Thursday 24 June 1999
Mr Speaker (The Hon. John Henry Murray) took the chair at 10.30 a.m.
Mr Speaker offered the Prayer.
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
ELECTRICITY SUPPLY AMENDMENT BILL
PAY-ROLL TAX AMENDMENT (FURTHER RATE REDUCTION) BILL
PUBLIC FINANCE AND AUDIT AMENDMENT (CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS) BILL
Debate resumed from 23 June.
Mr MILLS (Wallsend) [10.30 a.m.]: I am proud to support the first budget of the Carr Government in its second term in office. I concur with the statement of the Treasurer that this great Labor budget delivers on Labor’s election commitments, it delivers for those represented in this Parliament by Labor, it delivers for the people of Wallsend, Wollongong, and rural and regional New South Wales, as well as for the people of Sydney. The key political point to be made is that Labor governments represent the whole of New South Wales, in contrast to the succession of New South Wales Liberal and National Party governments since the Second World War, which promoted sectional interests.
Since Labor’s great election win in March it has sought to devise new ways of communicating with regional New South Wales so that the Labor Party may become the true country party of New South Wales. People in regional New South Wales increasingly acknowledge that fact, and the results of the election demonstrate that the former Country Party, which chose to call itself the National Party, has become distracted from its ideals and, in panic mode, is trying to recover. Nevertheless, the Australian Labor Party is taking the initiative and is finding new ways of representing people in regional and rural New South Wales.
I commend the Government and my Labor colleagues in this Parliament for their efforts in providing rural people with the best representation in decades. The Budget Speech of the Treasurer deserves commendation. It concentrates on taxation and revenue, producing at a time when it is needed a budget surplus and, at the same time, paying for the Olympics and honouring the commitments it made to the electorate during the campaign for the recent election. Since the budget was handed down and as a result of media comments some of my constituents have asked me about funding to implement the recommendations of the Drug Summit. The Treasurer dealt with that matter clearly at page 6 of the Budget Speech. Some journalists must have missed that reference during the four-hour lockup.
The Treasurer pointed out that currently the Government spends $70 million a year on drug programs and that this budget provides for a further $21.3 million over four years for new drug treatment services and harm minimisation measures that were announced before the election. In addition, this year’s surplus and the Treasurer’s Advance provide the Government with the financial capacity to implement the Government’s response to the Drug Summit. However, it is important that the people of New South Wales understand that provision has been made for the outcome of deliberations and recommendations of the Drug Summit and that the Government has the funding and flexibility to make sound decisions in this regard. Well done to the Treasurer for making that provision! Of course, it should be remembered that it is difficult to reserve specific amounts until we know what measures are to be implemented.
People providing health services claim that although there is a great need for drug treatment, few general practitioners are trained to deliver front-line services to drug-addicted people who come to their surgeries. Most doctors require some assistance and the Government has commenced programs to provide that assistance. For 18 months a pilot project to provide such training to general practitioners was conducted on the Central Coast. The project was
referred to during the Drug Summit; I am told it was a great success. The Government has extended that training program to four regional areas, including Dubbo and Maitland. As yet we do not have the workers who are needed to provide the programs recommended by the Drug Summit and the Government’s response to it. Clearly, one response will be to beef up the training of health workers and others to enable them to cope with increased demands arising from increased drug use in recent years.
It is fair to say that ever since McKell New South Wales Labor has been a responsible economic manager, and the surplus in this budget is confirmation of that tradition. It is not a tough budget. There was pre-budget press speculation, talked up particularly by the National Party, of a horror budget, but clearly it is not. The Premier yesterday in answer to a question indicated that response to the budget showed neither toughness nor horror but timely restraint. Over the Carr Government’s first four-year term it spent 91 per cent more on disability services than the Coalition had spent on such services when it left office. The Government will continue to increase spending on disability services to meet the needs of the disabled in New South Wales for additional resources to enable them to cope with their special circumstances.
Some of the small budget items will give Wallsend constituents the greatest satisfaction, particularly the sum of $149,000 for new pedestrian and traffic signals at the corner of Main Road and Newcastle Street in Cardiff. The location was previously within the Wallsend electorate but now falls on the boundary of the electorates of Charlestown and Wallsend. My colleague the Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development, is aware of the importance of the new signals. The issue arose in March of last year when a senior parishioner of St Kevin’s Catholic parish at Cardiff after Saturday evening mass was knocked over and badly hurt on a zebra crossing outside the church, which is in front of a school at a busy location on a sharp bend in the main road.
The parish and the school asked for help in improving traffic safety for school pupils and parishioners at this dangerous crossing. The location was inspected by parliamentarians, officials of the Roads and Traffic Authority, the council and members of the local community. I am delighted to be able to inform the Cardiff community about the Government’s quick response in providing funds for traffic safety at that location.
Clare Street, the narrow street that provides sole access to Glendale Technology High School and part access to Glendale College of TAFE, is a site of great congestion and activity of a morning. For some years the school has been concerned about the congestion and the danger posed to students by the combination of buses, vehicles driven by parents dropping off children and vehicles driven by the few students who are old enough to drive. A couple of minor collisions have occurred between vehicles and students. For some years the school community has been trying to design a plan that is acceptable to the education authorities, the council and the RTA.
Earlier this year such a plan was agreed upon, and I have received advice from the Minister for Education and Training that planning funding for the construction of a new bus bay at Glendale Technology High School will be provided this year to reduce the danger to students and the delays caused by congestion. This budget provides the final $254,000 needed to complete the $1.6 million project started three years ago to consolidate the infants and primary school sites at Wallsend Public School. The most expensive part of the project was the provision of a new school hall, which was put into use only the week before last. The Wallsend Public School community is delighted about the completion of the project.
Some large items bring joy to local communities and to the whole of the Hunter region, such as the $9.77 million provision for new capital works under the Hunter health asset strategy that will be used mainly this year to rebuild the John Hunter Hospital emergency department and to expand its intensive care unit. The Hunter health asset strategy was initiated last year with the allocation of small amounts. During the Newcastle earthquake the Royal Newcastle Hospital emergency department, at that stage the largest in the region, was significantly damaged and put out of action. As a result the emergency department at John Hunter was modified hastily to become the major emergency department serving the entire Hunter region.
The department was never satisfactory and required rebuilding when the time was right and the money was available. Expansion of the intensive care unit is also required. In addition, a $4.5 million refurbishment of Rankin Park Hospital, which is on the John Hunter Hospital campus, will commence to provide aged care services. The project has an allocation this year of $1.75 million, with the remainder becoming available in subsequent years. The refurbishment is required because of the age of the building and the need to provide a fair share of
good facilities for elderly patients in the Hunter region.
I am pleased to be able to mention the provision by the Minister for Roads of $2.8 million to complete the widening to four lanes of Main Road, Cardiff, at the rail subway. That is on MR527. The project is of great interest to everyone in north Lake Macquarie and west Lake Macquarie, where the dwindling of four-lane roads to a narrow two-lane underpass at the Great Northern railway has been the bane of traffic flow for decades. It is pleasing that $2.8 million will be added to the allocation from last year to complete the project. In addition, $2.9 million has been provided to widen Lake Road to four lanes at Elermore Vale between Macquarie College and Croudace Road - a stretch of roadway I refer to as Bruce Baird’s missing link.
The four-lane road from Wallsend and the road from Glendale crossroads to the Lake Macquarie-Newcastle boundary abruptly becomes two lanes for 0.9 of a kilometre, causing traffic clogging at peak hours. The Government is providing the money to widen that section of the road to four lanes. Other expenditure that will bring great joy to the whole of the Hunter region but particularly to the people of Lake Macquarie is the provision of $1.5 million for the first stage of clean-up works for Lake Macquarie in line with the recommendations of the Premier’s task force chaired by Ian Keirnan.
The Carr Labor Government is implementing the recommendations of Ian Keirnan’s task force in full and will fund over three to four years the $8 million recommended by that task force. Lake Macquarie City Council will set an additional rate to contribute funds to assist in the clean-up, achieving, thanks to the activities of the Carr Labor Government, the long-held dream of the people of Lake Macquarie to improve the health of the lake. Finally, I compliment the Minister for Land and Water Conservation, and Minister for Agriculture on honouring an election commitment to provide $900,000 to commence the Hexham Swamp rehabilitation project. The Commonwealth will match the amount from funds from the sale of Telstra. The Hexham Swamp rehabilitation project has received wide community support in the Hunter region. The project will recover the largest saltwater wetland on the east coast of New South Wales, a Ramsar wetland of international significance.
The wetland was heavily modified by the installation of floodgates that were almost completely closed in the early 1970s. The swamp as a fish hatchery lost its functionality. One of the most important reasons for undertaking the rehabilitation project is to recover the fish hatchery in Hexham Swamp so that more fish will be available for both commercial and recreational fishers. The project will be jointly funded by the State and Commonwealth governments. Hopefully, the environmental impact statement will be completed soon and the project can be commenced. Much of the private land that is low lying will be flooded by the opening of the flood gates, and that is the purpose of much of the expenditure in the rehabilitation project.
Most of the mail I received in the month prior to the handing down of the budget from people speculating on the budget and claiming that the sky would fall in referred to the area assistance scheme. Many people were extremely concerned because of the importance of the scheme to the Hunter community. Yesterday the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning announced that the doomsayers got it wrong. He said that the area assistance scheme will not only be retained; it will be increased by $1.6 million in the coming year. The total package will top $8.35 million.
The budget provides also for $3.9 million in the capital works allocation of the Hunter Water Corporation for a new reservoir at south Wallsend. An amount of $150,000 will be used to upgrade the intersection of Macaffery Drive and Lookout Road at New Lambton Heights as a result of recommendations that were made following consultation with the council, the Roads and Traffic Authority and the local community to eliminate traffic difficulty spots on Lookout Road. I conclude by commending the Government for honouring its pre-election commitments to the letter in the electorate of Wallsend and in New South Wales generally.
Mr TINK (Epping) [10.50 a.m.]: My contribution to this debate will concentrate on the budget as it relates to policing. The budget is characterised by some special allocations in the electorate of the Minister for Police. Last week much disinformation was put about by the Government relating to the budget and the numbers of police to come into the service in the next four years. The budget papers do not support the claims of the Government in that regard. In 1999-2000, 64 per cent of all money allocated in the Carr Government’s latest budget for major capital works on police stations will be spent in the electorate of Strathfield, which is held by the Minister for Police.
This year 98.85 per cent of all funds for major capital works at police stations will be spent in Labor electorates. Just over 1 per cent of those
funds will be spent in the electorate of Dubbo, which is held by an Independent member. Nothing will be spent in electorates held by members of the Coalition, who represent over 33 per cent of electorates, and therefore electors, in New South Wales. As the honourable member for Camden well knows, Narellan Police Station was listed specifically in last year’s capital works estimates. It was listed as if money had been spent on it, although we know that that did not occur. Notwithstanding the promise made during the election campaign by Councillor Sanchez - the Australian Labor Party candidate for Camden - that the police station would be built, reference to it has disappeared from the capital works program.
The electorate of the Minister for Police figures more prominently in the current capital works allocation than any other electorate. Obviously, do far as the Minister for Police is concerned, he comes first, the Labor Party second, an Independent member with 1 per cent of funding comes next, and the rest can go hang. I remind him and the Government that there are many honest, hardworking police officers doing it extremely tough in substandard accommodation in non-Labor held seats. The Government is not entitled to take a winner-take-all approach in this budget. It has an obligation to govern for all and to ensure that overworked, overstressed and under-resourced police in non-Labor seats, particularly my electorate, are provided with accommodation the equal of that enjoyed by police fortunate enough to work in Labor-held electorates, in particular in the electorate of Strathfield.
The Treasurer has boasted that this year recurrent expenditure in the police portfolio has been increased by $110 million. However, in truth of the order of $120 million will be needed to fund the deficit of $56 million referred to in the Auditor-General’s Report, the $43 million that will be required to cover pay rises this year for non-commissioned and commissioned officers, to take into account an inflation cost of $6 million, and to pay Olympic security costs of $15.9 million - to be met on a pro rata basis by the Olympic Co-ordination Authority and the Police Service. More money will be going out than comes in.
The so-called increase has already been soaked up by pay rises, inflation, Olympic security costs and the deficit referred to by the Auditor-General, and that means that this year the Police Service will have an even larger deficit than last year. And all honourable members know what that means! Front-line police will be under-resourced; ridiculous limitations will be placed on overtime, as happened this year in the Brisbane Waters area command; and restrictions will be placed on such fundamental items as petrol and the running time of patrol cars. Thus police officers cannot do their job.
This week we heard many outrageous claims. First, the Government claimed that it would provide 200 additional police this financial year. Then the media, trying to work through some dodgy information that was issued by the Minister’s office, reported that magically there will be 760 extra police on the job. The reality is that in 1999-2000 there will be fewer people in the Police Service than there were in 1998-99. Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, reveals on page 16-21 that in 1998-99 there were 16,986 people working in the Police Service, including police officers and public servants. This year there will be 16,971 - a fall of 15 in absolute terms.
Contrary to the spin put out to the media by the Minister’s office, the commitment of the Labor Party during the recent election campaign to increase police numbers cannot be met if in fact the number of police officers and public servants in the department have been reduced. Why? Because, according to the Government’s police policy document "Law Enforcement: More Police, Smarter Policing", the promised goal is 2,110 more police officers by the end of the year 2003. To achieve that goal the Government, apart from appointing an extra 1,000 sworn police officers, would need to redeploy another 1,110 police officers to the front line. To do that it would have to employ extra civilians to do the desk work that would enable redeployment of those police officers. Those are not my words; those are the statements of the Minister set out in his policy. It was the Minister who said that the Government would employ an extra 350 civilians to make extra police available for front-line duties.
It is nonsense to argue - as the Minister’s office has been telling the media over the past couple of days - that the number of personnel in the Police Service has increased. It has decreased, because the Government has cut back on the civilians in the police force. By cutting back the number of civilians in the police force, the Government is breaking its promise. Reducing the number of civilians will not enable release of police from desk duties for use in the front line, as the Government promised. The reality is that the number of civilians in the police force is reducing. In that respect there is a significant breach of the Government’s election commitment.
But even worse than that, the very same key election policy relating to police, a policy endorsed by the Government at the March election, said that the additional cost of those extra 2,110 police over four years would be $226 million. At the time the election campaign was taking place Treasury released its official costing. It agreed precisely with the Labor Party’s costing as announced in the election campaign. That is to say, the Treasury costed the election pledge of Labor at $75,000 recurrent for each police officer and $50,000 recurrent for each public servant. On that basis, the commitment to employ an extra 2,110 police over four years was costed by Treasury at just over $220 million - a costing that is right in line with the cost announced by the Labor Party itself.
The Budget Summary for 1999-2000, at page 11, contains a statement that the commitment is to be met over four years by funding of $148 million. In other words, the Labor Government will shortchange the funding of its police numbers policy by almost $80 million over four years. At $75,000 recurrent per police officer and $50,000 recurrent per public servant, that is a massive shortchanging of the public promise made by the Government during the election campaign to increase police numbers by 2,110. The budget is down by a margin of 30 per cent on the Government’s costings. It is little wonder that the published figures for the Police Service are going the wrong way, not in any direction that would suggest that the Government can deliver on its promise.
I turn now to some matters that relate particularly to the Epping electorate. First I express my disappointment with the amount allocated in the budget for the Parramatta to Chatswood rail link. The Minister for Transport hawked that project about the place for months. All sorts of glossy brochures about it have been produced and the media carried all sorts of hype following its announcement. The Minister seems to be the Government’s best talking head these days, after the Premier - although I am not sure the Minister’s colleagues would necessarily share that view. At any rate, the Minister becomes most visible whenever a glossy brochure is to be released or a demonstration or display is to accompany a big public sector or major public works project. But let me deal with the detail.
The Western Sydney Budget Statement, at page 35, puts the planned expenditure on the Parramatta to Chatswood rail link in 1998-99 at $2.5 million. If the Government is genuine about having a halfway decent environmental impact study of the project - and, as member for Epping, I will be pushing for just that because, although I support the link, it is critically important that the public have a full, proper, open and frank say in the proposal - then $2.5 million would not be enough to spend on the production, printing, publication and distribution of even one decent environmental impact study brochure. The reality is that the Government, having talked this project up big time in the election campaign, now has put the brakes on. It is putting a big go-slow on the future of the project. Simply put, the money allocated in the budget for the project does not match the promises that were made during the election campaign.
I want to touch upon some issues relating to health. We heard a lot of talk in the election campaign about health matters. The honourable member for Ryde said quite a bit in the campaign about Ryde Hospital and how the Government would upgrade services at that hospital. The honourable member said he would ensure that plenty would be done not only to maintain the hospital but to enhance accident and emergency services as well as acute medical care services at the hospital. But what is to be found in the budget? It provides nothing for acute care at Ryde Hospital. There is only a reference to $400,000 for the continuation of an ongoing program, now substantially complete, in relation to mental health services. Mental health services are important, but the budget allocation is no substitute for the sort of talk that we had from the honourable member for Ryde during the election campaign about the key role, an allegedly enhanced role, that Ryde Hospital would play in the delivery of acute health services in northern Sydney.
The Labor candidate had plenty to say about Hornsby Hospital. But the capital works budget papers do not even mention that hospital. Again it has been a case of nothing but a lot of talk and hot air from the Government and its supporters. I suggest that the lack of credibility of the Labor candidate for Hornsby on these issues be taken into account by the people of Hornsby if he puts his hand up to run in the local government elections to be held in September. What he talked about during the State elections simply is not delivered on in this budget. What he says is not to be taken seriously.
The next matter I wish to refer to is the provision of traffic lights at two significant intersections on Beecroft Road, both of which rank high in the list of accident black spots in this State. One of those black spots is at the intersection of Beecroft Road and Cheltenham Road. The other is at the intersection of Beecroft Road and Kirkham Street, Beecroft. Gordon Winch, the secretary of the Beecroft-Cheltenham Civic Trust, raised this matter
at great length in a detailed submission put to the Minister. The former president of the civic trust, Betty Grant, led a delegation to the Minister’s office last year.
I understand that the budget fails to allocate money for either of those projects. They must be given the utmost attention. The projects need to be assessed objectively and given top priority. Money must be allocated in line with that assessment, in recognition of the top priority that they deserve as accident black spots. The Roads and Traffic Authority representative, who is listed in the back of Budget Paper No. 4 as the RTA person to be contacted on State capital program matters, was not able to say anything about the matter. That is despite the fact that he is listed as the person from whom to seek advice. He was unable to say whether there was any money for those traffic lights - he did not know, would not know, and had to get back to the Minister’s office. Knowing the Minister’s office as I do, I am sure they would not know either. However, also knowing the Minister’s office, I am sure there will be no money for either of those worthy projects. That is yet another example of the Government’s winner-take-all approach to budget matters.
Finally, I note the enormous amount of money allocated by this budget to be spent on the Olympics. I note also an extraordinary decision taken to import American and other foreign bands to perform at the Olympic Games. For bands in my electorate, this is the worst insult that could be visited upon very keen musicians who believed they would have a chance to audition to perform at the Olympics. Instead, foreign bands will be imported for that purpose. The taxpayers of this State, including the taxpayers of Epping, Badgerys Creek, southern Sydney and elsewhere, are paying a fortune for these Games. The least they could expect is that they would get a fair go when it comes to participating in the Olympic Games. That participation is not limited to the athletes; it includes those who will perform as musicians.
The Epping RSL band has performed overseas for the Department of Veterans' Affairs. It received tremendous plaudits from the French Government when it performed about a year ago at the celebrations involving Australians to mark the eightieth anniversary of major battles that took place on the Somme River in World War I. The Epping RSL band was honoured by the French Government by being awarded the official title of Australian Band of the Somme. It was also acknowledged by the Minister for Veterans' Affairs for its standard of performance.
I simply point out the aspirations and expectations of bands in the Epping electorate, like the Epping RSL band, and the many other bands in other electorates throughout the State. All they ask is that they be given a chance to audition to perform at the Olympics, to showcase Australian performers and Australian music at the Olympic Games, which are being paid for by Australian taxpayers. I believe every honourable member of this House should be asking for no less than that. I demand that the bands have that opportunity. I am grateful to John Wholohan of North Epping for drawing that matter to my attention.
I am asking for a fair go under this budget. We want a fair go for police stations. We do not want the Minister for Police ripping out 64 per cent of the police capital works budget for police stations and redirecting it to his own electorate. I am sure that 99 per cent of caucus would agree with me on that. The Epping electorate would like a little bit of money spent in its electorate, not the least because these hardworking police are doing a difficult job in very difficult accommodation. They deserve to be treated equitably.
We all deserve to be treated equitably by the Olympic Co-ordination Authority and the Minister for the Olympics in getting a fair go for out constituents to audition for the musical items for the Games. We all deserve to be given a fair go in regard to priority funding for capital works - which, in many instances, have been promised by the Labor Government but not delivered; for example, Ryde Hospital. Road traffic and safety in my electorate has not been treated by the Minister for Roads in the same way that members of the Opposition are treated by the Minister for Police. Policing is a problem across the State, as is road safety. We need decent, pro rata, and fair distribution. If the Minister for Police chooses to give his budget response now, I would be delighted.
(Liverpool) [11.10 a.m.]: I draw attention to a number of significant features in this budget. Unlike some members who have already spoken, I will not spend all of the time allotted to me attacking candidates from other parties, as has been the case with Opposition members who have spoken in this debate. One significant budget item is the allocation of $7.2 million for capital works for the continuation of the Liverpool railway station interchange redevelopment. That work commenced some time ago and is ongoing. The development of transport hubs such as that is absolutely critical in Sydney’s west. One of the great problems with urban planning and development in Sydney’s west in the past 50 years has been the massive number of
dormitory suburbs that have been developed with precious little public transport. That has led inevitably to a reliance, some would argue an overreliance, on the use of private motor vehicles. That is certainly the case in Sydney’s south-west.
There is a host of reasons why an overreliance upon private motor vehicles is undesirable. Obviously, air quality is relevant and most experts would suggest that the major air quality problem in the west and south-west is caused by motor vehicle emissions from a whole range of private and other vehicles. Nonetheless, private motor vehicles are a significant part of the problem. If adequate public transport is not provided in new release areas, new dormitory suburbs, each household will have two or three cars. Quite frankly, that is a necessity, not a luxury, because people have to be mobile. The solution is not punitive policy approaches; we should not punish people for using private cars, but we should provide an adequate and reasonably attractive alternative.
One of the central elements for south-western Sydney is the development of the Liverpool transport interchange, which will allow easier movement from buses to trains. People will not have to drive cars to get to railway stations and the entire trip will be more comfortable and easier. As a result, people will be more inclined to use public transport instead of a private motor vehicle to travel to work or for any other purpose. Public policy makers generally have served Sydney’s west and its residents very poorly - that is not a partisan comment. This is playing catch-up, it is trying to solve problems after they have occurred. Nonetheless, it is a sensible and reasonable approach to the problem. I regret that it has taken so long to come to pass. Liverpool is probably the last major transport sector in western Sydney to get an interchange, but, better late than never. On that basis I welcome it.
This initiative is consistent with others, including the development of the bus-only transit lanes from outlying suburbs to Liverpool railway station. Other initiatives, including the installation of help points and security cameras, particularly the implementation of security guards after 7.00 p.m., are part of the Government’s strategy to make travelling by rail and other public transport far more attractive, thereby reducing the overdependence on private motor vehicles. Another significant item of expenditure on transport relates to Cowpasture Road, a road which dates from the earliest European settlement of this country. Some would suggest that not much has been done in the past 200 years to dramatically improve that road.
A significant proportion of Cowpasture Road is within the electorate of Liverpool, from Hoxton Park Road to Elizabeth Drive. It is one lane either way, extremely busy, and often incredibly dangerous. It is a significant service road into the new urban release developments of the past several years. I have raised this matter on a number of previous occasions. On 23 September 1998 when referring to some of the problems associated with Cowpasture Road, I highlighted the difficulty of its intersection with Collarenebri Road, Hinchinbrook. I commented that Mr Joey Mareno had spoken to me about the difficulty experienced in exiting that road, and the particular difficulties of turning right into it from Cowpasture Road.
Last weekend I spoke to other residents, Mr and Mrs Davies, who are known to the Minister for Public Works. They reiterated the difficulties they had experienced exiting and entering that intersection. Those problems can be significantly ameliorated by the duplication of the road so that it can carry two lanes of traffic in either direction. There are other problems along that road at other intersections, including Green Valley Road. A fatality occurred there in March, and a string of complaints have been received about its lack of safety. A large part of the problem is generated because the intersections do not have traffic lights or other traffic controls. Cowpasture Road, being one lane either way, has no turning lanes. Vehicles stop and bank up to turn right, and the result is that other vehicles crash into the back of them. Other vehicles try to move too quickly out from Green Valley Road into Cowpasture Road, often resulting in accidents, including the tragedy I referred to earlier.
Further up the road there is a real problem with the intersection of Cowpasture Road, North Liverpool Road and Fredericks Road. Cecil Hills, a newly developed suburb, is on the western side of Cowpasture Road. The amount of traffic developing there is quite significant. Naturally, it has been getting greater and greater with the newly released areas, in particular Cecil Hills. Last September I mentioned those sorts of problems and talked about some of the residents who had spoken to me - Dolly and Tony Haber, Tom Murphy, Brian Van der Meer and people from the local high school - about the difficulties at that intersection. Currently a roundabout is in operation but it is still extraordinarily dangerous.
The problem is made worse by the fact that the two-lane road coming out of Cecil Hills narrows to one lane at Cowpasture Road so that in the morning drivers have to wait for up to half an hour to get out. Jeanette Chapman has also raised those
issues with me. All those problems can be resolved if Cowpasture Road is widened and traffic lights are installed. That will allow both quicker and safer access to Cowpasture Road. The issue has attracted the attention of Liverpool council. The council dealt with the matter last month and wrote to me on 28 May. That letter states in part:
Council Officers have been pursuing the RTA for advice regarding the future of Cowpasture Road with specific concerns regarding intersections such as those at Green Valley Road, North Liverpool Road, Tibooburra Road, Collarenebri Road, Sixteenth Avenue and Seventeenth Avenue.
Over the last six months the RTA has been developing concept plans for the future upgrading of Cowpasture Road between Elizabeth Drive and Bringelly Road.
The RTA has now completed these concept designs for the full length of Cowpasture Road between Elizabeth Drive and Bringelly Road.
A report was presented to Council at its Ordinary Meeting on 24 May, 1999 and the following resolution was adopted:-
(1) That Council note that the RTA has developed concept designs for the upgrading of Cowpasture Road between Elizabeth Drive and Bringelly Road/Camden Valley Way.
(2) That Council strongly request the RTA to give high priority to the full upgrading of this section of Cowpasture Road in developing its forward works program, particularly given significant local and regional growth and resultant traffic pressures.
(3) That Council request the RTA to investigate urgent "interim" upgrading of intersections at Green Valley Road, Sixteenth Avenue, Seventeenth Avenue, Collarenebri Road and Tibooburra Road. Options to include localised widening to provide turn lanes and or "seagull" treatment.
(4) Council’s Transport Department to continue to investigate options for Council to part fund "interim" treatment and final intersection upgrades from Section 94.
In the context of that letter, it gives me some considerable pleasure to note the allocation of $115,000 in the budget to commence the planning work to upgrade the road. I have dealt with the issue in some detail not merely to indicate that the democratic process does work and if representations are made one can get an allocation in the budget that is of significant benefit to the community. I have itemised the problem fully so that it stands on the record, and so that the allocation for planning in this budget is followed up in future budgets to enable the substantial work to be completed. That is not to say that I am anything other than delighted with the money that has been allocated so far. Members of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce were in this building last night, together with council officers, and they were all delighted with that allocation of funds.
Another significant allocation of funding in this budget is for the Liverpool-Parramatta transitway. Bearing in mind the comments I made earlier about the Liverpool transport interchange and the need for adequate public transport in Sydney’s west, one can only rejoice in the fact that the transitway is being developed. It is a very significant innovation for western Sydney. For far too long innovative plans that involve substantial amounts of money have not been made for the west and it is a matter of some joy to me that this is being done in this budget, as it has been in previous budgets.
The Liverpool-Parramatta transitway is part of an overall rapid bus-only transitway scheme which, if it is implemented, will eventually extend 90 kilometres and involve expenditure of $700 million over 10 years. The Liverpool to Parramatta component is planned to run for 30 kilometres at a cost of $200 million. The proposed completion date is 2003. Apart from the desirable social policy of improving public transport, it will generate employment, and that is a significant bonus. The allocation in this year’s budget for the Liverpool electorate portion of the transitway is $4.25 million.
The proposal is, essentially, a train on wheels. Conceptually it will operate in the same way as a train, except we are dealing with buses. It is a mass transit system. During peak periods buses will depart every five minutes and during non-peak periods they will depart every 10 minutes. In practical terms that means a trip from the suburb of Green Valley to Fairfield Hospital, which currently takes about an hour by public transport, will take 16 minutes. It will provide dramatically improved benefits for people in western Sydney. It will also improve their recreation, whether they are going to a movie or visiting friends, and it will be a significant improvement for those seeking to access medical services at Fairfield and specialist medical services at Parramatta. Obviously it is important for people getting to their jobs.
One significant aspect of the transitway is that it will not only link residential areas with town centres and central business districts, but also tie-in areas such as the Smithfield-Wetherill Park industrial area. That in itself will lead to economic efficiency and less time travelling to get things done. It may have further economic benefit just at that level. The proposal involves a number of stations where people can leave their cars in parking areas and catch buses. The design will ensure that stations are well lit and wheelchair accessible. This will be a considerable improvement to the way people in western Sydney currently live.
There are other significant elements to road and transport funding in this budget. It contains a proposal to develop a cycleway from Liverpool to Parramatta and a considerable amount of funding has been allocated to the Liverpool electorate for that purpose. Approximately $875,000 has been allocated for a new pavement on the Hume Highway. That is not a new announcement, but that injection of capital funds is necessary to ensure that one of the State’s major road networks operates effectively and efficiently.
There are some significant expenditures for either the planning or the construction of noise barriers on Orange Grove Road, Hinkler Avenue and Cowpasture Road. One of the other aspects of the budget I would like to touch on is almost a negative claim. One of the matters that particularly activated my interest in the lead-up to this budget was the area assistance scheme. That generated a lot of heat and not much light.
Area assistance schemes are a very useful and important component of the social infrastructure in New South Wales. In western Sydney it is called WSAAS - the western Sydney area assistance Scheme. Not a lot of money is involved but it is one of the most effective ways of using money in that the projects and proposals that come from it are bottom-up proposals - they come from the local community and community groups. A lot of community development work is done.
Any western Sydney member worth his or her salt knows of a host of those schemes and many of us at various times have been on management committees of bodies that have survived simply because of WSAAS funding. It was an initiative of the Labor Government more than a decade ago; one of those very good proposals that has genuinely stood the test of time. There was a suggestion from the nameless Treasury bureaucrats or gnomes - whatever particular epitaph one wants to throw at them - that the scheme either be abolished or transferred to another department where it would be allowed to die.
The good news is that that did not happen and various Area Assistance scheme initiatives have not only been retained but have received increased funding of $1.6 million in the coming year. That is very much to the credit of this Government. It is not only maintaining a very positive and important scheme but it is prepared to listen to people and realise how important such initiatives are. That is not to say that everything is rosy in the garden and everything in this budget is ideal. One particular disappointment is the omission of a social justice statement, which the Government has made on a number of previous occasions. Social justice is central to the Labor vision and to the vision of people like McKell. If that part of the vision is ignored, something important will be lost from the Labor tradition and, indeed, from McKell’s vision. I hope its omission this year will be addressed next year.
I shall touch briefly on a number of other issues. The budget continues significant funding for health services in western Sydney with the proposal to spend an extra $31 million over the next four years. Obviously we all welcome that. I note in particular that it has taken this Government to deliver substantial funds, which should have been delivered long ago, for health facilities at Liverpool. Part of the Liverpool strategy has been to develop and extend the range of specialties so that people do not have to travel to the other side of Sydney for medical treatment.
Liverpool could benefit from further funding in the development of audiology services. Currently the waiting list for hearing tests is two months. That means that if a patient actually has a hearing problem, he or she might have a much worse problem by the time the test is conducted. I believe the hearing booth currently being used is second-hand. Another booth would cut the waiting time.
Bob Carr is not listening.
The honourable member for Coffs Harbour has developed to an art form the concept of lots of fire and absolutely no substance! It is desirable to have an audiology testing program for newborn babies. Of course, that requires special equipment that is not available at present. One would have thought that in this day and age newborn babies would undergo regular mandatory tests to make sure their hearing is perfect, but that is not the case. The amount of money required to set up these extra services for Liverpool is in the vicinity of $250,000. I would hope that money for that purpose could be found from some other surplus allocations referred to in this legislation.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Precedence of Business
Motion by Mr Whelan agreed to:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to allow consideration forthwith of General Business Order of the Day No. 8.
Debate resumed from 22 June.
(Strathfield - Minister for Police) [11.32 a.m.]: Order of the Day No. 8 relates to procedural matters, as Parliament will sit tonight, Friday, and possibly Monday and the following Friday. So that members can rearrange their electorate business I propose to amend the motion. By leave, I move:
That the motion be amended by the addition of the following paragraph:
(3) (a) a prohibition on the calling of a division on any question or attention to the want of a quorum:
(i) between 6.00 p.m. and the rising of the House on Thursday 24 June 1999 and Thursday 1 July 1999;
(ii) at any time on Friday 25 June 1999 and Monday 28 June 1999; and
(b) a prohibition on calling attention to the want of a quorum at any time on Friday 2 July 1999.
This will enable members who have electorate commitments on Monday and Friday, and indeed on Thursday night, to avail themselves of the opportunity to attend to that business. Members present in the House should take the opportunity, as many have done, to speak in the budget debate. Approximately 35 members have indicated their willingness to speak in the budget debate. For that reason Parliament will sit tonight and tomorrow. I will be able to give a better indication later this evening whether the House will sit next Monday. Honourable members will have to contact their Whips to ascertain whether Parliament will sit on Monday. At this stage it is unlikely that the House will sit on Monday 28 June, notwithstanding that members have that date marked in their diaries. All members should have the opportunity to speak in the budget debate. It is not the Government’s intention to gag this very important debate. We are proud of the budget and I would like members to have the opportunity to contribute to it.
(Coffs Harbour) [11.35 a.m.]: The Opposition does not oppose the amendment. We appreciate the negotiations with the Leader of the House to enable members who do not reside in the greater metropolis of Sydney to be able to get back to constituents and carry out important duties. We fully support that. However, I point out that whilst there is the possibility of sitting tomorrow, on Monday 28 June and on Friday 2 July, because of this amendment motions for urgent consideration, matters of public importance and question time have been deleted. Although the Opposition is not happy about that, and would like question time to proceed at the appropriate time in order to further test the Government on its budget, we will not be given that opportunity. However, in saying that, we realise that we cannot win an amendment to the motion to allow for question time, matters for urgent consideration and matters of public importance. The Opposition is disappointed in that regard, but does not oppose the motion.
Amendment agreed to.
Motion as amended agreed to.
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
ELECTRICITY SUPPLY AMENDMENT BILL
PAY-ROLL TAX AMENDMENT (FURTHER RATE REDUCTION) BILL
PUBLIC FINANCE AND AUDIT AMENDMENT (CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS) BILL
(Baulkham Hills) [11.37 a.m.]: The Carr Government’s budget does little, if anything, for the people of Baulkham Hills or, indeed, the north-west of Sydney. It makes no attempt to deal with the fundamental problems of the area, which have existed for some years: transport, roads and urban consolidation. Whilst I note that a total of $1.4 billion is contemplated to complete the important Parramatta to Chatswood rail link, which is due to be finished in 2006, the budget actually allocates $26 million. I guess at the very best it is a token effort. That project has been around for a long time. If I recall correctly, it was first announced by the Fahey Government in 1994.
Labor has been in power for five years, and one would have thought that, because Parramatta is a Labor seat, the Government would have done something about completing that rail link. An allocation of $26 million out of the projected $1.4 billion is a small amount and will not get the rail link very far. Transport in Baulkham Hills is a fundamental problem, and Windsor Road would be the main road problem. As Sharon Fingland, the manager of strategic planning for Baulkham Hills council, said,
The state of Windsor Road is an overriding factor in the shire’s potential for development. Windsor Road is already at capacity and any increase in housing density without better infrastructure will only make a bad situation worse.
That is exactly what is happening. The Government is putting pressure on the council to increase urban consolidation, to increase housing density, yet it will not provide basic infrastructure in the form of a decent road. As a resident of that area for many years I suggest that Windsor Road was dated in the 1960s. I can recall living on Windsor Road at Northmead in the 1960s. If I wanted to go out on Sunday afternoon I had to be prepared to wait 10 or 15 minutes to get out of my driveway. Traffic on Windsor Road was bumper to bumper in the 1960s.
During the last election campaign there was a lot of noise about what would happen to Windsor Road, and a figure of $60 million was bandied about. However, when the rubber hits the road there is not one mention of upgrading Windsor Road. I have made representations on behalf of constituents on numerous occasions, and I have made many private member’s statements on this matter, as have colleagues in north-western Sydney. However, the Government is not prepared to bite the bullet.
Recently at the opening of Rouse House, which is a marvellous property of heritage interest, the Premier suggested that Windsor Road be re-routed past Rouse Hill House. That would be fine, but it would not solve the problem. The problem starts at Baulkham Hills and continues beyond Windsor to Richmond. Apart from the Great Western Highway, Windsor Road is the only road leading to western New South Wales. Windsor Road is an important main road, yet the Government is not prepared to bite the bullet and do something about upgrading it.
I asked the Minister in a letter what improvements he intended to undertake on the road in coming years. The Minister, in his reply, told me that in 1996 improvements were made to Windsor Road at the entrance to Baulkham Hills Private Hospital. He referred to upgrading the M2 and Seven Hills Road and traffic signals being installed at the intersection of Windsor Road and Roxborough Park Road in Baulkham Hills. The upgrading of the intersection of Windsor Road and Pitt Town Road at McGraths Hill was completed in July 1998 to relieve the traffic bottleneck and improve road safety.
Windsor Road between Baulkham Hills and Windsor is mostly a two-lane road. I do not mean two lanes in one direction; I mean one lane to Windsor and one lane to Parramatta. The Government intends that area to become a suburb the size of Canberra. That proposal was not signed off by this Government; it was signed off by the Premier when he was Minister for Planning and Environment. There will be 250,000 people and 80,000 home sites in that area, yet the main arterial road that leads to it has not been upgraded. Government members may well say that Old Windsor Road has been upgraded. Old Windsor Road has been upgraded to some extent, but it is not Windsor Road. Members opposite should remember that there is a difference.
The money for upgrading Old Windsor Road was allocated by the Fahey-Greiner governments, not this Labor Government. It is a national disgrace that when the project is complete the 250,000 people who live there will not have a decent road to commute to Sydney. The accident rate for Windsor Road is horrific. People in vehicles take unnecessary risks, and traffic is virtually bumper to bumper. If members opposite do not believe me they should go to Windsor Road on Sunday afternoon and in the morning and evening during the week and observe the people travelling to and from work.
The M2 was built by the Coalition Government. Labor members opposed the construction of the M2 to the extent that they did not even attend its opening. They boycotted the opening because they did not want to be associated with it. The M2 is one of the greatest things to happen in this area, but ramps are needed to prevent vehicles travelling on the back streets of Winston Hills and Baulkham Hills. They would enable traffic to join the M2 at Windsor Road and travel west to Blacktown. However, no such ramps have been provided. I have talked about this matter until I am almost blind. I feel like a parrot in a cage. The parrot has been talking for years, but ramps have not been provided. The parrot will continue to talk until it becomes a blue heeler, and the blue heeler will be relentless in pursuing the provision of ramps on the M2.
There is no provision in the budget for an underpass at Seven Hills Road. At the end of the M2 traffic goes into a funnel, causing massive traffic delays and blocks. I have led delegations to the Minister, I have written to Ministers and I have raised this matter on numerous occasions in private member’s statements, but all to no avail. There is no mention of Windsor Road in the budget, although I note that during the election campaign the Government said that it would provide $60 million for its upgrading. That funding did not eventuate when it was time for the Government to commit pen to paper.
As I have said, Baulkham Hills has no public transport - only roads, roads and more roads. The roads in Baulkham Hills are far from satisfactory. The Government announced a proposal for a rail line from Epping to Castle Hill, which I supported. The Government proposed that the line be built by 2010. However, not one cent has been allocated in the budget for planning, potential acquisitions, surveyors or feasibility studies. Perhaps there is something in the budget papers, but I did not see anything, and I had a good look.
I am beginning to wonder whether the Epping to Castle Hill rail line will end up like the Parramatta to Chatswood line, which has been on the Government’s books for five years. Originally the Government promised an allocation of $1.4 billion to 2006, but it has provided only $26 million, with only six years left until the proposed completion date. What a lot of money to spend, and what a rail line to build! I do not want the Epping to Castle Hill rail line proposal to end the same way. I can understand why it has been said that the proposal was a deliberate ploy for the people of north-western Sydney at the State election.
I have never been cynical. All I want is basic transport facilities for my electorate - nothing more, nothing less. As the budget does not indicate when the money will be allocated, the proposal seems to be nothing more than a piece of paper. Honourable members may recall that pieces of paper have been used to great effect throughout history. It was Neville Chamberlain who flashed a piece of paper signed by Adolf Hitler which stated that there would be peace in our time, and within a month planes were flying overhead, bombs were falling, people were going into bunkers and the Second World War had begun.
I support the Government’s plan to build the Epping to Castle Hill rail line. However, I question whether it will be completed by 2010. I have been asked what I think about that rail line, and I have said that it is a great idea. I will be the first person to congratulate the New South Wales Premier, whoever he or she might be, in 2010, when the first train pulls into Castle Hill railway station. I will be there. Although the pledge was given, no money has been allocated in the budget, so it is extremely unlikely at this stage that the project will commence. The distance involved is only seven kilometres, and it is supposed to be completed by the year 2010. I am not being greedy; I am not asking that the rail should go all the way from Castle Hill to Rouse Hill, which is where all the growth is and where 250,000 people live, but only to Castle Hill. It is certain that only the residents of Rouse Hill who are young now will get to see a train in their area.
I refer now to urban consolidation. The people of Baulkham Hills have had a gutful of governments imposing on local councils high-density housing. The traditional streets are losing their inherent beauty and their tranquillity - the very essence that attracted people to the area some years ago. This is all in the name of urban consolidation or, in the opinion of some people, progress. The people of Baulkham Hills have had enough. They are prepared to be reasonable but the urban consolidation proposals are forcing three-storey, and sometimes four-storey, apartments onto neighbours without the provision of public transport, except for buses, which must compete for room on road networks that are outdated, to say the least. I have made numerous representations to the appropriate Ministers. I received a letter from the Deputy Premier, and Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning about concerns raised by people about medium- and high-density residential development in the Baulkham Hills area. The Minister stated:
The studies assess precincts for development potential in terms of low, moderate and high opportunities. This will enable higher density development to focus on those precincts that have shown a capacity to accommodate further growth, provided the increased densities do not result in the environmental capacity of roads being exceeded.
The area does not need further apartment-type building or increased density, because the capacity of the roads has already been exceeded. Urban consolidation requires the provision of basic infrastructure and roads. They go hand in hand. They cannot be divorced or separated because they are irretrievably linked. One is the condition precedent for the next. Increased housing density demands good roads to enable residents to have proper access to their workplaces, and local streets that are not congested or dangerous, which could destroy the amenity of life for residents.
I refer now to Baulkham Hills High School. Many honourable members will say, "He’s not mentioning that again." Baulkham Hills High School is a selective high school, with pupils from 25 electorates. In that respect I represent 25 electorates - 25 per cent of the members in this House have a student who goes to Baulkham Hills High School. I have spoken about an assembly hall for the school on four or five occasions during private members’ statements and I have also written to the Minister. I was delighted - and I do not think it was a political stunt - when a member of the upper House, who was not from the Coalition, visited Baulkham Hills just prior to the election and announced that funds would be provided for the commencement of formal planning for a new hall for the school.
This welcome announcement was made, and I thought the struggle was almost over. When I looked under education and training in the budget papers I saw that Baulkham Hills received only a mention for a new library for TAFE. There was no mention of a school hall, and I thought I must have misunderstood the announcement. Formal planning was going to commence, but no money had been allocated! The parents and citizens association - and perhaps even the schoolchildren - is trying to raise the money. The test is in the budget, and that test has been failed. The kids of Baulkham Hills High School will continue to do their examinations in crowded conditions, assemblies will continue to be held in the open, and pupils will continue to suffer from the affects of the sun and rain.
The reduction in payroll tax to 6.4 per cent in July this year, 6.2 per cent in July 2000, and 6 per cent in July 2002 is a worthwhile initiative. However, by 1 July 2002 New South Wales will have a payroll tax of 6 per cent whereas Victoria’s payroll tax now is only 5.5 per cent and Queensland’s is 5 per cent. What chance does New South Wales have? I am concerned about increased revenue from gambling taxes of $139 million and the 2,300 increase in poker machines in hotels. This concerns the people of Baulkham Hills, who are good, solid family people. Baulkham Hills, in north-western Sydney, represents the forgotten people of New South Wales. They are the people whom this Government - in its search to have the glib headline and to have a budget that is all encompassing, with a prize for everyone - has forgotten. I will not forget them. I will fight to the end to ensure that their rights are preserved and heard in this Parliament.
(Upper Hunter - Leader of the National Party) [11.57 a.m.]: Unlike a number of commentators, the National Party has not been fooled by the Carr Government’s fifth budget. Sadly, this is a budget that is big on promises, many of which will go the way of previous Labor promises. This is the budget that promises restraints in spending, despite the Government having shown a pathological inability to restrain spending during its first term. This is the budget that should have begun to repay rural and regional New South Wales for the deprivations suffered as a result of the multibillion-dollar Olympic building spree, yet it does not. This is the budget that should have harnessed the benefits of the unprecedented economic conditions and provided lasting benefits to the country, yet it does not.
This is the budget that should have provided innovative solutions to the pressing issues now facing country New South Wales - the ageing infrastructure, the second-class health and education services, the withdrawal of services from small centres, and the declining job base, yet it does not. This is the budget that should have created jobs throughout country New South Wales, yet even the budget papers say that it does not. Country people know only too well that in this and the last budget some $736 million of capital expenditure was afforded to the Olympic construction program at a time when regional economies were looking for significant economic stimulus and job creation.
The budget surplus, together with the 1999 estimated result, will yield a $596 million surplus. There can be no explanation that country people could accept for the Government failing to utilise some of this surplus for significant rural infrastructure projects. The Carr Government will stand permanently condemned for having the money and refusing to help rural communities. This is the budget in which the breakaway country Labor faction should have proved that it is a genuine power within the Government rather than a Sussex Street marketing ploy, yet it has not.
You said it was excellent.
I am coming to the excellent part. I pose the question: Why is no member of the breakaway faction on the Cabinet Expenditure Review Committee? None of the three members of the committee - the Premier, John Della Bosca and Michael Egan - has ever lived or worked further west than Sussex Street in Sydney, so what hope is there for one-third of the State’s population that lives outside metropolitan Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong? The honourable member for Bathurst is a potential member of the Expenditure Review Committee. It is no wonder country people have no faith in the Carr Cabinet when only two Ministers out of 21 - the gracious Minister for Regional Development and another Minister from Newcastle - carry the entire burden on behalf of country New South Wales. The Minister for Regional Development is good but he is not that good!
What about the potential?
The Minister for Regional Development, bouncing from a low base, has unlimited potential. I note that the Government has claimed with much fanfare that it will spend 40 per cent, an amount of $2.14 billion, of the State’s $5.2 billion capital works budget outside greater Sydney. That, it is claimed, will provide a tremendous boost for country New South Wales. That assertion bears close scrutiny, as the
Government’s capital works budget is a clear indication of its actual priorities as opposed to its rhetoric.
An analysis of Budget Paper No. 4 suggests that if all the funds to be expended on capital projects in Newcastle and the lower Hunter, Wollongong and the Illawarra and on those items whose locations are listed as "Various" are excluded from the calculation, the proportion to be spent in areas traditionally regarded as country is far less than 40 per cent. In fact, our analysis suggests that a mere $550 million will be expended in country areas of the State in the next financial year, and that figure represents only 18 per cent of the overall capital works budget.
That is a devastating blow to rural and regional areas, which are in dire need of economic stimulus and job creation. The National Party believes that country areas should be represented on the Expenditure Review Committee and should have a greater influence in the Cabinet of the Carr Government. That is the sort of economic power and muscle that our party wants to have exerted on behalf of country communities. Clearly this analysis is somewhat restricted by the lack of geographic specificity in the "Various" and "Minor capital works" categories in the budget papers. However, the figures suggest a reality that is vastly different to the claims of the Government.
Surely the time has come for the provision of supplementary papers to explain the significant items categorised as "Various" in the budget papers. If the Government is confident in its claims of massive country capital expenditure, it would provide a Country Budget Statement similar to the 65-page Western Sydney Budget Statement. Surely the breakaway Labor faction would have asked for it, if not demanded it. Why then is only one page of the budget summary devoted to rural and regional New South Wales? Where is the muscle of the breakaway Labor faction?
The Government has also made much of its efforts to reduce the backlog in providing town and country water supply and sewage schemes. However, the allocation of $200 million during four years represents a decrease in real funding. That figure will not make a dent in the backlog of projects, which now extends back more than 10 years. The single most effective environmental initiative that could be undertaken by any government in rural New South Wales would perhaps be to fast track the completion of the town and country water and sewage scheme, given the impetus of the previous Coalition Government which has now been let slip by the Labor Government.
To get a clear indication of the Government’s priorities I ask members to contrast the real decrease in expenditure on that project with the $323 million which will be spent on roads, cycleways and landscaping on the Olympic site. It is time the burden of the Olympics was lifted from the backs of country people. It is time the regions were given a fair slice of the pie. The Government is always at pains to point out how country New South Wales will benefit from the Games, but in reality most of those gains are short-term.
Although I welcome the opportunity for regional building firms to participate in Olympic construction projects, thereby gaining valuable experience and profile, where is the economic stimulus in this budget that will attract skilled building labour back to regional centres? A few regional centres will undoubtedly benefit from hosting the pre-Games training of athletes from a variety of countries, but where are the Government incentives to develop the initial friendship links into full-blown business and trade relationships?
Although the Government claims to be spending additional funds to attract post-Games tourism into country areas of the State, where is the commitment to improve the tourist and travel infrastructure and capabilities of regional areas in the long term? Where is the innovation? Where is the lateral thinking? I would imagine all those matters are concealed. It will not surprise the House to learn that a comprehensive plan for obtaining such long-term benefits was outlined in the National Party’s policy book, which was released in February this year and is yet to be matched by any other political party or parliamentary member.
I now turn to the impact of the budget on rural and regional New South Wales. It is worth listing other ways in which country areas do not fully share the benefits of the so-called booming economy - and the list is by no means exhaustive. Funding to the Department of State and Regional Development in this budget has been cut by $4 million. It is symbolic that the responsible Minister is in the House. That blow is made worse by the estimates of the Department of State and Regional Development that the number of regional jobs it will attract will drop by 1,566 during this financial year and 314 next year.
But we exceed those estimates every year.
I would have thought that a neat explanation such as that, if it was in any way realistic and truthful, would have been contained in the budget papers. The figures in the budget papers
do the talking. The figures tell the sorry state of the Minister’s department and the way in which there has been a significant, sharp decline in the creation of jobs in country areas. The Minister should be ashamed of himself. That legacy will haunt him for the remainder of his time in this Parliament. Further compounding that pathetic performance is the fact that the number of firms to which the use of payroll tax rebates and other assistance associated with the decentralisation of secondary industry in country areas has been granted is estimated to drop from 171 to 150.
Funding for noxious weed eradication totals only $6.5 million. That is insufficient for the task ahead. Funding to the Rural Assistance Authority, which, among other things, provides assistance to producers and small businesses suffering from the effects of natural disasters, has been cut by $400,000. The budget contains only $200,000 in funding for new country police stations, and funding for country roads construction is only $1 billion during 10 years. That paltry $100 million per year is an absolutely pathetic figure. The Government claims to be continuing major works on the Great Western Highway as part of the $360 million 12-year Penrith-to-Orange route improvement program.
Twelve sweat-stained years to wait for some real effort to be put into the Penrith-to-Orange corridor and for this pathetic little program to be completed. It is interesting to note, however, that barely $13 million is actually listed in Budget Paper No. 4 for that route. I am sure that the honourable member for Bathurst, who is present in the Chamber, will know only too well that that route has twice the casualty, accident and fatality rates per kilometre of the Pacific Highway. It is the State’s worst road. I can only hope that the honourable member for Bathurst will not sit idly by and allow the Government to continue to deny vital funding for the State’s third most important artery and to neglect the road as it has in the past. It is also disappointing that in 1999-2000 expenditure on the general policy areas of mining, energy and construction is set to decrease by 18 per cent; agriculture, forestry and fishing expenditure is set to decrease by 2 per cent; and transport and communication expenditure is set to decrease by 2 per cent. That is not a happy record.
I turn to State development issues. A recent survey by Australian Business found 43 per cent of respondents citing their highest level of concern as the State Government’s big-taxing, big-spending policies. Those concerns were confirmed in May 1999 by the Auditor-General, who found that State taxation has grown by 23 per cent per capita over the past five years, while the other chief sources of New South Wales income have not kept pace with inflation. The budget does nothing for the many businesses for which workers compensation premiums are the second highest recurrent cost after wages.
Only last weekend, when in Port Macquarie, I was shocked to be told of a manufacturing business that currently employs 28 people being slugged with premiums of almost $90,000 this financial year. Its premium increased from approximately $50,000 in 1997-98, apparently on the basis of two claims, one of which was eventually declined. There is clear evidence that the system is in need of serious reform, as across the State employers are paying, on average, the equivalent of 3 per cent of wages in premiums - double the level of a decade ago and one of the highest levels of premium in the country. Yet the Budget offers nothing in relation to workers compensation.
Neither does the much-vaunted reduction in payroll tax offer any hope of attracting footloose industries, because in May Victoria reduced its rate from 6 per cent to 5.75 per cent, and Queensland’s rate is 5 per cent, with a lower threshold. That was a promise made by the Carr Government. This budget breaks that promise. An Australian Business survey in November 1997 revealed that 40 per cent of businesses would employ more people if payroll tax was eliminated, and that an appropriate tax was collected through other means. Yesterday I gave notice of a motion to introduce a private member’s bill that will attempt to encourage further employment in the country. I look forward to the support of the breakaway Labor faction for this piece of legislation.
It’s not a breakaway, George.
Has it broken away already? Is it a distinct, autonomous, independent legal entity? Or is it a piece of engineering from the master race of Sussex Street? It is a multiple-choice question. I am pleased, however, that after four years of government the Labor Party has finally acknowledged the benefits of one of the tenets of National Party policy, that is, the decentralisation of government departments. Hansard
records the Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads, then Minister for Regional Development, telling this House in September 1995:
The Leader of the National Party goes up hill and down dale telling the country that office relocation benefits a region - whoopee-do! Is this his great economic insight: that
you can parachute a government department into a region and it will be of benefit to the region?
How things have changed! The Government has promised, but not fully budgeted for, the relocation of the Police Firearms Registry to Tweed Heads; the Infringement Processing Bureau to Maitland; the Police Assistance Line to Lithgow and Tuggerah; the Department of Local Government to Nowra - after it had been gutted first, of course; the WorkCover Authority to Gosford; the Registry of Co-operatives to Bathurst; and part of the Department of Land and Water Conservation to an as yet unidentified country location.
I might say that is a promise that oscillates from between 246 and 241 employees, and has been so oscillating for five years. We are still waiting for the same figure, budget after budget after budget. What about the cumulative impact of this continuing lie of relocating the same 241, or 246, jobs to country New South Wales in that particular department alone? We shall see. I note that all of the abovementioned departments are to be relocated to regional centres deemed to be of more than passing political importance to the Government. It is to be hoped that this practice will not become commonplace and that the Government has adopted an efficient and transparent process in making these decisions. I have in fact this morning written to the Auditor-General on this matter in the interests of developing an appropriate level of scrutiny.
A whiteboard, George.
Very much a whiteboard. Much more could be done to stimulate regional development by relocation of government departments. The same imperative exists for decentralisation of part or all of the Roads and Traffic Authority Country Directorate, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Department of Mineral Resources, Countrylink, the Ambulance Service, a Distance Education Directorate, a fully-fledged Rural Health Unit, State Forests, the Rail Access Corporation, the Environment Protection Authority, the Department of State and Regional Development itself, and the Department of Public Works and Services, to name only a few.
The second Council on the Cost of Government report found that total corporate services expenditure represents $1.8 billion per annum, or around 9 per cent of the total budget sector recurrent expenditure. The same study found that economies of scale can be achieved through pooling the corporate services of smaller agencies. The third report of the Council on the Cost of Government found that developments in information technology meant that proximity of service centres to clients is a minor consideration. There is no reason why the vast majority of the Government’s corporate services should not be in regional and rural New South Wales. This potentially represents an annual billion-dollar lifeline for country New South Wales, an unprecedented initiative that would also establish rural and regional areas at the cutting edge of information technology.
We have the technology to overcome the tyranny of distance; all that is lacking now is the political will. It is alarming to note that, on an accounting basis, the Budget Papers trumpet the benefits of accrual accounting and yet they clearly indicate that expenditure will be moderately different in the ensuing period. It is disappointing that the Budget Papers are unable to be more accurate and that "moderate" remains undefined but the sum would clearly be expected to be substantial. Such statements in the Budget Papers do not engender confidence; rather, they convey a feeling that they have been structured to produce the political outcome demanded by the State’s political masters.
On another matter, I notice that there has been a very substantial reduction in the Treasurer’s Advance account of some $250 million. It is obviously only a coincidence that the projected surplus is roughly accommodated by the unexplained and substantial decrease in the Treasurer’s Advance, an advance which will be necessary, for example, to enable Drug Summit measures to be implemented well beyond the paltry budget increase of $5 million per annum. On the question of teacher salaries and the need for those salaries to reflect teachers’ status in the community, I can only observe that the Budget Papers contain no special recognition of this significant anomaly in our community. The Budget Papers contain estimates of wages growth in the public sector which at the half-yearly review was 3.5 per cent, upgraded to 4.75 per cent for the current estimate. This will give no comfort to those of us in the community looking for more than nominal progress on this very important topic.
Another matter of importance is the Darling Electrification Construction Agency [DECA]. I note on page 11-10 of the Budget Estimates that within the budget is a notation that indicates the Ministry of Energy and Utilities will allocate $1.6 million for loan repayments to Treasury for the Far West Electrification Scheme. That is a matter of great importance to the people of far-western New South Wales, and it is worth reflecting on at this time. One of the great contributions of the former Coalition Government was the completion of the construction
necessary to supply electricity to residents in the Central Darling shire and the unincorporated area of far western New South Wales.
By the mid-1980's the only significant part of the State not connected to grid electrification was the far west, including the majority of the Murray-Darling shire and the unincorporated area. As all members would agree, that was an unsatisfactory situation and highlighted the remoteness of those communities. Upon the election of the Coalition in 1988, the then Minister for Energy, Neil Pickard, agreed that in the interests of social equity people of the area should be given the opportunity to gain access to grid electricity. During 1988 and 1989 he held a number of meetings with representatives from the area which led to a request in September 1989 that Broken Hill City Council proceed with electrification of the Emmadale area and contribute to the overall electrification of the unserviced area.
After an inquiry found that the Broken Hill City Council did not have the financial capacity to manage the extension of electricity to those without it, the then Minister, Robert Webster, established the Darling Electrification Construction Agency [DECA] in 1990. In conjunction with Broken Hill City Council, which contributed approximately $750,000 a year for three years to the capital cost of the project and agreed to maintain the system thereafter, DECA began the project which was eventually to result in over 400 kilometres of backbone line and 3,600 kilometres of single wire earth return [SWER] lines being constructed in the area between Broken Hill, Wilcannia, White Cliffs, Tibooburra and Wanaaring.
Reticulated mains electricity was supplied to over 200 rural consumers, and one can imagine the dramatic difference in quality of life experienced by those people. The majority of the cost of approximately $30 million was funded by the Electricity Development Fund. However, rural customers were required to pay $53,000 in capital contributions for connection to the scheme, with deferred payments. Initially loans were at an interest rate of 12 per cent. However, the Coalition ensured a reduction to a concessionary 8 per cent due to pressing financial circumstances related to the ongoing drought and low wool prices at the time. This greatly enhanced the attractiveness of the scheme and ensured maximum take-up.
The concessionary rate was charged monthly on a reducing balance over a six-year period from the date when grid electricity became available to the land-holders. A representative of customers in the unincorporated area was appointed to the council’s electricity committee. It is interesting to note that the current member for Murray-Darling was quoted in the other place as saying to Robert Webster at the time "I might be on the other side but thank God you blokes are doing it, because if we got back into government they would never do it." I trust the honourable member for Murray-Darling has been as active on this issue as he apparently was then, and I look forward to his contribution to the debate.
The first property, that of Mr John Elliott from Wilcannia, was connected in May 1993. However, due to the extremely harsh economic and drought conditions being experienced at the time, a three-year moratorium from interest and capital repayments was granted to participants in the scheme. I am informed that over 150 customers still owe on average of $35,000 each, with payments falling due quarterly. For most of these customers the repayments have become impossible. Wool is at an all-time low as far as purchasing power is concerned. Mr Elliott has told my office that his repayments of $2,225.54 a quarter represent 30 bales of wool a year and, consequently, a significant proportion of his gross income.
Other people are in the same situation, which has made worse by an exorbitant levy of 11.7 per cent imposed on late repayments with no regard to extenuating circumstances. I call on the Treasurer, and the Minister for Energy to give immediate consideration to the plight of these people and extend another moratorium on the outstanding amount of these loans. That paltry amount represents less than the cost of a week’s construction activity on Olympic venues. In conclusion, I remind the House that the Treasurer has said that this is every inch a Labor budget. That is true, because had the National Party occupied the Treasury benches, this budget would have been so much better for the country. The coalition would have rebuilt the State’s regional communities, not only paid lip-service to them.
(Cessnock) [12.23 p.m.]: The Carr Government has clearly demonstrated once again that it delivers on its promises. It has taken a sensible and responsible approach to the budget. We must remember the problems involved in finding funds for the Olympics and, at the same time, still delivering benefits to the people of the State. The capital works allocation to my electorate of $48.8 million will generate 730 jobs. The infrastructure in my electorate will be enhanced by this budget. Cessnock will benefit to the tune of $12 million in funding for transport and roads. That will benefit not only the local community but also the State by
promoting the Cessnock electorate and by adding to the pleasure of people visiting the vineyards and the community generally.
The budget will help to deliver the Government’s commitment to fully fund a range of road and transport projects outlined in the Action for Transport 2010 program and in the 10-year construction timetable unveiled last year. My community needs better road and transport facilities. I am delighted that the Carr Government has ensured that my electorate will receive a fair share. I admit that I am greedy: Like everyone else I will always want more. The Government has embarked on a $125 million five-year program to replace timber bridges. That program is welcome in my electorate, which has a large amount of old timber infrastructure. Hundreds of bridges will be upgraded, including the bridge over Wollombi Brook on the Wollombi Road at a cost of $1.6 million, the bridge over Howes Creek on the Putty Road at a cost of $500,000 and the bridge over Old Paddock Creek on the Putty Road at a cost of $200,000.
The budget allocates more than $1.35 million for pavement rehabilitation projects on the Cessnock Road, the Mulbring to Kurri Kurri Road, and the Golden Highway, as well as $930,000 for a passing lane on John Renshaw Drive between Blackhill Road and Lings Road, and $400,000 for an intersection at Singleton. Nearly $67 million has been allocated for road safety programs and measures, including the successful road safety officer program, which has promoted safety through local councils. Giving a helping hand to rural electorates by delivering a responsible budget is a clear demonstration of the Carr Labor Government’s sincerity.
Some other initiatives the Government has embarked upon include the cycleway loop through the Cessnock vineyards and $100,000 in subsidies for the community transport program, which is a blessing to the older community. As we grow older we become more reliant upon such programs, and the community transport program is welcomed in my electorate, as it is in all electorates. It is great to know that this Government has maintained its commitment to substantially fund country roads with more than half of the total roads budget, $2.6 billion, to be spent on sealing, improving and restoring bush roads across the State. The Government has acted very responsibly not only in my electorate but in many other rural electorates.
The Cessnock electorate falls within the Hunter region of the Department of Housing and will benefit from improved housing support to families in need. The budget will provide a better lifestyle for them. The priority of the Carr Government is to ensure that speedy assistance is provided to those in need by diversifying the range of available housing solutions. Importantly, an additional 5,500 jobs will be added to the pool across New South Wales. Key housing projects across the Hunter region include $6.1 million for external and internal repairs; $1.25 million for special projects such as plumbing, engineering works, fire safety upgrading and security; $530,000 to modify homes for disabled people; and $12.43 million to improve homes in disadvantaged areas to an agreed standard.
The Carr Government is meeting its commitments to the people of Cessnock. We, as a Government, are achieving more for families with a balanced and affordable plan to improve communities in this fast-growing region. In regard to the provision of education facilities, the electorate of Cessnock will benefit by an allocation of $404,000 for a new information technology centre at Singleton TAFE campus. The centre will be completed next year and will enable delivery of higher-level information courses to the people of the Hunter Valley. This is great news for the region because information technology is a growth industry.
Initiatives such as this will allow Hunter Valley residents to obtain higher qualifications locally, and this will be of benefit to the economy of Cessnock electorate. The 1999-2000 State budget provides $6,929.9 million for education and training throughout New South Wales. We all benefit from this. The Government is committed to helping to nurture citizens by placing education institutes where they will be used and by promoting their benefits to all our communities.
In addition to these positive points, this year the Government has spent 40 per cent of the State capital works budget in regional areas of New South Wales. A record $1.7 billion has been spent on health - a record. I am constantly being told about cuts to the health budget. I have not seen them, but I have heard about them. The Government has increased funding but has been accused of slashing funding. Approximately $24.2 million of the $1.7 billion allocated to health has been spent on health facilities in the Hunter. That includes $11 million on the Allandale hospital redevelopment. My predecessor, Mr Stan Neilly, was 100 per cent behind the redevelopment of Allandale Hospital, and it is great to see it come through for him. This redevelopment will have a major impact on the economy of our community.
The main economic source of the Cessnock electorate is mining. This will be assisted by the allocation of $38 million for infrastructure such as the Jerrys Plains rail spur, $550,000 for new bi-directional signalling equipment in the Branxton-Whittingham area, and $400,000 for new signalling equipment in the Muswellbrook area. In addition, $6.7 million has been allocated to the Newcastle Ports Corporation, with about $3.6 million to be spent on work on the eastern basin terminal of the port. Treatment works will also be funded, together with the roofing of reservoirs in the electorate, to the tune of $500,000.
The Government should be congratulated for its responsible, respectable and regional approach to the budget. The area assistance scheme in my electorate is a great scheme. My electorate contains two councils - Singleton council and Cessnock council. They receive great benefit from the area assistance scheme. Funding for the scheme will increase by $1.6 million in the coming year. The total package will top $8.35 million, despite all the scaremongering. The sky was falling in and all the chicken-littles were running around.
The drug issue will be ongoing and there will be much argument about funding for drug programs. Funds are available and they will be increased in time. There will be training for general practitioners to overcome a lot of the minor issues raised in the Drug Summit. When members of this House say that an increase is really a cut, one must ask what they are doing. There have been increases to the health budget, to the housing budget, and to the area assistance scheme. Honourable members should be sensible and realise that the Carr Government has delivered to the people in the Cessnock electorate and throughout New South Wales. This budget consolidates the hard decisions the Government took in its first term and sets the foundation for solid achievement for the next four years.
(Burrinjuck) [12.34 p.m.]: This budget could have done a lot for the people of Burrinjuck. It is a budget of missed opportunities. Rarely has any government had such an excellent chance to achieve real progress for Burrinjuck. Those chances have been squandered. The State Government is riding a wave of superb economic management of the Australian economy by the Federal Government. Interest rates are low, inflation is way down and investment is strong. That means we have excellent credit ratings which further reduce costs such as interest on borrowings. This budget could have been one which invested big money in the future of Burrinjuck - in our hospitals, our schools and our roads. The Government could have addressed many of the commitments it put forward during the recent election campaign, and built some degree of credibility. It has failed that test.
Instead, we have a Sydney budget which ignores the potential for job creation in country areas like Burrinjuck. The people of Burrinjuck can see right through this Government. This was a great opportunity for Ministers to regain some of their lost credibility by honouring pledges, such as the promise of 2,110 extra police. That is an important issue for Goulburn. Goulburn is the proud home to a world-class police training academy. Recently I attended a graduation ceremony for several hundred officers. It underlined to me the excellence of the campus and its capacity for training large numbers of badly-needed new police.
What do we get in this budget? Excuses and backsliding. How many new police are we really getting? If the Treasurer is right when he says there will be 1,000 extra police, why will he not spell out how many will be trained this year? The people of Goulburn want to know. Goulburn has a vibrant economy but part of the reason for its strength is that alert business people plan ahead. They cannot plan ahead if they do not know. We are willing to assume four years of equal strength training, which would be 250 officers in the next 12 months. Even then, questions arise.
The shadow minister for police has pointed out that this year there will be a decline in average police staffing levels across all programs. Effective full-time positions, statewide, are not up 250 or 600, or whatever, to match the Government’s promise. They are down. The Minister for Police should explain his budget figures to the people of Goulburn. They are looking for integrity in the Government’s announcements, not tricks.
I welcome the redevelopment of Goulburn’s correctional centre, with funding this year of $19 million. That comes as a welcome boost to the local economy. What is puzzling us is the way the Government contradicts itself on this works program. Volume 1 of Budget Paper No. 3 confirms, at page 7-27, that stage one, costed at $6.25 million, will be completed in November - five months from now. Budget Paper No. 4 indicates, at page 49, that $1.25 million worth of the works will be outstanding at 30 June next year and that work will finish in 2001.
What is correct, five months or two years? I have taken these figures from the budget papers, which are integral to the debate in this House.
Volume 1 of Budget Paper No. 3, page 7-27, states that the stage two redevelopment to construct a new intensive case management facility will be allocated funding of $17 million this year and is due for completion by November 2001. That is good news. Why does Budget Paper No. 4, at page 49, schedule this work to continue until 2003? Is it two years or four years? There is a big difference. The tradespeople and retailers of Burrinjuck and their suppliers need to know so they can plan ahead.
I dare say the inmates would also be interested to hear the Government’s explanation. It is an important project, and I urge the Government to get it right. Please tell us what is going on. Among my early actions after the New South Wales election was to make formal representations to the incoming Minister for Health about the pressing need for a multipurpose service at Batlow. This attractive community, with its enormous tourism potential and the exciting Visy mill development nearby, has a first-class future. However, people will not spend time in or move to live in Batlow if health care facilities are not up to their best.
The people of Batlow have pressed their case for a long time. The Minister for Health, in his first few weeks in office, made a point of getting out to visit hospitals in a few major regional centres. I commend him for that. It is good for him to see them first hand. Unfortunately, the Minister missed Burrinjuck in his first round of visits. I offer him an invitation to visit our region. Perhaps he may wish to visit Goulburn hospital this Saturday when the Labor Party will hold its conference in Goulburn.
A distressed elderly lady rang me recently. She is in pain while she waits for hip replacement surgery. She does not want to travel to Sydney but has been told that the waiting list at Goulburn is 10 months. Her surgeon told me that four years ago it would not have been a problem because she would have been admitted immediately. However, today this lady is in full-time care away from her home while she waits and waits for relief from her distress. That is not good enough. This budget had a great opportunity to fully fund our hospitals, and provide the resources and staff needed to remove the waiting lists. It has not happened. I urge the Minister to address these issues because people’s lives and comfort are at stake.
I learned of Labor’s Goulburn conference through media reports. As yet no Minister has had the courtesy to advise me that they are proposing to visit my electorate. Perhaps most of them will not bother to come! Two weeks ago the Minister for Small Business, and Minister for Tourism was good enough to inform me that she would be visiting Goulburn. That courtesy was greatly appreciated. Why will none of her colleagues let on that they are visiting this Saturday? I encourage them to come and experience first hand the real needs and aspirations of country people so that they might better understand them and be in a position to build effective budgets.
I shall now briefly refer to other aspects of the budget. It will help the people of Burrinjuck to know how funding for specific works statewide will be distributed. For example, I welcome the commitment in this budget to provide 185 new rural fire tankers. Burrinjuck has manufacturers who could tender competitively to build some or all of these units. I urge the Government to consider our local businesses and ensure that tenders are widely advertised. We have outstanding opportunities for the Gundagai, Tumut and Batlow regions through the development of the $350 million Visy pulp and paper mill project. Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, at page 21-10 lists this item among last year’s regional development successes. I am still waiting for evidence of real progress!
As I said in my inaugural speech to this House, I am keen to see this project commenced as quickly as possible because it will create new construction and long-term operational jobs. The budget foreshadows that as many as 540 rail jobs will go. Recently the Minister for Transport went under his desk when I urged him to tell FreightCorp workers at Goulburn what lies ahead. He was nowhere to be found. I requested briefings, but none came; journalists rang him, but they were fobbed off. We rescued seven of the 26 jobs, but the remaining staff now need rock-solid assurances from the Government that their jobs are safe.
This budget acknowledges the recent pledge to decentralise the local government head office to Nowra. I regret that inland rural New South Wales has been overlooked once again by Labor in favour of the extended Newcastle-Wollongong-Nowra strip. The shadow minister, the Hon. Duncan Gay, noted that this budget raises questions about how many people will ever be relocated anyway. This budget has halved department staff numbers. Will the last one left please turn out the lights! This Government should consider meaningful decentralisation, for example, relocating the Department of Corrective Services head office to a Burrinjuck centre such as Goulburn.
Schools across my electorate will welcome the budget commitment to new technology and better training for teachers in the use of this technology.
However, we would appreciate knowing how many schools will benefit, what equipment and training will be provided, and when. As I said at the outset, this budget could have done so much more for Burrinjuck. Many opportunities have been lost. At the very least, this Government should consider overturning some of its earlier decisions like the ridiculous septic tank regulations, State environmental planning policy 58 and its continuing native vegetation conservation attacks on land-holders. Throwing a little money from this budget into funds for native vegetation does not address the real issue of restrictions and red tape on land-holders wanting to genuinely go about reasonable farming and grazing businesses. I call on the Government to show some commonsense and adopt policies that encourage real progress for the Burrinjuck electorate.
(Port Stephens) [12.44 p.m.]: A healthy society has three vital sectors: a public sector of effective government working with an effective business private sector combined with a social sector of effective community organisations that allows an individual to belong to and be part of its community. In the 1999-2000 New South Wales budget the Government has set out to help businesses by reducing taxes by $2.6 billion over the next four years. In my inaugural speech I indicated that future job growth in New South Wales would be driven by small businesses, not large manufacturing ones. Payroll tax reductions alone are expected to create 30,000 private sector jobs in the next four years. Notwithstanding that, it is always possible to twist the dials and set the knobs at a slightly different level. The New South Wales public sector of effective government employs some 260,000 people.
Despite the Asian economic crisis, the private sector of effective businesses has done extremely well within policy guidelines laid down by Federal and State governments. Unemployment, failure to belong in the family, at school or in the community; alienation from society and the need for mood altering substances - licit and illicit - has put the social sector of effective community organisations as the one with the wobbly leg in our goal of a healthy society. Unemployment and underemployment remains the root cause of many of society’s problems. Job creation is the direction of this budget.
The Carr Government budget for 1999-2000 to 2003 builds on the platform that has been established over the past four years and continues to provide the infrastructure that Port Stephens requires. The Carr Government’s budget for 1999-2000 to 2003 achieves more for families and businesses in the Port Stephens electorate by providing more funds for education facilities, transport infrastructure, the environment and community services. It takes the strong economic conditions of today to generate a budget surplus and continue the work of reducing the Government debt with an eye to any future economic downturn. The community understands these issues and gives credit for good economic management.
For example, in 1983 Port Stephens Council’s rate income was $6.5 million and it spent $3 million per annum paying off debts amounting to approximately $15 million. As soon as rate payments rolled in $3 million went out in payment of council debt. In the last 16 years Port Stephens Council repaid that debt and now has investments in place for funds for recurrent expenditure on capital projects. It collects $17 million in rates and will this year spend $53 million and remain debt free. The council is respected in the Hunter region by both its residents and other councils for its good financial management. That is the base from which I was elected to State Parliament. The community can tell if you are not running the State finances well. They did so on 27 March.
Sound management of the State’s finances means that this year the Government will spend $52.9 million on important capital works in Port Stephens, supporting more than 790 jobs. This expenditure comprises $21 million for the Raymond Terrace-Karuah dual road and bridges to allow a spillway at Grahamtown Dam, which I shall refer to later. It allows $1.4 million for planning for the Karuah bypass to remove the traffic bottleneck; $500,000 for planning and redevelopment from Bobs Farm to Port Stephens Drive; $100,000 for planning for Tourle Street bridge duplication to ease that traffic bottleneck; and $600,000 for continuing rail noise abatement measures to be shared between the Port Stephens and Cessnock electorates.
Honourable members may not know that coal is coming out of the Hunter at an ever-increasing rate. Whereas one year ago it took a week to move coal in the port of Newcastle, it is now moved on a Sunday. The organisation’s efficiency is unbelievable, but it has major effects with railway noise for residents along the line. The budget allocates $1.9 million for the completion of the Raymond Terrace bypass, which will complete that project, and $390,000 for road improvements from Williamtown to Hexham as an added safety bonus for tourists and residents.
The Hunter Water Corporation will receive an $8 million augmentation for the Raymond Terrace waste water treatment plant; $1.7 million for the second stage of the Grahamtown bridge and spillway construction; $3.6 million for the Melanie transfer system, which will allow another plant to be closed; $939,000 for four new housing units resulting in 21 being completed in the Raymond Terrace and Salamander areas; $920,000 a year for four years for the removal of old oyster beds from derelict oyster leases; $115,000 for effluent disposal and repairs near Taylor Beach; and $800,000 for a new police station in Waratah which, although it is not in my electorate, is just across the railway line from Mayfield and forms the southern boundary of my electorate. The sum of $25 million has been allocated for major capital development of the road network in Port Stephens, $5.4 million for maintenance of the system and $1.2 million for road safety and management - a total of nearly $32 million to be expended on the Pacific Highway dual road system upgrade.
Good, effective Government has different government departments working closely together. I shall expand on the Grahamstown Dam spillway project and its impact on the Pacific Highway reconstruction. The capacity of Grahamstown Dam will be increased by 50 per cent. The dam is large but not particularly deep. Raising the water level by more than a metre over a vast area means that the existing spillway must be increased enormously so that any huge deluge can get away quickly and not overtop the dam walls. Bridges need to be constructed on the new section of the Pacific Highway to allow this spillway to operate effectively and to allow any water surge that develops to be returned safely to the Hunter River system.
The spillway and dual highway projects have been promised in this budget to the benefit of the people of Port Stephens, the Hunter, New South Wales and Australia who travel up the Pacific Highway. This budget is getting the fundamentals right for Port Stephens and the Hunter. It is delivering good news for regional areas of Australia, one of which I represent. Grahamstown Dam is a major water supply source for Raymond Terrace, Medowie and Newcastle. Its increased capacity lays the platform for secure water supplies for the area well into the next century.
Approximately $3.6 million has been allocated to complete the Medowie to Raymond Terrace sewage pipeline, which when completed will permit the closure of the Medowie treatment works. The Raymond Terrace treatment works will then be upgraded at a cost of $8 million and both Medowie and Raymond Terrace sewage waste will be treated in a new plant which will meet all Environment Protection Authority requirements for discharge into the Hunter River. This scheme will protect Moffets Swamp at Medowie as well as the Hunter River.
Regional and rural New South Wales are doing well if Port Stephens is any measure of this budget. The budget contains an allocation of $920,000 a year for four years to enable derelict oyster leases in Port Stephens to be cleaned up. The harbour of Port Stephens is 2½ times the size of Sydney Harbour and has 130 kilometres of beaches inside the heads. Historically, it was a vibrant growing area and famous for its oysters. Urban run-off, acid sulphate soils and oyster disease affected water quality and therefore the prosperity of the industry. Some 900 hectares of derelict oyster leases are causing siltation problems and significant navigational problems, and are unsightly and often submerged.
Removing the old oyster leases will add to the credibility of the oyster farming industry and promote tourism in Port Stephens and the safety of the boating fraternity in the port, especially the visitors. Last year overnight stays increased by 88,000, which is a 14.2 per cent increase in visitors to Port Stephens. Approximately 200,000 visitors and residents went out on dolphin- and whale-watching excursions in the past 12 months. In passing I thank Ms Kate Fagan and her Moonshadow dolphin watch tours for taking out the Kosovar refugees from Singleton, especially the children, as a free community service, with Port Stephens Council paying for the return bus trip between Singleton and Port Stephens.
The delight on the faces of the refugees who have taken the dolphin-watching tour was absolutely delightful, and we all hope that it is part of the healing process for the children. The budget provides for an allocation of $920,000 a year for four years to rehabilitate derelict oyster leases and to reinforce the reputation of Port Stephens as an area of exceptional beauty. Despite alarm bells to the contrary, I join with the honourable member for Cessnock in referring to the area assistance scheme which has received additional funding. Port Stephens is one regional area that is growing extremely fast - 3.8 per cent in the past 10 years. Since 1983, when I was elected to Port Stephens Council, the population has increased from 30,000 to 56,000. This has placed enormous pressure on the infrastructure in the area and this budget will go a long way to addressing some of the concerns.
I welcome the continuation of the HAAS scheme in the Port Stephens electorate as it will fill
many of the social gaps that have simply been left behind in the course of the fast economic growth. Good infrastructure achievements at the local level encourage businesses to prosper. Newcastle Airport Board has just received a loan of $1.5 million from Port Stephens Council to undertake a major upgrading of the facility. Combined with a $1.5 million grant from the Hunter Advantage Fund, the airport board is proposing the following: An apron extension to double the present apron area and allow accommodation of aircraft up to B767 in size, and expansion of public car parking to 285 spaces and retention ponds to accommodate potential business use.
I mentioned earlier that 3,000 people will be working in this area by 2010. The airport is a large, good, strong job-creation area for the Port Stephens electorate and the Hunter. I am keen to see highly skilled people in permanent jobs in the area. The airport board proposes to provide additional utility facilities, to spend some $200,000 on mechanised handling equipment to cater for large aircraft and to expand the terminal. This budget provides infrastructure for the future development of Port Stephens and the Hunter. It will provide jobs in the construction phase and allow private enterprise to grow in a confident environment. The New South Wales Government is providing a public sector of effective government, working with a private sector of effective businesses to the benefit of the people of Port Stephens and New South Wales.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr. R. W. Turner.
[Mr Deputy-Speaker left the chair at 12.57 p.m. The House resumed at 2.15 p.m.
I advise honourable members that during the absence of the Minister for the Olympics from the Chamber today, the Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads will answer questions on his behalf.
I welcome to the Parliament Ms Mary Delahunty, the shadow minister for education and the arts in the Victorian Parliament.
[Notices of Motions
Order! Yesterday I asked the Serjeant-at-Arms to remove the honourable member for Coffs Harbour for behaving in the way the honourable member for Epping is behaving. During the past fortnight I have extended a degree of latitude to the honourable member for Epping and the Leader of the House. I now place the honourable member for Epping on three calls to order. The honourable member and the Minister should bear my warning in mind.
Illegal Drugs Distribution
Petition praying that a drugs education program be established and a greater effort made to stop the supply and distribution of illegal drugs, received from Dr Kernohan
Senior Citizen Equitable Travel Concessions
Petitions praying that holders of pensioner concession cards and the Seniors Card receive equitable travel concessions on transport, received from Mr Anderson, Mr Brogden
and Mr George
Wagga Wagga Aquatic Centre
Petition praying that an indoor aquatic centre be built at Wagga Wagga, received from Mr Maguire
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Only eight months after Canterbury Hospital was opened by the Premier, why is it already turning away emergency patients almost daily, and maternity patients who do not live in the district? Is it because Canterbury Hospital is desperately short of funds, as revealed in documents leaked by its doctors?
Order! I call the honourable member for Canterbury to order. I place the Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads on three calls to order. The honourable member for Coffs Harbour will sense the mood of the Chair, and he in particular should realise the necessity for members to be on their best behaviour.
The answer to the question is no.
POLICE SERVICE REFORM
My question without notice is directed to the Premier. What are the Government’s plans for continuing to reform the Police Service?
Under Commissioner Ryan’s leadership policing in New South Wales is truly being transformed.
Order! I place the honourable member for Myall Lakes on two calls to order.
We are building on the advantage of the work of the royal commission, supported by the Government, by the Labor Party and by the non-aligned Independents, including the honourable member for Bligh and the former member for Manly but, alas, opposed by the Coalition.
Order! I call the honourable member for Vaucluse to order.
The royal commission’s recommendations are being implemented in this State. As a result of that crucial decision made on the floor of this Parliament in May 1994, New South Wales now has a corruption-resistant Police Service for the first time since the Rum Corps.
Order! I call the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai to order.
The person driving the changes is Commissioner Ryan.
Order! I place the honourable member for Gosford on two calls to order.
Honourable members have seen and know his record. That is why the Government did not hesitate for a minute to reappoint Commissioner Ryan and secure his leadership through to 2003 so that those reforms could be consolidated and expanded to produce a line of succession in the Police Service. The commissioner’s salary has been the topic of some public discussion. I want that to end. Neither the commissioner nor I object to the commissioner’s salary details being released. I have no objection because the Government believes Commissioner Ryan is worth every cent.
Order! I call the Leader of the National Party to order.
As the head of an organisation with more than 13,000 members charged with the maintenance of public safety the commissioner’s total independently determined annual remuneration package, including self-funded retirement payments, is $425,000 per annum. Commissioner Ryan is worth every cent. It is money well invested for the people of this State.
Order! I call the honourable member for Vaucluse to order for the second time.
The Opposition attacks Commissioner Ryan again. The fact is that with the backing of this Government, and under his leadership, 98 per cent of the royal commission’s recommendations are implemented or are being implemented. We have record police numbers on the streets. Police response times are actually being measured and are being reduced. Under the Coalition police response times were not measured. The basic performance indicator of how long it takes police to get to the scene of a crime is being measured by this Government.
The crime rate is falling for the first time in a decade. Police assistance lines ensure that urgent calls for help are receiving a rapid response. The Police Service was given tough new powers on knives and gangs by this Government, because the service was being transformed by a new leadership. The Child Protection Enforcement Agency was described by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation as a world leader in the fight against paedophilia. What price these reforms? By investing in a reformed and smarter police force the men and women of this State are investing in nothing less than a safer place in which we can live.
For the future they are investing in the commissioner’s plans to use DNA testing to solve previously unsolved crime; plans to establish a database of sex offenders to make the Child Protection Enforcement Agency even more effective; the establishment of the New South Wales crime faculty, based on the United Kingdom model, once led by Peter Ryan; and unprecedented operations against repeat offenders, those who fuel increased crime rates.
They are investing in a Police Service overseen by the Police Integrity Commission, an outside and independent body charged with independent investigation of complaints against the Police Service, a key recommendation of the police royal commission which is operating effectively; and
the continuing implementation of the royal commission’s blueprint for reform. Consider these reforms, consider the progress that has been made, and consider the distance we have come. The people of New South Wales can reach only one conclusion: This money has been very wisely invested by our State.
I direct a question without notice to the Minister for Health. Can the Minister explain why Canterbury Hospital, which the Premier described only weeks ago as "state of the art", has closed 58 operating sessions for 13 weeks, resulting in hundreds of patients having to wait even longer for surgery, as detailed in leaked internal documents?
The leaked internal documents are in fact the minutes of a surgery meeting, from a member of the department of surgery. I can inform the House that, contrary to the fiefdom mentality being displayed opposite, Canterbury Hospital is part of the hospital network. Two years ago a decision was made by the former Minister for Health to redevelop part of that network, including redevelopment of palliative care services at Concord Hospital, a $61 million redevelopment that will take two years. Part of the proposal is that while the redevelopment is taking place at Concord Hospital, 20 palliative care beds will be transferred -
Point of order: The Minister is referring to different documents from that on which my question was based. The question did not relate to minutes. The Minister has the wrong documents.
Order! There is no point of order.
The fact is that 20 beds will be relocated from Concord Hospital for two years whilst the redevelopment of Concord Hospital takes place, and they will then be moved back to Concord. Beautiful as it may be, Concord Hospital is an entirely appropriate place within the Central Sydney Area Health Service to locate those services. In the meantime, the redeveloped Canterbury Hospital, which opened eight months ago with an increased number of beds, is capable - based on revised planning arrangements - of coping with the required loads and dealing with palliative care admissions for two years. That is the level of co-operation between hospitals on a network basis, just like the strategy and network proposals that I announced a couple of weeks ago.
My question without notice is to the Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads. How is the Government making CityRail services safer?
As honourable members would be aware, last July the Government introduced two security guards on every CityRail train after 7.00 p.m. Each night up to 350 CityRail security guards patrol the trains to check passenger security and safety. The decision to place security guards on CityRail trains at night is just one part of the Government’s rail security program
Order! I call the honourable member for Hornsby to order.
The program involved the installation of closed-circuit television cameras, high-intensity lighting on CityRail stations and car parks, state-of-the-art help points, and a long-line public address system. This will mean that CityRail stations will be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by staff in a local security control room who have a direct phone line access to police.
Order! I call the honourable member for Hornsby to order for the second time.
Day or night, passengers who require assistance will be able to simply press the "Help Point" button and make instant contact with a local security control room. New technology to be installed as part of the program will allow the security control room staff to make announcements direct to the station platforms. Today I am pleased to announce that CityRail is calling for tenders for the installation of high-intensity lighting at 223 CityRail stations, six bus-rail interchanges and 99 car parks, at a cost of $21.6 million. Nineteen stations already have high-intensity lighting. Work is already under way on a further 59 stations, at a cost of $6.3 million. This is great news for the 900,000 CityRail commuters who use CityRail services every day. The six key bus-rail interchanges that will have high-intensity lighting installed are Strathfield, Sutherland, St Marys, Seven Hills, Penrith and Blacktown.
Order! I remind the honourable member for Hornsby that he is on two calls to order.
This tender involves the installation of 7,100 high-intensity light fittings on every platform at every station in the entire CityRail
network. Tenders will close on 14 July this year. This security upgrade across all stations is part of an overall strategy by the Government to ensure that CityRail commuters feel safer on the rail network. Changes have been made, and will continue to be made, to ensure that more staff are on the platforms to assist commuters.
CityRail and the transport unions are currently negotiating a proposal that will see a reduction in the number of managers on stations but an increase in the number of staff on station platforms and revenue protection officers. The Government guarantees that as a result of these reforms there will be no change to station business hours, and no station will be destaffed. This combination of improved security and improved work practices is proving to be a success.
I would like to announce also the results of CityRail’s third-quarter customer satisfaction survey. It reveals a dramatic improvement in perceptions of customer safety and satisfaction, thanks to the presence of security guards on night trains. The previous survey, which was carried out last June, showed that passenger satisfaction with feeling safer on trains before the introduction of the security guards was at 21 per cent. With the introduction of security guards on night trains from 1 July last year the perception of safety more than doubled to 47 per cent, as reflected by the customer satisfaction survey of September last year.
The latest survey conducted among CityRail commuters indicates another jump in public confidence and satisfaction among CityRail commuters. The results show that 96 per cent of passengers travelling at night are aware of the CityRail security guards patrolling trains after 7.00 p.m. The survey shows also that 77 per cent of suburban passengers and 92 per cent of intercity passengers who travel at night feel safer due to the presence of security guards on trains.
Even the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai, the shadow minister for transport, has given due credit to the Government’s introduction of security guards on night trains. He acknowledges this tremendous initiative of the Carr Government to introduce security measures such as night security guards. This, along with the installation of help points, security cameras and high-intensity lighting, confirms that the Government’s initiatives are working. People are feeling safer. This is a very good initiative, and I am pleased that it has the support of the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai.
POLICE STATION STAFFING
My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Police. Following the Minister’s recent decision to abolish authorised staffing levels at individual police stations, will he assure country communities that local commanders will not deploy police from small police stations to regional centres, thereby leaving small communities with nothing but an authorised empty police station?
The deployment of police is a matter for the Commissioner of Police and local area commanders.
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF POLICE APPOINTMENT
My question without notice is to the Minister for Police. How has the Government moved to fill the vacancy of the Deputy Commissioner of Police?
I commend the honourable member for Mulgoa for her interest in policing. I look forward to working with her in the development of policing facilities in her new electorate. Today is an important day for the people of New South Wales and for the Police Service with the announcement of the appointment of Ken Moroney as the new Deputy Commissioner of Police. That is an important announcement, because the leadership of the Police Service drives the reform agenda and policing programs to make a better service and a safer community.
Today I have announced that the leadership team is about to have the city-east region commander, Ken Moroney, on its board as the new Deputy Commissioner of Police. The Government has recommended to the Governor that the appointment become effective next week. Commander Moroney will be in charge of specialist operations. An independent panel unanimously chose Commander Moroney for this key job. The Police Service is entering into its second phase of reform and restructure as a result of a massive injection of funds for new technology to improve our push for intelligence-based, smart policing. We are also continuing our push for a national approach to tackle crime. We want to improve cross-agency co-operation to hit cross-border criminals.
Order! I call the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai to order for the third time.
This is the fifth year that I have been the Minister for Police and the fifth year that the police budget in this State and police numbers at the front line have been at record levels. Opposition members do not have to believe me.
As the Minister for Education and Training said, they should, because I am the police Minister. If honourable members do not believe me, they should listen to what the shadow minister for police said last year. Regarding the police budget the honourable member for Epping said, " . . . although it was a record high". The shadow minister for police endorsed the Government, but for some reason there is now nothing but stony silence.
Point of clarification: This year Mr Moroney’s budget has been cut by $15 million.
Order! Those remarks are not in order. The honourable member for Epping will resume his seat.
The Government has the toughest anti-gun legislation and the toughest anti-knife laws in Australia. It is important that a national approach be adopted on these issues and on a raft of other policing matters. Ken Moroney will play an important role in the push for better interstate co-operation and implementation of new technology. Commander Moroney has been a police officer since 1965. He has been responsible for policing in city central, Kings Cross, Redfern, Surry Hills, the eastern beaches and a range of other areas. He has held command positions in country locations as well as at the Goulburn Police Academy and police headquarters.
Next week Commander Moroney will become Deputy Commissioner Moroney and I welcome him. He is an excellent choice. He is coming into the leadership at an important time for policing, but the Police Service, as I indicated earlier, is well-funded by the Government to face the challenges of the future. This week’s budget announced the fifth record allocation of funding for police, and delivered the fifth record number of front-line police. It also announced massive increases in capital works and a massive injection of funds into new technology. The structure is there for an efficient, honest and effective Police Service, and I welcome Ken Moroney as a key part of the leadership team.
COMMUNITY SERVICES FUNDING
My question without notice is to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, and Minister for Women. Now that Government funding to the most vulnerable in our community has been slashed by $30 million, why has it been left to the Minister’s colleague the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann to highlight the Government’s failure to provide for the welfare of people with a disability and the elderly?
Mrs LO PO’:
I thank the member for the now marginal seat of Hornsby for his surprise question. He spent some years as the shadow minister for education and obviously he is an impaired learner.
Order! I call the honourable member for Vaucluse to order for the third time.
Mrs LO PO’:
The Government has allocated more than $1.4 billion to community services, an increase of $62.2 million in this year’s budget. Recurrent expenditure has been increased by a massive $445 million per year in this portfolio since the Labor Party came to government. These increases were essential to repair the outrageous slashing and burning which had gone on under the Coalition’s administration.
You have to hear it every week and I will tell you every week. The coalition cut a thousand jobs, closed a quarter of the local offices, and sacked every specialist child protection worker. Think about it - the Coalition took out every child protection officer! The Government has spent the last four years repairing the trail of destruction left by the Coalition. Members of the Opposition have no licence to criticise. They are only being hypocritical when they criticise the Government’s record on community services.
In this budget funding for the Department of Community Services has increased by $25.7 million and funding for the Ageing and Disability Department has increased by $36.4 million. Both departments fund a wide range of non-government social and community service organisations. If a $62.2 million a year increase and a total of more than $1.4 billion of taxpayers’ money is not proper funding, I do not know what is.
WESTERN SYDNEY HEALTH SERVICES
My question without notice is to the Minister for Health. How is the Government extending health services to western Sydney?
I take this opportunity to place on the record, given that he was bounced yesterday, my appreciation to the honourable member for Coffs Harbour for his congratulatory press release today, which acknowledged for the first time a great win for the people of Coffs Harbour. I place on record my recognition of his
hard work over the past four years. It is a good win for everyone in Coffs Harbour. It should not be looked at as a partisan result, but it is truly a great delivery by Labor to the people of Coffs Harbour.
Equally, the Government’s fifth budget has once again delivered on health services for the people of western Sydney. The region now receives about $1.1 billion to provide better health services. This budget adds to the additional $350 million already provided in funding increases in the Government’s last term. That is a 45 per cent increase in health funding in five years. The hospitals and health services in greater western Sydney, from Westmead to Katoomba and from Liverpool to Penrith, rank amongst the best in the country. Each year approximately 30,000 more patients are being treated in the regions where they live. There are now almost 800 extra doctors, and with the additional services like cancer treatment facilities at Liverpool and Penrith, patient referral patterns are shifting to deliver equity and access to people who have been denied local services for generations.
Order! I place the honourable member for North Shore on two calls to order.
The Carr Government has been delivering in relation to places like Liverpool Hospital, Australia’s largest new hospital in development. It has now received the funding needed for its expanded role as a major teaching facility. This week the Government ensured that western Sydney will experience a continuation of major current projects as well as the initiation of new services. For example, the Macarthur sector strategy, which includes the redevelopment of the Camden Hospital and the upgrading of Campbelltown Hospital, will receive $13.5 million in this financial year. The Macarthur strategy will ultimately cost $85.6 million and will deliver new services to one of the fastest growing regions in the State. Currently, three out of five people living in the Macarthur region have to travel out of their area for hospital services. The redevelopment of those hospitals will mean that most services will now be available locally.
The redevelopment of Blacktown and Mount Druitt hospitals continues and is due for completion in the new year. With further funding of $30.5 million this $96 million project will provide a critical link in the network of health services in the region. For the frail, the terminally ill and the disabled, rehabilitation and extended care services will receive an estimated $140 million in the financial year 1999-2000. That program is designed to improve the wellbeing and independent functioning of people so they can live their lives with their families and in the community rather than in institutions. The increased funding in the budget will allow for an expansion of a range of services.
For instance, at Liverpool Hospital there will be an expansion of the specialist services of cardiology, rheumatology, gastroenterology, critical care and diabetic care. That will enable the cardiology unit to double the number of patients serviced in key procedures. People suffering from coronary disease will now be able to have their bypass operations at Liverpool. In the past that simply was not an option; the service did not exist. The same applies to patients with chronic diabetes and arthritis. With the expansion of services at Liverpool Hospital, patients can now look forward to better service with locally enhanced care, treatment and follow-up.
The Nepean district will also benefit. The development of a specific detoxification unit at Nepean Hospital will make it easier for the local community to access these services and broaden the scope of the regional drug and alcohol plan. Is it any wonder that people such as local resident Betty Scott is recorded in the Penrith press as describing her hospital as, "the best hospital in the universe"?
The honourable member for Pittwater would not understand what it means to a person like Betty Scott to have a facility like that in her backyard. Why would she not describe something like that as the best hospital in the universe. Everyone in the western suburbs of Sydney values, down to the last zack, the money that goes into health services in western Sydney.
The honourable member can talk all he likes, but it is Betty Scott and the millions of people like her who live in western Sydney who understand and appreciate that we are delivering record amounts of funding.
Not to Manly.
You should talk! The list goes on. In women’s health, a $2.4 million capital contribution has been made towards the establishment of the Breast Cancer Institute at Westmead, where a new model of comprehensive care for women with breast cancer has been
developed. That will be a model for the rest of the State. The new Ambulatory Procedures Centre at Westmead Hospital, an election commitment, has been funded and work is scheduled to begin in early 2000. That $5 million project will allow patients to have their tests and surgery and then recover from the anaesthetic in familiar surroundings. There will be no need for overnight hospitalisation, so families will not be dislocated.
The completion of the stage two development of Nepean Hospital will result in the completion of the new women’s and children’s health building in November and, after testing of equipment and services, it will be ready for patients in January next year. At Nepean Hospital there has been a sudden increase in births - 10 per cent over the past 12 months - and it is anticipated that there will be 3,200 deliveries this year. New facilities will ensure improvement in patient treatment, comfort and care.
A computerised tomography [CT] scanner will be provided at Campbelltown Hospital in the next few weeks. That scanner will provide essential diagnostic services for Macarthur residents. Previously, patients had to travel to Liverpool Hospital or beyond for CT services. The $7 million redevelopment of Blue Mountains Memorial Hospital at Katoomba will be completed this year. That is a great tribute to the honourable member for Blue Mountains, who has fought hard for it over the past few years.
The final component is the replacement of the old operating theatre with two ultra-modern theatres, plus new recovery and perioperative areas. That will be completed by early November. When one adds the hydrotherapy pool, which is part of the capital works program, the honourable member for Blue Mountains can tick off every commitment he gave to his community in the lead-up to the last election. That includes the new accident and emergency department that opened in November last year and a new central sterilising department that was completed this month. Everyone on this side of the House understands when we promise things to western Sydney we mean it, and we deliver on our promises.
STATE EMERGENCY SERVICE COMPUTER FUNDING
My question is addressed to the Minister for Emergency Services. Given the massive administrative problems experienced during the recent hailstorm in Sydney, why has the Minister failed to deliver in the budget on his promise to the State Emergency Service to spend $750,000 for new computers to help 150 units cope with disasters?
I am pleased that the honourable member for Cronulla, who paid the local State Emergency Service [SES] workers a great tribute for their work in the clean-up after the storm in his part of the world, has paid so much attention to the Government’s emergency services policy. It certainly warrants more attention than the Coalition’s emergency services policy which, for the last election, consisted of two pages. One line in it related to the SES. It was written by the honourable member for Coffs Harbour, who says that he will ensure that the SES continues to receive funding to help in flood plain work where necessary and to provide support to other community services. That is the Coalition policy on the SES. As far as I am aware, the Coalition does not have any more.
Order! I call the member for Coffs Harbour to order.
A 12-page emergency services policy was presented by the Carr Government before the last election in which it promised that $1.4 billion would be spent on New South Wales emergency services over the next four years. Over the past four years we have provided $50 million to the SES. That is a 47 per cent increase on what the Coalition provided in the previous four years. We promise to do even better over the next four years. We promise to spend an extra $4.3 million on the SES. As part of that commitment we shall provide $2.3 million to the SES for a range of equipment: a new radio communications system for the Far West, a number of mobile sandbagging machines, a statewide call-out system and new computers for 150 SES units.
Funding will also be provided for improved flood safety advice throughout the river valleys in New South Wales. They are balanced and affordable commitments that we shall meet over the next four years. The decision has been taken to give priority in the coming financial year to the funding of new mobile sandbagging machines for SES units in flood-prone areas such as Grafton, Narrabri, Forbes, Moree and Murwillumbah, the provision of $1.5 million in equipment such as new flood rescue boats and the provision of $250,000 for a single statewide call-out system for the SES. Over the next three years we will honour our commitment to provide $750,000 for new computers for 150 SES units around the State.
After that time every SES unit will therefore have the capacity to run a computer link to its divisional headquarters. Not only did the Opposition not have a plan for the SES before the election, it still does not have one. The only comments I have heard about the SES from the Opposition in recent
times have been criticisms. The Government is very proud to be able to provide support and resources to the organisation and to recognise the valuable role our volunteers play in emergency relief in this State. It is a great pity that that support is not more bipartisan.
COMMUNITY RELATIONS COMMISSION
My question without notice is to the Minister for Public Works and Services, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Citizenship. How can the community have input into the Government’s proposal to create the Community Relations Commission?
I am pleased to advise the House that on Monday I formally released "The Way Forward", a consultation document that will lead to the establishment of a Community Relations Commission. During the last month and a half officers of the Ethnic Affairs Commission have been preparing that consultation document for release. Its release is part of the commitment given by the Government on 8 April to allow community input into the establishment of a new Community Relations Commission. I am pleased to advise the House that the consultation process has begun and will continue until 30 July.
The Government will then collate the input of the various ethnic and migrant communities of this State on its proposals and prepare its plan for the next parliamentary session. The Government is committed to strengthening cultural diversity. The draft Community Relations Commission legislation will enshrine the principles of cultural diversity and the principles contained in the current legislation. The draft legislation will strengthen those cultural diversity principles. The consultation document has a definition of the new term "citizenship", and the preamble to the legislation has a further definition of the term "multiculturalism."
That definition and preamble expressly acknowledge that we are an ethnically diverse community. That should put to rest the misconceptions of some members of the upper House, particularly Dr Peter Wong, who has claimed that in some way the Government is preparing to step back from its commitment to multiculturalism. That is far from the case. I urge all migrant communities to participate in the consultation process and to put forward their thoughts and submissions to the current Ethnic Affairs Commission. The consultation that has taken place so far has received positive feedback from our migrant communities, particularly those in the Bathurst, Orange, Canterbury, St George and Bankstown areas. I encourage maximum participation and involvement from migrant communities in the Government’s consultation process.
OLYMPIC GAMES MASSED BANDS REHEARSAL
Mr R. W. TURNER:
My question is to the Premier, representing the Minister for the Olympics. Why is the Minister preparing to cancel the massed band element of the Olympic Games opening ceremony, which will involve some 2,000 players and will be rehearsed in Bathurst for nearly three weeks prior to the Games, thus representing a significant involvement by country New South Wales in the Olympics?
What is important is that the Australian involvement in the opening ceremony has been absolutely maximised. That is why I welcomed the announcement today by the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games [SOCOG] that an earlier decision and concept planned by Mr Ric Birch had been reversed.
: Order! I call the honourable member for Pittwater to order.
Certainly I was concerned that Australians would not have the chance to maximise their involvement in sending a message to the world that this was a great Australian event.
You didn’t say that yesterday.
You didn’t ask me yesterday! When we talked about this yesterday, there I was with an announcement ready to be hauled out and I did not get a question.
When did you first know?
It is not a matter of, "When did you first know?" When you think of a question, ask Bob! The SOCOG board has decided not to proceed with the overseas component in the opening ceremony. That will be welcomed in Orange, Bathurst and elsewhere. The issue has been under discussion during the last two days. I welcome the enthusiasm for, and the endorsement of, the so-called decision by the Opposition. You are on board and that is good!
COMPUTER MILLENNIUM BUG
My question without notice is to the Minister for Small Business. What is the
Government doing to ensure small business is prepared for the Y2K computer date change?
I commend the honourable member for Kiama for his interest in small business and information technology [IT]. I recently had the pleasure of launching the world’s first virtual home loan service called "Virtual Loans" located in Berry. Information technology is the way of the future for small businesses. It offers small companies new means of providing services, harnessing information and reaching customers. It means that distance from markets and business size is becoming less of an issue for both businesses and their customers. That is good news, especially for regional small businesses. More small businesses are utilising these technologies to conduct their businesses and help them grow.
It is true also that many small businesses that are computer-dependent and, importantly, have supply chains that are computer dependent still may not be connected to the Internet. Whatever the level of technology uptake, each enterprise has to resolve the Y2K issue within its own business. Today I can announce the latest measure the New South Wales Government has taken to assist businesses. The Government has prepared a special video and brochure that highlights the possible effects of the Y2K bug on small business and the need for contingency planning to counteract its effects.
The video and brochure cover issues relating to computer systems within a business as well as disruption from Y2K failures of suppliers’ systems. The brochure contains a Y2K project check list, an eight-point plan for small businesses to develop Y2K contingencies, and essential information about back-up planning and further sources of information. We will be distributing 5,000 videos and 75,000 brochures on this most important issue. I am sending a copy of the video and the brochure to all members of Parliament. I welcome any measures that local members can take to make sure the small businesses in their electorates are well aware of this resource. In addition, we are distributing copies to industry associations and regional development boards.
This State has nearly 310,000 small businesses. As we know, they employ half of the private sector work force. The Government is committed to ensuring that this vital sector is prepared to tackle the Y2K issue. In February the Australian Bureau of Statistics released a report on the year 2000 problem which revealed that while 93 per cent of businesses are aware of the problem, only one-third have sought some form of assistance from their suppliers, service providers or customers. According to the report, even fewer businesses, in fact one-fifth, have developed contingency plans to address disruptions that might occur due to the Y2K issue.
While many small businesses may have acted to protect their own computer systems against Y2K disruption, many small businesses have not yet considered the potential flow-on effects from Y2K problems in their suppliers and service providers. For example, if a small business has a sole supplier whose Y2K system failures take weeks to fix, the impact on that business could be very damaging. Important customers might go elsewhere and new business opportunities might be lost. The Government has worked with national authorities to develop a strategy to inform small business in this State of the serious consequences of ignoring the Y2K issue. It set up a call centre to coincide with the national advertising campaign launched last year. This centre is accessed through the national 1800 telephone number. Callers to that number can obtain information about all aspects of the Y2K problem.
The call centre can arrange to provide information to small businesses that do not have Internet facilities. The new video and brochure will be promoted through this toll-free hotline. The Government, through its involvement with the National Y2K Steering Committee, was also instrumental in the establishment by Standards Australia of a web site register of Y2K compliant products, Y2K compliancy tools and Y2K service providers. The Government has one strong message for small business: You have worked hard to set up your business. Do not let it be put at risk by the millennium bug when advice and assistance are available. I urge small business operators to call the 1800 number to take advantage of the assistance being offered by the New South Wales Government and to get hold of the excellent new brochure and video.
Questions without notice concluded.
CONSIDERATION OF URGENT MOTIONS
Exceptional Circumstances Assistance
(Mount Druitt - Minister for Agriculture, and Minister for Land and Water Conservation) [3.11 p.m.]: I ask the House to give precedence to my motion relating to exceptional circumstances assistance. My motion should be given precedence because a few applications for exceptional circumstances assistance made in the past couple of months have not yet been determined and a number of applications have been rejected. I believe that my motion should take precedence over
that of the honourable member for Pittwater, which I understand results from his misreading of the budget papers.
Northside Storage Tunnel
(Pittwater) [3.12 p.m.]: I am happy to show the Minister the budget papers which clearly indicate that the completion date for the northside storage tunnel, a joint project of Sydney Water and this Government, has been pushed back from 2000 to 2001. The project was specifically designed to reduce sewage overflows during the Olympics but its completion has been delayed by 12 months. A project designed solely for the Olympics will not be finished for the Olympics! As a result of the budget the House should consider this matter urgently.
The budget papers indicate that the cost of the project has blown out to $430 million, although in the 1998-99 budget the estimated cost of the project was $300 million. That is an increase of 43 per cent. The House should consider the matter urgently because this important project was endorsed by the Keep Australia Beautiful founder and current chairman Mr Ian Kiernan and the former chairman of Sydney Water Mr David Harley. Although the project was due to be completed for the Olympics, Budget Paper No. 4, State Asset Acquisition Program, clearly shows that completion has been pushed back to 2001.
Point of order: My point of order, which I have made many times in the House, is clear. The honourable member for Pittwater must explain why his motion is more important than that of the Minister for Agriculture, and Minister for Land and Water Conservation. He is not at liberty to debate the substance of the motion. The budget papers have absolutely nothing to do with urgency.
Order! The honourable member for Pittwater will return to the reasons his motion should have priority.
I note that the honourable member for Blacktown was arguing about the issue of importance. My motion is urgent and important. My motion is urgent because the budget papers released only on Tuesday show that the northside storage tunnel project has been delayed by 12 months. The budget papers show that the Government is being forced to expend more than $85 million on a project that was designed solely for the Olympic Games. The project was designed solely to stop sewage overflows into Sydney harbour during the Olympic Games, when the focus of the world will be on our city.
My motion is urgent because delaying completion of the project will bring into disrepute Ian Kiernan and David Harley, who put their names to the project by signing off on the Government’s plans. Their reputations in the community will be damaged. They put their reputations on the line to support the Government because they wanted the tunnel to be completed before the Olympics. Instead, the project will be completed one year later, in 2001.
The expenditure of $430 million is larger than the capital works expenditure for Sydney Water for the year. The project is running late because it has been poorly managed. The Government has broken its promise to the community of the northern beaches and the people of Manly in particular who were told that no more sludge trucks would be travelling on the streets of Manly once the tunnel was constructed.
The Government has broken its promise; there will not be a pipe to transport the sludge internally. Sludge trucks will continue to travel through Manly. The northside storage tunnel must be debated urgently because of revelations in the budget. I seek the support of the House for my motion to have priority.
Question - That the motion for urgent consideration of the honourable member for Mount Druitt be proceeded with - put.
The House divided.
Mr Amery Mr Markham
Mr Aquilina Mr Martin
Mr Ashton Ms Meagher
Mr Bartlett Ms Megarrity
Mrs Beamer Mr Mills
Mr Black Mr Moss
Mr Brown Mr Newell
Ms Burton Ms Nori
Mr Campbell Mr Orkopoulos
Mr Carr Mr E. T. Page
Mr Collier Mr Price
Mr Crittenden Dr Refshauge
Mr Debus Ms Saliba
Mr Face Mr Scully
Mr Gaudry Mr W. D. Smith
Mr Gibson Mr Stewart
Mr Greene Mr Tripodi
Mrs Grusovin Mr Watkins
Ms Harrison Mr Whelan
Mr Hickey Mr Windsor
Mr Hunter Mr Woods
Mr Iemma Mr Yeadon
Mrs Lo Po’ Tellers
Mr Lynch Mr Thompson
Mr McBride Mr Anderson
Mr Barr Mr O’Farrell
Mr Brogden Mr D. L. Page
Mr Collins Mr Piccoli
Mr Debnam Mr Richardson
Mr George Mr Rozzoli
Mr Glachan Mrs Skinner
Mr Hartcher Mr Slack-Smith
Mr Hazzard Mr Stoner
Ms Hodgkinson Mr Tink
Dr Kernohan Mr Torbay
Mr Kerr Mr J. H. Turner
Mr McGrane Mr R. W. Turner
Mr Maguire Mr Webb
Ms Moore Tellers
Mr Oakeshott Mr Fraser
Mr O’Doherty Mr R. H. L. Smith
Ms Allan Mr Armstrong
Ms Andrews Mrs Chikarovski
Mr Knight Mr Humpherson
Mr McManus Ms Seaton
Mr Nagle Mr Souris
Question resolved in the affirmative
EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES ASSISTANCE
(Mount Druitt - Minister for Agriculture, and Minister for Land and Water Conservation) [3.25 p.m.]: I move:
That this House notes as a matter of urgency the concerning number of rejections from the Federal Government of exceptional circumstances applications for primary producers across country New South Wales.
You cannot even say "primary producers".
I note the interjection from the honourable member for Coffs Harbour. It should also be noted that in the first week of the new era of country representation the National Party voted for a yuppie motion moved by the honourable member for Pittwater instead of voting for a motion dealing with exceptional circumstances assistance.
It is an absolute disgrace.
The honourable member for Tamworth is right when he says "It is an absolute disgrace." The new breed of National Party members of Parliament in this place voted with the honourable member for Pittwater over some misreading of the budget papers as opposed to a debate on exceptional circumstances assistance. That is an appalling record for a party that is supposed to be redirecting and reviving itself in country New South Wales. The number of rejections from the Federal Government for exceptional circumstances assistance justifies asking some questions about the future of that assistance and sending a message to Canberra.
By way of explanation, exceptional circumstances is an important part of assistance given to primary producers in times of need. It provides fortnightly income support, Austudy, a health benefits card and up to 80 per cent interest rate subsidies for loans. These are valuable benefits for producers in extreme times of need resulting from natural disasters. The people from Monaro know about this assistance because they are in receipt of that assistance following a prolonged drought. The exceptional circumstances status of the northern area of Monaro, known as division A, has just been renewed and I am pleased about that. Parts of Balranald and Hillston are also in exceptional circumstances areas following a prolonged drought, while other parts have not been out of drought for a number of years. Wentworth and the southern areas of Broken Hill are also receiving exceptional circumstances assistance.
This wonderful assistance package was introduced in 1992 for rural and primary producers by the former Hawke and Keating Labor governments in Canberra as part of a new package of drought assistance measures. They were designed to change past practices which did not encourage good risk management and to encourage structural adjustment, where necessary. As part of those changes the former New South Wales Coalition Government also agreed to phase out drought-related transport subsidies, a position I subsequently supported. The phase-out began on 31 December 1997.
The whole system was later repackaged by the former Federal Minister for Agriculture, John Anderson. It is now called the Commonwealth-State Agriculture Advancing Australia package, known by many as the triple-A package. It is designed to operate in conjunction with a wide range of advisory and education services, natural disaster assistance and business development loans, with the inclusion now of exceptional circumstances assistance. Exceptional circumstances assistance is designed to help farmers who are experiencing conditions which
are more extreme than those that would usually be accommodated within the normal range of management practices, for example, drought.
Exceptional circumstances assistance was high on the agenda when this Government came to office and had its first real test in New South Wales following the severe drought of 1994 and 1995. At that time of the order of 99 per cent of the State had been drought declared. At that time, and since then, many farmers have benefited from exceptional circumstances assistance as a result. However, the test for gaining exceptional circumstances assistance has always been difficult. Last year the north-west floods were deemed by many to be very exceptional events. Experts said it was a one-in-25-year event. Some flood levels were said to be the worst in recorded history. As a result there was widespread downgrading of crops in that region.
The honourable member for Tamworth went with me on a tour of that area during those months. Evidence was given by primary producers who said that that was the first time in their memory, or in their family’s memory, that floods had peaked so many times during the course of the disaster. Unfortunately, however, the application for exceptional circumstance assistance submitted by the New South Wales Government to the Federal Government was knocked back. I am sure all honourable members would agree that the floods in the north-west that peaked four or five times justified exceptional circumstances assistance.
The honourable member for Tamworth reminds me that they peaked five times. The north-west of New South Wales should have been given exceptional circumstance assistance and I cannot imagine why it was not. Another example was the Crookwell fires which were publicised and misused in the recent election campaign, but that is a debate for another day. Those fires occurred in February and were the most severe fires experienced in that area for 50 years.
The fires caused widespread devastation and led to the death of some 9,000 sheep, not to mention other livestock. However, despite that exceptional event and despite people from the rescue unit and around that region stating that they had not experienced such severe fires for many decades, again the application was knocked back. They are three significant applications for exceptional circumstances assistance. In October last year a severe frost hit the Wagga Wagga region. I spoke to farmers in that region earlier this year.
Another frost or freeze hit the horticulture farmers in Batlow, and grain growers in Wagga Wagga. An application has just been submitted for poultry farmers on Mangrove Mountain who were affected by the Newcastle disease outbreak. It will be interesting if the Federal Government and the Rural Adjustment Scheme Advisory Committee [RASAC] do not consider that to have been an exceptional event. If that matter is not exceptional nothing will qualify. The problem with these applications is not only the uncertainty whether the submissions will be successful but also the time they take to be processed. Following the Batlow and Wagga Wagga frost, for example, it took the Commonwealth some six months before the areas were inspected.
A bloody disgrace!
The honourable member for Coffs Harbour said it is a bloody disgrace and I agree with him. In contrast, when this State has a disaster such as the outbreak at Mangrove Mountain the Rural Assistance Authority are on the ground immediately gaining information. I welcome the support of the honourable member for Coffs Harbour. During that delayed time frame farmers hold off on their business developments living in hope that a final decision will be made for their exceptional circumstances application.
Farmers delay making decisions about how or whether they should act to protect themselves further from adverse conditions. Therefore the RASAC delay penalises farmers who live in hope until a formal announcement is made. The delays also mean farmers do not undertake normal management practices because of the period of uncertainty while they wait for a decision to be made. The process seems to be a closed shop. Once the Government works with the industry and submits an application, that is the last that is seen of it until a result is given.
RASAC then makes recommendations to the Federal Minister for Agriculture. The Federal Minister is given advice by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and also the Bureau of Resource Sciences. The Minister then makes the final decision and usually a subsequent announcement before which there is no dialogue with the State or industries involved, which is a pity. I was disappointed to learn about the most recent rejections of applications for the Crookwell fires and the north-west floods.
I hope we will be more successful in our application for the horticultural and grain farmers,
and poultry farmers whose stock was affected by Newcastle disease and that the result will be announced soon. Exceptional circumstances assistance is an important program which is often raised at the six-monthly meetings of the Agricultural and Resource Management Council for Australia and New Zealand [ARMCANZ] when all Ministers for Agriculture get together. I hope this will not be an end to the type of assistance that the farmers have traditionally received through the exceptional circumstances assistance program. I ask the House to support this motion.
(Barwon) [3.35 p.m.]: The Opposition welcomes the debate on exceptional circumstance assistance in New South Wales. It is amazing that this Minister is always the first to blame someone else. Recently he blamed Victoria for the dairy industry regulation. The Minister should do something for our dairy farmers instead of spending most of his time cruising around the countryside and blaming the Federal Government or an industry and never accepting responsibility for his own actions.
Who prepares the Minister’s submissions to apply for exceptional circumstances assistance? Who puts pen to paper and submits the application to RASAC to claim exceptional circumstances assistance? It is the Minister. When an application was submitted for exceptional circumstances assistance in relation to ovine Johne’s disease the Federal Government asked how much was wanted. This Minister said he did not whether it was $10 million, $20 million, $30 million or $100 million. RASAC then asked about the period of time during which the money would be required.
The Minister said he did not know and then picked up his bat and ball and went home because his application was refused. He was not prepared to do anything about ovine Johne’s disease until it was brought into the national arena. Meanwhile the farmers were confused and did not know what the future held. Instead of blaming everyone the Minister should become proactive and do the job for which he is being paid. The Minister should listen to the fantastic staff in his department because it is obvious he does not.
The Newcastle disease outbreak was a tragedy at Mangrove Mountain on the North Coast. I was pleased that the outbreak did not spread to Somersby and other areas because it was devastating for Mangrove Mountain and it is continuing. When did the Minister finally release the funding given to him by the Federal Government to Newcastle disease victims on Mangrove Mountain?
When did the Minister release the funds given to him by the Federal Government to assist the victims of Newcastle disease in Mangrove Mountain? It was only last week. The Minister has been sitting on that money for weeks. If it had not been for the Federal member, Jim Lloyd, and the Federal Minister’s office, Minister Amery would still be sitting on that money. The Minister is quick to blame someone else, but he drags his feet when it comes to actually doing something. Guess who scuttled the monthly drought declarations in New South Wales? Was it the Federal Government? Minister Amery is keen to blame the Federal Government for his own shortcomings, but who scuttled that system? It was, of course, the New South Wales Minister. The Minister mentioned floods in northern New South Wales.
He misled the House.
The Minister did mislead the House, simply because there were not five floods but seven. It is obvious that the Minister does not know or cannot count. Thank goodness he is not Treasurer, otherwise we would be in a bigger mess than we are now - and boy, that is saying something! What did the New South Wales Minister do for farmers in northern New South Wales whose crops were damaged or written off due to flooding? Their crops were either completely destroyed or so badly damaged that they were not fit for chook feed.
The Minister did absolutely nothing for those farmers. The Federal Government made ex-gratia payments to the farmers in the north-west of New South Wales who suffered because of those seven floods. At least the Federal Government is doing something for agriculture in this State. The New South Wales Minister is not. The Minister is always keen to blame somebody else. We would like him to take a little more responsibility and a little more interest in his portfolio. He should listen to his advisers and the very good people in the Department of Agriculture.
(The Entrance) [3.42 p.m.]: The honourable member for Barwon gave quite an interesting performance. When he started out he was going so well I thought it was possibly a leadership bid. It appeared that we had a National Party member who know something about primary industry, in contrast to his leader. However, one of my colleagues sitting behind me said, "No, watch him fade. He just cannot sustain that pace. He just doesn’t have it." Bingo! Five minutes later the honourable member’s performance tapered off. That showed the depth of his interest in the issue and their apparent lack of interest in asking questions of the Minister in the House.
Point of order: The motion before the House is, That this House notes as a matter of urgency -
Order! What is the point of order?
The honourable member for The Entrance was not speaking to the motion. If he wishes to make a personal attack on the honourable member for Barwon he should do so by way of substantive motion.
Order! No point of order is involved.
What a disappointing point of order! This is an important issue for people on the North Coast. It offends me that a member such as the honourable member for Coffs Harbour, who claims to represent primary producers in New South Wales, should trivialise this urgent debate. Exceptional circumstances assistance is a most important issue. I am aware of the processes involved because of the plight of the poultry farmers in Mangrove Mountain on the Central Coast. As many honourable members would be aware, Newcastle disease has had a severe effect on poultry farmers in Mangrove Mountain. They have been subjected to quarantine orders, their birds have been slaughtered, and they have had no income from their poultry businesses over the past three months.
The State Government has helped out with the offer of low-interest loans for those farmers. The Government also has offered other forms of assistance, including enabling farmers to defer payments of their on-farm clean-up costs following eradiation of the disease. New South Wales Agriculture has worked with the poultry farmers and the New South Wales Farmers Association to prepare an application for exceptional circumstances assistance. The Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Richard Amery, signed off on that on Monday, and the application has been submitted to the Federal Government for its consideration. I hope that application will have the support of honourable members opposite, at least in their support of this motion.
Exceptional circumstances assistance will be of great benefit to the poultry farmers of Mangrove Mountain. It will assist them in a number of ways, including the provision of an income from the Newstart allowance - a real plus, considering the farmers have no other income at the moment. Importantly, exceptional circumstances assistance will give poultry farmers access to interest rate subsidies for loans. Those subsidies would be very significant given the high levels of borrowing, which is normal practice in this industry.
I hope, therefore, that the Federal Government will look favourably on the application. I ask members of the New South Wales National Party to support this application of the Minister, who is looking after primary producers in this State. Also, I hope that the Federal Government does not take too long to make its decision on the application. Sometimes the main problem with these types of things is that it takes too long for decisions to be made. The Minister urged the Federal Government in early May to provide financial assistance to poultry farmers on Mangrove Mountain.
And it did.
The honourable member will feel the sting of the tail if he does not remain silent. The Minister asked for assistance similar to that given to the Crookwell fire victims, a form of income support similar to the Newstart allowance. About 10 days later the Federal Government announced that that assistance would be available for three months. We all welcomed that news with open arms. It would enable the poultry farmers to get by in their difficult time. However, we have just found out that there is a hitch in the process. Gosford Centrelink informed us this week that the allowance ends next week, on June 30.
What happened to the three months availability period? The Federal Government is not delivering on its promise. It seems that its offer was retrospective; it commenced from a date before the farmers had the problem, when they still had incomes. Effectively, that has cut off the assistance to farmers early. Honourable members opposite should start representing the primary producers and do something for country New South Wales, instead of debating whether the National Party should change its name. Do something serious for country New South Wales and primary producers, and make a positive contribution to this Parliament.
Mr R. W. TURNER
(Orange) [3.47 p.m.]: I found it interesting to listen to the speeches of the Minister and of the honourable member for The Entrance. It soon became obvious that they would use any means they could to attack the Federal Government, instead of getting on with debating the issue and getting on with the job. I had hoped they would lead by example in respect of the Newcastle disease and in the current dispute that growers have with Inghams and other processors. Inghams are using the Newcastle disease outbreak to break some
contracts and not renew others. Instead, it is entering into agreements for production of chickens on a batch-by-batch basis. The State Government should take the lead from the Western Australian Government and genuinely help producers to get a fair and equitable return on their investments.
At the moment the major processors are using the outbreak of diseases such as Newcastle disease to bring pressure to bear when renegotiating contracts, kicking the growers while they are down. The Minister mentioned that the present Rural Adjustment Scheme Advisory Committee agreement was instituted in 1992 by the Federal Labor Government. The main difference between what occurred in 1992 and a few years later, when the Coalition was in office in New South Wales, is that the New South Wales Government co-operated with the Federal Government and supplied it with the detailed information that it wanted, so that exceptional circumstances assistance could be agreed to.
The Coalition Government supplied the Federal Government with detailed information so that exceptional circumstances could be agreed to. It appears that the State Government has not supplied sufficient information to enable the Federal Government to come to an agreement that will help the farmers. We all know that farmers need help in circumstances that are beyond their control no matter how well they use their funds or how low their mortgages are. They need help in natural disasters such as flood, fire, frost or any other circumstance that is beyond their control.
Farmers do not want to listen to the State and Federal governments arguing with each other; they want assistance. The State Government should give farmers the assistance they need. In the next couple of weeks the chicken growers will approach the State Government for assistance to fight a major processor. The State Government should not blame the Federal Government, but should show leadership and introduce a new arrangement to protect chicken growers, as they are in Western Australia. Retailers and consumers would not suffer a price increase, chicken would still be competitively priced, and everyone would get a fair deal. The State Government will have to lead by example and help the growers.
(Maitland) [3.51 p.m.]: I support this urgent motion of the Minister for Agriculture. Exceptional circumstances assistance to primary producers experiencing significant production losses as a result of unforeseen events is vitally important. Exceptional circumstances assistance had its first real test in the 1994-95 drought, and it helped many drought-affected farmers to recover from that drought. However, while exceptional circumstances assistance is a very useful form of assistance, it is also true to say that the manner in which it is being administered by the Commonwealth is not without fault. Often a considerable amount of time elapses between the lodging of a submission and a visit to the region by the Commonwealth Rural Adjustment Scheme Advisory Committee [RASAC], and also between the lodgment of a submission and the announcement by the Commonwealth as to whether an area is eligible.
Many of the people I represent in the seat of Maitland are farmers. Maitland is a flood-prone area. Honourable members may recall that at this time last year the Premier visited flooded areas in the Maitland and Waratah electorates. From time to time all primary producers, including those on Mangrove Mountain affected by Newcastle disease, are likely to need access to the interest rate subsidies of up to 80 per cent, household support payments, Austudy benefits, and health care card benefits that exceptional circumstances assistance provides. I would like to think that in the event of a serious flood this assistance could be provided in a timely way.
Timely assistance is important, because when assistance is delayed many farmers simply put everything on hold until an announcement is made. The Minister was acutely aware, as was I, that there were exceptions to the rule for assistance from the Commonwealth and State arrangements. One involved dairy farmers in my electorate who were unable to receive subsidies to transport their stock from flooded areas to milk them, while beef cattle producers received assistance for relocation and also for feed. I hope that both State and Federal Ministers address this serious anomaly. I know that the State Minister is on side, and I hope that the Federal Minister will be sympathetic. The anomaly will become more glaringly obvious as soon as the competition policy is invoked; it could seriously damage the industry in this State and perhaps in Victoria.
The Commonwealth’s delay on exceptional circumstances assistance was considerable. It did not make a decision on the application from farmers affected by flooding until the end of May, almost a year after the disaster. This unacceptable delay has caused serious problems in the region. I hope for the sake of poultry producers on Mangrove Mountain who have been affected by Newcastle disease that the Commonwealth is doing something to address these extraordinary delays. An application for
exceptional circumstances assistance was forwarded to the Federal Minister, Mr Mark Vaile, earlier this week.
I call on Minister Vaile to pledge to ensure that RASAC visits Mangrove Mountain within two weeks. A decision on eligibility for exceptional circumstances assistance for those producers must also be made within four weeks, if not sooner - not six, eight or 10 weeks. We cannot afford the sort of delay that people in the Hunter have experienced. New South Wales has already come to the party by offering producers low-interest carry-on loans. The Commonwealth must match this by providing loan interest rate subsidies and recognise, as the New South Wales Government has, that Newcastle disease was a truly exceptional event, on a scale that no individual poultry producer could be expected to plan for.
It is unacceptable for a State to make an application in good faith and for that application to sit in Canberra for months until an announcement is made at a time that is politically convenient to the Federal Government. We are talking about people’s livelihood, and significant Australian and international trade. We cannot afford to jeopardise the product or affect the producers to the degree that the industry may fail. It is also unacceptable for the Federal Government to allow the States to have input into the evaluation process after an exceptional circumstances assistance application is lodged.
Providing exceptional circumstances assistance to primary producers should be a team effort on the part of the State Government, the Commonwealth Government and farmers. Once a report has been lodged all communication with the Commonwealth on the matter appears to end. That is not conducive to good decision making. I am concerned that the exceptional circumstances process is degenerating into an adversarial exercise. Unless the Commonwealth immediately takes steps to make its part of the application process more transparent this situation will worsen. I support the motion.
(Mount Druitt - Minister for Agriculture, and Minister for Land and Water Conservation) [3.56 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable members representing the electorates of The Entrance and Maitland for their contributions and for supporting primary producers who are affected by the applications for exceptional circumstances assistance. In response to the allegations of the honourable member for Orange that the Government is up to its usual tactics, I say yes, it is. In this session the House has debated water reform, native vegetation, and questions about those issues. The honourable member for Murray-Darling referred to milk suppliers and the honourable member for Bathurst referred to the American trade embargo on lamb products. Labor members have raised rural issues in this House. The National Party voted against us for bringing on those debates.
The honourable member for Barwon, the shadow minister for agriculture, led for the Opposition. He asked who makes the decisions, and he gave the House some news: He said that this Government submits applications for exceptional circumstances assistance. He gets a discovery award for that! Of course the Government submits applications for exceptional circumstances assistance, but RASAC makes recommendations to the Federal Minister, who makes the decisions. After the Government submits the application, that process should be changed so that there is a continual dialogue between Federal and State authorities in making a determination. If it appears that the application will not do well, there should be continual dialogue between agencies. We should not have to wait for a yes or no. I thank the honourable member for his illuminating advice.
When the honourable member was speaking I made a note on my notepad: "What is he talking about?" He raised the issue of ovine Johne’s Disease [OJD]. He said I have some good advisers and that I should take advice from them. My advisers gave me some information. I did not raise the OJD issue when I discussed the exceptional circumstances, because I was talking about the situation at Mangrove Mountain. The honourable member said that I did not get involved with OJD until the situation went national. He should do some research. The only reason the OJD issue went national was that I personally put it on the agenda of the Agricultural Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand [ARMCANZ].
Four years too late.
The honourable member says it was four years too late. It was probably about seven years too late. Had the former Coalition Government started its OJD work in 1988 as we did in 1995, the OJD issue would be much further down the track than it is now. The exceptional circumstances application was made in July 1998. The former Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, John Anderson, wrote back in August 1998, stating that he was awaiting the outcome of more research. We are still awaiting the outcome of the research despite the work we have done in New South Wales. I thank the shadow minister for agriculture for
allowing me to make a contribution on OJD and to show that we are still waiting for further advice from the Federal Government.
The honourable member for The Entrance raised the issue of Newcastle disease. That was the most serious outbreak of any disease in the poultry industry and we will be lobbying to make sure our application for exceptional circumstances assistance is successful. I thank the honourable member and the other Central Coast members for their ongoing work with poultry farmers in that area. The honourable member for Orange referred to the so-called dispute with processors. I have recommended to both the processors and the growers to go through their own contracts to make sure that the compensation money, which is jointly funded by the Federal and State governments, is shared in such a way that those who suffered losses as a result of Newcastle disease, whether they are processors or growers, receive just compensation. I believe that matter will be resolved.
The motion is that this House notes the high number of exceptional circumstances rejections. It is incredible that we had to divide the House to debate this matter. I am concerned about the way in which applications for exceptional circumstances assistance have been handled by the Federal Government. If the Federal Government intends to drop exceptional circumstances assistance, let it do so. At the moment we should make a clear statement about how that will affect primary producers affected by these exceptional events.
Motion agreed to.
COUNTRY NEW SOUTH WALES: THE FUTURE
Matter of Public Importance
(Tamworth) [4.02 p.m.]: I thank the House for the opportunity to introduce a matter of public importance today: the future of country New South Wales. It is interesting that it follows a debate about exceptional circumstances and some of the tragedies that have occurred in recent months. I support the Minister for Agriculture in that debate. There are very real problems with exceptional circumstances, particularly in relation to the floods in the north-west - whether there were five or seven depends on the location. There is no doubt that such an occurrence will never be repeated, the Federal Government has indicated that in future no circumstances will be considered as exceptional. That is particularly disturbing to primary producers.
The future of country New South Wales is a wide-ranging topic and is most important to people in country New South Wales. As the Minister for Regional Development would recognise, about 2.4 million people in New South Wales reside in what could be classified as country areas. They are dependent on agriculture and associated industries and are trying to develop in other ways so that their dependence on agriculture will not be as great as it has been in the past. There is growing recognition that employment opportunities in agriculture are not as great as they were, but in recent years governments of both persuasions have not done enough to encourage the value adding of agricultural production. There is a lot of rhetoric on the subject, but very little has been done. Although governments have suggested that they are in favour of value adding, the policy platforms on which they go to elections - whether State or Federal - tend to augur against the value adding of agricultural production.
I am particularly pleased to be supported today by the honourable member for Northern Tablelands, who has done a lot of work in the north of the State to encourage country people to consider their future and the political pressures that can be applied when determining their future. Even though country people are in the minority, representing about 30 per cent of the population of the State, they are in a unique position. At last that position is being recognised by the major parties. The National Party at its conference at Port Macquarie recognised that its constituency is somewhat fluid in the way it is voting, and will attempt to redress that. That is a positive move.
Within Parliament at the moment we are seeing a new group called country Labor, that recognises the importance of the country vote. Simply put, country people make up the largest minority group in the State. Unlike most other minority groups, very little attention is paid to them. This House spends a great deal of time paying attention to some very small minority groups, yet the largest receives very little attention. Both sides of Parliament are trying to curry favour with country people, but they will not be conned by the rhetoric.
While considering the future of country New South Wales it is opportune to look at the past. If honourable members look at the indicators from budgets over the past eight years they will see the attitude towards country people. I shall refer to some figures for capital works expenditure from a couple of budgets. Most honourable members know that I have been involved with the Country Summit, which has been seeking consensus on issues concerning country people. Part of that process has been to look
back and see what governments have done with capital works expenditure in country electorates.
The figures have been verified by an independent academic institute. Although country people represent only 30 per cent of the population of the State, they represent 90 per cent of the land mass of the State. I am not suggesting that every year 30 per cent of the population should get 30 per cent of the capital works expenditure - that would be quite ridiculous - but a claim could reasonably be made that over a number of years an average could be reached whereby 30 per cent of the expenditure could be achieved by 30 per cent of the population.
I am talking about the taxpayer-funded portion of the budgets over the past eight years and, for the benefit of the analysis, I have excluded road funding because of the Federal overlay - money coming to the State Government and then being directed out. In 1991, when the Coalition was in government, 30 per cent of the population received about 17 per cent of the capital works expenditure from the budget sector, excluding roads and some of the miscellaneous items that were not given a locational tag at the time.
In 1992, 14 per cent of the capital works budget was allocated to country people. In 1993, which again was at the time of a Coalition administration, 12 per cent was allocated to the country. In 1994, which was the last year of the Coalition Government, 10 per cent was allocated to the country. There was a change of government, and much of the reason for that change related to the neglect country people believed they had experienced under the Coalition Government. Have they achieved more during the period the Labor Government has been in power?
In 1995 someone must have read the agenda of the previous coalition Government, which allocated 10 per cent of the capital works budget to country electorates, and again allocated 10 per cent. Honourable members will remember the enormous allocation of funds in 1996 to the Olympics, but 8 per cent of the capital works budget was allocated by the Labor Party to country electorates. In 1997 10 per cent, a 25 per cent increase, was allocated to 30 per cent of the population. In 1998, the last year of the previous Labor administration, 12.5 per cent was allocated to country people.
What does a similar analysis reveal has happened this year? The figures have been verified by an independent academic institute. Over the past couple of days we have examined the capital works budget. Bearing in mind that we have been told that country Labor will cure all the ills of country people, Budget Paper No. 4 reveals that 13 per cent of the capital works budget has been allocated to rural electorates. That represents a 0.5 per cent increase in funding to country people from the budget. I am sure many will agree that that is not good enough.
I am sure the Minister for Regional Development will agree, when he makes his contribution to the debate, that 13 per cent of the capital works expenditure is not good enough for 30 per cent of the population and it is not good enough for 90 per cent of the land mass. I am sure my Independent colleagues, the honourable member for Dubbo and the honourable member for Northern Tablelands, will join me in watching the graph closely over the next few years to see whether country Labor is only more rhetoric and will be, in a sense, like the National Party, which is subservient to its bigger brother; issues are raised but nothing gets done. I wish country Labor and the National Party well in their attempts to do a better job for country people. They must acknowledge that they are in a unique position in that they can determine who governs. I shall make the remainder of my comments during my five-minute reply.
(Clarence - Minister for Local Government, Minister for Regional Development, and Minister for Rural Affairs) [4.12 p.m.]: I acknowledge the genuine commitment of the honourable member for Tamworth and the honourable member for Northern Tablelands to country New South Wales. I am pleased to speak on this matter of public importance about the future of country New South Wales. Its future has great potential, but that does not diminish the size of the challenges that lay ahead. During the last decade or so traditional industries have contracted, particularly as a result lower commodity prices. New South Wales is still an agricultural powerhouse, but we have expanded our manufacturing and retail base.
We are now moving into the exciting era of telecommunications and information technology. That creates big challenges and enormous opportunities for country New South Wales. Sadly, there have been job losses, particularly in the mining industry but also in other industries. I take this opportunity to endorse the words of the Premier that the Federal Government should act now and protect workers’ entitlements in those industries, particularly those in which jobs have been lost.
Recently I returned from leading a second investment tour of country New South Wales. We visited Griffith, Tamworth and Armidale. The
honourable member for Tamworth was pleased that the group visited his great city, and the honourable member for Northern Tablelands felt the same about Armidale. The honourable member for Tamworth could not remain with the group for the entire day because of a local tragedy, but he was well received by the people on the tour. The group of 14 investors represented some of Australia’s leading financial institutions and venture capital funds. They reacted positively to local business presentations. They met representatives from a range of Tamworth industries, including the food processing, manufacturing, aquaculture and timber processing industries.
After visiting the Tamworth Regional Entertainment Centre, an impressive facility which I am proud to say the Government assisted in constructing, the investment team heard presentations from producers of Gwydir olives, Bingara cypress pine, Mandalong lamb - I tasted that later in the evening and it was pretty good - and Moree seed graders. They also visited the sites of Safefish and Jakab Industries and the Phoenix Bus Company. The very successful day wrapped up with a superb dinner at the local British Aerospace Flight Training College.
When I took on the regional development portfolio I held a strong view on the Government’s role. In our directions statement I outlined previous policies on regional development and described them as failures. That simply stated the obvious: rural and regional New South Wales was being left behind. It was clear that past policies and programs had resulted in slower economic growth, and the loss of jobs and people from country centres. It was not only policy change; structural change was taking place and not being addressed. The philosophy of governments, industry and the community needed to be changed to put jobs and families on a higher priority. Our directions statement on regional growth and lifestyle highlighted the fact that market forces alone cannot deliver to country areas. Accelerated growth can only be achieved from targeted and strategic intervention, bearing in mind that governments will always have finite resources. Each country centre has strengths and weaknesses so that programs can be specifically targeted to improve and build on the strengths and eliminate weaknesses and impediments.
Our specially tailored regional development programs identified potential for business investment as well as assisting those townships in need. Since 1995 more than $4 billion worth of investment has been pumped into regional New South Wales from our policies and strategies of targeted intervention. That has translated into more than 18,000 jobs. I have said many times that the employment growth rate now in country New South Wales is higher than that in the greater Sydney area. That represents an incredible turnaround. However, that is not to say that every rural centre in New South Wales shares that growth. That is why we allocated $5 million over three years for our regional economic transition scheme.
This scheme helps towns that have suffered serious economic setbacks due to structural changes in traditional industries. This year the scheme will help towns like Bombala, Eden, Broken Hill, Cootamundra, Gunnedah, Goulburn and Aberdeen. An important program is our country lifestyles program, which aims to remove the negative perceptions of country New South Wales as a place to do businesses. I am pleased to be part of a Government that has allocated more than 40 per cent of this year’s capital works budget on regional New South Wales. It is difficult in a budget to allocate particular amounts to particular areas and confusion often arises.
I cannot understand the rationale of leaving road funding out of any budget assessment formula on the basis that some of the money comes from the Federal Government. It must be remembered that a vast majority of the State Government’s budget comes from the Federal Government and that allocation has increased, especially after some High Court decisions. The 1999-2000 budget provides more than $2.14 billion in capital works spending outside the greater Sydney area. That works out at more than 40 per cent of the total capital works budget.
Other highlights in the budget include the allocation of a record $1.7 billion on rural health, which is a $36 million increase from last year, and more than $1.83 billion to improve and maintain roads and transport for regional communities. Half of this year’s road budget of $2.26 billion has been allocated to regional and rural New South Wales, with nearly 60 per cent of the total roads budget for capital works and maintenance being spent in regional New South Wales.
The projects include $125 million for the first instalment of the 10-year rebuilding country roads program which will seal, improve and restore bush roads across the State. The Government is also committed to shifting more than 1,300 government jobs to country areas. Members should compare that to our opponents in the Coalition. Their one contribution since the election has been to decide whether to hang a portrait of the Queen in their party room. At the recent conference their major
agenda items were a name change and daylight saving.
As I told the House yesterday, members opposite should perhaps be considering renaming themselves as the keep them in the dark party. Margo Kingston got it right when she wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald
of 12 May this year that the Nationals have no fresh answers to reinvigorate the bush. Is it any wonder that the people of the bush deserted the National Party and supported the country Labor team? The National Party is concerned only with such issues as the Queen’s portrait, name changes and whether the clock should be brought forward an hour.
The National Party is continually denigrating the fine efforts of such people as those we met in Tamworth. Why are members opposite so pessimistic about the future of country New South Wales? Is it because they have a policy vacuum, or are they perhaps crunching numbers for the next and inevitable leadership challenge? During the investment tour I heard the mayor of Moree, Mike Montgomery, speak at the dinner to which I referred earlier. He said that we need to be optimistic in country New South Wales. We need to tell people about the good things in the area if we hope to build on them. One impediment that has been picked up is the negative perception that city people have about country areas. That needs to be changed.
The National Party is doing enormous damage to country New South Wales with its continued pessimism and downgrading of country New South Wales. The honourable member for Tamworth referred to the exceptional circumstances assistance program. It appears that the Federal Government is walking away from that program. When I was in Federal Government I was intimately involved in putting that assistance package together in the early 1990s. That program, which was very expensive because of the depth of the drought across New South Wales, and the hundreds of millions of dollars that were pumped into the economy were responsible for the survival of many farmers and country towns.
It would be an enormous mistake if the Federal Government now said that such circumstances will never exist again. As sure as the sun rises, they will come again, and such a program should be available. I thank the honourable member for Tamworth for bringing this important issue to the attention of the House. I believe there is a promising future for country New South Wales. We need to be on the front foot. We should not diminish the problems and challenges but take them on as we head into the next millennium.
(Northern Tablelands) [4.22 p.m.]: I acknowledge the contribution that the honourable member for Tamworth has made to country New South Wales. As the mayor of a neighbouring city I have found it helpful to witness his contribution to and genuine concern for regional and rural New South Wales. As a new member of the Parliament I am interested to hear debate about rural New South Wales, because rhetoric about country New South Wales has been around for a long time.
I do not think that this Minister for Regional Development or previous regional development Ministers have lacked a commitment to country New South Wales; I believe that Treasury has not provided adequate resources. On several occasions the honourable member for Tamworth has referred to the figures and they have been challenged, as they have been challenged today. If the factors that inhibit growth in country New South Wales were removed one would see that country New South Wales has been receiving breadcrumbs from the table in terms of budget allocations. That has been the case for a long time.
Targeting growth in regional centres must be the key. It is okay to have road maintenance, sealing and resealing programs, which are important, but we fail if we do not target growth in country regions. As the honourable member for Tamworth pointed out, both sides of politics have been failing country New South Wales. During my time in local government, which is almost eight years, funding allocations and cutbacks in services have been similar, irrespective of whether a Labor government or a Coalition government is in office. In the lead-up to the election I researched the cutbacks in the Northern Tablelands electorate. I found that 50 per cent of the cutbacks occurred under Coalition governments and 50 per cent occurred under Labor governments.
It is not helpful or healthy to criticise the honourable member for Tamworth for raising this issue. During his speech I heard the comment that he is in the Government’s pocket - I have heard the same comment made about me - and it is not helpful. Honourable members on both sides of the House should stand beside the honourable member, as the honourable member for Dubbo and I are standing beside him, in supporting regional New South Wales. One side should not be attacking the other side; both sides should be supporting country New South Wales. I challenge the myth that the city pays a price for supporting country New South Wales. This should be a statewide issue. The problems in country New South Wales are solutions to metropolitan areas. We fail to win that argument.
I am pleased that the Minister for Regional Development is targeting growth in the regions, but he has been inadequately resourced by Treasury. We are getting more of the same. That needs to change if we are to put jobs in regional New South Wales. The Minister, regardless of political persuasion, will have my support and the support of all Independent members for any measures that help people in country areas. If we do not treat the issue seriously we will fail, and the people of country New South Wales will lose as a result.
(Tamworth) [4.27 p.m.], in reply: I thank the Minister for Regional Development and the honourable member for Northern Tablelands for their contributions to the debate. Once again we heard the classic line from the Minister that 40 per cent of capital works expenditure will go to country New South Wales. I am quite happy to go through the figures with the Minister. Earlier I said that the analysis related to the budget sector, the taxpayer-funded sector, not public trading enterprises. Obviously, the Minister included public trading enterprises. If roads are included the figure goes out to about 17 per cent, including Federal funding. That is still only marginally more than half of what some people would assume is equitable.
I draw the attention of the House to one appalling issue that has been occurring for years not only under this Government but also under the previous Government. Figures can be used in a range of different ways. In terms of new works expenditure in the budget, $10.8 million has been allocated for new capital works in 16 inland electorates in New South Wales. If coastal country areas are included, the figure is much worse - $9.1 million of capital works initiated in this year’s budget.
Approximately $20 million is needed for new works expenditure in this year. The Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads was delighted to spend $20 million on high-intensity lighting at railway stations in Sydney. I do not need to go much further than that to display the inequity. I agree with the Minister that we must be optimistic - and there is optimism in country New South Wales - rather than being negative all the time. However, at the same time we must not bury our heads in the sand. We must acknowledge the reality that for more than a decade country New South Wales has not received a fair go from both sides of politics. That is not a criticism; it is merely the fact. We will examine the matter each year to ascertain whether the situation improves. We have been told that country Labor is the way to go, while the National Party says its policies are the way to go. However, country New South Wales is going nowhere with either party.
You are saying you are the way to go?
I am not saying I am the way to go; I am merely highlighting the problems. Obviously, the government of the day is the vehicle but rhetoric about championing country issues has to be backed up by Treasury. I will assist in any way I can. The Premier must show real commitment and not merely make occasional visits during which he says a few nice words. He did the right thing during his last term by setting up a private investment committee, of which the Minister for Regional Development was a member. I have not heard whether that committee has been re-established. It should be, because it was effective in a number of areas. The committee was one way of getting through the bureaucracy and helping the private sector to get going.
There are many other issues I would like to mention but time will not permit me to do so. However, I will mention that the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust received more money in capital works this year than the 16 electorates west of the range. People may assert that there is an increased commitment to country New South Wales but that is not borne out by the mathematics. As the honourable member for Northern Tablelands said, it is the responsibility of government to show real commitment to country people. They are willing to take on the challenge and have a great deal of potential, but they require and demand a fair go from government.
I acknowledge that is difficult when those representing a major population area dominate those who seek to represent the interests of an area with a smaller population. That may occur on both sides of the political fence. Country Labor will face the same problems as those faced by the National Party, which is dominated by the Liberal Party when formulating policy in the Parliament. I imagine the city-based marginal-seat mentality will dominate a minority group which is genuine in its views about country issues. I again thank the honourable member for Northern Tablelands and the Minister for their contributions.
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
ELECTRICITY SUPPLY AMENDMENT BILL
PAY-ROLL TAX AMENDMENT (FURTHER RATE REDUCTION) BILL
PUBLIC FINANCE AND AUDIT AMENDMENT (CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS) BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour
Mr R. W. TURNER
(Orange) [4.35 p.m.]: It is with pleasure that I speak on the Appropriation Bill and cognate bills, otherwise known as the budget bills, and highlight their effects on country people, and my constituents in particular. The honourable member for Northern Tablelands highlighted the inequity of budget funding for those living in regional New South Wales. Over the past few days the media and members in this House have spoken about the effects of the budget on different groups: some claim they have come out on top while others maintain they have not done as well. Teachers, unions and welfare groups claim they have not received sufficient funding. Most of those groups will never have sufficient funding because there is always an increasing need, particularly in relation to welfare. However, governments must do the best they can to ensure that people have the best possible quality of life.
As the budget is further dissected during the next few weeks, those with the task of representing various organisations will give their interpretations of how the budget will affect the people of New South Wales. I should like to mention some specific matters, and I refer first to railways. I welcome the ongoing commitment of the Government to reopen the Cowra to Blayney rail line. I also welcome the news that the Kandos to Gulgong line will also be opened, although it is not in my electorate. I hope that once the Cowra to Blayney line is up and running and is proved successful because of the extra freight it is carrying out of the area, that consideration will be given to reopening the Canowindra line.
Each year one produce merchant in the area exports hundreds of thousands of bales of chaff, lucerne and hay to the Middle East for the horseracing industry. The group he is in is pressuring him and has said that unless he is able to get his containers on rail, they may not accept his tenders in future. That would be a shame because he is the only exporter of that product to the Middle East. These railway lines have been given a specific budget allocation, but I understand that almost all of the $1.5 million allocated to the Cowra to Blayney line will be taken by the cost of rebuilding one of the bridges. If that is the case, further funding should be made available for that line. The staff running the line must be firmly committed. It would be pointless reopening the line if the same attitude prevails as that which, to a great extent, caused the closure of the line in the first place.
I do not know whether the earlier lack of commitment involved various levels of government. Railway staff must have the same commitment as staff from transport companies which run an efficient road transport system. Railways must compete with a modern road transport system. I hope that the State Government, through the Rail Access Corporation, will supply enough rolling stock. In the past couple of weeks concern has been expressed about FCL Containers at Blayney, which runs a successful operation of loading containers at Blayney and shipping them down to Port Botany. It started off with one carriage and is now running two or three trains a day. It also has the contract to take the ore concentrate out of Cadia mine through to Port Newcastle. That company has continuing problems in getting enough rolling stock to meet its commitments and on the odd occasion it has had to cancel a train.
It is a shame that the company has been thwarted by the lack of rolling stock in meeting its objective of getting freight back on rail. I take this opportunity to congratulate the Lachlan Valley railway committee on its ongoing and tireless commitment to getting the line reopened. I am pleased that the committee has finally had a victory. I am sure that it will keep an eye on the situation to ensure that the line is opened and serviced adequately so that it can be successful.
Nationwide rail will save $160 million from the reduction in diesel fuel excise. As a result of the Federal Government’s tax reform package that rail line and every other line in New South Wales will become more successful and competitive. The excise will drop from 38¢ a litre to zero. I hope that the Government will take advantage of that initiative and that freight will once again be transported by rail so that it will be competitive with the road transport industry. The road transport industry will also get the benefit of the reduction in diesel fuel excise but not to the same extent.
It is to be hoped that, as part of building up that efficiency, the Government will also investigate companies such as TKL in Orange. That company was established with the encouragement of the former Wran Government, to make railway crossovers and points for lines. Today it is not allowed to tender for work in New South Wales because, as I understand it, all the work goes to the Chullora railway workshops which does not have to tender. That is an absolute disgrace and once again shows this Government’s lack of commitment to making New South Wales rail competitive. I hope that issue will also be addressed.
I welcome the 13 per cent increase in funding for national parks outlined in the budget, but doubt that it will offset the significant increase in areas declared as national parks. Whilst it is pleasing to have national parks I do not believe we need to have as many as we do. However, I hope that adequate funding is forthcoming to make those parks available to the general public as much as possible. I am concerned when I read comments that those who use the parks - horseback riders, drivers of four-wheel drive vehicles and others - have been excluded from parks to which they have traditionally had access for many years.
I hope that the National Parks and Wildlife Service will also be given enough funding to install paths in those parks that hikers and bike riders can use in a friendly way. It is useless having a narrow and dangerous track merely for the young and very fit. Young families with children, elderly people, and as much as possible, disabled people, should be encouraged to use the parks. I look forward to the release of the management plan for the Canobolas State Recreation Area under the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
That is a wonderful area that has in the past been limited in exploiting the mountain’s natural beauty because there has not been enough funding to open it up and make it user friendly. I hope that there will be enough funding to bring that mountain to its full potential as a tourist attraction not only for Orange but for the whole of the central west. A number of speakers to the debate have made reference to police numbers.
I note with interest the announcement of the Government that by 2003 it will free an extra 1,000 sworn police officers: 500 sworn police officers from front-line policing, through Commissioner Ryan’s police assistance line; and 490 sworn police currently performing clerical duties and administrative duties - by employing civilians. A further 120 police officers will be freed from front-line policing, by continuing the transfer of the responsibility for transporting prisoners from police to corrective services staff at a cost $226 million. According to Treasury that will cost $148 million.
There appears to be a discrepancy of some $80 million and I wonder which is right and whether the Government is fair dinkum. I hope that those figures do not threaten the staffing of our police stations because, as honourable members know, police stations are understaffed and police now have extra responsibilities. I am concerned about one- two- and three-man police stations in smaller towns.
The other day two people - a husband and wife - applied to become Justices of the Peace. The husband was the senior constable in charge of Stuart Town police station. His wife considered she also needed to be a Justice of the Peace because he is required to spend so much time away from the station and she is called on to fill in for him. To me that highlights the enormous responsibility of the wives of police officers who perform duties for the public because, far too often, their husbands are on duty at larger police stations some distance away.
One- and two-man police stations must stay open and be supported. A lot of police officers have two or three children. If such stations are closed and those children leave the local school the school could lose a teacher. A three-teacher school might be downgraded to a two-teacher school or a two-teacher school might be downgraded to a one-teacher school. We do not want to lose any more teachers or children from those schools. The officers should be told that the Government is grateful they are there and appreciates their work.
In last year’s budget $4.7 million was allocated for a new courthouse in Orange to be completed by 2000. However, this year the cost has blown out to $5.6 million and the completion date to 2002. That is because when the old sheriff’s homestead was being demolished some people thought the foundations had some historical value. Instead of removing some examples of the foundations, drains and privies and putting them in the foyer of the new courthouse, or photographing them, the site has had to lie idle for 12 months while negotiations take place about what is to happen to the foundations.
The building may be redesigned, according to some talk, and apparently some of those concerns have contributed to a blow-out of just on $1 million. I would rather the extra $1 million went to the construction of a new police station at Orange. At the moment Orange has a scattered police complex comprised of three separate buildings. It is
completely inefficient especially in the winter time when officers have to scurry across the road in inclement weather.
Police encounter significant problems when escorting prisoners and accused persons from one building to the next. The police station is totally inefficient and I hope that in its next budget the Government will give consideration to upgrading Orange police station.
Lastly, I would like to comment on the budget allocation for roads in the Orange electorate. Some of our roads, declared main roads by the Roads and Traffic Authority, still have a gravel surface. I am doing all I can to have those roads upgraded to bitumen surfaces for their entire length so that school buses, heavy transport vehicles and local traffic will not need to continue to travel those roads in the dangerous condition that they sometimes fall into. One of the main issues, one of the real challenges I face, is the upgrading of the Great Western Highway. I was interested in the comments of the honourable member for Tamworth, who spoke about inequities in funding for cities compared with funding for country areas and made some comparisons related to population. One thing that the Government could do to address that inequity would be to cease ridiculing the National Party’s promise to build a new highway over the Blue Mountains.
In what better way could the Government demonstrate a true commitment to regional New South Wales than by building a new highway over the Blue Mountains? Rather than do that, it contents itself with patch-up projects such as those being promised at the moment. If the highway is ever upgraded right through to Lithgow, the speed limit on it will still be a maximum of 80 kilometres an hour, with many sections of it restricted to 70 and 60 kilometres an hour, with schools, ribbon development and traffic lights dotting the highway. Instead, we could have a modern highway across the mountain equal to the highways to the south and north of Sydney.
An indication of the worth of a good highway can be gauged from the highway to the north of Sydney, commonly known as the F4. Development near Gosford and Wyong, virtually from Sydney right to Newcastle, has taken place with the construction of that highway. Little of that development would have occurred without its construction. Imagine the prospect of similar development with a modern highway across the Blue Mountains, reducing travelling times, reducing the cost of transport, and improving road safety. As was pointed out by my leader, the Hon. George Souris, the accident rate on the Great Western Highway is still far too high. It still has twice the accident rate, per kilometre, of the Pacific Highway. Both the State and Federal governments made a real commitment to upgrading of the Pacific Highway. However, they are still procrastinating about upgrading the Great Western Highway. They continue to argue about the Bells Line of Road and the Great Western Highway. In the meantime, many people are being killed on the highway, the condition of which is limiting development west of the Blue Mountains.
My hope is that government would have the vision that governments had in the late forties and early fifties, when the Snowy Mountain scheme was built. Bearing in mind the indecision that afflicts governments today, current thinking on development in rural areas, environmental considerations, et cetera, can anyone imagine the Snowy Mountain scheme getting off the ground? That project got off the ground even though it was one of the biggest visions of any Australian Government since the building of the rail network in New South Wales and throughout Australia. We should strive for such vision and consider building a new highway over the Blue Mountains, opening up the central west and the west of New South Wales so that area can reach its potential, enabling people west of the Blue Mountains to have a quality of life and opportunities equal to those of their Sydney counterparts. We will never achieve that until we upgrade the Great Western Highway or build a new road over the mountains, making travel to the west of the State safer for everyone. [Time expired.
(Tweed) [4.55 p.m.]: I am pleased to address the House on the budget handed down this week. Firstly, I congratulate the Treasurer on delivering a budget that honours the promises made during the election campaign. The population at large is becoming increasingly cynical of politicians and promises, especially with the Federal Government introducing electors to the terms "core" and "non-core" promises. It is with great pleasure, therefore, that I can say that the promises and commitments made in respect of the Tweed electorate will be met. I am sure that my National Party colleagues, particularly their leader, would acknowledge that the people of the Tweed will have delivery on Labor’s commitments made during the election, and more, during the term of this Government.
It is 71 years since a Labor member representing the Tweed has addressed the House on a budget. It is with great pleasure that I outline the benefits of the 1999-2000 budget for the people of
the Tweed. More than $34 million will be spent this year on new capital works in the Tweed region. The budget includes major funding for stage three of the Tweed Heads Hospital, the Yelgun to Chinderah dual carriageway, and replacement of the timber Kynnumboom bridge over the Rous River.
As a growing area, the Tweed needs more hospitals and safer roads. This budget helps meet that demand. Much has been said in debates and in the election campaigns about the issue of health and stage three of redevelopment of the Tweed Hospital. Various commitments and promises came from those on the other side of politics. Some of those were far-fetched. One was that that project would be fast- tracked - it was already well into the planning stages.
I am pleased to report that this Government is continuing funding for that project. The project is on track and it will deliver better services for the needy people of the Tweed. It is fact that the Tweed electorate has a high proportion of elderly persons, making demands on hospitals strong in the winter periods. In particular, services to do with orthopaedics, urology and ophthalmology are in big demand. This budget increases health funding for the fifth consecutive year and will provide families in the Tweed with improved services.
This financial year more than $6.9 billion is to be spent on health services. That is an extra $300 million, or 4.6 per cent, more than last year’s allocation. In fact, the Carr Government is spending some 42 per cent more on health than the Coalition did when it was last in office. That level of funding by Labor to health gives people a sense of security in the knowledge that the Government is committed to protecting their interests. I mentioned stage three of redevelopment of the Tweed hospital. The services to be expanded include ophthalmology, psychiatry, orthopaedics, urology and general medicine.
I would like to mention in particular the incorporation of the psychiatric ward with the Tweed Heads District Hospital. At present, psychiatric services are not available in the area. It is a service that I have lobbied long and hard for. I am delighted that it is to be included in the stage three development. It will not solve our problems, but it will provide for the people of the Tweed with mental health problems the services that they need at the local level. At present people with acute needs must be transported to the Gold Coast, Brisbane or Lismore. The journey to Lismore takes about two hours and usually involves police being taken off their normal duties to escort or transport people with acute health problems to the Richmond clinic at Lismore. I hope that the review under the memorandum of understanding will result in police being relieved of those types of duties. I will say a little bit more about prisoner escorts later on when I address some policing matters of concern to the electorate of Tweed. However, I am pleased that the stage three development of the Tweed Heads District Hospital will include a psychiatric ward. It will need to consist of more than just beds in the hospital; it will require proper staffing, equipment and services to meet the needs of those who seek psychiatric care.
Another aspect of health that will be unique to the Tweed area is the community health centre at Murwillumbah, for which $1.3 million has been allocated. This co-location project, incorporating both Federal and State departments, is to be built in Murwillumbah. That will go a long way toward providing better services for the people of Murwillumbah and surrounding districts.
Approximately $0.5 million has been allocated from the health budget for the expansion of critical care units in the electorates of Tweed and Lismore. The Minister inspected those services in the run-up to the State election, and I appreciate the fact that he has included them in this year’s budget. One major promise that was delivered on was the commitment to education and training in the Tweed electorate. The burgeoning population in the Tweed needs schools and I am delighted that planning for primary schools at Bogangar and Cabarita have been included, and that money has been allocated for a new high school at Banora Point. Schools at Kingscliff are overcrowded and construction, which is under way, will be completed in 2002. The education budget allocated funds for a new library at Cudgen Primary School, and I am delighted that that is also under way.
The Premier travelled to the Tweed electorate during the election campaign and enjoyed a pleasant visit to the Cudgen primary school. He watched a computer class and was delighted, as I was, with the progress that the students demonstrated and their expert use of computers. I congratulate the Treasurer and Premier on expanding the Computers in Schools program, which will provide more computers to classrooms in my electorate. The Tweed is the chosen destination of many holiday-makers but, unfortunately, there are many cross-border problems involving crime. A great proportion of the time of police is taken up with transients. Some 30 per cent, or more, of crime is attributable to people moving through the electorate, usually on holidays, and many are hitchhikers.
I am delighted that the Minister for Police has come to the fore and will relieve police of prisoner escort duties to the Lismore District Court as soon as possible. The small Kingscliff police station has too often been closed because police have been assigned to prisoner escort duties. Officers from the Corrective Services Department will undertake those duties in future. Members of the Opposition have criticised, most inappropriately, the time frame for police to be relieved from prison escort duties. That cannot be done overnight, but it will be done as soon as possible
The Kingscliff police station has been allocated $150,000 to bring it up to standard. That fulfils a commitment of the Labor Government and will ensure a local police station for the local community. It was National Party policy in the run-up to the election to close that police station and move it to an central point. I am delighted that it will remain and that the needs of the community will be met. Tweed Heads police station is also to receive an upgrade as it is the central, and major, police station in my electorate. I acknowledge the transfer of the Firearms Registry to the electorate of Tweed bringing with it 50 jobs. The area is struggling to create employment for young people and those 50 jobs will be a great boost to the local economy.
Approximately 700 police will become available this year, and more will be appointed in subsequent budgets as the 2,100 promise comes on line for front-line police. In the run-up to the election the Government committed itself to station police in Casino. I understand that the honourable member for Lismore has commented on that. I assure him that Casino has not been forgotten; police will be there for the full-time manning of the station. One major aspect of the campaign in Tweed was the upgrading of the Pacific Highway; it has been a sore point for a number of years. The highway has had a sorry history of political neglect over a number of years.
I am delighted that the Treasurer and Minister for Roads have continued the good work started in 1995 by the honourable member for Clarence, who is now the Minister for Regional Development. He and I brokered an agreement between the State and Federal governments to fund the upgrading of the Pacific Highway, the biggest infrastructure project ever undertaken in Australia. With the allocation of funds in the budget the upgrade will continue to the Chinderah-Yelgun section of the highway. That section bypasses the Burringbar Range, a section of road which is notorious for accidents, particularly during the period from Christmas to February. A number of lives have been lost in tragic circumstances.
My political opponent made a number of promises about fast-tracking that despite the fact that he knew that the timetable was being compressed by the Minister for Transport at that time. That has been done; funds have been allocated to ensure that the upgrading gets under way. I take umbrage at the media release from the Deputy Leader of the National Party which criticised the amount of money allocated for that section of the Pacific Highway. This money is matched dollar for dollar by the Federal Government. If he wants to attack anyone about not putting in enough money he should attack his Federal National Party colleagues. This complicated section of road has to be built and as it is under way in this financial year more money will stream into it, obviously from the next budget. That section will be completed by the end of 2002.
Tourism is one of the major industries in my electorate. It has received a major boost in this budget with the allocation of funds for the tourism gateway project. Honourable members may or may not be aware that the electorate of Tweed sits geographically underneath the Gold Coast and we tap into a large market. The tourism gateway project, which is to be situated in Tweed Heads, is designed purely and simply to attract tourists across the border. Ten years ago a tourism gateway was situated in the Tweed. Inexplicably it was shut down in 1988 upon the election of the Greiner Government. As the new Labor member for Tweed I am delighted that it will be re-established and will function efficiently to attract tourists, dollars and jobs to the Tweed.
Much has been said about regional development and how regions have fared in this budget. I compliment the Treasurer for his initiative in reducing payroll tax. That will go a long way towards creating jobs. The reduction in that tax has been welcomed by small business, particularly in my electorate, judging from the reception I have received from businesses there. I am mindful that regional New South Wales was once not inflicted with payroll tax but that was reimposed by the Greiner Government. I am sure the Labor Government will work further to reduce the burden of payroll tax, particularly in regional New South Wales.
I want to talk about a number of projects but I am going to run out of time. However, I wish to mention two in particular. I compliment the emergency services in my electorate for the good work they have done in the past six months,
particularly in relation to a catastrophic storm in December 1998 and the floods this year. This year they received funding for the purchase and operation of a sandbagging machine. The recognition they have received with the allocation of those funds is justly deserved. Another project I would very much like to mention is the Tweed River sand bypass. Planning for that project is already under way and I understand tenders will be allocated as early as September. That project is in the pipeline and I am delighted the Government is continuing the good work, co-operation and cross-border negotiations it has established with the Queensland Government.
Tomorrow I intend to meet with the Canadian Consul General, Mr Alan Virtue, to discuss Canada’s threat to impose a 100 per cent tariff on North Coast sugar products exported to Canada. A breakdown in trade negotiations between the Australian and Canadian governments has led to the Canadian Government issuing a list of 52 rural products, including cane molasses from the North Coast, that will carry a 100 per cent import duty. It is not a huge amount of molasses that goes from the North Coast to Canada but a tariff will affect the success and profitability of that industry on the North Coast.
Most of the sugar that is exported from Australia to Canada comes from Queensland, but an import duty will cause problems on that market and farmers will have to look for another market for their sugar products. As a local member of Parliament I cannot sit by and watch quietly as North Coast exports are hit by this unfair and unreasonable import restriction. The tariff is due to come into effect on 6 July, so time is short, and I am making every effort to make sure the Canadian Government accepts our view that the import duty should not be put in place.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ STATEMENTS
REGIONAL MILK DELIVERIES
(Murray-Darling) [5.15 p.m.]: Yesterday the House debated a matter of public importance concerning fresh milk supplies to isolated areas in the bush. I appreciate the support of the honourable member for Barwon. I can advise the House tonight that we have achieved a great victory today in all areas with the exception of Ivanhoe. Honourable members will recall the initial issue concerned delivery of milk from Hay to Ivanhoe and subsequently from Nyngan to Bourke and from Nyngan to Cobar. During the matter of public importance I made reference to the cancellation of the contract for the run from Nyngan to Bourke. A fortnight’s notice was given on 11 June.
This afternoon Dairy Farmers contacted me and have delivered mightily. I acknowledge the interest of the media and of many other people in this matter. The bottom line is that Dairy Farmers will continue to deliver fresh milk to Cobar, Nyngan and Bourke, which means that the children of those three communities. as well as their mothers and families, will continue to receive fresh milk supplies. This is a great win for the schools. Kids will be able to go to the canteens in the confident expectation that they will be able to purchase one of those 600ml cartons of flavoured milk that we heard yesterday are sold in school canteens throughout Australia.
Murrumbidgee Dairy Products will continue to deliver fresh milk to Hay. There is a difference between Dairy Farmers and Murrumbidgee Dairy Products. They are two entirely different groups. Dairy Farmers did not deliver in the southern portion of the Murrumbidgee area. It is my understanding that - going back to the days of milk regulation, where this problem began - that Murrumbidgee Dairy Products had the right to deliver in that area. We still have not resolved the situation with respect to Ivanhoe. Ivanhoe is in the Murrumbidgee area and Murrumbidgee Dairy Products has decided not to continue to deliver milk to Ivanhoe because, according to my information, "to do so would add 12¢ to the price of every litre of milk sold in Ivanhoe".
This situation should be addressed forthwith. Country Labor will continue to do what it can to resolve the issue. I am as concerned as any member in this Chamber about kids everywhere being given what I regard is the basic right to consume fresh milk at home, in the school canteen and elsewhere. We have had a great win today. I have just been handed a media release on the matter. With our connections and with the support of the many people involved, we can be confident that with the one exception - Ivanhoe - fresh milk will continue to be delivered. Who knows, tomorrow we might solve the Ivanhoe problem as well.
HADLEY STREET, FORSTER, KERBING AND GUTTERING
Mr J. H. TURNER
(Myall Lakes - Deputy Leader of the National Party) [5.18 p.m.]: The Forster Public School is concerned about a street adjoining the school, Hadley Street. Hadley Street
runs along the eastern side of the school. It has very few houses in it. It is used almost exclusively as a pick-up and drop-off point for schoolchildren. Forster Public School has approximately 800 students, about 200 of whom are driven to school by private car. The road is not sealed from kerb to kerb and does not have kerbing and guttering. It is creating significant problems, not the least of which is a safety problem for the children. The council has advised that it is pointless installing kerbing and guttering without fully resealing the road. It estimates that the cost of upgrading the road will be about $200,000.
The council has approached the Department of Education and Training to seek funding assistance, bearing in mind that the road is used almost exclusively by those attending the school. The department has a policy of paying only for kerbing and guttering as opposed to the upgrading. It has offered to pay $10,000 which, I assume, is the cost of that kerbing and guttering. That creates a safety problem with picking up and dropping off the children. During wet weather it becomes extremely muddy and dangerous. Parents often back their cars onto the footpath to try to get the kids into the car without the mud. Obviously, that creates safety issues for pedestrians.
Governments of all persuasions are conscious of the need for safety around schools. The 40 kilometres per hour speed zones near schools and speed reduction when passing school buses while their lights are flashing are two such safety initiatives. However, those safety initiatives fall down particularly after examining the Hadley Street problems. Unsealed roads with no kerbing and guttering creates a safety hazard. Council spent a significant amount of money to upgrade Head Street on the north-eastern side by sealing it in its entirety and installing traffic-calming devices, et cetera, but that is not a convenient place for parents to drop off and pick up schoolchildren.
It is a busy road that connects Bennetts Head and One Mile Beach with the main thoroughfare to Forster. So, the children are dropped off and picked up in Hadley Street. I ask the Government to reconsider its decision and assist the council and the school community. I was approached by the parents and citizens association, the school council and many parents about this problem. I note the Government’s reluctance to accede to one of these requests because it believes the precedent will be set. However, because the road is used mainly to drop off and pick up schoolchildren - one has only to see the number of children coming to school in the morning or leaving in the afternoon to appreciate the safety factor - the Government should provide funds to assist the council and the school community to resolve the problem.
I do not want to be melodramatic, but I would not want an accident to occur merely for want of perhaps an extra $50,000 or $60,000 to upgrade Hadley Street to a condition that is conducive to providing a safe environment for the schoolchildren and the parents. We all appreciate that the many accidents around schools normally happen at the pick-up and drop-off points. I do not want to see anything happen at this particular site.
(Swansea) [5.23 p.m.]: Recently I had the pleasure of spending some time at the Belmont campus of the Hunter Institute of Technology and received a detailed briefing from its director, Gay Hart, and senior management about their plans for the future direction of Hunter TAFE generally and Belmont campus in particular. I visited a number of the excellent facilities and saw students in the flexible learning centres. Over the past five years TAFE has experienced phenomenal growth. It is projected that TAFE enrolment in this State will increase from 412,000 in 1995 to 445,000 in 1999-2000. Enrolment for TAFE courses at the Belmont campus in 1998 was 2,685 students, and a similar enrolment is envisaged for 1999.
The main student enrolments at Belmont are in the training division areas of building and construction, business services, engineering services, information technology, personal community services, basic and pre-vocational studies, and tourism and hospitality. To supplement and provide support for this range of courses the new Belmont campus library, which was completed in 1997, is now in its second full year of operation. The construction of the new library brought several benefits to the campus: a 46 per cent increase in library loans; implementation of new information literacy study skill programs; student access to increased availability and use of Internet and CD-ROM; and improved support for flexible delivery students. Saturday opening hours were negotiated with faculties to enhance access and service for flexible delivery students.
A flexible delivery centre for fitting and machining was developed in 1997 and has proved to be highly successful, with students studying a range of modules in delivery modes and at rates of progression specifically tailored to individual needs. In 1998 an amount of $90,000 was allocated for the development of an outdoor area for child studies.
This complements the current classroom facilities and has extended the range of possible child study activities at the Belmont campus. A complete computer laboratory was upgraded last year and equipped with new Pentium II computers. The most exciting aspect of my visit to the Belmont campus was the call centre training.
On Friday 26 March the Hunter Institute of Technology launched its new call centre training facility at the Belmont campus. It is the first of its kind outside the Sydney area. The main training venue is a computer room. Industry standard individual headsets were purchased and Telstra donated 12 telephone handsets that have been wired to student desks to ensure a sense of realism in the training facility. At the launch Telstra’s Newcastle representative, Martin Coates, spoke of the excellent career opportunities for students who complete the Certificate II in Telemarketing (Telephone Consultant) course conducted this year at the Belmont campus.
The Hunter institute’s faculty director for business administration, Harold Smithson, said that closer links are being forged with a number of call centres, including Telstra. These links will enable students to enhance their skills through practical work experience in actual call centres. I thank Telstra for its generosity and interest in helping to establish the centre at Belmont. Another innovation at the campus is the flexible delivery metal fabrication unit. As part of its commitment to flexible delivery, the Institute is expending a further $346,000 for the construction of a metal fabrication flexible delivery centre at Belmont campus. The project is due for completion next week. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend its opening due to my parliamentary commitments.
The flexible delivery centres for fitting and machining and metal fabrication will complement each other and constitute a centre of excellence in the provision of flexible delivery options for students of metal fabrication and fitting and machining. The item contained in Tuesday’s budget that was of great interest to Belmont TAFE students was the allocation of approximately $677,000 earmarked for the construction of a new canteen. [Time expired
BALLINA SOUTHERN CROSS SCHOOL
Mr D. L. PAGE
(Ballina) [5.28 p.m.]: Recently I visited the relatively new Southern Cross K-12 school at east Ballina. It is a combined primary and secondary school on adjoining sites, sharing facilities. One exciting aspect of this school is its enthusiastic support for children with disabilities through the school’s special education program. This is important to the Ballina community because east Ballina has an early intervention centre that recognises the needs of young children with disabilities before they progress to primary and secondary school. However, when I was invited to Southern Cross school to hear at first-hand the concerns of parents of children with disabilities, I became aware that the staffing formula governing the allocation of teacher aides requires urgent review. This is particularly so in primary aged support units.
These support units are attended by children with disabilities ranging from moderate to severe. The children have autism, spina bifida and other disabilities. The problem is that there are too few teacher aides for too many children with disabilities. Children with moderate or severe disabilities need a lot of one-on-one attention from both the teacher and the teacher aide.
When I inspected the learning environment I found wonderful teachers and teacher aides doing everything they could to help and look after the disabled children. However, while the teacher is giving one-on-one lessons and the teacher aide is probably giving a one-on-one lesson, which incidentally lasts for 10 minutes, the other six or seven children in the class, who have short attention spans, tend to get involved in disruptive behaviour, which in turn interrupts the one-on-one lessons.
We must ask ourselves where the quality education is in that situation. In the case of Southern Cross the K-6 support unit has 37 students. This consists of five classes, four of which are composite. This support unit of 37 children with disabilities has only 4.2 teacher aides. That is about one teacher aide for every eight or nine students. Clearly that is not enough, especially when one considers that teacher aides must cover class work time, special feeding, hygiene needs, outside lunchtime and inside lunchtime supervision and integration time.
The blunt fact is that the existing staffing formula for support units does not provide sufficient staff to deliver a quality education outcome. If members opposite want evidence of this they need only attend these classes, as I did. More than likely they would find in each class one or more volunteer parents assisting the teacher and teacher aide with supervision for the disabled children. Although many parent volunteers are happy to help out, they are usually in difficult economic circumstances - circumstances that would be assisted if they could find employment to help with the family’s finances,
rather than doubling their workload by having the onerous task of caring for these children not only at home but also at school.
One outcome of not properly resourcing support units is that few children with disabilities will attain a standard that enables them to be integrated into the mainstream learning environment. This is an important problem because a key objective of education for disabled children is to maximise their opportunities to be integrated. One irony of the current arrangements is that if children with disabilities are assessed and deemed suitable for integration into a normal school life they receive a personal teacher aide. In other words, children with disabilities who are in the mainstream receive one-on-one support, but those in support units who are trying to attain a standard to be integrated do not have the same level of support.
Clearly, more resources need to be devoted to support units if disabled children are to be given a fair go. I was told that at Southern Cross much of the time of teacher aides is taken up with feeding children, changing nappies and the like, and the amount of genuine one-on-one learning time is minimal. One teacher told me that 90 per cent of the time of one autistic child at the support unit is unproductive. This in no way reflects on the teacher or teacher aides. On the contrary; they do a fantastic job in exceptionally challenging circumstances. The problem is that they are not receiving the back-up they need to deliver a better outcome for the children.
When I raised this matter in correspondence with the Minister in March this year he indicated that the Department of Education and Training is undertaking a review of all special education staffing formulae and supplementary allocations to schools for specific purposes and support classes during 1999. I hope that this is a genuine review and not merely a means of flick passing the resourcing issue into the too-hard basket. I would be grateful if the Minister could take a personal interest in the staffing formula for teaching children with disabilities. These children and their parents already have an uphill battle in life. They do not need more problems visited on them because the Government is too tired or too disinterested to take serious action to fix the problem.
ROADS AND TRAFFIC AUTHORITY AND Mr JAMES WEATHERBURN
(Newcastle - Parliamentary Secretary) [5.33 p.m.]: Mr Jim Weatherburn came to my office on Monday of this week because he is concerned that he is about to be medically retired by his employer, the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA]. Mr Weatherburn has been employed by the RTA for the past 19 years. Although this was my first meeting with Mr Weatherburn, I have no doubt that he is a competent worker and has a strong conviction to continue working, and to continue working for the RTA.
Mr Weatherburn was suffering from arthritis and had two hip replacement operations. He underwent a medical appraisal by HealthQuest, which determined that he was no longer capable of carrying out the duties assigned to him. Mr Weatherburn contacted his trade union, the Australian Services Union [ASU], and Mr Frank Rabbitt from the ASU accompanied him to meetings with the RTA. At those meetings Mr Rabbitt advocated strongly that Mr Weatherburn had a long history as a competent worker and that work should be available to him. I had discussions with Mr Rabbitt and he supplied me with information about his involvement in the matter. It is important that I read that information onto the record. Mr Rabbitt wrote a letter to me which stated:
Jim Weatherburn has been an R.T.A. employee for approx. (19) years. His present classification is an Inspector of (Motor) Vehicles Regulation, Hunter Region and at a meeting with the Regional Manager in Newcastle on last Friday, 18th June, he was given a letter advising him that in view of the fact he can no longer carry out the full duties of an Inspector Vehicle Regulations the R.T.A. finds it necessary to retire him on medical grounds effective from 24 June 1999.
The reason for his medical retirement is that he has suffered from osteoarthritis of his hip joints and underwent surgical treatment in 1996 for his right hip and in 1997 for his left hip.
Mr Weatherburn was so concerned about the determination that he was no longer fit that he appealed against it. However, after he had been sent to HealthQuest, his appeal was turned down by the appeals panel. Mr Rabbitt further said:
Mr Weatherburn was sent by the R.T.A. to an assessment by HealthQuest, who advised R.T.A. that he could not carry out the full duties prescribed for the Inspector Vehicle Regulation position. He appealed this decision to the Medical Appeals Panel and this has been declined.
Mr Weatherburn then applied under freedom of information provisions for a copy of the reports from the two doctors who examined him for the appeal. He was concerned to find that the opinion of the two doctors differed from that of HealthQuest, and that they felt he could continue to work. It seems harsh that Mr Weatherburn is to be medically retired, given his commitment and long service to the RTA. I raised this matter today with the office of the Minister for Transport. Although the office
was given short notice, I am pleased that it has taken up the matter. I hope that a place can be found for Mr Weatherburn in the RTA. He has given years of service, and he is still committed to the RTA and to work. As a man of 62 years of age Mr Weatherburn’s skills should be recognised and a place in the RTA should be found for him. I thank the Minister’s staff for moving so quickly on this matter.
CROSS-BORDER DEVELOPMENT POLICIES
(Murrumbidgee) [5.38 p.m.]: I raise the important issue in the electorate of Murrumbidgee of cross-border anomalies and the differential between Victoria and New South Wales in terms of development. The electorate of Murrumbidgee shares a border with Victoria for about 200 kilometres. For the benefit of members who have not seen a fence line in the country, one side of the fence is often overgrazed and the other side has been managed and grazed correctly. The difference is very noticeable. On the overgrazed side there is ravaged land and not a great deal of growth or potential. On the other side is lush greenery, grass, trees and native fauna and flora.
The Murray River is like a dividing fence, the New South Wales side being like an overgrazed, badly managed property and the Victorian side being like a well-managed property. On occasion the Premier has enjoyed comparing himself to the Premier of Victoria, although I cannot see that there is any comparison. However, if the Premier wishes do so he should compare the development opportunities that the Victorian Premier gives his State, particularly country and rural areas, with those that he gives New South Wales. It is with great disappointment that the people in southern country New South Wales watch industry after industry move to Victoria because it has far more positive economic and development policies.
A large tomato producer has moved to Echuca and other industries have moved to Victoria. On many occasions in Albury-Wodonga developers have moved to the Victorian side of the border. One reason is the cost of registering motor vehicles. In Victoria registration costs are about one-quarter of those in New South Wales. I have heard anecdotal stories of people in New South Wales gaining an address in Victoria so that they can register their motor vehicles there and save hundreds of dollars. That is unfortunate because southern New South Wales has great potential for development and the electorate of Murrumbidgee is a shining light in that respect. It has one of the lowest unemployment rates, not only in New South Wales but in Australia.
There are huge developments under way and it has huge development potential. I was disappointed that the budget did not give much support to southern New South Wales to help it retain development and business or to prevent businesses from leaving for Victoria. The budget has not assisted in enticing industries to New South Wales. I was disappointed also that funding was not allocated for the bridge at Moama, because Echuca has a large tomato-producing industry which sources a great deal of its tomatoes from the Murrumbidgee electorate and transports them to the Murray River on road trains.
However, because the bridge at Echuca is inadequate the road trains have to be uncoupled and the trailers taken over one at a time, thus incurring an enormous transport cost and causing considerable inconvenience. The Federal Government has allocated substantial funding for the bridge but the State Government has not matched that contribution. Country and southern New South Wales must be looked after. In an earlier debate members expressed great hope for the future of rural New South Wales. It has a wonderful future but it needs the support of government to allow it to maximise its potential for business and industry development.
(Mount Druitt - Minister for Agriculture, and Minister for Land and Water Conservation) [5.43 p.m.]: First I express disappointment that a member who represents an electorate with a proud agricultural history has highlighted the benefits of agricultural production in Victoria rather than his own electorate, which is regarded as the food bowl of Australia. He seemed to suggest there is something wrong with the way the New South Wales farmers administer their farms, and he highlighted his opinion that Victoria’s administration is more beneficial to those on the land. He did not tell the House that the land on the Victorian side of the border is freehold land and, therefore, people are able to transfer it from one use to another more easily.
In many parts of southern New South Wales, particularly in the Murray-Darling area, the land is Crown land and is therefore subject to native title. It is misleading, therefore, to simply compare one side of the river with the other, especially in light of the legal implications. I reject totally the claim that New South Wales farmers do not manage land as efficiently as their Victorians counterparts. I am disappointed that farmers in New South Wales have been criticised because of the way in which they manage their land and the grazing of their cattle. The Murrumbidgee area has record production in rice, it is a wonderful wine-growing area and its
fruit and vegetable markets are expanding into overseas countries. The farmers in that area deserve much kinder treatment than they have received here this evening.
SYDNEY 2000 BAND TOWN PROJECT
(Bathurst) [5.45 p.m.]: I speak on a matter of great importance to the city of Bathurst. I refer to its selection earlier this year by the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games [SOCOG] as the training venue for the Sydney 2000 Band Town project. The Bathurst community, led by Bathurst City Council, beat strong competition to be selected. The bonus for Bathurst was that as many as 2,500 people, mostly from overseas, would be accommodated in Bathurst in the weeks leading up to the Olympic opening ceremony as the band went through its practice routine.
Earlier today the board of SOCOG reversed its decision and cancelled the international component of the massed segment of the opening ceremony. SOCOG gave as its reasons the very strong opposition to the proposal and the fact that the original concept of an international band had been reduced to participation by two countries, the United States of America and Japan. To say that SOCOG’s backflip was greeted with dismay in Bathurst is a gross understatement. In correspondence to the Minister for the Olympics today the Mayor of Bathurst, Ian McIntosh, said:
To say that the City is disappointed and disillusioned is an understatement. The hosting of the Sydney 2000 Band Town project will see at least $2-3 million injected into the community as well as being a major opportunity to promote Bathurst, NSW and Australia to the world.
The Olympics give Australia an opportunity to display its multi national flavour and this allows us to fully embrace the fraternal feeling of the Olympic Games.
The community of Bathurst has worked long and hard to be nominated the host site and the community bid included schools in the area altering their holiday times, tremendous commitment from Charles Sturt University to make available all their facilities and the embracing of the project by the community as a whole to make a wonderful experience for the people involved.
I would ask that you consider positive aspects of the project which include NSW sharing in what are the Olympic Games for Australia and not only Sydney. This is a very important opportunity for Bathurst and NSW to highlight the positives of the Olympics and we should not let the local minority hijack a fantastic opportunity for all of us to participate in the Year 2000 Olympic Games.
Bathurst has been very supportive of all SOCOG’s promotional activities in this area. This support will completely evaporate if the Band project [is scuttled].
I will strongly lobby SOCOG to ensure that the city of Bathurst is still included as the training centre for Australian bands involved in the opening ceremony and that the city is given recognition for the work and costs involved to date. I hope that SOCOG will increase the number involved in the original project from 600 to 2,000, so that the community receives acknowledgment for the preparation it has done and the expectation it had of being a rural centre sharing in the benefits of the Olympic Games. In analysing the decision of SOCOG today, it is important to raise a number of matters which have not been alluded to in the media or on talkback radio, which has hijacked and influenced the decision.
Of the 10,000 people participating in the opening ceremony, only 1,400 are from overseas. Given that the Olympic Games is an international event, albeit it will be hosted in Australia, a figure of 14 per cent of the participants in the ceremony welcoming athletes from around the world is not unreasonable. The Olympics are not only for Sydney; they are for all Australia. Cancellation of the event will mean widespread loss of support for the Games outside the Sydney area. That is something that SOCOG and the Government have worked hard to avoid.
If the project is lost significant future tourist opportunities for Bathurst and New South Wales will also be lost as it was expected that large numbers of the international press would come to Bathurst to run special interest stories relating to the training of the band. It is a pity that the media and talkback radio have had such an influence on the decision because it does nothing for Australia’s image overseas as a visionary inclusive society not dominated by narrow parochialism.
SYDNEY 2000 OLYMPICS
(Baulkham Hills) [5.50 p.m.]: The Sydney 2000 Olympics will give many people a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of an historic event. The people in my electorate have indicated their desire to share in the spirit of the Games. Recently it was announced that people from Baulkham Hills had made the second largest number of applications for Games tickets. In May 1994 I organised an Olympic information night for people in my electorate so that we could be at the forefront of planning for the Sydney 2000 Games. That was the first of a number of information nights which have been held during the past five years.
Baulkham Hills residents have been extremely enthusiastic to learn about the planning for the Sydney 2000 Games. Indeed, my electorate secretary
has regularly attended briefings organised by the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games [SOCOG], which have been held every couple of months at SOCOG headquarters in Ultimo commencing at the early hour of 7.30 a.m. She welcomed the advent of the M2 city express bus which she catches at 6.30 a.m. from Baulkham Hills. That now allows her a little extra time to sleep in.
My electorate secretary arrives back at the electorate office with something new to report to me, which I in turn pass on to the residents of Baulkham Hills via my newspaper columns, press releases or newsletters. When such information is received many telephone calls come into the electorate office from interested people who are perhaps seeking additional information or merely wishing to discuss the Games generally. It comes as no surprise to me that Baulkham Hills is in second place on the list of ticket applications. Baulkham Hills is also up near the top of the list of the number of inquiries made about participation in the Games residential accommodation program, whether it be home stay - vacant home accommodation - or home host, which is hosted home accommodation.
I was, therefore, concerned to read today in the Hills News
and the Hills Shire Times
that the passage of the Olympic torch relay through Baulkham Hills shire has been put on hold following what has been described as council’s reluctance to sign a principles of co-operation document with SOCOG. Council is seeking more information as to its position to ensure a safe and uninhibited passage of the torch through the shire. On making inquiries of a council officer I was informed that council is seeking clarification before signing off on that document. I can fully understand the need to ensure that the document is completely understood. Indeed, council has a responsibility to do so.
I have also been informed that two organisers of the SOCOG torch relay have been invited to attend the meeting of the Baulkham Hills shire council on 6 July. I trust that everything can be resolved to the satisfaction of council and SOCOG on that day. The Olympic torch relay is scheduled to pass through Baulkham Hills shire between 9.00 a.m. and 11.30 a.m. on Wednesday 13 September 2000. It is estimated that more than 600 volunteers will be required to provide a minimum level of control along the torch relay route. I assure the House that the number of people who volunteer for all sorts of projects in the Baulkham Hills community must be one of the highest in the State. We are well served with community volunteers who are prepared to help other people.
I hope this issue can be resolved as quickly as possible with council and SOCOG so that the opportunity to share in the torch relay will be available to the many enthusiastic Sydney 2000 Games supporters who live in The Hills district. As one councillor said, it is the shire’s sole opportunity to be directly involved. The people of Baulkham Hills are interested in the Olympic Games. That interest has been expressed for some five years and it is manifested by the number of tickets that have been ordered. I ask the council to meet with SOCOG and work out an acceptable solution to ensure that the torch relay passes through Baulkham Hills. That will enable the residents of Baulkham Hills to celebrate this great occasion, which will not only involve Baulkham Hills but New South Wales and the whole of Australia.
BOBS FARM HAMLET
(Port Stephens) [5.55 p.m.]: The purpose of my private member’s statement is to bring to the attention of the Parliament the problem being faced by the hamlet of Bobs Farm, which is in the electorate of Port Stephens, where there is a problem with inundation of housing. In many ways it is a microcosm of what is occurring in small coastal areas along the New South Wales coastline. Bobs Farm stretches some 15 to 20 kilometres along Nelson Bay Road and has, as an access to properties, Marsh Road, which follows a low-lying corridor instead of rising into the nearby sandhills.
Marsh Road runs parallel to Nelson Bay Road and in many places acts as a levee bank for residences and farms between Marsh Road and Nelson Bay Road. At high tide and storm-surge periods Marsh Road is often topped by salt water. Tilligerry Creek, a salt backwater of Port Stephens, in turn parallels Marsh Road. Marsh Road forms approximately half the area of Bobs Farm, residences and farms. The Marsh Road community faces problems with the restoration and repair of levee banks and associated drains within properties on the Tilligerry Creek side of Marsh Road, which is within State environmental planning policy 14 [SEPP 14] wetlands 808A and 811A.
Most of the land in those areas is in private ownership and construction of the levee was privately funded, not government funded, in years gone by. Historically the area was a market garden and oyster processing area. Before the Second World War farmers built eight kilometres of levee banks, often on public land, and maintained the levee banks to enable their market gardening to proceed. As times and the economy changed, the
levee banks deteriorated and often failed to protect even the residences, as happened with the high tides early this month.
Today a number of problems confront the owners. Under SEPP 14 an environmental impact statement [EIS] needs to be undertaken to enable levee bank restoration and repair to occur. In the past at low tide material was removed from drains and from alongside the levee and used to build the levee. As many of the properties were relatively small, an individual EIS was too expensive to undertake. In fact, Port Stephens Council prepared an EIS for the property owners in globo and approved a development application, which has operated from 14 August 1995, that sets out conditions under which the levee bank restoration could be undertaken.
The plot thickens. My electorate has some 50,000 to 60,000 hectares of low-lying land with soils potentially containing acid sulphate. It is estimated that that is 10 per cent of all acid sulphate in New South Wales. In its natural state, underwater and undisturbed, acid sulphate soil is not a problem. When the pyrites in the soil are exposed to the air - by placing it on a levee bank, for example - a slug or a bubble of acid sulphate works out into the nearby ecosystem, threatening oysters, fish nurseries and the fishing industry. Therefore, soil from beside the levee cannot be used, and the only way to maintain the levee would be to import material. That is prohibitively expensive for landowners and thus was not taken up by them. Ignoring the acid sulphate soil problem places at risk the fishing and oyster industries of Port Stephens. In my opinion, the ongoing cost of repairing the levy is beyond the resources of this Government and the local council.
I commend the Government’s Hexham Swamp property buy-back, which took place last Christmas. The land along Marsh Road will revert to wetlands if allowed to. I ask the Minister for Agriculture, and Minister for Land and Water Conservation to consider the purchase of properties on the Tilligerry Creek side of Marsh Road, if the owners wish to sell, to solve the problem on a long-term basis, so that the area will return to the wetlands that it once was. I realise that there are some 1500 wetlands in New South Wales, but I also know that the inundation problem of housing will not go away. We need a long-term solution to the problem, because the maintenance of eight kilometres of levee banks is beyond the means of government. [Time expired.
(Mount Druitt - Minister for Agriculture, and Minister for Land and Water Conservation) [6.00 p.m.]: I thank the honourable member for Port Stephens for bringing this important issue to the attention of the House. Quite obviously, he will follow the example of his predecessor, Bob Martin, in making strong representations on behalf of his electorate. I turn now to the problem being faced by the hamlet of Bobs Farm, near Williamtown. I accept the concluding point made by the honourable member that a long-term solution is needed. He raised the purchase of properties on the Tilligerry Creek side of Marsh Road and return of the area to wetlands as one alternative. I will test community support for that and consider the honourable member’s proposal.
The State Government’s recent announcement of $2.7 million towards the cost of rehabilitating Hexham Swamp was, as I explained, a good win for the local community. However, I must emphasise that the Hexham Swamp project involved a series of detailed studies and extensive community consultation. I am sure the honourable member would agree that the same probably would be needed for the Bobs Farm area. I have made some preliminary inquiries with the Department of Land and Water Conservation, which has informed me that the council could proceed to develop and implement a flood plain management plan specifically to address the levee issue.
Financial assistance would be available from the State Government if council and the local community wished to go down that path. The flood plain management plan could include provision for land acquisition. I will ask the department’s regional staff to contact council next week so that those options can be discussed and progressed. The department already has had a significant input to the environmental impact statement process mentioned by the honourable member for Port Stephens regarding the acid sulphate soils issue and has carried out extensive soil surveys of the area. Again I thank the honourable member for bringing the matter to the attention of the House. I will respond to the matter he raised at a later date.
ARMIDALE POLICE STATION
(Northern Tablelands) [6.02 p.m.]: I raise a matter important not only to the police in the Northern Tablelands electorate but also to all police within the State who are required to work in substandard and antiquated conditions that defy efficiency, ignore occupational health and safety issues and pose a serious risk of further deaths in custody. To my knowledge, the upgrade of the Armidale police station has been the subject of numerous representations over more than 30 years. It is little comfort to me to be told that it is
currently second on the priority list within the region, when realistically it is probably not on the top 50 list in New South Wales. Past history indicates that rural New South Wales priorities constantly get put in the too-hard category and shuffled to the bottom of the pack.
Let me describe the existing police complex and its inadequacies, and why I fear it is a potential candidate for deaths in custody, and why I believe it does not observe even the basic provisions of occupational health and safety. The police station houses a cell complex that dates back to the 1880s. It is austere in the extreme and is heritage listed. Only one of the three operational cells complies with prevention of deaths in custody requirements. One cell partially complies, and the other is not used. I have grave concerns about the adequacy of the facility, particularly where more than one category of prisoner is in custody.
I am aware that males, females and juveniles in custody must be separated, yet the nearest juvenile facility is more than 400 kilometres away in either Newcastle or Sydney. Armidale police station is one of only two 24-hour police stations in my electorate covering more than 30,000 square kilometres. From time to time the cells are required to house prisoners from Tenterfield, a further 200 kilometres north of Armidale. Deaths in custody is a genuine fear. There is a significant Aboriginal population in the electorate. Armidale alone has a 10 per cent Aboriginal population. The Aboriginal population in some Northern Tablelands electorate communities is as high as 30 per cent. Conditions at the Armidale police station, apart from being harsh for the police and those in custody, are extremely unfriendly to service providers and others who need to use that facility. There are no suitable rooms for victims, and there are inadequate provisions for solicitors or relatives needing to see prisoners. The communications room is at the entrance to the cell complex, meaning that non-police staff are often subject to abuse, threats and bad language.
The current police station was not built for police work but as a residence. Modifications have turned it into a rabbit warren of small, unsuitable, rooms. The building is heritage listed. This poses major problems with maintenance, upgrades and efficient use of space. The police complex comprises three other brick buildings, two of which originally were residential houses. The buildings are not airconditioned, nor do they have internal access or cover between buildings. Consequently there is a real security problem in transferring prisoners between the buildings. The three separate buildings are not 24-hour complexes, and there have been a number of instances of the premises being subjected to vandalism and trespassing.
The buildings house 40 operational police staff and 10 administrative staff within the New England area command. The fragmented nature of the complex leads to many inefficiencies. There is little opportunity for staff to interact and share police knowledge and to support each others’ work. I fully support the police work in my electorate and throughout New South Wales. That work is always difficult, and I wish it to be noted in this forum that the police do a great job under the most adverse of conditions. Over the past 30 years there have been innumerable representations, inspections, submissions and promises to upgrade the Armidale police station. The Government would not tolerate the current working environment of the Armidale police in any other sector of the public service. Indeed the Government has a duty, as it demands of other employers, to provide a safe and healthy work environment. I quote from a recent memorandum from the Speaker addressed to me as a member:
All employers are required under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1983 to accept a duty of care for the health and safety of all people in the workplace.
This condition of employment is currently denied members of the Police Service in the Northern Tablelands electorate. The Government must practise what it preaches and translate promises into action. I call on the Minister to urgently review the upgrade of the Armidale police station.
(Strathfield - Minister for Police) [6.07 p.m.]: I heard part of the statement made by the honourable member for Northern Tablelands. I want to remind him and the House that the Government has just delivered its fifth consecutive record police budget. It is another record capital works program for the Police Service, and a 90 per cent improvement on last year’s budget, which was itself a record budget. The matter that the honourable member referred to was in the nature of a capital works program. I could say a number of things about the honourable member for Northern Tablelands. I will say, first, that he has made more speeches about his electorate in the short period of time he has been a member of this House than his predecessor made in the many years he was in this place.
Secondly, the Government is looking after programs of the ilk to which he referred on the basis of need. To suggest that a police station in a Labor electorate receives better treatment than one in a non-government electorate - as Opposition members have been asserting in this Parliament - is fallacious.
I can assure the honourable member that funding is allocated on the basis of recommendations made to me by the Police Service as to when repairs, restoration or maintenance program works are to be completed. I will take on board what the honourable member has said and give him a response one way or the other.
When he reports back to his constituents I would like him to remind them that the Police Service in New South Wales is the recipient of yet another record budget and that this is the fifth year in a row that the Government has allocated a record budget for the Police Service. If the honourable member looked at the capital works programs of the former Coalition government he would find it was probably less than $10 million or $15 million. This year, under Labor, the allocation is $93 million. The Government is conscious of the need to adhere to occupational health and safety requirements for police officers and staff throughout the State. We want our police to have top-class working conditions, certainly conditions complying with occupational health and safety requirements. This Government has already given police salaries that make them the highest paid police officers in Australia.
ISOLATED PATIENTS TRAVEL AND ACCOMMODATION ASSISTANCE SERVICE
Mr R. H. L. SMITH
(Bega) [6.09 p.m.]: On Tuesday I tabled a petition containing 527 signatures, mainly from people who live in the southern half of the Bega Valley shire related to the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Service, commonly referred to as IPTAAS. In answer to a question without notice late last year, the former Minister for Health made much of the fact that an additional $400,000 had been put into IPTAAS. I cannot imagine where that money has gone. Until recently I received complaints on a regular basis from people who had waited six or seven months to receive payments. However, people are now calling to say that they have waited more than 12 months to receive payments.
I cite one example. Mr Robin Willis of Merimbula lodged a claim in February 1998. He finally received a cheque at the end of May 1999 - 15 months after lodgment. The paperwork accompanying the payment indicated that the account was processed on 28 January 1999. My files are full of such cases. The standard economy return air fare from Merimbula to Sydney is $441. If one is able to get an Apex fare it will cost $267. Conditions requiring a visit to a medical specialist seldom involve just one visit. There is no public transport from the Bega Valley to Sydney. A return ticket with a private bus company will cost $79, but that trip can take between 10 and 11 hours from Merimbula. Can honourable members imagine sitting on a bus with a sick child for that length of time? If one is able to drive oneself, it will take six hours. A trip of that length with a child who is in pain would be intolerable. If the treatment is for an adult, undertaking a car journey of that length may simply be out of the question.
It is no small task to organise a petition of this magnitude in a country area, but Mrs Debbie Wilson organised this one. It would have involved a degree of determination and motivation at the outset. She would then have had to devise appropriate wording, type up the petition, photocopy it, run it around to various outlets in the area - which, I believe, were mainly doctors’ surgeries and pharmacies in Tura Beach, Merimbula, Pambula and Eden. That exercise is in no way equivalent to a similar exercise in a city electorate, driving around a few streets in one or two suburbs. Mrs Wilson would have spent a considerable amount of time, and money, and would have driven a considerable number of miles.
It is therefore quite disturbing that in her covering letter to me Mrs Wilson stated that both a member of the local health council and a staff member of the Southern Area Health Service told her that such petitions were "useless and ignored by politicians unless they are in the figures of 20,000 plus". I believe that to be an outrageous comment. As I stated earlier, this petition was collected from a very small proportion of my electorate. I assure the House that the sentiments expressed in the petition are echoed by residents in the remainder of the Bega Valley shire, the Eurobodalla shire and the southern part of the Shoalhaven City Council area, which is also in my electorate. But we will wait to see how the new Minister for Health reacts to this petition. If it is simply ignored, as apparently Health Department staff have intimated will be the case, then it does indeed send a clear message that the concerns of my constituents on the far South Coast are of no concern to this city-based Government.
I call on the Minister to acknowledge that waiting more than 12 months for reimbursement of costs associated with travelling long distances to receive specialist medical treatment is not acceptable. I call on the Minister to also immediately allocate more funds into IPTAAS so that at least the constant worry about the cost of trips is removed from the distress involved in times of ill-health. I will explain why people in my area receive IPTAAS payments. When people live in low population areas, a long way from metropolitan
areas, they do not have specialist treatment available, and we accept that. IPTAAS compensates us to some extent for the travel and accommodation costs incurred in getting to specialists.
Private members’ statements noted.
[Mr Acting-Speaker (Mr Lynch) left the chair at 6.14 p.m. The House resumed at 7.30 p.m
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
ELECTRICITY SUPPLY AMENDMENT BILL
PAY-ROLL TAX AMENDMENT (FURTHER RATE REDUCTION) BILL
PUBLIC FINANCE AND AUDIT AMENDMENT (CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS) BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
(Vaucluse) [7.30 p.m.]: Treasurer Egan delivered the fifth Carr Government budget on Tuesday. The budget was preceded by weeks of great secrecy. Secrecy has become the hallmark of the Carr Government. Amidst the secrecy, many people were asking as they waited for the budget, "Can a souffle rise five times?" On Tuesday we heard the answer. Yes, Treasurer Egan’s souffle budget can rise five times, but only for a short while. Treasurer Egan’s puffed-up budget was topped with the regulation sprinkling of seemingly good news. But, after a day, Treasurer Egan’s souffle budgets always collapse in on themselves because the fundamentals are designed that way. They are only meant to last through a day of media attention. Since Tuesday the real nature of the budget has been leaking out, despite the Government doing all in its power to minimise the available information.
The ingredients in this budget are simply wrong. Taxes are high in New South Wales, and they will stay high after this budget. The Treasurer’s surplus is very much a token surplus at this stage of the economic cycle. Reform of the Carr Government’s bureaucracy is stalled. Using the traditional well-documented approach, instead of getting the body of the bureaucracy into shape the Treasurer is cutting off the fingers and toes at the front line. Fat cats are protected while the workers are out in the cold. Those most in need in this State are not getting the resources they need.
The Leader of the Opposition best characterised the fifth Egan budget. It is the budget of a thousand cuts. The Government will bleed in a thousand ways for a thousand days. It is also a trifecta. It is trifecta of gambling, waste and hypocrisy. The Government’s addiction to gambling revenue should be an embarrassment to all members of the House. Gambling is one of the major social issues in New South Wales, and for the past four years the Government has refused to confront the problem. One day Parliament will have to address that problem, and I hope it will be soon. It is not only with gambling revenue that we characterise this budget. It is gambling with the prospect of limitless economic prosperity.
The Carr Government is hoping the good times will roll on. They have for a number of years and the Treasurer has spent every dollar he has received, but it will not go on forever. The Carr Government is also gambling with the livelihoods of front-line workers. As I said before, the fat cats are protected by this Government. The fatted bureaucracy is protected but the front-line workers have been sacrificed, and we will see more of that over the coming months. The second leg of the trifecta is waste. The Government continues to waste millions. The Council on the Cost of Government does not feature in the budget papers, and it should not. Over the past four years the council has cost taxpayers $11 million. It delivered several reports addressing waste, with some suggestions, but any savings accruing from those reports are certainly debatable. We are yet to see the Government document any particular savings that would flow from those council reports.
Last year Parliament put a finish date on the council of 1 May this year. That date has come and gone. The Carr Government continued illegally funding the council anyway. The Auditor-General has been asked to investigate this gross waste, and we look forward to his report later in the year. In addition, the Carr Government has written off $286 million in the past four years and it is likely to do the same again this year, with the current figure being well over $100 million. In fact, this Government could cost taxpayers up to $1 billion as it writes off hundreds of millions of dollars each year. We will continue to expose the waste of the Carr Government. It is limitless and ranges from small legal expenses to satisfy the egos of some Ministers to those major write-offs involving hundreds of millions of dollars.
The third leg of the Government’s trifecta is hypocrisy. The fundamentals of the budget expose the Government’s hypocrisy. The Carr Government does not manage; it rides. It has ridden on the back of the Howard Government’s economic boom and has spent every dollar it reaped and more. Yesterday I tried to raise an issue in this House and I would like to raise it again now. I suggest that before the Premier leaves the House tonight he sends that letter to the Prime Minister. The letter should address a number of things. It should say, "Congratulations, Prime Minister, on your economic management and visionary reform which has insulated New South Wales from the Asian crisis." It should say, "Thank you, Prime Minister, for delivering 4.5 per cent economic growth when this time last year the New South Wales Treasurer said only 3 per cent would be possible." It should say, "Thank you, Prime Minister, for continuing to deliver low inflation of 1.5 per cent, when the New South Wales Treasurer said it would be only 2.25 per cent."
The letter should also say, "Thank you, Prime Minister, for giving New South Wales such confidence and strength that New South Wales Treasury accidentally collected an extra $1.1 billion in taxes this year, without which New South Wales would have been $680 million in the red." It should say, "Thank you, Prime Minister, for agreeing to fund New South Wales’ token payroll tax cuts." It should say, "Thank you, Prime Minister, for your generous half billion dollars in Commonwealth funding for New South Wales." It should say, "Thank you, Prime Minister, because New South Wales Labor is most grateful that you stick to your guns on economic reform and deliver business and investor confidence." The letter should also say, "Good luck and godspeed to you, Prime Minister, in your ongoing battle against Federal Labor, those economic Luddites who wish to block and destroy all that you are achieving in employment and growth for the people of New South Wales."
As the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday, New South Wales is now ill-prepared for the bad times but the Carr Government could not even tackle the good times. I would like to refer to a number of issues. The first is performance budgeting. As we approach the new millennium Parliament needs to look forward as well as be mindful of accountability issues. The Treasurer announced in his June 1995 financial statement that performance budgeting would be introduced incrementally in New South Wales. Four years later performance budgeting remains a dream. The outputs and outcomes that are documented in the budget papers are token gestures only, and they should be an embarrassment to the Treasurer of New South Wales. They should also be an embarrassment to Treasury. New South Wales must get serious about performance budgeting and Treasury must lead the way. Treasury and the Premier’s Department should be leading the way, and they are not.
I am also disappointed that there is no new legislation updating the Public Finance and Audit Act. In July last year a discussion paper was issued suggesting the need to update our financial management legislation. Even though an extensive discussion occurred at the time, there does not appear to be any progress towards that new framework for New South Wales. I agree with the paper that we are working with outdated legislation, but we also need to update the leadership. In 1989-90 the Greiner Government introduced forward estimates of Consolidated Fund recurrent expenditure, providing a three-year outlook. These have now been expanded to four years and that is progress in this State. Government outputs and outcomes must also be addressed. They are projected for one year in these budget papers. The Government should seriously consider projecting them for the entire forward estimates. Only then will we ensure that Government Ministers and departments deliver to the people of New South Wales. Currently we are suffering with year-to-year juggling in the budgetary process.
The Carr Government must have the courage to forward plan effectively and deliver worthwhile, measurable outcomes. We must move toward forward estimates of outputs and outcomes for all departments. It will not be that tough; I am sure the Government can manage it - people around the world have been doing it for decades. I challenge the Government to do so in next year’s budget. Each month the Treasurer receives reports on government expenditure. The public does not receive those reports until later, in many cases much later, often grouped together with two or three issues. The reluctance of the Treasurer to release this vital information for the public of New South Wales is clearly contemptuous of Parliament and the people. I call upon the Premier and the Treasurer to again make a new start on open government.
The secrecy that has developed over the last four years must be abolished. Monthly reports on government expenditure and financial management must be available to the public and must be timely. Clearly, they should be released within four weeks of the end of the month to which they refer. Budget Paper No. 2 is probably the best example of lack of information. According to the budget papers total outlays are of the order of $30 billion but the related information is halved. The level of information in
Budget Paper No. 2 is ridiculous: it has been chopped down, and the narratives are vague and do little to serve the interests of the community.
As I previously said, this is the fifth budget of an arrogant, big-taxing, wasteful Carr Government. The budget is, with every tax, a Labor budget and with every promise a Labor failure. In the last 48 hours the Treasurer has made much of tax reductions. While the Treasurer crows about tax reductions of $2.6 billion over the next four years, I point out that the budget papers indicate that tax will increase by $2.021 million in that period. Through this budget the Treasurer will raise about an extra $500 million on average each year, that is if his projections hold good. This budget does not bring home the bacon. Instead, it continues to poison the pig and sell the farm. Selling the farm piece by piece is the only way this Treasurer will reduce debt; it is the only way this Treasurer has reduced some debt over the last four years.
This budget fails to position New South Wales for the new millennium, it fails to capitalise on the economic boom to position us for the inevitable downturn, and it fails to invest in a better future for our community and our children. In fact, this budget takes the opportunity to slam the door shut on the most needy people in our community. It is a budget of a thousand cuts and this Government will bleed in a thousand ways for a thousand days as a result of it. This budget fails to reduce payroll tax to Egan’s promised 5 per cent. He set the target and had four years in which to do it, but he failed. In 1995, after a week as Treasurer, Egan was right when he said:
We’re going to hack into payroll tax as heavily as we can and as soon as we can. We want to get down to the Queensland payroll tax level very soon. I’d like to go further than that; payroll tax is a bad tax.
The Treasurer nominated 1999 as the year to reduce the rate to 5 per cent and then a further percentage point the following year to 4 per cent. This year’s budget fails to reduce payroll tax to a competitive level. New South Wales is stuck at 6.4 per cent while Victoria manages 5.75 per cent and Queensland is most attractive to investment at 5 per cent. Treasurer Egan’s budget papers show New South Wales taxes this year are 6.4 per cent of gross State product while Victoria's are 5.8 per cent and Queensland's are 4.7 per cent.
This budget fails to deliver jobs unless you are a fat cat. It fails to reform the public sector juggernaut. If you are a fat cat, you are safe; if you are a front-line worker, you are thrown on the scrap heap. This budget delivers public service welfare for pen pushers and fat cats, but fails to deliver to those most in need. In fact, it cuts back on people most in need. The Carr Government has refused to act on its knowledge: the private sector creates wealth and jobs, the public sector and unions do not.
There has been much rhetoric on that issue, but no action. The Government’s budget fails to position New South Wales for long-term growth and fails to capitalise on the Federal Government’s economic boom. Instead of using that boom and resultant State revenues to underwrite public sector reform, the Carr Government has continued a cosy deal with unions. Instead of restructuring government to move it closer to our community, the Premier took the first opportunity after the election to execute a traditional strategy to slash and burn front-line services and staff.
The bureaucratic empire builders are still in charge. The public sector fat cats are shaping government strategies. Instead of reforming the public sector for the new millennium, the Premier has continued surgery on the fringe of last century’s answer. Instead of getting the bloated bureaucracy - the body of government - into shape, the Premier has cut off its fingers and toes. The Premier’s answer for New South Wales is big business, big unions and big government.
This budget fails to invest in our future. Labor traditionally minimises capital investment and maximises recurrent expenditure. That has happened many times with the Carr Government and happens again in this budget. As I said earlier, the Treasurer set his target to cut payroll tax by this year. He did not achieve it and in so doing has failed tens of thousands of unemployed people and their families. Clearly, job creation is influenced by our investment climate, taxes and other government constraints on economic activity.
Payroll tax is a key burden on jobs and the Premier has failed to lift the burden. Additionally, with paralysing planning legislation, workplace dominance by unions and outdated, counterproductive unfair dismissal provisions the Carr Government has proved itself to be a do-nothing Government. Thanks to the Howard Government, unemployment in New South Wales is down to 6.4 per cent. We should reflect on what the unemployment percentage would be if Premier Carr had enthusiastically supported the Howard Government’s economic and workplace reforms.
Imagine if Premier Carr had been a responsible, forward-looking Premier and not a spoiler; a statesman and not a political hack. If the
Premier had been a leader instead of being led by Crean and Costa, would the unemployment rate in New South Wales be down to 6.2 per cent, 6 per cent or even lower at 5.9 per cent? Tens of thousands of unemployed people would like to know what the difference would have been between the Premier’s do-nothing 6.4 per cent unemployment and a can-do much lower figure.
Thousands of unemployed people in New South Wales would like to know how low the unemployment percentage could fall if the Premier had been interested in jobs and not partisan politics. The unemployed 9.2 per cent in the Illawarra would like to know, as would the unemployed 9.4 per cent in Newcastle, the unemployed 12.4 per cent in Fairfield and Liverpool, and the unemployed 12.9 per cent in the Richmond-Tweed area. The much larger percentage of our unemployed young people would most definitely like to know the answer.
We will never know because Premier Carr will not deliver for the people of New South Wales; he will deliver only for the unions, as he said in his famous October 1995 speech to the Labor Party. The Premier’s budget has failed to reform the public sector juggernaut and to deliver assistance to those most in need. As with previous Carr Government budgets, this budget is simply a fairytale. The budget will bear little resemblance to actual results in a year’s time.
The Carr Government’s budget papers show that New South Wales is a high-taxing State. Even Victoria, left a basket case by Cain and Kirner, has managed in recent years to recover tax competitiveness. While Federal Government strategies recently delivered economic growth, imagine the jobs benefits that would have flowed from lower State taxes in New South Wales and investment in infrastructure.
While Premier Carr has been called Boom Boy Bob because he has benefited from the economic boom, his Government will have to cope with a downturn in the short to medium term, but New South Wales is ill prepared. Revenues from government businesses will decline as competition bites. It is interesting to note that the Treasurer has shored up the entire budget for the next four years and the surplus with increasing dividends from the electricity sector to the point that the final year clearly contains a billion dollar black hole. Those revenues simply will not happen as competition bites, but the Treasurer has continued to include them in the budget papers.
It is important to note that budget papers for the past two years indicate that the Carr Government’s response to an economic downturn will be the traditional one of higher taxes and further retrenchments - probably savage retrenchments - of front-line staff. It is a shame that because the Premier and the Treasurer are more interested in theatrics than economics there has been no leadership in financial management over the first term of government, and the taxpayers have paid for it.
Right up until 27 March the Premier and the Treasurer campaigned with the message that all programs were funded and manageable. That was the big lie for the campaign. As we can now see, the programs were not funded, and the taxpayers of New South Wales, including the front-line workers, will pay for it. This budget can be summarised simply as taxes up, waste up and workers out.
(Georges River) [7.50 p.m.]: In speaking to these bills I am conscious of the fiscal responsibility that has been demonstrated by the Carr Labor Government as it commences its second term in office. Members of the Government are well aware of the need to demonstrate responsible leadership, and this budget is a perfect example of the Government’s commitment to stable, efficient management of the State’s economy, providing our constituency with continued confidence in our ability to deliver on our promises. Indeed, it would be more appropriate to substitute the word "commitment" for the word "promise".
This budget is about securing the future, building on strong foundations and ensuring that the previous hard work is not wasted. While the budget generates a surplus, it also provides for increased spending in the key areas of health, education, policing, transport and community services. While my constituents, as members of the State, will benefit as a result of this good governance, I take this opportunity to refer to a number of items in the budget that will specifically benefit the Georges River electorate. These are merely the highlights that I have drawn from a range of portfolios detailed in the supplementary budget documentation.
While not located in my electorate, St George Hospital provides health services to a majority of people who live in the Georges River electorate. This budget contains an allocation of funds for the commencement of the new day surgery facility, which will ultimately cost $4 million. Additionally, a further $3.789 million has been allocated for the psychiatric admission unit, which is due for
completion in 2001. As honourable members will no doubt be aware - it was certainly highlighted to me during the recent election campaign - mental health is an area that has been crying out for additional funding, and this budget answers that plea in St George.
One major problem in Kogarah town centre has been a lack of parking, stemming from the needs of the hospital. This has been addressed by the Carr Government with additional hospital parking due for completion at the end of this year. Money allocated in this budget will ensure completion of that project which will benefit not only the many visitors to the hospital from my electorate but also Kogarah town centre generally. The St George Hospital education centre will also be finished next year thanks to a budget allocation of $5.561 million.
Undoubtedly, one of the leading palliative care units in Australia is located at Calvary Hospital, Kogarah. That hospital’s outstanding reputation has been built on a first-class standard of care provided by a dedicated, professional staff. A full redevelopment of this hospital will be completed next year, with $12.873 million set aside for this project. The hospital has tremendous community support, and I take this opportunity to record the efforts of the Calvary 2000 committee which has worked so diligently since 1991 under the leadership of Mr Warren Saunders, OAM, to assist in fundraising activities for this extremely worthwhile project. Everyone in the St George and Sutherland districts looks forward to the official opening.
Education, an area close to my heart, has been at the forefront of achievement of the first Carr Labor Government. The Minister for Education and Training has rightfully received many compliments for his many successes in this portfolio. This budget ensures that these strong foundations will be maintained and, indeed, strengthened as we cater for the diverse educational needs of students striving for success. The core areas of numeracy and literacy, with the key ingredients of intensive remedial and testing programs, will receive $87.3 million. Ongoing maintenance in schools will receive an additional $15 million of the record $6.929 billion devoted to education.
It is also pleasing to witness the Government’s ongoing commitment to technology with funding for additional and replacement computers and, most importantly, the expansion of technology in the learning and teaching program to support teachers in their incorporation of technology into classroom practice. Penshurst Public School has been allocated an additional $269,000 as it moves to the last stage of a $1.7 million refurbishment that will see the replacement of the demountable administration block. I congratulate Anne Nolan and her staff at Penshurst Public School on their maintenance of high educational standards and morale as this project has progressed. The final rewards are now well within sight.
Beverly Hills Public School is at the other end of the continuum as planning for its $2.5 million rebuilding is now well advanced. Debbie Sutton, staff, students and parents will also be rewarded for their patience and hard work. I am certain that both schools will be satisfied with the final results under the supervision of the Minister for Public Works and Services, their former local member. Labor governments have always demonstrated a desire to assist those in need through the provision of public housing, a commitment unfortunately not matched by dollars from the Commonwealth Government. However, I am pleased to report that currently there are 53 new units within the Georges River electorate, all due for completion by February 2000. These constructions in Peakhurst, Beverly Hills and Kingsgrove will provide additional accommodation for both low-income families and pensioners. The overall expenditure of $5.409 million on these projects is welcomed.
Transport is an area that has been strongly supported by the Carr Labor Government. The Georges River electorate lies between the East Hills and Illawarra rail lines. The amplification of the East Hills line will receive a further $24 million this financial year. Additionally, commuters on both lines will benefit from the opening of the new southern rail link next year. This project will afford the opportunity for commuters from my electorate to access the airport, as well as providing many other benefits. The more than 800 residents of Mortdale who supported my campaign to provide additional cover on the steps at the station will be pleased that funding has been allocated for this project.
The Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads in his three visits to Mortdale Station spent a lot of time conferring with the commuters and was obviously convinced of the need for this weather protection. This consultation process will also result in $100,000 being provided for the upgrading of Penshurst Station. There can be no doubt that the Minister is very attuned to the needs of rail commuters and dedicated to providing them with a first-class service. That is highlighted by the Government’s continued commitment to provide a secure rail network with security guards, security cameras, high-intensity lighting and help point intercoms - all priorities within the rail budget.
Also within the Minister’s domain is responsibility for roads. The Georges River electorate has benefited enormously from funding commitments in this portfolio. Continued support of the M5 East project will result in $27.4 million of this year’s $273 million allocation being spent in my electorate. This project will provide approximately 2,000 jobs during the construction phase and, when completed, will be a boon not only for residents but also for all who travel by car in south and south-west Sydney. As well as providing improved links between these areas, the airport and Port Botany, it will remove up to 40 per cent of the traffic that currently clogs King Georges Road, Stoney Creek Road, Forest Road and Canterbury Road, as well as what were previously quiet local streets that are currently being used as detours around the main arterial roads. Hopefully, the local back streets will return to the domain of the residents.
As well as these major regional projects, the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] will spend $592,500 on Stoney Creek Road, $400,00 on King Georges Road and $150,000 on Henry Lawson Drive to provide pavement rehabilitation. Additionally, money has been allocated to Hurstville and Kogarah councils for the maintenance of regional and local roads. Beverly Hills and Peakhurst shopping centres will receive grants of $200,000 and $50,000 respectively towards mainstream programs which undoubtedly, with equivalent council funding, will provide improvements for families, residents and local businesses.
It goes without saying that the Georges River itself plays a pivotal role within my electorate. That is why I am pleased to announce that further money has been allocated to this great natural resource. A sum of $1.3 million has been set aside for stormwater improvements within the catchment area. Also, as promised during the election campaign, $1.5 million has been appropriated for improved access to the river foreshore, and this is guaranteed for the next four years. That is $6 million in total. Both these commitments are appreciated by the Georges River community.
When I made my inaugural speech in this House last month I pledged to my community that I would work to produce results for our area. I am therefore proud to stand here this evening having presented to the House this list of budget highlights for the Georges River electorate. Importantly, I stand here knowing that the commitments I made during the March election campaign have been met and, just as important, I stand here as a member of a government that has faced its fiscal responsibility and met it head on. New South Wales will continue to forge ahead as a result of this budget.
(Dubbo) [8.02 p.m.]: I support the bills and bring to the attention of the House comments made by Peter Comensoli, the Chief Executive of New South Wales Farmers. He said that he thinks this budget is generally good, particularly in the area of advisory services to farmers. Let us hope that this budget heralds a more equitable allocation of services for the bush and regional New South Wales. It is encouraging to note that the Government is committed to providing an extra 1,300 jobs to regional New South Wales during the life of this Parliament. That is a positive step, and it is up to this Parliament to ensure that it happens.
In the Dubbo electorate $1.59 million has been allocated towards the new Dubbo multicampus school. This is the first of three allocations, amounting to between $9 million and $12 million, that will be spent on the new multicampus school. This is a great boost for Dubbo and surrounding areas and will be a new phase in education. The new multicampus school will be built adjacent to Charles Sturt University, and the foundation stone was laid only last month. It is the beginning of a $6 million development by Charles Sturt University. The facility will also be adjacent to the Western Institute of TAFE and the Dubbo School of Distance Education, so in a sense it is an educational mecca.
In my inaugural speech I quoted statistics in regard to Dubbo’s earnings, and the youth of Dubbo could be regarded as intellect material who often become exports. Some 60 per cent of students who sit for the Higher School Certificate in the Central West leave, and few return. We do not want this export commodity to continue. Developing school facilities in Dubbo and surrounding areas is a plus for education, but jobs are also needed. Surrounding areas will soon have more educational facilities. I congratulate the Government on honouring its commitments of the past to allocate funds of $1.03 million to upgrade the Dubbo South Public School, $1.2 million to complete the upgrade of the special education facilities at Parkes High School, $2.1 million to upgrade Yeoval Central School, and $120,000 to complete the carpentry and joinery extension at Dubbo TAFE campus. All these projects are vital to the future of Dubbo and for the entire Central West. Education is vital to the growth of regional New South Wales.
It is pleasing that the Government has finally seen the light about the need to build a new fire station in Dubbo and $400,000 has been allocated
for that purpose this year, with $800,000 to be allocated next year. The present facilities are way past their use-by dates and I commend the Minister for Emergency Services for the support he has given to Dubbo City Council. The most exciting part of the budget for me is the commitment by the Government to build a new police station in Wellington. For at least a decade cheap political rhetoric has come from both sides of politics about policing at Wellington.
I note that the budget has allocated $100,000 this year, with $900,000 to be allocated in future budgets for this badly needed police station. The Wellington police station was built in the mid-1800s, so police have been working in a building designed more than 150 years ago. At last the Government has acknowledged that a new police station is essential. In my inaugural speech I quoted from press statements made in the past by police Ministers. I noted that on 4 March the Minister for Police made a press statement which was almost identical to a press statement made by the former Minister for Police on 5 March 1995 in regard to a new police station at Wellington. However, the Minister has now honoured his pledge and the money is in the budget.
Even though the Government has made these commitments, more is needed for the growth of the electorate, which encompasses four major council areas and major centres of business. However, it is sad to visit the many small communities spread throughout the electorate because they are going backwards. In my opinion the gap between city and country people is ever widening. That view is reinforced by comments made by Federal Minister Anderson five months ago at a national press conference in Canberra. He said that the difference between city and country was widening all the time and that there are two classes of society in Australia. I think he is dead right.
The New South Wales Government must work with the Federal Government to make sure that the gap does not continue to widen. For this to happen we must have policies that create jobs in regional New South Wales. Whilst I said tonight that the Government has positively addressed the development of education infrastructure in Dubbo, Parkes and Wellington, we must have policies that create jobs. However, I am disappointed that the Government has not made suitable funds available to further develop the Air Freight project at Parkes. This project could have an extremely positive impact on many communities in the Central West.
One of the most disappointing aspects of this budget is that whilst payroll tax has decreased slightly it has not decreased to the level promised. Payroll tax in New South Wales is higher than in adjoining States. In Queensland it is 5 per cent, and in Western Australia it is 3.5 per cent. It is lower in Victoria than it is in New South Wales. Payroll tax is a tax on businesses that are generating jobs, and in a sense it is a bad tax - as has been said before.
I commend the Government for what it has done for my electorate, but a lot more needs to be done on further infrastructure developments in regional New South Wales. I note that money will be saved on the Olympics this year. The Government will not have to find hundreds of millions of dollars next year, and that money should be diverted to regional New South Wales. The Government should bring in a balanced budget after the Olympics and the surplus should be channelled back into regional New South Wales. New South Wales and Australia must not be a community with two classes - country people and city people. I commend the Government for what it has done, but a lot more needs to be done in regional New South Wales.
(Swansea) [8.11 p.m.]: I support the Appropriation Bill and the 1999-2000 budget. This budget will go down in the records of public administration in this State as the right budget for its time. The budget consolidates the efforts and achievements of the previous four budgets delivered by the Treasurer, the Hon. Michael Egan, on behalf of the Government. The people of the electorate of Swansea can have confidence that this budget delivers the necessary fiscal stimulus of $365 million in capital works for the region at a time when BHP is ceasing steelmaking and 2,500 steelworkers will lose their jobs.
At the time of that announcement I agreed with the Premier when he characterised BHP’s decision as a boardroom betrayal of Newcastle and the region. I am angry that after 80 years of steelmaking - 70 of which were under the cosy protection of tariffs and bounties, in other words, subsidies paid for by the workers of this nation - BHP is closing. Those tariffs were withdrawn, and the new free enterprise environment which BHP espoused for so long demonstrates that the overpaid managers of BHP could not cut the mustard.
The impact on employment in the region is that 2,500 steelworkers will not have a job at the end of this year. and with multipliers it could be
greater. From the time of the announcement the Premier and the Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development, my Labor colleagues on the Hunter task force and the Premier’s Department have worked extremely hard to attract new development to the region to lessen the impact of the closure on employment.
The Hunter Advantage Fund has been an outstanding success in stimulating and attracting private investment to the region. By contrast, the Howard Government has failed to allocate funds from its Hunter Development Fund in the 1999-2000 Federal budget despite the availability of $8.5 million from that fund. That is why the capital works budget plays such an important role in stimulating the local economy and therefore jobs growth. Another important element of this budget is that it projects sound fiscal management. No-one could accuse me of being a fiscal fetishist. I am aware that the public sector unions have expressed their concerns about budgetary impacts on their members.
As well as ushering in yet another surplus - the third surplus of the last five budgets - the total capital investment in the next four years is projected to reach $20 billion, a $2 billion increase in the past four years. Treasury estimates that an extra 75,000 jobs will be created during the next four years. Such an increase, in the face of real tax cuts estimated to save businesses $261 million by 2002-03 to stimulate employment growth in New South Wales, is another example of sound economic management by the Carr Government and gives the lie to the comments of the Leader of the Opposition about the so-called victims of the budget. The Leader of the Opposition, in her reply yesterday, said:
The most vulnerable in our community - people with a disability, neglected children, the elderly, victims of sexual assault - are not receiving the help they are entitled to.
Does the Leader of the Opposition acknowledge the $62.2 million increase in total funding for all agencies under the responsibility of the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, and Minister for Women? Does the Leader of the Opposition acknowledge and support the increase in recurrent expenditure for the Ageing and Disability Department of $36.4 million? When will the Opposition accept responsibility for its disastrous years in government when, in successive budgets, it gutted those agencies and closed Department of Community Services [DOCS] offices?
The only DOCS office in the electorate of Swansea was closed by the Greiner Government of which the Leader of the Opposition was a member. No wonder the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said in a recent speech to the Sydney Institute that the Opposition failed to examine why it lost the election in 1995, and that it was an important part of the process of renewal of the Opposition parties. Perhaps as a start they could acknowledge the tremendous damage they did to DOCS by savagely cutting its budget when they were last in government.
I am particularly pleased with the Government’s decision to fund both stages one and two of the new state-of-the-art Munmorah High School in my electorate. The new high school is much needed in the Central Coast region and is an example of the phenomenal growth in the region. The school will relieve the student population at Northlakes High School of more than 1,400. I also welcome the inclusion of a number of transport and road improvements for the Swansea electorate.
Those improvements include $275,000 for the erection of crash barriers on the Pacific Highway between Awabakal Drive and Montefiore Street, Catherine Hill Bay; $400,000 for improvements to the intersection of Croudace Bay Road and Glad Gunson Drive, Eleebana; $159,000 for new pavement rehabilitation on Croudace Road; and $150,000 for improvements to the intersection of the Pacific Highway and Maneela Street, Blacksmiths.
I am also pleased at the inclusion in the budget of $3.1 million for pavement improvements on the Pacific Highway, as well as $350,000 for works to improve the operation of the Swansea bridge. Following community consultation with the Roads and Traffic Authority and Lake Macquarie City Council about the Swansea bridge, which is operated by the coastal volunteer patrol, a range of works were developed to improve the opening and closing of the bridge and to ensure minimum disruption if there is a problem with the hydraulic system. I end where I began: This is a responsible budget which reflects Labor’s priorities and vision for well-educated, healthy and supportive communities.
Mr W. D. SMITH
(South Coast) [8.20 p.m.]: I stand in the House tonight with great pride and pleasure as the new member for South Coast and a member of the Carr Labor Government, to speak about the 1999-2000 budget for the people of New South Wales. It is an honour to be part of a Government that recognises the concerns of the people and considers community expectations and anxieties when making decisions for the management of the State of New South Wales. The
1999-2000 budget exemplifies this sentiment and not only gives rise to a great sense of excited faith in the future for New South Wales but also shows the people we have a committed leadership with a clear understanding of all aspects of societal and community function.
The Carr Government has done New South Wales proud, and we are the leading State of Australia in commitments to essential services and community needs. We have seen 75,000 new jobs created, and we lead the country in having the lowest unemployment rate since 1990. All of the most important concerns for families and communities have been addressed, particularly health and education, with a massive budget commitment of a recurring $6,972 million to health and hospitals, as well as an extra $449 million for new health and hospital assets, representing nearly $1,200 for every person in New South Wales.
The most fundamental aspect of our State’s fortune is education. We have the best education system in the country, and the Carr Government is far ahead of the Howard Government on the development of programs for learning in primary, secondary and tertiary education, thanks to our Premier, and Minister for Education and Training and their quest for education that will not only prepare students for the work force but encourage enjoyment in learning and cultural pursuits. We have here a budget for education and training totalling a record $6,421 million, an increase of $90 million on last year’s budget. On behalf of the South Coast electorate and the people of New South Wales, I thank the Government for that commitment. I also commend the Government for the new initiatives with the Ready for Work plan, which I look forward to seeing in place in the near future.
Community and social services suffered considerably under the previous Coalition Government, with cutbacks in funding and extraordinary staff reductions. For some time we saw serious consequences to the effectiveness of service provision. The Carr Government is turning that around. This budget represents that commitment, with an increase of $445 million, or 69 per cent, in funding, bringing the total to $1,438 million for community services, the aged and disabled and carers. I am pleased that all areas of that portfolio have been considered for funding. It is good news also that Aboriginal housing has received funding.
Roads and transport services are of course another essential aspect of our communities, with more and more demands every year coming from drivers, freighters and passengers for better services, better roads and better access. This year’s budget goes a long way to satisfying many of those demands, with $2,265 million allocated for roads, up $107 million, and $750 million allocated for transport improvements. The Minister for Transport and Minister for Roads, and the Roads and Traffic Authority can be congratulated for their Action for Transport 2010 plan.
Law enforcement in New South Wales has been a great challenge to the Police Service and the Government. With the help of Commissioner Ryan, some major improvements are being made in the effectiveness of policing. The increase of $110 million in the police budget to $1,444 million is most encouraging. Every community across the State, particularly those in rural areas, will be pleased with the news of increased police numbers - an extra 1,000 recruits and 1,110 released from other duties. But let us not forget also that the introduction of a more community-spirited Police Service - with community liaison officers, and youth liaison officers, for instance - is offering more security to our constituents and, particularly, addressing problems associated with youth crime through the introduction of the Youth Act and cautioning and conferencing regulations, for instance. The extra $3 million commitment for the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Assistance Program and $25 million for new fire stations is also welcome.
The phasing out of the $43 third party motor vehicle registration levy is great news for the people of New South Wales. In hand with the reduction in green slip fees, that will considerably ease the burden of families when that annual registration paper appears in the mailbox. Cuts in payroll tax and the introduction of a payroll tax rebate for apprentices are extremely welcome measures, particularly for big business and industries with a large work force. As a result, we will see a real boost in employment opportunities and a renewed zeal for job creation in both the public and private sectors.
As for the South Coast electorate, I cannot tell the House how pleased I am with commitments that have come to my constituents. For so long the South Coast seemed to be far so away from Sydney, almost like an afterthought in terms of response to our needs. But now the Carr Government has taken us on board and the South Coast electorate has been given commitments to meet our expectations. The South Coast electorate already is changing for the better. We are moving into a new age, with a lifting image, a boost in community confidence, and an
exciting expectation of more good things to come. This has happened because the Government has recognised my constituents and the South Coast electorate as an asset to the State of New South Wales.
The South Coast electorate covers more than 40 villages and has two main central business districts, Nowra and Ulladulla. Most people I meet are in high spirits and have high hopes for the future of the region. People are enthusiastic for change in the best possible way, and those who would normally keep to themselves are now keen to express their ideas and feel confident in speaking out about their concerns. This feeling pervades the electorate. The commitments in the budget for the South Coast will reaffirm the Carr Government’s interest in and recognition of my constituents and their communities.
As with many rural and regional communities, hospital and health services have been a longstanding issue in my electorate. There is a very strong feeling of frustration among constituents generally. People are worried about adequate access to medical and health assistance. The Government has recognised these frustrations. This budget is a big step forward for our region’s health, with a $28 million commitment for stage two of the redevelopment of the Shoalhaven District Memorial Hospital, including $270,000 for renal treatment services. This will be added to the excellent fundraising efforts of those in my electorate for this much-needed facility. Stage two has a completion time line of mid-2002.
The Shoalhaven Family Care Cottage will gain $500,000 over two years, with recurrent funding for the Shoalhaven drug and alcohol counselling services up to $150,000 progressively each year. There are significant drug and alcohol problems in my electorate. I understand the nature of those problems because I spent some time working as an alcohol and other drug counsellor with a target group of homeless adolescents. Assistance from the Government with this funding is most welcome. I am heartened that we are working at trying to solve this incredibly difficult problem in our communities.
The sexual assault unit in the Shoalhaven does very fine work in helping victims of sexual assault. The $200,000 allocated in this budget will be put to good use. This has been a constant source of need for many years now, and has finally been addressed. Once again we have a community agency that is delighted with the Government’s support. I thank the Government on behalf of the workers and the people whom they serve. Another area that needs attention is the care of the aged and disabled. I have met with a number of carers, either carers of elderly parents or children. Their dedication is admirable. But, clearly, this kind of devotion takes its toll, and there must come a time when carers take a break. The funding to assist those people is most welcome.
I have spoken to Callala parents about their new primary school. Some parents expressed doubt - and even when the budget was announced some expressed disbelief - but now they are thrilled to bits, and I thank the Government for making this school a reality for them with the allocation of $3.4 million. Stage 4 of the Nowra TAFE development is under way. The manager, David Bisicker, is pleased with the progress and welcomes the firm commitment of $5.5 million. Nowra Public School parents and teachers have been pushing for a school hall for ten years. Late last year they were resigned to the fact that they would have to wait at least seven years.
When they were advised that $700,000 would be allocated for a school hall they were absolutely delighted. This project has brought a new spirit of faith in the Government. The parents and school communities of other schools to receive funding - Nowra Technology High, $75,000; East Nowra Public School, $50,000; Bomaderry High, $35,000; and Culburra Public School, $80,000 - are also delighted, as are the principals. I thank the Government, the Minister for Education and Training and the Minister for Public Works and Services for their assistance.
I turn now to roads and transport. The continuing improvements to the Princes Highway along the South Coast are a priority. The drive between Sydney and Eden is one of the most attractive in the State, and we are privileged to live in a region known for its fabulous contrasting landscapes and beauty. The Princes Highway is a major link with Australia’s biggest capital cities, Melbourne and Sydney, and every holiday season thousands of people travel on that highway to visit our region; it is a well-used road. Unfortunately, there have been several fatal motor vehicle accidents on that highway in my electorate in the past few years. It has a notorious reputation. I am delighted that the Government and the Minister for Transport have made a commitment to the planning for the Ulladulla bypass, and $200,000 for the planning stage of the Princes Highway upgrade at South Nowra.
The new paving on the Princes Highway is welcome, and $980,000 has been allocated for that. I also welcome $300,000 for traffic lights at the
intersection of the Princes Highway and Bridge Street, Nowra, $60,000 for a 2.5 kilometre cycleway on the Princes Highway from Bolong Road to Cambewarra Road, Bomaderry and $300,000 for repairs to the Shellharbour River Bridge. People who travel on the Moss Vale Road from Nowra into the Kangaroo Valley will welcome the allocation of $500,000 for maintenance works and new pavement. The rail service to Bomaderry has stirred public concern for years, and I am delighted that the Government is funding the extension of electrification from Kiama to Dapto. In my electorate $100,000 for a new fuel installation at Bomaderry for Endeavour Cars is welcome. I also welcome the funding for planning for Main Road 92.
Lack of jobs and employment prospects has given my constituents’ confidence a beating for several years. It has been the most demoralising and humiliating aspect of our being, threading its way through almost every household. The unemployment rate has been very high. The last figure I heard was 14 per cent, and that was about two months ago. Everyone in the community is affected: families, young people, retailers and business. The bleakness has been apparent across the community. As I mentioned earlier, the Carr Government has recognised this problem and I am delighted that my electorate is to benefit from the Government’s commitment to jobs for regional New South Wales. Construction work will bring new jobs, and many of those will mean some long-term unemployed people will have an opportunity to earn a decent wage rather than find themselves in work for the dole schemes, which seem to me to be just an extraordinary form of cheap labour for the community.
The move of the Local Government Department to Nowra will have a flow-over effect on the community, bringing opportunities for the development of a major conference centre, greater spending power within the community and employment security. The Government’s jobs programs will make a huge difference to our communities and no doubt stimulate and invigorate our staid economy, encouraging councils as well as businesses and commerce to work more actively to assist the unemployed on the South Coast. Housing has been another major frustration for my constituents, but I know that the Department of Housing and the Minister are ensuring that the South Coast is given attention. I am delighted with the allocation of more than $1.2 million for a Department of Housing works project and $760,000 for Aboriginal housing.
In other areas I am pleased with the Carr Government’s continuing commitment to the South Coast environment, forest management projects and waterways. In conclusion, I commend the Premier and Treasurer for the sentiments they have shown to the people of New South Wales. The Government will pass on the $2,000 million surplus it will have at the end of the year to the people and community services, and that is admirable. Reinvesting those funds in new public assets, including schools, hospitals, roads and public transport, is exciting and tremendous news for us all. On behalf of the people of New South Wales I thank the Government.
Mr R. H. L. SMITH
(Bega) [8.36 p.m.]: The New South Wales budget has been delivered in a boom time and it is taking us nowhere. In this economic cycle we should be ensuring that enough is put aside so that when the cycle finishes, as history has proved it will, the boom and bust periods can be evened out and people will not affected by massive price increases and falls. The Premier has been crowing about the present economic conditions being experienced by the State, but the reason New South Wales is doing so well is because the Federal Government has insulated Australia from the Asian crisis.
It has taken the tough decisions to make sure that the Australian economy, not only the New South Wales economy, is on the right track and within the top two or three economies in the Western world. Interest rates are undoubtedly at an historic low. People who have large housing mortgages and car loans have had a little extra to spend and, of course, they are reaping the benefits of a well-run economy. Small businesses are not affected by major payments and interest charges on their businesses so they can reinvest, re-employ and build up their businesses.
We are experiencing an historic low inflation rate of 1.5 per cent, which is also good news for business and the economy generally. Because the Australian economy is good, the New South Wales economy is good and we can thank the Federal Government for that. The Premier has been crowing about reducing pay-roll tax, one of the most offensive taxes that any government can impose. All States have it, and it has been reduced to about 6 per cent. When the Kennett Government came to office in Victoria, that State was bankrupt. New South Wales has carried the mantle of the highest taxing State in the country, but Victoria’s pay-roll tax is lower than ours at 5.75 per cent. Victoria is creaming New South Wales when it comes to getting the State finances in order. Unless something
drastic happens with the Treasurer and Premier, we will find it hard to complete with Victoria and other States as time goes by.
So far as my electorate is concerned, the budget was not good news. It is no coincidence that the Olympic Games will cost $2.6 billion and that New South Wales country areas have lost $2.4 billion in capital works payments in the past few years. There is no doubt that country New South Wales is paying for the Olympics. The Olympic Games facilities were to be paid for as they were being built. Most of the construction is complete and it is time the Government started to pay back the country areas for their contributions to the city. That has not happened in this budget.
Country members who come to Sydney regularly do not have to go very far to see that the city is booming. Its real estate and share markets are booming, but the boom stays in the city. The country areas, particularly those west of the Great Dividing Range, have been greatly affected. The boom is not being transferred to those areas. Almost all of the industries are having immense difficulties. Coastal areas are protected to some degree. Coastal areas are very fortunate in that their major industry is tourism. To a large extent, over the past few years the tourist industry has improved substantially. There are a number of reasons for that but they are too diverse to go into now.
People in my electorate are getting over the introduction of poker machines in Victoria. Many people have been to Cairns and other tourist areas because of substantial discounts on holidays tours. Factories that used to close down in Victoria and to a lesser extent in Canberra over the Christmas period now stagger their holidays. So there is not a large tourist influx at one time of the year; it is spread out over the holidays and warmer months. There are many other reasons for the upturn in tourism. I think it will continue to expand along the South Coast, particularly in my electorate of Bega.
However, other industries are not faring as well. I refer particularly to the grazing industry. There have been strong downturns in the beef market. Although the market is improving a little at the moment, it has come from rock bottom. There are problems about transferring the deregulated price of milk from supermarkets into the pockets of dairy farmers. It is not happening. There is the threat of further deregulation inside the farm gate, particularly with pressure being applied by Victorian dairy farmers. That is of great concern in my electorate and in other electorates where dairy farming is a major industry. On the tablelands the sheep and wool industries are in a desperate situation. Unfortunately, at this stage we cannot see any way out of that situation. The fishing industry is suffering from diminishing resources. That industry needs close consideration and, to a large degree, fishermen are having a hard time.
The budget allocation for country areas and for my electorate of Bega was small. We were hoping for a start in certain capital works, but most of them did not get an allocation. Ulladulla Public School, which is currently three-quarters upgraded, received a further $1 million. The Bega courthouse upgrade, which has been promised for at least four or five years and has eventually got to ground level, has received another $921,000. We are thankful to the Government for that. One matter that is disappointing is the amount of money that has been allocated for highways. The one allocation in the budget for major capital works in my electorate is for the widening of the Mogo to Moruya road. That section of road is almost completed and only needs a bitumen seal.
That is all my electorate has received for the Princes Highway for the ensuing year. The $1.9 million allocation would have already been spent. Because of that, there will not be any job generation or improvement to the Princes Highway in my electorate. That is of extreme concern. We should always be looking to put more money into roads. Unfortunately, the Carr Government altered the rules for the 3 x 3 funding. That money does not now have to be channelled into roads; it can be spent on car parks, ferries or whatever. Of all the matters I am concerned about, health would be at the top of my list of priorities. Indeed, it was during the election campaign.
I made a private member’s statement earlier today about the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Service. Funding for that allowance is in dramatically short supply. People in my electorate, which is a country area, have to attend hospitals in capital cities, mainly Canberra and Sydney, for specialist appointments. Accommodation and travel expenses are required by some people to enable them to keep those specialist appointments. Some weeks ago I referred to the issue of dental health in my area. During the election campaign the Opposition made a commitment that public dental health would be free for pensioners and those on low incomes. Dental waiting lists are so long that new patients are not accepted. People have to wait at least 12 months to have broken dentures repaired. That is not good enough.
During the election the Opposition also made a promise that the Milton-Ulladulla Hospital would receive $3 million. There is nothing in the budget for that hospital, which desperately needs upgrading. The people of the Ulladulla, Milton and Mollymook areas deserve better than the small hospital they have at the moment. The Bega hospital has shut down its laundry services with the loss of 11 jobs. The Southern Area Health Service has attempted to close the operating theatres and obstetrics wards at Pambula and Batemans Bay hospitals, making them basically emergency hospitals. Major demonstrations saved those operating theatres and obstetrics wards.
Schools are another major problem. Bega High School, which was built for 700 students, now has more than 1,100. That school was expecting to receive capital works funding in this budget and thus get a start. The school community is extremely upset that it did not. Bega West school is to be relocated. It has been trying to start planning for a number of years. It did not even receive a few thousand dollars to get that planning started. Merimbula Public School is in exactly the same position. It has an unbelievable number of demountables. For a number of years it has been wanting to start planning its public works expansion. Talks have taken place between the council and the State Government to relocate the Batemans Bay Public School north of the Clyde River. I had hoped we would get some funding for that relocation.
Some time last year the people in my electorate were promised that by Christmas they would have 14 Corrective Services officers to undertake prisoner escort duty currently performed by police. That did not eventuate. The police are still waiting. They were so concerned about the number of officers engaged on prisoner escort duties and the lack of police to fill the rosters at a 24-hour police station that at one stage they were going to strike. The Government promised those 14 Corrective Services officers by Christmas. They were not delivered.
As I mentioned, the Princes Highway in my electorate has been allocated only $1.9 million, and over the past four years of the Carr Labor Government there has not been one major capital works project south of Wollongong. That is an absolute disgrace. There has always been at least one capital works project going on somewhere along the highway. A few projects that were funded by the Coalition Government were the Merimbula bypass, Yellow Pinch, Macleods Hill, and the Tilba bypass, but nothing has been done over the past four years, and nothing is allocated in this budget. Nothing has been allocated in the budget for the Kings Highway, the major link between Batemans Bay and Canberra. That is a major link bringing tourists to Batemans Bay. It gets absolutely packed and is extremely dangerous over the Christmas period and on long weekends. It continually needs up-grading work.
We need to have the Bega by-pass started. There is nothing in the budget for that. The route of the Ulladulla bypass has finally been decided but there is nothing else in the budget for that project. We were looking for funding for Main Road 272, which is the coast road between Tathra and Bermagui. When the Coalition was in government it used to allocate about $400,000 to $500,000 a year. Nothing has been done on that road in the four years the Carr Government has been in office and nothing is proposed this year. Main Road 92, the road from Nowra to Braidwood and on to the Australian Capital Territory, was the subject of an agreement between the State and Federal governments.
The Federal member, Joanna Gash, was able to get the Federal Government to join with the State in funding that road. Prior to the State election a deed of agreement was signed, but now the Minister is scurrying out of the agreement as quickly as he can. That is very disappointing for the people of Nowra, and I feel sorry for the honourable member for South Coast, as he will have to wear the odium of the backdown by the Minister. Nothing has been included in the budget for Spine Road, which is a bypass of the coast road. It would have been nice to see the council assisted in some way so it could go a little further with work on that road.
Some major centres need funding for particular projects. Bermagui is the major fishing area in my electorate and probably on the far South Coast. It has a strong reputation, being close to the major fishing areas. It would be nice to see the Government ask for expressions of interest to build a marina there. That would encourage the fishing industry in Bermagui. Last year the Minister announced that a community health centre would be built in Narooma at a cost of $900,000. I see nothing in the budget for that centre. Again, that is an example of a big announcement by the Government but a lack of funding. Moruya has the largest hospital in the Eurobodalla, and it is a very good hospital. It was upgraded when the Coalition was in office. The hospital wants to maintain its services.
The people of Ulladulla need the go-ahead to build a go-kart track on Wheelbarrow Road. The Government cannot make up its mind whether it will allow a block of Crown land to be used for this track. We would like the Minister to consider that as
soon as possible. Work on the Burrill Lake causeway was promised by the Government, not during the last election but before the previous one. The causeway was to be taken out and a pier bridge put in, but that still has not been done.
(Menai) [8.56 p.m.]: The past few years have seen a sharp decline in popular opinion about the status and integrity of elected representatives in local, State and Federal governments. Every election day, somewhere around the polling booths, I hear the phrase, "Whatever the result, a politician wins." At the heart of that cynicism is often a lack of confidence in the commitments made during election campaigns. On 27 March this year - State election day - at the Hammondville polling booth in my electorate I heard a woman remark to her companion, "Politicians are just like the upholsterers working on my furniture. They promise the world but they never deliver the goods." During my campaign to win the new, notionally Liberal, marginal seat of Menai, the Carr Labor Government did not promise the world, but significant commitments were made on issues of great importance to the local community. I am now in this place as the elected member for Menai and a member of the Carr Labor Government. I am pleased and proud to state that, unlike that woman’s upholsterer, we have started to deliver the goods in the 1999-2000 budget.
In my first speech in this place I raised two specific election commitments made by the Hon. J. J. Aquilina, Minister for Education and Training. The first was a public school at Wattle Grove in the Liverpool part of my electorate. The suburb of Wattle Grove is a relatively new area, having been developed in stages over the past few years on land formerly owned by the Commonwealth Government. The new property owners have built and landscaped their quality homes with care and pride. The suburb is predominantly made up of families with young children. There is a high level of involvement in local activities, as residents have shown their determination to evolve their new housing estate into a real community. This budget delivers funds to commence construction of a $5.6 million public primary school in Wattle Grove. The school will not only advance the education of the young residents, who will not have to face additional travel to surrounding suburbs, it will naturally be a focal point for the further consolidation of the Wattle Grove community.
Another important education commitment, also raised in my first speech in this place, has been delivered in this budget. It will be warmly received by the Alfords Point school community, located in the Sutherland part of my electorate. Funds have been allocated to commence the necessary planning and community consultation for the construction of permanent school facilities. It has fallen to the Carr Labor Government to find solutions to the mistakes of the former Coalition Government. For some strange reason, in a community with similar characteristics to that of Wattle Grove, including a high proportion of families with young children, the former Coalition Government established Alfords Point school as a totally demountable annexe to another school. It is little wonder that that community has never felt a sense of permanency about the school that is so important to it.
In its first term the Carr Labor Government removed the "annexe" tag and made Alfords Point school a school in its own right. In this term of government we will construct some permanent facilities at the school. As mentioned earlier, confirmation of this election commitment in the budget will be met with relief and joy by the school community. Despite the limitation of its accommodation the school has a fine record of achievement in education. I am also pleased to report that the Government is committed to working with Sutherland Shire Council to improve and upgrade the grounds at Illawong Public School. The Government has reaffirmed its commitment to provide land for the relocation of the Illawong Rural Fire Service to a much better location.
The fire service is made up of a friendly and dedicated group of men and women who literally put themselves on the line for the sake of our community. They are part of an impressive network of brigades in my electorate. I was genuinely shocked when I visited the cramped and totally inadequate conditions from which this group has been operating for too long. The confirmation of the new station site, in a far more accessible location, will be the springboard for a well co-ordinated community effort to construct the new facilities. Recently I was honoured to accept the invitation to become patron of the Illawong Rural Fire Service.
My community also needs better road links and transport facilities. The 1999-2000 Carr Labor budget has allocated a record $2.26 billion on roads throughout New South Wales. I am delighted that in this budget the Government has ensured a fair share of these funds for my area. The $47 million Woronora bridge will be completed and open to traffic at the end of the year. This major project is not just a matter of day-to-day convenience to local residents, but also critical to the protection of the community in times of emergency, such as bushfires. Construction of the bridge started during
the last term of the Carr Labor Government. Again, we are delivering the outcomes not achieved by the former Coalition Government.
That Government contracted to build only the bridge pylons prior to the election. In contrast the Carr Government signed a contract to deliver the whole bridge for the people of Sutherland, regardless of the outcome of the 1999 election. The residents of the Menai area will certainly be relieved to see that, as promised, funds have been allocated for the design and public consultation on the Bangor bypass. The suburbs along Menai Road are congested with traffic for large periods each day. It can sometimes take residents 20 to 25 minutes to travel from one suburb to another. The proposed bypass is also a major project, and is expected to cost $36 million. It requires careful planning and maximum community consultation.
This budget allocation facilitates the start of these processes. When completed the Bangor bypass will give Menai Road back to the local traffic. The Government has also honoured commitments about road improvements in the Liverpool end of my electorate. A further $4.7 million will be spent on the next stage of the Heathcote Road upgrade. The widening to four lanes of the section from Macarthur Drive to the M5 will be completed and the intersection with Nuwarra Road will be controlled by traffic lights. This is currently a major traffic bottleneck for motorists attempting to travel throughout this area, particularly during peak hour. I know of local residents who, due to these problems, have had to reorganise their working hours to reach their places of employment on time.
It is also pleasing to note that the budget allocates further planning funds for the future $30 million Moorebank Avenue graded separation on the M5. It is commonly known that that intersection has the only set of lights between Sydney and Canberra. The budget also starts to deliver on the Government’s commitment to improve Governor Macquarie Drive at Chipping Norton, particularly the intersections with Newbridge Road and the Hume Highway. In this year’s budget funds have been allocated for road widening and kerb and gutter improvements between Newbridge and Alfred roads as part of the Government’s $3 million package of improvement works. Intersection improvements at Old Illawarra Road, Lucas Heights and also at Kelso Crescent and Newbridge Road, Moorebank will markedly improve road safety and traffic management.
Residents living in the vicinity of Alfords Point Road will be pleased with the allocation of $655,000 for noise reduction works between Marlock Place and Old Illawarra Road. It relation to the budget’s environmental commitments, I note that two important waterways, the Woronora and Georges rivers, form most of the boundary of my electorate. I am therefore pleased to see that funding has been continued to the $60 million statewide stormwater program. The Government’s commitment to allocate funds from the $6 million Georges River Foreshore Improvement Program in this year’s budget has also been delivered.
In my speech to this House to mark World Environment Day I specifically dealt with the problems of declining water quality and limited recreational opportunities around the Georges River. Government authorities, community and environment groups have already identified potential projects for this program. I have focused on only major items promised to my electorate and delivered in this budget. Of course, my constituents also benefit from a range of other programs and services funded by the budget. The competent and careful fiscal management of the Carr Labor Government was, I know, one of the many reasons for the outcome of the last State election. This is a Government that governs for the benefit of all New South Wales.
In light of the budgetary demands of the last full financial year prior to the Olympics it is even more remarkable that election commitments have been honoured without a potential budget blow-out. The budget has been very well received by business and the wider community. This Government has kept faith with its electors and delivered the goods. I sincerely hope that we have improved the community’s perception of the integrity and worth of elected representatives generally. In particular, I trust that the outcomes for my electorate will justify the faith of the people who elected me to represent their interests in this place.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr R. H. L. Smith.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Bill: Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders
Motion by Mr Scully agreed to:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to allow the introduction and progress up to the Minister’s second reading speech of the Roads Amendment (Transitways) Bill, notice of which was given this day.
ROADS AMENDMENT (TRANSITWAYS) BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Smithfield - Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads) [9.18 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Roads Act 1993 to include "transitway" as a new classification of road that will enable uniform control and management to be exercised over the whole length of transitway routes. In November 1998 the New South Wales Parliament released "Action for Transport 2010", a transport construction program for the next 10 years. This fully costed, 10-year plan is a key plank in the Carr Government’s post-Olympics jobs plan and will create more than 28,000 construction jobs across New South Wales. This program will make travel in New South Wales modern, safe, efficient and accessible. It will help to improve air quality and leave a better environment for our children.
The cornerstone projects of "Action for Transport 2010" for Sydney are undoubtedly the 90 kilometre rapid bus-only transitway network and the Parramatta Rail Link. More than $50 million has been earmarked in this year’s budget for these important projects. The 90 kilometre bus-only transitway network will be constructed in stages and completed by 2010. It will significantly improve public transport in western Sydney. It will deliver substantial environmental benefits including reduced vehicle emissions, improved air quality and noise reductions in local residential areas.
Bus-only transitways will provide shorter, more reliable and more consistent travel times than are currently available by car. The network will be constructed to allow for possible future conversion to light rail. Significant improvement in public transport accessibility to industrial areas in western Sydney will contribute markedly to the ability of people without access to a car to find work. It will provide employers with the ability to draw on a wider employment market and reduce dependency on car travel. The concept of a bus-only transitway is new and unique in New South Wales. It does not fit comfortably under existing classifications of roads under the Roads Act 1993. The new bus-only transitways, where off-road, will be on private land owned, leased or controlled by the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] and open only to authorised vehicles.
Authorised vehicles would include buses owned by a transitway operator selected by competitive tender and contracted to the Department of Transport or emergency vehicles, maintenance vehicles and other vehicles approved by the Roads and Traffic Authority. The new transitway road classification will enable the construction and operation of transitways for limited classes of vehicles and traffic. It will allow the RTA to exercise and fund the functions of acquiring and leasing land and effecting associated facilities such as bus stations for transitways and bikeways. It will enable the RTA to apply the traffic law also to transitways that are not public roads.
By 2010 the rapid bus transitway construction program will cut air pollution and protect the western Sydney environment; create 3,200 construction jobs; provide better public transport connections in areas currently being revitalised with new housing; and establish better links to education centres, hospitals, recreation, health services and major suburban centres, including Liverpool, Parramatta, Blacktown, Strathfield and Castle Hill. It is important that the Roads Act 1993 is amended to ensure that the transitway network will operate efficiently and effectively. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned the motion by Mr R. H. L. Smith.
FEDERAL COURTS (STATE JURISDICTION) BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Strathfield - Minister for Police) [9.11 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The Federal Courts (State Jurisdiction) Bill is introduced as a matter of urgency arising from the determination of the High Court that State parliaments cannot effectively confer State jurisdiction on Federal courts and that the Commonwealth Parliament is not able to consent to the conferral of State jurisdiction on Federal courts. The main purposes of the bill are to provide that certain decisions of a Federal court in relation to State matters are taken to be judgments of the Supreme Court; to provide for the transfer to the Supreme Court of current proceedings in Federal courts in relation to State matters; and to enable State courts to deal with matters that arise under
applied law schemes and that would otherwise have been dealt with by a Federal court.
On 17 June 1999 the High Court handed down its decisions in the matters of Re Wakim; Ex parte McNally, Re Wakim; Ex parte Darvall,
and Re Brown; Ex parte Amman
, which considered the validity of certain provisions of the Commonwealth Corporations Act 1989 and the Commonwealth Jurisdiction of Courts (Cross-Vesting) Act 1987 that provide for the cross-vesting of jurisdiction between Federal, State and Territory courts. The majority of the High Court determined that the vesting of State jurisdiction in Federal courts is ineffective. The effect of the court’s decisions is to invalidate decisions previously made by the Federal Court and the Family Court relying purely on cross-vesting arrangements and to prevent the further exercise of such jurisdiction by those Federal courts. The cross-vesting of jurisdiction between State and State, and State and Territory courts is not affected.
The High Court’s decisions impact on the general cross-vesting scheme introduced by the Jurisdiction of Courts (Cross-Vesting) Act 1987 under which State and Federal courts have reciprocal jurisdiction. Also the jurisdiction of the Federal Court under the Corporations Law, which operates throughout Australia as State and Territory law, is reliant on cross-vesting arrangements. In addition, some other State laws, in general laws associated with Commonwealth-State co-operative schemes, apply certain Federal laws as State law and also confer jurisdiction on the Federal Court. These co-operative schemes include the agriculture and veterinary chemicals scheme, competition policy scheme, gas pipeline scheme, National Crime Authority scheme and the therapeutic goods regime.
The Federal Courts (State Jurisdiction) Bill primarily deals with decisions of Federal courts made under various schemes enacted under State laws which, following the High Court’s determination, have been rendered ineffective. The existing schemes will continue to apply to the courts referred to in them, except Federal courts to the extent that the laws establishing the existing schemes are incapable of applying to Federal courts. The bill has been prepared through the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, in conjunction with the Special Committee of Solicitors-General and the Parliamentary Counsel’s Committee, as a model which all States will follow.
The bill declares that the rights and liabilities under a current judgment of the Federal Court or Family Court, including current judgments of the full Federal Court or the full court of the Family Court of Australia, in the purported exercise of State jurisdiction, are the same as if it had been a valid judgment given by the Supreme Court. The bill specifically provides that such rights and liabilities are exercisable and enforceable as if they were rights and liabilities under judgments of the Supreme Court. Similarly, any acts or omissions in relation to such rights and liabilities are taken to have the same effect and consequences as if occurring under a judgment of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is also given power to vary or otherwise deal with any such rights and liabilities.
In addition, the bill provides a mechanism for the transfer to the Supreme Court of current proceedings in Federal courts relating to State matters where a Federal court determines that it has no jurisdiction to hear the State matters. The bill makes consequential amendments to the Competition Policy Reform (NSW) Act 1995 arising from the High Court’s determination that the Federal courts cannot exercise cross-vested State jurisdiction, as it is intended that State courts will now exercise jurisdiction under the competition code. The bill also enables regulations to be made in connection with matters arising under the proposed Act. In particular, as an interim measure, regulations may be made in connection with applied law regimes for the purpose of enabling jurisdiction conferred on a Federal court by State legislation to be exercised by a State court. Regulations may also be made to validate matters arising from or ancillary to ineffective judgments of Federal courts. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr R. H. L. Smith.
(Strathfield - Minister for Police) [9.17 p.m.]: I move:
That this House do now adjourn.
As a large number of members have made contributions to the budget debate this week, it is likely that tomorrow will be the last day on which contributions to the budget debate will be made. Therefore, the Government has decided that the House will not sit on Monday 28 June as proposed. The House will sit from Tuesday through to Friday of next week.
Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at 9.20 p.m.