 and 6. Omit all words on those lines, insert instead:
(a) From section 10(1)(a), omit "additional death or disability benefits", insert instead "death or invalidity benefits".
(b) From section 10(1)(b), omit "additional".
11. Page 33, Dictionary, lines 11-13, definition of "employee". Omit "employed by an employer and who is an employee of the kind to whom the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992 of the Commonwealth applies", insert instead "an employee within the meaning of the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992 of the Commonwealth and who is employed, within the meaning of that Act, by an employer".
12. Page 33, Dictionary, line 15. Omit "5", insert instead "6".
13. Page 34, Dictionary, lines 5-7. Omit all words on those lines, insert instead:
salary or wages means the total of:
(a) earnings in respect of ordinary hours of work; and
(b) earnings consisting of over-award payments, shift-loading or commission.
Mr J. H. MURRAY (Drummoyne) [9.34]: When one considers the two pages of amendments, it is quite obvious that the Government introduced this bill with undue haste. Amendment No. 1 is:
Page 3, clause 8, line 23. Omit "employer", insert instead "employee".
I cannot believe that a government that is in control of a situation cannot vet its own legislation and work out the difference between employer and employee. That is the essence of the whole bill. That type of amendment is made not only on that page of the bill; the same sort of difficulty arises in other amendments. The Opposition agreed that the amendments could be moved as one because most of them are just perfunctory and come about because of undue haste and the inability of the Government to understand the impact of its legislation. More importantly, it shows a lack of acumen on the part of the Minister. I am not talking about the Minister for Finance, Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Ethnic Affairs, who is at the table, because he has the carriage of the bill on behalf of another Minister in another House. It is appalling that a senior Minister in this Government could bring forward legislation which requires these types of amendments in Committee.
Amendments agreed to.
Clauses, schedule and dictionary as amended agreed to.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Chappell): Order! The Committee will now deal with the Superannuation Legislation (Superannuation Guarantee Charge) Amendment Bill.
Schedules 2 to 6
Amendments, by leave, by Mr Souris agreed to:
1. Page 5, Schedule 2, lines 25 and 26. Omit "but not paid before that commencement", insert instead "or that is paid after 1 July 1992 and before that commencement".
2. Page 7, Schedule 4, lines 34-38. Omit all words on those lines, insert instead:
(a) an employee who ceases to be an employee on or after that commencement, unless he or she was a contributing employee immediately before that commencement or elected or is taken to have elected on or after that commencement and before 19 December 1992 to contribute to the Fund under the State Authorities Superannuation Act 1987; or
(b) a non-contributing employee who commenced employment before 1 July 1992.
3. Page 8, Schedule 4, lines 30-33. Omit all words on those lines, insert instead:
(b) elected or is taken to have elected before 19 December 1992 to contribute to the Fund under the State Authorities Superannuation Act 1987.
4. Page 9, Schedule 4, lines 3-8. Omit all words on those lines.
5. Page 16, Schedule 5, line 13. Omit "but not paid before that commencement", insert instead "or that is paid after 1 July 1992 and before that commencement".
6. Page 19, Schedule 6, lines 25 and 26. Omit "but not paid before that commencement", insert instead "or that is paid after 1 July 1992 and before that commencement".
Schedules as amended agreed to.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Chappell): Order! The Committee will now deal with the State Authorities Superannuation (Scheme Closure) Amendment Bill.
Amendments, by leave, by Mr Souris agreed to:
1. Page 2, Schedule 1, line 17. Omit "16 August 1992", insert instead "19 December 1992".
2. Page 2, Schedule 1, lines 26-32. Omit all words on those lines.
3. Page 3, Schedule 1, lines 2-39 and page 4, Schedule 1, lines 2-25. Omit all words on those lines.
4. Page 4, Schedule 1, line 28. Omit "sections 2A and 2B", insert instead "section 2A".
5. Page 4, Schedule 1, line 34. Omit "sections 2A and 2B", insert instead "section 2A".
6. Page 5, Schedule 1, line 2. Omit "sections 2A and 2B", insert instead "section 2A".
Schedule as amended agreed to.
Bills reported from Committee with amendments and report adopted.
SELECT COMMITTEE UPON PUBLIC SECTOR SUPERANNUATION SCHEMES
Suspension of certain standing orders, by leave, agreed to.
Mr J. H. MURRAY (Drummoyne) [9.41]: I move:
That a select committee be appointed to consider and report upon the following:
(1) (a) The accuracy of the Government's costing projections and whether the Government's programme of funding the existing superannuation schemes is adequate to achieve a manageable level of unfunded liabilities and finance current and future benefit payments; and in particular the adequacy of the First State Super Scheme;
(b) A comparison of the SAS Scheme with all other existing public sector superannuation schemes;
(2) That the committee consist of Mr Chappell, Dr Macdonald, Mr Neilly, Mr Kinross, Mr Packard and Mr Yeadon;
(3) That notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders, Mr Chappell be the Chairman of the committee;
(4) That at any meeting of the committee any four members shall constitute a quorum;
(5) That the committee have leave to sit during the sittings or any adjournment of the House; to adjourn from place to place; to make visits of inspection within New South Wales; and have power to take evidence and send for persons and papers and to report from time to time;
(6) That the committee report by 22 February 1993;
(7) That should the House stand adjourned and the committee agree to any report before the House resumes sitting:
(a) the committee have leave to send any such report, minutes and evidence taken before it to the Clerk of the House;
(b) the documents shall be printed and published and the Clerk shall forthwith take such action as is necessary to give effect to the order of the House; and
(c) the documents shall be laid upon the Table of the House at its next sitting.
I acknowledge the keen interest and hard work undertaken by representatives of the Public Service Association who, over a number of days and nights, have sat through this parliamentary procedure. Those people were elected to look after the interests of their members, and they have done so. My experience has shown that these representatives are responsible and honourable and, more importantly, that their only interest has been their members. Looking across the Chamber I acknowledge certain members of the public service who have undergone a similar trial. The setting up of this committee will allow the House to investigate diligently the procedures the Government has enacted. The establishment of this committee will allow not only the Parliament but the public at large to present their point of view at this forum and to listen to what the Government, the union movement and any other people involved in superannuation issues have to say.
I hope that the Government has learned from this experience that it cannot do a Jeff Kennett in New South Wales. I should have thought that the Government would have learned from the Terry Metherells of this world, but obviously it has not. If the Government is to involve itself in changing the working conditions of the men and women who work for the Government of this State, the least it can do is to undertake a consultative process. Those workers are responsible people with vast experience and it is important that their points of view be understood. This consultative process did not take place and, as a consequence, the Government is on the back foot. It now has had imposed on it a select committee to thoroughly examine its actions. I say quite candidly that if the Government had consulted adequately with the union movement a much better arrangement would have been arrived at than what has come forward over the past couple of days. I take to task the Minister for Finance and Assistant Treasurer. He had the audacity to pre-empt the findings of the committee that the SASS scheme was overtly overgenerous. That is what the committee will consider. It does not need the Minister to state that - it will make its decision. The Labor Party has two bright members on this committee and they will do an excellent job. I thank all honourable members who have spoken on this matter. It has taken two weeks to come to fruition. The way that the Government, the Independents and the Opposition have co-operated to arrive at a final decision demonstrates that on occasions Parliament can work.
Mr HATTON (South Coast) [9.48]: I support the establishment of this committee, as indeed all the Independents supported the passage of the bills. As the honourable member for Manly said, we acknowledge the Government's concession in extending the date. In our discussions today I posed the question to the Premier that if the Government was absolutely rock solid and believed what Treasury said about the actuarial basis, it would agree to having a truly independent committee. On such a committee the Government would not have to have the numbers and therefore not control the report, because the chairperson of the committee would be responsible for speaking for the committee in all public appearances until such time as the committee reported, and would be responsible for the report. In our discussions the point was reached where the possibility existed for an Independent to chair such a committee, but the Government would still have the numbers - in other words, the Government still wanted to be in control. That stage of the negotiation has passed and I do not intend to seek to amend the composition of the committee. I accept the decision agreed upon by the Government and the Opposition.
Second, if the Government is absolutely rock solid - especially when it will have not only the numbers on the committee but also appoint the chair, and therefore will control the report, though a minority report could be issued - it will agree to facilitate any financial changes. That is the point of the amendment that I intend to move. We wish this committee well. We hope that it will be a thorough and independent test of the basis on which the decision to close was made, of the philosophy behind the decision and of the necessity to implement this financial measure which will affect the lives of tens of thousands of people. We hope the committee, after thoroughly examining the First State Superannuation Scheme, will make recommendations about those in the public sector who are particularly disadvantaged in relation to their wages and the benefits they may or may not receive from that scheme. We hope the committee also examines the true impact of the Federal legislation. I must confess that I was very disappointed with the Federal legislation. I was disappointed in particular that the Federal Government stepped aside from its responsibility in introducing a compulsory scheme which will raise tens of billions of dollars, but failed to say that at least part of that sum will be used to build infrastructure in our State and nation, employ greater numbers of people in the public sector and strengthen and deepen our economy. I am very concerned that billions of dollars of those funds will be invested in private enterprise. There are bound to be losses, as has occurred through fluctuations in fortunes in the property market and other areas of investment. We are saddled with that, although it is a Federal responsibility. I move:
That the motion be amended by adding the following paragraph:
(8) That this House calls upon the Government to introduce financial legislation to implement the recommendations of the committee.
Mr WEST (Orange - Minister for Conservation and Land Management, and Minister for Energy) [9.52]: I wish to indicate to the House and to the honourable member for South Coast that the Government rejects this amendment, which has been the subject of considerable debate and intense negotiations involving the Government and the Independents over the past few days. This proposed addition to the terms of reference is designed to bind the Government to implement the recommendations of the committee, no matter what those recommendations might be. Clearly, that is beyond the bounds of common sense. It would be unwise for the House to be bound by such a motion. We have often been told by members opposite that this House is the master of its own destiny, yet the motion seeks to have a committee report implemented before honourable members have a chance to consider it. We have to wait for the report of the committee
and its recommendations. Once the report is available there will be clear evidence, the Government believes, that its decision and the grounds upon which it was made will be vindicated.
However, if evidence before the committee indicates that actuarial advice given to the Government cannot be substantiated, the committee will make appropriate recommendations. Political pressure will be put on the Government, and the Government then must take some action. The honourable member for Manly and the honourable member for South Coast are concerned that no obligation is placed on the Government to move on any recommendations. There is a political obligation. Any Government that sought to resist such a move would not be acting in accordance with convention. On numerous occasions during the past few days members opposite have demonstrated that if they wish to combine they have the numbers to ensure that recommendations are proceeded with. Concern has been expressed that the committee may face restrictions that have monetary implications. I am given to understand that may not arise, though I would need further clarification on that. It could well be that only framework motions or bills may need to be introduced which may not necessarily involve those monetary considerations. On those grounds it is unacceptable and objectionable that the Parliament should have imposed upon it a recommendation that the House must implement whatever the committee recommends without testing the evidence put before the committee. That point has been discussed with members opposite, and arguments have been put in much greater detail in other forums.
Mr WHELAN (Ashfield) [9.56]: The Opposition will oppose the amendment moved by the honourable member for South Coast, not so much for what the motion says but for the principle inherent in it. The motion does not seek to delegate the right to that committee to do anything other than report to the Parliament. The committee in its deliberations may in fact in its report make recommendations for legislative changes. But no member of Parliament should abrogate his or her right to discuss a report by a parliamentary committee. Such abrogation is too great and odious for any member of Parliament to countenance. Second, the committee will comprise only 15 of the 99 members of this House, and it is not proper that those 15 should attempt to bind a single House of the Parliament.
Third, the motion by the honourable member for South Coast is restricted to seeking that the Government introduce financial restrictions and recommendations. Therefore, the motion, if agreed to, will bind only the Government but not members of the Opposition. That is unfair. I will not be a member of the committee but I will not forgo my right as a member of Parliament. A committee report on the management of the Parliament is about to be considered. That worthwhile committee did a lot of work, though there was much toing and froing about alternative possibilities. A member of Parliament should not be restricted or have his or her rights shackled by a motion. Far be it from me to suggest that a committee might even make a mistake, but that must also be kept in mind. I congratulate the members of the trade union movement for their arguments and their approach to this matter. The real tragedy was outlined by the honourable member for Drummoyne. It is a shame that the Government did not provide adequate and proper consultation. If it had these problems would never have arisen.
Mr NEILLY (Cessnock) [9.59]: I could be persuaded by many of the arguments put by the honourable member for South Coast, not because of the points raised by Government members but because of the heartfelt sympathies expressed by him for lower echelon income earners. The Commonwealth legislation does not offer a great deal when one takes account of the cost of administering the superannuation scheme for
low income earners. Part and parcel of the operation of any select committee is to direct itself to such considerations. I feel confident that the select committee will thoroughly examine that perspective of the proposed First State Superannuation Scheme and arrive at a recommendation which, in relation to those persons, would receive a degree of sympathy from this Parliament. I hope that will be the sort of general consideration that the committee will give to the matter. The motion as proposed, excluding the amendment moved by the honourable member for South Coast, should stand.
Dr MACDONALD (Manly) [10.0]: The Government has argued that by the introduction of this component into the motion for the establishment of this committee the wheels of the State will fall off; that it will not be able to effectively govern; and that the Independents are getting too big for their boots and are beginning to dictate how the State should be run financially. The Government gives no credit to the Independents for acting responsibly over the past couple of years. In my view the amendment is calling the bluff of the Government. If the Government is so confident about not only the figures but the outcome of the committee, why does it not agree to the amendment? It would be in the Government's interests to do so. The Government members should approach the media and say, "We are so confident of the outcome and our figures that we have absolutely nothing to fear of this particular amendment". I might add that the Government will have a majority of members on the committee. The amendment will add strength to the Government's case rather than take it away. I do not understand why the Australian Labor Party will not agree to the amendment because it will add the icing to the cake, enabling the ALP to be seen as being genuine in this process. But I wonder whether it is being genuine. Is this committee a charade looking at the matter retrospectively? We will know the answer to that question in February when the committee presents its report. If the Government rejects this amendment, it may return to haunt it.
Mr J. H. MURRAY (Drummoyne) [10.2], in reply: As has already been indicated, the Opposition opposes the amendment. The amendment is not being opposed because of the spirit in which it has been moved. I understand what the honourable member for South Coast had to say, but one must consider the role of a select parliamentary committee. This amendment overlooks that aspect. A select committee is a select committee of this Parliament. In essence this amendment ties the executive into the Parliament. The honourable member for South Coast has fought long and hard against that; the executive should be divorced from the parliamentary process. If this amendment is passed, it will solidify that position and take the executive into the role of the Parliament. As the Minister and the honourable member for Ashfield indicated, this matter will come back to the Parliament - by way of a report of parliamentarians to the Parliament. If the Government is not wise enough to examine the considered recommendations of the committee, the Parliament will. There are sufficient members in the Opposition and among the Independents to force the Government to do something about it. The Minister indicated that the Government had learned its lesson and will not continue to ignore Parliament. The Government has done just that in the last three days on 11 occasions. In that time the Government has not had the nous to listen to the Parliament. Parliament has spoken and will again. The Opposition believes that there is a correct way for the deliberations of the committee to be acted upon - the way all select committees have operated in the past. For that reason this amendment should be rejected.
Motion agreed to.
COMMITTEE UPON THE GOVERNMENT PUBLICITY CONTROL BILL
Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders
Motion, by leave, by Mr West agreed to:
(1) That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would preclude the extension of the reporting date for the Legislation Committee upon the Government Publicity Control Bill 1992 being extended until 31st March, 1993; and
(2) That for the purposes of any parliamentary committees enabling legislation the Government Publicity Control Bill Committee be a committee to which the Act applies.
The following bills were returned from the Legislative Council without amendment:
Real Property (Torrens Assurance Fund) Amendment Bill
Conveyancing Legislation (Notice of Sale) Amendment Bill
Medical Practice Bill
Nurses (Amendment) Bill
CRIMES (REGISTRATION OF INTERSTATE RESTRAINT ORDERS) AMENDMENT BILL
Bill received and read a first time.
SUPERANNUATION LEGISLATION (MISCELLANEOUS AMENDMENTS) BILL
Bill received and read a first time.
FINANCIAL TRANSACTION REPORTS BILL
Bill received and read a first time.
Mr WEST (Orange - Minister for Conservation and Land Management, and Minister for Energy) [10.8]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The bill complements the Commonwealth Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988. The Commonwealth Act assists in the enforcement of taxation and other Commonwealth laws and makes information collected for Commonwealth purposes available for State law enforcement agencies. It does not, however, enable the State agencies to obtain further information from cash dealers which would assist in the investigation of State offences. The object of this bill is to fill that gap. The bill is based on model legislation prepared on the instructions of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. It is drafted to complement the Commonwealth Act which requires a cash dealer - for example, a financial institution such as a bank - to report to the cash transaction reports agency, now known as AUSTRAC, when the cash dealer has reasonable grounds to suspect that a
transaction to which the cash dealer is a party may be relevant to the investigation of an evasion of a taxation law or an offence against a law of the Commonwealth or may be of assistance in the enforcement of the Commonwealth Proceeds of Crime Act 1987.
Under the Commonwealth Act, if the cash dealer reports to the director of AUSTRAC, the cash dealer is also required if requested to do so by the director, an investigating officer or a relevant authority to provide further information specified in the request. The Commonwealth Act does not, however, enable New South Wales police or other relevant New South Wales authorities to obtain further information from cash dealers which would assist in the investigation of State offences. The object of this bill is to enable New South Wales police, the Chairperson of the New South Wales Crime Commission or the Commissioner for the Independent Commission Against Corruption to obtain further information from cash dealers about suspect cash transactions so as to assist in the investigation of offences against the laws of this State, in the enforcement of the Confiscation of Proceeds of Crime Act 1989 and the Drug Trafficking (Civil Proceedings) Act 1990 or in the administration of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988.
The inclusion of the Chairperson of the New South Wales Crime Commission and the Commissioner for the ICAC is consistent with their inclusion in the Commonwealth Act whereby the director of AUSTRAC is empowered to disseminate information to them, although presently restricted by a nexus to Commonwealth offences. Equally important, protection is given to cash dealers against legal action in relation to providing the information. The Australian Bankers Association supports the legislation. It has requested a co-ordinated commencement date be adopted. To this end agreement has been reached with Victoria, which has introduced but not yet commenced the model legislation, and the Commonwealth to commence the legislation on 6th December, 1992, the proclaimed commencement date for amendments to the Commonwealth Act. Other States are working towards introducing the model bill in their current parliamentary sessions and have also been requested to comply with the 6th December commencement date so far as is possible.
I will now address the major provisions of the bill. Clause 4 defines the "Commonwealth Act" as the Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988 of the Commonwealth. Expressions used in the Commonwealth Act, such as "cash dealer" and "cash transaction", have the same respective meanings in the proposed Act. Examples of a cash dealer, as defined in the Commonwealth Act, are a financial institution - for example, a bank - a financial corporation within the meaning of paragraph 51(xx) of the Commonwealth Constitution, an insurer, a securities dealer, a trustee or manager of a unit trust and a person who carries on the business of operating a casino. A cash transaction is defined as a transaction involving the physical transfer of currency from one person to another. Clause 5 provides that the proposed Act binds the Crown.
Clause 6 provides that if a cash dealer communicates information to the director of the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, known as AUSTRAC, under the Commonwealth Act about a suspect cash transaction, the cash dealer must - if requested to do so by the New South Wales Commissioner of Police, the Chairperson of the New South Wales Crime Commission, the Commissioner for the ICAC or a police officer - give such further information as is specified in the request. The further information is to be such information that may be relevant to the investigation of, or prosecution of a person for, a State offence or that may assist in the enforcement of the Confiscation of Proceeds of Crime Act 1989 or the Drug Trafficking (Civil Proceedings) Act 1990 or in the administration of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988.
Clause 7 provides that a cash dealer who is a party to a transaction and has reasonable grounds to suspect that information concerning the transaction may be relevant to the investigation of, or prosecution of a person for, a State offence or may be of assistance in the enforcement of the Confiscation of Proceeds of Crime Act 1989 or the Drug Trafficking (Civil Proceedings) Act 1990 or in the administration of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 must prepare a report on the transaction and communicate the information contained in it to the director. This requirement applies whether or not the cash dealer is required to report the transaction under division 1, cash transaction reports, of part II of the Commonwealth Act, but applies only if the cash dealer is not already required to report the transaction under division 2, reports of suspect transactions, of that part. The requirements of proposed section 7 are similar to those contained in section 16 of the Commonwealth Act.
Clause 8 provides that cash dealers and their staff are protected against legal action in relation to providing information about suspect cash transactions. Clause 9 prohibits a person when given information under the proposed Act from making a false or misleading statement. The maximum penalty for contravening this prohibition is a fine of $100,000 or imprisonment for five years or both. Clause 10 prohibits the Commissioner of Police, the Chairperson of the New South Wales Crime Commission, or a member of the staff of that commission, the Commissioner for the ICAC, or an officer of the ICAC, or a police officer from making a record of information obtained under the Act or divulging it to another person except in the performance of duties relating to the enforcement of the laws of the State, the Commonwealth or of another State or Territory. The maximum penalty for contravening this prohibition is a fine of $40,000 or imprisonment for two years or both. Clause 11 provides that proceedings for offences against the proposed Act are to be dealt with on indictment. Certain offences may, however, be dealt with summarily before a local court if it is proposed by the prosecution and the court is satisfied that it is appropriate to do so. Clause 12 requires the Minister to carry out a review of the proposed Act after five years to determine whether its policy objectives remain valid. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Whelan.
NEW SOUTH WALES CRIME COMMISSION (AMENDMENT) BILL
Debate resumed from 24th November.
Mr ANDERSON (Liverpool) [10.17]: I am delighted to lead for the Opposition in the debate on the New South Wales Crime Commission (Amendment) Bill. The Opposition supports the legislation and will not divide on it. My remarks will be relatively brief. However, I need to set the scene for a question which I shall ask the Minister for Police to address in his reply. I appreciate that the commission finds it difficult to attract suitable staff from the public or the private sector under public service terms of employment, hence the need to allow the commission maximum flexibility to employ specialist staff for specified periods. The specialist staff would include lawyers, financial investigators and law enforcement personnel from outside the New South Wales Police Service. Precedent already exists for such contract arrangements - for example, in legislation governing the Legal Aid Commission, the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Casino Control Authority. The amendments will allow the commission to employ police officers, who will retain their rank, seniority and remuneration as police officers but who will be able to be paid additional remuneration by the commission rather than allocate those police an acting rank whilst they are attached to the commission.
Because of personal experience I admire this provision. As a substantive senior constable when I was a police prosecutor I had the rank of acting sergeant. I always said that I would rather have the sergeant's salary than the powers of a sergeant; but it was the other way round. The provision will allow a degree of flexibility. It is a bit like being a shadow minister and not getting any extra salary; I would rather be a Minister. I am grateful that the Minister arranged for me to discuss the amendments with Mr Bradley from the commission. Because of a minor oversight some of the unions representing some of the employees involved were overlooked. Discussions have taken place and I understand that all matters were satisfactorily resolved with the exception of one question which I shall pose to the Minister, as I mentioned earlier. I refer to the situation of a public servant going from his or her own department to the commission for a specified period on contract. Will that public servant, at the completion of that contract period, go back to the substantive position in the host department? I would be pleased if the Minister would answer that question.
This is the first opportunity I have had to speak on this issue. This bill has been the subject of a bills digest issued by the bills digest service of the Parliamentary Library. That is a wonderful innovation of enormous assistance to non-Government members who do not have the resources that Government members have. The service explains what a particular bill will do. I have obtained a number of these documents relating to all sorts of legislation. It is a wonderful initiative of the Parliamentary Library, which achieves remarkable results with limited resources. I congratulate the Library and I hope that the service will continue. I am delighted to support the amendments and I would be grateful if the Minister could respond to my question in his reply.
Mr GRIFFITHS (Georges River - Minister for Police) [10.20], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Liverpool for his support of the legislation. This bill will strengthen the ability of the New South Wales Crime Commission to hire appropriate staff for suitable periods. The specialised nature of the work of the Crime Commission is such that staff may be required only for the duration of an investigation. By hiring individual specialists to carry out the work of the commission, it will develop a more powerful profile to deal effectively with drug trafficking and organised crime. I note the comments of the honourable member for Liverpool concerning the tenure of public servants from other agencies. The honourable member may rest assured that the commission will secure an agreement with the host department that employees will return to their substantive positions following the completion of the contract arrangements. I commend the bill.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
LEGAL PROFESSION (PRACTISING CERTIFICATES) AMENDMENT BILL
Consideration of Legislative Council's amendments.
Schedule of amendments referred to in message of 19th November.
No. 1 Page 2, clause 5, lines 22 and 23. Omit all words on those lines.
No. 2 Page 2, Schedule 1, line 30. Omit "1 October 1992", insert instead "1 January 1993".
Mr COLLINS (Willoughby - Minister for State Development, and Minister for Arts) [10.22]: I move:
That the Committee agree to the Legislative Council's amendments.
Mr WHELAN (Ashfield) [10.23]: This amendment derives from the upper House, and I should like to give a little bit of its history. When the bill went through this House there was much ado about a reporting back provision, that is, to ensure that the Bar Council reported back to the Parliament. It was a suggestion which the Opposition adopted and a recommendation that the honourable member for South Coast had a hand in relating to clauses 5(1), 5(2) and 5(3) of the bill. Clause 5(2) provides:
The Law Reform Commission is to inquire into and report to the Minister on the policy objectives of the provisions to which this section applies and the impact of the enactment of those provisions on the legal profession. The Commission must deliver its report within nine months after the date of assent to this Act and the Minister is to cause the Commission's report to be tabled in Parliament.
The Government intends to omit clause 5(3), which states:
The provisions to which this section applies are repealed at the end of the period of 12 months starting on the date of assent to this Act.
The intention of the legislation was to enable the registration and issuing of practising certificates, and refusals for those practising certificates, as set out in proposed section 32(C) of the Act as well as in proposed section 35(1)(c), on the basis set out in the Act. In other words, the practising certificate under section 32(1) states that a barrister is, subject to the Act, entitled to a practising certificate. It was unconditional, or subject to conditions. The Bar Council could attach a variety of conditions. The essence of the amendment moved was to ensure that there was no prejudice existing to any person, to review how the law was proceeding, and for other purposes. The Law Reform Commission was required to inquire into and report to the Minister on the policy objectives. That was the essence of it. It was never intended, in my view, that there would be a prospective repeal of proposed sections 32(3), 32(4) and 35(1)(c). That may sound like gobbledegook, but it means there would be no prospective appeal of those sections that related to the issuing of practising certificates. The bill we passed was intended to grant the issue of certificates to the requisite council, that is, to the Bar Council, under proposed sections 32(3) and 32(4). Proposed section 32(3) states:
The Bar Council may attach a condition to a practising certificate when it is issued or at any time after it is issued, and may at any time vary or revoke any such condition.
But it was never intended that after a 12-month period the legislation would automatically repeal, by way of sunset provision, the right of the bar to attach conditions to the legislation. That was not the intention of the Australian Labor Party. I will be interested to hear what the honourable member for South Coast says. It was not the intention either in relation to proposed section 35(1)(c). I expect that the honourable member for South Coast will say that, if there are abuses, the report will be in evidence when it comes to Parliament. If people are disadvantaged and write to a member of Parliament to complain, and that action achieves even minimal publicity, or if the matter is raised in Parliament after the report is received, Parliament should take the action. It should take action to ensure that, if the report shows adverse results, the Parliament should make its decision about what it will do to the Bar Council.
The last thing I want to say to the honourable member for South Coast is that this was yet another knock on the door. This was another warning that unless conditions relating to the registration of barristers met certain criteria of fairness, the Parliament would be forced to do something. It was never intended - indeed the Opposition never intended - that there would be a prospective repeal of the legislation. The bill makes prospective a repeal of those very important clauses. This is a matter that the Parliament will review. I shall review it, and I look forward to the reports the Law Reform Commission will make to the Parliament. In the Minister's reply he might undertake, on behalf of the Attorney in another place, that the reference will be made public and within reasonable time, and that those members who are interested - particularly the honourable member for South Coast and I - might be supplied with a copy of the reference to the Law Reform Commission.
Mr HATTON (South Coast) [10.28]: To save the time of the House, I refer honourable members who are interested in reading Hansard to the comments I made on 16th September. I accept there is some force in what the honourable member for Ashfield said. I accept that for a considerable period of time the Bar Council has had rights over barristers in terms of the issuing and registration of practising certificates. But this bill - the Legal Profession (Practising Certificates) Amendment Bill - added significantly to the power of the Bar Council. I really do not understand how those who pride themselves in the practice of law, in the independence of the court system, and in their independence as practitioners within the court system, can allow their union or association, as it were, to have such terrifying power over them. It seems to fly in the face of all the basic tenets that I as a lay person see of practising at the bar, doing what you want, and saying what you want, within reasonable limits of propriety.
The legislation imposes conditions and additional restrictions on practising certificates at the whim of the Bar Council. In the past the Bar Council has been able to withdraw practising certificates. This legislation will enable it to amend, further restrict, impose conditions on, or impose further conditions on practising certificates. The whole point of the debate in rebuttal of what I have said in the past has been that it is necessary for barristers to upgrade their professional skills and undertake reading programs. I am not questioning that, but it is wrong that the Bar Council should be able not only to direct a barrister to undertake a reading program prescribed by the council but should also be able to nominate the person with whom the barrister is to undertake the program. If a person practising at the bar is eccentric, unusual or in some way kicks over the traces, the Bar Council is able to exercise enormous power over that person's individuality.
I cannot understand how people who pride themselves on practising at the bar and on the independence of their position can in any way countenance those sorts of restrictions. To do something about that, I wanted the very clause we are debating inserted in the bill - that is, a sunset clause imposing a 12-month limit. The Law Reform Commission will examine that matter and bring down a report. There is some substance in what the honourable member for Ashfield said about the sunset clause covering section 32(3), section 32(4) and section 35(1)(c), about the Law Reform Commission investigating the matter and about the legislation being returned to this House if people are prejudiced. That is not good enough. A statement should have been made by this House, and I am disappointed that the amendment has been returned in this form. This House should have said that it is giving the Bar Council this additional - and, in my view, terrifying - power but that it is imposing a 12-month sunset clause on that power so that if it is abused this House can act quickly. Initially I opposed the Bar Council's right to do what it is doing - and I still do - but I certainly would have liked a sunset clause put in place. However, I accept the inevitability of the numbers.
Mr COLLINS (Willoughby - Minister for State Development, and Minister for Arts) [10.33]: I apologise to the House for the laryngitis from which I am presently suffering. Because of that I will not go through all the notes that have been generously provided by the Attorney General's Department. On behalf of the Attorney General, I want to say that the matters raised in this debate have been carefully considered. The measure being undertaken will benefit rather than disadvantage consumers, the users of legal services in this State, particularly those who need to use the services of the bar. Plainly the bill is not designed to get at any particular individual. It is designed to empower the Bar Council of New South Wales to do more to prescribe necessary courses for new barristers, and to take a greater hand in determining conditions of readership so that those who enter the bar and who practice without limitation do so with the widest range of skills necessary to give those who need legal services the value and skill they require. Although I note the comments of the honourable member for South Coast, I assure him that the legislation will enhance the quality of the bar in New South Wales and will do more to improve peer assessment and review. I thank the Opposition for its support and commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Legislative Council's amendments agreed to.
Resolution reported from Committee and report adopted.
TREASURY CORPORATION (AMENDMENT) BILL
Debate resumed from 18th November.
Mr J. H. MURRAY (Drummoyne) [10.36]: The Opposition supports the bill. The object of the bill is to amend the Treasury Corporation Act 1983 to give the Treasury Corporation - that is, TCorp - full power to engage in any activity in pursuit of the objects for which it is established. The bill removes the need for a list of specific functions. There will be a clear statement of the principal object for which TCorp is established, namely, to provide financial services for, or for the benefit of, the Government and public sector bodies. TCorp will have the same legal capacity, powers and authority as a company under the Corporations Law to pursue its objectives. TCorp will remain subject to the control and direction of the Treasurer. In addition, the bill confers a clear power on public authorities and other public bodies to appoint TCorp as their agent for any purpose. TCorp currently has the power to participate with public authorities in managing their assets and liabilities. This amendment will confer power on public authorities to appoint TCorp as their agent, allowing them to draw on TCorp expertise to minimise financial risk. Honourable members will realise that these amendments are of a technical or machinery nature only and seek to maintain legislation that meets current practical requirements. The Opposition supports the bill.
Mr SOURIS (Upper Hunter - Minister for Finance, Assistant Treasurer, and Minister for Ethnic Affairs) [10.37], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Drummoyne and the Opposition for their support of the bill. The honourable member for Drummoyne has correctly identified the mechanical and procedural nature of the legislation. I have pleasure in commending the bill.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
COMMONWEALTH POWERS (STATE BANKING) BILL
Debate resumed from 18th November.
Mr J. H. MURRAY (Drummoyne) [10.39]: The object of this bill is to empower the Reserve Bank of Australia to undertake prudential supervision of the State Bank of New South Wales. This arrangement will replace the informal supervisory arrangement which has operated since 1984. Such formal Reserve Bank supervision is precluded by section 51 of the Constitution which prevents the Commonwealth from legislating in relation to State banks operating within the limits of the State concerned. The bill refers specific powers to the Commonwealth to enable it to bring the State Bank of New South Wales Limited within the legislative scheme which regulates private banks in Australia. This will enhance market and public confidence in the bank and will assist in placing the bank on an equal footing with licensed banks. If the State is dissatisfied with the arrangement, the bill will provide for the State to terminate the referral at any time by a proclamation from the Governor. This approach is consistent with the findings of the Martin Federal parliamentary inquiry into the Australian banking industry. Given recent events involving other State banks, the pity is that the States did not adopt such an approach earlier. The Opposition supports the bill.
Mr SOURIS (Upper Hunter - Minister for Finance, Assistant Treasurer, and Minister for Ethnic Affairs) [10.40], in reply: I should like to thank the honourable member for Drummoyne and the Opposition for their support. As was just pointed out, this bill will formalise the existing practice of voluntary compliance and move the State Bank of New South Wales Limited into the prudential supervision ambit of the Reserve Bank. I commend the bill.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
SELECT COMMITTEE UPON PUBLIC SECTOR SUPERANNUATION SCHEMES
Motion, by leave, by Mr West agreed to:
That the terms of reference of the Select Committee upon Public Sector Superannuation be amended by inserting a new paragraph (4)
(4) That, notwithstanding anything contained in the standing orders, the Chairman of the Committee have a deliberative and casting vote.
CENTENNIAL PARK AND MOORE PARK TRUST (AMENDMENT) BILL
Debate resumed from 18th November.
Ms ALLAN (Blacktown) [10.42]: When the House considered this matter last year concerns were expressed by the Opposition, and also by the honourable member for Bligh, about the consequences of lease arrangements - particularly for organisations like
the Moore Park Golf Club and other commercial operations - if lease arrangements were extended beyond eight years. At that stage the Government accepted those concerns, and it was decided that the eight-year term would remain. However, subsequently, it seems that those concerns, particularly those expressed by the honourable member for Bligh, have been satisfied. It is believed that there will be no further encroachment on the park or the successful operation of the park by the extension of the lease arrangements to a 20-year period. For that reason the Opposition is more than happy to support the amendment.
Mr HARTCHER (Gosford - Minister for the Environment) [10.43], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Blacktown for her contribution and support for the legislation. I thank also the honourable member for Bligh for her support. She was briefed by me and, as an active local member, she sought the views of local residents, who, I understand, expressed their views to her. After consultation the honourable member for Bligh advised me that she would not be proceeding with the objection she raised in 1991. Accordingly, the legislation is now before the House. This measure is procedural and it will enable the trust, of which some very eminent citizens of Sydney are members, to extend the terms of the lease or to enter into leases for longer periods than the present statutory period of eight years. The maximum period allowed is one of 20 years. I commend the bill.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
PUBLIC HEALTH (AMENDMENT) BILL
Debate resumed from 18th November.
Dr REFSHAUGE (Marrickville - Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [10.46]: Though the Opposition supports this bill it will be proposing a number of amendments. The bill is designed to encourage immunisation and raise the current level of immunisation. It is not the intention of the bill to make immunisation compulsory. One amendment the Opposition will move will seek to ensure that children who are not immunised are not discriminated against at school. I understand that the Government will support that amendment. Immunisation has come under threat from a number of sources and I believe it is important to put on record the value of immunisation; the fact that immunisation has improved the health of and outlook for young children in New South Wales and throughout the world.
It is important to analyse the figures which indicate - and I say that with appropriate emphasis - dramatic decrease in deaths from common preventable diseases such as diphtheria, tussis, tetanus, poliomyelitis and measles in the past few decades in New South Wales. Nothing could be more relevant than the figures that detail the number of deaths in Australia from an illness such as poliomyelitis. In the decade 1926 to 1935 there were 430 deaths from poliomyelitis. In the following decades the number of deaths increased, rising to 1,013 deaths in the decade 1946 to 1955. As vaccines became available - and I remember being one of the first children to receive the jab from the eminent Dr Salk and later an oral immunisation from Dr Sabin - there was a dramatic decrease in poliomyelitis related deaths: from 1,013 deaths in the decade 1946 to 1955 to only two in the decade 1976 to 1985.
Perhaps as one who regularly points to many things outside the health portfolio that are necessary to improve the status of health - I should not talk about the miracles of medicine, but immunisation would have been regarded as a miracle in the early decades of this century when many children were suffering from polio; some died. Similar figures - possibly not quite so dramatic - are available in respect of whooping cough, tetanus and measles. Diphtheria deaths have also declined dramatically from a high of 4,000 in the early decades to only two in the later decade. Not many doctors these days have had the awful experience of watching children die from those preventable diseases. Unfortunately, I have seen a child die from the effect of measles. It is not a pleasant sight. To see a child in pain or even sick always stirs up the emotions, but to see a child die from a preventable disease such as measles because immunisation either did not work or was not available is a tragedy. Although it does not happen often in Australia, it should never happen because it is preventable.
Though immunisation does carry risks, they are far outweighed by the benefits. I believe an important part of the responsibility of parents is to do the best they can for their children. They have to weigh those risks and benefits and do what is best to ensure the health of their children. I would hope that most parents would weigh those risks and benefits and follow what I am sure most but not all members of this House would advocate, and recommend their children be immunised. Of late I have seen a publication issued by the New South Wales Department of Health regarding the benefits and risks of immunisation. I must admit that I was expecting to see a glossy booklet that referred only to the benefits of immunisation. It seems that these days we all accept that there are many benefits and forget the risks. But there are risks involved and I believe they should be pointed out. It is interesting that the risks are detailed in the publication. No punches have been pulled. There is clear evidence as to where the information comes from and it can be examined by those who want to find it. The booklet clearly shows what the risks are. Some are as serious as to cause death or permanent brain damage.
Although one can always think of a better way to do something, the publication certainly gives parents who are seeking information about immunisation a pretty good view of the benefits without hiding the risks. I congratulate the department for producing such a booklet. I hope it will be available from all surgeries and health clinics providing immunisation services. One matter I would like enshrined in the legislation is, I suppose, part of a concept I believe is underdeveloped in Australia, and probably throughout most of the world; that is, informed consent. It is important that major and important decisions about health should not be left to the professionals; we should take the responsibility ourselves. That is not to say that the professionals do not have a role to play or that their wisdom should not be acknowledged; nor does it mean that the State should move away from accepting its responsibility. This is certainly not a push for the Fightback package.
I believe that information should be made available about the risks and benefits of immunisation. Parents should know the procedures, the alternatives and the risks and benefits for not only them but for the community as well. The Opposition will move an amendment in an attempt to foster that concept. I hope that the Minister - who supports the general thrust of the legislation - will want to consider the question of informed consent throughout the whole of the health care field. Some attempts have been made to do so in the past but no satisfactory conclusions have been reached. I hope that further pressure will be put on the professions to do their bit to ensure that happens. If not, as is all too often the case, the Parliament will be forced to apply that pressure. I hope the professions will do it first and do it right.
As I said, the risks can lead to quite serious and long term, and sometimes devastating sequelae. There can be dramatic tragedies, but they are very rare. To calculate the rate of deaths from immunisation against measles one would have to go back 30 or 35 years to discover a vaccine-related death occurring as a result of immunisation of every child in New South Wales. Other complications can lead to long-term impairment. Because of the benefits that result from a public policy such as this, New South Wales should be prepared to give positive support to those who suffer the unintended consequences of immunisation. To that end the Opposition will propose that there should be compensation available, through the Victims Compensation Tribunal, for children who suffer severe adverse reactions with resultant long-term consequences. I will say more about that when the amendment is moved. I believe the Government has a responsibility to examine the negative effects of health policies - we hope there are none - because past experience has shown there is potential for tragedy. The Government should not shirk its responsibility to take positive measures to compensate those who suffer from those unintended consequences. Dr Brian Feury from the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories has suggested that himself. He said:
Members of society who participate in immunisation campaigns contribute to the health of society as a whole while undergoing the risk of such injury.
It has been argued, therefore, that as society benefits from community vaccinations, it should accept the responsibility and consequences of such incidents and adequately compensate the individual or the family involved.
That will be obvious to all honourable members, but he puts it much more eloquently than I. As adverse reactions after immunisation are now notifiable, the Department of Health appears to have reasonable statistics. Thirty-one adverse reactions to immunisation were reported in the first nine months of this year. Considering the number of children born, seven deaths from sudden infant death syndrome will occur within three days of immunisation. Given the current rate of sudden infant death syndrome - which occurs early in the first year of life, when immunisation commences - we can expect seven, possibly nine, deaths from sudden infant death syndrome within three days immunisation. Only one of those 31 who suffered adverse reaction died of sudden infant death syndrome within three days of immunisation. That supports evidence published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1988, resulting from a study of the relationship between sudden infant death syndrome and the time of immunisation. In those early days there was statistically a decreased incidence of sudden infant death syndrome after immunisation, which one would not expect given that sudden infant death syndrome occurs in the first year of life. There have been suggestions that that may be an indication that immunisation protects child from SIDS. I would be surprised if that were really the case. It may be. It is certainly an interesting concept that we should be looking at. We possibly will be looking at this concept at a later date through some of our research programs.
Immunisation will regularly cause some people concern. We should not just dismiss their concerns and say they are wrong; we should listen to what they have to say. Despite the fact that I am sure I am right in everything, occasionally it turns out that I am wrong. I am aware that my medical training gives me an enormous bias. Therefore, one's dogmas and beliefs certainly need to be regularly challenged. There have been regular suggestions of adverse effects from immunisation that have not yet been recognised. Of course, there is a possibility, as we are injecting live viruses in some cases, that those viruses may turn out to have long-term effects. It is possible these days that that theory is less relevant, as we are not so blinded by the new theories of slow viruses. Having moved to auto-immune diseases and other things, the slow virus theory tends to wane. But there is still that possibility and we should not be so blind that we say that these things will not happen. We should always be vigilant in case it does and we
should also accept the consequences if that turns out to be the case. It is appropriate to suggest that people are less likely to become ill if they look after their health, if they eat well, if they live in good housing conditions and if they are not unemployed. Of course, it is difficult these days to do anything about unemployment.
Immunisation should not be seen as a magic bullet which will get rid of all our ills, but it is a valuable tool that has certainly proved itself. It is a tool that we should maintain. This legislation, which is strongly supported by the Opposition, will make a significant difference. We should also be aware that there may come a time when new evidence will show that we should move in a different direction. If we do that we will be doing the best for society, and that is all we can do. We should never become blind to new evidence. We should never take offence if some people choose to disagree with us or if they have different health paradigms. We should always be prepared to be challenged; and I think we will be challenged tonight. I believe that this bill, which will receive bipartisan support and pass through this House, will be of benefit to children for many years to come. The Opposition supports it.
Mr GLACHAN (Albury) [11.3]: The Deputy Leader of the Opposition spent a great deal of time talking about immunisation, but it is interesting to note that the bill deals with quite diverse matters, none of which is controversial. The bill covers a wide range of matters. For example, it gives the Minister additional public health powers; it gives the director-general additional powers; and medical practitioners will be encouraged, through this legislation, to assist in reporting special matters. The bill refers also to the definition of the expression "still-birth" and changes the name of health surveyors employed by local authorities to environmental health officers. The matter that could be controversial, which is still of great importance, is the vaccination of children. The aim of the bill is to assist in the matter of public health by encouraging parents to have their children vaccinated for seven diseases against which they can be protected. There is a lot of controversy about this; there always has been. When I was a child I remember that my mother would not allow me or my sister to be immunised. She had been told that complications might occur and she was worried about that. Some people still hold those views.
Since 1982 the National Health and Medical Research Council has recommended that all States should have a policy of documenting evidence of a child's immunisation and the status of that immunisation on his or her entry into school. It has recommended that this policy should commence in 1994. I note that Victoria introduced similar legislation in 1991. It is important to note that this legislation will not make immunisation compulsory. Parents will still have a choice. Those who choose to have their children immunised will not be disadvantaged by the costs of such immunisation. If parents choose to have their children immunised in public health clinics, this will be organised. This policy will not come into effect until 1994, because the Government needs time to notify people about it and to enable people to become more aware of it. It will affect children year by year only when they enrol at school; it will not affect all pupils at a school at any given time. It certainly will not prevent a child who is not immunised from being enrolled at a school.
I have been told that only about 70 per cent of children at the age of six are fully immunised. In order to control the diseases that can be controlled by immunisation, 95 per cent of children need to be immunised. No penalty is proposed for parents who decide not to immunise their children. The only penalty will be that the children will be excluded from school if there is an outbreak of one of the seven diseases at the school. That is for their protection as well as for the protection of other children with whom they might come into contact. It will also prevent the spread of the disease. People are still worried about immunisation. When I grew up in the 1940s polio was widespread in the
community. I remember going to bed at night fearful that I might wake up in the morning with polio. I had this great fear because no one knew much about it. I had heard about children being kept alive in iron lungs and, when I was very young that worried me sick. It was a fearful thing. The answer now is very simple: a small amount of pleasant tasting liquid on a throwaway plastic spoon. It is so simple, yet it gives such remarkable protection. If this policy were followed, polio is one of a number of diseases that could be wiped out. I am conscious of the fact that Rotary International has undertaken a program to wipe out polio worldwide. It is working towards that end and believes it will be successful in achieving that aim. That worthwhile program will be of great benefit to mankind, particularly in such places as Pakistan, the Philippines, China and some other countries.
When my wife, Helen, was pregnant with our youngest child we were having dinner with some friends and we suddenly noticed that our second child - the youngest at that time - was covered in small red spots. There was great panic. We rushed to a telephone to ring Helen's mother to establish whether Helen had had German measles. Helen's mother panicked because the pressure was on her. She could not remember whether Helen or her brother had had German measles. We were dreadfully afraid of what might happen because we had seen what had happened to children whose mothers had had rubella during certain stages of pregnancy. We rushed to our general practitioner. At the time he could not make up his mind but, when we went back the next day, he was pleased to be able to inform us that it was only sunburn. The spots had joined up and our daughter was red all over. We were greatly relieved and delighted that it was not what we had feared. That fear can be removed if people are prepared to have their children immunised.
Although some people talk about the risks involved, my extensive inquiries have revealed that those risks are minimal. It is difficult to establish whether in fact genuine risks are involved. The organisation that counsels parents whose children have died from sudden infant death syndrome is totally convinced that immunisation is not a contributing factor to SIDS. That organisation strongly advocates immunisation of children. I have been told also that complications caused by immunisation are notifiable. The Department of Health investigates these cases and monitors the children as they grow and develop. To date no genuine complications have been discovered. Of course minor complications can follow vaccination, including the development of a fever which may result in the child suffering a convulsion. Children can develop fevers from other causes which may also result in convulsions. Another problem is prolonged screaming, but that is a minor price to pay for the safety that immunisation provides. Overall the benefits far outweigh any of the disadvantages. I believe that this bill will encourage parents to have their children immunised. Schools and child care facilities will be provided with details of the immunisation status of children at any given time, thereby enabling them to protect and segregate children who are not immunised. I strongly support the bill.
Mr SCULLY (Smithfield) [11.13]: It is no secret that I have strong views on immunisation generally and in particular in respect to this bill. I have issued a discussion paper to all honourable members on this issue. I hold the personal view, which is not shared by any other member of this Parliament, that immunisation is wrong, and I have not approached this matter from a political viewpoint; it is my personal view. I think it is wrong to promote a scheme whereby disease is injected into young babies. I know that view is against the tide, against prevailing medical thought. When I argued this issue in my own party room I felt I was squirting a water pistol at a tidal wave, and I daresay if I were to argue this matter in the Government party room I would meet the same resistance. To challenge existing thought is particularly difficult. It does not necessarily mean that the person who challenges existing thought is wrong. Though the overwhelming medical view is that immunisation is essential, it does not necessarily mean it is right. It has been put to me that because the strength of the literature is in favour
of immunisation, we should support it. Science to me is not the pursuit of the majority; it is not a democracy. It is the pursuit of truth, and in presenting that discussion paper, I spent many months and many hundreds of hours pursuing what I saw to be the truth about immunisation. I started that research with a perception that immunisation was wrong, and as I waded through the medical and scientific literature, that view was confirmed. I stand by what I said in the beginning; I think immunisation is wrong. However, I am bound by my pledge to the Labor Party to support legislation that has been passed by my caucus and in that sense I will be supporting the bill.
There has been much talk about the miracle effects of vaccination. Countless people have said that immunisation has been a contributing factor in the decline in the rate of deaths. I believe that the traditional arguments are easy to thwart. From 1870, pre-vaccines being introduced, the rate of decline in fatalities was at least as precipitous or more precipitous. The great immunologist, Sir Macfarlane Burnet, said that the rate of fatalities declined substantially at that time because, in a sense, public health was obsessed - and rightly so - with sanitation, hygiene, nutrition and overcrowding. They are the things that reduced the fatality rate. I cannot understand why, when a vaccine is introduced and the decline in the rate of fatalities is roughly the same as previously, vaccines are treated as the wonder miracle of the twentieth century. I do not doubt that they have had an impact, but sanitation, hygiene and nutrition must have had an impact also after vaccines were introduced. They still have an impact. The Minister is certainly closer to the action than I am - and I may have misinterpreted the literature of the Department of Health - but from my reading of the history of the development of vaccines, public health is not pursued with the zeal that it once was in the pre-vaccine era.
I am firmly of the view that having solved those problems - what I consider to be macroliving conditions - if the Department of Health spent the same level of energy on microliving conditions - the level of well-being in each of us - it would have far more impact on disease than would increasing the rate of vaccination. People have said that as I am not a doctor I would not know about these matters. I reject that assertion totally. I am entitled to comment on medical matters the same as anyone else is. I challenge doctors to tell me that I cannot speak about medical and surgical procedures and what drugs should or should not be used in society. Members in this Chamber can debate many issues as though they were experts, but for some reason, on the topic of health, all of us have some strange myopic reverence for what doctors have to say. I do not genuflect when doctors give opinions; I challenge them. I respect the fact that they have the training - and that I do not - and that they might be right, but I work from a healthy suspicion. If they can convince me, then so be it.
Many things concern me about the way immunisation is promoted. The Department of Health in its literature rarely talks about such things as vaccine failure, waning immunity and the fact that a 100 per cent vaccination rate will not eradicate disease. I believe that the department should concentrate more on the nutritional well-being of individuals - the pursuit of optimum health. Many of my colleagues know my views on such things as smoking, drinking of alcohol, exercise and stress management. I defy any honourable member to say that one does not need to handle the stress levels that this job induces. I cannot understand the medical profession's obsession with Pasteur's theory of germs. It seems to think that there are little microbes waiting around to make us sick. I do not believe that microbes, viruses and bacteria make us any more sick than one match causes a fire. If honourable members conduct their lifestyles with what I regard as a minimum level of well-being they will create the conditions in which an exposure to a virus or bacteria will cause disease. I am not suggesting that the Minister ignore the bacteria, the virus or the microbes, but please give the same level of attention to those other things that I believe contribute to disease as much as the exposure to a virus.
My research indicated that the level of vaccine failure in the whooping cough vaccine is 20 per cent to 50 per cent. Research from the United States has revealed that the level of waning immunity in the zero to three age bracket was 20 per cent; four to seven years, 47 per cent; eight to 11 years of age, 65 per cent; and 12 years or older, 95 per cent. This means that, after being fully vaccinated against whooping cough, a person 12 years or more will not be immune. There are four alleged sources of whooping cough. There are three Bordetella organisms: pertussis, parapertussis, and bronchiseptica. There are also adenoviruses, which can cause clinical whooping cough. Parents are not given that information, and that concerns me. I am not on a bandwagon, screaming at people not to immunise their kids. I want people to inform themselves. I am not suggesting that they inform themselves as thoroughly as I have, but they should be told by the Department of Health that vaccination against whooping cough is ineffective; it has a tremendous failure rate at the point of vaccination. Its effect wanes over time. It is directed at only one specific cause of whooping cough. It really gets my goat when I hear public health doctors say there is a decline in the rate of vaccination for whooping cough, which will cause an epidemic. What happens if there is a cot death after a child has received a DPT vaccination two weeks before? I learned from one piece of research that twins died within three hours of being vaccinated with DPT, but the doctor, who was imbued with the ideology of immunisation, was so blindfolded against it, he could not cope with the possibility that DPT caused cot death.
It astounds me that it is argued that cot death following DPT is a time coincidence and is not caused by the precursor event. If there is a decline in the vaccination rate followed by an epidemic, the same argument applies. If one event follows another, it is a coincidence, but it also has to be the case that the decline in vaccination may cause an epidemic. That is my view. Fine and Clarkson in the United Kingdom carried out some research covering 1950 to 1978. They said if there is a decline in the vaccination rate against whooping cough, there will be an increased level of epidemics, that is, the gaps between epidemics will be shortened because a decline in vaccination rate increases the number of susceptibles; if there is an increase in the number of susceptibles, there is an increased risk of an epidemic; therefore, there must be a shortening of the time between epidemics. They found that in the pre-vaccine and post-vaccine periods the time difference between each epidemic was roughly the same. The reason it is roughly the same is because the vaccine is pretty ineffective.
Mr Glachan: No it is not; it is a 100 per cent vaccination.
Mr SCULLY: They carried out a research and it was 70 per cent, 80 per cent, 50 per cent, 30 per cent. The gap between epidemics was the same, and it was the same when there was no vaccine at all.
Mr Phillips: What was the size of the epidemics?
Mr SCULLY: The size of the epidemics ranged between 16,000 and 30,000, and up to 65,000. At roughly the same time as the epidemics occurred, at the same interval the number of deaths declined. Fine and Clarkson obviously felt uncomfortable with the finding, which they found most unusual. They would have preferred to have found a shortening of the gap between epidemics. I appreciate the time the Minister and his colleagues have given to me. I want to be wrong. I hope I am wrong. [Extension of time agreed to.]
It worries me that I might be right. If I am right, it means that some time, a long way down the track, society will say, "We did the wrong thing. We should not have been immunising two-month-old babies with disease".
Mr Gaudry: Absolutely disgraceful.
Mr SCULLY: Honourable members will notice that my views are not shared by the vast majority of members of Parliament, let alone my own colleagues.
Mr Phillips: It is not the first time you have been on your own, is it?
Mr SCULLY: This is the first time that I have been right and all 98 members have been wrong, and I do not think it will be the last. A woman by the name of Vera Scheibner and her husband Leif Karlsson have designed a microprocessor cot watch monitor, which is an electronic processing pad that fits under a mattress and detects heartbeat and breathing patterns. The Sudden Infant Death Association has formed the view that this couple are two kooks and they do not have much to offer, but I have looked at their research and it is very interesting. They have shown that the breathing patterns are basically pretty regular, day after day but that after an insult - and an insult may be smoking, overhandling, vaccination, but particularly vaccination - occurs, the machine goes berserk. In most cases it calms down, but in a small number of cases, cot death occurs. Their findings may be wrong. I have suggested that they should randomly sample unimmunised children and immunised children.
Mr Phillips: We have got that information.
Mr SCULLY: If the Minister can show me research that compares a batch of children immunised with DPT and a batch of unimmunised children where the rate of cot death is not different, I will be convinced. I wrote to the Sudden Infant Death Association asking them to carry out this research. I told them they were receiving millions of dollars; that I had seen material from the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and a little bit in Australia, in which it was claimed that the DPT vaccine might be one of the contributing factors that alters the breathing pattern of a young infant and, for those who are susceptible, it could lead to a cot death; I am not saying it does cause cot death - I do not want to be misquoted; all I am saying is that it should lead to further inquiry. I asked the association to do a random sample. SIDA wrote back saying it was up to the parents whether to have their child vaccinated; it was too hard for it. I am saddened by that. Scheidner and Carlsson are convinced that a random sample of the population can be obtained. If it is carried out, I will be satisfied. I will say, "Minister, I was wrong. I am pleased we have now obtained proof that DPT definitely does not contribute to cot death".
I hope that in the future the Department of Health tells parents the whole story. If parents wish to vaccinate their children, that is fine by me. I acknowledge that this is not, in a sense, compulsory immunisation, but I ask him tonight, if the intention of this bill does not succeed - and the intention of this bill is to dramatically lift the vaccination rate - will he assure honourable members and the people of New South Wales that the right of parents to determine whether or not their child will be vaccinated will not be taken away from them. I want the Minister's absolute, unadulterated, categorical assurance that if this legislation does not work and the vaccination rate stays the same - I know the bureaucrats in the Department of Health will whisper in his ear and say, "Let's make it compulsory" - that vaccination will never be made compulsory while he is the Minister.
Mr Phillips: The honourable member does not know me well enough. Of course it will not.
Mr SCULLY: I can tell every member of this House that if this Parliament passes a law that makes it compulsory -
Mr Gaudry: You cannot legislate health.
Mr SCULLY: I am glad the honourable member said that, because no law of this Parliament will make me vaccinate my children. I do not care what legislation this Legislature passes on health. If it passes a law making it compulsory for my children to be vaccinated, I will defy it. I believe in this issue so strongly I think it is absolute denial of proper health to do this to our children.
Mr Phillips: Keep me as Minister and you are safe.
Mr SCULLY: Good. I have that assurance. I should like the Department of Health in its pamphlets to mention the matters I have raised tonight: vaccine failure; waning immunity; the American research that has shown outbreaks in schools with a 98 per cent vaccination rate. There is no literature in Australia that says the higher the vaccination rate the higher the number of vaccinated children in an outbreak. The department does not mention that rubella vaccines can cause arthritis. I have never seen any Department of Health literature revealing the two cases of congenital rubella syndrome in women vaccinated against rubella. There has been no mention of the research Ronne did in 1985 with respect to the link between the measles vaccine and chronic disease later in life. We never get that information. Parents are told, "If you do not want your child to die from measles, you must have him or her vaccinated". Great play is made of the risks of disease, but little is said of the risk of the vaccine. The risks of the disease are hammered into us with a sledge-hammer. It is all extremely emotive.
The Minister indicated that all the promotional material and the marketing skills of the Department of Health will be launched into the operation. My notion of compulsion is not so much "thou shall", which is why I have been pushing compensation. I am not sure what the Minister's attitude is to that proposal - I hope he supports it. I think that people will wilt under pressure and the vaccination rate will increase. It is our responsibility to make sure that the downside is compensated. If the Department of Health thinks the paper I have prepared is wrong, it should tell me. It should be borne in mind that it is not only Carl Scully saying these things; doctors from the United States, United Kingdom and Australia have said things with which I agree. If they are all wrong, I want to know why. I do not want to hear that they are wrong simply because they have challenged prevailing thought. If they are wrong, they must be proved wrong because they are false and they have not got it right. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak tonight. I probably have as firm a belief about this matter as I do about any matter. I appreciate the time honourable members have taken to consider my thoughts - I know they do not all agree with me. [Time expired.]
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr O'Doherty.
House adjourned at 11.33 p.m.