Tuesday, 14 November 1995
Mr Speaker (The Hon. John Henry Murray)
took the chair at 2.15 p.m.
offered the Prayer.
It is with great pleasure that I am able to advise that a member's badge has recently been produced by the Legislative Assembly. The badge is similar to those issued to members of the House of Representatives and the Senate and those which have recently been issued to former members of this Parliament. Each badge has been individually numbered, so identifying each member as a current member of the Legislative Assembly. Members will be entitled to retain their badges when they cease to be a member of this Parliament.
ADMINISTRATION OF THE GOVERNMENT
reported the receipt of the following message from His Excellency the Governor:
The Governor of the State of New South Wales Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair has the honour to inform the Legislative Assembly that, on relinquishing the administration of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, he re-assumed the administration of the Government of the State on 1st November 1995.
Sydney, 1 November 1995.
ASSENT TO BILLS
Royal assent to the following bills reported:
Aboriginal Land Rights Amendment Bill
Commercial Tribunal Legislation Amendment Bill
Co-operatives Amendment Bill
Marketing of Primary Products Amendment Bill
New South Wales Cancer Council Bill
Plant Diseases Amendment Bill
Sports Drug Testing Bill
Stock Diseases Amendment Bill
Stock Medicines Amendment Bill
Veterinary Surgeons Amendment Bill
Crimes Amendment (Child Pornography) Bill
Forestry Restructuring and Nature Conservation Bill
INDEPENDENT COMMISSION AGAINST CORRUPTION
tabled, pursuant to section 76 of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988, the following report:
Report of the Independent Commission Against Corruption for the year ended 30 June 1995.
, pursuant to standing order, tabled a list detailing all legislation unproclaimed as at 11 November 1995.
The Clerk announced, pursuant to the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983, receipt of the following report:
Auditor-General's Report for 1995, Volume 2.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC WORKS Report
The Clerk announced receipt of the following report:
Report on State Infrastructure Requirements for Sydney West Airport, 10 November 1995; together with minutes of evidence and submissions from the inquiry.
Petition praying that any attempt to legalise euthanasia or assisted suicide be opposed and that the right to life be supported, received from Mr Slack-Smith
Avalon and Mona Vale Police Stations
Petition praying that Avalon Police Station not be closed and that Mona Vale Police Station not be downgraded, received from Mr Longley
Petition praying that a police station be established at Medowie and that the number of police there be increased, received from Mr Martin
Newcastle Road, Wallsend, Pedestrian Crossing
Petition praying that a pedestrian crossing be provided on Newcastle Road, Wallsend, between Bluegum Road and Thomas Street, received from Mr Mills
Petition praying that daylight saving not be extended, received from Mr Slack-Smith
Petition praying that Monaro be excluded from SEPP 46, received from Mr Cochran
Petition praying that the Kyogle TAB not be closed, received from Mr Rixon
Petition praying that a concrete pathway, with suitable lighting, be constructed between Jersey Road and Barnard Crescent, Oakhurst, received from Mr Gibson
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Health. Did an 18-year-old man, admitted to Gosford Hospital with a brain injury, a broken shoulder and broken leg -
Order! All members will remain silent while the Leader of the Opposition asks his question.
My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Did an 18-year-old man, admitted to Gosford Hospital with a brain injury, a broken shoulder and broken leg on 30 October, go without follow-up care, which he received only after his transfer to a private hospital? Is this the future for the New South Wales health system under the Government's new casemix policy?
I am delighted that the former Minister for Health, who started the closure of beds, raises the important issue of health in New South Wales.
Order! I call the honourable member for Gosford to order.
The Leader of the Opposition went on a binge of closing hospitals, cutting budgets for hospitals at every turn.
Order! I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to order. The Leader of the Opposition will remain silent.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition went charging up and down and wanted the credit for all the beds that were closed. Well, they both did it, they both kept on closing beds. They were so proud they closed 5,000 public hospital beds, and that is what they wanted to do. Not only were the beds closed but whole hospitals were closed. Wallsend District Hospital was closed. The former Minister for Health tried to close Prince Henry Hospital until we put a spirited and effective stop to that. Then, of course, when they could not close the hospitals they tried to privatise them.
Tell us about Gosford.
I will tell the Leader of the Opposition about the privatisation of hospitals pretty soon, do not worry about that. The honourable member for Port Macquarie does not look too happy about that.
On a point of order: the question related to a seriously ill young man with a brain injury, and I am astonished that such irrelevancies are allowed.
Order! No point of order is involved.
The honourable member for astonishment will certainly be even more astonished. A little bit more astonishment is on the way. The Leader of the Opposition talked about the introduction of casemix and about what is going to happen with the introduction of casemix. The person who introduced casemix into New South Wales was the Leader of the Opposition when he was the Minister for Health in the previous Government. He introduced casemix and honourable members know what he said. He brought in casemix in a whole range of guises, most of which I totally agree with. He was the one who introduced casemix, which was used quite effectively in the development of the resource allocation formula. That in itself was a good thing and it was supported by the Labor Party when it was in opposition. The trouble is that areas such as the Central Coast, the area which the Leader of the Opposition is speaking about, did not get a fair share of funding - the Leader of the Opposition, the former minister for closing, is bleating again.
Order! Again I direct the Leader of the Opposition to remain silent. If he continues to disregard my directions, I will not hesitate to name him.
Not only that, the former Government cut the hospital budget and did so under the guise of productivity cuts.
On a point of order: the question was about a brain-injured boy at Gosford Hospital, released after receiving medical treatment -
Order! No point of order is involved.
- under the administration of the Deputy Premier, and Minister for Health.
Order! I call the honourable member for Gosford to order for the second time.
The honourable member for Gosford had to front up in the middle of a by-election for The Entrance, a by-election that the Government won, to try to explain why the Central Coast Area Health Service annual report said that health services on the Central Coast were an absolute disaster. When in government, those opposite sat in the Cabinet room and presided over an absolute disaster. At last the Labor Government
has started to put the money where the people are. The Government will make sure that the money goes where the people are. In respect of the other part of the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition I can do no better than to quote his own words back to him, "There is bipartisan support for the introduction of a health care complaints commission and that takes complaints about the issues relating to patient care." The Leader of the Opposition said many times that that is the appropriate forum in which to raise these matters.
If the Leader of the Opposition does not believe in the legislation that he introduced, and does not believe his own words, the House may have to censure him later. If honourable members count the number of members on this side of the House and count the number of members on the opposite side of the House and think about what happened in the upper House, it may be that the House could censure the Leader of the Opposition for his failure to live up to his own words. The Health Care Complaints Bill was introduced by the previous Government to take care of such complaints and I will certainly refer any information that the honourable member gives me to the Health Care Complaints Commission.
TAFE TEACHERS INDUSTRIAL ACTION
My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Education and Training. Will the Minister inform the House why TAFE teachers are on strike today and what he is doing -
Order! The Chair is having difficulty hearing the question. If members continue to be disruptive, they will be removed from the Chamber. A member who seeks the call to ask a question is entitled to have the question heard in silence. I ask the honourable member for Wyong to restate the final part of his question.
Will the Minister inform the House what he is doing to address the concerns of TAFE teachers?
I would have thought that this question would have been asked by the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai. He has not asked a single question about education, not one question.
Order! I call the honourable member for North Shore to order.
I am grateful to the honourable member for Wyong for the question because it enables me to set straight a few myths. Honourable members may recall that this issue started back in June when I announced in this House the restructure of TAFE. At that stage I announced that 300 administrative jobs would be abolished as a result of the restructuring of TAFE and DTEC, the Department of Training and Education Co-ordination. I made that plain; I announced it in this House. At that stage a particular union took up the cause and said, "Oh, no, you cannot do that to our members." The issue was that the Government should consult more with the unions. I undertook to consult more and I held a moratorium on the restructure, we formed the change management team and we went out and consulted. For 5½ months the Government consulted; it consulted until the cows came home. What has happened to that particular trade union in the process? It has faded from the scene and the Teachers Federation - ever vigilant, ever ready to take up a cause, some cause, any cause - has jumped into the fray. What intrigues me about the strike today is that so far as I am aware this is the first strike in history when a trade union has opposed an increase in its membership! The Government has proposed 5,000 additional student places, which will mean -
Order! I call the honourable member for Gosford to order for the third time.
The honourable member should sit down. What would he know about trade unionism, he of the Kings School push.
Order! I call the honourable member for Ermington to order.
This is about ensuring that there are additional places for students. After all, that is what TAFE is all about; it is about providing additional places for students in colleges and about providing additional teachers. I am intrigued that the Teachers Federation is calling people out on strike, protesting against a measure that will enable the Government to increase the number of teachers at TAFE colleges, and increase the number of student places available in TAFE colleges. Quite frankly, there are a number of reasons why the Government is restructuring TAFE. The Government is restructuring TAFE because over at 601 Pacific Highway, St Leonards, is a 13-storey building, known as the white tower, full of bureaucrats and containing not one student. I give this undertaking to the members of the Government and to the Teachers Federation that so far as TAFE is concerned one of the great symbolic acts of 1996 is going to be the closing down of that administration block, the closing down of that head office and the redirecting of those administrative positions to -
Order! I call the honourable member for Vaucluse to order.
- TAFE colleges and to students.
Order! I call the honourable member for Vaucluse to order for the second time.
It will be a proud moment for me when I am able to announce that the restructuring of TAFE is complete; that the Government has abolished those wasteful and unnecessary administrative positions -
Order! I call the Leader of the National Party to order.
- and has diverted the $17 million a year that will be saved from that restructure back into the colleges and for the benefit of students, where it matters. I note that a number of members of the Opposition are silent. They are silent because they know that the restructure will benefit their electorates.
On a point of order: the question related to what the Minister was going to do for the TAFE system. Honourable members have been listening with care whilst the Minister has launched an attack on a reputable trade union. We want to hear about the TAFE institution.
Order! No point of order is involved. I suggest that the honourable member for Ermington has not been listening to the response of the Minister. For a considerable part of the answer he has been engaged in conversation with other members.
We have an opportunity to increase TAFE places, student numbers and TAFE teachers. The Teachers Federation has claimed that it does not believe what the Government is doing, because it said that last year there were 17,000 unfilled TAFE places in our colleges.
Order! I call the Leader of the National Party to order for the second time.
Can you believe that? I wonder how many government and opposition members have been besieged by students time and again saying that they cannot get into a TAFE college. Yet the federation today claimed that there were 17,000 unfilled places.
Order! I call the honourable member for Vaucluse to order for the third time.
If ever there was a testimony to the need to restructure TAFE to make it more efficient and able to provide the services required by our students, that is it.
Order! I call the honourable member for Baulkham Hills to order.
TAFE is a proud institution which has provided first- and second-chance education for millions of students over the last four to five decades. Under the restructure proposed by the Government it will be an even prouder institution and it will continue to provide first- and second-chance education to meet the needs of New South Wales and the vocational education and training sector today and beyond today into the twenty-first century. As Minister for Education and Training I am proud to be restructuring this great institution in such a way as to make sure that wasteful practices are abolished so we can have more teachers in our colleges.
Order! I call the Leader of the National Party to order for the third time.
SYDNEY SHOWGROUND SITE DEVELOPMENT
My question is to the Premier, Minister for the Arts, and Minister for Ethnic Affairs. Has the Government signed away 22 hectares of public land at the showground for 50 years to a private overseas company and in so doing overridden the legal and democratic processes of this State?
The answer is no. I see that the Leader of the Opposition has bowed his head. He had the unfortunate experience today of going to address the rally opposed to the showground development, which was addressed by the honourable member for Bligh. There was something unusual about his dress on that occasion: he was at an engagement in the city and he was not in his dinner suit!
Order! I call the honourable member for Lane Cove to order.
He went outside bravely to address the people of Centennial Park. What did they do to him? They turned on him and booed him.
Order! I call the honourable member for Baulkham Hills to order for the second time.
He was booed by the protest rally.
Order! I call the honourable member for Bligh to order.
Let me inform the honourable member for Bligh that there are thousands of young people at present at school and in college who will benefit from a film industry in this State, and we are thinking about them.
Order! I call the honourable member for Upper Hunter to order.
We are looking at the investment program -
Order! The Premier has been responding for barely a minute and already the honourable member for Bligh, who asked the question, has sought to interject on two occasions. Obviously if one member is permitted to interrupt proceedings without objection from the Chair, other members will attempt to follow suit. The member will remain seated and silent whilst an answer to her question is being provided by the Premier. I warn those members of the Opposition who are already on three calls to order against further attracting the adverse attention of the Chair.
It is very interesting that the question did not come from the Leader of the Opposition. When the Fox people saw him two weeks ago to make a presentation about their plans for the showground he said, "I have no difficulty with this; I simply want to be given recognition for my part in it."
Oh, what rubbish! That is a lie.
You know that is spot-on.
That is a lie.
Order! For the second time I am forced to rise to seek order. I have ruled on many occasions that the Chair will not tolerate members directing such expressions as "lie" and "liar" at other members. Any member who attempts to do so will be placed on four calls to order and removed from the Chamber.
Today, the day the deal on the showground is announced, I get no question on it from the Leader of the Opposition. What has the Opposition said for the record? In a press release from the Leader of the National Party there is not a hint of criticism of one-to-one negotiations with Fox; there is in fact criticism of the Labor Government for "the snail's pace of negotiation". That is the official statement by the Opposition today: we are criticised because the negotiations have been too slow. The criticisms are not made in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. His tune has changed.
Order! I call the Leader of the Opposition to order for the second time.
He has changed his tune on this issue as he changes his uniforms.
Order! I call the honourable member for Eastwood to order.
The Opposition said, "The coalition initiated the transfer of the RAS to Homebush and championed the establishment of a film studio for Sydney." It went on, "We have always supported the concept but we have been appalled at Labor's management of the issue."
Order! I call the honourable member for Gordon to order.
The Opposition criticises the snail's pace of negotiation. I can reveal to the House that documents written a month before expressions of interest were called show that the former Government, as a result of the work of the present Leader of the Opposition -
Order! I call the honourable member for Northcott to order.
- was already talking to Fox. Public servants had been designated -
No, it was not directed to all of them. I have here the minutes of the meeting. The Ministry for the Arts was "to be the sole point of contact with News Limited". There was no mention of the other two. It is on the record. The Leader of the Opposition should call for it to be tabled. Minutes of a 15 November 1994 interdepartmental committee show that "a critical decision" made at the meeting was to appoint the Ministry for the Arts as "the sole point of contact with News Limited" - before expressions of interest to develop the site had been called for. The former Treasurer and Minister for the Arts briefed ministerial colleagues on 4 November about his enthusiasm for the showground redevelopment and said that Fox had shown strong interest in acquiring the site. He told colleagues on 4 November:
Twentieth-Century Fox Studios have indicated strong interest in establishing and operating studios at the showground. Fox's plans are predicated on the facilities also being used by independent producers and encompassing a cluster development with associated independent facilities, post-production, wardrobe, set construction, et cetera.
He said that there was strong support from the local industry for the Fox proposal. There was no mention of the other two. He continued:
It is understood a detailed submission to the New South Wales Government is currently being prepared by Fox.
That was a month before expressions of interest were called for. I said today that this development is a great win for New South Wales. It is also a win for Australia because it means -
Order! I call the honourable member for Gordon to order for the second time.
- that there will be substantial movie making in this city. It means a new industry and $120 million worth of investment. The development means quality jobs for young Australians. New South Wales got the studios - Kennett in Victoria did not, nor did Queensland. The Leader of the Opposition is doing Jeff Kennett's bidding. The performance of the coalition in the upper House is designed to drive investment away from New South Wales. But when the Fox people went to see the Leader of the Opposition he pathetically said, "I have no objection to this."
Order! I call the honourable member for Ermington to order for the second time.
The Leader of the Opposition just wants to get the credit. I remind honourable members of the performance of the Leader of the Opposition over the last two days. He persecuted a member of the staff of the Treasurer. He went out of his way to call this young man - who had paid a price for his criminal behaviour when he was 15 to 18 years old - a drug baron.
On a point of order: the Premier has drifted away from the intention of the question. It is outrageous that he has raised this issue in the House.
Order! I understand the point of order of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I suggest that the Premier return to the subject matter of the question, which is quite specific.
The development is a major investment in the economic future of this State and jobs for young Australians. The facility will include multiple sound stages of varying sizes, post-production facilities for picture and sound editing, communication links and facilities, back lot areas for external shooting, and screen facilities for viewing work in progress. The facility will be available for the Australian film industry. It will be the biggest studio complex in the English-speaking world outside the United States.
Order! I call the honourable member for Northcott to order for the second time.
We are told by the honourable member for Bligh that the Murdoch studios will be a traffic hazard, a pollutant and an environmental insult to the self-image of a proud and genteel neighbourhood. It is as if the Government is proposing a hog slaughterhouse or a sewage farm for the site.
Order! I call the honourable member for Eastwood to order for the second time.
The coalition originally wanted to build high-rise housing on the site. In due course, it came to the conclusion that the site would be better served by a studio, with all that that might mean.
Order! I call the honourable member for Gordon to order for the third time.
Without the achievements of Labor governments this city would have none of its great cultural institutions.
Order! I call the honourable member for Baulkham Hills to order for the third time.
I instance our Opera House, where The Eighth Wonder
is currently being performed. I remind honourable members that a Labor government championed the Sydney Opera House, and that Bob Askin tried to thwart it. A carping, negative Liberal Party-National Party Opposition opposed the Opera House every inch of the visionary way. The Wran Government committed itself to delivering the Woolloomooloo finger wharf as a home for two great arts companies, the Sydney Theatre Company and the Sydney Dance Company. This Labor Government is proposing a Sydney home for Australian cinema - just as the Opera House is the Sydney home for culture - with the jobs, kudos, national pride, tourism potential, and artistic and commercial opportunities that come with it. If the coalition likes, it can go to the next election with the promise to tear down the studios and build high-rise, high-density housing on the site. The Labor Party will take a stand for a home for the Australian film industry. We will say with pride, "We got it; the other States wanted it but we got it for our city."
SYDNEY SHOWGROUND SITE DEVELOPMENT
Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. In the light of the Premier's answer, will he tell the House what support the Labor Party will get from Rupert Murdoch in future elections?
Yes, I can. The Labor Party announced its policy on this issue in the last week of the State election campaign. Michael Egan said that in view of the leaked advice from the Ministry for the Arts recommending one-on-one negotiation with Fox, the Labor Party in government would proceed to take the advice of public servants and have one-on-one negotiations with Fox.
Order! I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to order for the second time.
Within three days the Murdoch press had spoken. It came out with a ringing endorsement of the Fahey Government, and recommended a vote for the re-election of the Fahey team. I see that the great strategic genius of the State election campaign, Barry O'Farrell, is nodding his head.
On a point of order: the Premier should refer to members by their electorate.
Order! The Premier will refer to the honourable member for Northcott in the appropriate manner.
The honourable member for Northcott - the greatest living political strategic genius - opened the Daily Telegraph Mirror
on the last days of the election campaign and there it was: Murdoch had spoken; a ringing endorsement of the coalition team. My faith in the commonsense of the electorate was never as great as when voters in the seats of Gladesville, Badgerys Creek and the Blue Mountains cast aside the advice of Rupert Murdoch and voted for the Labor Party instead.
Will the Minister for Agriculture inform the House of recent developments with the rabbit calicivirus in New South Wales?
I take it from the Premier's previous answer that I have lost my application for a hog slaughterhouse at the Royal Agricultural Society Showground site! On 15 October 1995 the rabbit calicivirus was confirmed in a rabbit on the mainland of Australia. The disease has subsequently spread to a number of locations throughout south-eastern Australia. Rabbit calicivirus has now been detected as close as 25 kilometres from the New South Wales border - very close to the electorate of the honourable member for Broken Hill. There have been several reports of unusual rabbit deaths in the Broken Hill area, but none have been confirmed as having been caused by rabbit calicivirus.
The Minister will ignore interjections and seek to conclude his answer as soon as possible.
It appears that the virus has now reached New South Wales. Yesterday evening rabbit carcasses taken from Broken Hill and believed to be infected with the rabbit calicivirus were forwarded to the Adelaide laboratories for testing. Confirmation of the cause of death will not be received until late this afternoon. Laboratories at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute, Camden, are gearing up for the testing of the virus.
The Leader of the National Party said that the Wagga Wagga laboratories should be used. The Leader of the National Party said that the closure of Wagga Wagga and Armidale veterinary laboratories has been ill-timed because of the calicivirus outbreak, the problems that have arisen with regard to the equine morbillivirus and the detection in this State of the papaya fruit fly. Though I am a city bloke and I sometimes rely on the advice of country members of Parliament, I am sure that no country member of Parliament has taken a papaya fruit fly to a veterinarian lately. I am sure also that veterinary laboratories have nothing to do with fruit fly research.
I call the honourable member for Monaro to order.
Living in the country does not give one a mortgage on rural intelligence if what the Leader of the National Party has said is anything to go by. More than 100,000 doses of rabbit calicivirus vaccine will shortly arrive in the country, and the manufacturer, Cyanamid Webster, will distribute supplies to veterinary practitioners. Owners of pet rabbits and commercial breeders and operators will be able to use normal hygiene practices, the vaccine or a combination of both to protect domestic rabbits from this disease. In the first instance, owners may wish to take precautions to ensure that their animals are sheltered from potential sources of infection, which includes contact with wild rabbits, bush flies, mosquitoes and fleas.
Vaccination against the disease appears to be the best option, and I believe it should be recommended. New South Wales Agriculture, in conjunction with the New South Wales Pest Animal Council, is developing strategies that will maximise the benefits of rabbit calicivirus as a tool for controlling pest rabbits. Despite the spread of the virus, there is no guarantee that all areas of New South Wales will become infected by natural spread, but an active spread would be highly desirable in time. Before the virus can be strategically released, the provisions of the Commonwealth State Biological Control Act must be activated.
This will necessitate a public inquiry, where concerns of interested parties can be examined before final approval can be given for an active release. It is therefore important that a public inquiry, to be undertaken by the Commonwealth Government, is proceeded with as soon as possible. The inquiry will include consideration of the economic effects of such a release, its impact on the environment, the use of the rabbit calicivirus to control rabbit populations, and community concerns about its use. I have endorsed a recommendation, as has Federal Senator Bob Collins, to activate the Biological Control Act and proceed with the public inquiry.
Rabbits are a significant pest to agricultural industries as well as a major cause of land degradation. Recent estimates of the cost of lost agricultural production because of damage caused by rabbits is around $600 million a year - even more when environmental degradation is taken into account. The precise effects on Australian native fauna arising from a significant decrease in rabbits due to rabbit calicivirus are unknown, and it is appropriate that predator control programs are factored in. Though the former bounty practice has often proved unsuccessful, its use as a short-term control of other predators has not been ruled out. Currently I am considering adopting an innovative program by the Goulburn Rural Lands Protection Board to reduce rabbit population by a combination of normal rabbit control programs and, if approved, the rabbit calicivirus release. This will reduce soil erosion within catchment areas. The board, in conjunction with New South Wales Agriculture, hopes to employ a minimum of 10 people through the Commonwealth's new work opportunity program, which has the potential to employ up to 30 staff to combat this pest.
The impact of calicivirus on the rabbit population when it does spread across New South Wales will be devastating, similar to the effects of the myxomatosis disease in the 1950s. Overseas experience suggests that between 60 per cent and 80 per cent of the adult rabbit population will be eliminated, with resultant significant benefits to agriculture and the environment. There is a mixed bag of reactions to the virus. Obviously, the honourable member for Broken Hill is very experienced with land degradation and its effects on farmers. Other people have different concerns about the virus. I believe it would have been better to have a controlled release of the virus in 1998. However, now that the virus is here, we must manage it in the best way possible and ensure that the community is advised of any implications of its release and its impact on the environment in country New South Wales.
TAXI TRANSPORT SUBSIDY SCHEME
Will the Minister for Transport, and Minister for Tourism advise the House what action he is taking to combat the recently reported practice of fraud by beneficiaries of the taxi transport subsidy scheme and their drivers?
Yesterday, the Daily Telegraph Mirror
drew attention to an investigation that is currently under way being conducted by the Department of Transport into allegations of fraud involving taxi drivers and participants in the taxi transport subsidy scheme. The scheme provides subsidised taxi travel for people with severe and permanent disabilities through a docket system. One docket is given to the driver at the end of each journey showing half the metered fare to a maximum of $25. There is no limit to the number of trips per beneficiary, because when the docket book runs out, members of the scheme can simply apply for a new one.
The taxi transport subsidy scheme recognises the difficulties experienced by many people with disabilities. The scheme is fully supported by this Government. It is in line with the Government's commitment to providing a fair go for all. Any abuse of this scheme, the falsification of dockets or trading in dockets for profit, is nothing more than a shameful rip-off which diverts funds that could otherwise be used to increase and expand benefits and support for people with disabilities. It is a rip-off which blackens the names of the thousands of taxi drivers and people with disabilities who use the scheme in the way it was intended. Finally, it is a rort against the taxpayers of New South Wales.
The Department of Transport monitors the scheme and it is standard practice to question scheme members if docket usage seems excessive. All suspected fraud is investigated and any suggestion of scheme abuse is referred to police to consider laying charges of fraud. Yesterday's newspaper article suggested that participants in this unscrupulous rort are coached to give plausible stories to departmental investigators, and that it is this conspiracy between drivers and scheme members which makes it extremely difficult for investigators to build a case. Despite the difficulties, the Government will do everything possible to catch those dishonest people who seek to exploit the scheme. I was disappointed yesterday by the decision of the Daily Telegraph Mirror
to publish the article, despite its promise to my office to postpone the story in order to prevent the current investigation from being compromised.
Order! I call the honourable member for Ermington to order for the third time.
I take this opportunity to inform the House that the subjects of this article were already being investigated and this exposure has not shed any more light on the matter. However, other rorters of the system who are the subject of ongoing investigations can thank the Daily Telegraph Mirror
for the tip-off. Early this year my department conducted an internal audit of the taxi transport subsidy scheme. I believe that the paper dockets will continue to be susceptible to fraud, and I have asked the department to look at the production of a more secure method of payment, such as a card system. Meanwhile, the Department of Transport will continue to investigate any suspicious docket use.
Rip-off merchants should be warned that we will prosecute whenever and wherever possible. It was the Wran Labor Government's commitment to social justice which resulted in the introduction of this scheme in the first place, and the Carr Labor Government has taken the fair-go principle even further by increasing the budget for subsidised transport for people with disabilities. I have no intention of allowing any of that money to be stolen from its rightful recipients. Also, I assure those who exploit the scheme that we will do everything in our power to ensure that they are brought to the attention of the police and made to face the legal consequences.
My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Was an elderly woman with a suspected pulmonary embolism denied admission to Westmead Hospital on Friday, 27 October because the eight medical beds which close every weekend were not available? Is this the future for the New South Wales health system under the Minister's casemix policy?
The answer, of course, is very similar to the answer given earlier: the former Government introduced casemix.
Order! I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to order for the third time. I call the honourable member for Davidson to order.
It is part of the resource allocation formula. The reality is that the former Government introduced casemix in New South Wales. For the slow learners opposite, it is important to recognise that we are not introducing the discredited casemix system introduced in Victoria. I am delighted that the Labor Opposition in Victoria has been using statements made by members opposite to great effect.
Order! The honourable member for North Shore asked the question and should listen to the answer in silence. I call the honourable member for Monaro to order for the second time.
The Victorian Opposition has been using the statements by members opposite to criticise the Victorian Liberal Government for its introduction of casemix in that State. They will be grateful to receive more similar comments; I will be happy to hear more such comments which will be immediately relayed to Victoria so they can be used to great effect. In reality, we are seeing the rebuilding of a public hospital system which the previous Government closed down. The coalition Government closed 5,000 public hospital beds, and had the longest waiting lists ever in this State. It has taken the election of a Labor Government to open the beds, to increase the number of nursing staff, and to increase the number of operating theatre sessions available so that more patients can
access our public hospitals. That is exactly what we are doing. We have already opened 400 more beds in the public hospital system.
Order! I call the honourable member for North Shore to order for the second time.
If the honourable member for North Shore has a concern, she should see her doctor; I am sure that we could make arrangements.
Order! I call the honourable member for North Shore to order for the third time.
We have opened 400 more hospital beds, employed the equivalent of 450 more nurses and provided an extra 1,000 operating theatre sessions a month in the public hospital system. As a result, patients are gaining faster access to our public hospital system. Certainly, after seven years of destruction by the previous Government, it will take a little longer than seven months to rectify the problem, but we will fix it. The people of New South Wales are seeing the improvements already, and they are very pleased to have a Labor Government in this State.
PORTABLE WEIGHING SCALES FOR HEAVY VEHICLES
My question is directed to the Minister for Public Works and Services, Minister for the Olympics, and Minister for Roads. Can he advise the House what he is doing about the problem of the Roads and Traffic Authority using non-certified portable weighing scales for heavy vehicles?
The Roads and Traffic Authority has 450 portable weighing scales in use across the State to weigh suspect overloaded trucks. These portable scales require periodic certification of their accuracy, and such certification is carried out every 12 months or after any significant repairs or servicing. Following newspaper reports suggesting that a large number of scales were uncertified, the RTA undertook an inquiry which led to the discovery of 10 portable weighing scales used by the RTA for which certification had expired. The Government takes a firm line on the enforcement of penalties applying to those who break the road rules, as the community expects it to do. The Government will take an equally firm line on government departments and statutory authorities which do not comply with all the relevant statutory controls.
I view this matter particularly seriously. I have instructed the Roads and Traffic Authority to immediately investigate the number of prosecutions carried out using the uncertified scales, and the amount of any penalties imposed. I am advised by the RTA that the problem is restricted to 10 scales, the worst of which has been out of certification since April of this year. Five of the scales were already undergoing maintenance when the problem was identified, and the RTA has removed the five other scales from service until they are properly certified. At this stage, the RTA has identified some 99 breaches affected by the uncertified scales, out of the annual total of approximately 2,500 breaches issued in the RTA's Sydney region. I am advised that the total value of penalties wrongly imposed in cases involving uncertified scales will be of the order of $40,000 to $60,000.
I announce that any prosecutions dependent on these uncertified scales will be withdrawn and any penalties already imposed will be refunded. I have instructed the RTA to write to all operators who have been affected to inform them of my decision. I am assured by the Chief Executive of the Roads and Traffic Authority that he has taken firm action to ensure that this cannot happen again. He has advised me that the systems used to ensure that portable scales are certified as and when necessary and, more importantly, to ensure that uncertified scales cannot be used in the field, have been considerably tightened. An improved quality assurance system has been put in place in the RTA's division which verifies the accuracy of the scales, and more precise field instructions have been issued to ensure that the certification date of scales is recorded every time an overloaded vehicle is detected. These new controls should ensure that this unfortunate incident will not be repeated.
TECHNICAL AND FURTHER EDUCATION
My question is directed to the Minister for Education and Training. Do the Minister's plans for technical and further education involve open competition in mainstream courses between TAFE and private providers? Does this amount to the virtual privatisation of TAFE?
I am very grateful to the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai for both his questions, the answer to which is no. As I have pointed out repeatedly, there are no plans to privatise TAFE. We will not sell off TAFE the way that the previous Government sold off the State Bank and the Government Insurance Office - that was privatisation by the previous Government. We are not about privatising anything; we are about providing efficient service for the public of New South Wales in both first- and second-chance education.
The tendering issue is raised time and time again, so I make the point plain: we are talking about a tendering proposal under the Australian National Training Authority funding arrangement with the Commonwealth which amounts to less than 1 per cent of the total TAFE budget of $1.4 billion. Also, TAFE will win the bulk of those tenders. The member for Ku-ring-gai should not continue the furphy, also raised by the Teachers' Federation, in relation to these matters. The member is responsible for adding to the misinformation provided to the public.
Order! I call the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai to order.
The member for Ku-ring-gai stands condemned by his own words.
Order! I call the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai to order for the second time.
The previous Government could not fill TAFE places and it wasted money on administration. The current Government will fix the problems.
On a point of order: I wondered why the Minister was not called to order more quickly on the basis that he was purposely taunting the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai.
Order! No point of order is involved.
FORESTRY PLANTATIONS INVESTMENT
My question is directed to the Minister for Land and Water Conservation. Can he tell the House what the Government proposes to do to encourage investment in forestry plantations in New South Wales?
Members opposite should not laugh too soon.
Order! I call the honourable member for Lane Cove to order for the second time.
Today the State Government takes another great step forward in its strategy to create new jobs and save forests. Today it releases for public consultation a bill which will simultaneously attract investment to New South Wales and help shift the timber industry out of irreplaceable old-growth, high conservation value forests and into plantations.
Order! I call the honourable member for Lane Cove to order for the third time.
The Government's proposed Timber Plantations (Harvest Security) Bill will provide to investors in plantations a certainty of return that they have never had in New South Wales. It will encourage them to look with renewed interest at investing in plantations, and the Government believes that it will lay the foundations for a substantial hardwood industry which will benefit the State for generations to come. The Government's proposed bill eliminates the serious flaws evident in the bill of the Fahey Government and in the equally deficient copy of that bill put forward this year by the honourable member for Ballina. In the draft bill the Government will put forward for consultation today, plantations have been better defined to ensure that a natural native forest cannot be wrongly identified as a plantation.
Mr D. L. Page:
On a point of order: the Minister is clearly engaging in a ministerial statement rather than answering the question. I suggest that you ask him to make a ministerial statement at the correct time, which is not during question time.
Order! The point of order is not upheld.
The bill also discourages the inappropriate clearing of native forests to establish a plantation. Plantations which are established on land laid bare after native forests have been inappropriately logged are excluded from the advantages outlined in the proposed bill.
Order! I call the honourable member for Port Macquarie to order.
Together with the Government's native vegetation management policy - State environmental planning policy 46 - the bill provides protection for our valuable native forests that was not even considered by the previous Government. Most important, the Government's bill provides for public consultation - something the Fahey Government completely overlooked when dealing with legislation.
Order! I call the honourable member for South Coast to order.
This Government has provided for public consultation because it listens to and works with the community.
Order! I call the honourable member for Port Macquarie to order for the second time.
The bill has been sent to major stakeholders today and will be available from State Forests regional offices from today. The public will have until the end of the month to comment. The Government will carefully consider public submissions before putting a final bill before the House. However, true to the Government's word to the industry, which is eager for these long-overdue laws to be in place, we aim to have this important legislation in place by the end of the year. The draft bill provides for a system of accreditation of plantations, and accredited plantations will be exempt from the government harvesting regulations that apply to natural native forests.
Order! I call the honourable member for Coffs Harbour to order.
This recognises that the community cannot afford to manage plantations as if they were native forests. While hardwood plantations may resemble natural forests, they are not natural forests and cannot be subject to regulations which make their harvesting unreliable. Regulations from which plantations will be exempt include the need to obtain licences under the National Parks and Wildlife Act and the need for development consent under the Environmental
Planning and Assessment Act. Instead, the Director-General of the Department of Land and Water Conservation will prepare a code to regulate plantation harvesting operations. This code may deal with matters such as soil erosion and the protection of native plants and animals.
Order! If the honourable member for South Coast continues to interject, he will be removed from the Chamber.
It must be about time he was. This Government is serious about providing a future for the hardwood industry in New South Wales. It has done more in seven months of government than the former Government did in seven years. The Government is confident that the public discussion on this issue that will begin today will produce an excellent result for conservation and for the hardwood timber industry.
Questions without notice concluded.
REAL ESTATE AGENT Mr TONY ANDREA
I wish to make a personal explanation.
On 12 October this year I made a private member's statement expressing concerns within my electorate at the continued operation of Tony Andrea as a real estate agent despite an adverse Independent Commission Against Corruption report relating to charges of bribery. It has come to my attention that copies of my statement have apparently been circulated within the electorate with the intention of doing commercial damage to Mr Andrea's employer, Ian Clarke The Professionals, Thornleigh. The expression of concern in my statement related solely to what I saw as a failure by the Real Estate Services Council to take appropriate action to withdraw Mr Andrea's licence to operate. No reflection was intended about Ian Clarke The Professionals. I have no reason to believe that the organisation is other than a reputable real estate company. I do not support the circulation of this material to harm that company, nor did I play any part in its distribution.
AGRICULTURAL ADVISORY SERVICES
I wish to make a personal explanation.
In question time today the Minister for Agriculture said that I had by way of press statement referred to the closing of the veterinary laboratories at Wagga Wagga and Armidale in connection with the rabbit virus and the papaya fruit fly incidents. He misled this Parliament, because -
Order! The Leader of the National Party is outside the leave relative to personal explanations. He may proceed so long as he complies with the standing orders.
The press release referred to, which is dated 1 November 1995, in part states:
Mr Armstrong says current rabbit virus and papaya fruit fly incidents are a twin demonstration of the need to maintain strong front line advisory services to the farm sector.
It is also stated, quoting my words:
Closures of veterinary research laboratories at Armidale and Wagga Wagga, along with the dismembering of research at the Biological and Chemical Research Institute in Sydney, are coming when we have not one but two clear examples of sudden crises.
The last part of the press release states:
". . . and review immediately the closure of the Armidale, Wagga Wagga and Rydalmere facilities," Mr Armstrong says.
The biological and chemical research facilities at Rydalmere are the home of plant pathologists in this State. The Minister should get his facts correct before he makes false accusations.
CONSIDERATION OF URGENT MOTIONS
(Marrickville - Deputy Premier, Minister for Health, and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) [3.28]: This motion is urgent. This week is National Diabetes Week and, obviously, we want to make sure that the programs introduced by the Carr Government to combat diabetes - an illness that leads to blindness, to gangrene and the requirement for limb amputations, and to premature death - receive full support from this House. I ask that the House supports my contention that this motion for urgency should proceed.
Technical and Further Education
(Ku-ring-gai) [3.29]: I wish the House to consider as a matter of urgency the concerns of technical and further education teachers that the Government has not provided adequate assurances about the future of TAFE. I want the opportunity for the House to condemn the Government for precipitating, by its lack of consultation, the industrial action that has disrupted TAFE students today. I want the House as a matter of urgency to call on the Government to provide immediately full details about its future plans for TAFE. I also want the House as a matter of
urgency to call on the Government to provide assurances that those plans do not amount to the virtual privatisation of TAFE.
The community needs to know what is the Government's agenda on TAFE. It is urgent that we debate this matter today, to provide the Minister with the opportunity to place on the record of this House precisely what he is going to do to the TAFE commission in New South Wales. It is urgent that happens today, because every day that goes past is another day when there is not only disruption - and I shall come to that in a moment - but uncertainty about the future of TAFE. The Minister could put an end to uncertainty today, if he would tell this House, in this motion, precisely what the Government is going to do with TAFE. Today thousands of TAFE teachers are on strike. The Government has lost the confidence of those teachers. It is urgent -
On a point of order: the honourable member is supposed to establish why debate on his motion should take precedence over the other matter that was raised today. The honourable member is debating the issue and not saying why his concern should be debated.
On the point of order: Mr Speaker, on a previous occasion you have ruled that the second speaker in a debate is not to debate the previous motion. The rules are unclear and I urge you to make a clear ruling so that all honourable members will know how the debate is to take place.
Order! The standing orders with regard to this procedure are clear. The honourable member must endeavour to convince the House that his motion should receive precedence over that of the Minister and not seek to debate the substantive motion.
My motion should take precedence today because today is the day that thousands of TAFE teachers are on strike and tens of thousands of TAFE students have had their plans disrupted. Today is the day that TAFE teachers have demonstrated no confidence in the Minister, no confidence in the Government and no confidence in the consultation process about the future of TAFE.
On a point of order: the honourable member is debating the reasons his urgency motion should take precedence but he is not stating why it should take precedence over the other motion.
Order! The point taken is valid. However, I am sure the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai was about to state the reasons that his motion should be given priority.
My motion should take precedence today because today is the day that TAFE teachers demonstrated that they have no confidence in the Government. Today is the day they called, at an industrial meeting, for the Government to provide them with assurances. Debate on this matter today will give the Government the chance to place those assurances on record. There can be nothing more urgent for TAFE teachers today than to hear what the Government plans for TAFE, because the teachers do not believe what the Minister is saying. The teachers have no confidence in a consultation process that has caused them to provide submissions. The so-called consultation process has been a make-work scheme to divert attention from the real agenda of the Government.
Today is the day this motion should take precedence because today is the day that thousands of students have had their plans disrupted because of the Government's mishandling of this issue. Today is the day we need to hear the Government's rationale for the restructuring of TAFE. If that restructuring, as was the restructuring of the Department of School Education, is based on economics alone, there is no educational rationale to justify the massive disruption and dismemberment of an important institution. Today is the day we need to hear that the Government remains committed to a social agenda, an agenda for second-chance education, for access and equity programs which will not be excessively Hilmerised so that the guts are ripped out of TAFE and it loses its essence. Today is the day that this House needs to hear those assurances from the Government. [Time expired.
Question - That the motion for urgent consideration of Dr Refshauge be proceeded with - put.
The House divided.
Ms Allan Mr Markham
Mr Amery Mr Martin
Mr Anderson Ms Meagher
Ms Andrews Mr Mills
Mr Aquilina Mr Moss
Mrs Beamer Mr Nagle
Mr Clough Mr Neilly
Mr Debus Ms Nori
Mr Face Mr E. T. Page
Mr Gaudry Mr Price
Mr Gibson Dr Refshauge
Mrs Grusovin Mr Rogan
Ms Hall Mr Rumble
Mr Harrison Mr Scully
Ms Harrison Mr Shedden
Mr Hunter Mr Stewart
Mr Iemma Mr Sullivan
Mr Knight Mr Tripodi
Mr Knowles Mr Watkins
Mr Langton Mr Whelan
Mrs Lo Po' Mr Yeadon
Mr Lynch Tellers
Mr McBride Mr Beckroge
Mr McManus Mr Thompson
Mr Armstrong Ms Moore
Mr Beck Mr O'Doherty
Mr Blackmore Mr O'Farrell
Mr Causley Mr D. L. Page
Mr Chappell Mr Peacocke
Mrs Chikarovski Mr Phillips
Mr Cochran Mr Photios
Mr Collins Mr Richardson
Mr Cruickshank Mr Rixon
Mr Debnam Mr Rozzoli
Mr Downy Mr Schipp
Mr Ellis Mrs Skinner
Mr Fahey Mr Slack-Smith
Ms Ficarra Mr Small
Mr Fraser Mr Smith
Mr Glachan Mr Souris
Mr Hartcher Mr Tink
Mr Hazzard Mr Turner
Mr Humpherson Mr West
Dr Kernohan Mr Windsor
Mr Kinross Mr Zammit
Dr Macdonald Tellers
Ms Machin Mr Jeffery
Mr Merton Mr Kerr
Mr Carr Mr Longley
Mr Crittenden Mr Schultz
Order! The vote being equal, for the reasons advanced by the Deputy Premier I cast my vote with the ayes and declare the question to be resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration of Urgent Motion
(Marrickville - Deputy Premier, Minister for Health, and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) [3.40]: I move:
That this House notes as a matter of urgency the alarming prevalence of diabetes in New South Wales which is causing ill effects such as blindness, loss of extremities and premature death, and supports the Carr Government's decision to implement integrated care projects to improve treatment for people with diabetes.
Diabetes is an alarming problem in New South Wales. It has a prevalence of between 3 per cent and 4 per cent in the general community, but among older people the figure increases to one in 10. In some Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander communities the prevalence of people affected is as high as one in five. Two factors make the issue of diabetes an urgent matter for consideration by this House: firstly, between one-quarter and one-half of all people living with diabetes are unaware that they have the condition; and, secondly, if the method of treating diabetes is improved people will be saved from potential blindness, loss of limbs and premature death.
Many of the human tragedies caused by diabetes will be prevented if action is taken now. This House should support the urgent action being taken by the Government to improve the approach to the treatment of diabetes. Part of the problem lies with the lack of coordination of services, with missed opportunities for early intervention, and with preventative education not reaching all affected people. Many excellent diabetes services are available in New South Wales, and individual doctors and facilities across the State are providing quality care and information. Long-term projects have also dealt successfully with particular aspects of diabetes.
However, some people with diabetes still do not have access to appropriate care. That is especially true in rural and remote areas of New South Wales where geographic isolation makes it difficult for people to get the type of regular access to care that they need. Aboriginal communities, who are among those worst affected by diabetes, also face enormous problems gaining access to diabetes services. Diabetes is also prevalent among some groups of people from non-English speaking backgrounds and, again, the people most affected often face barriers to effective education and regular care. The Government proposes to establish integrated diabetes management systems at three pilot sites across New South Wales.
The aim of the pilots is to develop the best and the most effective diabetes management system. Once developed, the system will be implemented throughout New South Wales. The programs will ensure that every person with diabetes has access to education for self-care and monitoring. They will also ensure ongoing clinical care to promote good metabolic control. The programs will involve regular monitoring for signs of complications, and appropriate treatment and follow-up will be arranged. The aim of the Government is to provide every community with access to a spectrum of local, culturally appropriate care. Members of this House owe it to communities they represent to support the program initiated by the Government.
I would like to put into context the harm which arises from diabetes. In the United Kingdom and the United States of America diabetes is the most common cause of blindness in persons between the ages of 16 and 65 years. Although no figures are available, that is almost certainly the case in Australia also. Diabetes is the most common cause of non-traumatic limb amputations. It is a major factor in the rapid expansion in the demand for renal dialysis, and is the second most common reason for enrolment for dialysis and for kidney transplants in Australia. Debilitating and often fatal conditions, such as coronary heart disease and strokes, are exacerbated by diabetes. It is a common cause of impotence, which affects 40 per cent of men with diabetes over the age of 40, and 60 per cent of men with diabetes over the age of 60.
For Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people the situation is far worse. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of premature death among adult Aboriginal men. As honourable members know the life expectancy of Aboriginal men is 20 or more years less than their non-Aboriginal counterparts in Australia. Honourable members should make no mistake: diabetes is a tragic disease that can impose an enormous personal cost on an affected individual. For the health system, of course, the cost of not treating diabetes is just as extreme. Everyone in the community will benefit if people with diabetes are assisted to stay healthy.
Many of the complications caused by diabetes which put patients into hospital may be prevented by good metabolic control, early detection and appropriate treatment. Early detection is vital because the worst effects of diabetes are preventable. Blindness caused by diabetes is preventable in 60 per cent to 70 per cent of cases; amputations caused by diabetes are preventable in 50 per cent of cases; and the treatment of diabetes-related hypertension will significantly slow the progress of renal problems. If the new approach has the reach and effectiveness expected by the Government, it has the potential to save the sight of as many as 32 people each year, to halve the number of lower limb amputations, and to help people with diabetes live longer and healthier lives.
Central to the Government's response to diabetes will be the development of a statewide system of integrated management of the disease. The pathology of diabetes cries out for such an approach. In May the Government released the consensus guidelines for the management of insulin-dependent and non-insulin-dependent diabetes. These guidelines were developed in consultation with health care professionals and consumers. Diabetes Australia was instrumental in this work. The consultation process involved in the development of the guidelines also recommended the establishment of projects to implement systems of integrated care and an evaluation of the guidelines.
The New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth Government have responded to the community by agreeing to fund these projects. New South Wales will fund area and district health services, Aboriginal medical services and public health units so that they can work cooperatively tackle the significant problem of diabetes. The Commonwealth Government will fund the divisions of general practice for their work in conjunction with public health units. An amount of $2 million has been committed to this project over the next two years. The Government is also committed to implementing the successful strategies across New South Wales.
I have announced today the development of three pilot sites for the system of integrating diabetes services. They are in western Sydney, the Macleay-Hastings district and the far west of New South Wales. Each of these local projects has been the result of a partnership of general practitioners, other health care providers and people with diabetes in the local area. All three areas have clearly demonstrated populations in need of care. They have all identified clearly improvements that can be made in the integration of services and how those improvements will result in better care. All three areas have significant at-risk populations.
In western Sydney nine groups from non-English speaking backgrounds have been identified as being at risk and strategies aimed at each individual group will be established. All three areas have significant Aboriginal communities. The support of the local Aboriginal community-controlled medical services has been vital to successfully establishing each of the projects. That support will be even more important in the implementation of the services. This is another sign of the success of the partnership between the Government and Aboriginal community-controlled medical services in initiating, early in the Government's term of office, the delivery of health outcomes for Aboriginal people. Of course, this is the only way to produce culturally appropriate health care strategies.
To achieve real gains in the treatment of non-insulin-dependent diabetes we must change lifestyles, and lifestyle change cannot be imposed from above. Without the full cooperation of local Aboriginal communities programs will not succeed. The reverse side of the coin is the remarkable success which can be achieved by working in partnership with the community. Diabetes prevention and treatment are a priority for this Government. We are meeting our commitment to people with diabetes by working with them and health professionals to build better services. Part of the commitment is the development of integrated care. The Government will play its part in building a strategy which will ensure that every person in this State has access to the care he or she needs. I hope members of this House will support the Government in this initiative, one we hope will be replicated throughout New South Wales and further afield as successes are proven.
(North Shore) [3.50]: The Opposition also notes as a matter of urgency the prevalence of diabetes in New South Wales and is concerned about the number of cases of undiagnosed diabetes. I have personal experience with this as one of my staff members is married to a man who has had mature-age-onset diabetes recently diagnosed. I am very happy to say that with proper care he is able to control the condition without medication but simply by changing his diet and looking after himself a little better. It is encouraging that such practices can be effective without medication. I know of the serious consequences of diabetes, particularly blindness, amputation, renal failure and so on which the Minister mentioned.
However, I wish to comment on the way in which the Minister has addressed the matter to date. Because of the great concentration on reducing hospital waiting lists, money has been diverted for this purpose throughout New South Wales. I have said on a number of occasions that I am getting feedback from hospitals, particularly those in country New South Wales, that they have insufficient money to meet the waiting list reduction program and that they are having to divert money away from important programs to top up the money required for the waiting list reduction program. This means the system is being bled dry. In some areas community health and preventive programs such as those for diabetes are being cut. Because the Premier said that regions would not be funded unless the monthly targets were met there is enormous political pressure on hospitals to meet the targets. Money is being bled from much-needed clinical services and community health services which are involved in detection and treatment of diabetes.
The Minister for Health abolished the health promotion unit, which would have had a very important role in alerting the population to the necessity of being watchful in regard to diabetes, particularly mature-age-onset diabetes. It is a shame that the health promotion unit is not around to assist the Minister in getting the information out to the world. The Minister mentioned renal dialysis. On a number of occasions I have been approached by patients and hospitals concerned about reductions in renal dialysis services. The matter was first brought to my attention by the director of the renal unit at Royal North Shore Hospital, which I consider to be my local hospital. He was disturbed that lack of funding prevented his accepting new patients, particularly as expensive dialysis equipment was still in boxes because of insufficient funds to employ staff to operate it. A similar situation applies in other areas, but renal dialysis is an essential component of treating some people with diabetes and that is why I have raised it in this debate.
The same doctor raised his concern about funding cuts for home dialysis. Given the push to increase home dialysis rather than having patients travel to hospital for treatment when they are obviously extremely sick, the cuts are extraordinary. If anyone wishes to see letters from the doctor they are available. I have already raised the matter with the media. I would be happy to provide the letters to the Minister. He does not know of the specific instances. Hospitals in the Hunter have told dialysis patients who have travelled extensive distances while very ill to receive treatment at John Hunter Hospital that their regular appointments could not be kept and they would have to travel to Sydney to receive treatment. It is all very well to say that dialysis is an important aspect of care of diabetes patients - the Opposition agrees - but the treatment must be provided where it is needed.
The veterans, who until recently were covered by the Commonwealth, have had their treatment transferred to the State system, and insufficient care has been taken to ensure that their treatment has been maintained through home nursing. I understand that many veterans cannot manage home dialysis because they live alone. They now have to be treated in hospital, often after having to travel long distances. The director of the North Shore unit told me that these very ill people have to travel long distances three times a week for treatment, because dialysis is not a matter of choice; it is a matter of essential care. The Minister referred to the need to identify people at risk, particularly in the western Sydney area. I remind the Minister of a patient identified as at risk who was referred to at question time today. The Minister was faxed a letter by Dr Roberta Chow on 27 October this year. The doctor had written to the Minister previously on the matter but still has received no response. The letter states:
I find myself writing again in great frustration. It is 4.20 p.m. on a Friday afternoon and I have a patient, an insulin-requiring diabetic patient, in her early 60's, with several risk factors who has just had a presumptive diagnosis of a pulmonary embolus. I have rung Westmead Hospital to have her admitted but I'm told there are no beds for her. In fact they have closed 8 medical beds over the weekend as they apparently do every Friday.
I agree with the Minister that it is extremely important to identify people who are at risk. Obviously this insulin-dependent diabetic patient is at risk. Her doctor feels so concerned for her welfare that she faxed the letter to the Minister on 27 October. Today is 14 November and the doctor has not received a reply from the Minister. The Minister's attitude is hypocritical and two faced. If the Minister is serious about giving priority to diabetes patients he should respond to such letters written in great frustration and make sure that money is not diverted from important clinical services such as those providing care for diabetic patients to the waiting list reduction program. He has admitted in private conversations - obviously, they are not so private now - with health carers that he has to focus on the waiting list reduction program because his political neck is at stake.
The Minister is failing on the waiting list promise. Everyone has seen the different ways he is fudging the figures, including excluding people awaiting certain procedures. On the John Laws program the other day it was claimed that there was a telephonic instruction to hospitals that patients requiring treatment in 1996 are not to be on the computerised waiting list. So the Opposition cannot get access to the figures when it uses freedom of information provisions to get the statistics. I commend to honourable members the speech John Laws made a few weeks ago on radio station 2UE. I have circulated several copies of his speech, but I shall ensure that all honourable members receive a copy. If the Minister is serious about diabetes patients getting the treatment they deserve, he will
make sure that the money that is being diverted to save his political skin will be used to assist in the diagnosis of diabetes and to put into place preventive programs and, where necessary, hospital treatment.
(Parramatta - Minister for Sport and Recreation) [4.00]: The evidence is compelling that programs must be initiated to combat the avoidable illnesses and injuries resulting from diabetes. While many existing services adequately cope with the problems of diabetes sufferers, many others have fallen through the cracks. Those most at risk of suffering an avoidable diabetes-related illness are those from non-English speaking backgrounds, those living in remote or rural areas, and Aboriginal people. Clearly, diabetes services are not being used either because they are not readily accessible or because people are unaware they are suffering from diabetes. This issue needs urgent attention. One area which needs special attention is Sydney's greater west. Seven years of Liberal mismanagement and indiscriminate budget cuts have had a serious and negative impact on health services in Sydney's greater west.
On a point of order: on occasions leniency is shown in this House with regard to members reading speeches. The standing orders provide that speeches must be the member's own words. Members should be allowed to refer to notes. Ministers, of course, should deliver second reading speeches from prepared texts. However, when members speak to a motion such as this, their words should come from the heart, and not from a text prepared by someone else.
Order! I am sure the Minister for Sport and Recreation is only referring to copious notes.
The Carr Government has acted quickly to redress the imbalance caused by the Greiner and Fahey governments. In recognition of the growing population pressures and demands in Sydney's greater west, badly needed health resources have been redirected to that area. The moves to cut back on the incidence of diabetes-related illnesses will especially target Sydney's greater west. In line with the initiatives on diabetes formulated by the New South Wales and Commonwealth governments, a network of integrated services for diabetes sufferers is being developed in Sydney's greater west. The aim of integrated care is to ensure that everyone suffering from diabetes has access to education for self-care, routine care to promote good diabetes control, and regular screenings for signs of complications arising from diabetes-related conditions.
On a point of order: I am sure the Minister is an excellent speaker. I would like an assurance that this speech is her own work. If it is not, she is clearly flouting the standing orders of this House.
Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition should understand that it is not the responsibility of the Chair to determine the authenticity of comments of members or whether someone else has written the speeches that they deliver.
The further enhancement of integrated care services will result in many of the illnesses associated with diabetes being successfully treated. In line with these initiatives, the potential is available to dramatically reduce the incidence of diabetes-related blindness and lower limb amputations, and to extend the life expectancy and health status of diabetics. Let me outline some of the initiatives the Government has launched to establish an integrated network of diabetes services in Sydney's west. Recent in-patient audits at Westmead Hospital have revealed a 10 per cent prevalence of diabetes in the hospital population and a 15.6 per cent prevalence of diabetes in patients attending the cardiac rehabilitation service. An integrated service in western Sydney is clearly needed. The provision of integrated services for diabetics forms the basis of the western Sydney diabetes services plan for 1994 to 1997. The plan seeks to enhance services for diabetics at all levels of service delivery.
On a point of order: I presume the continuous reading of a speech that was obviously prepared in the office of the Minister for Health means that members can read speeches, regardless of who prepared them, rather than work from notes and speak from the heart. No-one complains about members referring to notes. However, the standing orders do not allow members to read straight from text.
Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition states the standing orders correctly. However, I am not certain that the Minister is reading directly from text. In any event, the Minister's time for speaking has expired.
(Miranda - Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [4.05]: The treatment of diabetes is a serious issue. If diabetes has not already affected family members, friends or relatives of most members of this House, it is likely that it will in the future. I understand that a former member of this House, Terry Sheahan, is the president of the National Diabetes Association. He left this place and was surprised to learn that he had acquired a lifestyle disease called late-onset diabetes, a disease that hits people fairly quickly. He is now championing that cause in society and should be commended for bringing the attention of the community to that lifestyle disease. One of the strong arguments I have against the current Government's health policy is the total pre-occupation with volume treatment - the focus on throughput, casemix funding, and on maximising the number of people treated.
In what is supposed to be an urgency motion the Minister for Health talked about integrated management and treatment of people with diabetes. The treatment of diabetes certainly needs to be improved, but the most important thing about diabetes is that it is preventable. Diabetes is largely a lifestyle disease that can be controlled by diet and exercise. Honourable members should clearly understand that neglecting diet and health and neglecting to exercise regularly sends the risk of contracting late-onset diabetes through the roof. Neglecting to have regular blood tests puts people at massive risk of blindness, heart disease and loss of limbs later in life. Diabetes is one of the big issues confronting the health system today.
I was absolutely staggered when the health promotion unit of the Department of Health and the fit 2000 program, which was to be linked with the Olympic Games, were scrapped. Those programs were about investing a small amount of health funding on keeping people well and out of hospital. The community has still not come to grips with the fact that Australians are admitted to hospital 20 per cent more than people in other nations. Australians undergo more operations than people in other nations; they take more drugs and visit doctors more often. The health system obviously has to address the problem of keeping an ageing population well and out of hospital. People do not benefit from living longer if they do not enjoy a good quality of life, and they will not enjoy a good quality of life if they contract late-onset diabetes. The Minister should concentrate on investment in significant health promotion programs to prevent ill health. In the past seven months the Minister has not said one word about that. There have been no new initiatives to deal with tobacco smoking. The Minister has walked away from that problem. The Opposition wants more action to be taken in relation to that and other issues.
Treatment was also referred to. Accident and emergency units treat people with diabetes all the time, yet today when the shadow minister expressed concern for those who were being turned away, the Minister's response was, "Well, I am only the Minister, I am not really responsible. You had better talk to the complaints unit. I have this magic casemix funding system which is increasing throughput and numbers". That is what was wrong with the health system for decades. It concentrated on throughput. The health problems of people in this country will never be solved if more people are made sick. The health system should be about making people well and keeping them out of hospitals and institutions. I appeal to the Minister to tackle the issue of diabetes through better education programs rather than just integrated management programs.
(Broken Hill) [4.10]: It is important that the Parliament and the people of New South Wales understand the Government's program of integrated management of diabetes care, a program on which the Government should be congratulated. It aims to tackle the treatment of diabetes head on and to educate those who suffer from the disease. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition spoke about the late onset of diabetes and in this regard referred to my good friend and colleague Terry Sheahan. My electorate, which is in the far west of the State, extends for great distances but is populated by few people. Hospitals in this region of the State are struggling to deliver services. In recent times rural health units at Dubbo and Broken Hill were set up, and I look forward to those units playing a vital role in this pilot scheme, which is also being conducted in the Macleay-Hastings region, in western Sydney and in the far west. Any project the objective of which is to try to make appropriate health care more accessible across New South Wales should be applauded. It is for that reason that I have decided to speak today in this debate.
Doctors in my electorate have a strong commitment to the success of this important project. The outback division of general practice and the Barrier division of general practice are closely involved in setting the direction and providing delivery of the service. General practitioners, as we all know, are primary caregivers. They look after the basic health care needs of the community and are under extremely constant pressure. The project is a big challenge for general practitioners in the far west. I am pleased that additional funding has been made available by the Commonwealth to enable general practitioners to participate in this pilot project. Diabetes is a lifestyle problem. Many of my friends who have been - for want of a better term - good drinkers over the years, have developed diabetes in their later years. We call it "sugar". People with sugar are put out of action. They are put on either insulin or non-insulin programs. Diabetes often occurs late in life. Where I come from that it happens is taken for granted. The promotion of this pilot project will educate people to moderate their lifestyles to ward off the late onset of diabetes. It is important to get the message across to as many people as possible. I hope the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the rural health units at both Dubbo and Broken Hill are closely associated with the project.
Diabetes affects not only members of the Caucasian population; in rural river towns a high proportion of Aboriginal people contract diabetes. A recent audit of non-infectious diseases in Bourke and Brewarrina found that 30 per cent of the adult Aboriginal population had diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance. Outreach diabetes clinics in the Orana district reveal that 58 per cent of Aboriginal people with diabetes had poor diabetes control. More than one-third of patients had renal disease and one in five had significant retinopathy, a condition that can lead to blindness. Such frightening figures should be warning to us all. We should not be proud of a health system that does not attack the basic problems that face people today. I totally support this motion.
(Marrickville - Deputy Premier, Minister for Health, and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs [4.15], in reply: I thank the Minister for Sport and Recreation and the honourable member for Broken Hill for their supportive comments and for their understanding of the issues regarding diabetes, particularly in their local areas. I thank also the honourable member for North Shore for her words of support. Unfortunately, however, opposition members have a few misconceptions, and I believe it is important that they be put right. The first misconception is that the Carr Government has abolished the health promotions unit. That is not true. What we have done is get rid of Richard McKinnon and his $11,000-a-month waste of space. The former Government was spending its health promotion money on a public consultant trying to sell a dopey political message, that the Fahey Government was doing well. We got rid of him, and we have maintained health promotion.
I know the Opposition health spokesperson is finding it difficult to grapple with her responsibilities. She must realise that it will take her some months, if not years, to learn her job. Perhaps if she started acknowledging some of the truths rather than spreading untruths, it would do her some good. The Government has not abolished health promotion. Rather, it has been expanded and upgraded. Another misconception of the Opposition is that the Government is not interested in prevention. To the contrary. In debate in this House I have spoken about the importance of prevention as an integral part of managing diabetes. Obviously, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition wanted an axe to grind to justify his failure as a health Minister. As he pointed out, prevention is an important part of looking at the whole issue of diabetes, but it does not detract from the fact that we need much better treatment of the disease.
The issues raised by Diabetes Australia in National Diabetes Week relate to treatment and better integration of treatment. It is important that the many people with undetected diabetes are diagnosed and provided with effective treatment. It is well known that with better control of diabetes, patients' blood glucose levels are maintained and they are less likely to suffer retinopathy, neuropathy, micro vessel problems - which lead to major problems with kidney - and micro profusion in the lower limbs and the vital organs. The treatment is incredibly important. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that those who have diabetes live a wretched life.
He said it is a lifestyle disease.
He said it is a wretched life. That is not the appropriate message to the many thousands of people who have diabetes. Treatment can control blood sugar and delay, if not stop, the development of neuropathy, retinopathy and vascular problems. The former Minister also claimed that Fit 2000 was suddenly a fantastic program. It could have been a fantastic program had he provided money for it, but he did not provide one red cent for the Fit 2000 program. He provided a telephone line on which people were told, "Sorry, there's no money." It was an absolute disaster! It may be that the former Minister liked to run a health promotion scheme whereby people would make submissions and call a special telephone number only to have their hopes dashed by being told that there was no money. That is certainly not good health promotion. The approach was universally condemned. A cheer went up throughout New South Wales when this Government changed that approach. Let us do things properly and not raise people's hopes falsely. I repeat for the shadow minister for health: we have not abolished health promotion; we have upgraded it.
I have met people who have been sacked from the unit!
What an unbelievable statement. The honourable member claims that people have been sacked from the unit, but it has been upgraded. [Time expired
Motion agreed to.
Matter of Public Interest
Mrs LO PO'
(Penrith - Minister for Consumer Affairs, and Minister for Women) [4.20]: I ask the House to note as a matter of public importance the state of the funeral industry in New South Wales. I have received numerous letters from members of the public who are very distressed about the high cost of funerals in this State. Last week during discussions with members of the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association I realised that the matter of most concern to those present was how they would pay for their funerals and those of their loved ones. Each year in Australia there are more than 120,000 deaths, of which 36.3 per cent or 43,600 occur in New South Wales. Of that number, 27,000 deaths occur in Sydney.
Although currently the rate of funerals in this State is static, it is expected to rise from seven funerals per 1,000 people to eight funerals per 1,000 people by the year 2011. If the structure of the industry and its associated costs are not addressed in the near future, the peace of mind of increasing numbers of older people will be disturbed at a time when they are most entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their retirement. Most people have to make funeral arrangements only once or twice in their lives. Although the issue is frequently the topic of comedy skits, few people find it an easy subject to discuss. Also, when people are confronted with having to arrange a funeral, they find it extremely difficult to shop around and haggle for a good price. The latest national expenditure on monumental masonry work for burials and cremations alone has been estimated at over $370 million a year. Costs are horrific for individual consumers. A very basic
funeral can cost as much as $2,000; an average funeral costs $2,900 to $3,100; a mid-range funeral costs $3,900 to $4,600; and the more up-market funeral costs over $10,000.
When there is no next of kin to make arrangements for a funeral, the police are asked to make arrangements for a destitute's burial, which may result in the placement of the body in an unmarked grave. This is a matter of great concern. Many pensioners have a deep fear of having a destitute's funeral. In that regard it seems that funeral parlours wait until they have five or six such bodies to bury, and then they are buried as a group in an unmarked grave. Consequently, if in the future relatives endeavour to investigate their family history, they will find no record of those buried in the grave. The government contractor or the hospital in which the person dies is responsible for arranging the cheapest option when a deceased has no next of kin. A decision must be made on whether to perform a funeral, burial or cremation - although it is unlikely that a cremation would be held in such circumstances as they are much more expensive than burials.
Often only one funeral service provider is available in country towns, and it is almost impossible for many elderly people to negotiate a fee with such providers. A member of the Premier's Council for Women informed me recently of the extreme difficulties faced by older women, in country towns in particular, arranging a dignified funeral for their lifetime partners. There are no set funeral fees, and costs vary depending upon the cemetery or crematorium involved. Furthermore, the cost of caskets, coffins and grave plots vary. A grave plot in the country may cost anything from $100 to $1,000; in the city prices start at $2,000. Different funeral directors offer different services and charges, and this depends upon the amount of work undertaken by the director. Such work can include a pre-burial service, the use of a funeral parlour or chapel, the arrangement of cars for mourners, the ordering of flowers and the placement of newspaper notifications.
Although it is worth contacting more than one funeral director when arranging a funeral, making such arrangements, as I have already said, is a traumatic experience for most people. I know this to be true from my own experience. Last year I had to make arrangements to bury my father. I was so distraught at the whole process that I settled on, for want of a better term, a one-stop shop. I was glad to get the whole thing over and done with. Therefore, I understand fully when I hear that elderly citizens are not prepared to engage in comparative shopping for this service - it is simply too upsetting.
Part of the problem confronting the funeral business in Australia today may be attributed to the fact that two companies from the United States of America have acquired the major share of the industry. These companies are Service Corporation International Australia Pty Ltd - SCIA - which is based in Belfield, New South Wales, and Stewart Enterprises, which is based in Queensland. SCIA is referred to as the biggest funeral industry corporation in the world, and it provides its services for more than 22 per cent of the funerals that are performed in the Sydney area. I realise that foreign investment levels and industry concentration are matters for the Commonwealth Government, the Australian Competition and Consumer Council - ACCC - and the Foreign Investment Review Board in particular, however, I am so concerned about this issue that I have written to Professor Fels, the Chairman of ACCC, asking him to look into this issue as a matter of urgency.
Sophisticated sales techniques are already being practised by many funeral directors in New South Wales, and evidence indicates that high profit margins exist, particularly in coffin retailing. Banks may lend money to people on low incomes and pensioners to cover funeral costs, but often interest rates are prohibitive. My experience indicates that pensioners put aside money each week from their meagre pensions to pay for their funerals. They do not want to be an imposition on their families, and they are determined to pay for their own funerals. Of course, that probably means that they go without to ensure that money is set aside for this purpose. Another concern for these people is that funeral costs rise and no matter how much money they put aside family support will be necessary to meet the gap between the money saved and the cost of the funeral. If they have families with young children, they feel badly about imposing the cost of their burial on them.
Responsibility for the Fair Trading Act and the Funeral Funds Act is within my portfolio. The latter Act specifically legislates for funds held relative to the provision of funeral services. The Act provides for the registration of pre-arranged and contributory funeral funds in New South Wales and for safeguarding consumers' prepayments for funeral services. Currently, about $60 million is invested in these funds - not an inconsiderable amount of money. I am concerned to ensure that all New South Wales consumers receive fairness in all contractual arrangements. I am concerned also to ensure that all people are able to have a dignified funeral and that their autumn years are peaceful and free from worry about how they will pay for their funerals. That is not currently the situation. I am sure that all members of the Parliament are concerned about this issue and are being inundated with approaches from concerned people, particularly the elderly, regarding the cost of funerals. This is a matter of great importance.
(Port Macquarie) [4.30]: I commend the Minister for Consumer Affairs for initiating this discussion. This is probably not the highest of high profile issues, but it is a matter that must be faced by everyone at some stage of his or her life. The Minister is correct in saying that this is a very emotional and difficult issue for many
people in all walks of life, affluent or otherwise. I, too, have been involved in the arrangement of family funerals, and I empathise with the Minister when she says that she did not particularly want to shop around - it is not the kind of service for which one wants to shop around.
The Minister focused mainly on the provision of funerals. There are a couple of other matters I would like to touch on, harking back to my experience as Minister. The Minister talked about funeral funds. Essentially, there are two types of funds: contributory and prearranged. To my knowledge, as of a year ago or so, in this State there were no contributory funds but there were 14 prearranged funds. I imagine that the figures remain roughly the same today. I have not reached the stage at which I want to think about arranging my funeral, but I know that for many people that is very important. My grandmother considered it important that she have something arranged. Many elderly people want to make sure that their funeral expenses will be covered. Last year the regulations to the Act were remade.
One of the issues currently being addressed by the department is whether the maximum payout by some funds is enough. At one stage there was a ceiling of $1,000 on the payout of a fund. That amount is clearly insufficient in today's market. The department has been considering the upward review of the $1,000 ceiling, to make it better matched to the market of the 1990s and beyond. A group of particular interest is Aboriginal people. The Aboriginal community, which has particular cultural differences from ours, is particularly concerned about burial arrangements, for different reasons. That presents some thorny problems in regard to funds, and it certainly presented problems to me when I was a Minister. The Government and the Minister, as the person in charge of the Funeral Funds Act, have to ensure that any fund is able to meet future claims. For a Minister to approve a fund or provide exemptions, as occasionally requested, he or she has to be sure that at the end of the day the fund has enough money to pay out the benefits expected.
One of the big issues that the Opposition is aware of - and this has been confirmed with the industry - is that of market domination by some of the large companies. That has certainly been discussed of late. I saw part of a 60 Minutes
television program that was not particularly flattering to one of the companies mentioned by the Minister, the Australian Competition and Consumer Council - ACCC - and it is entirely appropriate that the Minister has asked Professor Fels, as head of that organisation, to consider some of the issues. In many ways there are parallels between what is being talked about today and the impact of what we spoke about in the House a few weeks ago of large oil companies buying out smaller businesses and the franchises of retailers in that industry.
The funeral industry is certainly aware of the competition issue and in some quarters is concerned about it. It is interesting that the industry pointed out to the Opposition today that competition was making independent funeral parlours more proactive, that they were marketing their services more aggressively and that their market share has increased slightly in the past 12 months. With regard to niche marketing, people have talked to me about - and I have read comments about - the White Lady Funerals service. I am not sure whether that service is owned by one of the larger companies.
Mrs Lo Po':
Yes, it is.
I presume that the service started as an independent service. Many people like to deal with the service because they feel more at ease and have some empathy with the women who run it. That is an instance of a particular service positioning itself in the market. The Minister referred to Service Corporation International Australia Proprietary Limited - SCI - which bought out the Adelaide Steamship Company funeral homes a couple of years ago. At the time, that company held about 30 per cent of the business in Australia or, I am told by the industry, of the order of 20,000 to 25,000 funerals a year. The other major player in Australia is a company called Stewart Enterprises, but it is not as large as SCI. There are issues of competition, service provided and service cost. Just because a large player has entered the market does not necessarily mean that prices will go up or come down. It is important to ensure that there is competition in the marketplace.
Another big issue addressed when the regulations were remade last year was that of clearly describing what customers will get for their money. When a consumer goes to arrange a funeral for a relative, or someone arranges a funeral through a prearranged fund, that person wants to know what he or she is buying. The requirement to ensure that contracts of prearranged funerals prescribe the particulars of a funeral service was retained in the final remake of the regulations. That was important to ensure that people could not be sold a flasher casket or given a service that someone perhaps did not want or could not afford. The requirement was retained to safeguard consumers.
At the time of the remake of the regulations one of the large companies requested the lifting of the limitation on the commission or management fee that could be charged. It is my understanding that the figure is currently about 2 per cent - the Minister might correct me if I am wrong in that. That amount was certainly the limit last year when the regulations were reviewed. The advice from the department I accepted as Minister, based on consultation and on the regulatory impact statement - a copy of which I have here - was to retain the limit of 2 per cent of income on commission and management expenses. That represented a cap so that people could not be charged unnecessary management fees for what is in most cases a fairly straightforward event.
The other issue to which I should like to refer is the matter that was raised in the newspapers today. Perhaps the newspaper coverage prompted the Minister to move this matter of public importance. I speak of the age-old issue of space. Today's paper carried a small story and a photo of Rookwood cemetery. The Minister alluded to the cost of buying plots in country and city areas. The cost of burial plots is a little cheaper in the country, but it is still a major issue in rural New South Wales. In Sydney the cost of buying a plot is alarming. The matter should be addressed by the Minister for Land and Water Conservation. It is a matter that concerns many people and needs to be addressed. Many people do not like the rather unpalatable idea of re-using grave sites - I think it is a ghastly idea. Many people do not want to be forced into cremation; they would prefer to be buried. My father is one of those people - I just hope that it is not an issue for many years to come.
We need to face not only how we pay for the service, what type of funeral is provided and the peace of mind of consumers but also we must ensure that appropriate space for plots is available. I commend the Minister for raising this matter today and for the way in which she has raised it. These are genuine issues that need to be addressed. They deserve to be explored and, in the case of market share, to be checked by an organisation such as the ACCC. I am sure that the ACCC will examine the issues reasonably and fairly before passing judgment. If there is a need to introduce a greater form of control, I am sure that wide consultation will take place and that we will have a further chance to make an input. I thank the House for the opportunity to participate in the debate.
(Hurstville) [4.40]: I support the motion. It is not surprising that when the Minister addressed the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association the organisation expressed concern at the cost of funerals. At the lower end of the scale in this State one pays between $2,000 and $5,000 for a standard funeral. At the upper end of the market the price ranges from $10,000 to $15,000. Given that cost, it is not surprising that the association expressed concern. When considering why such prices apply in the industry one cannot discount the ownership and the structure of the industry. As other speakers have pointed out, the industry's structure in this State is very much dominated by one player, Service Corporation International Australia Proprietary Limited - SCI - from the United States. A review of the role of that company in the funeral industry raises the issues of foreign ownership and greater competition.
As the honourable member for Port Macquarie pointed out, competition and the level of foreign ownership are issues to be addressed. I am pleased that the Minister has asked Professor Fels to look at the structure of the industry and the practices of Service Corporation International Australia Proprietary Limited. One way to reduce the costs of funerals is to introduce greater competition. Honourable members will be aware of the fiasco that occurred in 1993 and 1994 when a group of Australian independent funeral operators sought to establish a second crematorium in the northern suburbs in competition with SCI. The proposed location for the independent operation was about one kilometre from an SCI-operated crematorium. The Australia independent group was stymied from proceeding to establish a second crematorium in the northern suburbs and becoming a competitor to SCI. It is pleasing that Professor Fels will investigate the industry.
SCI is the dominant player when it comes to cremations; it carries out 75 per cent of all cremations in Sydney, 22 per cent of all funerals and owns five of the seven crematoriums. The honourable member for Port Macquarie stated that over the years a series of takeovers of Australian independent operators have placed SCI in the position where it can exert market dominance and influence the price of cremations and funerals. SCI is also the biggest funeral director in Sydney. Its control of cremations allows it to exert pressure on competitors in the industry. That enables SCI to determine the price of funerals. Hence the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association has expressed its concern to the Minister about the cost of funerals.
Professor Fels ought to turn his attention to determining whether SCI is behaving in a proper manner in setting prices for funerals and cremations. I support the Minister's initiative in requesting Professor Fels to investigate this industry. The honourable member for Port Macquarie stated that the industry has not attracted a great deal of attention from the media or other public regulatory authorities. It is time that it did. The Federal authority responsible for ensuring that competition takes place in a fair and proper manner is the relevant body to do that, and I support the Minister's decision to refer the issue to Professor Fels' committee. [Time expired.
Mrs LO PO'
(Penrith - Minister for Consumer Affairs, and Minister for Women) in reply, [4.45]: I thank the honourable member for Port Macquarie and the honourable member for Hurstville for their contributions. The New South Wales Government and the Opposition are united on this issue, as are those in the Federal arena. This issue is of concern not because Australia has an ageing population - although it does - but because at some stage most people have been touched by someone who has been put through the wringer in these unfortunate circumstances. As the honourable member for Port Macquarie said, we will all have to confront this issue one day. The Federal authorities monitor what is happening with large companies, but my concern is that there will be no competition if only two companies operate in New South Wales. In this State there are seven crematoriums - or, if one is a Latin student, crematoria - and one company owns five of them. That is an impossible
circumstance. The independent companies will operate for as long as they can but they might find it difficult to provide lower-cost funerals. Recently I visited a funeral parlour in my electorate that was having an open day, which I found interesting.
Was it open-casket day?
Mrs LO PO':
It was that as well. Pensioners told me that they would like to avail themselves of the services of this funeral company, but the cheapest coffin was $4,500. Clearly that was beyond their means, and that is the problem. Honourable members are frequently made aware of the anxiety of elderly people who do not want to impose on their families, but want to have a dignified funeral. They need to find a way to be able to afford to do that. I will be pursuing this matter with Professor Fels and the Australian Competition and Consumer Council and will again report on the matter at an appropriate time when I have received a response. Honourable members need to come to grips with what is occurring in the community. I am sensitive to country communities which have less choice than city communities. According to the information I have received country communities are at the mercy of the funeral industry in their towns. This issue is of great concern to us all and I intend to pursue it.
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
GENERAL GOVERNMENT DEBT ELIMINATION BILL
MOTOR VEHICLES TAXATION AMENDMENT BILL
BUSINESS FRANCHISE LICENCES (PETROLEUM PRODUCTS) AMENDMENT BILL
ROAD IMPROVEMENT (SPECIAL FUNDING) FURTHER AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from 25 October.
(The Entrance) [4.51]: Mr Deputy-Speaker -
On a point of order: Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to the fact that there is no Minister in the House. I understand it is the convention of the House that the business of the House can be dealt with only when there is a Minister in the Chamber.
Order! I am advised that the Leader of the House will soon be in attendance. The honourable member for The Entrance has the call.
On a point of order: I understand I can actually move an adjournment.
Order! I have ruled that the honourable member for The Entrance may commence his speech. He may now do so.
The pre-budget comment and speculation relating to this budget were of a nature that led to an atmosphere of apprehension among the public. That apprehension was pushed hard by the Opposition. Shadow ministers sowed fear and apprehension in the hope that there would be wholesale revolt against the budget. It was a wasted effort because the Treasurer, the Hon. Michael Egan, delivered. He delivered a budget that boosts business confidence, puts the State's finances on a future path that guarantees its AAA rating, meets the fiscal targets set by the Treasurer's economic statement earlier this year, and keeps the cap on taxes and tax increases. This budget also provides additional funding for hospitals, as well as successfully addressing the issue of hospital waiting lists, a matter that has been frequently debated in this Chamber.
The budget also provides funding for additional teachers. In 1995-96 an extra 339 teacher positions will be funded. The budget also provides for the creation of 5,000 additional student places in TAFE by 1997, a subject of debate on an urgency motion earlier today. Further, the education budget is increased by $308 million, or 6.9 per cent, well in excess of the consumer price index. This budget also enhances school cleaning standards, by making an additional allocation of $18 million, and enhances crime prevention and policing by providing an additional 650 officers by 1997-98. The budget enhances community services by increasing the allocation from $948 million to $1,105 million, or 16.5 per cent, again well in excess of the CPI increase. Special emphasis has also been given to additional funding for child protection. All this was achieved while the Government's commitments to the environment were increased by $18 million, or 9.3 per cent, to $214 million.
The rural sector has received further drought support, with $84 million allocated for drought relief and rural assistance. The Minister for Agriculture only two weeks ago in this House vigorously defended the rights of drought-affected New South Wales farmers. At this point I pay special tribute to one of the outstanding successes of the Carr Labor Government, namely, the Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Richard Amery, who in seven short months has acquired the goodwill, praise and support of the rural industry. I am continually amazed by his grasp and knowledge of such diverse issues as the parthenium weed, equine morbillivirus, and the papaya or pawpaw fruit fly. Such is the Minister's grasp of rural issues that the Opposition has asked only one question relating to the agriculture portfolio during that seven-month period.
It is amazing that after seven months, during a period of one of the worst droughts in the history of this State, the Opposition has asked only one question of the Minister for Agriculture. Furthermore, during the last session when the
Minister moved an urgency motion in this House in regard to bank-farm debt policy it was opposed by honourable members opposite, including all rural members of the Opposition. As each day passes the rural Opposition members are characterised by their extended silence on issues relating to country New South Wales, and as New South Wales farmers struggle to survive the drought those members continue to remain silent rather than raise rural concerns in this House.
The budget is designed to deliver on the Carr Labor Government's commitment to health and a public hospital system with reduced waiting lists; on police and policing issues, such as increased sentences for traffickers in drugs - an issue about which there is some debate at the moment; on education, with priority in the classroom and classroom outcomes; and on community services, particular related to child care. These are some of the priorities of the Government and they are priorities which I entirely support. Specific areas quarantined from any budget cuts include policing, health, education, community and welfare services, and roads. These are priorities that the Carr Labor Government has identified and made provision for in the budget. Each of the portfolios I have mentioned has had a real increase, as well as a gross increase, in funding. The budget has been endorsed by media commentators, for example Ross Gittins, who stated in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald
of 11 October:
This budget is about keeping promises, not breaking them.
Glenda Korporaal said in the Sydney Morning Herald
of the same date:
What Mr Carr is doing is delivering on his election promises.
The same newspaper carried the following quote from the former head of Treasury, Percy Allan:
An excellent start to get the State back in the black. Along with Carr he -
that is the Treasurer, the Hon. Michael Egan -
is establishing himself as the fiscal backbone of the Government.
Terry McCrann, a real friend of the Labor Party, and I say that tongue in cheek, stated in the Daily Telegraph Mirror
of the same day:
Bob Carr and Michael Egan have given us a middle of the road budget we can happily live with. No pain, some gain and even some fiscal prudence for the future of our children and grandchildren.
In a commentary that I believe aptly summarises the objectives of the budget, Mike Steketee stated in the Australian
of 11 October:
The budget is responsible but far from draconian. It sets clear Labor priorities in areas such as health, education, welfare and the environment.
As I said earlier, these are sentiments that I endorse. An item in the budget that has real significance for me and for the central coast is the Government's commitment to regionalism. In his budget speech the Treasurer said:
1996, in particular, will be regarded by the Government as the Year of Regional Development.
The Premier subsequently announced that the central coast is to be designated as an economic region for the purpose of State development. Furthermore, the Minister for Small Business and Regional Development announced the proposed establishment of a central coast development board. The establishment by the Carr Government of the central coast as an economic region will be the catalyst for balanced and sustainable development in that area. The establishment of the coast as an economic region has been an ambition for many people on the coast who are concerned at the haphazard development of the region during the past seven years. It is an issue I have pursued since my election to Parliament 3½ years ago. It has been the vehicle for the successful development of regional centres such as the Hunter, the Illawarra and western Sydney.
Historically the Hunter and the Illawarra have always had strong regional identities, as you would be well aware, Mr Deputy-Speaker, and this was reflected in the provision of government infrastructure in those regions. I congratulate you and former members for electorates in the Hunter region on the efforts that have been made on behalf of the region. For example, the Hunter has two hospitals of teaching status; technical colleges at Hamilton, Tighes Hill, Maitland and Belmont; the only hospitality TAFE college in this State other than Ryde; a conservatorium of music; a distinguished university, and I understand you served on the council of that university at one stage; national standard hockey and other sporting facilities; and the Hunter Research Institute, which is constantly producing updated statistics on the economy, industry and other issues affecting the area.
Newcastle has always had a strong secondary industry base, especially in steel manufacture and port-related functions - an area you also have some knowledge of - and it has constantly built on this base, using its status as a region. It is my fervent hope that the establishment of the central coast as a region will bring the same success to the area as it has brought to the Hunter. I should add that since the announcement by the Government there has been universal endorsement of the proposal by way of editorials in the newspapers and on radio, and from business communities and individual groups and organisations representing the community. In fact, on 11 October the Central Coast Express Advocate,
a newspaper with a long history of endorsing conservative parties, said of Bob Carr and the Carr Labor Government's initiative for the establishment of the central coast as a region:
The announcement by Premier Carr that the Central Coast will become an economic region in its own right is of enormous importance.
It means we have come of age.
We are shedding our economic nappies and starting to walk with the big boys such as Hunter and Illawarra regions.
At last our area is more than just a name.
In recent years the Central Coast has been ominously referred to as a "dormitory suburb of Sydney".
Such bureaucratic terminology meant we were always in danger of being sucked into Sydney's urban sprawl.
Certainly the city has swallowed up 50,000 of our workforce every day.
Finding local jobs for these commuters should be the No 1 government priority for this area.
At least now we will have equal clout with other regions to fight for a bigger share of the financial pie.
As I said, that newspaper has a long history of being supportive of the conservative forces in this State. For too long the priorities of the region had been submerged or neglected as parochial political agendas dominated priorities. An example of this myopic attitude has been the allocation of road funds during the last seven years. The best example of this is in the electorate of The Entrance and involves MR 335, known as Wyong Road. The road is made up of seven segments and those segments originally built were in the electorate of The Entrance. The F3 leads off with a major road going to Tuggerah. From Tuggerah the road goes through the electorate of Wyong and crosses over at Berkeley Vale into the electorate of The Entrance. The sections of the road in The Entrance were well constructed and I am pleased to note that that work has been completed. However, the vital link between the highway and the proposed work in Berkeley Vale will be the last segment to be completed. On any reasonable analysis, that is ridiculous and recently it was acknowledged by a Liberal Party representative.
Because work started on the wrong end and the link is missing, traffic problems have resulted. Opening of the Westfield Centre at Tuggerah has worsened problems and they will be further worsened by the opening of a light industrial area at Tuggerah on the other side of the railway track and what is described as a bulk store area. It is hoped that, unlike in the past, in future with regional allocation of road funding the regional objectives will be developed and prioritised. Accordingly, projects will be integrated into a network plan which benefits the region and local precincts. Designation of the central coast as an economic region will greatly enhance balanced development of infrastructure in the region.
I turn to policing. For three years as the member for The Entrance my requests for resources to former Ministers for Police were ignored. When I wrote to the Ministers my letters were referred to the northern region, and then from the northern region back to the local district, then from the local district back to the local patrol. In all cases the issues I raised were ignored. The Entrance patrol was also used as a training facility for police wishing to pre-qualify for promotion. In three years there were five separate patrol commanders. Yet the patrol makes more arrests on New Year's Eve than the patrol at The Rocks does. The urgent need for policing in the area was ignored. Beat policing operated notionally: beat police were allocated but the positions were used for secondment, training, leave or to supplement special duties. So although there was supposedly a beat patrol, on any one day there was not. The patrol priority was budget rather than service oriented, consequently underspending its budget in two consecutive years. The need for extra police in the area has been repeatedly publicised in the media yet the budget was underspent instead of police resources being increased.
Cars were not used because they had used up their allocation of fuel or tyres. The goal of the commanders was not to spend their budget, which is unbelievable in the situation. We now hear from the Opposition about lack of policing, yet the coalition was responsible when this underspending occurred. The community was concerned and dismayed. The present Minister for Police has turned the situation around. He visited my electorate in September to meet with local police and community representatives. The needs of the area were impressed upon him by the police commander, the police union, community representatives, and Neighbourhood Watch supporters. Statistics back up the claims for more police resources, but previously the needs of the area were ignored. After personally inspecting the situation - something the previous Minister for Police did not do - the Minister allocated four extra police to the region, and they will start this month. [Extension of time agreed to
The Minister also allocated $100,000 for renovation of the police cells, which will result in improvements in the allocation of police resources. Gosford is the only patrol in the area that can detain people in cells. Although funds were allocated for the painting of the cells at The Entrance, and they look good, the present cells do not meet requirements. Prisoners having to be detained had to be transported and booked in at Gosford, necessitating a vehicle and two police officers leaving the district for about one and a half hours. Such situations usually arise at times of peak load, such as over the weekend. Vital police resources were being taken out of action when they should have been on the ground providing service to the people of my electorate. I heard somebody mention the name of the former member for The Entrance, Bob Graham. He totally agrees with me on this issue. All the people in the electorate agree that this issue is vital. Both sides of politics have agreed that renovations of the cells is a top priority. The Minister has also agreed to review the priority of resources for the patrol. The Entrance has missed out on the resources that are being given to other police patrols. I am asking for nothing more than the level of services provided in other areas of New South Wales. All I am asking for is equity; nothing more than that.
I turn to education in my area and the Narara Valley High School. I shall give the honourable member for Oxley a simple description of the situation so he may understand it. Four years ago it was decided to establish Narara Valley High School. At the time young people from the area were moved into demountable classrooms located at North Gosford. This year the students were able to move into the new school. The total cost of the school was $6.2 million. The honourable member for Oxley is not paying attention. He has no interest in education. If he concentrates more he might be able to follow what I am saying. In the same period more than $18 million was spent on building Cherrybrook High School. It was completed within two years. That summarises the priorities of the previous Government in regard to equity in education for young people on the central coast. It is important to note that both of those schools are in the same Department of School Education region, the metropolitan north region. There was delay after delay in relation to the proposed Tumbi Umbi High School.
When did you last visit it?
I visited the site less than four weeks ago. The school still does not exist. Not one sod of soil has been turned at that site, notwithstanding that two weeks prior to the election a member of the upper House representing the then Minister for Education went to the site for a soil-turning ceremony.
You must have stopped it. You should ask the Minister at the table if he stopped it. You have been in office since March, so the Minister must have stopped it.
Obviously no-one on the Opposition benches is paying attention. I said "two weeks prior to the election".
That is exactly right. You have been in government since March. As nothing has happened since then, the Minister has stopped it.
Finally something has happened.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Clough):
Order! I call the honourable member for Lane Cove to order. I ask the honourable member for The Entrance to return to the subject matter of the debate.
The delays in the construction of the proposed Tumbi Umbi High School can only be described as appalling. The construction of that school is now 12 months behind the original schedule. Why did it take 12 months to sort out the road, water, sewerage, and stormwater services for the site? Those services are provided to every site, so the department has no excuse for the delay, except that the expenditure was being diverted and used in other areas. The original proposal was to build the school in two stages. There was to be a delay between the construction and the completion of the first stage and the construction and completion of the second stage. I commend the Minister for Education and Training. He realised that construction of the school is now 12 months behind schedule, and the expectations of parents and pupils have been dashed. He has realised the need to accelerate the program and has allocated $51 million in the budget for the design of stage two.
Stage two will now follow immediately upon the completion of stage one. Under the previous Government there was to be a 12-month delay between the two stages. Although it is not normal practice for two contractors to operate on one site, tenders were called as soon as funds for the construction were available. The funds were approved in the budget announced on 10 October. Savings of the order of $400,000 have been realised. The Minister has outlined the time frame for the program. A letter of acceptance for stage one was received on 26 September. The builder was on site on 25 October. The handover is planned for term one of 1997. It was originally planned for term one of next year. A letter of acceptance for stage two is planned for February 1996. The builder will be on site in March 1996, and the handover is planned for term two of 1997. The project is now ahead of schedule. The new high school was originally due for completion in term three of 1998. The management strategies adopted will therefore deliver a new high school more than a year ahead of schedule.
I congratulate the Minister, who is in the Chamber. He has taken on board the representations I have made to him on this issue. He understands the principles of justice and equity in relation to the provision of educational resources to the children of the central coast. I have illustrated two examples in my electorate that epitomise the attitude of the previous Government to providing quality education for working-class kids on the central coast. Those kids were not a priority: they were ignored. If the coalition had remained in office, they would still be ignored. I turn to the budget for roads. Last week I had the opportunity to visit 17 northern rivers councils, and I found what is now called the rural myth - that the heart had been torn out of the State roads budget; and funds from the rural roads budget had been deflected and were now being used to construct Olympic facilities in Sydney. I understand that the rural myth was put around by a person who has some qualifications in accountancy. It surprises me that a person with those sorts of qualifications would say things like that. Let me put the rural myth to bed. This year the roads budget amounts to $2 billion, a 5 per cent increase on the final roads budget of the previous Government.
Are you sure it is $2 billion?
If the honourable member for Oxley looks at the budget papers, he will see that the roads budget is approximately $1.997 billion. I have made it simple for him to digest.
You are not even close. You are worse than the honourable member for Auburn. The figure is $1.726468 billion.
The honourable member for Oxley should take a little more time to check. The figure is $2 billion.
Order! I draw the attention of the honourable member for The Entrance to the time.
With the deepest regret I shall conclude my contribution.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Downy.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENTS
(Illawarra) [5.17]: I refer to the guidance and education that judges and magistrates are receiving with respect to their sentencing procedures. Almost daily victims of crime and their families are outraged at some of the grossly inadequate sentences given to violent criminals. For example, the maximum sentence for armed robbery is 20 years, and the average sentence meted out by the courts is four years. The maximum sentence for indecent assault is four years, and the average sentence is 18 months. The maximum sentence assault occasioning actual bodily harm is five years, and the average sentence is 16 months. Recently I read an article in the newspaper concerning Mr McPherson, who appeared before the Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service. Mr McPherson argued with the Royal Commissioner, Justice James Wood, and with counsel assisting, Gary Crooke QC. The commissioner warned Mr McPherson that his behaviour could constitute contempt and result in years being added to his gaol term. Let me contrast that with the average sentence for indecent assault, which is 18 months in gaol, and the average sentence for armed robbery, which is four years in gaol. I am aware of the different jurisdictions within the court system, but that is certainly an anomaly as far as sentencing procedures are concerned.
Recently a man was convicted in the Australian Capital Territory of murdering a senior police officer. The judge who presided at the trial stated that it was the most serious type of murder he had encountered and sentenced the criminal to life imprisonment. However, some months ago a young boy named John Ashfield was murdered in the Illawarra region. He was bashed by his mother and her de facto for a number of hours. The presiding judge in that case said that one could easily imagine the terror and despair of a child as those he thought loved him treated him with such hideous brutality. The judge then concluded that that was not a case in which the maximum sentence was required. I ask the House to contrast those two cases. One person was convicted of murder in which death was virtually instantaneous, and it was considered to be a most heinous murder, whereas a young child was bashed to death, and that was not considered to be heinous.
A person convicted of a serious assault, sexual assault or a sexual offence against a child, robbery, blackmail, break and enter, fraud and misappropriation, or unlawful possession may be sentenced to serve periodic detention, to fulfil a community service order, or be placed on a bond. In some circumstances those convicted of crimes of violence - assault, sexual assault and sexual offences against children - do not serve their full time in gaol; they may be sentenced to periodic detention or to fulfil a community service order. No wonder the victims of crime and their families are outraged at some of the sentences handed down by some of the courts. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has even complained about the imposition by the judiciary of inadequate sentences. The chief executive of that society has said that some people convicted of cruelty to animals are automatically prohibited from ownership. Magistrates have a discretion to issue prohibition orders but fail to do so, and last year only two of the 83 people prosecuted were banned from keeping animals. I refer finally to the Director of Public Prosecutions. I should like to know the system he operates to monitor court sentences, to ascertain when court sentences are grossly inadequate, and to ascertain when the Crown should appeal against an inadequate sentence.
(Riverstone - Minister for Education and Training, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Youth Affairs) [5.22]: The honourable member for Illawarra kindly advised the Attorney General and Minister for Industrial Relations in another place of his concerns and requested that some response be furnished. On behalf of the Attorney General I am pleased to provide the honourable member with the following response. It is a well-established sentencing policy that the type and duration of any sentence is a matter solely for the judiciary to determine on the individual facts of each case and upon consideration of any mitigating and aggravating circumstances. It is the function of the sentencing judge to take into account the objective gravity of any offence by reference to the available maximum penalty. However, a sentencing judge may also take into account the subjective features of an accused, for example, the age of the offender and his or her prospects for rehabilitation.
The honourable member for Illawarra made reference to the average sentence in respect of certain offences. However, it is dangerous to rely on average sentences. Such sentences do not properly reflect the actual sentences imposed, from the most serious to the least serious. The maximum penalties available under the Crimes Act 1900 properly reflect the seriousness with which offences are viewed. In relation to Crown appeals, the
Director of Public Prosecutions has the statutory authority to lodge an appeal against a sentence that he considers too lenient. However, the courts have made it clear that this power should be exercised cautiously. A major reason for this is the element of double jeopardy that is involved in such appeals. Rules designed to safeguard against double jeopardy are deeply embedded in our criminal justice system. It is regarded as inappropriate to appeal against the inadequacy of a sentence merely because of disagreement with the sentence imposed. A sentence must be manifestly inadequate before an appellate court will interfere with it. Finally, the Crown must show that the sentencing judge fell into material error of law or fact. [Time expired
AMUSEMENT DEVICE DUTY AND PENALTIES
(Myall Lakes) [5.24]: I speak on behalf of one of my constituents, Mr Douglas, in relation to matters pertaining to certain action for recovery by the Liquor Administration Board of a sum in excess of $40,652 for amusement device duty and penalties arising out of certain actions that occurred in 1991. I understand legal proceedings may be pending both against my constituent and by my constituent and I do not wish to jeopardise or impinge upon issues that may be before the courts.
Mr Douglas was the licensee of a hotel owned by another party, a company, and during the course of his stewardship he signed an agreement, as many licensee-managers did at that time, which stated, inter alia, that he was to receive no payment or part payment by way of commission or allowance from or upon the receipts of the business of the licensed premises for liquor sold or supplied. The manager acknowledged under the agreement that he exercised the licence at all times as an employee of the proprietor.
A confrontation occurred between Mr Douglas and the owner, for a variety of reasons that I do not need to go into, and Mr Douglas tendered his resignation as licensee of that establishment in late July or early August 1991. At that time he informed the Liquor Administration Board by certified letter that he was resigning. The owner failed to produce a person to whom the licence could be transferred, and so there was a hiatus at that time. During that period certain duties became payable on the amusement devices for the 1991 June and September quarters. As I said, Mr Douglas had resigned. He had given notice to the Liquor Administration Board and the matter was firmly in its hands or in the hands of the owner of the business, a company trading as Imperial Hotels (Erskineville) Proprietary Limited.
Mr Douglas then received advice from the Liquor Administration Board that he was personally liable for the duty payable on the devices, plus penalties, for the 1991 June and September quarters. The duty in June 1991 was $5,223.52. The penalty to 12 April 1995 was $15,728.74, and for the 1991 September quarter, the duty was $6,750.57 with a penalty to 12 April 1995 of $12,949.64. I ask the Minister to remember that when the licensee-manager is clearly an employee, and a liability occurs in relation to the payment of duties, as has occurred in this case, the Liquor Administration Board should seek recovery from the person liable to pay the duty, that is, the owner of the business. As I understand it - and I have not had this verified - the licensee had little or no control over the payment of the day-to-day bills of this business but has been held liable for payment of this duty.
Apparently at present the Act provides that the person who is the licensee at the time the relevant debt falls due is responsible for the payment of the approved amusement device duty and any penalty that may accrue as a result of late payment or non-payment of duty. In this instance, the owner has received a windfall. The owner has not paid the $11,973 in duties, apart from the penalties. That money has gone through the machine and is in the pockets of the owner. Mr Douglas, who severed his connections with this business, is now facing penalties and duty, including interest, of well over $50,000. The only recourse Mr Douglas may have is to seek recovery through civil proceedings. I ask the Minister to consider amending the Act so that the liability falls squarely upon the owner. [Time expired.
(Charlestown - Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [5.29]: The honourable member for Myall Lakes has made several ministerial representations to both me and my predecessor on behalf of John Douglas. The Liquor Administration Board has previously received legal advice in a similar case that recourse may be available to a licensee to recover his or her liability from his or her employer. It is understood from advice previously supplied by Mr Douglas that he has commenced action in this regard. No further advice has been provided by Mr Douglas to the board of the progress, if any, of that action. Mr Douglas has advised the board upon transfer of the licence to him that his employer was Imperial Hotels (Erskineville) Proprietary Limited. The board was not informed of any interest in the licence by Bridge Tavern (Nowra) Proprietary Limited until transfer of the licence from Mr Douglas to a Mr C. Holland, who is a director of both companies.
Mr Douglas was advised of steps he might take to seek remission of the penalties he has incurred in the matter, and so minimise any liability he may have to the board. He has further been advised by my department that he may provide to the Liquor Administration Board an affidavit in statutory declaration form of the particulars of his present financial circumstances and the reasons why the debt should be waived or the penalties remitted. Mr Douglas has made certain representations which are being considered by the board. In regard to the matter raised by the honourable member for Myall
Lakes, the proportioning of debt from approved amusement devices has been a significant problem for some time. There have been several instances of this problem. I drew one matter to the attention of the House when I was in opposition in which the incoming licensee was left with the debt of the previous licensee. I am happy to consider the matters raised by the honourable member for Myall Lakes. If Mr Douglas provides this information to the Liquor Administration Board, I believe it will consider the matter. It is certainly another reason to review this matter. I thank the member for bringing this matter to the attention of the House.
BLAYNEY ABATTOIR PRISONER EMPLOYMENT
(Bathurst) [5.31]: At noon tomorrow in Parliament House a conference will take place between representatives of the Minister for Corrective Services, the Department of Corrective Services, the management of the Blayney abattoir, the Meat Industry Employees Union and me concerning the employment of prisoners from Kirkconnell Correctional Centre at the Blayney abattoir. During the week I have had discussions with the Minister's staff, and I pay tribute to the Minister for his efforts to date to resolve a worrying situation for my constituents living in the Blayney township. The proposal, which has already been implemented by the Department of Corrective Services, is to use prisoners on C-3 classification from the Kirkconnell Correctional Centre as abattoir workers in Blayney. The prisoners are being paid the full award wage, and they are charged $40 a week to be conveyed from Kirkconnell to Blayney and returned. The prisoners are now paying $50 a week board to remain in prison.
People from Blayney have been in touch with my office protesting against the use of prisoners because employment opportunities for many people in the Blayney district are limited. Employment is available at the abattoir. However, the abattoir indicated to the department that it was unable to obtain staff; and this reason has been used for employing prisoners. Six prisoners are already on duty, and a further six prisoners were to commence work next Friday. The Minister has temporarily suspended the program until such time as the conference can be held tomorrow. I have no objection whatsoever to prisoners gaining work experience and earning wages. The rehabilitation of prisoners, with a fairly hefty wage put away for them, less their expenses, is enhanced because they will leave prison with money and with prospects of further employment.
However, that was not the point raised with me by the citizens of Blayney. The Commonwealth Employment Service at Orange has 35 applications for 20 to 25 positions at the Blayney abattoir. Interviews will be conducted with the applicants on 19 November, and whatever the outcome, 10 to 15 of the applicants will remain without jobs when the 20 to 25 positions are filled. The people of Blayney have the right to say that they should have priority in employment before prisoners from a prison camp 70 kilometres away are used to fill their work force. The superintendent from Kirkconnell visited my office a fortnight ago to find out my attitude to the employment of prisoners at the abattoir. I indicated that, based on the knowledge I had obtained from visits to Blayney and from discussions with people from the district, I would be against the proposal. I do not know to whom he transmitted my refusal to agree to the proposal, but I was distressed to find that whoever that officer was, he totally ignored it. That flies in the face of local knowledge.
The people of Blayney are also concerned that prisoners are being employed in an abattoir where weapons of some sort are available to them. I do not suggest that they are violent prisoners or that anything will go wrong, but I do not see any sense in using prisoners in such an environment when the people of the district are concerned not only about their employment prospects but also for their welfare. I will support the people of Blayney. I have little faith in the assurances given by the Blayney abattoir, but I am prepared to listen to its side of the argument. A relatively large number of inquiries have been made at my office in this regard, and I believe that genuine attempts to obtain employment at the abattoir have been rejected by management. Working at the abattoir is not a nice job, and staff turnover is relatively high. [Time expired.
(Riverstone - Minister for Education and Training, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Youth Affairs) [5.36]: The honourable member for Bathurst has repeatedly expressed his concerns in this Chamber about employment opportunities for constituents in his electorate and well beyond. On many occasions I have had the opportunity to acknowledge and respond to his concerns, and assure him that the matters he has raised will be passed on to the appropriate Minister. One feature that always stands out in the way the honourable member for Bathurst raises issues is that at all times he shows a degree of personal concern well and truly above that expected of a member of Parliament carrying out tasks on behalf of his constituents. On this occasion, he has again shown concern in relation to a matter which I appreciate was difficult for him to resolve. I know that the Minister for Corrective Services will consider this issue and give it the degree of attention it deserves, knowing that a number of human emotions are involved. As the honourable member has said, the issue also involves concerns about the livelihood of the people of Blayney. I congratulate him on raising this matter, and I assure him that the issue will be passed on to the Minister for Corrective Services for his attention.
(Port Macquarie) [5.38]: A little while ago I received a copy of a press release issued today by the Minister for Fisheries regarding the abalone industry. For some time the difficulty with the abalone industry has centred on its sustainability. Some years ago, the Department of Fisheries released a discussion paper that led to an agreement to reduce the number of permits to dive for abalone from about 57 down to an optimum number of 29. Individually, the divers have a quota set at nine tonnes of abalone, and not long ago the minimum size of abalone caught was increased from 110 millimetres to 115 millimetres so that the industry can be managed on a sustainable basis.
At present there are 35 abalone divers. A policy of a two-for-one consolidation of licences was adopted. Someone who wanted to sell a licence could do so only if someone else sold his or her licence also. The restriction has added value to licences. I am advised that in order to buy a licence in the present market someone would have to invest about half a million dollars. That is not small business; it is significant business, and a number of the newer divers have taken a big risk in trying to enter the industry. For some time there has been a push for a change to the policy, which would entail a change to the regulations. I am sure the honourable member for Bega is familiar with abalone licences.
Today the Minister announced that he will change the regulations to ensure that new divers may purchase only a single licence. That is something for which those known as unconsolidated divers have been pushing. They will now have the opportunity to sell a single licence, rather than have to find another licence holder who is willing to sell his or her licence at the same time. By and large, these licences were purchased for about $2 when they were freely issued some years ago. Now licensees who sell licences on the open market will realise a significant value for them. In this regard my concerns are twofold. I am concerned for the resource. The Minister's press release states that the resource will continue to be regulated. It points out that the industry is worth more than $12 million annually to the State and that there will remain a maximum number of 37 divers. Nowhere in the press release is it stated that the Minister still wishes to try to reduce the number of divers in the industry - a matter which I thought had been fairly broadly agreed upon. On the basis of sustainable management, that should be done.
There is no evidence of anything being done to reduce the effort on the abalone fishery, which is under significant threat - as is reflected in the price paid for abalone. Today the market price for abalone is between $40 and $50 a kilo, up from about $5 a kilo a decade or more ago. The value of abalone has really taken off and the price paid for abalone diving licences reflects the value of and demand for it. A number of people have entered the industry by following the policy applicable until today, by buying two diving licences and consolidating them. Those people have paid several hundreds of thousands of dollars for their licences. The Minister's move today has in a single stroke knocked value off their business, so much so that some will be threatened by their banks.
A week or two ago I met some of the divers. A couple of them who have consolidated permits have huge loans - they have obviously had to take out large mortgages to finance their investment - and they now have to compete against other licence holders who will be able to sell single licences. The value of licences will be reduced. Some banks are already restless about whether consolidated divers are still a good risk. By the stroke of a pen the Minister has in all likelihood made the position of a number of divers marginal and ruined their business. The issue concerns a lack of equity. Some people have paid up to $500,000 for their businesses. Another small group, which has been lobbying hard, has gained a tremendous windfall. That group has held permits for quite a long time and could sell them as components of consolidated licences for quite an amount, but not as much as it would be able to sell individual permits. Nothing in the Minister's move advances sustainable management. [Time expired.
(Port Stephens - Minister for Mineral Resources, and Minister for Fisheries) [5.43]: The House has just heard claptrap from the honourable member for Port Macquarie, who is poorly informed. It is a pity that she does not understand what is going on in the industry. The previous Government passed legislation on the share-managed fishery. The Labor Party agreed to follow that legislation through. After a review, this Government said that it would, with consultation, implement a share-managed fishery. The Government is doing that. This is a matter of equity; it is not about fish management. I assure the House that there has not been much licence movement within the past three years. The industry has been bogged down and frozen, yet the previous Government introduced the legislation to which I have referred.
The honourable member for Port Macquarie has been screaming for a share-managed fishery. She cannot have it both ways. It is a very sad day when someone who does not understand the industry and who is not prepared to follow the issues comes into the Chamber and carries on with typical National Party claptrap. This side of the House will do what is right. We will get the matter right. I assure honourable members that there will be full consultation. There will be no nonsense, as occurred in the past seven years. In the end, there will be better-run fisheries. If there is to be a court case, it will be over equity not over fish management. The poor, hapless honourable member for Port Macquarie, who purports to be the shadow minister, is unable to understand what it is all about.
SERVICES FOR ISOLATED ELDERLY PEOPLE
(Lakemba) [5.45]: Today I thank the Minister for Police for his recent initiatives towards the implementation of a statewide police elderly care scheme. Last week the Minister for Police announced the creation of a special task force that, as I understand it, will focus on establishing a statewide scheme aimed at ensuring the welfare of senior citizens living on their own. As I understand the situation, the task force will be responsible for implementing a statewide community care register. This would work as a voluntary program to regularly check the wellbeing of elderly people in their homes. The police elderly care scheme, which has already been trialled successfully in three electorates, is important. It operates under a system in which people who feel that they are at risk, especially the infirm or the elderly living alone, register their personal details at the local police station.
Beat police or volunteers in policing make regular checks and visits to those registered, to make sure that their welfare is maintained. Any concerns they have can be related to the appropriate community authorities. The scheme is of immense importance to many elderly people who reside alone in my electorate. The decision of the Carr Government to extend the program statewide follows a commitment given by the Premier and the Minister for Police after the tragic discovery of the body of an elderly man, Mr Clement Williams, in his Belmore home, within my electorate, in May this year. What made the discovery so tragic was the fact that Clement Williams had lain dead in his home for 2½ years before his body was discovered by a local window glazier who was looking for work in the area. It is almost unbelievable that somebody could lay dead and undiscovered for 2½ years in such an urban area.
The unnoticed death of Clement Williams highlights the lonely plight of many elderly residents who have no contact with family, friends or authorities. Within the Lakemba electorate there has been a rapid increase in the growth of the aged population, which now represents approximately 22 per cent of the total population. It is clear that there is a need to put in place adequate social services and systems that cater properly for our growing aged population. Our senior citizens are the backbone of our society. Our community and authorities have an absolute responsibility to respect, take care of and protect our elderly citizens. The establishment of the community care register is a very important step in the right direction. The lonely death of Clement Williams, whose body was left undetected in rat-infested premises for almost three years, is a sad indictment of modern society. Clement Williams deserved, and many others deserve, much better. I am amazed that local authorities did not detect Mr Williams' body sooner. In that time about 200 letters had accumulated at his doorstep - mostly bills. No-one bothered to go to the house to find out why his letters were not being collected. Amongst the 200 letters found by police there were only two personal letters.
I understand that the special task force set up by the Minister for Police to focus on the welfare of senior citizens living alone will deal with the issue at large and, as part of the crime prevention program of the Carr Government, establish priority areas throughout the State for the introduction of the community care register. Certainly there is a huge need within the Lakemba electorate for the implementation of this important scheme. I ask that this be taken into account when the task force examines its priorities. As the member for Lakemba I have received many letters and phone calls about the death of Clement Williams. As a result I tabled in the Parliament a petition signed by more than 100 people from the Canterbury City Community Centre outlining the concerns that elderly people face. This is a positive step in the right direction and another tick for the Carr Labor Government. The Government has its priorities where they should be. The initiative should be commended to the community at large. We should promote the fact that elderly people are able to register at their local police station to have their welfare opportunities put in place.
(Riverstone - Minister for Education and Training, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Youth Affairs) [5.50]: I congratulate the honourable member for Lakemba on raising this sensitive matter, which is of great concern to him and every member of this House. Tragically, no matter where one lives and no matter how crowded the circumstances, some people will always be very much alone in our society. It is tragic also that a person could pass away and his or her body not be detected for 2½ years. It is obvious that many elderly people, although living in a crowded city, still feel isolated. Isolation is one of the great scourges on modern society. It is a matter of considerable concern to many people, including members of Parliament. Therefore, it is important to take every available opportunity to speak about the issue and to draw attention to the plight of the lonely elderly living within our metropolis. The honourable member for Lakemba has done this most admirably. I congratulate him, and I know that those who feel a sense of responsibility in this regard will take due notice of his comments.
MERIMBULA PUBLIC SCHOOL
(Bega) [5.52]: I draw to the attention of the House the situation that exists at Merimbula Public School. I am pleased that the Minister for Education and Training is in the Chamber tonight to hear my statement. On 1 August I attended a meeting of that school's council and was most concerned at the poor standard of facilities at the school, which the council outlined in detail. Apparently the department has
acquired a site for a new school at Tura Beach, a few kilometres north of Merimbula. At the meeting I asked the members of the school council whether they wished efforts to be made to have the existing school brought up to an acceptable standard or whether they wanted the school to be relocated on the new site at Tura Beach.
Given the huge problems that exist at Merimbula it was decided that a new school at Tura Beach - the fastest growing area in the Merimbula precinct - would be a far more cost-effective solution. I call on the Minister to commence planning for that school immediately. The site at Merimbula is small, just over one hectare, with a poor building layout. It is undersize compared with land occupied by other schools in New South Wales, and its features make playground supervision difficult. On this small site there are seven demountable classrooms, which make up half the total classroom capacity of the school. The library is also a demountable building - and has been for the past 14 years. Obviously the accommodation is totally inadequate.
No room is dedicated for parent-teacher interviews and no facilities for either the school counsellor or the school nurse are provided. Any out-of-class activities such as in-house training or school functions have to be held off-site, and the staffroom is hopelessly overcrowded. Television programs for the school are recorded in the sick bay because there is no more suitable area. I am not quite sure what happens if the sick bay is occupied at the same time - obviously a frantic juggling for space would result. The storage room for the cleaner is inadequate; consequently equipment is left in whatever corner is vacant, and this is obviously highly undesirable and dangerous. There is no undercover area to accommodate school assemblies. Recently I wrote to the Minister on behalf of the parents and citizens association urgently seeking funds for a shaded area.
Real concern exists over the cramped conditions in which clerical staff are forced to work. There is insufficient room to set up a computer and typewriter in a workable environment. The department has provided the school with a satellite dish and telephone line to run language other than English classes, but these cannot be set up in a manner that can adequately utilise such programs. Off-street parking does not exist. I am sure honourable members can imagine the chaos in the mornings and afternoons with children being dropped off and collected, particularly when there is not even adequate space for staff parking. The only new building on the site is a technology room, which was fully funded by the school community and built by local labour with no input from the department. All this is bad enough, but the standard of maintenance is also appalling.
Walls are cracked and part of one wall has actually fallen down because of the lack of mortar between the bricks. The satellite dish could not be mounted on the optimum site due to the lack of mortar and, as I mentioned earlier, the language other than English program cannot be run efficiently. Plumbing problems have cost both the school and the department thousands of dollars and there has been flooding in some classrooms from stormwater runoff, with resultant damage to carpets. Books in the library have been damaged because of leaking walls and ceilings, and part of the canteen wall has had to be replaced due to water damage.
Light fittings in the main portion of the school are always in a state of disrepair. Because of the age of the building and the cost factor involved they are not always replaced. The electrical system at the school is a real worry. As the school has expanded classroom by classroom, the wiring has been installed in an extremely ad hoc manner. There is no way to shut the power off completely to some areas of the school. During a power failure the lights may go out, but the heaters stay on. There is a large variety of heaters - off-peak, on-peak, oil-filled, and strip heaters - which are considered to be dangerous. [Time expired
(Riverstone - Minister for Education and Training, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Youth Affairs) [5.57]: I thank the honourable member for Bega for expressing his concerns about the state of Merimbula Public School. I regret I do not have a detailed response because unfortunately he did not advise me that he would be raising this matter this afternoon.
I wrote to you.
The honourable member did write to me, as he said in his statement, and I will provide a detailed response to the matters raised in that correspondence. It is obvious that a considerable amount of research has gone into the preparation of his statement. Had he gone one step further and advised me that he was going to raise this matter today, I would have gone to the trouble of preparing a detailed response, which I would have been able to give now to the honourable member. The issues he has raised are serious and I take them seriously. Clearly something is amiss at Merimbula Public School if the situation is as bad as has been detailed by the honourable member.
One wonders what the previous Government did during its seven years in office - a government of which the honourable member was a part. As the local member for the electorate of Bega, under a coalition government, he was not able to obtain any assistance for the school. It is hypocritical of the honourable member to be crying poor mouth now and saying that he has written to me but has not yet received a response. The honourable member went to the trouble of raising the matter in the House this evening without advising me. I will give him and the school council a proper response. This Government, unlike the previous Government, will provide the facilities that the Merimbula school needs. This Government cares for the students of all schools, irrespective of what electorate they live in.
POLICE STATION OPEN DAYS
(Blacktown - Minister for the Environment) [5.59]: I congratulate the police patrols in my electorate on their successful community consultations, which occurred last week. Last Sunday the Seven Hills police patrol conducted a full open day involving a number of local community groups. Residents from the patrol area were invited to visit the station. Another very active local patrol is the Wentworthville patrol. On the previous Wednesday it conducted an open evening in Binalong Park for local residents of the Toongabbie area. Under the leadership of patrol commander Carl Hopper more than 5,000 people visited Binalong Park during the early evening and participated in a range of activities provided by the Wentworthville patrol. They deserve our heartiest support for the efforts they have made to educate the community about the activities of the local police.
On Sunday I had an opportunity to visit the Seven Hills police station and talk to a number of the members of Sergeant Bob Honeysett's team. The Seven Hills patrol and a number of local groups joined forces to organise what they considered to be a gala day for the local community. I believe that the Patrician Brothers football club was responsible for catering on the day; local State Emergency Services personnel and local fire brigades were represented; and a number of Neighbourhood Watch groups attended and assisted the police to educate the public about the sorts of activities they are currently engaged in. The patrol provided tours of the station for local children and their parents, and emergency equipment and a number of vehicles were on display. During the hour that I spent at the station last Sunday morning the atmosphere was very positive and many people came to see what the local police had on offer.
A number of issues are of concern to the Seven Hills police patrol, which is one of the busiest patrols in my electorate. Unfortunately, that patrol is kept busy responding to the numerous break-ins that occur in both residential and commercial premises in the electorate of Blacktown; and the very high incidence of domestic violence in the community requires that the Seven Hills patrol work closely with volunteers to resolve those issues as well. It is certainly the case that the Seven Hills patrol is understaffed by approximately 10 patrol officers. Quite recently I had discussions with the Minister for Police - I have also written to him about the matter - about ways of remedying the situation. I am reassured to note that from next week onwards there will be a dramatic increase in the number of police currently stationed at Seven Hills. This is overdue action. The former Government neglected the Seven Hills patrol despite many representations from those officers through the police hierarchy to the police Minister and to Cabinet.
Another issue worrying the Seven Hills patrol is a general lack of good accommodation on the site. In the past couple of years the police have moved to a redundant part of a school site in Seven Hills, in the electorate of my colleague the Minister for Education and Training. The accommodation is of a temporary nature, there are not enough interview rooms and the showering facilities for police are unsatisfactory. Despite these difficulties, of course, the police continue to do a commendable job and continue to coordinate a very active volunteers program. The police also work closely with Neighbourhood Watch groups in my electorate, which support the police in their efforts to improve both patrol numbers and accommodation. I have issued an invitation to the Minister for Police to visit the area. I want him to visit the patrols in Blacktown, Riverstone, Mount Druitt and Seven Hills. He could do so comfortably in one morning or afternoon. I know my colleagues in Mount Druitt and Riverstone are equally interested in the strength of the patrols in their electorates. The Minister has agreed to visit my electorate in the new year, and I can assure him that the police and local members will give him a very warm welcome.
(Riverstone - Minister for Education and Training, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Youth Affairs) [6.04]: I have pleasure endorsing the comments of the Minister for the Environment in relation to the professional way in which the police at Seven Hills carry out their duties, their total dedication to their work and the care they have for our joint constituents. My electorate is on the border of the electorate of the Minister for the Environment and much of the work of the Seven Hills police spills over into my electorate. It is a matter of great concern to the Minister and to me that the Seven Hills patrol is short-staffed and that accommodation is inadequate - although it is acknowledged that the accommodation is better now than it was some years ago when the patrol was cramped into very small premises indeed. I endorse the comments of the Minister for the Environment concerning the proposed visit of the Minister for Police to the area. I would welcome him to that part of my electorate which is covered by the Seven Hills patrol. I hope that he will visit the Riverstone patrol and also the site on which the new Quakers Hill police station will be built to relieve the burden on the already overworked police in the Riverstone police station.
REPRESENTATIONS TO MINISTERS
(South Coast) [6.06]: Several weeks ago I sought a meeting with an official of the National Parks and Wildlife Service in Hurstville. I waited patiently for a response that did not arrive. What I did get was a phone call from a staffer from the office of the Minister for the Environment who demanded to know why I was not following protocol. I must first get the permission of the
Minister, I was told. Four days elapsed between the time I first tried to contact the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the time that the Minister's office rang me. I was trying to contact the Deputy Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, but what the Minister's office and servant did not realise was that the contact with national parks was made on the basis of my role on the Yalwal-Yarramunmun management committee; it had nothing to do with my being a member of Parliament.
I have occupied this position for at least three years - two of those before I became a member of Parliament. Does the Minister's office believe that members of Parliament have no interests external to Parliament? On this occasion I wish to speak about the issue of protocol. The Minister insists that each time I speak to an individual in her department I must follow the supposed protocol of asking her first. That is all very well but some Ministers of the Government are inaccessible, a fact recognised by the media. The suggestion is that, in respect of every inquiry that my staff make to departments on my behalf, they must first get the permission of the Minister before proceeding; and every time I need to confirm or query a piece of information from her department, I must get the permission of the Minister. This is protocol as required by the Minister.
A reply from a Minister to an inquiry from a member takes about four to six weeks, sometimes longer. Is the Minister suggesting that I, as a representative of my constituents and as a member of Parliament, cannot talk to servants of this Parliament directly? Does this suggest that the Minister has no confidence in the officers of her department to make a balanced judgment when dealing with members of Parliament? In private industry managers are given the responsibility and trust to fulfil their duties. This is the real world. They do not go to the managing director seeking permission to speak, nor do companies insist that the managing director's permission be obtained before visitors or customers speak with a line manager. Ministers should have confidence in their departmental officers without recourse to the protocol gambit for members of Parliament.
In my short time in Parliament I have dealt with many and various departmental officers without first approaching the relevant Minister. I have even communicated with officers of the Speaker's department without first getting in contact with the Speaker. Just the other day one of my staff made an inquiry of a parliamentary officer. Did he commit a transgression? The only insistence on protocol has come from the Minister for the Environment and from the Minister for Fisheries. In fact, fisheries staff told me directly that they had been instructed not to speak with any member of the Opposition without first clearing the conversation with the Minister. It seems to me that protocol is being cited as some sort of display of power. If the majority of Ministers have seen fit to dispense with this alleged protocol and no damage has been done, why is it not universally accepted? If Ministers insist on protocol, surely it must be a two-way street.
It has been put to me that the Minister for the Environment wrote to a Labor colleague in Nowra stating that she will not support the Jervis Bay marina. The person to whom she wrote freely and proudly admitted the existence of the letter in a meeting of Shoalhaven City Council officers at which I was present. Neither I nor the council was informed of the Minister's decision. The council had not been written to. We all have been ignored. Some months ago I wrote to the Minister asking her for an explanation and so far I have had no reply. Council is also still waiting. Is that proper protocol? I would have thought that if the Minister had made a policy decision she would at least have communicated it to Shoalhaven City Council. I am sure other members have similar stories to tell. It has been alleged - I am sure it is not true - that some departments have been told not to tell members of the Opposition anything. Impeding a member of this Parliament in discussing matters with public servants, no matter how slight, is to be deplored and discouraged.
(Blacktown - Minister for the Environment) [6.11]: The remarks of the honourable member for South Coast reflect poorly on him. By his own admission, he has been a member of this House only a short time. In his extraordinary attack he did not quote directly from any documents - I know for a fact that he does not have anything from me - to confirm his allegations. Unfortunately, some of his colleagues are doing him a disservice in not encouraging him to talk to Ministers directly about some of the issues he raised. Many Opposition members talk to me about issues that concern them, including the shadow minister, the honourable member for Pittwater, and various members of the National Party.
It would be better for the honourable member for South Coast to adopt that approach instead of wallowing in self-pity as he did this evening. I advise him that I employ a parliamentary liaison officer in my ministerial office, Miss Selina O'Connor. He could contact her if he wishes to raise an issue. I have issued no pronouncements to my department, either verbally or in writing, that the honourable member for South Coast must go through my ministerial office before he contacts officers of any of the departments or agencies responsible to me. Many public agencies are very responsible in their attitude to people who telephone to make direct representations without first putting things in writing or to seek advice direct from the ministerial office before they take some other form of action. [Time expired
LAKE ILLAWARRA DEVELOPMENT
(Wollongong) [6.13]: I wish to continue a private member's statement that I commenced on 25 October dealing with Lake Illawarra and the Lake Illawarra Authority and development proposals affecting mostly reclaimed land on the eastern and northern sides of Griffins Bay, which is in the north-eastern corner of Lake Illawarra. The Lake Illawarra Authority has identified nine major indicative lease areas. I refer to page 9 of the development guidelines publication prepared on behalf of the Lake Illawarra Authority. In chapter 3 under the heading "General" it is claimed that the proposal has been publicised in the media and in exhibitions and has wide community support. There is a large question mark over that statement. I attended two public meetings held many years ago at which intense development of the lake foreshore was overwhelmingly opposed. More than 200 people attended the first meeting and about 150 attended the second.
I shall refer to each of the proposed lease areas and indicate what is proposed by the authority. Sites Nos 1, 2 and 3 are of approximately one hectare each. They are at the eastern end of Griffins Bay and front onto King Street. Their maximum potential development could involve 70 per cent of the land area, and with buildings extending to 12 metres in height. So multistorey buildings could be erected on the sites. Site No. 4 is of the order of four hectares and is located at the intersection of Northcliffe Drive at King Street. In general discussions with the authority it was earmarked for hotel-motel-restaurant development. Site No. 5 faces Northcliffe Drive, is approximately one hectare, and could be leased for commercial recreation purposes or licensed for sports club use. Site No. 6 also faces Northcliffe Drive. It is approximately three hectares and may be leased or licensed for organised sporting use. The presumption is that sites 5 and 6 would be sterilised from public use for the use of the organisations which obtain the leases or licences.
Site No. 7 is of about 500 square metres and is adjacent to the lake foreshore. It is virtually on the water's edge and could be leased for the development of a kiosk. Site No. 8 is located off Northcliffe Drive and is approximately half a hectare. It could be leased or licensed for a variety of uses, such as a water oriented club or for sport and recreation activities. Site No. 9 is located to the west of the Illawarra Yacht Club between Northcliffe Drive and the lake. It is approximately one hectare and could be used for activities associated with the maintenance of water craft. The development guidelines document states in relation to minor leases and licence sites on page 10:
In addition to the sites mentioned above, the LIA intends to offer short term leases or licences for various community and commercial uses throughout the Griffins Bay area. This could be for such activities as a floating restaurant, sailboard hire, exhibitions, community events . . . or private functions . . .
I am gravely concerned about how much of the eastern and northern foreshore of Griffins Bay would be available for community use. That is my main concern in raising this issue. [Time expired
RECOVERED MEMORY ALLEGATIONS
(Davidson) [6.18]: I raise a matter which I raised initially some weeks ago in the Parliament, the case of sexual abuse and bizarre rituals involving a number of people in the area I represent. Obviously I will not identify individuals. As I said previously, I believe that the Department of Community Services has abused its powers. Allegations were made by the eldest of four children, a daughter. The three other children, after extensive interviewing, initially supported the allegations but after greater scrutiny they have all now retracted statements. The actions of the department and the police in this matter should stand condemned. The second daughter, who initially made allegations, admitted lying about them and at a later stage retracted the statements, in particular the one about having been forced to have an abortion.
The son, who at the time of the allegations 18 months ago was 15 years, was removed from the family home, as were all the other children, and taken to Minali boys home. He was denied access to family members. Relatives were told that they could contact him but the department denied them access. It was on-again-off-again access. He was told that nobody cared about him. He was assaulted and his clothes were stolen. After six weeks there he was withdrawn and in a total mess. The police threatened him, pressuring him into making allegations, which initially he did. He then retracted them. The department and the police applied psychological pressure to him. After six weeks in the home he was released into the custody of relatives. The Department of Community Services told the court that the relatives believed the allegations, which they did not and do not.
Four months later the police arrived unannounced at his new school, where his background was not known. The police threatened him and said, "This is your last chance or we will put you back in Minali." He is now scared of the Department of Community Services workers and the police. He simply wants the matter behind him. The youngest daughter, now 12, had unsupervised access with the eldest daughter, who made the allegations against her parents and grandmother. There is a risk that her evidence could have been contaminated. She has made retractions recently. In the last fortnight she dropped a bombshell by saying that the initial supporting allegations she made were not true. She said, "I don't think it's true any more." When she was asked why she supported the allegations she said:
Cause the things that other people had said made me think that it was true and that it did happen.
When she was asked why she thought the allegations were true, she said:
Well, one of the things that, all the questions that I'd been asked. They're like, they seem like it was true.
It was quite clear, from the greater detail, that she was asked leading and suggestive questions when she was interviewed. She was coerced and confirmed the allegations. She wrote letters to her mother, which had not been passed on until last week but which date from May. These letters indicate that she wanted to go home. All of the children had been removed from the family home. One of the letters states:
I miss you heaps. When am I coming home? Why did this have to happen? Do you miss me as much as I miss you?
On Mothers' Day she wrote:
I wish I was there with you today. How come it is so hard for me to see you? Are they trying to make me miserable?
She also wrote the following poem:
Some people may think it's crazy to wish for something you can never have, to need someone you can never hold. But if your life is shattered the way mine is dreams are all you have. Hoping one day they will come true . . .
All of these letters are signed "Love always" and the daughter's name. The Department of Community Services and the police have many questions to answer. They have acted quite disgracefully in this matter. The grandmother is quite ill at this stage, and is worried that she will not see her grandchildren again. The Department of Community Services is pursuing this case. It has been alleged that the case officer, Michel McPherson, has not been objective in her handling of the case. It is said that she has pursued it like a fanatic. She has achieved her objective of destroying the family unit.
Pauline Rockley is involved in a similar case - the Children of God case. She has been involved in briefing Department of Community Services witnesses before they give evidence in the case. The Minister for Community Services must intervene in this case - and I have asked him to do so, by way of correspondence, on numerous occasions. The Department of Community Services and the police have acted in a contemptible manner. Injustice has been done. The family has been torn apart and will never be rehabilitated in the way it ought to be. [Time expired.
(Riverstone - Minister for Education and Training, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Youth Affairs) [6.23]: I have listened with considerable attention to the comments of the honourable member for Davidson. I shall pass on his comments to both the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services and the Minister for Police. I am sure that both of those Ministers will deal with the comments of the honourable member in a thorough manner and provide him with an appropriate response. However, I was once Minister for youth and community services and I am aware of the sorts of issues that arise. It is easy to be wise in hindsight. The honourable member should be careful about having a go at the Department of Community Services and the police in relation to these intricate and personal matters.
Quite often it is difficult to arrive at a conclusion in these matters. Frequently the officers working with the department are hamstrung. They have to make quick assessments and to take people at face value. Some time down the track circumstances may appear to be somewhat different from what was stated. They are the ones responsible for taking specific action to make sure that they alleviate whatever negligence or lack of care there may be in relation to individuals, particularly minors. I suggest that the honourable member for Davidson confer with some of his colleagues who have also been Ministers for community services, particularly if they held ministerial responsibility at the time these events occurred. I think he will find that those people will provide him with the same advice that I have: before condemning community services workers and the police it would behove the honourable member to give them a little credit for the way in which they act and for the care they show to people they supervise.
Private members' statements noted.
[Mr Acting-Speaker (Mr Clough) left the chair at 6.25 p.m. The House resumed at 7.30 p.m.
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
GENERAL GOVERNMENT DEBT ELIMINATION BILL MOTOR VEHICLES TAXATION AMENDMENT BILL
BUSINESS FRANCHISE LICENCES (PETROLEUM PRODUCTS) AMENDMENT BILL
ROAD IMPROVEMENT (SPECIAL FUNDING) FURTHER AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour
(Sutherland) [7.30]: Tonight I speak to the first Labor budget that New South Wales has had in seven years. The Treasurer said that this was a true Labor budget. It is a true Labor budget because it is a con job. It is a budget that gives with one hand and takes with the other. Earlier this evening the honourable member for The Entrance said that it was a typical Labor budget, and in referring to the roads budget he made the point that it was a record roads budget of $2 billion.
He then revised his estimate and said it was $1.9 billion. My colleague the honourable member for Oxley and I had the budget papers in the Chamber and we pointed out that the roads budget was only $1.726 billion. The honourable member for The Entrance did not seem to know what was in the budget. The Government should remember that the coalition left this State in a sound financial position. The coalition's objective was always to reduce the deficit to achieve a sustainable balanced budget by 1997-1998. It would be fair to say that if the Treasurer has one real problem -
He has a series of problems.
As the honourable member for Cronulla said, he has a series of problems, but one real problem the Treasurer has is his obsession with debt. A few weeks ago a former Premier, the Hon. Nick Greiner, made mention of this at the launch of a book, Reform and Reversal
, a history of the coalition Government in New South Wales. He made the point that the Treasurer has this obsession with debt. As the former Premier said at the time, that is fairyland stuff. Under the administration of the coalition State debt was under control. It had been reduced from 22 per cent to 15 per cent. New South Wales had the lowest tax growth of any State in Australia, and even the current Premier acknowledged that when he said in May, "We have a decent economic inheritance in this State." The Treasurer, the Premier and the Government made unrealistic promises before the election and now the people of New South Wales are paying the price.
I shall deal now with the sport and recreation budget and an issue that is of extreme importance to the people of the electorate of Sutherland. There can be no doubt that the Carr Government has cut funding to sport in this State. It is all right for the Minister to talk about an institute of sport and say that funding has been provided not only to establish an institute of sport, but also to provide recurrent funding - and so it should be. The establishment of the institute was an initiative of the previous coalition Government. It was the coalition Government that put in train the process of establishing an institute of sport in this State. The coalition Government found private sector sponsorship from the Registered Clubs Association and guaranteed funding for an institute of sport so that our elite athletes would have the best facilities and education of any athletes in Australia.
However, apart from that particular initiative and the setting up of the women in sport unit, which is only an extension of a policy unit already established in the Department of Sport by the coalition when it was in office, the budget contains little else in terms of initiatives. Some $400,000 has been provided for two new academies. One of those was to be established by the coalition in the Macarthur area. The coalition also committed an additional $600,000 to the existing six regional academies in New South Wales. In this budget not one extra cent has been provided for those regional academies. More importantly, an issue that should be of great interest to all members of this House, because it deals with sport at the local community level, is the capital assistance program cuts in this budget.
It is fine for the Minister to try to fudge the figures, as she did in the estimates committee. The simple fact is that funding set aside for capital assistance programs in this budget is at an all-time low of $2.13 million. Under the coalition the funding was $4 million, and over two years another $5 million was set aside for sport in developing areas, an equitable distribution of funding with which no-one could disagree. No-one will disagree that, under the coalition Government, western Sydney got a fair go so far as distribution of funding for local sporting groups was concerned. It is no good the Minister saying, "Do not worry about the capital assistance program. The funding is there and we will look after local sport." Funding for that scheme has been cut, and the people who will miss out will be the local sporting groups, the kids - those at the grassroots of sport in this State.
Two weeks ago in the estimates committee the Minister made great play of the fact that she was going to make sure that funds were targeted to areas of greatest need. I put the Minister on notice that the Opposition will be paying a great deal of attention to where the Minister apportions that money. We will ensure that she does keep her word and the money is put into areas of highest need. Some $2.13 million is not a lot of money for grassroots sports in this State. The Menai Hawks Soccer Club in my electorate is reputedly the largest junior sports club in the Southern Hemisphere, with a membership of about 1,000 kids. They play on two fields and have one clubhouse. That club has never asked for a cent from government for sporting facilities; the club's facilities have been provided from its own resources. This year it has applied for funding to provide additional facilities for those kids. I will be vigilant to make sure that the Minister provides the club with appropriate funds to build its clubhouse.
The Menai Roosters, a local rugby league club, has also applied for funding under this scheme. Approximately 25 per cent of the population of the Menai area is under the age of four. If children aged to 13 years were taken into account, 50 per cent of the population would be under the age of 13, and those kids need funds; they need assistance. That is what the developing areas assistance scheme was for: to provide funding for kids engaged in sport in developing areas throughout the Sydney metropolitan region and coastal growth areas of New South Wales. It is a disappointment to me personally, but also to the young kids and sporting clubs of this State, that the scheme has been discontinued. There can be no doubt that Labor has deserted the Sutherland shire. We have not benefited in any way from the budget presented this year by the Hon. Michael Egan,
which is the greatest irony of all times. Of course, both the honourable member for Cronulla and the honourable member for Georges River, who represents the area neighbouring the northern suburbs of the Sutherland shire, know that the biggest issue in the area is roads.
What did the Sutherland area receive in the budget for roads? We received zilch from the Minister for Roads. Not one penny, not one zack, was allocated for roadwork in the Menai area. The previous Government realised that the area had been neglected for 12 years by the previous Labor Government. Recently, a former councillor of the Sutherland shire, Mr Don Carter, pointed out to me that at least under the Askin, Greiner and Fahey, the New South Wales Government recognised the need to provide funding for roads in the Menai area. Bob Askin said that his Government would look at the Alfords Point bridge and provide additional funding for roadworks. The Liberal Party then lost office, and Neville Wran was in power from 1976 to 1988. Again the area was neglected. Attempts to obtain road funding for the area were met with the response, "Sorry, it's a secondary main road; we will give you only 50 per cent towards the cost of building roads in the Menai area." Again the area got zilch.
One of the reasons that Allan Andrews won the seat of Heathcote and I won the seat of Sutherland in 1988 was that we made commitments to upgrade the road network in the area. Over the years prior to that election the Government, through Landcom, built many homes in the area, but did not provide the necessary infrastructure - no police stations, no ambulance station, no roads or public facilities of any kind. A former Minister for Housing, the Hon. Terry Sheahan, decided to plonk public housing in the area, but those occupying that housing had no access to public transport. When the coalition came to power in 1988 it made a commitment to provide roads and other facilities in the area. That commitment has been fulfilled and 23,000 people currently live in the area. Menai Road is the main thoroughfare from the eastern side of the Sutherland shire to the Bankstown area. The previous Government provided an average of $6 million a year to improve roads, and last year $8 million was provided.
The previous Government provided the Menai motorway, and committed itself to building the Woronora bridge, the Bangor bypass and the north-south motorway. This year those commitments have disappeared. The previous Government spent $11 million on the Woronora bridge, and four of the most expensive fishing piers in Sydney sit in the river as an indictment of the Labor Party. The Minister for Roads is so ignorant that he has been quoted in the press as saying, "If they can prove to me that there is support for the bridge, I will build it." The Minister will find out, because the people of Menai and the Sutherland shire are extremely angry that the Government will not continue a project that was already under way. The decision defies logic; it makes no sense. The budget contains no allocation for the bridge, for the Bangor bypass, or for the environmental impact statement promised by the previous Government. These should have been undertaken by now.
No funds have been allocated for the north-south motorway, although funding for that facility was the big promise made prior to the last election by the Labor Party candidate for the area, who said, "Don't worry about the Woronora bridge or the Bangor bypass; we will build the north-south motorway." Guess what? Not one cent is allocated in the budget for the north-south motorway. The Government will not build the bridge or the bypass, but it has broken its own promise and will not provide money for the north-south motorway. Each day more than 25,000 vehicles, including 72 buses carrying school children, use the east-west route from the Sutherland shire through to Bankstown. The traffic must go down a winding road, over a crummy little bridge at the bottom of the hill and climb up the other side. In 1981 the road was so bad that a garbage truck had to be fished off the side of a hill by Menai Road: it had fallen over the side. That is how dangerous the road is. Children turn up to school half an hour late. At Inaburra High School the teachers do not bother asking children why they are half an hour late, because they know that the school buses have been caught in a traffic jam.
If honourable members want to see gridlock in action, they should go out to Menai road or Alfords Point Road. To travel from Sutherland to Alfords Point, which should take eight minutes on an average day, can take 35 minutes or 40 minutes in peak hour traffic. It does not take that long to travel in peak hour from Como to Parliament House by road. The people of Menai and the Sutherland shire use that route every day, and they are sick and tired of the Government and the arrogant Minister, who says, "Don't worry about it. If you can prove to me that the majority of people out there want the bridge and the road, I will give them to you." We will prove that to the Minister.
I turn now to my concern, and the concern of a group of parents in the St George and Sutherland area, about the future of the Sutherland Special Education Support Centre. No-one on either side of the House would deny that the previous Government provided funding for the education of children with special needs. One of the greatest initiatives of the previous Government was the establishment of special education support centres; they do an absolutely fantastic job. If there was a problem with these centres, it was that there were not enough of them. The centre at Sutherland served 250 schools in the east metropolitan education area. The centre was innovative because it was a combined venture between State school system and the Catholic school system, and between the Department of Health and the Department of School Education. The centre was so valuable that it had an 18-month waiting list. I know a little
about this matter because my son waited 18 months to access the centre; he is a child with learning problems. When I discovered the other day that there was every chance that the centre was to close, I became very angry. This change is tied up in the restructuring of the Department of School Education. [Extension of time agreed to.
Such centres are needed in our education system. We need more of them, not fewer. The department, in its infinite wisdom, as part of the restructure intends to withdraw staff from the centre. The department soon learned about the anger, not only from the local member and other members such as the honourable member for Georges River, but also from the parents. We do not intend to take this lying down. The department decided to delay any review of staffing and funding for the centres for 12 months. I place the Minister on notice that I do not care whether the delay is 12 months or six months - there is absolutely no way that centre should close down. More funds should be made available in this budget for such centres. In the real world of the education system thousands of children have learning difficulties.
A couple of months ago I read in the Sydney Morning Herald
that one of the Premier's advisers on education was the former Minister for Education, Rodney Cavalier. That may be part of the problem. I am a school teacher by profession, and many school teachers remember what Rodney Cavalier had to say about children with special needs in our education system. His words will not be forgotten. He said that there are no kids with special needs in our education system. If that is the kind of advice that the Premier is getting, he should go out to the coalface - he should meet the parents from the learning difficulties coalition and from the Association for Children with Learning Difficulties. He would then find out what the truth is about kids with learning difficulties. Kids with learning difficulties exist, they have rights and they deserve centres that can help them.
Centres for kids with learning difficulties may not be the be-all and end-all, but they can point those kids in the right direction. They provide staff with advice and they have outreach programs that help the kids. That is what is needed. It is my hope that in future budgets funding for the centres will be continued. I hope that the Department of School Education will not dismantle the centres. As I have said, the result would be a fight. Today a thousand technical and further education teachers protested outside Parliament House. There would be many more parents protesting outside Parliament House if a decision were made to close down the centres for kids with learning difficulties. I do not have any more to say about this budget. I thank the House for its indulgence. As I said earlier, this is a real Labor budget; it is a con job and a budget that gives with one hand and takes with the other.
(Wallsend) [7.52]: I am pleased to support the first Labor Government budget for seven years and the first budget of the Carr Government. There is no doubt that this is a Labor budget. The Labor Government agenda was set in the election campaign of March 1995. In that campaign there were five big items: health; education; community safety, especially policing; the environment, especially forests; and community services. I am delighted that this first budget addresses those five areas of need. It does that without increasing taxes, and it does that while reducing the deficit and attacking the problem of debt in this State. What a wonderful difference a Labor Government budget has made for the Wallsend electorate. The first set of examples I shall give relates to capital expenditure items in the Wallsend electorate. Under the Greiner and Fahey governments my electorate was neglected for seven years. Significant improvements will now be made, improvements of a kind that only the Labor Government, with its social justice objectives, would introduce.
There is no particular order of magnitude in the matters I raise. I point first to the $748,000 allocated to start construction of a multipurpose hall at Glendale Technology High School. When first elected to this House I met the school community and discovered that some facilities had been significantly neglected. The neglect evident at Glendale Technology High School were not resolved by the coalition Government. The school managed to get some help from the Federal Labor Government in the distribution of funds that the Federal Government has in recent years allocated to the school system. Upgrading and additional classrooms at the school have come via the Federal Government. Now, with a New South Wales Labor Government, effectively $750,000 has been allocated to start construction of a multipurpose hall.
Three high schools were built in the Hunter region at around the same time. In 1968 there was Kotara High School, in 1970 the school at Glendale and in 1974 the Lambton school. Those three schools are so similar that one could close one's eyes and feel one's way around them: they are of the same architecture and are essentially the same size. The three schools escaped without ever being provided with a decent hall. They have what are called high-level shelters, which means just that if the roof does not leak. The shelters are about two-thirds the size of a basketball court. I suppose money must have been a bit short at the time the schools were built, in the time of the Askin Government. It is only with the advent of a Labor Government that a multipurpose hall is now being provided.
My election pamphlet went out and, suddenly, within 10 days of the State election, the former Government held a planning meeting to start the process of construction of a multipurpose hall at Glendale Technology High School. My election pamphlet had already been circulated, outlining the Labor Party commitment to get construction of that hall under way. This Government is delivering on the commitment. The planning process has been
followed. The school community was consulted, met and made a determination on the kind of hall it wanted and where the hall should be located on the school site. Construction started this year at Glendale. Construction has also started at Kotara High School, in the electorate of my colleague the Minister for Gaming and Racing, the honourable member for Charlestown.
About 150 metres from Glendale Technology High School is the Glendale TAFE college. When I was a member of the college committee, at the time of the former Labor Government, before Dr Metherell abolished community committees involved with local TAFE colleges, there were already ideas for a stage two expansion of the Glendale TAFE college. Rationalisation of vehicle trades led to the concentration of those trades at the Glendale college in the lower Hunter region, and it became necessary to develop the stage two expansion of the college. That project will be completed. Also involved is library construction work. A crowded and unsuitable part of the old college building was made available for a library. The expansion contains a library access centre and extension to spray-painting and panel beating buildings. The final $2.78 million of the total budget of $6.8 million will be being spent in this financial year and the project is due for completion in March 1996. That is delightful. Certainly the staff and the students of the TAFE college at Glendale are looking forward to being able to use their new library and, from the beginning of next year, to taking over properly the other expanded centres.
The Hunter Water Corporation is moving to the Edgeworth part of the Hunter sewerage scheme. This year $5.6 million will be expended on the Cardiff waste water pumping station. The earthworks are under way for the upgrading of the Edgeworth sewage treatment works. The original plans for the sewage treatment works have been revised by Hunter Water Corporation, to ensure that smells that have troubled surrounding residents are controlled. The sewage treatment works was located and then, unfortunately, the local council allowed the construction of housing to within 120 metres of the active parts of the sewage treatment works. That happened 40 years or more ago; it would never be allowed to happen today. However, the houses cannot be moved.
The upgrade of the Edgeworth waste water treatment works is under way. The modifications and plans are such that the receiving station will be closed. In the past four or five years smells have been very bad, particularly during a dry summer. It is hoped that the problem of smells troubling residents living close to the sewage treatment works will be solved. The problem is similar to one experienced in your electorate of Newcastle, Mr Acting-Speaker, from the Murdering Gully sewage treatment works. The smells are about to be eliminated from that area, and in my electorate we look forward to the upgrading at Edgeworth being of similar benefit to our residents.
Allocation is made for a number of roadworks of significant value. This year $152,000 is being allocated to complete a project to widen Lake Road, Glendale, which was part of the State's commitment to provide decent access routes to the F3 Freeway. A sum of $200,000 is being spent on widening a dangerous intersection at the industrial estate on Macquarie Road, Warners Bay. That sum will be matched by Lake Macquarie City Council. That was formerly a narrow road and was not able to have money spent on it because, due to draughting errors, it was built largely on private land. It is only a few years ago that an error was discovered and the matter was sorted out.
Drivers who frequently have to go in and out of the Warners Bay industrial estate, which has had a dangerous access intersection on to Macquarie Road, will now gain some relief. This year $149,000 for the electorate of Wallsend and $121,000 for the electorate of my colleague the honourable member for Waratah has been allocated for the provision of emergency phones on the F3 to Wallsend link road. Most people take emergency phones alongside freeways for granted. However, an eight kilometre limited-access near-freeway standard road from the F3 into Wallsend does not have emergency phones. People who break down, especially at night, need to be able to obtain help by using an emergency phone. I made representations to the former Government to have something done about emergency phones as a safety measure. Thanks to the Labor Government, almost everybody who lives in Newcastle or Lake Macquarie will have the added safety of emergency phones along the F3 to Wallsend link road.
In the budget $117,000 is allocated as part of the cost of constructing a roundabout at the corner of Carnley Avenue and Orchardtown Road in New Lambton. That is another dangerous intersection. Hopefully, the roundabout will slow down some of the traffic that passes along a short section of fast road along the boundary of Blackbutt Reserve. The traffic does not slow down quickly enough for the intersection and the roundabout will help to define the intersection and will improve road safety. The allocation of $330,000 will almost be completely spent in a short, fast project on Macquarie Road at the corner of Pendlebury Road. This was a high priority for Lake Macquarie City Council because of the increasing difficulty in gaining access to the Cardiff industrial estate, which is continuing to expand and is filling rapidly with light industry. The area needed a second exit route to avoid the congested corner of Munibung Road and Macquarie Road. In the event of a vehicle breakdown, industrial traffic found it impossible to get in or out of the estate. Little by little Macquarie Road, an important arterial connection from Cardiff to Warners Bay, will be widened to four lanes, thanks to the efforts of the Labor Government to improve conditions for people in the Hunter region.
For a cycleway along Winding Creek $10,000 has been budgeted. The Roads and Traffic Authority has received funding in this budget for
many cycleway proposals in the Hunter region. That funding demonstrates the commitment of the Minister for Transport when he was the shadow minister. He encouraged cycleway development for the transport of school kids, for people who go to work, as well as for relaxation and exercise. The largest single item in the capital works expenditure budget for Wallsend is $16 million for the acquisition of vehicles, software and equipment for Orion Energy, the headquarters of which are in my electorate. That was good news for the Wallsend electorate. In terms of regional perspectives in the Hunter, more than $310 million was allocated for capital works projects. The allocation of that amount fulfils a range of key commitments given during the election campaign. The spending program includes road projects worth a total of $114 million, three new schools, a major expansion of TAFE facilities and also an injection of funds into critical commercial projects such as the Newcastle Ports Corporation and the Honeysuckle development.
The Treasurer has described the budget as one that sets clear priorities and redirects resources to front-line services in the Hunter. Once again speaking in terms of the Hunter regional perspective, the total roads budget of $114 million was an increase of $5.7 million on the previous year, an increase of 5 per cent ahead of inflation. An amount of $2.5 million has been allocated to begin construction of the Charlestown bypass from the Pacific Highway near Windale to Kotara Heights. The project will ultimately cost $65 million and is considered to be the most significant regional road link in the Hunter. The road runs along the boundary of the electorate. It will provide a great service to the citizens of my electorate and to most of the electorates in the Hunter region. For the upgrading and restoration works on the New England Highway, $34 million has been allocated, with $12 million budgeted for the construction of the Raymond Terrace bypass. The duplication of Leneghans Drive from the Minmi F3 interchange to John Renshaw Drive has been allocated $11.4 million. I have already mentioned the funding for 10 new cycleway links.
New schools are being built at Glendore and Salamander Bay. An amount of $1.13 million has been allocated to complete the construction of a replacement school at Rathmines and for major upgrading and maintenance works at six primary and two high schools. Other significant capital works initiatives in the Hunter include the ongoing development of the Honeysuckle project. For the benefit of members of the Opposition it is worth noting that $8 million will be spent on the stage one redevelopment of Maitland Hospital, which will cost a total of $28 million by the time of its completion in December 1996. The honourable member for Maitland, who made all sorts of allegations during the election campaign, wept crocodile tears. The Labor Government governs for everybody. The continuation of the redevelopment of Maitland Hospital was an important commitment by the Government to the people of Maitland, and it has honoured that commitment. That allocation leaves only $5 million to be spent on Maitland Hospital in next year's budget to complete the project.
The budget includes $10.4 million for new facilities in TAFE; $2.47 million for improved facilities for the Newcastle Ports Corporation; $13.75 million under the country towns water and sewerage program; $200,000 from the Department of State Development towards the business promotion and investment centre in the Hunter; $305,000 to begin construction of a new police station at Thornton, which is due to be completed by June 1998; and $200,000 to complete construction of Metford rail station. No wonder the newspapers in the Hunter region were full of praise for the Labor budget. The Newcastle Herald
of 11 October stated in its editorial:
A promising balancing act
. . . Mr Egan's extravagant use of language in praise of the Budget's achievements could turn out to be justified. He has done, at least on paper, what Labor promised to do in the election campaign: put together a Budget that increases spending in key areas, does not increase or introduce taxes and begins a long-term task of eliminating State Government indebtedness . . .
The editorial continued:
It would be hard . . . to argue with the figures produced to show the blow-out in the cost of the School Student Transport Scheme. Without change, the scheme would have cost the taxpayer $350 million this year. The changes will shave $100 million off the scheme by June, 1997, without having a substantial impact on most schoolchildren and parents.
The Government deserves praise for its courage in tackling something that began as a good idea - a scheme for helping meet the transport costs of children in rural areas - but became a monster as vote-seeking politicians drew more children under its umbrella and later lacked the spine to rein in its costs.
The Liberal Government lacked that spine for seven years. The Newcastle Herald
The Government's work in reducing the expected deficit to $238 million this year, with a small surplus of $11 million forecast in 1996-97, deserves praise. So, too, does its attack on the debt problem, because the interest paid on the debt is equal to half of what is spent each year on running the State school system.
The Newcastle Herald
certainly knew what the budget was all about and made its assessment. The Lake Macquarie News
editorial of 18 October stated:
It is important that in a strong Labor area the people who played a large part in getting the Carr Government into office are not forgotten . . .
However in this area the promises made by the elected MPs appear to have been honoured.
Lake Macquarie is a rapidly growing area and no-one should be more aware of that than Bob Carr himself as he made many visits to the district during his term as
Opposition Leader and gave commitments on many matters. The fact we have an active group of Hunter region MPs including one minister is important.
The wishes of the region are taken directly to government via our MPs. Over the next few years we hope to see all promises made before the election fulfilled.
The newspaper article about the budget appeared under the headline "Millions for city in the State Govt budget". The independent mayor of Lake Macquarie, who defeated a Labor candidate at the local government elections, was full of praise. He said, "Last week the State Budget was presented and it was good to see support for projects around the city", and he specifically mentioned the commencement of State highway 23, Morisset police station, Toronto and Glendale high school improvements, and funding for foreshore improvements at Green Point, which he said were "all positive recognition of the needs within Lake Macquarie". He stated later in the article:
We are fortunate in Lake Macquarie that we have regular meetings with our State Members. We share the needs and information and support each other in getting the best for Lake Macquarie.
[Extension of time agreed to
In the Hunter Valley Research Foundation Sponsors' Newsletter 5/95 dated September/October 1995 an economist, Tracey Stinson, surveyed the impact of the State budget from the Hunter region perspective. She said:
The recent release of the NSW Government's 1995-96 Budget has a number of direct implications for the Hunter Region . . .
From an economic perspective, this funding will improve the competitive base from which the Region operates; improving transport to, from and within the Region, and providing better educational and health facilities. Apart from the immediate implications of this expenditure, the regional economy will benefit from the jobs and extra activity that this expenditure will generate.
The budget process has produced some matters that do not appear in the budget papers but they are worth noting. Two of these in particular relate to education. Firstly, that the budget process has resulted in planning being commenced for a multipurpose hall at Lambton High School. I mentioned Lambton earlier when I was talking about Glendale. One of Labor's election promises in Wallsend was that it would proceed with a multipurpose hall at Lambton High School. That election promise has been honoured. The first meeting to start the planning process was held last month. It is a big tick for Labor in the Hunter. The school community has already made its choice of a performance-style hall, and I congratulate the school community on that decision. I and the electorate await further funding in due course for the construction of that hall.
Secondly, in respect of minor capital works, $50,000 has been allocated to commence the process of consolidation at Wallsend Public School. Promises were made to the school by the previous Government but they were not honoured. Those promises were for a project amounting to $1.2 million for the transfer of the infants site to the primary school site and an upgrading of the school. It certainly needs upgrading because some of the buildings, and particularly some floors, are not in good condition. Indeed, cyclic maintenance has been deferred on both sites over the last couple of years pending consolidation. Once again this Government has started the process to commence consolidation, and I and the Wallsend Public School community look forward to future funding and upgrading.
I want to mention the north Lake Macquarie lead pollution problem and the commitment a Labor Government has made to get the process of remediation properly under way. Of recent times $200,000 from the Environmental Trust grant has been allocated for remediation. Last week the Pasminco company contributed $100,000 in cash to match the Environmental Trust grant and $100,000 in kind for a home that will be used as the environmental remediation centre. That centre was opened last week by the Deputy Premier. The project manager for remediation will be located there. The project manager was recently selected by a community-based committee under the leadership of Dr John Stevenson from the public health unit. Mr Denis Pryor, formerly manager of public works in Newcastle, was the successful candidate. I and members of the community look forward to working with him as the remediation process gets under way.
Minor expenditure in this year's budget under a Labor Government is making things happen and happen fairly quickly. The Department of Health has committed $60,000 and the Environment Protection Authority has committed $60,000 towards employing the project manager. The company, Pasminco, is doing the right thing by helping to improve the local environment, and it has committed a similar amount of funding. I commend Lake Macquarie City Council, which bore the early burden of wrestling with the problem of historical pollution in the suburbs around the smelter. It will also contribute cash towards the employment of the project manager. I acknowledge also that the Department of School Education paid out $500,000 approximately three years ago for remediation to three schools close to the smelter, in the interests of the health of the primary and infants children in those schools. Finally, honourable members have seen the passage recently of the Forestry Restructuring and Nature Conservation Bill through the upper House, which ensured that $2.1 million is available from the environmental trusts for lead remediation in north Lake Macquarie. That is, of course, one of the purposes for which the environmental trusts were set up, and one of the purposes for which they will continue to be used.
I express my thanks to members on the crossbenches of the Legislative Council for the support they have given to my constituents and to those in the Lake Macquarie electorate whose lives
have been so affected by living in close proximity to the Cockle Creek smelter. Those members on the crossbenches have recognised the importance of remediation of toxic pollution in the interests of public health. Provision is being made for those funds over a number of years from the environmental trusts. Health is a vital matter in the Hunter. I do not believe there is any community in New South Wales that takes a greater interest in its public health system than the community in the Hunter. Nowhere else have I seen people so willing to go to the media and talk about how they want their health system to be paid for and what ought to be done about it.
In New South Wales all of the areas and districts received enhanced funding under the 1995-96 Labor budget. Once again, that is how one can tell it is a Labor budget - the local communities are $129 million better off than they were under the former Liberal Government! In the Hunter area the initial budget for this year is in excess of $423 million, which is an increase of $24 million or 2.1 per cent in real terms. Extra operating funds have been allocated to the waiting list reduction program and the emergency department incentive scheme. The capital works program in the Hunter is for $8 million to continue the Maitland Hospital redevelopment program; $1.9 million for the new psychiatric unit at Maitland Hospital - the Labor Government is really looking after Maitland - $800,000 to upgrade utilities at Morisset Hospital; and I am pleased to say $300,000 to upgrade emergency facilities at John Hunter Hospital, which is in the Wallsend electorate. That will be matched by funds internally from the Hunter Area Health Service.
A significant problem has been created in the emergency and casualty department at John Hunter Hospital during times of crisis because the facilities were not designed to cope with the number of patients using them. This is an interim step to make it more friendly for the staff who need to work in emergency at John Hunter Hospital. The Government is committed to ensuring that health services in the Hunter are restored following seven years of neglect under the former Liberal Government. I cannot let this opportunity pass without commenting on the waiting list reduction program whereby $7.4 million will be available in the Hunter over a period of time. The total reduction in the number of people on hospital waiting lists in the Hunter at the end of September was 14.2 per cent compared with the State average of 23.3 per cent.
The Hunter region has the lowest and I would have to say the most accurate lists, because of a federally funded program to determine the best way of tallying waiting lists. Medical practitioners in the region reported their lists to hospitals so that the hospitals kept the best lists possible. There was an early lack of cooperation by two groups of specialists in the Hunter in respect of the waiting lists program. Now all health professionals have agreed to work to meet the target. I believe that the waiting lists program is a vital part of Labor's social justice agenda because the bulk of patients who have been waiting for a long time are public patients. Keeping people waiting for so long is tantamount to discriminating against them on the basis of their insurance status. That philosophy is at the heart of Labor's strategy to stop people having to wait so long for elective surgery.
In the first six months of the waiting list reduction program waiting times have fallen from 3.6 months to 3.2 months. The number of people waiting for more than 12 months has been reduced by 27 per cent in the Hunter compared with a 37 per cent reduction statewide, and the number of people waiting for six to 12 months has dropped by 44 per cent compared with a 41 per cent reduction statewide. So on waiting list reductions there is a big tick for the Carr Labor Government and the Minister for Health. The newspapers carry articles about people who have been waiting for a long time but who are now receiving their operations. The waiting list reduction program is delivering the best possible outcome for patients by enabling them to receive their treatment and return to their families much earlier than otherwise would have occurred. I am delighted also that the third linear accelerator has been delivered at the Newcastle Mater Misericordiae Hospital. Another election commitment honoured! Although the recent health economic statement was not included in the budget, it guarantees that over the next three years the Hunter region will no longer be underfunded. The previous Liberal Government did not introduce its resource allocation formula - [Time expired.
(Ermington) [8.22]: I wish to address in particular the transport and tourism votes of the first Carr Government budget. It is a very defining moment for public transport because we see the first budget cuts and broken promises - and they tell it all. This is an anti public transport budget. The renaissance in rail that emerged under the previous coalition Government has now come to a grinding halt with Labor's broken promise to expand to the State rail network. Labor lied when promising to make public transport a priority. Now we see big funding cuts, no rail expansion and more train, bus and ferry fare increases coming our way soon. It is appropriate that the man responsible for this tragedy in public transport should be present in the Chamber tonight. The Minister for Transport will have the opportunity of listening to an honest explanation of the falsehoods which surround his budget. It will prove to be an invaluable lesson to him. Whilst he is not competent, at least he is capable of listening to the truth in this Chamber.
Ten key features - this is not just my definition but the definition of many within the public transport sector - of Labor's first budget tell the sad and sorry tale, the lack of priority and energy, the complete absence of vision in this Government's commitment to public transport. As a great and passionate believer in public transport - in stark
contrast to the Minister, who is driven in a big white car - I am vitally concerned about the changes that have been made. The most substantial is the cut to public transport funding of $288 million: $100 million through changes to the school transport subsidy scheme; $49.5 million in reduced government financial contributions to bus, rail and ferry services; and the capital program - and this is public transport on its knees, the worst of all errors inflicted on the system by this Minister who stands condemned - has been reduced significantly. The Department of Transport has suffered a reduction of 58 per cent, or $20 million, and funding to the State Rail Authority has been reduced by 20 per cent or $130 million. The State Transit Authority is the only instrument that has received a modest increase of $15 million. The net result is $288 million less in Labor's first budget than was provided in the coalition budget.
This is the Government that claims to speak for the men and women who work, who struggle, who must survive without a household garage system of multiple choice private transport. This is the Government that claims to represent Labor's true believers, men and women struggling, unable to find a job, unable to travel to job applications and job interviews. The cuts to the public transport system have been a savage and ruthless setback to public transport in this State. Labor's next key budget feature is the massive cuts that have been inflicted on the battling families of this State through the school transport subsidy scheme. The program will be cut by $100 million in a three-tiered, full frontal, vicious and vindictive assault on battling families and their children. The safety of kids will now be placed at risk because of this tragic Minister, who is little more than a portfolio manager. His direction is set for him by the Cabinet Office, by the Premier's Office, by the Premier - obviously necessarily. This $100 million cut represents another broken promise. It will cost the average two-child family $24 a week or $970 a year. Next year 150,000 children will go without the universal right -
Even next year there will be changes with respect to usage. The honourable member clearly does not know his own Government's budget. The only change that will take place in 1997 is the capping of the subsidy to $450 to every school child living in urban areas of Sydney, Wollongong, the Hunter, Newcastle and the central coast. The other elements will be inflicted next year. Blind Freddie could read the budget papers better than the useless object sitting opposite. It is next year that those two changes will occur. Next year the free bus travel border will move from 1.6 kilometres to two kilometres. So the honourable member should not try to hide behind a lie in this House: the change will occur next year. About 150,000 kids will lose their free bus transport. Children as young as 12 will have to travel by shanks's pony, walking across dangerous highways, black spots, for half an hour with their lives at risk. The tragedy continues.
The promised $400 million Parramatta to Hornsby rail link - Labor's so-called priority promise in rail expansion - has now been sidelined. We allocated $2 million in the last financial year to progress the feasibility study and to commence the works. The Government effectively froze that allocation on coming to office and has now moved the remaining $1.3 million into this financial year's allocation. It has allocated no money to environmental impact statements, design and construction feasibility studies or capital expenditure. How does it expect to honour the $400 million promise if the program is not started in the current financial year?
I refer to the broken promise with respect to the Sydney west airport rail link - the link between Mascot and Badgerys Creek. It is vital that that project is up and running today to ensure that the original deadline of the airport's construction is met. The Federal Minister for Transport, Laurie Brereton - for whom I have a great deal of respect in this regard - has conceded that a rail link will not operate to Sydney's planned second airport at Badgerys Creek until after its scheduled opening in 1999 if the New South Wales Minister for Transport does not come good with the money to buy the land required now. Laurie Brereton has asked the State Government to honour its responsibilities, to live up to its promise and commitment, and to put the rail infrastructure in place. The Australian Financial Review
revealed not long ago that the Government has failed to measure up in this regard.
The broken promises continue. I refer to the $160 million Maldon to Dombarton freight rail extension - which will link St Marys to Port Kembla. The rail extension was much heralded by the Labor Party. Labor Party members came to the Illawarra and promised to take the transport freight off the roads, to take the trucks off the highways and byways, and to put them onto rail where appropriate. I am committed to that concept, but clearly the Minister is not. The $160 million is not in the budget - no money has been allocated in this regard. Not so many weeks ago one of the members from the Illawarra heralded a forthcoming $37 million commitment in the budget. That money failed to materialise.
I remind honourable members of the tragic story that will wreck the lives of many of the finest workers in the State Rail Authority. I refer to the Labor Party's broken promise of no more job losses in State Rail. When the Minister for Transport was a member of the previous Labor Opposition he publicly and privately rallied behind the State Rail unions and definitively declared that there would be no job losses under his administration. He even criticised all the job losses that occurred under Bruce Baird. According to the budget papers 1,089 State rail employees will lose their jobs - the work force is to be cut from 21,270 under the Liberal Government -
You cut it by 17,000.
We cut it by 15,000; 17,000 if people listen to the honourable member for Waratah. The Labor Party believes in a cutback of 17,000 plus one. The Labor Party criticises the Liberal Party for its cutbacks, but it has done a top up. It is another broken promise. The criticism of the honourable member for Waratah is a defining moment in hypocrisy - he has come into this House and criticised the Liberal Party for cutting back the State Rail work force to 21,270, and now the Labor Party is going to cut it back to 20,178. The Labor Party has criticised the Liberal Party for cutting the State rail service back less severely. One thousand more people will lose their jobs as a result of the Labor Party's broken promise.
This Minister declared in the House and publicly that he would maintain all jobs in the State Rail network; that no jobs would be lost. That is exactly what has happened in this case. The Minister said that there would be no redundancies. I refer to the Sydney Morning Herald
of 19 April, which reported the Minister as saying, "If anything, I would like to think that we are going to attract so many more people back to public transport that there will be new job opportunities." A month after the Minister was in the job he was still going around promising the rhetoric of the Labor Party in opposition. He was promising that there would be more job opportunities. A few weeks later he chopped 1,089 lives out of the State Rail network.
Big increases in rail, bus and ferry fares will follow this budget, with its $288 million cut. The fare increases will follow the deliberations of the Government Pricing Tribunal to be brought down early next year. It is a disgrace that the State Rail Authority has proposed, in an official submission, to increase fares by 50 per cent. That has been reported in the newspapers and has never been denied by the Minister. When the Minister was asked whether he would rule out the fare increases he refused to do so. When the Minister was asked whether he would limit the increases to the consumer price index, as he promised, he refused to do so. The fare increases are around the corner - another savage blow to public transport.
No money has materialised in this budget for the merged public transport authority, that much-vaunted pillar that was to be the centrepiece of the Minister's new administration. The Minister was going to merge the State Rail Authority and the State Transit Authority; there was to be a super transport bureaucracy. When the Minister took his submission to Cabinet the Premier and Cabinet Ministers were probably surprised that he had a view. The Minister said in his public transport policy statement that he promised to merge the State Rail Authority and the State Transit Authority into one authority. He said he would put the public back into public transport
The Minister has had to come into the House and concede that Cabinet knocked him back, not once but twice. I have had an off-the-record discussion with the Cabinet Office which confirmed that the Cabinet Office, the Premier's office and Treasury recommended to the Premier that he could not keep the promise even if he wanted to. The Premier had to tell the Minister that he could not deliver. There is to be no public transport authority; there is to be no Parramatta to Hornsby rail link; there is to be no airport west rail link; and there is to be no Maldon to Dombarton freight rail line. There will be a $130 million - 20 per cent - cutback in State Rail Authority capital program funding; there will be a $288 million cutback in public transport funding; rail, bus and ferry fares will increase; and 1,089 jobs will go this year - tens of millions of dollars has been allocated in this budget to pay them out, to get them off the books, to put them onto the dole queues of the State.
That is a disgrace and the Minister stands condemned for his anti public transport budget. Under Labor, State Rail has enjoyed five minutes of public transport sunshine. That five minutes of sunshine was pure rhetoric. The reality is that this is a budget of broken promises, with cuts to services, increased fares and no rail expansion. This will lead to a tragic end to a fast, but glaringly negative, beginning in public transport. Members of the community and I will monitor very closely the 124 detailed commitments that the Labor Government will have to honour in regard to State Rail and State Transit in its first four years, an agenda which cannot be achieved with these massive funding cuts. I now turn to the tourism budget, Carr's low priority and a great disappointment for the tourism industry. Big budget cuts to the tourism industry by the Carr Government are now sending a clear and regrettable signal to the nation's most important industry. [Extension of time agreed to
Tourism is the State's biggest employer, generating billions of dollars in foreign exchange earnings. The Carr Government's cuts in funding to the New South Wales Tourist Commission are not just bad politics - and that is tragic enough - but bad policy. Last year the coalition Government increased funding for tourism by 16 per cent, a massive increase that was heralded on a bipartisan basis across the State. Everyone in the industry said the Hon. Virginia Chadwick and the coalition Government were doing a great job. Now we have as Minister poor Brian Langton, known as plankton in his department, and as brain plankton by some. It is the life of Brian out there in the travel, tourism and transport world. Under the plankton administration there has been consistency: funding cuts for transport, and now cuts for tourism. The Minister knows that when he does a job he must do it properly; when he takes the big stick and knife to the various portfolios he must do that well; when he demonstrates the level of his incompetence and lack of commitment he should do it with enthusiasm; and when he is absolutely determined to prove himself worthless, he must put the runs on the board early. And he is doing a sterling job in that regard.
New South Wales has moved from a 16 per cent increase in tourism funding last year to a 4.9 per cent cut in tourism funding, in real terms, in the plankton year. Taking into account inflationary pressures, that amounts to $2.58 million. These cuts will have a devastating impact in New South Wales on tourism's all-important role leading up to the Olympics. The fine print in the budget papers revealed that brochures produced for both international and domestic markets in this coming financial year are detailed for savage cuts. There will be a 40 per cent cut in the number of international brochures produced, from 250,000 to 150,000 in Labor's first year - a landmark achievement. The production of domestic brochures will be cut from 760,000 to 530,000. Tragically, this will mean 330,000 fewer brochures in one year. Cutbacks will also seriously affect the efficiency of the State's travel centres. At a time when we should be expanding their role, Labor has budgeted for 38,000 fewer inquiries, with no increased funding for grants to regional tourist associations and no allocation as yet to the Sydney Convention and Visitors Bureau.
But I come to the most amusing cutback of them all, the 38,000 reduction in the number of inquiries that can be serviced by New South Wales Tourism. The Hon. Virginia Chadwick, to the considerable amusement of the gallery and the estimates committee, asked the Minister how he would tell people not to ring New South Wales Tourism and how he could cut back the number of inquiries. The Minister, fumbling around, looking at his department head, said, "There will be fewer calls." The Hon. Virginia Chadwick asked, "Minister, are you saying you will not answer the phones when you get to that point?" He said, "Well, you know, 38,000 fewer people are estimated to call. That is all we have budgeted for." He was then asked whether New South Wales Tourism would be closed for a little longer over lunch or would close earlier at the end of the day to reach that strike rate. Honourable members will be aware that in the past four years there has been a significant increase in inquiries through travel centres. It is impossible to budget for fewer inquiries; it defies logic. Eventually the Minister said, "We will have to revise that. We must have got it wrong in the budget papers", to the considerable embarrassment of his team and great mirth on the part of the gallery and the committee generally.
The contrast is clear. The coalition gave tourism priority, while Labor's cuts show how little it understands the significance of our State's fast-growing industry. No funds are to be provided for the vital expansion of the Sydney convention centre, the much needed coach and harbour interchange, and the promised airport-west rail link. There will be no new projects, no vision and no commitment. It is a poor beginning from a Minister who scored poorly even in the critical assessment of the Sunday Telegraph
. This Minister is incompetent, he has no vision, and he lacks commitment to public transport. The renaissance in State Rail and public transport is clearly at an end. Public transport is to be savaged. This budget is little more than a story of compromise and it defines Labor's commitment as being anti public transport, in contrast to the coalition's fierce and visionary commitment to developing a better public transport system for the State of New South Wales.
(Waratah) [8.45]: I give full marks to the Government, and particularly to the Premier and the Treasurer, for tackling the big problems of the budget by maintaining the promise of increased funding for health and education and an improvement in law and order whilst undertaking the daunting task of reining in the deficit created by the former Government. Honourable members have heard much about alleged broken promises, which I find somewhat difficult to understand, given the range of commitments of the former Government during its time in office and its failure to deliver on those projections. But I am not here to talk about the failures of the former Government. I am here to talk about the success of the Carr Labor Government during a difficult budgetary period, with the fiscal restraint that has been applied in a way that does not hurt as badly as it might have. The ramifications of the budget have been spread over a number of years, given that this will be the toughest budget in the term of the Government.
I hark back to the first Cabinet meeting in the city of Newcastle where the announcement was made, contrary to all the predictions, that supported accommodation for the disabled worth $50 million would be brought forward by the Department of Community Services. That program is proceeding. It was a commitment made prior to our taking government, and it is a funded commitment now that we are in government. That demonstrates clearly how well the Government keeps its promises of financial support to the community. Another issue frequently raised is hospital waiting lists. In spite of all the predictions of doom, gloom and failure, that program is proving to be not only successful but also in advance of its programmed time in percentage terms - a resounding success for the Government and for the Deputy Premier and Minister for Health.
The distribution of available funds in the first budget of a new government after seven years in the wilderness has been fair and equitable. Given the rocky road left us by the former incumbents, we came out of it very well. I can highlight a number of things that happened in my own electorate that the previous Government took some time to even consider. In particular I speak of the construction on the New England Highway at the intersection of Anderson Drive, Tarro. That project has been allocated $3.07 million in the budget. That has always been a bad intersection. I estimate that in the 30 years I have lived in that suburb 32 people have been killed at or within five kilometres of that intersection. It was almost one a year. In 1991,
when Bob Brown was the Federal Minister, the New South Wales Minister for Roads was offered $17 million by the Federal Labor Government to undertake a number of projects in the area of Tarro, Beresfield and Black Hill.
The Greiner Government rejected that proposal out of hand because it thought that some concession would have to be made in the future. However, the structure was to revert to a State highway, and the then Government neglected to consider the fact that it would have been a first-class highway built to national standards. For the next four years the failure to carry out roadworks in those areas cost another four lives. Undoubtedly, the then Minister was not thinking about losing lives when he rejected the Federal proposal - I would not dare accuse him of that. However, the clear result of the rejection of that offer was the loss of four more lives. I give credit to the Hon. Bruce Baird as he realised the advantage of the initiative offered by the Federal Government when it re-offered funding for the Tarro intersection, and he grabbed it with both hands. This meant that the State had to pay only half the bill. That project is well on the way to completion. The second span is currently being lifted into place. I anticipate that the bulk of the roadworks will be completed by December and the road should be open to traffic in early February 1996.
What else has been happening in the area? The Deputy Leader of the National Party made derogatory comments during the Legislative Council estimates committee hearings about the absence from the budget of certain Federal initiatives involving State funding for roads in the Hunter area. He was wrong. The documents finished up not only on my desk but also in the regional office of the Roads and Traffic Authority in Newcastle. The duplication of Lenighans drive from the F3 at Minmi to Main Road 588 - the John Renshaw Drive - has been allocated funding to the tune of $11.33 million. This will provide two sets of dual carriageway to allow the current highway connector to revert to a local road.
This project will be completed in three years. The risk of serious injury on the current road system in the region will disappear, and the quality of life for people in the Black Hill area will return to its former peace and quiet. The local residents have accepted that proposal. The Federal Government recognised and responded to the safety and noise problem, and the RTA's design and contracts will ensure that the project will be completed on time and within budget. On State Highway 9 an interchange will be constructed at John Renshaw Drive, Beresfield. This will be a large flyover costing $4.4 million. The design of this project is complete and tenders have been called. That is another initiative which could have been taken in 1991 by the former Government, but the project will now commence some time in 1996.
When construction is completed one set of traffic lights will no longer be required, and the traffic will flow freely from the New England Highway and the Pacific Highway to the F3. Also, local traffic will be able to flow without any difficulties. The removal of the traffic lights will restore peace for local residents as a result of the reduced need for heavy transport to stop and start at the lights. Those projects are going ahead. The Anderson Drive upgrade west of Beresfield has been allocated $1.7 million. This work will involve upgrading of the intersection and construction of a connector to the road from the New England Highway to Thornton Road. The list of budget allocations continues. I heard my colleague the honourable member for Wallsend refer to the installation of emergency telephones on the link road from the F3 to Wallsend which passes through both our electorates. That project has been allocated $121,000.
These are small but vital projects. Traffic signals are proposed for Anderson Drive and Lawson Avenue, Beresfield. Once the Tarro intersection is complete, traffic may well begin to flow through Tarro and Beresfield to Raymond Terrace Road via the Millers Forest Road to avoid the traffic congestion in Raymond Terrace. We are preparing for that possibility by installing traffic controls. Likewise, signals will be provided at Turton Road and High Street, Waratah, adjacent to the Waratah Technology High School. This is also the site of the Waratah fire station. The integrated traffic signal arrangement will cost $158,000 to ensure that traffic flows freely and safely. This will give protection to school children crossing the busy four-lane road. The Government promised significant increases in road funding in the Hunter region, and in some cases with assistance from the Federal Government is delivering real money. Projects have been designed for some time but have been unable to proceed because of funding restrictions. The money has now been released and people can see and appreciate what is happening.
I turn now to schools. In my electorate the Glendore Public School, which is a new work, has been allocated $3.09 million, and the school will be ready for operation in the first term of 1997. Planning is well under way, and to some degree it will precede the suburb it will serve. We are getting our act together at the right time. In the past residential development has proceeded in some areas and construction of schools has lagged behind. This school will be available for children as the suburb is constructed and the houses sold. The school will accommodate some 400 children. The adjacent school at Maryland, opened two years ago, has almost doubled its population since opening, which indicates the rapid growth rate west of Newcastle, in the Waratah electorate.
This shows the Government's commitment to providing the infrastructure required by young families in the new suburbs. The infrastructure will be appreciated by the people in those suburbs.
Likewise, upgrading of the Plattsburg Public School, which housed the children from the Maryland school prior to the opening of the new school, continues, with an allocation of $525,000 during this financial year. My electorate contains only one TAFE college, which to my knowledge is the only residential college in New South Wales. This is located at the top end of Kurri Kurri on the boundary of my electorate. The college conducts a number of interesting courses, many of which are residential courses involving farm machinery. A multi-purpose workshop is being constructed at the college.
Another government initiative, on TAFE advice, is the construction and operation of a wine-making plant in the electorate. Grapevines have been grown on 2½ hectares, and the first produce is becoming available. I am not sure about the labelling of the wine. It is not like the correctional centre at Cessnock which has "The Governor's Pleasure" on its label. I am told that the TAFE college wine is very good; it is now being marketed, and I hope that we will have some samples at Parliament House shortly. I am sure that the Minister for Education and Training did not realise when he became Minister that he was taking responsibility for a small distillery! I am sure he will be delighted once he samples the wine. These are examples of a progressive Government getting things done. It is supporting the initiatives of its servants, the teachers and lecturers in the colleges and schools around the State. The Government is working with them, not restricting them. It is allowing them to progress with additional funds and a better organisation for their administrative structure.
There are a number of other significant moves in my electorate, not the least of which is support for law and order. A sum of $30,000 has been allocated for the purchase of land for the extension of the Waratah police station and $150,000 plus has been allocated for land and property acquisition for improvements at the Wallsend police station site. Both of those stations are significant patrol headquarters. The Waratah headquarters was opened only last year and currently consists of just one building. Amalgamation of the stations at Hamilton and Mayfield is proceeding. The $30,000 provided will allow the acquisition of the rest of the land required for the site expansion. Building construction will be met in future budgets. That is a positive move that has taken place. The police know that they are getting support and the community has realised that the Government is honest and fair dinkum about improving law and order in our area.
The Minister for Health was in my electorate only days ago. He visited the Wallsend District Hospital and spoke about the possibility of future capital works on the campus. That is a credit to the picket line that has guarded that site for almost two years and has now re-formed itself into an organisation known as the guardians to financially support the nursing home and frail age care facilities that currently occupy the site along with community health facilities that have been built up. The Minister was positive in his statements. The community was appreciative of his call and his suggestions and has now made counter suggestions to him for consideration for further capital works, to return that site to some form of hospital usage. I know that will happen.
The third linear accelerator promised for the Mater Misericordiae Hospital in Waratah is to proceed. The Minister for Health was able to confer with officers from the hospital and with his department, and we are assured that the linear accelerator will be operating by the last quarter of 1997. That means that the specifications will be drawn; tenders called; orders placed; the machine manufactured, transported to Australia for installation and installed; and that training will be undertaken and operations will get under way. That is another promise delivered. The linear accelerator is on its way. No-one could deny that the Hunter region requires that facility. The two linear accelerators in the region have been working overtime to the extent that the 15-day waiting time has been reduced to something like a four-day waiting time.
It is necessary to have a third unit to ensure that regular maintenance can be provided to the other two units. In that way not only can the health requirements of the community be satisfied, but the staff will get reasonable relief and reasonable working times and the machines can undergo periodic maintenance. In my electorate recently there was a rare occurrence: a railway station was opened. It is not often in this State that a railway station is opened. The station was not opened with quite the same pizzazz as the opening of the Medford station near Maitland, but it was important in that the station will record more than the Medford 60 customers each day - it will record about 500 customers each day, being located adjacent to the university at Warrabrook on the main north line. The station cost $3.25 million. An amount of $2.5 million was contributed by the Federal Government and the rest was contributed by the State Government.
The project was initiated by the former Government. It was expedited by this Government and the station is now operating. I am grateful to the Minister for Transport for his action and to the Parliamentary Secretary for Transport, my colleague the honourable member for Canterbury, for opening the station. The station is returning money to the department and is providing necessary access for students, access that will open accommodation avenues from Morisset in the south to Dungog in the north. Students will be able to use their concession fares to travel from home to university at minimum cost and minimum time, with maximum security. That is what it is all about. The
Government is demonstrating again and again that it is a caring government. Our Government is a government that wants to get things done rationally, sensibly and to the best advantage of the local community.
When considering recent initiatives in country areas - and my area has a reasonably articulate farming community as well as a mining community - one has to be mindful of the drought-relief initiatives announced by the Government. Those initiatives, amounting to $4 million, are noteworthy. It is important that we recognise both the needs of the rural community and the strength of the rural community in the economy. The Government has done that. The Minister for Agriculture demonstrates daily his commitment to the agricultural portfolio and to the needs and concerns of rural New South Wales, and particularly of those affected by the drought. The schemes for land degradation improvement and the greening of Australia were initiated and are nurtured by this Government. They are necessary if Australia, and particularly New South Wales, is to proceed. I thank the Government for the most progressive budget presented for many years. [Time expired
(Gordon) [9.05]: Tonight I wish to talk about some of the effects of the budget on my electorate. I also wish to talk about some of the promises made by the Government and their effect on the reputation of politicians. I come first to the budget generally. In my electorate in each of the past three years I was able to achieve some $10 million in capital works expenditure. This Labor Government budget, I am sad to report, grants zero dollars. In relation to specific projects, the $5.2 million grant appropriated last year to the Pymble bridge, which has already been the subject of some $200,000 expenditure, has been abolished. This will not simply affect the Pacific Highway in Gordon. The Pacific Highway in my area clearly affects all electorates, particularly many electorates on the central coast. Many people use the Pacific Highway as a mainstream for travel to and from Labor-held electorates.
Traffic jams that occur regularly on the Pymble bridge around the peak traffic hour are a nightmare, especially for those travelling north from about 3.30 p.m. As I said, the former Government set aside some $5.2 million for the revamp but that has been abolished by this Government. Not only is that work needed; the safety issue involved may well lead to another Granville problem. Trucks come down the hill from Telegraph Road and on many occasions a truck has almost lost its brakes. Dare I say it, an accident may be inevitable. Another commitment was made to the St Ives High School. The Premier's Department showcases to the world that school and its achievements in educational standards and excellence. The overseas students who pay to attend courses at the school realise about a quarter of a million dollars for the Government.
The project for the school's administration block has been abolished. It is a sad day when the Government is getting money back from a school but it does not see fit to allow the continuation of the project for the construction of the administration block. It is an absolute disgrace when one visits the high school to be taken to the administration block and witness the cramped conditions within which staff have to work. A number of overseas guests, mainly from the Asia-Pacific area, are taken there. The block is a sad embarrassment. Work on the project was due to commence. Plans were prepared by the auxiliary a couple of years ago. The project has now been abolished. What adds insult to injury is that it would cost only $200,000 or $250,000 to have the work completed to the school's satisfaction. The school was not asking for grandiose plans, just a plan to allow for sufficient accommodation and reasonable presentation to overseas guests. I reiterate that the Premier's Department regards it as important that overseas guests be shown a school of learning excellence.
Sadly, those two projects have been abolished. I could refer to many others, particularly when one bears in mind that millions of dollars have been spent in my electorate to date, and now nothing will be spent. I hope that is not a sign for the next few years, because a great deal of work needs to be undertaken. The removal of the tolls on the M4 and M5 was an election promise. People are obviously hurting not only in my electorate but in electorates right across the State, including Labor electorates such as Badgerys Creek. The members who represent electorates affected by those tolls must regret the Government's decision to retain the tolls. That raises the question of the extent to which members of Parliament can be trusted. That question was raised most recently a few hours ago when Commissioner Marks delivered his findings in the matter involving Carmen Lawrence, the Minister for Human Services and Health. The most fundamental reason for electing a member of Parliament in a democracy is the trust the electorate has in that member. If a member of Parliament is not believed, the foundation of any promise must be undercut. In the context of the Carr Labor Government it is a sad day indeed when questions such as "Is that a promise?" are now being clearly taken as a joke. That is a clear example of the lack of trust by the community.
The case involving Carmen Lawrence is a classic example. Today Commissioner Marks, who presided over the royal commission, found that Carmen Lawrence had falsely denied a great deal of information, that she had fabricated versions of events, that her conduct was improper, that she had made an untrue denial of involvement in conduct which was contrary to the five tenets of representative government as found by Commissioner Marks. The honourable member for Wallsend, the honourable member for Waratah and the honourable member for The Entrance spoke about promises, the regard in which the public holds
politicians and their promises, the reputation of the budget delivered by the Treasurer, and the way it was perceived before its delivery. What could be worse than a member of Federal Parliament having been found to have lied on oath? How will the public regard that? Will the public believe that politicians just cannot be trusted?
In considering the allegations against Carmen Lawrence, one needs to read section 44(ii) of the Australian Constitution, which states that any person who is subject to be sentenced for any offence punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a State by imprisonment for one year or longer shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives. Section 45 states that if a senator or member of the House of Representatives becomes subject to any of the disabilities mentioned in section 44, his place shall thereupon become vacant. One can easily see that what Commissioner Marks found against Carmen Lawrence would clearly fall within the terms of section 127 of the Criminal Code of Western Australia, which relates to false evidence given before a royal commission. That section states:
127. Any person who, in the course of an examination before a Royal Commission, knowingly gives a false answer to any lawful and relevant question put to him in the course of the examination is guilty of a crime, and is liable to imprisonment for 7 years.
On a point of order: for the past four minutes I have been listening to a diatribe about Carmen Lawrence which has absolutely nothing whatever to do with debate on the New South Wales budget. I could tolerate the honourable member making passing reference to something to illustrate a point, but the House has now suffered four minutes of this and I ask you to direct him to return to the bills before the House.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Clough):
Order! Traditionally a degree of latitude is extended to members when contributing to debate on the Appropriation Bill. At the moment the honourable member for Gordon is making only passing reference to matters outside the scope of the debate and, therefore, I will allow him to proceed.
What could be more relevant to the budget than whether one can trust the promises made and the appropriations stated in the appropriation bills? It is fundamentally inherent that the people must be able to trust those they elect. What status will representative democracy have if those who are elected to high office, such as Carmen Lawrence, are found to have committed serious and grave offences against Federal and State laws? The sections I have quoted provide clear evidence that Carmen Lawrence should not get merely a tap on the shoulder from Paul Keating; she may well have committed offences that substantially disqualify her from her high office. The automatic expulsion provisions of the Constitution, which are tested in this State under the New South Wales constitution, make it clear that those allegations are not to be taken lightly; they must be taken seriously. The appropriate charges should be laid by the Court Government with a consequence that Carmen Lawrence will no longer be able to occupy a seat in Parliament. Under the provisions of the Constitution, because of the offences that she has committed in relation to Western Australian laws, not to mention -
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Clough):
Order! The honourable member for Gordon has spent considerable time referring to happenings in the Commonwealth Parliament. I direct him to confine his remarks to matters relating to the State budget.
An article in the Sydney Morning Herald
on Wednesday 8 November by Milton Cockburn was headed "How to keep politicians from promising bullseyes but firing blanks". Carmen Lawrence has certainly been found to have fired many blanks.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Clough):
Order! The member will return to the subject matter of this debate.
Mr Acting Speaker -
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Clough):
Order! The honourable member for Gordon should not interrupt the Chair. He should confine his remarks to matters relevant to the New South Wales State budget. References to the Commonwealth Parliament and its officers are well outside the leave of this debate.
I was trying to make the point that there is an endemic sense of lying and untrustworthiness in the Labor Party generally. Referring to the tolls pledge Milton Cockburn said:
Labor's experience over the tolls pledge, however, is likely to make all political parties more cautious about making promises and that won't be a bad thing.
I know the public believes this House should take the sentiments expressed in that article seriously, because of the possible consequences to members holding high office about which I have spoken earlier. The promises made by the Labor Party clearly have not been honoured. That is endemic, and that is why it is rating so atrociously in the polls. When one takes into account the general character of the Labor Party and of some of its members, it is not surprising that its rating in both State and Federal polls is so low.
(Keira) [9.19]: It gives me pleasure to participate in the debate on the 1995-96 budget. It is interesting to note some of the comments made by previous speakers, particularly the honourable member for Ermington. A number of years ago he stood where I am standing and boasted about the how much dough was being spent in his electorate. Shortly after he delivered his contribution to the budget debate in that year, I commented that the reason there was no money for
the electorate of Keira was because the Liberal Party and the National Party had creamed off the money and given it in their own electorates. Tonight the honourable member for Ermington was carping, whingeing and moaning that his electorate, which is in the middle of the metropolitan area, has not doing as well in this budget as it has done in the past seven years. That is bad luck! The budget has been good for the constituents of the Keira electorate. Members of the working class - coal miners, steel workers - are well represented in the electorate of Keira.
That is because you are a good member.
I thank the honourable member for Bulli for his compliment, although I do not take too much notice of it. Those who sit opposite should realise that they are now in opposition and are copping what I and my colleagues copped for seven years: tight purse strings, little involvement with working-class people and, worse still, no comprehension of what they are all about. I will boast that what I was able to extract from the Government in the budget gives me a great deal of pleasure. The promises of the Roads and Traffic Authority projects that I listed on my campaign brochures prior to March this year have all been fulfilled. On many occasions in this House I have raised the issue of Mount Ousley Road and the problems experienced by residents living adjacent to the F6 Freeway. After seven long years of the Liberal-National Party Government the toll of $1 each way on the road between Waterfall and Bulli was lifted, as promised, at the end of June this year.
My colleague the honourable member for Bulli and I campaigned strongly for that, and the Minister came to the party and eliminated the toll that had been paid by workers in the Illawarra for 20 years. The honourable member for Kiama and I remember that in 1988 the toll was 40¢. When the Greiner Government was elected the toll was jacked up to 60¢, and after the 1991 election the toll was jacked up to $1. I have no doubt that had the Fahey Government been re-elected the toll would have been jacked up to $2. My colleagues and I campaigned to ensure that the election of a Labor Government paid dividends to workers as well as the elimination of that toll.
For many years I have campaigned about the Mount Ousley Road and the F6 Freeway. An extra $2 million has now been allocated to extend the noise abatement infrastructure on the northern side of Mount Ousley Road from the earlier completion point to the level area where the arrester bed is located. People living in the Balgownie-Mount Ousley area will applaud that initiative. They have already indicated that they are more than happy to have me as their representative because I have campaigned to ensure that the noise abatement infrastructure is put in place. I do not claim that every person who lives in Mount Ousley and Balgownie is a Labor supporter. However, they support the Carr Government because of its commitment to ensuring that their lives are made more bearable by the lessening of the noise that emanates from that road.
Their quality of life will be improved.
The honourable member for Kiama interjects to say that their quality of life will be improved. He is saying exactly what I have been saying. Many people who live in the Illawarra, be they coalminers or teachers, travel west of the Illawarra to their places of employment. They travel to Liverpool and Campbelltown. Coalminers travel to Westcliffe colliery and Tahmoor colliery, to Towers and Cordeaux and Appin. My eldest son travels to Appin Colliery by car every working day because there is no public transport. I have campaigned strongly for a commuter car park at the bottom of Mount Ousley to increase the use of car pooling. Although car pooling has been taking place there for a number of years, the previous Government had taken no steps to make sure that the area was safe and well lit so that people could leave their cars there and travel together in one car. Public transport to that part of the Illawarra escarpment is totally inadequate. If people must use cars, why not have four people in one car instead of having one person in each of four cars? The Government has allocated $50,000 in this year's budget for the construction of a safe car parking area.
I should like to refer also to the northern distributor. My colleague the honourable member for Bulli would be able to say a great deal more about the section of the northern distributor in his electorate. However, the portion of the distributor in the electorate of Keira has been completed, and a problem has been identified. Only last year the honourable member for Bulli was almost obliterated when he crossed the median strip and almost had a head-on collision. Two people had been killed 12 months earlier in a head-on collision in exactly the same circumstances as those surrounding the unfortunate experience of the honourable member for Bulli. I have campaigned strongly for adequate safety mechanisms to be put in place on that median strip. The Minister has allocated funding of $500,000 for the implementation of those safety measures during the current year.
I applaud the Minister for making sure that money was available, and I have no doubt that the people who use the Northern Distributor daily will also. A number of smaller traffic management works within the electorate of Keira have been funded. Traffic lights will be installed at a number of dangerous intersections and a roundabout will be built at the intersection of the Princes Highway and O'Briens Road. A major road project within the electorates of Keira and Wollongong is the widening of the F6 Freeway from Gwynneville to Ghost Creek. Some $20 million will be allocated over the
next two years or so for the work. The intersection of the Northern Distributor and Mount Ousley Road has been very dangerous for many years. I have campaigned for the construction of a proper separated interchange at the intersection to do away with the traffic lights. I have spoken in the Parliament on a number of occasions about the problems created at the traffic lights. Noise abatement infrastructure will complement widening of the road to three lanes north and south.
I say sincerely that I am disappointed that the Roads and Traffic Authority option of what is called a trumpet interchange has been accepted by the Minister. This will allow traffic to turn right off the northern distributor on to Mount Ousley Road. Local residents are concerned that their quality of life will be disrupted. The Minister for Roads has argued that the information available now is greater than was available previously to the former shadow minister, Brian Langton. At my request last year he examined the proposal and supported my view that the problem could be addressed without adopting the preferred option of the RTA. I say to the Minister for Roads that I am still very disappointed that it has been decided to go ahead with the RTA preferred option. I assure him, the Parliament and my constituency that I will keep a very close eye on what transpires in the next two years to make sure that residents of Waitangi Street and the adjoining streets get the best possible infrastructure and environmental works to ensure that their quality of life is maintained.
I congratulate the Deputy Premier, Minister for Health, and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Dr Andrew Refshauge, on his firm commitment to the Illawarra Area Health Service for construction of the clinical services block. The work was promised way back in 1988. In 1991 and prior to the last election the previous Government again promised this work. But this Minister has come good with the dough - $46.2 million. I heard the Chairman of Committees refer to provision of a linear accelerator at the hospital in his area. My area will go from one to two, not two to three. I know that the honourable member for Waratah, the Chairman of Committees, will appreciate what I am saying. This funding is the runs on the board for the Government, the Minister for Health and all other Ministers. They have made a real commitment to ordinary people and their concerns.
I turn to Aboriginal affairs. Most members of the Parliament know that I have a commitment to and an understanding of the issues affecting the indigenous people of this State. A less known area of the budget which I applaud is within the responsibility of the Minister for Land and Water Conservation. He is sitting at the table tonight. The $1 million provided for the Willandra Lakes will be matched by $1 million from the Federal Government. The area was nominated for World Heritage listing in 1980. The Minister has been fully aware of the concerns of the Aboriginal people within the areas of Wentworth, Dareton and Balranald. There has been proper consultation to ensure that the Barkindji tribe within the area has been able to put views to him and his officers, and he has responded to them. This is another example of the Government being responsive to the needs of people who do not always have a voice. Not many weeks ago I was at Wentworth and Dareton. [Extension of time agreed to
Aborigines in the area are delighted that a Minister within the Carr Government has a real understanding of the needs of indigenous people and their association with the land. In the very short time since coming to office the Government has recognised that indigenous people have more than just average rights. We are trying to address many years of discrimination. The Government has established a Cabinet committee on Aboriginal affairs which includes high profile Ministers such as the Deputy Premier, Minister for Health, and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs; the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing; the Minister for Education and Training, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Youth Affairs; the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services; the Minister for Corrective Services, and Minister for Emergency Services; and a number of other Ministers. They have been directed by the committee to drive Aboriginal affairs within their ministries.
The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody made 339 recommendations to address the horrific number of deaths of Aboriginal people in custody. A high level commitment by governments was needed to address the issues and the Government has taken on the challenge. Bureaucrats within departments believe that such issues are minor; politics is about what the majority of people wish for and hope will happen. Indigenous people constitute less than 2 per cent of the population of New South Wales - 70,000 Aboriginal people live in this State. Aboriginal people are at the bottom end of the scale so far as employment, health, child care and other services are concerned. In some areas of New South Wales the unemployment rate of the indigenous population is 90 per cent.
Last Friday I attended a graduation - for which the Government had a small budget allocation - at Windang, a suburb of Wollongong. Twenty young Aboriginal men graduated from a program supported by the Government. It was partly funded by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission and the Federal Department of Employment, Education and Training. It was a community development and employment program - commonly referred to as CDEP. The program allows young Aboriginal people to gain skills and training so that they can find employment in the broader work force. These programs provide an opportunity for young people to learn skills in a specific field - this was a horticultural program, and the graduates have been able to tap into the
Illawarra market to sell their product. The program allows young Aboriginal people who do not have literacy and numeracy skills to gain such skills, and also to learn other skills such as first aid. A number of these young people have gained their first aid certificates.
I refer to some of the other government initiatives with respect to the employment of Aboriginal people. There will be five Aboriginal employment programs in 1996. The Minister for Education and Training has made this commitment. These programs are in place and are being funded in this budget. The programs include: new careers for Aboriginal people; the local government Aboriginal employment strategy; the State Government Aboriginal employment strategy; the Aboriginal education strategic initiative program; and the Koori youth program. I refer in particular to the local government Aboriginal employment strategy. The Local Government and Shires Association has a policy of supporting local government and employing Aboriginal people. There are some 170 local government areas in New South Wales, but only 114 Aboriginal people are employed by local government - which is disappointing.
Earlier this year I attended a function at Darling Harbour at which the Minister for Education and Training presented awards to councils and individuals because of their involvement in Aboriginal training and works programs. Kyogle Council - which is in northern New South Wales, and some would say in redneck territory - won the major award. Six per cent of the Kyogle Council work force is Aboriginal. Not one Aborigine is employed at Casino Council, which is the council next door to Kyogle Council. If local government played a proactive role in the employment of Aboriginal people in this State, the unemployment rate would drop dramatically. It should not be just up to the State Government and the Federal Government to employ Aboriginal people. This Government will struggle and strive to reach its target of a 2 per cent Aboriginal employment rate.
How many Aborigines does the National Parks and Wildlife Service employ?
The National Parks and Wildlife Service employs the highest number of Aborigines - 14 per cent - in this State, and that speaks volumes.
The previous Government should be congratulated.
I have not knocked the previous Government in this regard. The honourable member for Lismore has made that statement. In the years that I have been in this Parliament I have not in any way, shape or form used Aboriginal affairs as a political football. I am not knocking what the previous Government did - but this Government will do better. The Labor Party has a greater understanding of and commitment to the battlers of this State. Aborigines are currently at the bottom of the pile. The Government is not going to pay lip-service in this regard; it will ensure that Aboriginal people get a fair crack of the whip. This commitment is reflected by the establishment of a high level ministerial committee.
You consider those people to be high level? What a joke!
The Leader of the National Party can make inane interjections if he so wishes. The three members opposite who are interjecting - the Leader of the National Party, the honourable member for Oxley and the honourable member for Lismore - represent country people, and they should know better than to make stupid, inane interjections.
Order! If the honourable member for Keira were to ignore the interjections, he would put to better use the short time that remains for him to speak in this debate.
The Deputy Premier has made a commitment to health. I recently attended a public rally in Parramatta at which the Minister made a commitment to two major aspects of health care, the first of which related to Aboriginal health. I could talk at length about this matter. I refer in particular to the areas in which Aboriginal people live. The honourable member for Lismore would acknowledge, I am sure, that some of the areas in which Aboriginal people live are less than satisfactory. The Carr budget and this Government will ensure that issues affecting Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in this State are addressed humanely, that their wishes are respected and that reconciliation is promoted. Reconciliation between non-indigenous people and indigenous people must be based on social justice. If it is not, it will fail. [Time expired
(Lachlan - Leader of the National Party) [9.49]: One thing that the first budget of this Labor Government does successfully is to put country New South Wales, including Aboriginal people, last. It is a budget for Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong. It ignores country New South Wales in real, material and social terms. Behind the veneer of fiscal responsibility - which was trumpeted by the Treasurer when he visited this House - lies a sustained attack on the resources and productivity of coastal, regional and rural people and industry. The strategy is simple. If it can be axed, do so - for example, technical and further education, the education system, the power generation system, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Conservation and Land Management, and that is after only five to six months in office. If the Government cannot get away with total cuts, it slows programs down or bleeds them slowly. In short, the Government's view is to forget about the bush, it does not matter.
Shortly after the election when the Premier went on his so-called drought tour which lasted all of 48 hours - when he visited Mudgee he did not even leave the airport - the Premier said, "There are a number of things I will have to do that will be unpopular. We are going to do them this year, do the paybacks, and memories will be short." I assure honourable members that memories may be short in some parts of the State but they are not in country New South Wales. Country people do not like to be insulted, cheated on, or taken too cheaply, and they certainly do not forget. The Premier, the Government and the Treasurer do not realise that in country New South Wales agriculture is still the largest employer as a single industry, and the largest utiliser of materials. No other industry in New South Wales - entertainment, motor vehicle, transport, tourism - employs more people or uses more materials than does agriculture.
This budget shows that Ministers who hold vital resources for the non-metropolitan areas have rolled over and played dead in the face of the Treasurer's onslaught. The two remaining country government members have confirmed that they have no clout within their ranks. They have resorted to attacking their own side to soothe the local electorate, but that ploy is not fooling anyone. This budget commences a systematic withdrawal of resources from country areas which were clearly maintained on the forward estimates in the late 1990s. It is apparent on page after page. Water revenue in 1995-96 56 is up $2.2 million. State and regional development is down $0.7 million. Funding to New South Wales Agriculture will be slashed by $34 million over three years. Soil conservation grants are down 33 per cent, and lease rental rebates to the parched Western Division of New South Wales are abolished. This is a budget for Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong and it purposely ignores country New South Wales.
Project after project is slowed, in some cases virtually to a halt. The Taree bypass is delayed by one year; the second stage of the Nimbin school is unfunded; Murwillumbah sewerage system is delayed from 1996 to 1999; the Tweed River sand bypass is three years late; and the 10-year upgrade of the Pacific Highway has been blown out to 40 years in spite the region's rapid growth. Other works have been abandoned, not least of which is the Camden Haven High School in the Port Macquarie electorate, until now the department's top priority for New South Wales. It is unfunded in the 1995-96 budget. Labor member after Labor member has been conned by the Treasurer and the Premier. They have been told to say that this is a good budget for New South Wales. They parrot remarks that someone has written for them. They do not understand that they have been conned. I assure honourable members opposite that the people of rural New South Wales will not be conned. They have seen through this veneer, this sham of a government, which has brought down a totally anti New South Wales country budget.
The remarkable aspect of the budget is that, while the Government has slashed away at the country, it has also managed to put city areas offside. The Treasurer has resorted to attacking the former Government. He said New South Wales was only just staying solvent. That is his quote. What short memories Labor Party members have. For the record, under the National Party-Liberal Party coalition deficits were slashed by two-thirds in four years, despite the slowdown of stamp duty receipts; the highest possible AAA credit rating was maintained - one of only two States; State superannuation liabilities were reduced by $20,000 million from Labor's legacy; and the gross State product was boosted to 35 per cent of national gross domestic product. New South Wales led jobs growth with 94,000 new jobs in the 12 months to September 1994, and businesses paid 10 per cent less for power and 17 per cent less for water. We gave an open cheque book to the drought struck farm economy, and we won the Olympics bid against the odds with a $7.3 billion economic injection. That we left the State of New South Wales in an outstanding position is supported totally by the rating agency Standard and Poor's. Even the Labor Party has had to acknowledge that the previous Government had an excellent financial record.
A clue to the future of Labor's budget strategy lies in the most recent Westpac forecasts - inflation and growth forecasts broadly in line with Budget Paper No. 2. The difference is that Westpac forecasts are based on what it terms the "strong rebound" of the New South Wales farm sector in 1995-96. This budget removes crucial services that support that rebound. According to Westpac, the New South Wales economy will rebound because of agricultural New South Wales, but this budget works against rural New South Wales. Labor cannot seem to grasp the importance of farm growth to State production and export income, its multiplier impact on jobs and the fact that it causes an average of $570 million to flow through the economy every week. This budget document clearly identifies the attitude of a weak, accident-prone frontbench to the legitimate needs of people who live beyond the last set of metropolitan traffic lights.
Up near the lead, as always, is the shop steward Minister for Land and Water Conversation - the friend of John Laws - who has set what must be a new political record for speed in shattering goodwill in his portfolio. Not content with tying up landholders in hopeless red tape, he has taken a hiding from the Treasurer as well as from John Laws. In the Government's first budget there is a 33 per cent cut in soil conservation grants. How is that for an environmentally minded Government! There have been 55 staff cuts in the department, a 10 per cent cut to coastal and riverine management services, and country water and sewerage funds, boosted to a record $85 million per annum by the coalition Government, have been slashed by 12 per cent. The 10-year program for
basic standards of waste disposal has been slowed to 14 years. Approximately 300 communities in New South Wales do not have adequate sewerage and waste disposal systems. Under the former Government the provision of such services were delayed for nine years but under this Government, in its first 8 months in office, the delay has increased to 14 years.
More emerges in the fine print, not the least of which is the cessation of rental rebates to farmers in the parched Western Division - another $1 million cutback. Alongside the Minister for Land and Water Conservation is a regional development Minister - the Hon. P.C. Scully - who told the Lithgow Mercury
that he does not believe in government decentralisation. He said that shifting New South Wales Agriculture to Orange was nonsense. That is how good the Minister and this Government are! The honourable member for Orange, the Orange economy and the Department of Agriculture know the benefits of the move to Orange. However, the fool of a Minister for Small Business and Regional Development says that the shift of New South Wales Agriculture to Orange was nonsense. What has Labor done to the Department of Business and Regional Development? It has disappeared. It was swallowed by the Department of State Development as a result of a $5.7 million funding cut. The Minister criticised New South Wales Agriculture's move, and then the Government took his department away from him!
The remaining resources for regional development will be devoted largely to reinventing the wheel; that is, asking someone behind a desk to work out what needs to be done to promote development. The New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures was among those on budget night to recognise the risk of not duplicating the work done by the coalition Government. It offered a word of advice to the Minister for Small Business and Regional Development: if the Government wants to be effective, it should get away from this place and go out into the regions. No more should the Premier land at Mudgee airport and talk only to a few reporters. No more should Ministers land at Ariah Park and Temora to tell people how bad the drought is, and then never return to the area to provide any money. No more should Ministers go to Tamworth and say, "Yes, we will look after you" and then offer no helpful initiatives. The concept of regional development faces a tough time.
An allocation of $7.2 million is made in the budget for the refurbishment of the head office of the Department of Land and Water Conservation in Sydney. However, the New South Wales Agriculture office was built at Orange without the expenditure of one cent of taxpayers' funds, and the rent is half that of a Sydney office. This Government is spending $7.2 million to refurbish an office down here in Sydney, and it claims that this will help land and water conservation. What did the previous Government do with New South Wales Agriculture? Not one cent was spent to move the office to Orange, and its rent payments were cut in half.
In short, to prepare the ground for the Year of Regional Development in 1996, Labor has abolished the relevant department; stripped away its autonomy and its sharp focus on regional development; cut funding by almost $6 million; and admitted that it will not lead decentralisation by example. The Premier has totally ruled out any decentralisation of any government departments. How does that sit with Labor members? Do members from the south coast support that policy? Did the Premier tell these members that the Government will not decentralise? Of course, every year should be a year of regional development.
The Minister for Agriculture presents as a genial fellow but it is results that count. His results are an unprecedented 25 per cent or $35 million cut to the funding for the Department of Agriculture over three years. He has cut core services in agronomy, extension, research and communication. He has lost a major research unit along with 200 jobs. He has lost leading veterinary laboratories at Wagga Wagga and Armidale, and the Wagga Wagga facility was the leader in footrot control and blood testing. The Minister has also tried to disguise Federal funds as State drought relief.
The work of the Biological and Chemical Research Institute at Rydalmere has been shattered. The best that Labor could do to justify this move was to argue that the institute was duplicating the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. However, the CSIRO has suffered a 9 per cent cut to animal and plant production and processing research in the past three years. Not all the employees at the Rydalmere institute have been invited to work elsewhere, and the organisation's ethos has been broken into pieces. As members fully understand, I fully support decentralisation. But this is not decentralisation, it is dismembering - it is destroying and gutting rural New South Wales.
To take one example, a husband and wife team have been told to transfer: the husband to Camden and the wife to Wollongbar on the far north coast. Meanwhile, an expert entomologist will be transferred to the central west, at least three hours from the nearest site of his research subject of grasshoppers. Institute workers point to private industry funding each year of $3.5 million, which represents 30 per cent of its total running cost. A three-year $150,000 project on viruses affecting grain legumes funded by the Grain Research and Development Corporation has already been cancelled. Grain legumes are an exciting crop for future export from this country, yet the Government has cut the research program.
The institute workers point out that this decision risks a $3 million joint project with China on citrus pests; a $400,000 study into the safe use of green waste and sludge in horticulture; a joint $250,000 study with the Sydney Market Authority on safety of fruit and vegetables; and a $800,000
project with the University of Sydney on pesticides in the Sydney basin. More of the picture has emerged in the past few days. Yanco was hailed as a winner with nine staff transfers from the Biological and Chemical Research Institute at Rydalmere - Yanco was earmarked as an horticultural key centre. However, we now find an admission that 15 vacancies are being left unfilled. How is that for a con? The community is calling this - and these are the words of a local newspaper, not mine - a "number shuffling exercise".
The latest estimate for the net cost of breaking up the Rydalmere unit is up to $19 million. The untold story is that of concern for consumers of food and fibres who were until now protected by work at the Rydalmere institute which was often world pioneering. The institute placed New South Wales at the forefront of the world's best practice. Downgrading disease and pest control is tantamount to playing with fire. The Minister for Agriculture spoke in this place today about disease in rabbits, yet the Government has gutted the research programs. The closure of the regional veterinary laboratories at Armidale and Wagga Wagga is a direct attack on a vital service to producers. To quote one prominent south-west stud owner, "We're going back to the bad old days. They're taking us back 21 years." He went on to recall problems with the old practice of sending samples to Glenfield. All these cuts are occurring while producers in key areas of the State, such as Ariah Park and Nyngan, have been denied their promised exceptional-circumstance drought relief. The Premier promised the drought relief, and then he ignored those people.
This budget sees a returns to the Neville Wran tactic of raiding assets - it is the old hollow logs trick. Power consumers across New South Wales have been subjected to a double-dip trick with their $1.1 billion reserves transfered to the Consolidated Fund. Under the guise of competition reform, the Treasurer has grabbed assets within the energy portfolio he administers, and he will require distributors to raise loans to lease back assets. The budget is an attack on small business, on families and on the elderly. It is an attack on power consumers who have paid their bills year in year out to help develop reserves to reduce costs in the future. All that has gone at the stroke of a pen. It is a blatant rip-off of consumers, and this budget will haunt this Government in the future regardless of the Treasurer's rhetoric about future pricing trends.
The stripping of assets follows forced amalgamations of electricity councils, and this was in contravention of Labor's election promise of no forced local government amalgamations. No doubt this is the softener which led the honourable member for Bathurst to threaten resignation over the carve-up of Pacific Power. That is how good members opposite are with energy. The Government gutted the profits and assets of the industry, and its backbench revolted. The member who got members opposite into government, the honourable member for Bathurst, was also gutted. That is what happened to the champion of Labor. He saved Labor, gave members opposite their cushy jobs, but then they kicked him in the tail. The Premier says, "We are going to destroy the electricity industry", and what do members opposite do? We do not hear a squeak from them; they know that the honourable member for Bathurst is right, and they are not prepared to take him on.
The families who are battling to maintain industries and jobs find that the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Education and Training are combining to smash 25 years of free school travel by bus. This service has become $100 million less than free, and this will put an estimated 2,000 bus services off the road. It is worthwhile spending a little time on this subject. I suspect that most members, irrespective of politics, believe that our children are entitled to, and deserve, a fair and reasonable education. In a society such as this, a society that is by world standards affluent, a country that is by world standards politically stable, and a country that is economically stable - except when the Labor Party is in power - a fact of life is that our kids are entitled to an education. To get that education, they need to be transported to school. Government after government has followed the initiatives for free school transport brought in years ago by Liberal and Country Party governments. Those initiatives were maintained through the worst years of the Wran Government -
Would a coalition government reverse the decision?
They were maintained through the stupidity of the Unsworth Government. Now, through absolute bastardisation by the Labor Government - including the idiot on the frontbench, the honourable member for Bulli - $100 million will be taken away from the school student transport scheme. Does the honourable member not realise that that will affect school buses in his electorate?
Would you reverse the decision?
The only way that the honourable member for Bulli will ever go is in reverse - he is constantly in reverse. He would not know which way is up. I remind Government members that they were committed to implementing recommendations contained in the Staysafe report of November 1994 that found:
Despite the very large numbers of school children travelling to and from school each day by bus, very few of these children are involved in crashes as bus passengers during the course of their journeys. In the context of safety of passengers using different types of land transport, travel by bus is easily the safest mode of road use.
With families now set to pay a new parent tax of $100 a month, once again this Government has savaged the electorate without consultation - without
even deferring to the views of the Bus and Coach Association, which, like so many others, was deceived by a false promise that there would be consultation before decisions were made. What happened to the consultation process? The Government did not consult the Bus and Coach Association before it was decided to gut a goodly part of the school student transport system. That is not the only buckling under on travel services in the country. Here is what the Labor Party said on roads by way of press release on 9 March 1995, which is about as close to an election promise as one can get:
All funds raised by the `3 by 3' tax will be hypothecated to roads and the 60/40 rural/city split on spending will be maintained under a Carr Labor Government
I know that the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning will be interested in that, because he has a certain respect for decency. The Minister for Transport was done like a dinner by the Minister for Roads. This promise was handled in much the same way as the toll promise was handled. The Minister for Roads might at least tender an apology during this budget debate. What has the Labor Government done about that promise? It has siphoned off $170 million of 3 x 3 levy funds over four years for bike racks and overpasses at CityRail stations. It has deceived country people. The Government knew that it would not hold true. This budget confirms the figures. The Labor Party told a great big lie in order to get into government. Then, when it got office, it could not handle it. The Labor Party lied and cheated its way into government.
Along with gutting the 3 x 3 levy funds, the Government has ditched the $6 billion, 10-year Motorway Pacific concept, a plan which had finally offered some hope of overcoming the regular tragedies on that highway. In place of that concept is a funding level which will take 40 years, not 10 years, to meet the existing needs of the highway identified today by the National Roads and Motorists Association. The Labor Government should tell that to those who have had an accident on the highway, to commercial travellers, to tourists and to those coming to this State for the Olympic period. The road was to be upgraded over 10 years, but the Labor Government has decided that it will be upgraded over 40 years. How is that for looking after this State's economy? How is that for responsibility? The bottom line is that along with gutting the 3 x 3 levy funds the Government has decided on a funding level of 40 years rather than 10 years.
The budget cuts fisheries capital works by 31.6 per cent, with only the coalition's share managed fishery scheme holding up the overall fisheries budget. Mining resources are cut in real terms, with a 3.3 per cent nominal increase, to be eaten out by inflation. It is worth pausing to consider that point. The Government has decided to cut by 3.3 per cent in real terms mining resources, which are this State's largest export-earning industry. The mining industry earns from Korea, Japan, eastern Europe and throughout Asia. It draws in the most dollars and offers the most prospects in the short to medium term for export income and the building up of jobs and infrastructure. The Government has cut funding by 3.3 per cent - so much for being part of an important industry. Emergency services have copped a real cut of close to 10 per cent in recurrent funds. Which ministry wins in all this? The Minister for the Environment said:
The environment portfolio has received a record level of funding in the 1995-96 budget
Off come the resources from productive sectors, including environmentally aware primary producers. Off go the funds to placate green extremists with their land-clearing and water policies and the like. This is a tree-hugging, bush-bashing budget! In the key economic and service portfolios for non-metropolitan New South Wales the Labor Government has failed the test on every count. The Treasurer says that the budget focuses on the fundamentals, but his fundamentals are to cut hard and deep into core services to the productive sectors of the economy. It is not clever politics for Labor - it is crazy economics. Cutting the bush means cutting everyone across the State. On these matters, where some commitment has been made in the budget, many questions arise. I instance just a few of those matters. The Treasurer claims that rail passenger services to the Riverina and Broken Hill have been restored. Let us get that straight. I wonder how the Government Whip, the honourable member for Broken Hill, feels about that statement. The Treasurer should try to buy a train ticket to Broken Hill tomorrow morning.
Mr D. L. Page:
It's a con.
Of course it is a con - it is a lie, a sham and a joke. It is significant that the Minister left out a crucial element of his response to questions in the estimates committee deliberations. He failed to indicate whether the services will be permanent or temporary. In the estimates committees the Minister would not say whether the restoration of services will be permanent. He would not make a commitment. He has no guts, knowledge or initiative. Will the Minister now indicate whether the services will be subject to passenger-use surveys? Why did he fail to address that key point in the estimates hearings? Why did he produce a world-record shortest press release on the budget, of no more than three sentences, announcing these services, with no detail? What is he hiding from the people of the Riverina and the far west?
As well as explaining whether the services are permanent or temporary, the Minister has one other immediate task. The people of the north coast, Armidale line, Moree line, central west and southern New South Wales have waited long enough. They want the Minister for Transport to give a long-awaited commitment that no existing
country passenger service will be downgraded or abolished and that existing services will retain their current standard of rolling stock. That is the commitment that the Minister for Transport should make if this Government is fair dinkum. The Government could simply put out a one-line press statement in the morning or tomorrow come into the Chamber with the answer to a dorothy dix question or make a ministerial statement. To avoid embarrassment, all that the Government has to do is to say that no services will be cut. Why will the Minister not do that? What is the Minister hiding from the people of the Riverina and the far west? The Minister has fudged his way through numerous opportunities afforded to him by the Opposition to give his assurance. It is time for the Minister for Transport to put up or shut up, because his bluff has been called. The much-heralded office of rural communities remains no more than a vague promise in the budget papers. Honourable members do not know whether it will be structured along the lines of the full-page commitment given before the election. Perhaps the Government has gone cold now that other States do not have a need for such an office.
So where is the office of rural communities? Is it in the Cabinet, the backbenches, or the caucus? Maybe it does not exist! I look forward to hearing about that from the Premier or the Minister tomorrow. Maybe the realities of government have taken toll of another unsustainable election promise, despite the Premier's reassurances to the New South Wales farmers conference at Dubbo in July - a promise fast disappearing, just like the register of vacant land to be compiled by New South Wales Agriculture. Part of the resources left in New South Wales Agriculture will be diverted to a review of the Agsell unit, an initiative of the National Party following the 1988 election when I became Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs. I point out that Agsell has enjoyed absolutely unprecedented success. It has been responsible for sales running at $15 million a year, a fine result for a staff of four and taxpayer investment of $700,000.
Labor promised to promote value-adding and export trade openings, but this review is to concentrate on import replacement. Agsell today is facilitating sales into Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, Korea, China, Taiwan and Japan. At 11 o'clock this morning new sales opened with wool going into Sofia, in Bulgaria, to the Kazenluk wool factory. Again, the real hard core of dedicated people and a policy introduced by the National Party Ministers, and myself initially, followed by the Hon. Ian Causley, have been successful. Now this Government is going to review the policy. The simple point is this - Agsell is not broken, so there is no need to fix it. It is far better that these resources go back into the work of export-focused units such as the Biological and Chemical Research Institute. On economic reforms the Treasurer sought to claim credit for the corporatisation of the Sydney, Botany, Hunter and Illawarra ports. Those reforms were completed by the National Party when in government, to stimulate trade performance. Labor simply signed on the bottom line with one exception, that is, amending the parent State Owned Corporations Act, to get its greasy ministerial fingers back into the daily operations of our ports.
It is worth highlighting the fact that the Premier has addressed business community functions, including breakfasts and dinners, and hailed as his one economic success the corporatisation of the ports of New South Wales. I will set the record straight: the Premier did not do that at all. The Liberal-National Government was responsible for the legislation which came into force when I was Minister, long before the election. All the Premier and this Government have done is sign on the bottom line and amend the parent State Owned Corporations Act. When the Government got its fingers into the operation of the ports the first pilots strike since the days of the Wran Government took place. The Government has simply lied. The Premier tells lies at business council breakfasts and functions at the Intercontinental Hotel when he claims he corporatised the ports. The business people of New South Wales are waking up to that, as are his own backbenchers. Overriding these decisions is an absence of consultation with people affected. At least Bob Hawke gave consensus a go. Mistakes are inevitable when one does not listen. The Leeton Murrumbidgee Irrigator
of 13 October stated:
What a difference a year makes. Now they are in power, it is a totally different story. Not only are they not listening any more, but they are refusing to justify a host of surprise 'reforms' which impact badly on the region. In the Coalition's term, the country had good access to Ministers and their front line staff. Not so any longer, particularly with some of the minders' squad unfamiliar with the MIA and unsure how to spell Murrumbidgee let alone locate it on the map.
That is a country newspaper from an old Labor electorate, once held by the Hon. Lindsay Gordon who is a highly respected former member. The newspaper says that Labor cheats, Labor lies. Leopards do not change their spots and Labor cannot grasp the needs of non-metropolitan New South Wales. In this budget water revenue is increased by 21 per cent, tucked away in Budget Paper No. 3, page 508, because the Minister failed to consult, failed to grasp the problems of cost hikes, failed to grasp the impact of reduced flow allocations and failed to refer his actions, as promised, to the Government Pricing Tribunal. It is no wonder the Minister faces a serious expression of no confidence from those he has sworn to serve.
I turn briefly to the Olympic portfolio. The Opposition accepts that budget estimates will necessarily be no more than estimates until levels of private sector investment are negotiated. A positive government approach will maximise private sector input. Now that this Government has the baton, it has a responsibility to make the most of opportunities created on 24 September 1993. They included opportunities for a $7.3 billion economic boost with more than 2.5 million visitors, 150,000
new jobs and a permanent sporting infrastructure for the twenty-first century and into the twenty-second. The coalition has set the pace, with the athletic and aquatic centres delivered on time, on budget and earning global praise, not least from Juan Antonio Samaranch, the President of the International Olympic Committee, who said Sydney has the best swimming complex in the world. The complex was built by the former Department of Public Works and the Department of Planning under the Liberal-National Government.
I conclude with reference to my electorate of Lachlan, a highly productive area with outstanding growth potential. Lachlan will continue to grow but without the maximum stimulus this budget is able to give. I acknowledge and welcome funding for the new West Wyalong hospital, a commitment which the Government has maintained with an allocation of $1 million. This is a pleasing result although it is disappointing that the completion date has been extended from two years to three years. I welcome the allocation of $1.18 million towards a multipurpose centre for Cowra High School, due for completion next year; $300,000 towards Parkes sewerage; $100,000 towards Parkes water supply, and upgrading of Henry Lawson High School. The constituents are disappointed that continued funding for the new Parkes primary school library is not included in the capital program. I await an indication from the Government about the availability of funding for that project. This Government will come to understand that country people are long-suffering but do not take kindly to being treated unfairly. Finally, I will refer to -
On a point of order: it seems to me that both numerals of the clock are on zero.
Order! The observation of the honourable member is correct. However, the time that the Leader of the National Party may speak in debate on the Appropriation Bill is unspecified. Accordingly, no point of order is involved.
Unfortunately, Labor has not only lied and cheated but it has a heap of fools on its backbenches, as has just been demonstrated. I have a press release from the Minister for Transport, and Minister for Tourism dated 10 October 1995 which states that Labor will restore passenger services to Broken Hill and the Riverina. Tonight I challenge the Labor Government to inform the House tomorrow when it will honour the Minister's press release of 10 October, otherwise it will stand condemned as the greatest lying, cheating government this Parliament has seen.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr McManus.
The following bills were returned from the Legislative Council without amendment:
Gaming and Betting Amendment (Racing) Bill
Institute of Sport Bill
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.