Full Day Hansard Transcript (Legislative Assembly, 29 June 1999 (includes Thursday, 1 July and Friday, 2 July), Corrected Copy)

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LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
Tuesday 29 June 1999
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Mr Speaker (The Hon. John Henry Murray) took the chair at 2.15 p.m.

Mr Speaker offered the Prayer.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Routine of Business

[Notices of Motions]

Mr Whelan: Point of order: The notice of motion being given by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition must infringe the sub judice rule because he is taking the opportunity to read what may or may not be a statement of claim. This Parliament is not a court. This Parliament is not here to arbitrate or to involve itself in matters that are the province of the court. Therefore I ask that you rule the honourable member out of order and remove any reference to proceedings.

Mr Hartcher: To the point of order: It has been your practice to hear notices of motions before you make a determination. More significantly, there is a precedent of the House that where motions can potentially involve Standing Order 294 the House should have the full motion recited before it. The precedent for that was laid down by the Minister for the Olympics when he moved similar motions in respect of the former member for The Hills, Tony Packard. That motion dealt with the very same issues and was entertained by the Speaker on the basis that it dealt with issues relevant to this House, the conduct of members under Standing Order 294, which the House must adjudge.

The House cannot adjudge the conduct of a member unless it has the evidence before it, which must be substantiated in court. The motion moved by the then member for Campbelltown, now the Minister for the Olympics, was put before the House in 1993 and was allowed as it related to Standing Order 294. If a notice of motion such as that being given by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is not allowed to be given then the House cannot adjudge the conduct or the worthiness of its members, which is the fundamental business of the House.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! As the Chair is a party to the proceedings which are the subject of the motion of which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has commenced to give notice, I do not require the notice to be read in full to enable me to understand its contents. The member for Gosford has drawn attention to a precedent set by former Speaker Rozzoli. The House will be aware that on most occasions I rule in accordance with the precedents set by him. However, as the matter, which relates to the member for Auburn, is before the court, I rule the notice of motion out of order.
PETITIONS
Surry Hills Policing

Petition praying for increased police presence in the Surry Hills area, received from Ms Moore.
East Sydney and Darlinghurst Policing

Petition praying for increased police presence in the East Sydney and Darlinghurst areas, received from Ms Moore.
Needle Exchange Program

Petition praying that legislation be introduced to compel participants in the needle exchange program to dispose of used equipment in a responsible manner, received from Mr R. W. Turner.
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 Armstrong, Mr Lynch, Mr Martin, Mr W. D. Smith, Mr Souris and Mr Stoner.
Cardiff Railway Station Disabled Access

Petition praying that consideration be given to the provision of disabled access to the platforms at Cardiff railway station, received from Mr Mills.
Moore Park Passive Recreation

Petition praying that Moore Park be used for passive recreation after construction of the Eastern
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Distributor and that car parking not be permitted in Moore Park, received from Ms Moore.
Moore Park Light Rail

Petition praying that consideration be given to the construction of a light rail transport system for Moore Park, received from Ms Moore.
Woolloomooloo Wharf Redevelopment

Petition praying that the Woolloomooloo wharf redevelopment project include provision for a ferry wharf, received from Ms Moore.
Oxford Street Pedestrian Crossing

Petition praying that an additional signalised pedestrian crossing be installed on Oxford Street, Paddington, received from Ms Moore.
Animal Experimentation

Petition praying that legislation be introduced to prohibit the use of impounded animals for experimentation, received from Ms Moore.
Wagga Wagga Aquatic Centre

Petition praying that an indoor aquatic centre be built at Wagga Wagga, received from Mr Maguire.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
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HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR AUBURN ELECTORATE OFFICE USE

Mrs CHIKAROVSKI: My question is directed to the Premier.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I place the honourable member for Blacktown on three calls to order. I place the honourable member for Wakehurst on three calls to order.

Mrs CHIKAROVSKI: When did the Premier become aware of allegations against the former Chairman of the Standing Ethics Committee, the honourable member for Auburn, involving his use of electorate offices to run his private legal practice, in breach of electoral guidelines of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act?

Mr CARR: I understand that the matter is before the Industrial Relations Commission. I do not recall when I first heard that the matter was before the commission - and, frankly, it does not matter.
HOSPITAL EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT ACCESS

Mr COLLIER: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Health. How is the Government improving access to hospital emergency departments?

Mr KNOWLES: The number of people being treated in emergency departments has been growing steadily over the past four years. Over that period there has been an increase of more than 15 per cent. Next year almost 1.9 million people will go through the system. That means an average increase of about 250,000 people each year. In simple terms, our emergency departments have to cope with a growth in demand twice as high as the rate of population growth and ageing.

The five triage categories, ranging from resuscitation to non-urgent, cover the entire spectrum from heart attacks and road trauma through to people wanting aspirin for a headache or even a medical certificate to cover a day off work. The urgent end, triage one and two, represents between 5 and 7 per cent of the load. Triage three accounts for about 26 per cent. The remainder of all presentations are classified as semi-urgent and non-urgent, and take up about 70 per cent of all visits to emergency departments.

There are a substantial number of legitimate reasons why patients in these latter two categories prefer to use emergency departments. For example, in some parts of the State, particularly rural areas, the emergency department acts as a de facto general practitioner's surgery, especially in the evening hours. In other places, where bulk billing by general practitioners is not available, patients are likely to choose emergency departments as a means of not incurring a cost for their treatment.

However, it is also legitimate to ask whether a system which is under heavy load needs to deal with some of the matters that turn up on the doorstep. For example, a typical week at one of Sydney's busier emergency departments saw staff dealing with a number of sore throats, a sore finger, a painful wrist, a minor injury to a toe, common colds, a request for Panadol, and even a person asking a doctor to put drops in his eyes.

It is fairly obvious that these types of patients often experience long waits because emergency departments also have to deal with high-priority
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cases such as serious injuries from road and industrial accidents which may involve saving patients' limbs or even saving their lives. Of course, the accident and emergency departments are also required to deal immediately with people who present with other problems, such as suspected heart attacks. The issue therefore arises as to how one goes about providing options with regard to those non-urgent categories.

Mrs Skinner: You don't cut the staff.

Mr KNOWLES: The honourable member for North Shore interjects. We have this allegation of staff cuts. Honourable members will recall that last week the assertion was about staff cuts at Canterbury Hospital. A check of the facts demonstrates that once again the honourable member for North Shore does not know the difference between fiction and the truth. There is no problem with regard to staff cuts, and I would be happy to table a letter from a medical surgeon to prove that point.

As part of a plan to deal with some of these problems, the Government will encourage the co-location of after-hours general practitioner services within public hospitals. One successful model has been in operation at Balmain Hospital for a number of years. I understand from my conversations with the local member that not only does she use the service but many people in her community also use it and find it to be an excellent service. In Maitland, the Hunter Area Health Service is already working with the Hunter Urban Division of General Practice and the Federal Government to develop an after-hours primary care service targeting semi-urgent and non-urgent triage categories. A trial of this new scheme will commence on 1 September.

In Campbelltown, as part of the Macarthur health strategy, the Government is working to establish an independently owned and operated general practitioner medical service within Campbelltown Hospital. The area health service will soon be advertising for tenders to establish an after hours GP co-operative. The Government will also develop a public education campaign to assist patients to choose appropriate treatment options. These range from calling an ambulance to driving to an emergency department, visiting an after-hours medical centre or, for those minor cases, finding a 24-hour pharmacy. In addition, the Government will expand the successful Kids Kare health advisory line that has operated in the Hunter for the past four years. Kids Kare has been successful in reducing the number of paediatric presentations in the Hunter region. Because of the success of that program the Government is considering expanding that service to establish similar adult advisory services.

This package of initiatives shows that the Government is serious about helping emergency departments deal with the high levels of demand that they have been experiencing over recent years. I can advise the House that the foundations of our plan have the support of the Emergency Nurses Association, the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine and the New South Wales President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Kerryn Phelps. It is a simple message: People who are worried about chest pain, breathing difficulties, or a severe headache are just the sort of people who should go to an emergency department. Those who simply need a doctor's note for a day off work should stay away.
HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR AUBURN ELECTORATE OFFICE USE

Mr HARTCHER: My question without notice is directed to the Premier. Was the Premier, or was anyone on his behalf, involved in the decision to apply for a suppression order on allegations involving the honourable member for Auburn?

Mr CARR: A disaffected former employee is making an unfair dismissal claim against the honourable member for Auburn. That matter, which is in the Industrial Relations Commission, concerns the honourable member for Auburn. I have had no involvement in it. It parallels, I believe quite precisely, a case brought by a disaffected former employee concerning unfair dismissal against the honourable member for Camden in the last Parliament. That matter went through the court. It was resolved in the court -

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The House will come to order.

Mr CARR: It is an untested allegation, made to secure a payment from the Parliament; an unfair dismissal case in the Industrial Relations Commission. It will be resolved in the Industrial Relations Commission.
HIGHER SCHOOL CERTIFICATE

Ms MEGARRITY: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Education and Training. How is the Government going to improve the Higher School Certificate?

Mr AQUILINA: The Government is undertaking the most important reforms to secondary
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education in 30 years. The reforms of the Higher School Certificate [HSC] will give us quality syllabuses, quality teaching materials, quality information for students and parents, and quality training and development of teachers. I am pleased to tell honourable members that not only is the implementation of these reforms on track; it is also ahead of schedule. Today I am releasing the new English compulsory syllabus for the new Higher School Certificate and the text list. The syllabus will be on the Board of Studies web site this afternoon - www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au.

There are already 29 syllabuses on the site. All 59 major HSC syllabuses will be available for teachers this week. By Friday they will all be on the web site for teachers, parents, students and anyone else who is interested in the latest developments in education. Schools and teachers now have at least seven months to prepare to teach the new syllabuses to year 11 students in the year 2000. I have with me a sample of the new world-class syllabuses. They will be relevant, interesting and challenging for students and teachers for decades to come, and they will encourage a high standard of work. I am sure that former teachers would have enjoyed the opportunity to use syllabuses of this high quality as the basis for their lessons.

The syllabuses are up to date and reflect best practice. They have been developed in consultation with teachers, schools, academics and industry and community organisations. Submissions were considered from a total of 7,610 teachers, 1,924 schools, 482 academics, and 560 industry and community groups. No-one could say that we have not been consultative in this exercise. Since 1995 we have been consulting about improving the HSC during the review process and then in the implementation stage.

Let me tell the House about the new English syllabus. For the first time English students will be able to study four units of English in their final year by taking additional and more sophisticated study in language and literature. More students will be required to study Shakespeare. In the current syllabus only 13 per cent of students are required to study one Shakespearean drama. In the new HSC, up to 40 per cent of students will be required to study at least one of four dramas - Hamlet, The Tempest, King Lear and Julius Caesar. This syllabus is about standards of intellectual rigour; it is about giving students an appreciation of our literary heritage as well as contemporary prose, fiction, drama and poetry, non-fiction, film, media and multimedia text. Students will be encouraged to study traditional literary texts in their historical context and relate them to today's ideas and experiences.

More than $30 million is being spent on reforming and improving the School Certificate and the Higher School Certificate. More than half of these funds are for extensive training for teachers to ensure that they are familiar with the new syllabuses and strategies to teach them. It is more than disappointing to see the New South Wales Teachers Federation executive and the Opposition now campaigning for a delay to these reforms - a delay which will put these reforms at risk. The executive of the Parents and Citizens Federation is as equally ill-informed as the executive of the Teachers Federation in this process. At the same time as union executives are claiming that government school teachers cannot and will not embrace the changes, others in the non-government sector are seeking to start the HSC early.

The implementation strategy has been developed by the Department of Education and Training and the Board of Studies in conjunction with the Catholic Education Commission and the Association of Independent Schools. Hundreds of teacher training sessions have already been held. In fact, 738 training sessions have been scheduled around the State for this current school year. In the first two weeks of next term, for example, 29 workshops will be held in centres such as Bathurst, Tweed Heads, Wollongong, Orange, Broken Hill, Dubbo, Maitland, Parramatta, Liverpool and Campbelltown. Other support includes: the new interactive agency web site; additional programs, activities and resources; a calendar of events; and the opportunity to participate in professional discussion groups.

All year 10 students have received a 20-page information booklet with details about courses and assessment procedures; 86,000 letters and brochures have been sent to parents; and information has been sent directly to 50,000 teachers. Our principals have received packages, including a CD-ROM, presentation materials, and booklets.

The Government's white paper for the Higher School Certificate reforms, which is entitled, "Securing Their Future" and which was released on 20 August 1997, stated at page 35, "In July 1999 revised quality assured syllabuses would be distributed." The Government is ahead of that timetable, with the 59 major syllabuses being made available for teachers by the end of this week. The Government has made a major commitment to improve education opportunities for senior students in our schools by reforming the School Certificate
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and the Higher School Certificate. We are not only on track, we are ahead of schedule. The Government will deliver on its commitment to the students of New South Wales.
SUPPRESSION ORDERS

Mr O'FARRELL: My question is directed to the Premier. How many members of the New South Wales parliamentary Australian Labor Party have had serious allegations made against them which are the subject of suppression orders?

Mr CARR: I do not know.
KINGS CROSS UNDERCOVER DRUG OPERATION

Mr E. T. PAGE: I direct my question without notice to the Minister for Police. What is the latest information about the major undercover drug operation that was conducted in Kings Cross by the New South Wales Police Service and the National Crime Authority?

Mr WHELAN: The question asked by the honourable member for Coogee is timely because I am able to inform the House that at 11.00 a.m. today the New South Wales Police Service announced the culmination of a six-month covert drug investigation at Kings Cross. Operations Elan and Poido, which concluded overnight, netted heroin with a street value of more than $250,000, more than $300,000 in cash, three self-loading pistols, a replica gun and other property. This major operation involved the arrest of 13 people on a range of drug charges, including conspiracy to supply a large commercial quantity of heroin, goods in custody and firearms offences.

The offence of conspiracy to supply a commercial quantity of heroin now carries a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment. I will read to the House a list of some of the charges that were laid as a result of this important bust. A 35-year-old man from Pyrmont was charged with conspiracy to supply a commercial quantity of heroin, supply heroin, possess heroin, goods in custody and possess a prohibited weapon; a 21-year-old man from Kings Cross was charged with conspiracy to supply a commercial quantity of heroin and possess firearms; and a 44-year-old man from Hurstville was charged with conspiracy to supply heroin and supply heroin. Further, a 30-year-old man from Concord was charged with conspiracy to supply a commercial quantity of heroin, and a 21-year-old man from Kings Cross was charged with possession of a prohibited drug, supply prohibited drug and conspiracy to supply.

The list goes on, and includes a 16-year-old male from Rushcutters Bay who was charged with supply of a prohibited drug, steal from a dwelling and goods in custody. A Thai national is currently on detention awaiting deportation. Results like those do not occur without a well-planned, covert operation. This operation, which began in January, is an example of the work being undertaken by the reformed New South Wales Police Service. The covert investigation, which involved 82 police and intelligence analysts from the New South Wales Police Service and the National Crime Authority with assistance from the Customs Service, centred on an area in which Australia's most street-wise criminals operate. However, those criminals did not get a whiff of this covert manoeuvre. The operation was watertight: nothing leaked.

That is the critical difference between the present Police Service and the service in the days prior to the royal commission with the Trevor Hakens and Chook Fowlers of this world. The operation was successful because the Government is building an honest, corruption-resistant Police Service. We disbanded the discredited drug squads and replaced them with crime agencies. We gave them the resources to fight organised crime in co-operation with interstate law enforcement agencies. We introduced tougher laws to help police put the Mr Bigs away for longer. The operation was successful despite reckless and opportunistic Opposition intervention. Time and again I said - and it was reported - that I could not and would not comment on recently reported drug matters in Kings Cross because of an ongoing operation in the area.

However, responsibility is not on the Opposition agenda. At the same time as brave police were risking their lives to snare drug dealers and protect us, the Leader of the Opposition was grandstanding. The fight against drugs in Kings Cross will continue. Solving this decades-old problem will take intensive police work and community support. I congratulate the New South Wales Police Service, the National Crime Authority and the Customs Service on a job well done.
COMMISSIONER OF POLICE

Mr TINK: My question is to the Premier. Now that Commissioner Ryan is considering returning to England for the top job at Scotland Yard, will the Premier advise the House whether his $425,000 a year contract contains an out clause and table the secret contract and determination?

Mr Whelan: You have never liked him.

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Mr CARR: As my colleague the Minister for Police says, members of the Opposition have never liked Commissioner Ryan. They opposed the reform program that the Government embarked upon.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Vaucluse to order.

Mr CARR: At every point they have resisted one of the Government's proudest achievements: the cleaning up of the New South Wales Police Service in line with the royal commission report.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I place the honourable member for Vaucluse on three calls to order.

Mr CARR: Commissioner Ryan has signed a contract committing himself to the New South Wales Police Service for five years. I am not surprised that Scotland Yard would want to recruit him.

Mr TINK: I ask a supplementary question. In view of the article in the Guardian of today, will the Premier seek an assurance from the Home Secretary in London, Jack Straw, that Commissioner Ryan has not been, is not being and will not be considered for the job of Chief Commissioner of the London police?

Mr CARR: I am happy to embrace an international role. I am happy to get world leaders on the phone and say, "There is a chap called Andrew Tink who struts his Churchillian stuff in the New South Wales Parliament. You should be advised of his view."

Mr Tink: Sit down.

Mr CARR: I will not sit down, I am answering your question. Does the shadow minister for police seriously suggest that I should pick up the phone, ring Tony Blair and say, "Hear, hear, old chap, it has come to my attention that you are considering recruiting our police commissioner. I declare hands off."? Is the honourable member suggesting that I do that? I am prepared to believe that the member for Epping is a first-class rattlebrain, but this is absolute confirmation of it. Has he taken leave of his senses?

I do not know whether this question has anything to do with the whiff of a leadership challenge. If the shadow minister is suggesting that the role of the New South Wales Premier is to get on the international line and start telling the sovereign Government of the United Kingdom that it cannot add someone from Australia to its short list, when we have just recruited the head of the Birmingham Icon Art Gallery to the Museum of Contemporary Art at Circular Quay, he is really dopey. He is dopier than any of us thought.
RAIL MAINTENANCE CONTESTABILITY

Mr GREENE: My question without notice is to the Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads. How does the Government intend to meet its commitment to reintroduce contestability in the rail maintenance sector?

Mr SCULLY: Making rail maintenance contestable is a key part of the Government's program for rail reform. Since 1995 the Government has reshaped rail in New South Wales to improve performance and deliver better value for money to taxpayers. The benefits have been marked. State Rail has improved on time running to 93 per cent, and there has been a reduction in the number of complaints and continued increased patronage. The Rail Access Corporation, which has responsibility for track and infrastructure, has reported that in 1997-98 it achieved impressive improvements in infrastructure performance, reliability and safety, and all this with significantly reduced costs - $296 million in savings compared with its establishment year.

The major safety indicators of the Rail Access Corporation have improved by up to 67 per cent since 1995. In each of the first two years of its establishment the corporation reduced delays due to infrastructure problems by 20 per cent. New South Wales freight services have benefited also since corporatisation. Since 1997-98 interstate freight rates fell by about 10 per cent and export coal haulage rates fell by 17 per cent. That is excellent news for thousands of city and rural businesses, farmers and secondary producers who rely on rail to transport their goods across the State.

All of those benefits need to be viewed in the context of the Government's strong commitment to rail as an effective alternative to road transport. The road and rail network provides the link between Queensland and Victoria and is the key destination for freight along the eastern seaboard. The Government is working towards providing a more integrated transport network for the next century. The Government's integrated transport plan, Action for Transport 2010, has committed an average $300 million per year over 10 years to new rail projects. This year's budget includes an allocation of $26 million towards the cost of the Parramatta rail link, the biggest infrastructure project in Sydney since the 1920s.

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Mr O'Farrell: Where is the EIS? It was due in May.

Mr SCULLY: The environmental impact statement will be out later this year. I note that again the shadow minister for transport supports - as did his predecessor in that shadow portfolio - the Government's pursuit of that important infrastructure project, the Parramatta rail link. The Government has reversed the trend of previous governments by reopening new rural rail lines for the first time in decades. It is vital that the rail network be kept in top working order to ensure the efficient, reliable and safe running of passenger and freight services.

Rail maintenance needs to be delivered efficiently, without compromising safety, to ensure that taxpayers get value for money from the State's rail network. The Government suspended its program of contracting out rail maintenance in this State 14 months ago. The moratorium was undertaken to allow the rail maintenance organisation, Rail Services Australia [RSA], time to prepare for competition on an equal footing with private maintenance contractors. The Government recognised the concerns of rail unions and workers that Rail Services Australia was not ready to compete and needed to improve its corporate structure and performance. At the time the Government committed itself to recommencing the contestability process by July 1999.

The Government has carefully considered the best method of recommencing the process and has consulted with Rail Services Australia, the Rail Access Corporation and the relevant transport unions. I am pleased to inform the House of the Government's schedule to recommence a contestability program in key regions. Under the revised program three new contracts will be awarded. During the moratorium RSA and its work force have moved to improve efficiency and work practices. RSA has corporatised, reorganised its management structure and made significant savings that have benefited taxpayers - savings worth $85 million for labour costs alone.

The Rail Access Corporation has stated that the savings achieved by RSA during the moratorium were well in excess of what they believed could have been achieved under a contestable process. This has been done while maintaining the quality and reliability of the track, ensuring safe and efficient passenger and freight train services. The performance improvements have been most marked on the north coast. RSA therefore will be awarded the contract for the North Coast in recognition of the major reforms to the organisation since its establishment in 1996. The terms of its North Coast contract will be in line with its bid for the North Coast contract last year, prior to the moratorium. The contract will help to maintain the value of RSA as a public asset.

Tenders for a maintenance contract for the Bondi Junction to Waterfall line will be called in the near future and awarded in December as a first step. A second contract for the Hunter Valley will be let in March 2000. Maintenance contracts will be benchmarked against key performance indicators, including safety, cost and reliability. The Hunter region is especially important to the New South Wales coal industry. I believe that the private sector will welcome the opportunity to compete for the contract to maintain these vital lines and to reduce the cost of freight in this region.

The proposed schedule meets the Government's commitment to restart contracting out while giving greater employment certainty to rail workers. By March 2001 I will deliver a report to Cabinet regarding the state of play of rail maintenance in New South Wales. The report will cover options for further contracting out and will assess the performance of RSA over the next 18 months. Any reduction in the work force will be achieved through voluntary redundancies, in accordance with Government policy. Affected staff will be offered the option of redeployment and retraining. All staffing issues will be fully negotiated with the rail unions and staff.

This schedule balances a range of objectives. It recognises the continued value of RSA as a publicly-owned asset, it sustains the gains of the Government's rail reform process, and it reaffirms our commitment to value for money for taxpayers. Honourable members will acknowledge this as a major commitment by the Government to ensuring that the rail track is maintained in an efficient and safe manner to ensure that there are continued efficient and reliable passenger and freight services.

Consider the tremendous improvements the Government is making as a result of implementing Action for Transport. Every honourable member, particularly those on this side of the House, will realise the significance of the 1999-2000 budget in implementing Action for Transport. An allocation of $26 million has been made for the Parramatta rail link and $60 million has been set aside for the completion of the airport link. When that is completed people will be able to travel from the CBD to the city in about 10 minutes. The people of south-western Sydney will be more conveniently able to access the city.

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I suggest that at least my colleagues on this side of the House can see the start of something huge. Members on the other side of the House are not interested. As the Sydney Morning Herald correctly reported, this is the start of the rebuilding and enhancement of the State's rail, road and busway infrastructure. This program will bring about an enormous change. When the airport link is finished we will have substantially gone down the road of turning the sod on the Parramatta rail link. That will disappoint members opposite. That rail link will be open by the middle of the next decade. The constituents of the honourable member for Ryde will return him to office in 2003 because they realise that shortly after that election they will have the 28-kilometre Parramatta rail link.

Mr Carr: That will please Michael Photios.

Mr SCULLY: Michael Photios was removed from the Chamber so often that we hardly miss him.

[Interruption]

The honourable member for Gosford will appreciate this program that will upgrade the Parramatta rail link. I am happy for him to come up to my office and I will show him the plan. He does not appreciate the huge improvements. The Government will put in about $700 million to $800 million to rebuild the line between Hornsby and the Central Coast. Members of the Opposition are not interested; they are not concerned. Nine trains currently come down to Sydney from the Central Coast in the morning peak hour. That number will be increased to 12. When that process is completed the Government wants to extend the improvements to Newcastle.

The Government does not have $700 million to $800 million to put into those improvements over seven or eight years, so we approached the Federal Government and suggested that it join with us to upgrade the link to Newcastle. The Federal Government was not interested. I would like the Federal Government to show some sort of commitment to public transport. It is all left to the State government. The Government has made a commitment of $300 million each year for the next ten years to the Parramatta rail link, the completion of the airport link, the rebuilding of the Central Coast line, and the creation of lines from Beecroft to Epping and from Hurstville to Strathfield. Labor members of Parliament on the southern side of Sydney will be very pleased about that.
REGISTERED CLUBS COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AND SUPPORT EXPENDITURE SCHEME

Mr BARTLETT: My question without notice is to the Minister for Gaming and Racing. What is the current situation with the Community Development and Support Expenditure Scheme for registered clubs, and how is it supporting local communities and families?

Mr FACE: I commend the honourable member for Port Stephens for his interest in the club industry, not only in his electorate but throughout New South Wales. Honourable members will recall that last year the Parliament approved a range of amendments to the Registered Clubs Act as part of its landmark community partnership package of reforms for the hotel and club industries. The outmoded rebate scheme was replaced. That scheme was introduced in the latter part of the term of the previous Labor Government, and there it stood for seven years. Absolutely nothing was done about an alternative scheme. I am pleased to inform the House that in its previous term the Labor Government introduced the community partnership package.

One of the amendments reduced the top marginal tax rate for clubs earning more than $1 million in annual gaming machine revenue from 30 per cent to 26.25 per cent. A further concession of 1.5 per cent off this rate was made available to clubs that spent up to that percentage of their profits over $1 million on approved community development and support projects. That concession applies to more than 400 of the State's 1,400 registered clubs. Guidelines for the scheme were developed in consultation with both the Registered Clubs Association and the Council of Social Service of New South Wales. Category one of the guidelines is the most specific and focuses on the key areas of community welfare: community development, social services and employment assistance activities.

The specific basis of the category one area of the guidelines is to focus a portion of club donations on organisations and activities that contribute to the social fabric of this State. In particular surf-lifesaving organisations and a wide range of other groups and activities that contribute in this way to the community are recognised through the guidelines. The community development and support scheme is groundbreaking. It is designed to achieve two key things: first, that larger registered clubs in this State continue to make, and account for, their
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donations to the community; and, second, that the disadvantaged in the community are better positioned to benefit from the substantial contributions made by those clubs.

As required under the guidelines, the Registered Clubs Association placed advertisements in newspapers throughout the State towards the end of last year to notify potential beneficiaries across New South Wales of the scheme, and to invite them to approach relevant clubs for funding. I can report to the House that, at least on the evidence of the first part-year's operation of the scheme, the program is well and truly starting to achieve its goals. I am advised that overall, qualifying clubs in the 1998 duty year reported expenditure under the community development and support scheme of some $33.6 million, comprising $11.9 million for category one expenditure and $21.7 million for the broader category two expenditure.

I am also advised that on the basis of the total annual profit figures for the 1998 duty year, the minimum aggregate amount required to be spent by the approximately 400 qualifying clubs on community development and support was $23.4 million, comprising $7.9 million for category one and $15.5 million for category two. That is an extra $10.2 million expended on the community development and support scheme projects. Worthwhile projects approved under the scheme include contributions by the Ettalong Beach War Memorial Club of $176,000 for integrated life skills courses for unemployed people on the Central Coast aged between 18 and 24 years - I attended the opening of that course and its results were magnificent - and $18,000 for the Wesley Mission's Mangrove Mountain Retreat to expand its programs to rehabilitate homeless and needy children.

The Mount Pritchard and District Community Club provided $44,944 to the Fairfield East Community Organisation for the purchase of a 12-seater bus with wheelchair hoist. The bus will transport disabled and elderly residents in the Fairfield area on day trips and to health-care facilities. The Mount Pritchard Public School was the recipient of $22,600 for a special program providing ethnic language tutors and the Fairfield Immigrant and Refugee Women's Network received $5,000 for a domestic violence awareness campaign.

Newcastle Western Suburbs Leagues Club gave money to the local aged hostel run by the Society of St Vincent de Paul and also the Young People's Theatre. Phoenix Recreation Club, which is in the electorate of the honourable member for Port Stephens, gave money to the Hunter branch of the Surf Life Saving Association for education and child-care services in a nearby child-care unit. Those examples, of course, do not include those 1,000 or so smaller clubs that are actively involved in providing services for their members and their local communities. Those smaller clubs donate considerable funds and the use of their facilities to groups such as schools, sporting and charitable organisations.

The Registered Clubs Act requires that a review of the scheme must be held before 1 December 1999. That will provide an excellent opportunity to finetune the controls and ensure that the benefits to community-based activities are maximised. I look forward to the input from the Registered Clubs Association and the Council of Social Service of New South Wales. Recently I indicated to the Registered Clubs Association that the ongoing partnership would continue. Although it is still early days, I fully expect that this innovative scheme will boost spending on community welfare, community development, social services and employment assistance activities to the benefit of a large number of men and women in the community.

I am pleased to congratulate the club movement on its assistance in the implementation of the scheme and the progress made since its introduction. Registered clubs have been responsible for many things recently. In the near future I will announce that the Government will release for public comment an exposure draft of a landmark bill dealing with responsible gambling in this State. If not a world first, it will certainly introduce harm minimisation into gaming, which is long overdue. It will be similar to the action taken by the Government while I have been the Minister - the Coalition certainly did not have the gumption to do it - to introduce harm minimisation in regard to the consumption of alcohol.

In the next few days this Government will be making available to this Parliament and to the State for public comment an exposure draft of a landmark bill that will provide for a wide range of matters, such as signage in gambling venues about the availability of problem gambling counselling and treatment services; training of gambling venue staff; preventing irresponsible gambling advertising and promotion activities, and inducements to gamble; the making available of consumer information about particular gambling activities; and recognising, most importantly, industry codes of practice. I have to say that with all the current hysteria, I would have expected the Opposition to ask me a question. I would have been happy to answer such a question, but members of the Opposition seem to want chase
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other issues. I point out that this Government has done more to deal with gambling and gambling dependency than any previous Coalition Government. They did nothing.

Questions without notice concluded.
DISTINGUISHED VISITOR

Mr SPEAKER: I draw to the attention of honourable members the presence in the gallery of the former member for the electorate of Monaro, Peter Cochran.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Bills: Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders

Motion by Mr Whelan 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 following bills, notices of which were given this day:
    Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Bill
    Workers Compensation Legislation Amendment Bill
WORKERS COMPENSATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL

Bill introduced and read a first time.
Second Reading

Mr YEADON (Granville - Minister for Information Technology, Minister for Energy, Minister for Forestry, and Minister for Western Sydney) [3.13 p.m.]: I move:
    That this bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this bill is to provide for the temporary deferral of private underwriting of workers compensation insurance. The Workplace Injury Management and Workers Compensation Act, which includes provision for private underwriting, was based on proposals that were developed and recommended by the Workers Compensation Advisory Council in 1998. The Act presently specifies that the privately underwritten insurance system - intended to replace the existing managed fund system - is to start on 1 October 1999. One of the other main features of the changes to the 1998 Act was to firmly establish the advisory council in a central advisory capacity in the scheme. The council comprises two groups of five members which represent, respectively, each of the two key scheme stakeholder groups - that is, employers and employees - as well as two non-voting representatives of insurers and the general manager of WorkCover.

The council’s functions include, first, responsibility for making recommendations to the Minister regarding the objectives and policy directions of the workers compensation legislation; second, monitoring and reporting on the effectiveness of the legislation and indicators of the scheme’s financial viability; and, third, responsibility for making recommendations to the Minister regarding amendment of the legislation. Pursuant to those responsibilities, the advisory council has recently recommended that amendments be made to defer private underwriting. That recommendation has led to the present bill. The recommendation, incidentally, has the agreement of council members representing both employers and employees.

The council has advised that deferral of the privately underwritten system is appropriate, primarily because of concerns about likely premium rates under that system. In particular, there are indications that average premium rates to be charged by insurers under the new system are likely to increase. That is based on consideration of an initial submission recently lodged on behalf of insurers that details proposed basic methods for risk premium assessment. It also takes account of premiums actually expected to be charged by insurers, which would necessarily be set at levels higher than basic risk premiums. The proposed deferral is intended to give an opportunity for additional reforms to be adopted to control premium levels, and also to address the accumulated deficit in current WorkCover scheme funds.

The advisory council has been requested to carry out a review of the workers compensation scheme and report back with strategies within a short time frame. Following that review, the Government plans to bring forward legislation as soon as possible to implement appropriate reform proposals. The proposed period of deferral will also allow further scope for more effective implementation of previous amendments. Those earlier measures include significant changes such as the introduction in 1998 of arrangements for proactive management of injuries at the workplace. Those changes seek to promote important adjustments in work culture with the aim of early intervention, in the interests of both employer and worker, when injuries occur. Accordingly, many employers are still engaged in creating or revising systems to give proper effect to those matters.

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An additional consideration relevant to the proposed private underwriting deferral involves changes to premium assessment procedures proposed by insurers in their initial submission. One of those proposed changes is the adoption of a new system of classifying businesses for premium purposes. Under that system, it appears that some categories of employer may experience increases in rates owing to the reclassification of their business compared with present arrangements. The proposed deferral will enable a smoother transition to the new premium system, with the aim of minimising associated cost fluctuations for individual employers caused by procedural changes.

Turning to the details of the bill, I point out that it would remove from the Act the existing references to 1 October 1999 as the start date of private underwriting. Instead, provision is made to defer that date for a maximum period of one year - that is, to 1 October 2000. However, the provision includes flexibility for an earlier activation of private underwriting if appropriate. Specifically, the legislation provides that the new system will start either on 1 October 2000 or on such earlier date as may be appointed by proclamation. In conclusion, this bill has been sought by the Workers Compensation Advisory Council, and accordingly has the strong support of stakeholders. That support has been expressed through employer and employee representatives on the council and elsewhere.

The advisory council was established as a key representative body to review and advise on the changing needs and circumstances of the scheme. As events since 1998 have unfolded, it has become clear to the advisory council - reflected in its recommendations to the Government - that further time is required before private underwriting is commenced. In addition to the planned further reforms that I have mentioned, the proposed deferral will enable previous cost-saving measures to be consolidated. That will promote a stable operating environment for insurers and employers under the privately underwritten system when it commences. Adoption of such a system was intended to allow employers and workers to benefit from competition between insurers in regard to delivery of injury management and other services. In the circumstances that I have outlined, the deferral affected by this bill will assist in achieving that purpose. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Fraser.
BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY SECURITY OF PAYMENT BILL

Bill introduced and read a first time.
Second Reading

Mr IEMMA (Lakemba - Minister for Public Works and Services, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Citizenship) [3.20 p.m.]: I move:
    That this bill be now read a second time.

Today marks an important occasion for small business and the construction industry. Today also marks an important step in the Government's support of the long fight by subcontractors in the construction industry for justice and security of payment. The Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Bill is a key component of the Government reform package for security of payment in the New South Wales construction industry. It follows the 15 February announcement by the Premier of the Government’s intention to stamp out the unAustralian practice of not paying contractors for work they undertake on construction. It is all too frequently the case that small subcontractors - such as bricklayers, carpenters, electricians and plumbers - are not paid for their work. Many of them cannot survive financially when that occurs, with severe consequences for themselves and their families.

The Government is determined to rid the construction industry of such totally unacceptable practices. The Government recognises that any action taken to achieve this should not add unnecessary cost to industry, its participants and clients. An exposure draft bill, on which this proposed legislation is comprehensively based, was issued for public comment by the Premier on 15 February 1999 as part of a package of reforms. Other elements of the package, namely, an industry registration scheme and compulsory insolvency insurance, are under active consideration by the Government.

The exposure draft bill has received widespread support and recognition from all sectors of the industry, including bodies representing contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and property developers. They include the National Electrical Contractors Association New South Wales Branch, the Master Plumbers and Mechanical Contractors Association, the Association of Wall and Ceiling Contractors of New South Wales, the Master Painters Australia New South Wales Branch, the Building Industry Specialist Contractors
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Organisation of New South Wales, the Metal Roofing and Cladding Association of Australia, the Metal Building Products Manufacturing Association, the Timber and Building Materials Association New South Wales Branch, the Concrete Pumping Association of New South Wales, the Australian Specialist Contractors Association, the Housing Industry Association (New South Wales), the Master Builders Australia (New South Wales), the Newcastle Master Builders Association, the Australian Constructors Association, and the Property Council of Australia.

The main thrust of the bill is to reform payment behaviour in the construction industry. The bill creates fair and balanced payment standards for construction contracts. The standards include use of progress payments, quick adjudication of disputes over progress payment amounts and provision of security for disputed payments while a dispute is being resolved. The bill will speed up payments by removing incentives to delay. Reforms include the power for an unpaid contractor or subcontractor to suspend work and a ban on "pay when paid" and "pay if paid" clauses. Contract provisions which make a party's entitlement to be paid conditional upon the payer receiving payment from a third party are not acceptable to the Government or the industry. Such inequitable provisions will no longer have effect in construction contracts in New South Wales.

Hundreds of subcontractors in New South Wales struggle to survive when they do not receive money owed to them for work undertaken. They do not have the cash flow allowing them to keep on working while waiting for payment. This causes hardship not only to them but also to their families. With certain exceptions, the bill benefits anyone who is party to a construction contract, whether written or oral. Construction contracts include contracts for the supply of related goods and services such as the provision of architectural, engineering and surveying services, the supply of building materials or components to form part of a building or structure, and the supply or hire of plant or materials for use in construction work. Builders are also able to use the legislation in relation to obtaining payments from their clients.

Particular types of contracts are excluded from the operation of the legislation. The main exclusions are: contracts for residential building work with the person who resides in or proposes to reside in the premises on which the work is carried out; employment contracts; contracts of insurance or loans or guarantees with recognised financial institutions; contracts in which the payment is not made in monetary terms, for example, a contract in which, in return for carrying out construction work, the contractor is to receive the right to lease or operate the building or structure; and contracts for construction work carried out outside New South Wales.

The bill covers civil engineering as well as architectural work, mechanical and electrical work in buildings, maintenance, and landscaping and decorating. It affects all parties who contract for that work, including owners, contractors, subcontractors and consultants, and applies to both commercial and residential work. The party that will be most affected by the legislation is the party that, for the party’s improper financial benefit, delays making legitimate progress payments. The bill gives claimants a quicker and cheaper means of enforcing payment or ensuring that, when in dispute, the debtor does not retain use of the disputed money but securely sets it aside until the dispute is resolved.

The bill is divided into four parts and two schedules. Part 1 deals with the broad objectives of the bill, its commencement and definitions. The legislation will not apply to construction contracts formed before the date of its commencement. Part 2 introduces a statutory right to receive progress payments for construction work. It also provides default provisions dealing with matters such as intervals at which progress claims are made, time for payment following a progress claim, and how to value work for progress payments. The default provisions operate if the construction contract is silent on these matters but do not override any such relevant provisions in the contract.

Part 3 of the bill deals with the procedure of claiming for progress payments and describes the adjudication process if a dispute arises over payment. It covers issues such as how adjudicators are appointed and consequences of adjudication such as provision of security for payment and rights to suspend work. Part 4 covers miscellaneous matters, including the regulation-making power and that the Act will bind New South Wales State Government contracts, but not contracts with the Commonwealth.

I shall now describe in more detail the many salient features of this bill. Some construction contracts do not explicitly provide for progress payments. A construction contract will now have to include provision for making progress payments and for determining the amount of each progress payment, otherwise these matters will be covered by the default provisions in the bill. The parties, in forming their contract, are free to agree upon the intervals for making payment claims, times for
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making payment and how such payments are valued. But if the contract does not cover these matters part 2 of the bill provides that payment claims can be made at four-weekly intervals with payment becoming due two weeks after a payment claim is made. If the construction contract is silent on how a payment is to be valued then part 2 also provides that the amount is calculated on the basis of the value of work carried out and related goods and services provided.

Some subcontracts provide that a subcontractor is not entitled to be paid until the principal pays the contractor, even though the principal is late in paying or withholds payment on account of something unrelated to the subcontractor’s performance. This is a "pay when paid" clause. Some provide that if the principal pays the contractor only portion of the subcontractor’s claim, or none of it, the subcontractor is not entitled to recover any more from the contractor than the contractor received from the principal, even though the principal may have acted in breach of contract. This is a "pay if paid" clause. Sometimes the two types of clause overlap and are indistinguishable. Part 2 of the bill voids both such clauses because of their inequitable and unfair nature.

Under part 3, when a payment claim is made and the other party, called the respondent, does not intend to pay the full amount of the payment claim, it must issue a payment schedule stating the amount, if any, of the payment claim which will be paid and the reasons for not paying the amount claimed. The time for issue of the payment schedule is 10 business days after receipt of the payment claim. The payment schedule alerts the claimant to the existence of a dispute over payment and allows the claimant to immediately commence the adjudication process available under the legislation. This is a critical component of the bill as it provides a statutory early warning to claimants that the respondent does not propose to pay their claim in full. To provide the incentive for the early warning to be given the respondent must pay the full amount of the payment claim when it becomes due for payment under the contract if a payment schedule is not given within time.

If no payment schedule is provided to the claimant within time and the full amount of the payment claim is not paid on time, or the payment schedule says that a particular amount will be paid and that amount is not paid on time, there is immediately a debt for the unpaid amount. The claimant can seek payment of that debt by way of proceedings in the Fair Trading Tribunal - for residential building work - the Local Court, the District Court or the Supreme Court, as appropriate. The respondent cannot raise defences of defective work or cross-claims in order to delay judgment in these proceedings, therefore ensuring a prompt decision by the court. If the claimant obtains judgment for the amount of the payment claim or any part thereof, the respondent must pay the judgment debt.

This does not prevent either party from arguing in other legal proceedings or by any dispute resolution process detailed in the contract that the final amount payable is more or less. If the claimant disagrees with the amount proposed for payment in a payment schedule, the claimant does not have to proceed to arbitration or through any other lengthy dispute resolution process specified in the construction contract to resolve such a dispute. Adjudication under the bill provides a much faster process by giving an interim decision on disputes over progress payments, and fixing the amount of the debt. When a claim is for a debt, as distinct from a claim for damages, the courts have rules to enable the obtaining of judgment swiftly.

In addition, if a payment schedule is not given within time, and payment in full of the payment claim is not made by the time for payment of that payment claim, the party entitled to payment is given a right to suspend construction work. The right to suspend work also exists if a payment made is less than the amount which a payment schedule states will be paid. The payment schedule is akin to the superintendent's or architect's progress certificate which is typically provided for in construction contracts. In adjudication under the bill, the respondent is unable to raise defences, set-offs or cross-claims which have not been identified in the payment schedule. This means that the respondent must treat payment schedules with the utmost care. The bill prevents parties contracting out of the effects of either providing or not providing a payment schedule or the adjudication which can follow a dispute over a payment claim.

To ensure that a claimant does not delay in initiating the adjudication process, the claimant has only five business days after receiving a payment schedule in which to give notice requiring an adjudication under the legislation. The notice requiring adjudication is called an adjudication application. If the claimant fails to make the adjudication application within time, the claimant forfeits the right to the adjudication available under the bill. The claimant also forfeits the right given by the bill to suspend work and the right given by section 23 to have the other party provide security for payment following a decision by the adjudicator.
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However, other dispute resolution processes in the contract or provided by law are not affected. The adjudication application is simply a notice in writing identifying the relevant payment claim and payment schedule, and stating that the claimant requires adjudication under the Act. The claimant can include reasons why the full amount of the payment claim should be paid and why the respondent’s reasons in the payment schedule for not paying are not justified.

The claimant sends the adjudication application to either an adjudicator agreed upon between the parties or, if no adjudicator has been agreed upon, to an authorised nominating authority. At the same time, the claimant must give a copy of the application to the respondent. The parties can agree on who will be adjudicator only after the claimant receives the payment schedule setting out the respondent’s reasons for not paying. This means that a construction contract cannot beforehand compel a claimant to use only a particular adjudicator, but it can specify a particular authorised nominating authority.

The adjudicator must be a person acting independently. The adjudicator cannot be an employee of either party. The adjudicator is formally appointed when the adjudicator accepts an adjudication application by serving notice of acceptance on the claimant. Since the claimant has only five business days to lodge the adjudication application with an adjudicator or an authorised nominating authority, an agreement on who will be the adjudicator will have to be made very quickly. In many cases the claimant will need to lodge the adjudication application with an authorised nominating authority and the nominating authority will nominate the adjudicator, due to no agreement being reached.

An authorised nominating authority is an individual or organisation approved by the relevant Minister. There are presently a significant number of organisations which nominate arbitrators or mediators for disputes in the construction industry. It is expected that these organisations will apply to be approved as authorised nominating authorities. The Minister may decide to withdraw approval of any authorised nominating authority which is unable or unwilling to properly perform the role of a nominating authority.

An appeal is available to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal against the refusal of the Minister to authorise a person as a nominating authority or to withdraw authorisation. If the construction contract prescribes a particular authorised nominating authority, the claimant must first lodge the adjudication application with that authorised nominating authority. It must be a body authorised by the Minister. If no authorised nominating authority is prescribed in the construction contract, the claimant is free to use any such authority. If that authorised nominating authority fails to arrange an adjudicator within four business days, the claimant can go to any other authorised nominating authority.

The respondent can make the response up to a maximum of five business days after receiving a copy of the claimant’s submission to the adjudicator or two business days after receiving a copy of the notice of the adjudicator’s acceptance of appointment, whichever is the later. It is up to the claimant to ensure that the respondent is served with a copy of the adjudication application promptly to ensure a quick response time. The response must contain any submissions which the respondent wishes the adjudicator to consider when the adjudicator decides the claimant’s adjudication application. If the respondent does not lodge the response in time, it cannot be considered by the adjudicator. The adjudicator will then proceed to make a determination only on the information provided by the claimant.

Sections 21 and 22 detail the powers and functions of the adjudicator. After receiving the initial submission from the parties, the adjudicator can call for further submissions, view the site and hold a conference. The process is not judicial, the provisions of the Commercial Arbitration Act 1984 do not apply, and there is no power to call for witnesses or for evidence under oath. The adjudicator must decide the amount, if any, owed by the respondent to the claimant in respect of the payment claim and the date on which the amount became or will become payable. This date will be the date for payment prescribed by the construction contract or, if no date is prescribed, two weeks after the payment claim was made as provided under section 11. The adjudicator must give brief reasons if so requested by either party prior to making a decision.

As the respondent’s submission must be confined to reasons, amounts and grounds for withholding payment, as stated in the payment schedule, and any related issues raised in the claimant’s submission, the ambit of the dispute to be decided is fixed by two documents, namely, the payment claim and the payment schedule. Provided that the adjudicator actually decides the dispute evidenced by these documents, there is ample judicial authority to show that the courts will not
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interfere with or set aside a decision of an adjudicator. Under section 10 the adjudicator attracts no liability for anything done or omitted to be done by the adjudicator in good faith in the exercise of the adjudicator’s functions. While the adjudicator must make a decision within 10 business days and communicate the decision in writing to the parties, the bill does not say that communication of the decision must be within the 10 business days.

The adjudicator could refuse to send the parties copies of the decision until the adjudicator’s fees are paid. The bill does not take away any lien for fees which the adjudicator may have. Normally, payment of the adjudicator’s fees are shared equally by the disputing parties. However, a party could ask the adjudicator to make a different apportionment. The adjudicator would have to give the other party an opportunity to make a submission on the point. The adjudicator could decide that there should be a different apportionment of liability for the adjudicator’s costs. Neither party is entitled to recover from the other the costs of preparing or making submissions to the adjudicator.

As an alternative to paying the amount of the adjudicator’s decision, the respondent can provide security for payment. Usually, if payment or security for payment is not provided within two business days after the adjudicator’s decision, the claimant can suspend work but must give two business days notice of intention to do so. The claimant can also register the adjudicator’s decision in a court and obtain a court judgment. The new Contractors Debts Act can be used in this instance to seek orders which could result in payments made to the claimant by a third party who owes money to the respondent.

In summary, the adjudication timetable is short because the very purpose of adjudication is to have a decision from the adjudicator within as short a time as reasonably possible. The adjudication process should be completed within three weeks of the claimant receiving notice that a progress claim will not be paid in full. If, without the consent of both parties, the adjudicator fails to make a decision within 10 business days, the adjudicator forfeits any right to payment and the claimant can proceed to have another adjudicator nominated.

Adjudication therefore provides the claimant with important benefits, namely, a prompt interim decision on a disputed payment; the amount in the decision must be either paid to the claimant, or secured and set aside; and failure to do any of the above not only allows the claimant to sue for the adjudicated amount, but also to suspend work. Therefore, if the dispute is not resolved to both parties’ satisfaction by the adjudication process, it will result in an independently determined amount being securely set aside until final resolution is achieved.

The bill does not specifically provide for an appeal from an adjudicator's decision. The adjudicator's decision is only an interim decision until the amount due in respect of the payment claim is finally decided in legal proceedings or in a binding dispute resolution process. This is the "appeal". Inserting by statute yet a further adjudication appeal process between the adjudicator's interim decision and the final decision would be unnecessarily burdensome and costly for parties to construction contracts. It can also be a source of abuse by a desperate respondent seeking to delay payment. However, recourse to a legal or another dispute resolution process does not suspend the operation of the bill or the adjudicator's decision pending a final decision. The respondent must still pay the amount decided by the adjudicator or provide security for payment. Section 34 states that a provision of any agreement which purports to exclude, modify or restrict the respondent's liability under the bill is void.

Provision of security for payment occurs only where the adjudicator decides that the respondent is liable to pay the claimant a sum of money and the respondent wants to dispute the decision. The respondent has two business days in which to pay or put up security for payment. Otherwise, the claimant can commence court proceedings for a judgment for the amount. The respondent may prefer to pay and have a final accounting at the end of the contract, rather than incur the extra cost of putting up security for payment. Even if the party found by the adjudicator to be liable to pay is, ultimately, in legal proceedings or other binding dispute resolution process, found not liable to pay, the costs of providing security for payment are not recoverable. The parties can agree upon a form of security for payment, but in the event that agreement is not reached, the bill provides two alternatives for the respondent to choose from.

The simple alternative is to provide the claimant with the common form of bank guarantee for the full amount of the debt or, alternatively, the respondent can deposit the amount in a designated trust account. This is a bank account which can be in the name of the respondent or a third party trustee. Interest earned by the account forms part of the trust fund. When the respondent pays money into the designated trust account, it ceases to be the respondent’s own money to use as the respondent pleases. Any balance in the account after the dispute
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is finally resolved by agreement or in legal proceedings or other binding dispute resolution process, and payment is made, belongs to the respondent. New South Wales government departments and statutory authorities representing the Crown can avoid the need to provide payment or security for payment following an adjudicator’s decision if they provide a written statement confirming that funds will be available to meet the amount decided by the adjudicator following completion of the dispute process.

The reason for special treatment for government is that there is no risk of insolvency and the expense of providing security for payment is not warranted. The right to suspend work given by this bill is in addition to any other right to suspend work. Sometimes a construction contract contains an express right to suspend. Such a right will not be affected by this bill. Generally speaking, the common law does not allow a contractor to suspend work simply because the other party has failed to make a payment on time. This bill changes the common law by providing such a right. There are limitations on the exercise of the right. Firstly, work can be suspended only on account of non-payment of an undisputed payment claim or adjudicator’s decision. Secondly, time for payment must have passed and a notice of intention to suspend given. Suspension cannot commence until two business days after such a notice is given.

The suspension must be lifted if the respondent pays the debt or provides security for payment in one of the forms permitted by the bill. The claimant is not liable for any loss or damage which the respondent may suffer as a consequence of the suspension. Finally, since there are important notices to be given under the bill, in particular, the payment schedule under clause 14, the notice requiring adjudication under clause 17 and the notice of intention to suspend work under clause 27, the manner and time of service of notices is not left unaddressed.

The bill provides that a notice is given when it is received by the person to whom it is addressed or is delivered to the address from which the person ordinarily carries on business. A written notice can be delivered, posted or faxed. The Carr Government committed itself to the introduction of this important legislation during this sitting of Parliament. In fulfilling this commitment on behalf of the Government I am pleased to note that the construction industry, and particularly subcontractors, will benefit substantially from its introduction, passage and implementation. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Fraser.
CONSIDERATION OF URGENT MOTIONS
Voluntary Student Unionism

Mr STEWART Bankstown) [3.44 p.m.]: The matter that I seek to debate urgently concerns the Federal Coalition Government's attempts to outlaw university student unionism. This House opposes the Federal Government's attempts to do this as there has been little or no consultation on its proposed bill. If it is passed it will have a devastating impact on a wide range of essential services provided by university student unions. If the Federal Coalition Government's bill is passed its effect on local communities, in particular in regional and country areas in New South Wales, will be disastrous. Thousands of jobs will be lost.

It is obvious that Opposition members do not care about job losses in country new South Wales. This matter raises the question of who will take care of essential legal, medical and academic services within universities without the proper and universal existence of student unions. This is a blatant attempt by the Federal Coalition Government to quash the student movement. We, as a Parliament, must take a united stand aimed at convincing the Federal Government that this bill is not only unworkable; it is also unethical and undemocratic.
Prince of Wales Hospital Psychiatric Unit Disrepair

Mrs SKINNER (North Shore) [3.45 p.m.]: My motion for urgent consideration relates to the situation confronting psychiatric patients at the Prince of Wales psychiatric unit. They are being forced to occupy buildings that are falling down, dilapidated, in disgraceful disrepair and cockroach-infested as the Carr Government has underspent and delayed its capital works budgets for the last three years. Every honourable member must regard this as a matter of urgency. We must resolve this issue immediately; it cannot be allowed to continue.

It is simply not good enough for the Carr Government to say, "We do not care about the psychiatric patients of New South Wales. They can be accommodated in buildings that are not fit for human habitation." I am confident that that is the attitude of the Carr Government towards psychiatric
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patients because it allocated money for a capital works upgrade for this facility in 1996, but in each of its last three budgets it has underspent and delayed the completion date and fudged the figures to disguise the fact that the project started late.

This matter is urgent. The Government must come clean about its intentions to upgrade these facilities. People in psychiatric units should not have to put up with the kinds of conditions to which I will now refer. According to a report in today's Sydney Morning Herald, some of the patients had to ask relatives and families to bring in cleaning products so that they could clean their own bathrooms. This Government was so concerned about cockroach infestations and filth at Royal North Shore Hospital just before the last election that it quickly sent in the bucket and broom brigade - a very quick response during an election campaign.

However, psychiatric patients are now having to put up with dirty bathrooms, dirty toilets, cockroach infestations in furniture, holes in the ceiling, rotting carpets and a damp inner courtyard that one patient said was filled with raw sewage. If the Government does not consider that this matter requires urgent consideration it has no real concern for patients and psychiatric patients in New South Wales. This Government is heartless. I care about psychiatric patients and patients in New South Wales. The honourable member for Bankstown knows that the matter he raised for urgent consideration has been the subject of considerable debate over a number of months. I have heard people speaking about that matter on talkback radio.

However, the matter that I wish to be debated has never been revealed before today. This is the first opportunity that we have had to do something about it. I am pre-empting debate and the voting patterns of Government members, but I am sure that they will not vote to allow us to debate today a motion couched in these terms. Patients should not have to occupy filthy wards. Cupboard drawers contain cockroach dirt; patients have to bring in their own buckets and brooms to clean the toilets; there are holes in ceilings; and raw sewage is seeping through a hole in a courtyard, which is fenced off with a bit of wire. This state of affairs is disgusting. If the Government does not enable proper debate of this issue it will demonstrate how much it really cares about sick people in this State.

Question - That the motion for urgent consideration of the honourable member for Bankstown be proceeded with - put.

The House divided.
Ayes, 50

Ms Allan Mr Markham
Mr Amery Mr Martin
Mr Aquilina Ms Meagher
Mr Ashton Ms Megarrity
Mr Bartlett Mr Mills
Mrs Beamer Mr Moss
Mr Black Mr Nagle
Mr Brown Mr Newell
Ms Burton Ms Nori
Mr Campbell Mr Orkopoulos
Mr Collier Mr E. T. Page
Mr Crittenden Mr Price
Mr Debus Dr Refshauge
Mr Face Ms Saliba
Mr Gaudry Mr Scully
Mr Gibson Mr W. D. Smith
Mr Greene Mr Stewart
Mrs Grusovin Mr Tripodi
Mr Hickey Mr Watkins
Mr Hunter Mr Whelan
Mr Iemma Mr Woods
Mr Knight Mr Yeadon
Mr Knowles
Mrs Lo Po' Tellers,
Mr Lynch Mr Anderson
Mr McBride Mr Thompson
Noes, 34

Mr Armstrong Mr O'Farrell
Mr Barr Mr D. L. Page
Mr Brogden Mr Richardson
Mrs Chikarovski Mr Rozzoli
Mr Collins Ms Seaton
Mr Glachan Mrs Skinner
Mr Hartcher Mr Slack-Smith
Mr Hazzard Mr Souris
Ms Hodgkinson Mr Stoner
Mr Humpherson Mr Torbay
Dr Kernohan Mr J. H. Turner
Mr Kerr Mr R. W. Turner
Mr McGrane Mr Webb
Mr Maguire Mr Windsor
Mr Merton
Ms Moore Tellers,
Mr Oakeshott Mr Fraser
Mr O'Doherty Mr R. H. L. Smith
Pairs

Ms Andrews Mr Debnam
Mr Carr Mr George
Ms Harrison Mr Piccoli
Mr McManus Mr Tink

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Page 1601
VOLUNTARY STUDENT UNIONISM
Urgent Motion

Mr STEWART (Bankstown - Parliamentary Secretary) [4.00 p.m.]: I move:
    That this House opposes the Federal Government's attempt to outlaw universal student unionism and notes the detrimental effect that such a move would have on the ability of student unions to provide a wide range of essential services.

A similar motion to this has been passed by the Tasmanian Parliament, with the support of the Liberal Opposition and the Greens. I hope that this House will adopt the same bipartisan approach to this important issue. The Federal Government's move to introduce voluntary student unionism represents the biggest threat to the united student movement since its inception, when three Cambridge University debating societies united to form the first ever student union. That was 184 years ago. For 184 years there has been a system that has worked well to provide excellent services for students. The Federal Government now wants to fix something that is not broken.

The decision by the Federal Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Dr David Kemp, to pursue this legislation is not based on an argument that has in mind the best interests of the students. Instead it is based on a conservative and outdated ideology that collectivism in any form is to be denounced and discouraged. That is the focus and philosophy of the Federal Government, despite the fact that it is this very collectivism that enables universities to provide essential student services on campuses. It is through collective organisation that those services are made available.

Contrary to what some members of the Federal Coalition Government would have one believe, student unions are not simply the political voice on campus. They do many other things. It is true that many politicians - including a great number of those on the Opposition benches - received their initiation into the workings of this great House in that crucible of political ideas and ideals: student politics. Yet that is only a small component of the important role university student unions perform on campus.

Among the many services provided by university student unions and paid for by student union fees are the provision of legal services, medical centres, banks, food outlets, tenancy advice, academic advice, welfare, sporting clubs, societies, second-hand bookshops, newsagencies, sports shops, campus shuttle buses, women's centres, newspapers, handbooks, diaries, entertainment, fax and photocopy services, dental services, gymnasiums, counselling services, child-care services, cinemas, restaurants, cafes, desktop publishing, tutoring, discrimination and harassment support services and, of course, political representation when that is needed. That list is by no means exhaustive.

Any move to ban universal student union fees and thereby limit funding for those services will hit disadvantaged students hardest. That is the crux of the motion. Those students are already struggling to put themselves through university, because of massive cuts to higher education funding which have been inequitable. The proposed changes will affect them deeply, as have the changes to Austudy introduced during the term of the last Federal Government. This proposal smacks of elitism. The introduction of voluntary student unionism will ensure that university education is a luxury afforded only to the rich and out of the reach of average Australian families. That is a huge disappointment.

For this reason it is little wonder that a number of Federal Government backbenchers, especially those who represent rural and regional Australia, are opposed to the introduction of voluntary student unionism. It was a great shame that the Federal Government guillotined the bill through the lower House of the Federal Parliament without giving members an opportunity to have a constructive debate and to voice their concerns. One might ask: Why? The answer is simple. Those members who represent regional communities and country areas know and understand the disastrous effect that the changes will have on students and on local communities.

A downgrading of services will result in the loss of an estimated 3,000 jobs, one-third of which will occur in country areas, and that is a conservative estimate. This will necessarily impact on local businesses, many of which rely on the student population to survive. Communities in Lismore, Bathurst and Armidale rely upon providing these services and have put in place the infrastructure necessary for them to continue. Similar concerns have been raised consistently and eloquently by the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee, the National Tertiary Education Union and the National Union of Students, all of which are unified in their opposition to the proposed bill.

It seems now that even the Minister may be having second thoughts and plans to temporarily shelve the legislation until Federal Parliament resumes in August. Make no mistake, the Howard Government is committed to the legislation. The Prime Minister has been quoted as saying that it is
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an issue that is "dear to the hearts" of many in the Liberal Party. I assure honourable members that the bill is not dear to the hearts of most Australians. It is frightening that the Federal Government has disregarded the Western Australian example, where a trial of voluntary student unionism failed abysmally. At Edith Cowan University the student guild has gone into liquidation, resulting in the retrenchment of all its staff, whilst at Murdoch University, also in Western Australia, voluntary student unionism has resulted in the student guild being on the verge of collapse. All services at that university are now at risk.

How can students be guaranteed access to essential legal, medical and academic services without the existence of student unions? Who will look after the interests of students if student organisations are starved of funding to the stage where they can no longer survive? The Federal Government's attempt to introduce voluntary student unionism has been made without adequate consultation and without taking into account international considerations. It is shameful and particularly disappointing that students - those who will be affected most by the legislation - have not been consulted at all. They have been denied the opportunity to have their say, to air their views and to contribute to an extremely important debate about their future and the future of democracy. It is little wonder that the students are frustrated with what is occurring.

The Carr Government's opposition to voluntary student unionism is not simply about protecting and promoting the union movement; it goes far beyond that. The State Government's opposition is about ensuring that students continue to have access to basic and essential services and a representative voice through which their rights and opinions can be aired, heard and heeded. It is about democracy. Only yesterday in a letter printed in the Australian that great Australian Hazel Hawke wrote:
    This legislation will have the effect of decimating the community and diversity on university campuses. Universities are about more than going to classes, they are about growth in all aspects of life. Student organisations play a pivotal role in that growth. It is from this kind of community that the social fabric is woven and I fear for the future if it is removed.

The Carr Labor Government also fears for the future if the legislation is introduced, not simply for the future of student organisations but for the many and varied services that student unions offer, for the jobs that inevitably will be lost and for the communities which depend upon the existence of such organisations to survive. The Howard Government's move to ban voluntary student unionism is ill-informed. However, it now seems that the Commonwealth's Higher Education Legislation Amendment Bill is unconstitutional. Advice received by the Department of Education and Training from the Crown Solicitor states:
    . . . the Commonwealth does not generally have legislative power under the Constitution . . . to legislate with respect to NSW university students, and, in particular, to impose "voluntary student unionism".

That advice is in line with legal advice received by the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee. The Commonwealth's plan to use its funding power to set conditions that override those developed under State legislation is an abuse of the Commonwealth's funding power and is an unjustifiable intrusion into the affairs of universities.

The legislation is an unprecedented attempt to make voluntary student unionism a condition of essential Federal funding, and that focus is shameful. I call on the Opposition to join the Carr Government in supporting this motion. A similar motion put before the Tasmanian House of Assembly was passed with the support of the Liberal Opposition and the Greens. I hope that this House can exercise a similar bipartisan stance and denounce what is essentially yet another attack on universities and a belated attempt to quash the university student movement. I urge the House to support this important motion.

Mr O'DOHERTY (Hornsby) [4.10 p.m.]: Let me first discuss what voluntary student unionism [VSU] and this motion are not about. The voluntary student unionism proposal of the Federal Government is not about the end of democracy. The honourable member for Bankstown seems to think that in the great democratic traditions of student politics everything will come crashing down if the proposed voluntary student unionism legislation is enacted by the Federal Government. That is not the case. It has nothing to do with the end of democracy as we know it, or as the honourable member for Bankstown would like it to be. The proposed legislation is about providing for a very democratic principle, the principle of choice, to enter the affairs of student organisations in Australia.

If the honourable member for Bankstown really cares about democracy he should uphold the value of the principle of choice, which underpins the beliefs of the Liberal Party of Australia. The honourable member for Bankstown began his contribution by saying that the proposed legislation arose from some ideological opposition to collectivisation, or "collectivism", as he called it. Guess what? The Liberal Party opposes
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collectivisation in the way in which the Labor Party, with its socialist background, wants to enshrine it in universities and other aspects of Australian life. But we do not believe it is appropriate for students to be forced to contribute money that is used for political purposes, most frequently without any of the students who were forced to make the contributions knowing about the end result.

We are talking about the use of compulsory student funding for political activity in which the students have no part or no say. It might be collectivism, but it is certainly not democracy. The Liberal Party believes in the principle of choice, and that choice extends to the rights of students or anybody else to join political organisations and to have their funds used for political purposes. For me, as a Liberal, that is what the debate hinges on. I will come to the facilities question in a moment.

The last time I seriously considered this issue as a shadow minister was when I visited the honourable member for Northern Tablelands when he was the president of the student union at the University of New England. On that day we had a meaningful discussion about this question. The University of New England provides facilities, many of which have a big impact on the town of Armidale. Those facilities include a cinema and a hotel. Should students be forced to contribute to all of those activities, or would those activities not bring about income in their own right if they were provided simply by choice? That is the argument of my Federal colleague David Kemp.

The people of Armidale would make the choice. The students would make the choice about whether they drink in the hotel, whether they go to the cinema or whether they use the food and other services provided at the university. Should students, who are already on low incomes and who have to make provision for the higher education contribution scheme and other expenses, including living-away-from-home expenses, underpin those activities? We do not believe they should. We believe the principle of choice should apply. As I understand it - and the honourable member for Northern Tablelands might indicate whether he concurs with me - we reached some agreement that students should not be forced to contribute to the political activities of student organisations. The honourable member is nodding his head to indicate that he agrees with what I have said. That is the most important principle that underpins the Liberal Party and what it is seeking to do across Australia in relation to voluntary student unionism.

A number of Liberals have a degree of concern about the facilities aspects. There is good, healthy debate within the Liberal Party, which is a democratic organisation, about all the aspects of the principle of voluntary student unionism. I pay particular tribute to Liberals like Joanna Gash and Danna Vale who are arguing quite rightly this very question on behalf of universities in their communities. There is debate within the Liberal Party about the extent to which VSU principles ought to apply. Speaking as a private member, I believe that if the political activities of a student union and the provision of essential student services could be separated, perhaps students could pay a facility fee.

The honourable member for Northern Tablelands and I discussed that when I was at the University of New England a couple of years ago. Perhaps a facility fee could apply for those services that are deemed to be necessary and compulsory for the good running of the university and for the provision of student services that cannot be provided through the normal funding channels by the university itself. In other words, universities should not be forced to divert research funding to provide student services with what might otherwise be provided by a small levy on students. Again that is a personal view: if services were provided in the way in which they are provided at the University of New England, for example, and they started turning a profit, the services would eventually get to the stage where student levies would be reduced, if not completely eliminated. That seems appropriate.

One of the principles that is enshrined in the action the Federal Government is seeking to take is the principle that student services should reflect student need. The honourable member for Bankstown mentioned Western Australia. In Western Australia, which has had voluntary student unionism since 1995, the services provided have changed. At Curtin University, for example, the guild stopped offering aerobics, but offered a casual employment register, which is an important, user-friendly, user-defined need, that was supported and encouraged by the process of VSU.

The guild went on to provide assistance with resumé writing and interview skills. It provided discounts on a range of on-campus and off-campus retailers, similar to the University of New England. Two new cafes opened at the University of Western Australia. That outworking of the VSU process enabled students and the people who provide the services to look at need, rather than take a levy,
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spend a large part of the levy on political activity and provide students with the services the universities think they needs. Rather than doing that, the universities have used the market to determine the services required by the students, and those services meet student needs. It is about student choice; it is not about student organisations. That is probably where the honourable member for Bankstown comes unstuck. He kept coming back to the one point that democracy has to be provided for on a collective and compulsory basis, and students have to pay for that activity.

The Liberal Party completely disagrees with that approach. The honourable member for Bankstown mentioned country universities in particular. I have mentioned a significant example at the University of New England. It is a view of many within the Liberal Party that regional campuses that share facilities with local communities do so to a greater extent than their metropolitan counterparts. The whole complexion of the metropolitan-versus-regional argument is different and should, therefore, provide regional universities with opportunities to share costs and take advantage of greater demand. Voluntary student unionism should provide that opportunity.

I suspect that the University of New England would not be affected as greatly as some other universities. That university has some of these commercial activities up and running. It has looked at what it is doing and the way it has used retail activity, both at the university and in the town, to underpin the provision of services. It is fair to say that there is debate within the community and the Liberal Party about voluntary student unionism. The Liberal Party is a broad church that encompasses many views. The single most important principle, however, for which the Liberal Party stands is the principle of democratic choice, and it is for that reason that the Federal Government has opened up this debate.

The Liberal Party simply does not believe that anybody should be compelled to join an organisation against his or her will, particularly a political organisation. It is for that reason that the voluntary student unionism debate has been tackled by the Federal Government. The Federal Coalition Government is prepared to tackle difficult issues rather than run away from them or force people to be involved in political activity against their will, as would seem to be the desire of the Australian Labor Party.

Ms BURTON (Kogarah) [4.20 p.m.]: The Federal Government's move to introduce voluntary student unionism is yet another unfair and unjustified attack on universities and on students. The proposed legislation has nothing at all to do with choice, and is nothing more than an unwarranted and unjustified intervention in the affairs of universities which has been cloaked in the sanctimonious language of freedom of choice. Just like the goods and services tax [GST], voluntary student unionism [VSU] is another attempt to cut funding for education and to hurt Australian families.

Between 1995-96 and 2001-02 the Howard Government will have cut a total of almost $1 billion from higher education, returning the funding for universities to pre 1990-91 levels. That equates to well in excess of 20,000 student places, according to the department of the Federal Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Dr David Kemp. At the same time, students have been hit hard by increases to higher education contributions scheme [HECS] fees and graduates are being forced to start repaying their increased debt when their annual earnings reach a meagre $21,000.

The Howard Government has stripped more than $500 million from schools, technical and further education [TAFE] colleges and universities in New South Wales. That is another attempt by the Howard Government to cut funding for education and quash student organisations. The introduction of voluntary student unionism will further erode funding for universities. It will result in the collapse of a whole range of essential student services. That is very important, apart from the fact that members opposite are still smarting over not being able to win a student election and therefore wanting to get rid of them.

Significantly, this debate is about services. A VSU will mean the closure of on-campus student medical centres and the withdrawal of student legal services, the campus bookshop, the newsagency and bistros. All of those facilities will struggle to offer students goods and services at reduced cost and, worse still, many will struggle to survive. The result of all this will be a loss of jobs and a downgrading of essential student services. Once again, the Howard Government is attacking those who can least afford it. Many students are already struggling to support themselves while they undertake their university studies. Many are employed in the universities bars or bistros. Many rely on free legal and academic advice services that are available on campus. These are the people who will be forced out of higher education if this legislation is introduced.

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I, too, urge the New South Wales Opposition to join with the Carr Government in supporting this motion. I urge members opposite to adopt the stance of their colleagues in Tasmania by condemning the Federal Government's attempts to outlaw collectivism. At the annual conference of the New South Wales Young Liberals held earlier this year, overwhelmingly the Federal education Minister's plan to destroy university student unions was rejected. Dr Kemp's voluntary student unionism legislation was described at that conference as "illiberal".

The New South Wales Young Liberals have joined many Government backbenchers, including Bob Katter, Joanna Gash, Kay Hull and Ian Macfarlane, in condemning Dr Kemp's plan. The Treasurer Peter Costello - a colleague of members opposite - supports universal student unionism. As president of the Monash Student Association of Students, in 1978 Mr Costello wrote that " . . . the facilities of student unions are only practical on the basis of compulsory contributions . . . "

The Federal Government's proposed voluntary student unionism has been widely condemned by a number of high-profile Australians representing a broad cross-section of the community on both sides of politics. Only yesterday in a letter printed in the Australian newspaper, 35 of some of the best known and respected Australians called on the Senate to reject the Federal Government's proposed legislation which would prevent automatic membership of student organisations. Among them were Janet Holmes a'Court; His Eminence Cardinal Clancy, the Archbishop of Sydney; Tim Anderson from the New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties; comedians Wendy Harmer, Mick Malloy and Kaz Cooke; Rodney Eade, the coach of the Sydney Swans football club; and Sir Gerard Brennan, Chancellor of the University of Technology, who wrote:
    If Universities cease to be the venue for discourse and dissent, the next generation will be supine in the face of authority and our democracy will be a hollow incantation.

That is something that members on the Coalition side of the House might like. This is not an argument about protecting and promoting the union movement; it is about securing vital student services and the independence of universities. The business people, sportsmen and sportswomen, entertainers, academics and members of the clergy who oppose the Federal Government's VSU recognise that fact. The Howard Government's determination to pursue this legislation is ill-informed and is not in the best interests of the students. It is based on outdated ideology which fears collectivism in any form. I call on Opposition members to support this motion and condemn their Federal counterparts for pushing this legislation, which is unfair, unjustified and undemocratic.

Dr KERNOHAN (Camden) [4.25 p.m.]: The issue of voluntary student unionism has a great deal to do with the reasons why people go to university. It raises questions about whether people go to university to learn about politics and to play politics, or whether they go to university to obtain an education and to get a degree to earn a living. I have probably been allied with universities more than any other member of this House. My experience spans approximately 33½ years, ranging from undergraduate to postgraduate and academic endeavours. Over that long period, I spoke with students regularly prior to the commencement of my political career. As a student, for a long time I took no interest in politics. I believe that the majority of university students currently do not take an interest in politics. From the year dot, people have been talking about compulsory student union fees.

Honourable members should compare the benefits of the facilities provided at universities to evening students compared with the benefits given to day students. We should also think about part-time students compared with full-time students and those who undertake one subject per semester or one subject per year but who still have to pay compulsory student union fees. We should not forget also that students who are undertaking external studies and courses by correspondence also have to pay the fees, but the benefit they receive from those facilities is minimal if they are not interested in playing student politics. They receive virtually no benefit from voluntary student unionism.

I recall an interesting example that I know of personally. Over a period of approximately 40 years, a body of students has spent the whole year living at Nepean Hall at Camden on the university farms. During my academic life at that university, I was warden of Nepean Hall for three or four years. There are on average 75 veterinary science students and generally between 10 and 20 animal science students who live on the campus for the whole year, making a total of approximately 85 students. If honourable members consider the average figure that has been cited throughout the debate of $300 for student union fees per student, the total received in compulsory student fees from that group would be $25,500 a year, which goes into the coffers of the student union.

Over that period of 40 years of contact that I have had with universities, I have not seen one
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year's student contributions being applied to the upgrading of student facilities at Camden. If that had happened only once, the residential college would have been absolutely on clover. Instead of that, only a few odds and sods of equipment have been provided for these students; not much was ever provided in the way of facilities.

I believe that students should pay only for services directly related to their educational courses and should not be charged compulsory fees for services that are unrelated to their courses, particularly in relation to facilities that they do not use. The member for Kogarah referred to students struggling to meet the expenses of a university education. I point out that students now have to pay a greater variety of fees than was the case in the past, and this has increased their problems. It is now even harder for them to meet compulsory student union fees than it was before.

If one listened to Government members one would think that the Federal Government's proposed legislation is an attempt to completely ban political activity on campuses. One would think that the Federal Government's proposal would result in there being no Labor club, no Liberal club, no Democrat club and no other political associations or clubs whatever. People can have any kind of political club they want on campus. They can pay their money, run the club, play politics, put out newspapers and do whatever they want.

Mr O'Doherty: No-one is banning politics.

Dr KERNOHAN: No-one is banning politics. We are talking about the compulsory fees that have nothing to do with basic education. The fees have to be paid upfront before students can be enrolled. That is the problem.

Mr Stewart: Who paid for your services when you were at university?

Dr KERNOHAN: When I went to university the union was there and it was not very cheap. The last time I ate at the union outlet at the university it was not very cheap either. Food could be bought just as cheaply at other places around the city. Student unions have done a few things but certainly not equivalent to the $110 million to $130 million a year Australia-wide that I understand is raised by student union fees. [Time expired.]

Mr TORBAY (Northern Tablelands) [4.30 p.m.]: This issue is very dear to my heart. For those members who are not aware, prior to the last election I was employed by a university union for almost 20 years, at the University of New England. The honourable member for Hornsby referred to that. I hosted quite a number of members of the House at the University of New England as guest speakers. I note that a couple of them are in the Chamber this evening.

It is disappointing that there is so much misinformation about this issue. The honourable member for Camden has highlighted this: She is perhaps the most ill-informed person on this issue I have heard in the last four years. The honourable member for Hornsby raised a couple of relevant points. There are not too many differences on this issue between both sides of politics, from any reasonable member. Labor and Liberal members strongly support the key issues of providing essential services to universities.

When this issue was raised the Liberal Party policy would have supported the motion of the honourable member for Bankstown, so I was a little surprised to hear some of the comments of Opposition members on the motion. The question really boils down to political advocacy. The 95 per cent of essential services, day-to-day services, that are provided by student unions appear to be put aside because of the Federal Government's philosophical position. When it hears the word "union" it breaks out in a cold sweat. I do not think Federal Liberal members have analysed the issue. Members who have analysed the issue have formed a reasonable position on it.

The honourable member for Hornsby is right in saying that the University of New England has a very efficient university union. It provides a range of services right up there with the best in the non-academic service provisions of any university. I was not only the chief executive officer but the local mayor as well. We did not have a cinema for 11 years until the university union, in partnership with another not-for-profit organisation, put one there.

The hotel mentioned by the honourable member for Hornsby was in receivership. It was taken over by the university union. The union now provides more than 170 jobs. Most jobs go to student members of the community and others to members of the wider community. Voluntary student unionism without compulsory fees would not have enabled the undertaking of those projects. This flaws the argument for voluntary fees. The honourable member for Hornsby said that if voluntary fees are brought in the University of New England union would not be as adversely impacted. That is probably right, but it would not have been able to do what it has done without compulsory fees.

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I challenge members of the Opposition to look at the issue in detail, not from the philosophical position alone in relation to the word "union". They might as well argue for voluntary council rates as for voluntary student unionism in its current form. Voluntary student unionism is really about saying that we do not want the essential services on campus. Council rates take money compulsorily from the community to enable the allocation of services to the community. Whether a person uses the swimming pool or the library, he or she has to pay council rates. There is a sense of community in providing all those services.

It is ridiculous to argue that voluntary student unionism is about stopping politics. I would like to know which university the honourable member for Camden attended, because it sounded pretty interesting. I urge members to approach the issue on the basis of essential services. There must be compulsory student fees in order that services can be provided. Any reasonable person, whatever his or her politics, sitting down to analyse it, as many members from both sides of State and Federal politics have, would come to the same conclusion.

Mr STEWART (Bankstown - Parliamentary Secretary) [4.35 p.m.], in reply: I thank the members representing the electorates of Hornsby, Kogarah, Camden and Northern Tablelands for their contributions to the debate. The member for the now marginal seat of Hornsby made some interesting comments in regard to this issue which need to be taken up. I refer particularly to the principle of choice, the Liberal principle of choice as he called it. I point out that the legislation has nothing to do with choice; it is about an unwanted intrusion into the affairs of universities cloaked in colourful language under the guise of freedom of choice. The reality is far different. It is about taking away services, taking away democratic choice within universities in a real and meaningful way.

The honourable member for Hornsby supported the Darwinian thesis of survival of the fittest: People are thrown out to the wolves and whoever survives, good luck to them. That is the crux of his pursuit of the Western Australian example. The University of Western Australia is surviving. Presently it has a lot of funding. But Edith Cowan University now has a student union guild which is in liquidation. It is finishing. It has had it. It is kaput. It cannot survive under the Darwinian thesis. The student union at Murdoch University is now on the verge of collapse.

The Federal Government has pushed the legislation through knowing that it is unconstitutional. It has done its homework and knows that it is a breach of the Commonwealth Constitution. So it will use bully boy tactics once again. It will simply say to the States and to university councils, "If you do not wear this you will not get funding." Is that democratic choice? It is just brutality. The legislation was guillotined through the Federal Parliament. In one fateful blow the bill was pushed through. Twenty-one members wanted to speak on the bill to put forward their concerns. Coalition members of Federal Parliament, particularly those from regional and country areas, did not get a say on the issue.

I have mentioned already that 3,000 jobs, on a conservative estimate, will be lost. A third will be lost in regional areas, which will be a tragedy for the local communities that rely on the support provided by the universities. Submissions were called for in relation to the legislation. I do not know why, because there was no consultation after the receipt of submissions. Ninety-two per cent of the submissions were against the focus and thrust of the bill. The Federal Government takes an anachronistic point of view. It wants to be in the 1950s to pursue its ideal of what the honourable member for Hornsby calls the principle of choice, that is, the choice of the Coalition only. It will force through the bill regardless of the opposition. Only one other bill received this level of public activity and that was the euthanasia bill.

The arch conservative for Camden, as she professes to be, commented on the university unions and their contributions. All she can see out of this is politics. I do not know whether she listened to the contributions made today by members on this side of the House. Clearly, this is a debate about service provision within university campuses; it is not just about politics. I cannot help it if the honourable member for Camden could not find a cheap pie at the university campus that she went to - though she will not say where she tried to buy the pie. Clearly, student unions and student guilds have provided adequate subsidy provision through their support of services in university campuses and that has led to ample and equitable service provision because people can afford those services. I conclude by quoting the New South Wales Young Liberals Policy Vice-President, who said:
    The Government's industrial model did not fit student unions, and universal student union membership should be retained for essential services and sports. Commonsense and mutual obligation should come before ideology.

I commend the motion to the House.

Motion agreed to.

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BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Bills: Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders

Motion by Mr Whelan agreed to:
    That standing and sessional orders be suspended to allow:
    (1) the resumption of the second reading debate on the following bills:
    Roads Amendment (Transitways) Bill
    Federal Courts (State Jurisdiction) Bill
    Survey (Geocentric Datum of Australia) Bill
    Gas Supply Amendment (Safety) Bill
    Workers Compensation Legislation Amendment Bill
    Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Bill
    (2) consideration of the aforementioned bills and the following bills to have precedence over the routine of business (including the matter of public importance and private members’ statements):
    Year 2000 Information Disclosure Bill
    Appropriation Bill, and cognate Bills
    Crimes Amendment (Offensive Weapons) Bill
    Registration of Interests in Goods Amendment Bill.
YEAR 2000 INFORMATION DISCLOSURE BILL
In Committee

Consideration of the Legislative Council's amendment.
Schedule of amendment referred to in message of 1 June
    Page 14. Insert after line 6:
    15 Quarterly reports concerning State agencies
    (1) The Minister must cause a report to be prepared as to the progress of State agencies in detecting, preventing and remedying problems relating to Year 2000 processing, as at 1 September 1999, and must furnish the report to the Presiding Officer of each House of Parliament as soon as practicable after that date and, in any case, on or before 15 September 1999.
    (2) The Minister must cause a further report to be prepared as to the progress of State agencies in detecting, preventing and remedying problems relating to Year 2000 processing, as at 1 December 1999, and must furnish the report to the Presiding Officer of each House of Parliament as soon as practicable after that date and, in any case, on or before 15 December 1999.
    (3) A copy of a report furnished to the Presiding Officer of a House of Parliament under this section:
      (a) is to be made public immediately, and
      (b) is to be laid before that House within 15 sitting days after it is received by the Presiding Officer.
    (4) If such a report is made public by a Presiding Officer of a House of Parliament before it is laid before that House, it attracts the same privileges and immunities as if it had been laid before that House.
    (5) In this section, State agency means:
      (a) a public or local authority constituted by or under and Act, or
      (b) a Government Department, or
      (c) a statutory body representing the Crown,
      (d) a State owned corporation (including any subsidiary of a State owned corporation) within the meaning of the State Owned Corporations Act 1989.

Mr O'FARRELL (Ku-ring-gai - Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [4.42 p.m.]: The Opposition supports the amendment moved in the upper House by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones as we believe it will make the bill more effective and will bring greater accountability to this area, which is important.

Legislative Council amendment agreed to on motion by Mr Yeadon.

Resolution reported from Committee and report adopted.

Message sent to the Legislative Council advising of the resolution.
ROADS AMENDMENT (TRANSITWAYS) BILL
Second Reading

Debate resumed from 24 June.

Mr J. H. TURNER (Myall Lakes - Deputy Leader of the National Party) [4.44 p.m.]: The Opposition does not oppose this bill, which I understand is special legislation to start the transitway program that the Government wishes to implement. Apparently it has come to the Government's attention that if it builds the transitway without amending the bill, the Government would have to allow cars onto the transitway. The thrust of the bill is basically to restrict the use of the transitways to buses and emergency vehicles. The Opposition has some concerns about the amount of money that is being spent on these sorts of programs, particularly large programs that relate to public sector infrastructure.

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This is a $50 million program - compare that to the amount being spent on public transport infrastructure in country New South Wales. There are already buses in that area, and they will now have transitways. I remind honourable members that in some areas of country New South Wales there are no buses, let alone transitways. I refer to a couple of interesting matters that I hope we will not have to revisit at a later stage. For example, it has been argued that these transitways will, from time to time, be built on private land and that there will be a leasing arrangement with the Roads and Traffic Authority and transitway operators.

The Government is involving both the private and public sectors in the provision of public transport. The Opposition will monitor that involvement. Another anomaly I wish to point out is that the Minister in his second reading speech referred to the creation of 3,200 construction jobs in relation to the transitway. That is totally at odds with his Action for Transport 2010 program under his hand, which refers to the creation of 840 jobs. Whilst the Opposition agrees with the legislation, the Minister should not try to beef it up and make it something that it is not.

Mr YEADON (Granville - Minister for Information Technology, Minister for Energy, Minister for Forestry, and Minister for Western Sydney) [4.46 p.m.], in reply: I thank the Deputy Leader of the National Party for his contribution to the debate. As he has indicated, the Opposition supports the legislation.

Mr J. H. Turner: No, we do not oppose it.

Mr YEADON: The Opposition does not oppose it. The Government believes that this legislation will make for far more efficient and effective public transport services in New South Wales. I commend the bill to the House.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
GAS SUPPLY AMENDMENT (SAFETY) BILL
Second Reading

Debate resumed from 25 June.

Mr J. H. TURNER (Myall Lakes - Deputy Leader of the National Party) [4.48 p.m.]: The Opposition does not oppose the bill which, I understand, is primarily a safety bill and has the agreement of the industry. This bill must be put in place within a certain time frame so that certain other requirements can be complied with.

Mr YEADON (Granville - Minister for Information Technology, Minister for Energy, Minister for Forestry, and Minister for Western Sydney) [4.48 p.m.], in reply: I thank the Deputy Leader of the National Party for his contribution to the debate. He has indicated that the Opposition is not opposed to the legislation. The Gas Supply Amendment (Safety) Bill is the most effective way to provide improved safety regulations for gas appliances and gas installations. I commend the bill to the House.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
SURVEY (GEOCENTRIC DATUM OF AUSTRALIA) BILL
Second Reading

Debate resumed from 25 June.

Mr D. L. PAGE (Ballina) [5.50 p.m.]: The Opposition supports this legislation, a product of the recommendations made by the Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping [ICSM], which comprises the Surveyor General of New South Wales and his counterparts from all Australian jurisdictions and New Zealand. The ICSM has recommended that Australia convert to geocentric datum of Australia by 2000 and has provided the new co-ordinated framework to enable that to happen. This bill will replace the mathematical model of the surface of the earth which is used at present, which was designed to fit the Australian region, with a new model designed to fit the whole planet. Some of the arguments for this legislation were outlined by the Minister in his second reading speech. I contacted the Institute of Surveyors of New South Wales, which has indicated that it warmly embraces this proposed legislation. I support the bill.

Mr YEADON (Granville - Minister for Information Technology, Minister for Energy, Minister for Forestry, and Minister for Western Sydney) [4.51 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Ballina for his contribution to debate on this bill. He indicated that the Opposition supports this bill. By embracing this new datum New South Wales will be well placed to take maximum advantage of current global technologies. I commend the bill to the House.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.

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FEDERAL COURTS (STATE JURISDICTION) BILL
Second Reading

Debate resumed from 24 June.

Mr HARTCHER (Gosford) [4.52 p.m.]: The Coalition does not oppose this bill, which arises as a consequence of the High Court's decision on 27 June which held invalid State law vesting State jurisdiction in Federal courts, principally the Federal Court and the Family Court. As a result of the High Court determining the invalidity of that cross-vesting by the State, a question now arises over a number of judgments which have been given by the Federal Court exercising State jurisdiction. The purpose of this legislation, which the Opposition understands is template legislation - in other words, it is also being introduced in other States - is simply to preserve the legal effect of those judgments and to ensure that no real consequences flow to individual parties as a result of the High Court's decision. A number of cases relating to matters of State jurisdiction are pending in the Federal Court and are to be transferred to the relevant State supreme courts.

One would hope that this would involve a minimal amount of costing to the parties. It calls into question the ongoing nature of co-operative federalism and the need for the State and the Commonwealth to develop a program for the sharing of Federal powers. It calls for co-operation in the use of Federal and State powers which are constitutionally sound and, if necessary, can be submitted to the people at a non-controversial constitutional referendum, rather than simply seeking to achieve an objective which will not be upheld in the long run by the High Court as it does not comply with the requirements of the Australian Constitution. Accordingly, the Opposition does not oppose this bill and it relies upon the guarantees given by the New South Wales Government and the Attorney General, through his representative in this place, the Minister for Police, that these are the only matters with which the bill deals.

Mr WHELAN (Strathfield - Minister for Police) [4.54 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Gosford for his contribution to this debate and for his support for the bill.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
APPROPRIATION BILL
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
In Committee

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Price): The Committee will deal first with the Appropriation Bill.

Clauses 1 to 27 agreed to.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: The Committee will deal next with the Appropriation (Parliament) Bill.

Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: The Committee will deal next with the Appropriation (Special Offices) Bill.

Clauses 1 to 9 agreed to.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: The Committee will deal next with the Electricity Supply Amendment Bill.

Clauses 1 to 2 agreed to.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: The Committee will deal next with the Payroll Tax Amendment (Further Rate Reduction) Bill.

Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: The Committee will deal next with the Public Finance and Audit Amendment (Consolidated Financial Statements) Bill.

Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Bills reported from Committee without amendment and passed through remaining stages.

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CRIMES AMENDMENT (OFFENSIVE WEAPONS) BILL
Second Reading

Debate resumed from 2 June.

Mr HARTCHER (Gosford) [4.58 p.m.]: The Opposition does not oppose this bill, which will attempt to give statutory force to the decision of the Court of Appeal in R v Hamilton which held that a motor car can be an offensive weapon within the meaning of the Crimes Act. The definition of "offensive weapon" is now so wide that a bunch of flowers could be considered to be an offensive weapon if it is picked up and used in an offensive way. If one uses any instrument other than one's hands, feet or body parts for the purposes of the law that will be considered to be an offensive weapon.

Whether this is consistent with the general principles of the common law is a matter to be debated at another time. Clearly, the community has no tolerance for the use of weapons of any sort in the commission of criminal offences. That intolerance by the community is endorsed by the Opposition. We support any measure which will ensure that the innocent are protected and the guilty are held to account. If that means that the offensive weapons law needs to be widened to the extent that it is being widened, that is an amendment to the law that we will support.

Mr COLLIER (Miranda) [4.59 p.m.]: The object of the Crimes Amendment (Offensive Weapons) Bill is to amend section 4 of the Crimes Act 1900 to define the expression "offensive weapon or instrument" for the purposes of that Act. The present definition allows the court to import the common law that has been developed in previous cases. However, in some cases, the present definition does not assist in determining what constitutes an offensive weapon or instrument. For example, it could be argued that confusion exists about the status of attacks and threats made with a syringe. The proposed amendment to section 4 (1) retains the reference to "dangerous weapon", which is defined elsewhere in the Crimes Act.

However, it goes beyond instruments such as guns which, by their very nature, are offensive weapons. By codifying the current common law definition of "offensive weapon or instrument", the proposed amendment imparts greater clarity to this part of criminal law for the benefit of the courts, the police, legal practitioners and the community as a whole. Examples of paragraphs (b) and (c) of item [1] of schedule 1 to the bill are not hard to find. Consider the case of a person who smashes the end of a beer bottle for the purpose of engaging in a pub brawl.

Under paragraph (b) the jagged remains of the bottle held by the person are clearly an offensive weapon for the purposes of the Act. Paragraph (c) further captures and enshrines the approach developed by the courts and maintains the flexibility of the common law by providing that any thing, however innocent in its ordinary and everyday use, can, depending on the circumstances of the case, become an offensive weapon or instrument. The leading case on which this approach is based is R v Hamilton, which is reported in (1993) 66 ACrimR at page 575. In that case, the accused, Mr Hamilton, was convicted of using an offensive implement with intent to prevent his lawful apprehension. He drove a car at a police officer who was attempting to arrest him. The Court of Criminal Appeal ruled in that case that the car was an offensive instrument. In the leading judgment Chief Justice Gleeson said:
    An object which in its nature and in its ordinary use is not offensive may become an offensive instrument by reason of the use to which a person puts it, and the intent which accompanies such use.

The essence of that judgment, with its inherent flexibility, is clearly retained in this amendment. One category that deserves special mention is the use of syringes. Understandably, the community is concerned about the use of syringes in crimes involving or threatening violence. In Hodge v The Queen Mr Justice Allen said:
    There scarcely would be any weapon more calculated to evoke terror in this day and age than being threatened with a hypodermic needle filled, or apparently filled with blood . . .

In my electorate of Miranda there have been six incidents this year in which syringes have been used to commit robberies. While this amendment does not explicitly mention syringes, it makes it abundantly clear that in the appropriate circumstances a syringe constitutes an offensive weapon. Such circumstances certainly apply in the cases currently being investigated by the hard-working police officers from the Miranda and Sutherland local area commands which service my electorate. The definition also adds to the interpretation of the Crimes Act in a number of other ways, in particular, the use of an offensive weapon or instrument as an aggravating feature in crimes involving sexual assault, break and enter and armed robberies, and the use of an offensive implement to avoid apprehension. By referring to these aggravating features, the bill exposes offenders to higher penalties. I support the bill.

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Mr BROWN (Kiama) [5.04 p.m.]: I support the Crimes Amendment (Offensive Weapons) Bill. This bill codifies the common law situation, which has left this matter in abeyance within the courts. The Government continues its interest in criminal law, which it had throughout its first term, by working with the courts to ensure that the safety of this State's citizens is of paramount importance. As the honourable member for Miranda said, the expanded definition includes syringes. Syringes, empty or filled with blood, are increasingly found on the streets in all the electorates of this State. Even in the electorate of Kiama young children have found syringes on the beaches and in drains. Such instruments are becoming more prevalent. Those in society who, with evil intent or in a fit of temper or a drug-related stupor, use such an instrument to cause harm, or have a definite intent to cause harm, should be brought within the ambit of this law.

Other instruments that would be covered by this definition are sharpened screwdrivers, or even belts when used in certain circumstances. In one case before the courts a belt was tied to a person's wrist and used to fling that person around in an offensive manner. The honourable member for Gosford referred to a bunch of flowers being used as an offensive weapon. I would suggest that a bunch of flowers would not be covered by this definition, but if the honourable member for Gosford is seen to use a bunch of flowers in a threatening manner, the public should be warned to be wary of him. The bill will rationalise the aggravating features applicable to other offences such as sexual assault and robberies. I support the bill.

Mr WHELAN (Strathfield - Minister for Police) [5.06 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Kiama and the honourable member for Miranda for their contributions to the debate. Both honourable members, who have had practical experience in the law, have made telling arguments as to why the Government has introduced this legislation.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
REGISTRATION OF INTERESTS IN GOODS AMENDMENT BILL
Second Reading

Debate resumed from 23 June.

Mr J. H. TURNER (Myall Lakes - Deputy Leader of the National Party) [5.07 p.m.]: The Opposition supports the bill. The shadow minister responsible for this legislation will give a more definitive explanation of the Opposition's position in the other place. The purpose of the bill is to amend the Registration of Interests in Goods Act 1986 to ensure consistency in jurisdiction with respect to the registration of security interests for motor vehicles and other prescribed goods. It also acts to protect the right of repairers to be compensated for work performed where the goods are later disposed of by any registered interest holder.

The bill codifies changes adopted or being adopted nationwide, shifting the onus of proof so that a person need only establish that he purchased the goods in good faith, fair value and without notice of the security interest. I am concerned about the change in the onus of proof. Those parts of the bill that set out the change in detail about the onus of proof - namely, proposed subsections (5), (6) and (6A) of section 9 - have attempted to set out what areas of onus of proof have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. It has been set out in fairly regimented form. For example, proposed section 9 (6) states:
    The standard of proof is proof beyond reasonable doubt in each of the following cases:
    (a) if the purchaser is a member of the same household as the seller,
    (b) if the purchaser and the seller are bodies corporate that are related to each other within the meaning of section 50 of the Corporations Law,
    (c) if either the purchaser or the seller is a body corporate and the other a natural person who (within the meaning of the Corporations Law) is a director or officer of the body corporate.

I perceive some dangers in spelling out the limitations of the requirements where the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is needed. There would be many other circumstances in which arm's length legislative provision could have been more appropriately referred to in wider terms.

Bearing in mind that I do not have total carriage of this matter and am reading some of this material without having a complete background to it, I have particular concerns about proposed section 8 (9), which seems to indemnify the State in relation to information provided in good faith to the director-general. In days or years to come that may lead to litigation, particularly relating to the determination by the director-general of whether information was provided in good faith and whether the definition of good faith has been extended or changed by the legislation.

My final comment relates to the priorities of registered instruments. People could well be confused by the various priorities and rankings. I
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note that a registered interest will have priority over unregistered interests, and that is a standard arrangement; that registered interests rank in priority in the order in which they are registered - and again I have no problems with that - and that when a creditor has an interest and takes possession of goods, that interest will rank in priority over any interest registered subsequently. Again I do not envisage any difficulty with that provision.

However, the bill will now extend full commercial jurisdiction and commercial determinations into this area. I hope that the department will embark upon a campaign to ensure that the public understand the ramifications of the changes and their requirements under the proposed legislation, which will widen the scope of matters that have to be registered or notified.

Mr WATKINS (Ryde - Minister for Fair Trading, and Minister for Sport and Recreation) [5.11 p.m.], in reply: I thank the Deputy Leader of the National Party for his support on behalf of the Opposition. I will discuss with him the issues he raised before the matter is dealt with in the upper House. The Registration of Interests in Goods Act 1986 provides an important facility which operates to protect innocent purchasers and to safeguard the interests of financial institutions and others with an interest in motor vehicles, boats or prescribed goods. That Act established the Register of Encumbered Vehicles [REVs], which provides services by which financial interest holders can notify prospective purchasers of their interest in motor vehicles or boats and a means for purchasers to check whether any encumbrance exists.

REVs has handled more than seven million inquiries since its inception in 1986, and almost 30 per cent of those revealed some form of encumbrance. REVs is linked to the New South Wales police stolen vehicles index and the Roads and Traffic Authority. That provides an additional layer of information to purchasers. However, it was important to achieve nationally consistent vehicle security legislation. That is the reason for the introduction of these amendments. National consistency in security registration will ensure that registrations in one jurisdiction will achieve national coverage. The lack of consistency has had the potential to have a significant impact on residents living close to State borders who may purchase a vehicle in a neighbouring State.

The present legislative process dates back to 1991 when the Premiers and Chief Ministers agreed to develop a national vehicle security register. A project was commenced by the Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs, which engaged a consultant to examine the various jurisdictions and the applicable laws. A discussion paper was distributed to industry groups, consumer organisations, government departments and other interested parties. This legislation is the result.

In August 1997 the Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs gave in principle support to legislative change based on the recommendations made in the report, to achieve national consistency in vehicle security legislation. The Registration of Interests in Goods Amendment Bill implements the recommendations made in the report that are applicable to New South Wales. This is another important step forward in consumer protection in this State. I am pleased that the Opposition has supported the bill.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Matters of Public Importance

Motion by Mr Watkins agreed to:
    That standing and sessional orders be suspended so that matters of public importance are not called upon at this sitting.

Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENTS
______
CREMORNE POINT KIOSK

Mrs SKINNER (North Shore) [5.15 p.m.]: Cremorne Point is a place of stylish modern townhouses and gracious old apartments, for walks with the dog, for strolling with friends and family, for picnics with visitors or just plain quiet thinking times; and for sitting on a park bench overlooking the water. I described that scene in my first speech to this Parliament. I pointed out then that high among local concerns were fears of overdevelopment, shortage of car parking space and increasing traffic.

Those fears prompted locals of Cremorne Point to organise a public meeting at the ferry wharf last Saturday. The topic of the discussion was a proposal to build a 44-seat restaurant with a roofed
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deck cantilevered out into the harbour, with a new landing and steps for water taxis and private water craft. The plan involves the renovation of the kiosk, built around 1910, to form part of the buildings which originally served as the ferry wharf. To attend the public meeting I caught the ferry across from Circular Quay.

On that trip I had the good fortune to bump into two locals who were reminiscing about the commercial activity associated with the kiosk about 30 years ago. They remembered the old wooden wharf ramp with a newsagency located conveniently between the two. There was also a pharmacist, a bootmaker, a drycleaner, a milk bar and a post office - all commercial activities that served the needs of the local community and commuters who caught the ferry to and from work in the city.

Sadly, some years ago now, all but one of the structures burnt down and the kiosk is now a plain, timber, rectangular structure built to the edge of the seawall. It is approximately 72 square metres in size. The kiosk has been crying out for renovation for years. It is shabby, with mean windows, a sagging roof, and its second skin of asbestos cement weatherboard cladding - applied as what one can only imagine was a poor attempt at preservation some years ago - is painted a dirty pink. The kiosk was owned by the State Government until recently, when it sold the building to private interests for a figure reputed to be more than $1 million.

The matter that now concerns local residents is what is proposed for the kiosk and its impact on their neighbourhood. A development application lodged with North Sydney Council indicates that additions will encroach on harbour space and will add half again to the size of the kiosk envelope, in other words, an additional 41 square metres. As the development application notes, the closest available street parking is 120 metres up the hill. What it does not point out is that the fight for these spaces is frantic. Many of the older Federation and Victorian apartment buildings on the point have no off-street parking.

The area is well served by reserves, parks and playground. Its natural beauty and the nearby saltwater swimming pool make it a popular picnic spot for visitors as well as locals. The extra burden of coping with parking for a 44-seat restaurant, particularly in summer and especially at weekends, when parking is most in demand, disturbs locals. As this is a quiet residential point, especially at night, they are also worried about the impact of noise and congestion associated with services needed to run a restaurant, such as deliveries and rubbish collection. When the State Government put the kiosk up for sale, agents advised would-be purchasers:
    Due to the limitations on car parking and the already congested nature of the roadway, a traffic generating development is unlikely to be approved . . . an activity that attracts private transport usage would be unlikely to receive council support.

The advice continued:
    Due to the lack of car parking a commuters' coffee shop rather than a restaurant that detracts private vehicle users would be appropriate.

That is certainly what residents who attended the public meeting want. They voted unanimously to oppose a restaurant of the type proposed. They told me that they would support a commercial development that serves the local community, perhaps a coffee shop, with park benches where commuters or daytrippers can sit and admire the view, but not a sophisticated restaurant that adds to the traffic, which is already a constant nightmare throughout the electorate. Although this development application lies in the hands of North Sydney Council, because the kiosk is totally within its boundaries, there was some suggestion by councillors at the meeting that a harbour encroachment would require State Government approval.

It is unconscionable that a government that claims to have an environmental approach to harbour foreshore should allow a 72-square metre building with a heritage order and limited capacity to earn income to be sold for more than $1 million. Whatever the authority for approvals, my request on behalf of residents who braved the cold last Saturday to express their views is to seek an assurance from all parties that any redevelopment of the kiosk is in keeping with the heritage nature of the building and the ambience of this quiet and beautiful residential area, and that nothing will be built that will add to the traffic and parking problems experienced by the local community.
SCOTOPIC SENSITIVITY IRLEN SYNDROME

Mr GIBSON (Blacktown) [5.20 p.m.]: I would like to speak about a young fellow in my electorate whom I will refer to as Jack. Jack is a typical six-year-old boy whom one would find in any suburb in Sydney, but he had one problem: His schoolteachers and parents discovered that Jack was not learning. They thought he may have had problems with his eyesight, so they had him fitted with glasses, but that did not solve his problem. When Jack tried to read, the words would run off
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the page, they would sit on top of each other, they would appear fuzzy, or the brightness of the page would make it impossible for him to read or learn. After falling behind his classmates Jack was diagnosed as suffering from Scotopic Sensitivity Irlen Syndrome [SSIS].

In the late 1880s European physicians and educators began to study a visual perception problem they called word blindness. In the early 1970s Helen Irlen made the first discovery of how to solve word blindness problems for many readers. By placing transparent coloured overlays on book pages, Irlen showed that for many struggling readers word blindness patterns disappear. In 1976 Irlen named word blindness Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome. In the early 1990s two research teams discovered what causes Irlen Syndrome, or word blindness. In 1991 Margaret Livingstone at Harvard Medical School and in 1993 Stephen Lehmkuhle at the University of Missouri developed the neurological model that explains what causes this visual perception phenomenon.

Special coloured lenses overcame the problem for many people affected by this syndrome. Subsequently young Jack was fitted with special coloured lenses and a new world opened up for him. His barrier to learning was overcome. But, unfortunately, Jack needs more than the coloured lenses. Jack can now read, but he still cannot read words that he could not read before he was fitted with the coloured lenses; he has to be taught. The Government is making literacy a school priority, as it should be, but to my knowledge no consideration is being given to the Irlen method of learning. The Board of Education apparently does not recognise SSIS as a learning disability. There is no funding for people such as young Jack.

Kids like young Jack need special teachers to bring them up to scratch for the years they have lost. Special provision has to be made for them. Recently it was discovered that the disability is usually hereditary. It is something about which we know very little, but it has been the cause of many people leaving school with hardly any education. Many people thought that those suffering from this syndrome were slow learners, but it has been discovered that it is a specific problem: Scotopic Sensitivity Irlen Syndrome. Diagnosis and treatment with Irlen filters have been reviewed by the United States of America Medical Board and have been determined not to be the practice of medicine. It has also been reviewed by various United States of America Boards of Optometry and been found to be not the practice of optometry.

The problem is not a medical condition. It is not pathological nor is it disease. So far as anyone knows, it is not a visual problem due to any abnormality of the eye. As a perceptual problem, it is a similar to other processing problems - visual and auditory - that are diagnosed by psycho-educational testing and treated within the educational system. In the United States of America more than 2,000 school districts have implemented the Irlen method. More than 40,000 people in the United States wear Irlen filters. I ask that the Minister for Education and Training, who is in the Chamber, and his department to consider this problem so that people like young Jack, who has had a new world opened up to him, are eligible for funding.

Mr AQUILINA (Riverstone - Minister for Education and Training) [5.25 p.m.]: I listened intently to the comments made by the honourable member for Blacktown on behalf of young Jack. I congratulate the honourable member on raising this issue. I am aware that we have many young Jacks in both government and non-government schools. The disorder from which Jack suffers has been brought to the attention of the Department of Education and Training, together with a number of other disorders that we are coming to grips with.

As the honourable member for Blacktown indicated, we are putting a great emphasis on literacy. In fact, we spent $200 million on literacy during the last term of government and we will expand on that during the current term. We employed 400 reading-recovery teachers to diagnose students in year 1 and to try to set them on the right path of instruction to improve their literacy. I also commissioned the McRae report, which investigated the integration of a number of students with disabilities. We are in the process of implementing the recommendations of the report.

The financial implications are somewhat horrendous. The last bill I received was in the vicinity of $370 million to implement fully the recommendations of the McRae report. During the course of looking at the implementation of the McRae report a number of additional disorders came to light. At the moment we are considering attention deficit disorder, autism as it affects children, and the disorder referred to by the honourable member for Blacktown. It is impossible for us to accommodate all of these at the one time, but I can assure the honourable member that we are aware of them and we are doing our best under the financial circumstances. [Time expired.]

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ILLAWARRA ESCARPMENT DEVELOPMENT

Mr MARKHAM (Wollongong - Parliamentary Secretary) [5.27 p.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House yet again an issue affecting the Illawarra escarpment, that great natural backdrop to Wollongong. After many concerns a committee of inquiry was set up to ascertain the value of the Illawarra escarpment and whether development should continue upwards towards Mount Keira and other parts of the mountain range. The commission of inquiry has issued a report to the Deputy Premier, Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and Minister for Housing entitled "The Long Term Planning and Management of the Illawarra Escarpment".

In May 1999 Commissioner William Simpson, Chairman of Commissioners of Inquiry for Environment and Planning, released a 145-page report on the Illawarra escarpment. There were two rounds of hearings. The first was from 7 December to 11 December 1998, and the second was on 27 and 28 January 1999. Over three days, a total of 26 site inspections examined different aspects of the escarpment in the Illawarra. There were 118 written submissions and 58 oral submissions, which indicates the great deal of concern felt about the future of the Illawarra escarpment. The Summary of Major Findings and Recommendations contains 15 findings and 22 recommendations. Finding No. 1 states in part:
    1. In this regard, the Escarpment and its foothills must be planned, conserved, protected and managed as a single entity . . .
    Its visual significance in terms of the dominating and elevated green backdrop it provides to the Wollongong urban area is dependent upon the existence and continuance of substantial tree growth in both the core and non-core areas.

I believe that is a very important point. Finding No. 12 states:
    12. The present approach to environmental planning and management of the Escarpment is inadequate and unsatisfactory.

Recommendation No. 6, "Core escarpment land", states:
    6.f. land offering opportunity for tourism, recreation and scientific research for the establishment of an Escarpment Regional Park pursuant to the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

Recommendation No. 7 states after 7k:
    In the long term, upon cessation of mining and completion of site rehabilitation, the following sites should be rezoned 7(a):
    a. Bellambi Colliery site, located between Woonona and Russel Vale.
    b. Kemira Colliery site.
    c. Mount Kembla Colliery site located at the north-eastern arm of the upper catchment of Brandy & Water Creek.

Recommendation No. 8 states:
    I recommend an Illawarra Escarpment Regional Park be established pursuant to S47O of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 as a long term goal. The responsibility for establishing such a park shall rest with the State Government and Wollongong City Council.

I could continue to read all of the 15 findings and 22 recommendations, but I would have nowhere near enough time in the five minutes that is allocated for my speech. I call on the Government to ensure that these findings and recommendations are adopted.

The Illawarra Escarpment is one of the great natural attractions of Wollongong and the Illawarra, together with the beaches and Lake Illawarra. I believe what has happened in the past amounts to dereliction of duty on the part of some organisations that have allowed housing to be built on the slopes of the escarpment. I have previously raised the issue of the BHP sell-off of land to a consortium that now wishes to build houses which will scar the face of the escarpment.

I have always maintained that when coal mines and coal leases are no longer used for coalmining, which is the purpose for which they were granted, the land should revert to public ownership. The findings and recommendations I have cited reinforce the arguments that I have been putting forward in this House over the last 10 years. I call on the Government to implement each recommendation. I applaud the commissioner and all those who were involved with the preparation of this great report. [Time expired.]
WATER CATCHMENT POLICY

Ms HODGKINSON (Burrinjuck) [5.32 p.m.]: Last Friday night, 25 June, I was invited to a meeting of approximately 60 or 70 very angry and hurt land-holders in the Taralga district of the Burrinjuck electorate. These people are good and decent Australians who are prepared to pull their weight to make a fair living and contribute to their society. They are furious that this State Government is getting in their way with red tape, idiotic regulations and heavy new costs which are simply government revenue raisers.

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The Government must realise that there is a much bigger cost associated with its actions, namely, the cost of people losing their livelihoods, leaving their homes and watching what they have worked a lifetime for being slowly but surely destroyed. That is why the Ministers opposite who bothered to go to their own party's annual conference had a civic reception from the people of my electorate on Saturday. This was not a knee-jerk protest because Ministers were coming to town: it was a desperate - for some, a last-ditch - effort to make this Government listen and learn.

The people are angry about the small dams policy. The Government has not explained to them in any meaningful way why it now demands that only a variable percentage of the 10 per cent run-off of surface water will be available to farmers for any purpose whatsoever. Was it not barely a decade ago or less when land-holders were being urged to drought-proof their farms by building dams? Was it not the wild green elements that were saying that dams are good because they help to protect environmental flows in rivers? And was it not the land-holders who responded - because they respect leadership and their environment - by co-operating, but who now are being slugged and penalised because they did exactly what they were asked to do?

Taralga land-holders are complaining bitterly about this Government's Sydney Water catchment rules. The people made it clear that they feel their rights to farm productively and to develop new agricultural enterprises are at great risk. Quite rightly, they pointed out that the very basis of farming in that area is water: Whoever controls water controls the stock numbers, a part of farm input costs, land use and development applications. They have pointed out that State environmental planning policy [SEPP] 58 is fundamentally flawed. If the Government pursues the important question of Sydney's water supply quality, why does it put land-holders near Goulburn out of business in the name of that cause?

Why does the Government not attack the issue laterally by using a combination of reasonable land management practices and water quality technology to ensure that the disastrous bungling of this Government is not repeated? The story does not end there. The Taralga meeting was addressed by a long-time Labor Party supporter. It was clear that he had come to the end of his tether. Over many years he has given selflessly of his time and energy to support the Australian Labor Party. For decades he has been a prominent trade union leader, but he made it crystal clear to all who attended that he cannot, and will not, abide what this Government is up to.

He asked why the Minister for Local Government, Minister for Regional Development, and Minister for Rural Affairs refused to even return his phone calls - not once, but time and time again. This man is livid about the idiotic new septic tank regulations that will commence operation this week. He said that a creek runs through his property and he will not be able to install a septic tank. A biodegradable toilet would cost him $9,000. What is he supposed to do - just hold on? He said that he has been told to put up a fence 50 yards on either side of his creek. He is not allowed to put in a decent sized dam and his property borders a national park, which entails problems with wild animals, vermin, fencing and weeds.

He is also the type of land-holder who desperately needs the weed eradication agent, Frenock, but that has been withdrawn from the market without the provision of any decent alternative. Government members might wonder why that man is not happy with this Labor Government. Another property holder was telephoned by a bureaucrat from the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning, as best she could make out. This public servant gave only his Christian name. He gave no surname, no return phone number and no address. The message was, "I'm ringing to ask you when the gates on your property will be open."

Understandably, the land-holder replied, "Why?" The bureaucrat responded, "I want to count your eucalypts." Again, understandably, the land-holder asked, "Why?" The reply was, "I've got every right to do this." The land-holder was visibly and understandably upset and said, "No, I am not going to let you onto my property without at least informing my husband. You've got no right to be on my property." She is very upset. Is it any wonder that there is a great deal of cynicism about this Government's attempt to regain some sense of credibility when this Labor Government changes colour like a chameleon to create a breakaway Labor Party, which really is not Labor, but then really is?

Is it any wonder that this Government is on the nose in the bush? Does this Government ministry wonder why it was bailed up in Goulburn on Saturday over waste dumps, SEPP 58, small dams policy and FreightCorp jobs? I have summarised just some of the concerns of the Taralga meeting to place them on the record. It is high time that this Government was called to account for its wild excesses. This is not a game: These people are hurting emotionally and financially. The people of
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my electorate want a reversal of the anti-government meanness which permeates the Labor regime - an anti-bush sentiment that even the Minister for Regional Development has admitted. [Time expired.]

Mr STEWART (Bankstown - Parliamentary Secretary) [5.37 p.m.]: I thank the honourable member for Burrinjuck for her contribution and for mentioning the concerns raised at the land-holders' meeting that she attended in her electorate. Some of the concerns that she raised are taken very seriously by this Government, particularly in respect to water catchment. This Government listens, and this debate is a good opportunity for her to take up those concerns, as I certainly will on her behalf with both the Minister for Regional Development and the Minister for Agriculture, and Minister for Land and Water Conservation.

The Labor Party has put a great deal of time and effort into the water catchment policy. The process has involved consultation with stakeholders, an approach and focus that has been adopted by other governments such as the Federal Coalition Government. There is a great deal to be gained out of what has occurred in the last three or four years of this Government. We will look at this issue carefully. We do not need to make hasty decisions; we need to make decisions based on equity and future water catchment use. That is what the Government has been about. I will refer the matters raised by the honourable member to the Ministers concerned.
LA MANCHA CARAVAN PARK

Mr O'DOHERTY (Hornsby) [5.39 p.m.]: Jennifer Tindall and a number of other residents of my electorate at Mount Ku-ring-gai are in a unique and perilous situation. Mrs Tindall and the people living in similar circumstances to her are paying rent to the La Mancha Caravan Park but they have no valid right to be where they are. The situation goes back a number of years. The Department of Land and Water Conservation has not resolved the problem by normalising the arrangements at the park. My purpose in raising the matter tonight is to ask the Minister for Land and Water Conservation to intervene so that my constituents have security on the permanent sites they have occupied for a number of years. In the 1950s the La Mancha Caravan Park obtained a lease from the Crown for "access and business purposes (caravan park)" over portion 639 and the adjacent road reserve. The caravan park also occupies freehold land adjoining the portion of Crown land.

In 1984 the special lease was replaced by a permissive occupancy which had the same purpose. On the permissive occupancy the caravan park has developed facilities for the caravan park. However, the permissive occupancy and the lease that preceded it dating back to the 1950s do not allow van sites on the land. The caravan park is not entitled to issue leases over about eight van sites - caravans and annexes - occupied by people such as Mrs Tindall, who lives there permanently. In other words, Mrs Tindall and her friends have no legal residential tenancy agreement to live where they are and yet for many years they have been paying rent to the caravan park.

The situation is serious because, first, it affects the ability of the people involved to have a secure place to live. Unlike other permanent caravan park dwellers, they cannot sell their caravans. Mrs Tindall and others have wanted to sell their vans and move to other locations, as other permanent caravan park residents have done over the years. The present situation is causing great distress for a number of the people affected, including Mrs Tindall. Because they have no valid tenancy agreement, despite the fact that they pay rent to the caravan park, they are not able to sell their vans and move on. They are caught in the worst kind of dilemma.

The situation has come to the attention of the Government. I wrote on Mrs Tindall's behalf in 1995. The Government has been trying to normalise the situation, proposing that the La Mancha Caravan Park and the company which owns it should purchase the portion of Crown land on the condition that they enter into valid residential tenancy agreements with the existing tenants. Despite a number of attempts to reach such an agreement this has not been achieved. In meetings that took place as late as this year it seemed clear that it is unlikely that there will be an agreement over the sale of the Crown land portion to the current proprietors of the caravan park.

The Government does not seem to view the normalisation of the position as urgent. It may be all very well for the department and the caravan park owners not to feel any urgency about resolving the situation, but stuck in the middle are people such as Mrs Tindall, who cannot get on with the rest of her life and who continues to pay rent without any valid tenancy agreement. Her position is indeed perilous. An option before the Government is to resume the Crown land and simply cancel the existing, invalid tenancy agreements: that is to say, evict Mrs Tindall and her neighbours.

That is clearly unacceptable. I have been trying to get the Minister for Land and Water Conservation to meet with me and Mrs Tindall on this issue. Sadly, he has not seen fit to do so. I urge
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him strongly tonight to ensure that the position is immediately examined by his department so that the sale of the land can proceed or Mrs Tindall can be given the opportunity to purchase the portion of land that applies to her caravan as freehold so that she can have the same sort of right as other tenants and residents in the middle of the city. [Time expired.]
NORTHPOWER ELECTRICITY CHARGES

Mr PRICE (Maitland) [5.44 p.m.]: I would like to speak tonight on some of the dilemmas of my constituents in dealing with NorthPower, the electricity distributor in the northern part of my electorate. I have no doubt that members opposite who share that distributor will nod in acknowledgment. I have read with some interest the annual report of NorthPower. On 14 December the chief executive stated:
    NorthPower is now the safest electricity distributor in NSW with a Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate of 3.5, a 90% improvement over the last two years.
    We have reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by 17% from those levels of 1990 and have completed extensive and comprehensive training of staff in our Environmental Management System.
    As a postscript, in November 1998 we achieved ISO 14001 accreditation for the whole of NorthPower, further demonstrating our commitment to the environment.
    Our financial performance was again sound, with a 47% growth in Earnings before Interest and Tax to $75.1m, with return on equity of 14.2% and return on net operating assets of 12%.
    We achieved a corporate credit rating of AA and provided a dividend and tax equivalent distribution to our shareholders of some $58.1m.

Subsequently people in the area received advice about other charges, service access charges. Mr Acting-Speaker, I do not know what happens in your electorate of Wallsend but people living in the NorthPower area are charged $8 for the privilege of having NorthPower read their meter. On my property I have two meters. So every 67 days $16 is added to my bill. I can probably afford to pay that but I suspect that many people in my electorate and other electorates to the north would have some difficulty with that. The Deputy Leader of the National Party raised concerns about this matter earlier. I read with interest an article he wrote which was published in the Dungog Chronicle on 9 June this year.

The Federal Government has just passed legislation to introduce a goods and services tax. So I assume that the $16 I have to pay every 67 days will rise by 10 per cent to about $18 - without my having used a skerrick of power. That is an extraordinary impost. It is against the whole spirit of customer relationships. I would be amazed if the cost of inspection and equipment had not been included in overheads to calculate the unit charge for power. It seems to me that this is straight-out highway robbery. If this is to be the pattern of distributors and suppliers of other services within the State, I express on behalf of my constituency grave concern. It is not the role of State enterprises, whether they be corporatised or otherwise, to rip off the community. I believe this to be a blatant rip-off.

In my case it is $16, but what about the pensioner down the road living on a small holding, retired to a small cottage, who suddenly finds that for the privilege of having the meter read and the account sent out an extra $8 will have to be paid? Rural electorates are depressed areas. The Labor Party has moved swiftly to acknowledge that by the formation of the country Labor section of our party, of which I am a proud member. It is important to recognise those deficiencies within the structure of government and attempt to deal with them. I intend to take this matter up formally with the Minister for Energy.

It seems to me that all members should be alert in looking at the accounts, financial statements and annual reports of State corporations to ascertain how their constituents are being ripped off. This charge by NorthPower is nothing more than a blatant rip-off; the community should not have to pay such a charge, which amounts to virtual double-dipping. As I said earlier, these costs and charges were built into overheads years ago and raised at least by the level of inflation. I regard this charge as blatant highway robbery and I oppose it totally. [Time expired.]
UNION OFFICIALS LAURIE STEEN AND FRANK RABBIT, RETIREMENT

Mr GAUDRY (Newcastle - Parliamentary Secretary) [5.49 p.m.]: Tonight I pay tribute to two distinguished union officials from the Hunter region who are retiring from their respective positions. I refer to Laurie Steen, the retiring Deputy Presiding Officer of the National Council of the Maritime Union of Australia and Deputy Branch Secretary of the Northern New South Wales Branch of the Maritime Union of Australia, and Frank Rabbit, who will retire at the end of this week from his position as northern organiser for the Australian Services Union [ASU].

Both men have given 43 years of service to the workplace and, certainly in the latter part of their
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careers, to their trade unions and to the men and women who work in their industry. It is appropriate that their record be acknowledged in this Parliament and that the thanks of their members and their union be extended to them. That was also done at a farewell retirement dinner for Laurie Steen which was held at the Newcastle Workers Club last Friday. Speakers at the dinner included John Benson, the former Sydney Branch secretary of the Seamen's Union of Australia, the union in which Laurie cut his teeth; Paddy Kremlin, the Deputy National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia; and John Combes, the National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia [MUA].

Those speakers paid tribute to Laurie for his years of dedicated work to the union and his activism in the union movement and in the broader working class movement in Australia. That included actively campaigning against the Vietnam war, and supporting, with Jim Boyle and the MUA, the miners from the Hunter Valley No. 1 mine. A tribute was also paid to him at the dinner by John Maitland. It was a significant point in the struggle when the Maritime Union of Australia turned up and supported its fellow workers in the dispute against Rio Into. In the Patricks dispute Laurie and Jim led their members in a sustained workplace action in Newcastle and kept that port free from scab labour. Laurie Steen was an extremely active union member, an active organiser for his union and a senior official by the time of his retirement.

Frank Rabbit joined the railways in 1956 and became the northern organiser for what was then the Australian Transport Officers Federation in 1959 and held that position in the ASU until his retirement later this week. As is the case with Laurie Steen, Frank Rabbit was dedicated to his members. As recently as last week I spoke in this place about the case of Mr Jim Weatherburn, who was facing retirement on medical grounds. Frank was a strong advocate on Jim's behalf, as he has been on behalf of the State Rail Authority payroll officers whom I spoke to yesterday. I saw the work of Frank Rabbit, who was always dedicated, as was Laurie Steen, to fighting for the conditions of the men in the work force who were under his care.

The retirement of these men is a great loss to the trade union movement. They were men of great dedication. They have given great service and have the respect of the workers within their industry and certainly the broader respect of the trade union movement across the State and nationally. They have never worked in either of their fields of work for personal gain or glory; they have advocated the rights of the workers and in all cases tried to protect and lift the standard of living of workers in the industries in which they worked. Laurie Steen was also an advocate on behalf of international seafarers who came to our shores and worked in substandard conditions. Tributes and thanks should be extended to Laurie Steen and Frank Rabbit for the distinguished service within the trade union movement.

Mr FACE (Charlestown - Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [5.54 p.m.]: I should like to add a few words about the life and work of Laurie Steen and Frank Rabbit, both of whom I have known for a considerable number of years. They are quite different people. Laurie Steen gave absolutely no ground. Many who did not know him probably thought that he was much gruffer than he was, but he was always fair. At the time I was in the police force we never became involved in the confrontations concerning the Vietnam War.

That was probably because of my father's background; he had been a trade union official. The unions realised that the police were only workers too and that we were all trying to achieve the same objective; they probably shared the same views. I regret that I could not be at Laurie's farewell last Friday; I was involved in something arranged by my ministerial office. I wish Laurie well. In the most recent industrial dispute on the waterfront, he showed a great deal of leadership in what could have become a nasty affair.

I probably knew Frank Rabbit a little better. He was well known to Don Burton, who served in another place here. Don Burton said to me in 1989, when he was going to the ASU, "You have got a quiet and unassuming but very strong person in Frank Rabbit." I got to know his family over a period of time and I have a great deal of respect for them. He has been a great family man. He likes a bet, and he has been heavily involved in community activities. I will miss him. Unfortunately, he presided over the largest change ever experienced in the railways and public service unions relating to transport. In his own unassuming way, he has been strong person. I wish them both well. As the honourable member for Newcastle has said, we have lost two great trade union officials. [Time expired.]
SNOWY MOUNTAINS TOURISM

Mr WEBB (Monaro) [5.56 p.m.]: I speak in regard to the Snowy Mountains, which lie largely within my electorate of Monaro. The ski season opened a fortnight ago. I seek to promote the towns of Queanbeyan, the gateway to the Monaro
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electorate and the Snowy Mountains; Cooma, the capital of the Snowy Mountains; Jindabyne, the Snowy Mountains town, and Berridale, the headquarters of the Snowy River Shire Council. I also want to promote the ski resorts of Thredbo, Perisher Valley, Smiggin Holes and others. Those town and resorts all add up to world-class skiing in Australia's high country.

The importance of small businesses in those towns - which provide visitors to the snowfields with opportunities to rest and revive from their holidays, purchase goods and access services - is unquestionable. The employment opportunities in the winter sports industry and related tourism industries, accommodation, travel, fishing and so on, are also undisputable. The ski season opened this year with a dump of 40 centimetres of snow, followed by a further 10 centimetres. That is now aided by technological developments such as snowmaking, which guarantee that the ski season and related alpine recreation, sports and entertainment events will be an even more enjoyable experience.

The awards won by individuals, associations and businesses from the Snowy Mountains attest to the present status of commercial enterprises in the region. Last week I spoke in this Parliament about the people, businesses and organisations that had been acknowledged by the New South Wales tourism awards. That recognition suitably rewards those involved and will aid them to further promote the Snowy Mountains this year, next year and in the future. The opportunities to promote this area prior to the Olympics next year will be expanded, starting with the celebration of 50 years of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme. Activities are well under way at the moment and reunions are scheduled for the coming months. Overseas exposure will mean that this half a billion dollar industry will be visible to and accessed by many overseas visitors next year. It takes three hours to travel by motor vehicle from Sydney to Queanbeyan or the nation's capital, a further 1½ to two hours to drive to the ski fields, or 1¾ hours by air to Cooma and beyond.

In summer, people from the Northern Hemisphere will be able to visit these areas prior to the Olympics, thereby making a better all-round Australian experience. They will have an opportunity also to participate in fly fishing within the waters of Snowy Mountains rivers and catch native fish and trout. Of course, towns like Adaminaby with its Big Trout will feature during the fly fishing competitions later this year. Australia, which is renowned for these activities, supports a large recreational fishing industry. I believe it costs fishermen about $200 a kilo for the fish they catch after they purchase their gear, boats, baits, accommodation, travel and licences. The Snowy Mountains and Australia's alpine region offer great opportunities for Australians and visitors to experience peace, the beauty of summer flowers, clean crisp air, walks and other activities in the summertime. Some snowdrifts remain until Christmas and that sort of weather is easier to cope with.

The Snowy Mountains region, which offers these opportunities all through the year, should receive much more promotion. It is a great place to visit. It offers families a chance to enjoy a quiet bush experience on one of the many adventures that integrate the experience of travelling from a city, staying in the bush and being able to travel peacefully through the mountains on horseback while physically being part of the bush, and being educated about its beauty, history and its value to this country and about those who derive a substantial portion of their livelihoods from the bush. In a way it acknowledges where we have come from and the hard work done in pioneering this country.

The bush and the mountains will be around for thousands of years to come. They will be managed by those who have a special attachment to them, an experience that can come only from many years of ongoing contact with and a love for Australia's high country and our unique Snowy Mountains. Exclusion by way of further wilderness declarations will prevent people from enjoying the mountains, the snowy plains and other bush areas, and it will stop this educative process. Its true potential would not be recognised and its heritage and cultural values would then be lost. That is bad for the region, businesses and people generally. Tourism and the economy will suffer. We must rectify these problems.
ETHNIC AFFAIRS COMMISSION TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY

Mr STEWART (Bankstown - Parliamentary Secretary) [6.01 p.m.]: Yesterday I proudly attended the twentieth anniversary function held for the Ethnic Affairs Commission of New South Wales, a function attended also by the Minister Assisting the Premier on Citizenship; Paolo Totaro, a former chairman of the commission; and Stepan Kerkyasharian, the current chairman of the commission. They all spoke at this function. The Ethnic Affairs Commission, which has successfully operated for 20 years, has made a great contribution to New South Wales. For some time now it has provided a role model for other States to follow. To
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assist honourable members in understanding the operations of the commission over the past 20 years.

I will go back 30 years, refer to how my ethnic background affected me as a young boy and indicate why the Ethnic Affairs Commission in New South Wales was sorely needed. Thirty years ago I attended a local primary school in Bankstown. My mother is from an Italian-Maltese background and, although I have the surname Stewart, I was still branded as a wog by many kids at school. Today, that is almost a term of endearment but in those days it was a ruthless and an embarrassing term. I clearly recall the times when I hid my ethnicity. I was ashamed of it because of the role model that had been created, that is, that we were white Australians only and we should frown upon people with ethnic origins. That is what I learned as a child.

My mother speaks several languages - Arabic, Italian, Maltese, English and French. I speak only English. I am pleased to report that, in the past 20 years, those views have substantially changed. Today, children are proud of their ethnicity and their cultural heritage. They know what is expected of them culturally within New South Wales. I applaud the Ethnic Affairs Commission on its achievements in Australia. When the President of the United States visited Australia he was overcome by the way in which multiculturalism works in this great State. He said it was an important role model to take back to the United States, because of ethnicity problems encountered in that country.

The Ethnic Affairs Commission commenced operations under the Wran Labor Government in 1977. Neville Wran established an interim Ethnic Affairs Commission and appointed Paolo Totaro as chairman of that commission. The report of that interim commission found deficiencies in the way in which ethnic communities were approached by various levels of government and it established the need to substantiate the role of the commission. That occurred in the subsequent 20 years. The current Premier is proud of the work of the Ethnic Affairs Commission. The current chairman of the commission, Stepan Kerkyasharian, is a great role model for the commission and a great leader. The Premier has ensured that the commission is at the cutting edge of social and economic development.

Principles of cultural diversity were enshrined in legislation by this Government in its last term in office through amendments to the Ethnic Affairs Commission Act in late 1996. The commission was given unprecedented powers to pursue the development of ethnic affairs right across government. These powers will ensure delivery of government programs through an open process with direct accountability to Parliament. I am pleased to say that Paolo Totaro, a great role model for the ethnic community in this State, gave an excellent speech yesterday at the function I attended. Finally, it is important to note some of the comments Mr Totaro made in his speech. He said:
    A young Australian of Greek parents told me he makes wine because he inherited his parents' wine-making facilities. But his wine-making - he said - is not modelled on any distant, ancestral village model, but rather on the habits of his parents' suburban life in Marrickville.
    Likewise, he said, his multicultural values are not based on an ideology created somewhere else, but right there in the suburb where he grew up.

That is what multiculturalism is all about. That is what the commission has enshrined in this State. I applaud the Ethnic Affairs Commission.

Mr AQUILINA (Riverstone - Minister for Education and Training) [6.06 p.m.]: I commend the honourable member for Bankstown for bringing to the attention of the House the twentieth anniversary of the Ethnic Affairs Commission of New South Wales and the work it has done over the last 20 years. I take this opportunity to congratulate Dr Paolo Totaro, who made a congratulatory speech yesterday. I regret that, due to my commitments in addressing the annual conference of the Teachers Education Council, I was unable to attend that function. The Ethnic Affairs Commission was responsible for producing a document called "Participation", which, in many ways, was the blueprint for the development of multicultural involvement in public affairs. There were some strong advocates for multiculturalism at that time, not the least of whom was Dr Paolo Totaro and the Ethnic Affairs Commission.

In the days when I was Mayor of Blacktown, and prior to entering this Parliament in 1981, I had the pleasure of being one of the original commissioners on the Ethnic Affairs Commission between 1979 and 1981. I did not join the commission in 1977 when it was founded, but I filled one of the first vacancies after the expiry of a two-year term, thus participating in the second half of that first term. The Ethnic Affairs Commission laid the blueprint for multicultural involvement in the governmental affairs of this State. Also, the Department of Education and Training has paid great attention in schools to the needs of children from various ethnic communities. Racism does not exist in our schools, where students work together in a wonderful way. Again, I congratulate the honourable member for Bankstown, Dr Paolo Totaro and the Ethnic Affairs Commission.

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CHERRYBROOK TECHNOLOGY HIGH SCHOOL

Mr RICHARDSON (The Hills) [6.08 p.m.]: As the Minister for Education and Training is present in the Chamber, I take the opportunity to express my appreciation for funding for the new primary school at Kellyville. The Minister visited Kellyville Public School towards the end of last year for the celebration of its sesquicentenary. On that day many people importuned him on the urgent need to build another school in the area. Having said that, the pressing need in the area for a new high school was also sheeted home to the Minister during his visit. The western part of my electorate is one of the fastest growing parts of New South Wales. A great number of families are moving to the wonderful Hills area and their children require schooling.

From the beginning of next year the western boundary for the student intake area for Crestwood High School will be moved to Poole Road. Children who live west of Poole Road will have to attend Riverstone High School, which their parents regard as being out of their area. A shortage of secondary school places is probably the most pressing problem in my electorate. In particular, I refer to Cherrybrook Technology High School, which is located in that portion of Cherrybrook that was added to my electorate in the redistribution. Cherrybrook Technology High School has been in existence for only seven short years, yet it is one of the top two comprehensive high schools in the State. I suspect that there has not been another school in the history of education in this State that has achieved so much in such a short time. I am also led to believe, on the basis of information that was provided to me last Friday, that it is now the biggest school in the State with 1,500 students. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong.

The school is located on a site which was originally intended for 850 students, and it is estimated that another 100 student placements will be added to the school over the next couple of years. So the school student number will peak at 1,600 students, almost double the number for which the site was originally intended. There are 24 demountables on this small site. Space is so limited that two of the demountables are located on the adjacent primary school site. Also, the high school is using one demountable that was allocated to John Purchase Public School. The 114 teachers at Cherrybrook Technology High School clearly do an excellent job, given the results that the school is achieving. However, from the description I have given, it is obvious that the school has a desperate requirement for additional permanent accommodation.

The demographers got it wrong seven years ago. The demographics of the area were expected to be as they are in other areas - that families would grow old and their homes would become empty nests; the high school students would leave and the population would age. That has not happened. Families have moved out of the area after their children have completed high school and new families with teenage children have moved into the area. I believe that Cherrybrook has one of the highest proportions of high school-aged children in the State. A couple of weeks ago I toured the school with the school's principal, Lyn Wendtman, and David Connell from the parents and citizens association. I inspected the cramped conditions, particularly at recess time when there was not enough room for the students to go outside and relax.

The grassed recreation areas are becoming a quagmire, and there are problems with cabling and connection of computers to the demountables and security on site. Each year the school spends up to $200,000 on the demountables, for example, to provide handicapped access. The principal, the parents and citizens association, the school council and I consider that the money would be better spent on permanent accommodation. I know that the Minister has received a letter from the school about this matter. The need for a new high school is strongly supported by the District Superintendent, Denis Osborne, and is certainly supported by me. I ask the Minister to take on board this issue for funding allocation in the next budget.

Mr AQUILINA (Riverstone - Minister for Education and Training) [6.13 p.m.]: I put on record that the funding provided for a new school at Kellyville had little to do with representation; it had to do with justice. That is the sort of government we are. We recognise where the need arises and provide for it, because the interest of students, irrespective of where they are located, is our uppermost concern. I am surprised that the honourable member for The Hills seems to know so little about Cherrybrook Technology High School and why there is such demand for student placements in that school. As he rightly recognised, it is a comprehensive high school, but it is a special comprehensive high school.

It began as a one-off pilot program of technology and established a keen reputation from the start. The reason that enrolments in the school are highly sought after has little to do with getting the demographics wrong and everything to do with the fact that the school provides an excellent agenda and produces a quality product. Property prices in the feeder area of Cherrybrook Technology High
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School have increased incredibly. People are actively seeking to buy houses in the area so that they have the right to send their children to the school.

It is another great example of public education, and the programs that are being produced at the school are to be commended. It must be recognised that it has nothing to do with getting the demographics wrong or with students coming from out of the area. It has everything to do with people buying houses in that area in order to achieve placements for their children at the school. I will be looking into this matter. As can be expected, the school will not be allowed to expand at such a rate that there are thousands of students in the school.

[Private members' statements interrupted.]
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Private Members' Statements

Motion by Mr Stewart agreed to:
    That standing and sessional orders be suspended to permit up to six additional private members' statements at this sitting.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENTS

[Private members' statements resumed.]
INTERNATIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION CONFERENCE

Mr NAGLE (Auburn) [6.17 p.m.]: In 1991 I became a member of the Committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption. From 1995 until March of this year, when Parliament prorogued, I was chairman of that committee. After the election I became a member of the Regulation Review Committee. As chairman of the Committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption, I was invited to go to China to assist the Chinese in the seventh International Anti-Corruption Conference. It was a great honour to be asked to attend. For many years these conferences have been held every two years. The first conference was held in Hong Kong and thereafter in Washington, New York, Sydney, Holland, Mexico, China and Peru. The ninth conference will be held in Durban, South Africa, in October.

I put on the record my thanks to the current Chairman of the International Anti-Corruption Conference Advisory Council, Mr Kevin Ford, the Vice-President, Mr Michael Hershmann and Professor Michael Johnston from Colgate University who are members of that council. I am also a member and for 2½ years I was chairman of the council. I am aware that representatives from the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the National Crime Authority, the Justice Commission, Crown officers of various States and members from parliaments around Australia have attended the International Anti-Corruption Conference. It has been a huge success. The first conference was attended by 78 delegates and at the last conference, in Peru, more than 1,000 participated. At the South African conference in Durban in October I expect up to 1,500 delegates to attend. That gives honourable members an idea of how the conference has grown.

The secretariat helps with the running of the conference and its Transparency International [TI] organisation. I am not completely happy with TI, however the international body does have a role. I am completing my duties as a member of the International Anti-Corruption Conference Advisory Council to enable me to become more involved with my role as the future chairman of the Regulation Review Committee. I consider two people eminently suited to replace me on the council: one is Justice James Wood and the other is the present Commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Barry O'Keefe. I shall recommend both of them as my replacement.

I have met many wonderful people during my time with the International Anti-Corruption Conference, including representatives from the World Bank, the United States Information Service and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. The Chinese in particular have been actively involved. Recently the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Mr Russell Grove, sent a letter to members of the Legislative Assembly seeking interest in attending the first meeting of the International Parliament of Local, City and Metropolitan Legislatures in Mexico. At the time I said that I would be interested in attending, as did a number of other members. Unfortunately, that meeting was not held in December but it was scheduled to be held in February 1999.

Recently Mr Grove asked me again to attend, and I did so, leaving on 5 June after the Parliament had risen. More than 80 countries were represented at the conference, including China, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, the United States of America, Romania, Canada, Mexico, Morocco and Iraq. There were three days of activities in public session and in committee session. The workload was heavy, some sittings lasting from 9.30 in the morning until 10.30 in the evening. The work done by the Mexican people was fantastic. I commend the Speaker of the Mexico City Legislature for his work. He was
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elected unanimously as the first President of the Directive Council of the First International Parliament of Local, City and Metropolitan Legislatures. Also I congratulate Alihandro Duran-Costa, who conceived the idea.

The council will meet again in February 2000 and I intend to attend. I was elected unanimously - though I did not nominate - as a vice-president of the First International Parliament of Local, City and Metropolitan Legislatures. The parliament will meet again in July next year in San Antonio, Texas. Countries such as Mexico, the United States of America, Morocco, Romania, China and Australia are represented by council members of that first parliament. If any honourable member wishes to accompany me to Mexico City in February or to San Antonio in July next year I recommend that they do so as it is a worthwhile involvement for members of this Parliament.
DUBBO CITY DRUG TASK FORCE

Mr McGRANE (Dubbo) [6.22 p.m.]: The Dubbo city drug task force was formed in the city of Dubbo on 18 November 1998 in response to community concerns about drugs and the high use of narceine by local ambulance officers. At the first community meeting relating to drugs the guest speaker was Councillor Warren Woodley, the Deputy Mayor of Tamworth City Council and Chairman of Australian Cities Against Drugs. Approximately 80 citizens of Dubbo attended that meeting, at which the Dubbo city task force was born. It consists of members representing the community, including health services, the council, business, church, youth and education interests.

The task force consists of myself as Mayor of the City of Dubbo and chairman of the task force; Chris Muir, the manager of the Dubbo City Centre and a businessman; Reverend Peter Danaher, a Minister of the Anglican Church representing the Ministers Paternal; Mr Lachlan Meurer of the Dubbo Youth Council; Mrs Carol Deeney, a community representative; Mr John Gordon from Macquarie Area Health Service; Mr John Dixon of the Department of Education and Training; Ms Allyson Adderley of the Department of Education and Training; and Mr Chris Martin, a community representative from the Dubbo drug rehabilitation centre.

Since that first meeting there have been five subsequent meetings. The most important meeting of the task force was in February. Mr Gerard Byrne, the Bridge Program Co-ordinator, Rehabilitation Service Command of the Salvation Army, addressed the meeting on problems related to HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, and the needle exchange program. On 10 May this year a second public forum was conducted at which the guest speaker was Major Brian Watters of the Salvation Army drug rehabilitation services and Chairman of the Prime Minister's Australian National Council on Drugs.

As a result of that forum a number of objectives were put in place, including to encourage more people within the community to continue dialogue regarding steps that the community can take to address the spiralling problems of drugs in our neighbourhoods; the council's anti-drugs agenda, linked to the Premier's forum Working Together in Strengthening Rural Communities; raising community awareness; obtaining feedback from the community regarding drugs; and engendering rational and informed debate. Prior to that forum I attended the Australian Cities Against Drugs Summit in Tamworth and was involved in the Premier's Drug Summit in Sydney.

On 26 June, last Saturday, I also participated in the United Nations International Drug-Free Day. As an indication of the commitment of the citizens of Dubbo in the fight against drugs, more than 250 members of the community participated in a symbolic walk from east to west across the L. H. Ford bridge, the main bridge in Dubbo, on the Mitchell Highway. That walk coincided with similar walks across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge and London Bridge. The people of the city of Dubbo are concerned about the problem of drugs in the community. The task force has an ongoing commitment to the residents of Dubbo to fight as a team to overcome the problems. It has initiated strategies with the local media, including the film industry, to conduct a campaign aimed at combatting illegal drug use in the city of Dubbo.

Mr STEWART (Bankstown - Parliamentary Secretary) [6.27 p.m.]: I commend the honourable member for Dubbo for his contribution. He has demonstrated that problems relating to illicit drugs are not confined to metropolitan Sydney but exist also in regional areas. The work being done by the honourable member follows on from the Premier's Drug Summit. The information arising from that Summit has provided the basis for the work being done by the task force in Dubbo. The honourable member's constituents have a pro-active leader in the fight against illicit drugs.
PORT MACQUARIE ELECTORATE NEIGHBOURHOOD INFORMATION CENTRES

Mr OAKESHOTT (Port Macquarie) [6.28 p.m.]: A number of neighbourhood information centres in the Port Macquarie electorate are threatened with closure. In particular I refer to the Camden Haven Neighbourhood Information
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Centre and the centre at Port Macquarie. The Camden Haven centre will close if it does not receive funding by 30 June to permit it to remain at its present location in Seymour Street, Laurieton.

Up until now the centre was sharing premises and rent with an organisation called Streets Ahead. Unfortunately, that organisation has closed, which means the rental for the Camden Haven Neighbourhood Information Centre has increased. The information centre started with a one-off funding grant of $3,000 from the Hastings Council, it needed around $5,000 per year for the rent and $30,000 for a co-ordinator. If the funding is not forthcoming this important service will be lost to the local community. The centre has done some excellent work at the local level in the Camden Haven region. It has incorporated many local volunteers.

The centre has facilitated and co-ordinated a number of local programs and a wide range of local services, including domestic violence court support, and assistance with the distribution of Department of Community Services travel concessions from Laurieton to Port Macquarie. Volunteers have been trained as tax helpers and as part of a free legal information referral service. The centre has been involved in a wide range of local issues, and it has certainly delivered a tremendous service to the local community of the Camden Haven. It deserves and needs to continue for the local area. Our office wrote a letter in support of a Federal assistance application for the rural communities program through the Department of Primary Industries and Energy.

We are still waiting for a response, but we are hopeful that we will receive some sort of support. Counsellors are chasing support through the committee chairman, Councillor John Barrett. The Hastings Council will vote some time in the next week and a half on whether to financially support the Port Macquarie and the Camden Haven information shops. I hope that financial support is forthcoming. My contribution this evening is an attempt to get some sort of community-based funding support through the State Government. I know a wide range of avenues are available for that support. For example, the Casino Community Benefit Fund is one that springs to mind. The centre is after a small amount of money. The preventative support it provides at a local level should be recognised, particularly in light of the cost to government of some of the services that the centre works to prevent and avoid, such as domestic violence.

I would particularly like to mention Helen Lock, who runs the neighbourhood information centre in Port Macquarie. She is a tireless worker throughout the local community and has provided much support to a wide range of organisations in the local area. I see Helen Lock at various functions throughout the local community. She put herself last and the local community first, which is exactly what a local community needs and what a government can never really afford. People like her are priceless. I urge the Government to provide the Camden Haven Neighbourhood Information Centre and the Port Macquarie information shop with financial support in whatever form it can.
BADGERYS CREEK AIRPORT PROPOSAL

Ms ALLAN (Wentworthville) [6.33 p.m.]: Since the last time I spoke in this Chamber about the possibility of the second airport being located at Badgerys Creek I have been most alarmed to see an increasing media campaign conducted by people in the media and other interest groups to ensure that the Badgerys Creek option is pursued by the Federal Government. I am greatly disturbed by the increasing number of commentators - people such as Mark Latham, the Federal member for Werriwa; and Les Hollings - who have entered the debate. The Sydney Morning Herald - the esteemed newspaper that it is - has conducted what I would consider quite a strong campaign, particularly in the past six weeks, to promote Badgerys Creek as the preferred option for a second Sydney airport.

The proximity of Badgerys Creek to Wentworthville is of overwhelming concern to my constituents. If the Federal Government decides that Badgerys Creek is the preferred option, it will significantly impact on the lives of those residents. A number of powerful interest groups have been quoted as supporting the Badgerys Creek option. It seems as if they have left their campaign almost to the last before the Federal Government makes its decision on the final environmental impact statement. In the past couple of weeks the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia - I am not sure where its Chief Executive, Warren Bennett, happens to live; he may not even live in Sydney - has supported Badgerys Creek airport on behalf of the airline industry.

Macquarie Property has been quoted extensively in the Sydney Morning Herald, saying that a tremendous boost in property values in western Sydney would result if the airport proceeded. I did a bit of research and I obtained the Macquarie Property Market Review for March 1999
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on which the Sydney Morning Herald based its supposed article by Macquarie Bank in support of Badgerys Creek. I found a very small section on page 4, two paragraphs, from the Macquarie consultants, which said that if the airport went ahead, yes, it would have a positive effect on property values in western Sydney. On the basis of those two paragraphs the Sydney Morning Herald was inclined to write a whole article showing that western Sydney would just burst out of its seams if Badgerys Creek were to proceed.

On another day an article from the Tourism Council of New South Wales featured in the Sydney Morning Herald saying that the tourist industry would get an enormous boost if the airport were to go ahead. Since I last spoke on this issue Mark Latham wrote in the Daily Telegraph on 11 June that it is good news for western Sydney; Badgerys Creek is the only option. He said that without a second airport manufacturing and tourism investment will start to relocate from Sydney to Melbourne. The article also said that if Sydney wants to solve its chronic unemployment problem it needs to build Badgerys Creek airport. Later in that same week Les Hollings made a similar statement. It is a fallacy for people to claim that the western Sydney economy will be enhanced by Badgerys Creek airport.

We only have to look at the Western Sydney Budget Statement produced by this Government last week to show that if we are going to have a successful resuscitation of the economy of western Sydney post the Olympics we have to go down a strategic path to ensure investment and job growth, and specific projects that will target western Sydney. A relocation of a major airport from Kingsford-Smith, which is where a lot of functions would come from, to an area like Badgerys Creek would simply be a relocation within Sydney's economy. It would not necessarily mean new jobs for Sydney as a result of Badgerys Creek going ahead. We all know, because it has been well established, that it would be an environmental disaster if the airport were to proceed. Incredibly, Les Hollings said in his article that of course the proposed airport in Sydney's western suburbs is going to be an environmental disaster.

He then went on to say not to worry about that; that it will still mean a great boost for the economy of western Sydney. That is not what we want. We certainly want jobs in western Sydney and we want continued economic growth, but not the sort of economic growth provided by this Government through things like the Western Sydney Budget Statement. We do not want people who should know better - people such as Mark Latham, who represents an electorate in western Sydney - making statements that this is the only way to go: that is, a Badgerys Creek airport will revive the western Sydney economy. In the next couple of weeks the Federal Government will probably come forward with its final environmental impact statement. I am hopeful that it will be a fair dinkum one and reject the second airport. I hope the Federal Government is not persuaded by the sorts of arguments coming from people such as Mark Latham and Les Hollings.
TEACHING PROFESSION

Dr KERNOHAN (Camden) [6.38 p.m.]: There is an old joke about a son lying in bed and his mother shaking him saying, "Get up." He says, "I don't want to go to school. I have a headache. I feel ill." The mother says, "You've got to get up, son. You have to go to school. You're the teacher." Unfortunately, this is no longer a joke but a situation that is occurring more and more in both our primary and secondary schools. Teachers are being stressed out by the behaviour of students. The situation has reached the stage where it is an occupational health and safety issue. Indeed, safety as much as anything else is becoming a real problem in our schools. In the past couple of months I have heard of a number of quite frightening incidents from various teachers in various schools, but I will not name the schools because teachers have been threatened with disciplinary action if they speak to politicians.

I wonder whether it is only Opposition politicians to whom teachers are not allowed to speak and whether they are allowed to speak to Government members. I hope that my colleague the honourable member for Campbelltown, a neighbouring electorate, knows what is going on in the schools in his electorate. I hope that he is working quietly with the Government to rectify the situation. In the standard reporting system, if the incidents are reported to a principal, I am told that the reports contain 20 incidents to a page. Quite often the incidents are not reported. One school at least has had 50 pages of incidents reported this year. So far there have been 10 weeks of school, so that means there have been over 1,000 incidents of misbehaviour already at that school this year.

Such incidents can include threats with cigarette lighters, knives and electric drills; vandalism of property; physical assaults; and verbal abuse. Incidents may also include damage caused to teachers' cars which are parked in school parking areas, and that is virtually inherent. The cars may be
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scratched by coins, dented, or covered in graffiti. Teachers are subjected to verbal threats such as, "I know where you live", and the threats are followed by acts of vandalism on their homes by people who are unknown. What are these teachers to do? There are procedures for handling these matters. A new 20-page booklet entitled Suspension and Expulsion of Students deals also with an appeal process.

Depending on the incident, the police may be involved; but all incidents involve a great deal of paper work. It takes time to document these incidents and to get results. Both teachers and students need time out immediately to get away from each other to relieve the pressures of the situation. Another problem is that students may have the time to make false allegations against the teachers concerned. There is also the problem of students having threatened physical violence against teachers still being within proximity of teachers. Some of those students do not mind a few days off and welcome suspension.

The do-gooders in our society have much to answer for. Laws are promoted that make parents too scared to even lightly smack a young child as a form of discipline. As a result, children grow up without knowing the acceptable bounds of behaviour. There are people who teach children about children's rights without ever telling them about the responsibilities associated with those rights. These problems mentioned are not confined to public schools: I understand that they occur also in private schools, and they occur everywhere in Sydney, not only in my electorate.

Much publicity has been given to casual teachers not wanting to teach in the western and south-western areas of Sydney. Schools are having great difficulty obtaining the services of those teachers. I have also been told that prior to the last election the Minister promised that he, the Director-General, Ken Boston, and the Deputy Director-General, Alan Laughlin, would do some classroom teaching. On behalf of the teachers in schools in my electorate I challenge the Minister and his two senior administrators to spend two full school weeks in front of a class as casual teachers in western or south-western Sydney high schools so that they can experience first-hand the behaviour of students now compared to what it was when they taught in the classroom.

Mr AQUILINA (Riverstone - Minister for Education and Training) [6.43 p.m.]: I have listened intently to the comments of the honourable member for Camden on school discipline. It may be remembered that when Labor won government in 1995 the issue of school discipline was running riot because principals had no power to invoke disciplinary procedures in their schools. I have reviewed the discipline code twice. The most recent review took place in November last year. As a result of that review, principals are empowered to take action.

Prior to that, members of the Opposition continually criticised me because the number of suspensions was high and it appeared that principals had acted too harshly against unruly students. I make no apology for that. It is the will of this Government that principals have the power to exercise authority within their own schools. That is why the disciplinary procedure was introduced. Prior to this year's State election, those procedures were restated. The Premier and I had no hesitation in making public those disciplinary procedures to ensure that everybody could understand them.

The specific issues raised by the honourable member for Camden prompted me to observe that, from my perspective, there are many causes leading to the sorts of problems that she has outlined. I addressed one of those causes yesterday when I attended the annual conference of the Teacher Education Council. I announced a review of teacher training that will be undertaken by Dr Gregor Ramsey. Today I met with Dr Ramsey to discuss the review's terms of reference, and I will make announcements about that later.

The review will examine the whole context in which teachers are currently receiving training. It is my firm belief that many young teachers are graduating without having acquired simple classroom management skills. Universities have been far too conservative in their approach and have not kept pace with the issues that the honourable member for Camden referred to during the debate.

Dr Kernohan: Are you going to stand in front of the classroom?

Mr AQUILINA: I already have, and I will be doing more of it.

[Private members' statements interrupted.]
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Private Members' Statements

Motion by Mr Whelan agreed to:
    That standing and sessional orders be suspended to permit one further private member's statement at this sitting.

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PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENTS

[Private members' statements resumed.]
EAST TIMOR VISAS

Mr LYNCH (Liverpool) [6.46 p.m.]: I wish to refer to the failure of the Indonesian Government to grant visas to allow me and a number of other members of Parliament to travel to East Timor. On a number of occasions in this Chamber I have raised issues relating to East Timor. It is a matter in which I take a personal interest, as well as a matter which is very close to the hearts of many of my constituents, in particular those who are Australians with a Timorese background.

Last year members of this Parliament established an organisation called the Parliamentary Friends of East Timor. On 1 June this year, that organisation met to consider whether a group would travel to Timor in the near future. It was resolved that the visit would be undertaken. As a result of that decision I wrote to the Consul General of the Republic of Indonesia in Sydney on 10 June. The letter stated in part:
    I am writing to advise you that a group of Australian Parliamentarians propose to travel to East Timor on a fact finding visit.
    The delegation intends to leave Sydney on July 7 and fly to Denpasar and then fly to Dili on July 8.
    The delegation would intend to leave Dili by 12 July.

The letter indicated the names of the members of Parliament who proposed to undertake the visit to Timor. They included seven New South Wales members of Parliament; the Hon. Jean McLean, a Victorian member of Parliament; one member of staff from a Federal parliamentarian's office; and one member of staff from a New South Wales parliamentarian's office. It was largely a courtesy letter.

Having heard nothing further, I contacted the consul general on 21 June to obtain details on the procedure for issuing the visas. Because I heard nothing further, a number of members of the group lodged applications for visas on Thursday 24 June. The honourable member for Coogee, the Hon. I. Cohen, the Hon. R. S. L. Jones, the Hon. Dr A. Chesterfield-Evans and I lodged applications on that date. Other applications for visas were to be lodged subsequently.

Last Friday, 25 June, the day after the applications were lodged, one of the other members of the proposed delegation telephoned the consul general to inquire about what else needed to be done and when additional applications could be lodged. That person was told that all the visa applications had been rejected by Jakarta and the group should not bother to lodge any further visa applications. Miraculously, however, a facsimile turned up in my office late in the afternoon of 25 June. It was a copy of a letter dated 23 June from the consul general, part of which stated:
    I am writing in response to your letter of June 10, 1999 regarding travel to East Timor by a group of Australian Parliamentarians.
    The situation in East Timor is now being handled by the United National (UNAMET) and international observers will be carrying out their duties there as soon as possible.
    We are concerned that groups arriving in East Timor will not assist East Timor in creating a conducive atmosphere. Therefore it would be difficult for the government of the Republic of Indonesia to fulfil your request to visit East Timor.
    However, we suggest that the members of parliament could enlist as international observers and register with the United Nations in New York.

I should record my disappointment and, frankly, my anger at that sort of response. As can be seen from the letter, no reason has been given why visas will not be issued. The letter is largely gobbledegook and adds absolutely nothing to an explanation of why the visas were not issued. The obvious question is: What on earth are the Indonesians frightened of? I would not have thought that 10 or so Australian parliamentarians were so frightening a group of people that we would upset the balance of forces in East Timor. One can only assume that there is something happening or about to happen in East Timor that the Indonesian authorities are desperate for us not to see or find out about.

A possible explanation is that the Indonesian Government feels that it is too dangerous for us to visit. Apart from the fact that it has not said that, the difficulty with that argument is that Indonesia, under the United Nations sponsored agreement between Indonesia and Portugal, is responsible for maintaining security in the province. If it is frightened about what might happen to people physically, that is an absolute condemnation of its behaviour and performance. It is also a fairly powerful argument in support of the call for greater international peacekeeping forces in East Timor, including perhaps a greater Australian presence.

What is particularly frightening is that there have been many instances lately of violence
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occurring in East Timor, especially directed, in breach of the United Nations agreement, towards people who support independence. The great fear that people like me have is that if we went to East Timor we would discover far more evidence of that and there would be far more to embarrass Indonesia and far more to indicate that it has comprehensively breached the terms of the agreement that it reached with Portugal and the United Nations. [Time expired.]
BILGOLA SURF LIFE SAVING CLUB

Mr BROGDEN (Pittwater) [6.51 p.m.]: A little beach on the northern beaches will reach a significant milestone later this year. At the commencement of the surf season Bilgola Surf Life Saving Club will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. Surf clubs provide an outstanding service to the community. They patrol our beaches every year, and allow all of us the opportunity to feel safe when we enter the water. They also deserve a great deal of credit for providing the young people of Pittwater or anywhere that can access a beach a place to belong. I thank the members of Bilgola Surf Life Saving Club for their service over the last 50 years.

It was the fear of drownings that led to the establishment of the surf club. In 1949 a group of local surfers were concerned about the increasing number of near drownings they were forced to prevent. Fearing the often treacherous seas would soon claim a life, several meetings occurred and 15 men became Bilgola surf club. In the true spirit of the surf life saving movement, the Bilgola club's establishment was greatly assisted by neighbouring surf clubs, in particular Avalon, Newport and Whale Beach.

Donations were significant in the foundation of Bilgola surf club. A surf boat was donated by Avalon surf club - a contribution it probably regrets every year at the Australian titles when Bilgola beats it in the boats. Electrical gear and lighting were also donated. Listed in the first annual report were two unusual gifts for a surf club by today's standards, a piano and a fur choker! Fundraisers such as variety shows and cash donations provided enough money to start the project of building a clubhouse. Plans were submitted to Warringah Council in the founding year, and construction soon followed.

In 50 years there have been ups and downs. Unfortunately, six lives have been lost off Bilgola in that time. The first drowning occurred during the 1960-61 season and the last, tragically, in the season just past. On each occasion the victims were weak swimmers not swimming in the prescribed patrol area but rather at the far northern end of the beach. Not once was a patrol found to be in breach of its duty.

I am particularly fond of Bilgola surf club. I live in Bilgola and the club is where my wife, Lucy, trained for and gained her bronze medallion. She now regularly patrols the beach there every summer. Bilgola is one of the two surf clubs I am patron of. Indeed, Bilgola asked me to be patron in my own right, not as the local member. Bilgola Surf Life Saving Club has definitely come a long way in 50 years. From 15 active members in 1949, Bilgola now boasts a record 402 nippers and around 210 active members.

Competitively, Bilgola is nationally recognised as one of the leading clubs in surf boats. The first time it won a national title was in 1997, taking out the open and junior competitions. Almost all boat crews have made the final each year at the nationals, the women's crew taking out second place last year. In racing inflatable rubber boats Bilgola has been branch champions twice and is very competitive in the State and national arena. The physical club is feeling the wear of 50 years and renovations are under way. Stage one, which included a new boat shed, an extension to the nippers room and a gym, has just been completed. Stage two, which will extend the western wall of the club's second level, is expected to be completed by this time next year.

Bilgola will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in a number of ways. A special anniversary dinner for members, past and present, is planned for October. It will be an evening for speeches, videos, and entertainment. Surf boats will be strung up from the roof, in true surf club tradition, and the walls will be donned with authentic photos and memorabilia. It will be a great opportunity for many of the life members, including Mike Bartlett and David Lyall, to gather to reminisce about their experiences in the club.

A special commemorative book will also be released which will detail the past 50 years of service and history. I draw special attention of the House to the people of Bilgola surf club. These people patrol the beach each year and love every minute of it. They are all great friends and one can always count on a friendly chat and warm hospitality, and even a beer. Every new member is welcomed into the family that is Bilgola surf club. The president, Dennis O'Toole, has provided me with a great deal of personal support, and he knows that I will always do whatever I can for him and to support the club. I congratulate Bilgola on attaining 50 years and thank on behalf of Pittwater each and
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every member who patrolled the beach, conducted the countless rescues and allowed millions of people through the year to feel safe swimming at Bilgola. [Time expired.]

Private members' statements noted.
PARLIAMENTARY REMUNERATION DOCUMENTATION

Mr Whelan, on behalf of Mr Carr, tabled the following documents by leave:
    "Initial Determination of Additional Entitlements for Members of the Parliament in New South Wales" by the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal pursuant to the Parliamentary Remuneration Act 1989, as amended, and the Parliamentary Remuneration Further Amendment Act 1998, dated May 1999;
    Statement by the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr J. Pierce, pursuant to section 13 (5) of the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal Act 1989; and
    Press release from the Premier on the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal, dated 24 June 1999.

[Mr Deputy-Speaker left the chair at 6.57 p.m. The House resumed at 7.30 p.m.]

Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
INAUGURAL SPEECH

Mr GEORGE (Lismore) [7.30 p.m.] (Inaugural speech): It is with pride, honour and privilege that I stand in the oldest Parliament in Australia as the member for Lismore in the Fifty-second Parliament to deliver my inaugural speech. I offer all members of this House, regardless of political affiliation, my congratulations on their recent election success. I trust that we will all be blessed with health and guidance to carry out our duties to the people of New South Wales in a proper and responsible manner. I view my election as being part of the board in charge of running the State of New South Wales, and respectfully ask all members to view their appointments in the same way.

I wonder whether there is a need for the daily theatrical performances that we continually see in the House. Enough is enough. Even some inaugural speeches have reflected this attitude. There seems to be an opinion that unless you represent the Labor Party you do not come from a humble background. I am testimony to the fact that that is incorrect. I believe that political parties or beliefs do not describe or represent a person's upbringing.

My parents, Nadim and Nora George, came to Australia from Lebanon in October 1948. I was the first of five children born in Australia at Casino. My parents arrived here without money, friends or any idea of how they were going to survive in their new home town. Admittedly, they were encouraged to Australia by our uncle and aunty, the late Peter and Waded George, who had been encouraged by her mother. In those days it was natural that once you migrated to Australia and became established you then acted as a host family to encourage others to your new homeland.

In spite of their initial hardships, as well as not being able to speak English or understand the English language, mum and dad started to settle in and become accustomed to their new way of life. They instilled in us from a very early age the feeling of being lucky to live in this wonderful country, Australia. We are proud Australians. As I grew older I was always embarrassed when mum and dad turned up at school and tried to speak to the teachers and explain themselves, or find out how I was going. I could sense my schoolmates laughing at these so-called new Australians. I was never ashamed of who I was or where my parents came from. I just did not want to be different. I simply wanted to be one of my mates.

As the eldest child, and the only one who could speak English in the household, from about the age of eight I have memories of accompanying my parents to places such as banks, accountants' offices and councils, and trying to explain what their needs were. I quickly matured in business activities and communicating with people. I had the pleasure of completing my education at St Mary's primary school and Marist Brothers High School in Casino.

The support of my wife, Rhonda, who is in the gallery tonight, has been unquestionable for more than 30 years. Rhonda, you have been there to support me in whatever responsibilities or challenges I have embarked upon. Rhonda, you are always there, together with our three sons, Stuart, Brendan and Cameron, who are also here tonight. Your continued love and encouragement are always special. My decision to seek endorsement for the seat of Lismore was a family one.

My father, Nadim, is also here tonight, and I acknowledge my late mother, Nora. I acknowledge also my brothers and sisters, Esther and Garry, Paul and Estelle, Raymond and Robyn, and Barbara; Rhonda's family - her parents, Eric and Joyce Waldron, and Graham and Jan Waldron; Alan and Gwen; and our nieces and nephews; many of whom are here tonight. I simply say thank you for being
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our family and for being there. Your love and support are very special to Rhonda and me.

I am very conscious of the enormous job that I have inherited. It would be inexcusable not to recognise in my inaugural speech the two previous members that I have been associated with. Mr R. B. (Bruce) Duncan, who held the seat for 23 years, together with Mrs Marlene Duncan, certainly laid down the foundation and tradition for Bill Rixon to continue for the next 11 years prior to his retirement on 26 March 1999. I place on record the electorate's recognition and appreciation of the work and respect that Bill, his wife, Merrilyn, and staff have earned for their honest dedication and support, and for maintaining a down-to-earth approach to his electorate, equally serving the needs of all constituents.

In claiming victory on 27 March, our success was certainly overshadowed by the fact that Bill Rixon was suffering from a virus of the heart muscle and was admitted to Kyogle Hospital, transferred to Lismore, and later flown to Brisbane by the Northern Region Westpac lifesaver rescue helicopter in a serious condition. With God's blessing, Bill is now at home enjoying his retirement from politics and the day-to-day running of his property. Bill wishes to place on record his personal thanks to all his former colleagues for their concern and good wishes.

Being elected to this position does have negatives, as I have had to resign from organisations that have been a big part of my life. For example, I was a director of the Northern Co-operative Meat Company based in Casino. That organisation is the biggest single site employer north of Newcastle, employing 800 people. It is a successful co-operative that is proudly Australian-owned by beef producers. However, like all employers in the State, especially when you are situated near a State border, the company has major problems with workers compensation and payroll taxes in New South Wales, causing an uneven playing field to its competition in Queensland, which is less than two hours drive away, and in Victoria.

I was also a director of the Northern Region Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service, based in Lismore, which services areas from the Queensland border in the north to Goondiwindi and Armidale in the west, and beyond Coffs Harbour in the south. I compliment the Minister for Health, Craig Knowles; his department; the business and community support of the flight area; the board, whose chairman, Warren Tozer, and general manager, Perry Wells, are here tonight; and the crew and staff for their continued support in ensuring that the service is maintained in a professional manner. It is now the envy of other services in New South Wales.

I was also a director of George and Fuhrmann (Holdings) Pty Ltd, based in Casino, which is one of the largest private stock and station and real estate agents in New South Wales and which I had the pleasure of establishing with Paul Fuhrmann and Arch Northam in 1976. In 1989 I had the honour of being elected President of the Stock and Station Agents Association of New South Wales. The stock and station and real estate agency is a vital part of rural communities, and I believe that country towns are strong and safe while there was still an agency in their community.

I thank my hard-working campaign committee and supporters for their support, guidance, hard work and encouragement, which I appreciate immensely. I ask that you accept that time does not permit me to mention anyone or everyone individually. However, each and every one of you has played a part, one way or another, in my standing here tonight. To my colleagues in the National Party, your support during the election was very much appreciated, as were the visits by both the National and Liberal Party shadow ministers.

It would be remiss of me if I did not thank my staff, Bronwyn Mitchell and Karen Wilson, for their dedication and commitment and for the courtesy extended not only to me but, more importantly, to my constituents. They are at the cold, hard face of the office every day, affording me the opportunity to attend to my parliamentary duties, knowing full well that they are part of the team servicing the seat of Lismore. Mr Speaker, I thank you and the staff of Parliament House for their support and commitment and for the courtesy extended to me as a member, which has certainly been appreciated in adapting to this new environment.

I am honoured to represent the people of the seat of Lismore. The fact that I am standing in this Chamber today is an acknowledgment of their overwhelming support. The seat of Lismore covers 6,049 square kilometres and takes in the areas of Lismore City, Richmond River, Casino, Kyogle and parts of areas administered by Tenterfield and Byron councils. Its industries produce beef, hides, pork, Norco dairy products, timber, world-class engineers, tea-trees, macadamias, avocados and a range of fruit and vegetables, soya beans and tea and coffee, to name just a few. Today I am proud to announce that Lismore coffee will soon be available on the menu in Parliament House - and that is just the start!

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Lismore district is renowned for its physical beauty, its rich heritage and cultural life - a thriving university city with top-notch sporting facilities and a variety of restaurants and cafes. On its doorstep are four world heritage-listed national parks and it is only 40 minutes inland from spectacular beaches. Lismore is the thriving commercial and service centre of this region and a new transit centre in the city adds convenience and comfort for visitors and locals alike. Lismore has long been regarded as a city of sports, with excellent facilities, the jewel in the crown being Oakes Oval, which can hold a crowd of 10,000 people.

The Northern Rivers Organisation of the Performing Arts, the Lismore Theatre Company and Theatre North provide Lismore with a rich cultural calendar. For lovers of the visual arts, Lismore Regional Art Gallery has a changing program of touring exhibitions, local artists and an annual local indigenous exhibition. The Southern Cross University takes pride of place in the city. It offers a fully-equipped sports science and fitness testing laboratory. The laboratory is an Australian Sports Commission accredited elite athlete facility, the only university laboratory in Australia with this accreditation.

Casino is a major town on the Richmond River. It plays an important role as the main commercial and business centre for rural industries in the Northern Rivers region. Settlers travelled overland from the Clarence River and established a 30,000 acre cattle station, which they named Cassino. This later became Casino when a surveyor misspelled it. Casino services the region by road links and daily air services to Sydney provided by Hazelton airlines, and it has a rail junction. Casino is a strong rural base and is the centre of the region's cattle industry. It is the home of the regional livestock selling centre at Nammoona and the Northern Co-operative Meat Company Ltd, which, with subsidiary companies, supplies products for local, interstate and export markets. The importance of beef to Casino is reflected in its name - Casino, beef capital of Australia - and the famous Beef Week Festival held recently in May. This annual promotion is now the envy of regional areas throughout Australia. I am proud to say that in 1981 I was the inaugural president of that festival committee and I continued in that position until 1990. [Extension of time agreed to.]

Even though I am no longer on that committee I am still very involved in the event each year. Kyogle is nestled beneath Fairymount and offers ready access to the spectacular North Coast rainforests, including the Border Ranges National Park, the Tweed Valley, Mount Warning, Mount Lindesay and the Richmond Range. The park contains such points of interest as the Border Ranges lookout, the Pinnacle, the Tweed lookout and the Spiral Loop. These are just a few of the spots that one can see along the way.

Nimbin, just 30 kilometres from Lismore, is famous for the 1973 Aquarius Festival, which attracted people seeking an alternative to the rat-race of city life. Ecotourism was born out of the ideals and attitudes of the Aquarius Festival. Following the redistribution, the electorate now includes the areas west of the Richmond Range and the towns of Bonalbo, Urbenville, Legume and Woodenbong. These towns provide the basis of the prime cattle-producing areas in the electorate, with Urbenville and Woodenbong heavily dependent on the Ford timber mills which employ nearly 70 people.

The Cellulose Valley project is based on a vision that north-east New South Wales will become an international centre for research and development and commercial production of herbal medicine and related products, products that are now becoming mainstream in the health sector. This is a major knowledge-based biotechnology initiative that will put the region and the State at the forefront internationally of the rapidly expanding natural and complementary medicine industry. Cellulose Valley is considered to be an area covering much of northern New South Wales, including the North Coast and New England Tablelands areas.

Planning for the development of the Cellulose Valley Technology Park is now complete. The Premier, the Hon. Bob Carr, launched the strategic plan for the park in August 1998. The Minister for Local Government, and Minister for Regional Development, the Hon. Harry Woods, attended an official function to announce the project to the Sydney media in September 1998. The Treasurer, the Hon. Michael Egan, also visited the park site in July 1998. The business plan for the park was released in May 1999, the master plan was completed and a study of employment outcomes for the next five years has now been completed.

Today, the Vice-Chancellor of the Southern Cross University, Professor Barry Conyngham, and I presented both documents to the Hon. Harry Woods. According to the business plan and the employment study, in the next five years Cellulose Valley Technology Park will result in 600 direct and 600 indirect jobs in the region, $30 million in new investment, $20 million of farm output in medical herbs, support for the development of new
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businesses in the region, innovation in biotechnology through expenditure of $16.5 million in research and development and important replacement and export development in herbs and natural and complementary medicine products. I look forward to this proposal receiving the necessary funding and support to establish what will become an international centre.

The recent Drug Summit was educational, to say the least. In the past I have had the view that drugs is a law and order issue. However, I soon learned that it is just as big a health problem. I have developed a strong view that we need to provide future generations with education immediately. Young people and their parents need to see the consequences of drug abuse - they do not just want advice that drugs are not good for them. As I indicated earlier, Nimbin is part of my electorate. I have no hesitation in saying that no town in New South Wales would have had more publicity, exposure or experience with the drug scene. When drugs are mentioned internationally, people think of Nimbin, and when Nimbin is mentioned the first thought is of drugs.

Local youth carry a lot of shame for this reputation. They cannot tell prospective employers where they come from for fear of discrimination. Nimbin is already a place that cannot say that it provides a safe, nurturing environment for its young. Every service we have introduced to help the sick heroin user has meant that our ability to provide a good, safe place for our young becomes more distant. In trying to fix the problem we have lost the focus of our first responsibility: that of seeing our young have the best opportunities available. They are dependent on us to provide for their needs and currently are suffering because we have failed to do this. Drug users have needs, but those needs should not be met at the expense of a group that is least likely to represent themselves: our children. I believe that the following quote by the author James Baldwin is most relevant today:
    Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed at imitating them.

I am concerned about where we go from here. Residents of Nimbin do not want shooting galleries, so I ask all members of this Fifty-second Parliament: Are you sure that the communities you represent want shooting galleries? The message that has been reinforced to me by many of my constituents is that if we adopt the Summit's resolutions we will take the wrong option in combating the drug problem.

The Lismore electorate is continually being threatened with cutbacks in its health budget. However, of late I have been encouraged by the comments and actions of the new Minister for Health, the Hon. Craig Knowles, who has already selected the site for a detoxification centre in Lismore, the first one in rural and regional New South Wales. He has also indicated support for a multipurpose service [MPS] at Nimbin and will consider a proposal from the Kyogle community. On 27 May in this House the Minister, referring to people requiring cancer treatment, said:
    Patients without cars who needed that treatment had to travel . . . which took at least 1½ hours, feel as sick as a dog and make the return journey of another 1½ hours. Because that was unacceptable the Government set about changing it.

My constituents, even those who have cars, are travelling up to three to four hours for the same treatment. This again highlights the need for the Government to urgently address such issues in regional New South Wales. Law and order is a major concern in my electorate, especially in the Lismore area command, which does not have adequate human resources. To be frank, the new system in the bush is not working. The Government needs to address the issue of the strategic placing of police officers throughout the command to provide service in times of emergency. The community deserves better because, as with health issues in country areas, this is not satisfactory or acceptable.

During the election, my home town of Casino was promised 24-hour policing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights as soon as possible. I ask Minister Whelan: When is "as soon as possible"? Casino would appreciate his answer. Again, the Government needs to address this issue. As honourable members would be well aware, the North Coast has a per capita income of less than $19,000. The young and the old are the most disadvantaged. The young need jobs, and I will continue to make representations to the Government to decentralise departments based in Sydney to the North Coast. I want government incentives for industry to relocate and start-up incentives for new high employment industries. Self-funded retirees and pensioners alike need greater access to health, recreation and occupational facilities. Small business in our region is hurting from government on-costs, and from paying high transport costs. These issues need to be addressed urgently to ensure the survival of small business.

As a stock and station agent, I will never forget the light-hearted description a farmer gave me
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of how he came to be in strife. He said, "It all started in 1966 when they changed from pounds to dollars: my overdraft doubled. Then they introduced kilograms instead of pounds: my wool clip dropped by half. They changed rain measurements to millimetres and I have not had an inch of rain since. When degrees Celsius was brought in, the temperature never got over 40 degrees. No wonder my wheat would not grow! Then they converted acres to hectares and I ended up with half of the land I originally had. By this time, I had had enough and decided to sell out. You wouldn't want to know: I just got the property into the agent's hands when they changed miles to kilometres. Now I am too far out of bloody town for anyone to buy it!"

The constituents I represent, and honourable members from other regional electorates have also said this in their inaugural speeches, feel there is bias in the spending priorities in New South Wales. Recently, Sydney city sought $140 million for a further kilometre of tunnel. It sounds a small amount if it is said quickly. However, in reality, that figure shocked many people in regional New South Wales who face daily the rapid deterioration of their roads and bridges and the continuing retreat of government services. Our local road networks are physically declining and financially depreciating at a rate faster than existing funds can provide for the necessary repair, let alone for maintenance and replacement. This process is accelerated by the continuing wet climate of our region. School bus operators who travel these roads daily have to combat the horrific conditions, and the lives of schoolchildren are virtually at permanent risk.

The Summerland Way needs to be completed to provide an alternative route for both tourists and heavy vehicles from Grafton through Casino and Kyogle to south-east Queensland. The Kyogle-Murwillumbah road currently needs only $1.5 million to finish sealing this popular tourist link. To provide creative options for these required services in regional areas the Government needs to show leadership. Perhaps an extra 50¢ shadow toll to help fund the local regional roads in New South Wales may be one creative option.

I wish to place on record my appreciation to the volunteers and employees of the New South Wales Fire Brigades, New South Wales Rural Fire Service, and State Emergency Service personnel of the Lismore electorate for coming to Sydney to help in a time of need. There was never a question of the city or the bush: When help is required we are one. Rural communities are doing it tough and are steadily losing services. Many parts of regional New South Wales are not experiencing the services and infrastructure that are enjoyed by our city cousins.

However, we, as the board of New South Wales, should conclude that it must be a question of the city and the bush when it comes to a fair distribution of capital infrastructure funding, rather than the pro-city bias we are currently experiencing in New South Wales. Finally, it is important for me to stay in touch with my electorate, to listen to my constituents and to work hard with other country representatives to achieve results for regional New South Wales. I am honoured and thankful to my parents, family and the people of the electorate who have given me the opportunity to call the seat of Lismore home.

Mr SPEAKER: I congratulate all members who have been part of this program of inaugural speeches. It has been wonderful to see the group of members attending each other's inaugural speeches. It augurs well for the future comradeship of Parliament.
LIQUOR AND REGISTERED CLUBS LEGISLATION FURTHER AMENDMENT BILL
Second Reading

Debate resumed from 23 June.

Mr OAKESHOTT (Port Macquarie) [7.57 p.m.]: I speak to this bill on behalf of the Coalition. It is my pleasure to speak following the inaugural speech of the honourable member for Lismore, who represents my home town. I take this opportunity to congratulate the honourable member on a wonderful speech and on the start of what will be, I am sure, an exciting career.

The Coalition does not oppose this proposed legislation. We concur with the views of the Government in regard to many aspects of it. Wide-ranging amendments are involved in the bill, to both the Liquor Act 1982 and the Registered Clubs Act 1976. They involve changes to allow nightclubs to stage alcohol-free entertainment for minors, to vary the operation of Governor's licences with respect to the responsible serving and consumption of alcohol, to make further provisions with respect to the presence of minors in registered clubs and to make other minor amendments of an administrative character, including the simplification of the liquor licensing regimes for function licensees. That is of
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particular relevance to the North Coast surf-lifesaving clubs and race clubs.

A lengthy debate took place on that issue about 18 months or two years ago. In my contribution to that debate I cited an example of a visit by an Argentinean rugby club to the area of Port Macquarie. I and a few of my friends took them to the beach, where we had a game of Aussie Rules and afterwards went for a beer at the surf club. As a new member of Parliament I was reminded that that was an illegal act. I am pleased that the amendments to the bill will allow such functions to take place.

As a member of a surf club that is struggling I am pleased to note that surf clubs will be given a little autonomy. My local surf club has almost no funds. The loss of athletes to Queensland in particular has had an adverse impact on the development of surf life saving and the volunteer movement. In particular I refer to Rene Corbett, Steve Pullen - a former world champion - and Brodie Maloney, all of whom have been lost to the area because of lack of support from the surf club. One hopes the legislation will give local clubs autonomy and enable them to support the volunteer movement, to develop competition and to provide equipment and infrastructure for their members.

The Opposition supports the bill, which has relevance also to race clubs. The Port Macquarie Race Club has a brand new conference facility which was used during the National Party conference for a breakfast function for 250 people. It is a fantastic centre for functions such as weddings. A range of amendments to the Act are included in the bill. I put on record the Opposition's support for the bill and for the broad principles that will allow nightclubs to stage alcohol-free entertainment for minors. That is a positive move for regional centres.

Young people in rural areas often do not have services made available for entertainment. The bill will demystify the club and pub scene and make it possible for clubs to conduct events and entertainment for the enjoyment of young people and will act as a preventive measure and a cure for some of the problems in local communities. The Opposition does not oppose the bill and looks forward to the changes being introduced as soon as possible.

Mr FACE (Charlestown - Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [8.03 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Port Macquarie for his constructive, though short, contribution to the debate. I congratulate the honourable member for Lismore on his inaugural speech. His Lebanese background will add to the ethnic make-up of the Parliament. Australia has benefited from the contributions made by people who have arrived here in the past 50 years.

I concur with the remarks made by the honourable member for Lismore about Robert Bruce Duncan, who is warmly remembered for his 23 years of service to this place. I wish Bill Rixon a speedy recovery following his period of ill health. I wish the honourable member for Lismore well in his career as a member of this Parliament, which will be significant if it can be judged by the way he delivered his inaugural speech and his spirit of co-operation.

The bill contains important amendments that will ensure that Governor's licences operate under the same responsible serving requirements as other liquor licences and that the eligibility requirements for Governor's licences are preserved. The bill offers nightclub licensees the opportunity to hold alcohol-free functions for young people under 18 years of age, under specific authorities issued by the Licensing Court. That will be in the best interests of young people and the community. Those authorities will be subject to stringent supervisory and other controls to ensure that minors attending alcohol-free functions cannot gain access to liquor. I have a strong personal view on that issue.

The bill also clarifies certain aspects of the law relating to minors in registered clubs. These are commonsense amendments, which I ran past those attending a seminar last Sunday in the western region of Sydney. They were met very well. The amendments concerning surf life saving clubs which hold function licences are a particular priority of the Government and offer a remedy to the urgent problem in surf clubs known as "coldies". I thank Opposition members for their mature attitude to the proposed legislation. I acknowledge that they took a stand on certain issues. The enforcement of the regulations will be strict but not burdensome. It is of major importance to have the traditional activities of clubs brought under the control of the Liquor Act.

I thank Paul Smith from the Surf Life Saving Association, whom I have known for a number of years. His police prosecuting background undoubtedly assisted in the drafting of these
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amendments. The bill includes miscellaneous amendments relating to auction licences, the provisional manager of licensed premises, recovery of duty on approved gaming machines, the authority of minors to use parts of hotel premises, false or misleading statements, applications to operate gaming devices in a hotel, registered club elections, penalty notice offences and gaming-related licensees. The minor administrative amendments and the other amendments contained in the bill are in the best interests of the community. I thank honourable members for their contributions.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT AMENDMENT (AMALGAMATIONS AND BOUNDARY CHANGES) BILL
Second Reading

Debate resumed from 22 June.

Mr J. H. TURNER (Myall Lakes - Deputy Leader of the National Party) [8.08 p.m.]: I lead for the Opposition in debate on this bill. A more detailed analysis of the proposed legislation will be made in the other place. The Opposition cannot support the bill. In recent years the Government has introduced some appalling bills relating to local government. Who could forget the previous local Government Minister’s now infamous Companion Animals Bill, which earned the title of the whack-a-cat bill because it allowed anyone to kill a cat and receive only a minor infringement notice.

Not to be outdone by his predecessor, the new Minister for Local Government has come up with a doozey of his own. The Local Government (Amalgamations and Boundary Changes) Bill lets compulsory amalgamations go ahead in New South Wales. The Labor Government, which tells people everywhere not to worry and that it will not force councils to amalgamate, is trying to legislate to allow just that! Whenever the Minister for Local Government gets the opportunity he uses the phrase, "There will be no Kennett-style forced amalgamations of councils." I am not really sure what the Minister means by that, but it does not matter because now we will have Woods-style amalgamations.

The Carr Labor Government went to the election saying it would not force councils to amalgamate, yet at the Australian Local Government Women’s Association conference on 1 May this year - just weeks after the State election - the new Minister for Local Government announced that there was a need for a whole range of amalgamations, despite the Government’s pre-election promise. The Minister also announced that the local government policy was under review. The people of New South Wales voted on one local government policy only, to be told shortly afterwards that it was being reworked.

Of great concern is that the Minister for Local Government misled Parliament. He stood in this House on 12 May and stated that there would be no deferral of the September local government elections. On 1 June in this House he then stated, in answer to a question from me, that there would be a deferral. In fact, much of this bill is about deferring local government elections. The Minister also issued a press release last December telling the residents of Richmond River and Casino council areas that a merger was not on, and any decision on a proposed merger should be deferred until after the September 1999 local government elections and he would talk to the then Minister for Local Government on that point. Then, when he became Minister for Local Government, he obviously talked to himself, and disagreed with himself. We see that happening every day with this Minister. He has overseen the creation of this proposed legislation to defer local government elections in some council areas. So much for the residents of Richmond River and Casino!

It is no wonder that councils and ratepayers across this State are confused and concerned. Until this bill was presented, there was no detailed plan from the Government on its amalgamation proposals. All we have received to date are snippets of speeches and bits of press releases, each of them different. The only common thread has been an underlying threat. This bill has only confused matters further. The bill does not do anything to set the minds of people at ease about forced amalgamations because it allows them to occur. In recent weeks, the Opposition has reaffirmed its long-held commitment to no forced amalgamations. We are determined to ensure the Government does not allow forced amalgamations. We commented that we could not support any legislation that would allow councils to be forced into amalgamation. That is the primary reason we will not support this particular bill without amendments.

This is an extremely important bill. It could change the face of New South Wales permanently. It is appalling that the Government has seen fit to dupe the residents and councils of New South Wales by
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forcing amalgamations whilst continuing to state there will be no forced amalgamations. The Government has been saying that the existing Local Government Act already allows forced amalgamations to proceed, but it has simply chosen not to force amalgamations. This is not strictly true. Under the Local Government Act 1993 areas or parts of areas cannot be dissolved until after a public inquiry and report. At least to date there has always been provision for that public inquiry under the Act. The new bill removes the need for a public inquiry. In new section 218A in division 2A the public inquiry requirement is removed. In fact, the Minister stated in his second reading speech:
    In order to streamline and otherwise facilitate the process where all affected councils agree to the proposed amalgamations, the requirement for prior public notification and a public inquiry will be removed.

I find it hard to fathom that change. The Minister is attempting to remove the public from this process. As I stated earlier, the Minister has taken a long time before finally letting us know what has always been on his mind with this bill. There is just no way these councils that wish to amalgamate could have had time between when the Minister started announcing this plan last month and now to consult their residents. The councils are not the residents. They may be representatives of the residents but this is such an important issue that it requires resident input. The Minister is completely removing democracy from this process. I would like to quote from a letter from a Sydney mayor on this bill:
    The central concern I have with the proposed changes is the apparent lack of community involvement in the whole process. It must be remembered that councillors are not the whole community. I understand that a situation has already arisen where a local community has voted against amalgamation and the Councils are continuing to pursue the issue. I am firmly of the view that all proposals should have a community consultation process set out and be provided for as a mandatory requirement in the legislation.

As this mayor states correctly, current councillors are very unlikely to have been elected on an amalgamation platform. The Opposition asks why then does the Government want to allow councillors to make amalgamation decisions without the people? Under division 2B, new section 218F, an amalgamation proposal can be referred to the Director-General of the Department of Local Government or to the Boundaries Commission. Under the Act, the director-general makes an appearance in these matters only when the issue is very minor. There is no need to palm off some of this very important process to the director-general. The Opposition believes the Boundaries Commission must be involved in all these amalgamation proposals.

But one of the more frightening parts of this bill is the increased power it gives the Minister. Under new section 218F the Minister may recommend to the Governor that an amalgamations proposal be implemented with modifications from the Boundaries Commission or director-general's report, or with the Minister's own modification, even if those modifications constitute a new proposal! What right has the Minister to create his own amalgamation proposals and recommend them to the Governor? The Government claims this bill is about streamlining the amalgamation process, but the truth is that it is about increasing ministerial powers and reducing democracy. It is a clear breach of an election promise.

The Minister has already done some of his own prelegislation work on amalgamations. He has asked that councils in situations where two or more want to amalgamate or consider amalgamations have until 30 June to put their ideas to him and they can have their September elections deferred. Tomorrow is 30 June. Today, 29 June, we are debating the legislation which could govern that deferral. Obviously, many of these councils have not seen this proposed legislation but have had to submit their proposals and just trust the Government.

The shadow minister, Duncan Gay, has asked for an extension of that 30 June date so those councils can at least see the proposed bill and the parliamentary debate before they decide to ask for a deferral, but the Minister will not agree to this. What arrogance - arrogance that we now see daily from the Labor Party and every piece of legislation before this House. So we are left with a situation where, under the bill, if two councils want to amalgamate and they have resolved to formulate their proposal or they have submitted their proposal, they can apply to have the September 1999 local government elections deferred until the end of next year.

If this deferral truly were about allowing voluntary amalgamations to proceed the Opposition would not be concerned. We are concerned, though, because, firstly, as I mentioned earlier, the pro-amalgamation councils could not have had time to talk fully to the people; and, secondly, this bill allows councils that may think about sticking around in local government until after the Olympics the opportunity to do so. All they have got to do is get a friendly council to agree, stick in an amalgamation proposal, look like they are keen for a year or so, then abandon it.

One of the most prominent deficiencies is that the views of the community are not being
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considered well enough. It is simply outrageous when one reads the Minister's second reading speech on this bill to see that he barely even manages a passing reference to the people. We will aim to amend this bill in the upper House to fix these concerns. Therefore, we cannot support it here today. Our shadow minister also wishes to emphasise that he would like to ensure that councils that wish to look at merging but do not want to defer their elections in September are not pushed into deferrals they do not want or need. This bill is completely unacceptable and we cannot support it. It will be revisited in the other House, and there we will attempt to allow communities to have their say and fix up the serious flaws now present. As I stated earlier, we do not support the bill.

Mr MOSS (Canterbury - Parliamentary Secretary) [8.19 p.m.]: I make it clear, particularly because of the comments made by the Deputy Leader of the National Party, who preceded me in this debate, that this bill does not amalgamate councils. In fact, this bill neither supports nor opposes amalgamations of councils; it responds to the current desire on the part of a number of councils to amalgamate. It is pleasing to note that local government has come to its senses and is at last seriously considering amalgamations. It is about time that amalgamations were taken seriously in New South Wales.

However, unlike the Victorian model, the New South Wales model is not one which thrusts upon communities the proposal for amalgamation; rather, this Government is allowing the experts to decide whether amalgamations should take place. Those experts are the councillors of the various local government bodies throughout this State. Over the years the argument generally has been advanced on the part of smaller councils that big is not necessarily better. Those who have made that claim have really been burying their heads in the sand. It is my belief that larger councils achieve more with the ratepayers' dollar, manage to provide a greater variety of services and, more often than not, provide a better quality service as well.

I was involved in local government and had the good fortune to be associated with a large council for more than 14 years. During that time I mixed with hundreds of councillors. Whenever the subject of the optimal size of a council was discussed, it was amazing how each of the aldermen - the term by which they were known in those days - would assert that their particular council was the optimal size. That argument was even advanced by a councillor from the Council of the Municipality of Hunters Hill, in spite of the fact that approximately 10 local government areas of the size of Hunters Hill council could fit into Canterbury and 15 of its size could probably fit into Bankstown. I dare say, judging by the way local government representatives of Hunters Hill seem to think, in 20 years time that will still be the case. I doubt that that local government area would want to amalgamate, and this bill allows councils such as Hunters Hill to decide for themselves, just as every other council has done.

I never argued that the council I was associated with was the ideal size, but I recognised that metropolitan councils should strive to be no smaller than the council that I represented. I support my argument of greater efficiency being derived from larger councils by pointing out that Canterbury City Council has eight contiguous councils. I know that when I was Mayor of Canterbury seven of those neighbouring councils charged a higher residential rate per square metre of residential land than did Canterbury. I dare say that that is the current position. In addition, when I was Mayor of Canterbury none of the other neighbouring councils - with the exception of Marrickville Council - provided any welfare services. If someone were to ask those smaller councils why they do not engage in welfare activities, they would say that they do not have the funds to provide those sorts of services.

Larger councils are more capable of funding emergency work, which can arise in all councils, large or small. The larger the council the more capable it is of funding the emergency work - such as the collapse of major drainage - from its own budget whereas a smaller council has to meet that responsibility by undertaking additional loans. When all matters are considered, local government is realising that bigger is better. This bill makes it easier for councils to expand into larger local government areas if those councils so wish. It is pleasing to note that a number of councils in the area of my electorate - namely, Ashfield, Burwood, Concord, Drummoyne and Strathfield - are examining the feasibility of amalgamating, thereby reducing the number of councils in the area from five to two.

I recommend to any local government body that is considering amalgamation that it should take up the initiative itself. I do not believe that the initiative would be supported by senior officers. One of the stumbling blocks in amalgamation over the years has been the local government bureaucracy, particularly senior officers. I say that because senior officers report to councils. They can, and do, influence the opinion of councillors. While there
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may never have been a deliberate campaign to oppose amalgamation, I do not believe that the senior officers' contingent of local government has ever gone out of its way to support it.

I am not critical of senior officers for feeling that way because that is human nature. No-one wants to put himself or herself out of a job. If councils such as Ashfield, Concord, Burwood, Drummoyne and Strathfield were to amalgamate - I emphasise "if" - the existing five general managers would be reduced to two, the existing five chief engineers would be reduced to two, and the existing number of salary-package officers positions would be reduced. This highlights how top-heavy the conglomeration of smaller councils is. Traditionally, it has been common practice for local councils to join forces in providing services, particularly smaller councils. Examples of this include the operation of a central garbage service, and the building of baby health centres, swimming pools and libraries on local government borders.

Such facilities are usually maintained, operated and shared by two councils. When the argument is advanced that that type of activity is tantamount to amalgamation, councillors say, "Oh, yes, it is a form of amalgamation - but it is voluntary amalgamation." That is also the case with this bill. It is all about voluntary amalgamation. The Minister referred to that fact on a number of occasions during his second reading speech. The processes for amalgamation provided in the Local Government Act are complex. Many of those processes do not have to be addressed when councils' elected representatives agree voluntarily to amalgamate. For those reasons, I wholeheartedly support the bill.

Mr RICHARDSON (The Hills) [8.29 p.m.]: I was interested to listen to the contribution of the honourable member for Canterbury to the debate - as, indeed, I always am. He asserted that this bill does not amalgamate councils.

Mr Moss: Of course it doesn't.

Mr RICHARDSON: I beg to differ with the honourable member: the title of the bill is the Local Government Amendment (Amalgamations and Boundary Changes) Bill. Most of the speech made by the honourable member for Canterbury centred on amalgamation. He referred to larger councils doing more with ratepayers' money to provide better services and being more able to fund emergency work. In a sense, his speech was a passionate plea for councils to amalgamate. Given the context of the bill before the House, I am not surprised: It goes a long way beyond simply encouraging councils to amalgamate. I will return to this point later in my speech. To set the scene for consideration of this bill, I wish to refer to some media reports containing press releases by the Government before and after the State election. The first is from the honourable member for Coogee, the former Minister for Local Government. His press release dated 19 January stated:
    There have been no forced amalgamations of local councils during this first term of the Labor Government, and there will be none during the second term.
    This commitment was given at the Local Government Association Annual Conference in October last year, and was repeated today by Local Government Minister Ernie Page.
    "I am pleased to see that the Opposition has now adopted our policy for no forced amalgamations of local councils", said Mr Page.
    "The forced amalgamations of local councils in Victoria by their Coalition Government has had a disastrous impact on regional communities in that state.

On 11 December 1998 the Minister at the table, who was then Minister for Regional Development, and Minister for Rural Affairs, issued a press release calling on Richmond River and Casino councils to put off amalgamation talks until after the local government elections in September 1999. The media release stated:
    Mr Woods said it was clear from a recent survey of Richmond River Shire residents that the councils had more work to do if they wanted to convince people of the benefits they believed amalgamation offered.
    "Local Government Minister, Ernie Page, recently announced that he would not proceed any further at this stage with the various proposals for amalgamation and boundary adjustments that have been presented to him," Mr Woods said.
    If the councils wish to re-activate their proposal for amalgamation after March next year, I believe it would be appropriate for them to delay that decision until after the council elections in September.
    "That is the view I am expressing now, and it is the view I will be putting to the Minister for Local Government after the State election."

I wonder whether the Minister has had a talk to himself about this issue. If he had done, I do not think that he would be putting the bill currently before the House to us. On 27 May this year the Minister for Local Government put out a press release headed "Building a strong local government for the next century". It stated:
    NSW Minister for Local Government, Mr Harry Woods, today announced a package of improvements designed to strengthen the local government sector and create a strong partnership to achieve jobs growth, particularly in rural and regional NSW.

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    The highlights include measures to assist councils keen on improving their finances and services and shifting the Department of Local Government office from Sydney to Nowra.
    "There will be no 'Kennett-style' forced amalgamations of councils. However, if councils seek our help to voluntarily amalgamate, then we'll now be able to give them every assistance possible."

That is the way the bill has been sold to the public. That is the way the Minister has attempted to sell it to this House. On 12 May the Leader of the National Party asked the Minister whether he had told a meeting of the Australian Local Government Women's Association on 1 May that there was no way that the Labor Government could ignore the imperative of council amalgamations. The Minister replied:
    I will not do what Jeff Kennett has done in Victoria and sweep aside the notion of community consultation . . . I will not force amalgamations . . . The State Government will encourage councils to consider reforms that ensure their future viability - a future that will provide a fair share of quality services for the ratepayers they represent. These comments are compatible with the comments I made at the Australian Local Government Women's Association.

I looked at the bill in the context of these media releases and that reply from the Minister for Local Government with some astonishment. To me the two things were incompatible. I know the Minister, the Hon. Harry Woods, to be an honourable man, but I felt that he had been guilty of at the very least a degree of dishonesty and at the worst misleading the House. The heading to new section 218E asks the rhetorical question: Who may initiate a proposal? The section provides:
    (1) A proposal may be made by the Minister or it may be made to the Minister by a council affected by the proposal or by an appropriate minimum number of electors.
    (2) An appropriate minimum number of electors is:
    (a) if a proposal applies to the whole of one or more areas, 250 of the enrolled electors for each area or 10 per cent of them, whichever is the greater, or
    (b) if a proposal applies to part only of an area, 250 of the enrolled electors for that part or 10 per cent of them, whichever is the lesser.

The Minister would have us believe that the idea is that two councils get their heads together and decide it will be a good idea for all the reasons outlined by the honourable member for Canterbury to amalgamate and they put that view to the Minister, who says, "Hold off guys on your election in September and we will work this through." That is not what it says in the bill. It says that a proposal may be made by the Minister, not by two councils coming to the Minister but by the Minister himself; or it may be made to the Minister by a council affected by the proposal or by an appropriate minimum number of electors. So there are indeed three ways of having council elections in September deferred, of initiating a proposal that do not require two councils to come to the Minister saying that they want to amalgamate.

New section 218F is headed "Referral proposal for examination and report". As the Deputy Leader of the National Party said, this is one of the more frightening parts of the bill because of the increased power it gives to the Minister. Under this new section the Minister may recommend to the Governor that an amalgamation proposal be implemented with modifications from the Boundaries Commission or the director-general's report, or with the Minister's own modifications even if those modifications constitute a new proposal. Subsection (4) reads:
    The Minister may recommend to the Governor that the proposal be implemented:
    (a) with such modifications as arise out of:
      (i) the Boundaries Commission's report, or
      (ii) the Director-General's report (and, if applicable, the Boundaries Commission's comments on that report), and
    (b) with such other modifications as the Minister determines,
    and may do so even if of the opinion that the modifications constitute a new proposal.

It seems to me that this is all about the Minister wanting to create his own amalgamation proposals and then recommend them to the Governor. He has suggested that the bill is about streamlining the amalgamation process. The fact is that it is really about increasing ministerial powers - something that he has railed against in the past. The previous Minister for Local Government railed against it. He kept saying that the Government did not want Kennett-style amalgamations. That was the buzz phrase. This bill is simply a backdoor way of achieving exactly that result.

Given the response of the Minister to the question asked by the Deputy Leader of the National Party earlier this session, given the press releases that the Minister and the former Minister for Local Government put out, I repeat that what I believe the Minister is trying to do is blatantly dishonest. He is attempting to mislead this House and, worse, the people of New South Wales. I understand that the Minister has asked that where two or more councils
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want to consider amalgamations they have until 30 June - tomorrow - to put their ideas to him. They can then have their September elections deferred. So we are debating this bill one day ahead of the deadline that he has set.

I imagine that many councils have not seen the proposed legislation. They have merely put up their proposals and they have expected that they could trust the Minister and the Government, despite the fact that he has carte blanche under the bill to create a new proposal for amalgamation if he so wishes. That seems the height of arrogance. It is an extraordinary state of affairs. Another issue I want to bring before the House tonight in relation to the bill is that the Minister said in answer to a question on 12 May posed by the Deputy Leader of the National Party:
    I would like to keep the Deputy Leader of the National Party in suspense but the Government has no intention of postponing the elections.

Under this bill if a council has an amalgamation proposal in front of the Government it can put its elections off until the end of August next year. It has been suggested that some mayors and some councils might wish to defer those amalgamation proposals - there is one that springs to mind in the Olympic corridor in particular - because they would like to remain in power during the Olympics.

I simply postulate that and ask the House to consider that it may not be factual. The Minister may have another view on that issue. But I suspect that that would be a consideration for a number of those councils, particularly the one that I am thinking of in the Olympic corridor.

The Opposition will oppose a substantial number of the amendments to be moved in the upper House. The shadow minister for local government, the Hon. D. J. Gay, also wants to state that he believes that the time frame provided for in the bill is wrong. He wants to ensure that councils who wish to look at merging but do not want to defer their elections until September - in other words, they do not want to do away with the democratic process but want to go ahead and see what takes place in September - are not pushed into deferrals that they do not want or need.

The Opposition opposes the bill on several grounds. It believes that it is anti-democratic and that it gives the Minister for Local Government too much power. It feels that the Minister will use the legislation to bulldoze through amalgamations where he feels that they are warranted. I have heard nothing in the debate so far - certainly not from the honourable member for Canterbury - that would lead me to believe otherwise. The honourable member for Canterbury is obviously strongly in favour of amalgamations. The Opposition believes in democracy. In my electorate of The Hills there are two local government areas, namely Baulkham Hills and Hornsby.

They both have a substantial number of ratepayers: 130,000 to 135,000 in Hornsby and about 125,000 in Baulkham Hills. An amalgamation of those councils would be absolutely ludicrous. I would appreciate an assurance from the Minister for Local Government that he would not require councils in my electorate to amalgamate. Indeed, he should address in detail in his speech the entire issue of forced amalgamations and explain to the House why the legislation is worded in the way that it is and how he believes it will be interpreted by the courts in such a way that he will not be able to force amalgamations on local government.

Mr BARR (Manly) [8.42 p.m.]: Legislation that facilitates voluntary amalgamation is a good thing, particularly for country areas. However, this somewhat messy and convoluted amendment to the Act puts too much power into the hands of the Minister. For that reason I could not support the legislation as it now stands. The bill amends the procedures for boundary changes and dissolution of councils. It allows councils to postpone the coming local government elections, which are only three months away.

The bill removes the public notice given for a proposed dissolution of a council under the current Act. If two councils agree on an amalgamation, there is no automatic Boundaries Commission inquiry; it is up to the Minister to order one. This is being called voluntary amalgamation, but what is a voluntary amalgamation? "Voluntary" does not mean that residents have been consulted on the question. They will not have elected their councillors on a platform of pro-amalgamation or anti-amalgamation. The question of amalgamation or boundary change is fundamental to the council's very existence, but people will not have a say. When they elected these councillors, residents would have presumed - if they had thought about the amalgamation issue at all - that if the issue arose they would get a say in a public inquiry before their council was dissolved.

The bill allows suitor councils to postpone the coming election. Given that under the rules councils are elected for four years, to increase that period to five years is an affront to the democratic process. The State Government managed a full electoral redistribution without having to postpone the
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elections. Imagine the outcry if the Government had postponed the election for a year to change the boundaries. What happens in such a circumstance if residents do not like their representatives? They are being robbed of the chance to choose another representative for a year, effectively extending the term of the councillors, who may be unpopular, to five years rather than four. Recently I asked the Minister a question without notice in the following terms:
    If there is a public inquiry into two or more councils regarding an amalgamation proposal and there is no agreement between the two affected councils after the inquiry process, will the Minister force these councils to amalgamate?

The Minister's answer was simply "No". But in new sections 218E and 218F of the bill the Minister gives himself power to put the amalgamation proposal forward, as well as to modify the proposal arising from a Boundaries Commission inquiry or a director-general's report. He gives himself the power to modify it even to the extent that it constitutes a new proposal. This means that the Minister has given himself the power to override the outcomes of the Boundaries Commission's inquiry - which is the only opportunity for public input in the process - and, in effect, he will be able to force councils to amalgamate. On the one hand, the Minister has told us that he will not force an amalgamation - and I believe that legitimately that is his personal feeling on the matter - and on the other, he has given himself the power to do so. If he is genuine about not forcing amalgamations, he should prove that by removing that power.

One of the arguments that has been presented in this House tonight is the issue of size. As the actress said to the bishop, "Size does not count. It is what you do with what you have that matters." There is an argument about economic efficiency, economy of scale, and so on, but there is not much data to prove that argument one way or the other. We must remember that local government is the font of grassroots democracy. More than any other sphere of government, it gives an opportunity for people who may not be aligned to political parties or involved in political apparatus in party-political machines to have a say in what goes on in their area. The larger the councils, the more councillors are a kind of board of management which becomes further removed from the day-to-day sorts of activities and events that -

Ms Moore: It takes the "local" out of local government.

Mr BARR: That is right, it takes the "local" out of local government. We should not overlook in this debate the fundamental importance of local government and the local democratic processes. There is no better illustration of democracy at work than the local town council meeting and the public meetings that are called on various issues. One cannot get closer to the true meaning of democracy. If we want to have big, corporatised councils with relatively few councillors on them, what we will see is a removal of this process and a more corporatised system. I abhor that. We must recognise that democracy has to hold sway at the local level. Therefore, the issue of amalgamations must be treated carefully and sensitively. This proposal would mean that there would be too much power in the hands of the Minister - not only this Minister but also future Ministers. On those grounds I do not support the bill as it stands.

Dr KERNOHAN (Camden) [8.48 p.m.]: It has been known for a long time that the Australian Labor Party has favoured amalgamation of councils as its policy. However, the Labor Party categorically denied forced amalgamations before the last election. A fortnight ago I issued a press release because of the rumours that were being spread and the comments that were being made about whether amalgamations would be forced and what would happen. I said in my press release that the current proposed local government amalgamations were the thin end of the wedge. I was wrong. They are not the thin end of the wedge; they are the wedge. I received an interesting reply to my press release in the local papers. The Chronicle of 22 June states:
    Camden and Wollondilly Councils have welcomed moves by Local Government Minister Harry Woods not to force council amalgamations.

Another statement in the Chronicle - a statement that we have heard often from the Minister - is:
    There will be no Kennett-style forced amalgamations of councils.

And nor should there be. This bill will permit forced council amalgamations. I have no intention of referring to every clause in the bill as did the honourable member for The Hills. He pointed out that amalgamations can occur without any input from local government or people in the community.

Earlier the honourable member for Manly said that local government must be kept local. I issued my press release because Macarthur is a prime target and a wonderful area for amalgamation. I issued that press release to point out to the people of Macarthur and, in particular, to the people of Camden and Wollondilly, that if the Government had any intention of forcing amalgamations, Campbelltown
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with its population of 150,000, Camden with its population of under 40,000, and Wollondilly with its population of under 40,000, would have different representation on a joint council. People in Camden and Wollondilly would lose control of their destiny and be controlled by Campbelltown councillors.

I represent part of Campbelltown and at various times I have made representations on behalf of Campbelltown council. Campbelltown council has very different needs to the needs of Camden and Wollondilly councils. In 1991 in my inaugural speech I referred to the different aims and aspirations of those three areas. The newspaper article to which I referred earlier makes reference to the Mayor of Camden, Geoff Corrigan, who is a member of the Labor Party but is an independent mayor. He is reported as saying:
    . . . most Camden councillors opposed the amalgamation. Camden Council is opposed to any enforced amalgamations. We are currently working in co-operation with other councils in the area to improve our use of capital equipment.

This is what should happen: Councils must work together voluntarily and use high-priced equipment and facilities for the betterment of both areas. The article also states:
    Wollondilly Mayor Christine Towndrow said the decision to amalgamate was up to each Local Government Area.

That was the case before the introduction of this bill. Now that decision can be made by the Minister. It does not matter what councils want. Councils have always had the ability to amalgamate. They could request the Boundaries Commission and the Minister to determine any such amalgamation. Never before was the Minister given the power to say, "These councils will be amalgamated." That is the intention of this legislation. There will be no public inquiry. This Government will not let the public have a say in what they want and they have not been able to state what they feel about their area. That is not democratic. I have always believed that there should be no politics in local government.

Ms Moore: Party politics.

Dr KERNOHAN: I stand corrected by the honourable member for Bligh. When I was mayor of Camden Council everybody thought I was a member of the Labor Party because for a long while I was a so-called greenie. When elected to Parliament in 1991 I resigned from Camden Council as I did not want to bring party politics into local government. Party policies determined in Macquarie Street or in Camden have no place in the decisions that are made about what is right for a council in its area. Take, for example, a council comprising nine people - five Labor councillors and four others. At any Labor Party caucus meeting three of the five Labor councillors could determine what decisions are to be made by council. The majority members of council will not decide; three councillors in a council of nine councillors can control those decisions. That is not fair representation of the people.

Amalgamations cannot be allowed to occur without some inquiry being conducted to enable the public to participate and have their say. This Labor Government has again broken its promises. We have a list of 200 or 300 promises that the Government broke during the term of the last Parliament. This is the first of the Government's major broken promises in this Fifty-second Parliament. The Minister said that the Government is not forcing amalgamations; that it is introducing a bill that will permit amalgamations. I said earlier that this bill, which allows amalgamations, is not the thin end of the wedge; it is the whole wedge. The deliberate loopholes in this bill will not only permit forced amalgamations but actually encourage them. It is disgusting! This legislation is completely undemocratic. I quote from a press release issued by the Hon. D. J. Gay in the other place:
    This is the undemocratic Labor Party at its arrogant worst.

Mr Orkopoulos: What about Jeff Kennett?

Dr KERNOHAN: New South Wales is a different State. The situation in New South Wales is different. Kennett is doing exactly what he wants in Victoria, just as the Labor Party is doing exactly what it wants in New South Wales. The honourable member for Canterbury spoke about larger councils providing better services and economies of scale. I agree completely with the honourable member for Manly that the jury is still out on that. In some cases there have been benefits, and in other cases there have been none. The honourable member for Canterbury spoke about the local government executive officers. At least under the current contract system their services can be dispensed with, although it might take four or five years. Before contracts were introduced there was double the number of staff and you could not get rid of any of them.

There is no proof whatsoever that citizens are better looked after by a huge conglomerate council. As long as the smaller councils work efficiently and to their budgets they will do the right thing by their ratepayers. I have information hot off the presses that at least two of the councils I represent do not
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want to be amalgamated. I ask the Minister not to think about this matter in terms of Wollondilly or Camden or other areas in my electorate.

Ms MOORE (Bligh) [9.01 p.m.]: Despite the meetings that I have had with the Minister for Local Government and the assurances that I have received from him, I remain seriously concerned about this bill. The Minister stated that the legislation is intended to particularly address the needs of rural councils, some of which have only a small number of voters, which will benefit significantly from an amalgamation that is designed to improve efficiency and quality of service. However, this legislation is open to misuse for political self-interest rather than public benefit. That is my concern.

I can speak with some experience of political manipulation of local government in the city. I stood for and was elected to South Sydney Council because of my concern about the local environment and community issues. The council was amalgamated with the City of Sydney Council by the Wran Government for party political reasons. Our elections were deferred by the Wran Government for party political reasons and then the council was dismissed by the Unsworth Government for party political reasons. I opposed the subsequent carve-up of the city by the Greiner Government. I now oppose the amalgamation with the Council of the City of Botany Bay for party political reasons that has been proposed by Mayor Smith from South Sydney council and made possible by this bill of the Carr Government.

If the Minister has any doubt about the potential for political manipulation he need only have a look at the proposal he has received from South Sydney council. Following his call for proposals for voluntary amalgamations, Mayor Smith tabled a minute of the June council meeting recommending that council pursue amalgamation with Botany council and take advantage of this bill's provisions to defer the September council elections. As the Minister pointed out to me in our meeting, he intended that this apply only for small rural councils.

In all the years of my involvement in the city as a local representative and as a State member, I have never heard any suggestion that South Sydney council should amalgamate with Botany council. This is not a sincere proposal for local government reform in the interests of the residents and ratepayers of the South Sydney municipality. There is no evidence that such an amalgamation will improve efficiency and quality of service for the local community. No work has been done to identify whether this proposal will enable council to better serve the needs of the local community. In fact, it is a grab for power by the mayor of South Sydney council, who is running scared after his defeat in the electorate of Bligh. He is now seeking another year in office so that he can reconfigure the political landscape to ensure that he continues to have control via an amalgamation with Labor-dominated Botany council, thus creating a super-Labor council.

There has been no consultation with the local community. In fact, they not even know about it except for articles in the daily press. A proposed amalgamation with Botany council does not have the support of South Sydney communities. According to local newspapers, residents of Botany also oppose this proposal. Now that the community has become aware of the council's proposal, residents and ratepayers have begun to mobilise against it. My office has received many calls and I am aware that my constituents have written to the Minister indicating their concern and anger about this council proposal. This afternoon the Minister received a petition with in excess of 400 voters' signatures calling for the north ward of North Sydney Council to be re-amalgamated with the City of Sydney and for the Minister to refer the proposal to the Local Government Boundaries Commission for examination, inquiry and report.

The 400 electors who have signed that petition are well in excess of the 250 required to force the Minister to act under the current Local Government Act. For political purposes the Greiner Government carved off South Sydney council from the city in 1988. Many residents believe that South Sydney council should be re-amalgamated with the city. Other residents and ratepayers have raised other proposals. It is clear that if boundary changes are to occur - and I question that they should occur - sections of South Sydney council may more appropriately be amalgamated with other surrounding councils such as Woollahra, Leichhardt or the city. Sydney's inner east cannot easily be amalgamated without comprehensive exploration of the issues facing the various local communities. Important issues have not been considered, such as community interests, natural geographic boundaries, the attitude of residents and ratepayers and the impact on council's finances, policy and services.

Such circumstances require a public inquiry that examines the area as a whole before any boundary changes or amalgamation can occur. I am concerned that the current legislation can be profoundly misused. I do not believe that is the Minister's intention, but the legislation would allow it to occur in the future. If at its meeting tomorrow night Botany council passes a resolution to pursue
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amalgamation with South Sydney, it is possible that those elections could be deferred for 12 to 15 months, the councils then amalgamating with no reference to residents and ratepayers. That goes against the spirit of local government. I agree with the honourable member for Manly and other members who have said that local government is fundamentally grassroots democracy. It should involve and be in the interests of the local community. It dramatically affects the lives of those people living in the local areas and it is very important to them. They do not want their areas to continue to be treated as a political football, as they have been in the past. I implore the Minister to consider the local community needs and to act responsibly.

Looking at it bluntly, this legislation will allow the Minister to have power to unilaterally make proposals for amalgamation, to refer it to the director-general or the Boundaries Commission without public notification, to even refuse the Boundaries Commission permission to conduct a public inquiry, and to recommend the amalgamation to the Governor. That is the absolute opposite of what grassroots democracy is about. That would be a betrayal of any community - and in this case, the people of the city - if that were to occur. Although I do not believe that is the Minister's intention, I believe it is the unintended consequence of this bill. That is why I am so concerned.

I acknowledge that much of this bill will maintain the status quo of the current Act. The only factor preventing the scenario is the Minister's goodwill. The Minister's discretion and authority are extended by this bill. The checks and balances which should be in place are being reduced. Despite a stated policy from the Minister of no forced amalgamations, the power to force amalgamation is being provided to the Minister as a result of the bill. I am astounded that the legislation does not implement the Minister's stated policy: that he does not support forced amalgamation. This bill will allow the exact opposite. That is what I mean by the unintended consequence. This bill provides the scope for forced amalgamation, allowing unscrupulous councils to take advantage of the provisions to stay in power, while disfranchising their electorates. That disturbs me.

I call upon the Minister in his reply to give specific commitments. Firstly, in determining whether to postpone elections, the Minister must reject any proposal where there is no evidence that the proposal has been put forward with a genuine interest in responding to the needs and concerns of residents and ratepayers. On these grounds there is no basis for South Sydney council's unilateral proposal. The second commitment I call for is that when there is any contention from local residents and ratepayers over a proposed amalgamation, the Minister will refer the proposal to the Boundaries Commission for investigation, including a public inquiry. On those grounds the South Sydney Council proposal urgently requires a public inquiry.

The final commitment I seek is that the Minister will not recommend to the Governor that a proposed amalgamation be implemented unless the Boundaries Commission reports that the proposed amalgamation is the best outcome for the local council area and its communities. The responses I seek from the Minister are in the spirit of good local government and uphold the fundamentals of grassroots democracy. The best mechanism for ensuring that the process of local council amalgamations is not manipulated and that amalgamations are in the interests of local communities is for there to be a legislative requirement for a public inquiry by the Boundaries Commission, followed by a plebiscite or referendum for local council electors.

There is one area of the legislation that I am unwilling to support in any form. Elections are a basic democratic right and should not be deferred. I see no reason why amalgamations cannot occur after the September elections if that is what councils wish and if they are able to prove to the Minister that there are grounds for doing so and that it is in the interests of the community. Therefore, I foreshadow the following amendment:
    Page 7, schedule 1, line 1 to page 10, schedule 1, line 23. Omit all words on those lines.

I call upon the Minister to uphold the real basis of local government and not to defer those elections.

Mr WEBB (Monaro) [9.11 p.m.]: In some respects one can say of this bill that it has been introduced not before time. Amalgamations and boundary changes have occurred in the past. About 20 years ago the Cooma-Monaro Council, Yass and Goodradigbee councils, Bega Valley and Imlay councils amalgamated. They were not without problems, some of which have not yet been resolved. I refer specifically to the representation the town of Eden has been able to secure on the Bega Valley Shire Council. My comment about this bill being not before time is perhaps more relevant to Sydney, to metropolitan councils not country councils.

Page 1647

The Labor Government does not seem to understand the problems in the bush and the tyranny of distance. Forced amalgamations in small rural areas with low populations only make matters worse. Most people acknowledge that some change is inevitable in the future. Minor council boundary changes have occurred almost on a monthly basis. When the need arises the process is available to deal with those changes. Even major boundary changes are necessary at times, and the process exists for them to happen. The Boundaries Commission can resolve the problems. That is enshrined in the Act.

Resource sharing is becoming increasingly common among local councils. That involves the sharing of information technology resources, expertise and capital investment and does not necessitate amalgamation or the changing of boundaries. It enables councils to do the job of governance co-operatively. Some councils have already realised the advantages of sharing plant with neighbouring councils to avoid duplication of the cost of graders, bulldozers, tip trucks and other equipment, which is not in the best interests of anyone.

The use of joint staff, engineers, corporate finance managers, planning departments, and even general managers, is not beyond one's comprehension. Co-operative management, whereby councils govern local government areas through bioregions without amalgamating or changing boundaries, will assist local government to proceed into the next millennium. When I first started in local government there was an amazing lack of co-operation between councils. When problems occurred on the border of two local government areas and I suggested that there should be discussion between the representatives of the two councils concerned I was told that was not done because it was not provided for in the Act.

After a while things changed and councillors sat down and tried to resolve some of the problems through co-operation. This happened particularly with the Cooma-Monaro council and the Yarrowlumla Shire Council in respect of an area known as Bumbalong and a problem relating to a bridge across the Murrumbidgee River. The boundary still has not been changed, and the community is not happy about that. I am sure that down the track it will be resolved. At least the two councils are talking.

Councils are beset by a number of problems, not the least of which is the 5,700 planning instruments that confuse councillors and staff when making recommendations for development applications and building applications. Other major problems confronting councils are the unfunded regulations, and the confusion caused by State environmental planning policy 46, which basically stopped farm development. Councils did not know where they stood. SEPP 46 and the Native Vegetation Conservation Act have impeded local government authorities in the performance of their duties relating to rural residential planning. There is conflict between Government departments in regard to assessments and advice which is preventing local councils from doing their job of regulating orderly development, particularly in rural residential areas in the vicinity of the Australian Capital Territory.

These are the issues that need to be resolved by the Government, not by imposing further unfunded regulations or making more complicated the 5,700 planning instruments that confound the process. The Government should attempt to resolve the conflict between Government department assessments and advice rather than have people in various empires treading on one another's toes, building monstrous headquarters in Sydney and consuming our wealth. They should be trimmed down so that local government can make sense of what the State Government wants it to do and local councils can get on with the job. That does not necessitate the imposition of amalgamations or boundary changes. They will only hinder local government in its decision-making process.

The Government should provide direction and incentives. It should give encouragement and assist with consultation so that it maintains the confidence of constituents in local government, instead of confusing them and putting them out of business. That is what has happened because of SEPP 46, the Native Vegetation Conservation Act, the septic tank regulations and the Threatened Species Conservation Act. I want the Government to adhere to its election promises, which were clarified in this House following the election. At page 2 of the Labor Government's "Supporting Local Communities" paper one of the dot points is that the Labor Government opposes forced council amalgamations. Labor has changed its spots quickly. That commitment did not last long.

A great deal has been said about the Kennett Government in Victoria and about following Victoria's example. The Carr Government's statement that it will continue to oppose forced council amalgamations lasted only a few days. It did not last months, and it certainly did not last for anything like the four years of the term of the Labor Government. During the election campaign the Labor Party made many promises. I wonder how
Page 1648
many of them it can possibly keep. Prior to the election the Australian Labor Party said that there would be no forced compulsory amalgamations. It said there would be no deferred elections. We want the Labor Government to aid and facilitate change. Local government has a very important employment role in country towns. It is often a major employer. The Government has taken confidence out of the system.

A town like Berridale, which is in one of seven local government areas in my electorate and is some 2,500 kilometres or more in area, relies heavily on the local government resource. Any talk of amalgamation only worries people in such towns and takes confidence out of the employment base. Tallaganda Shire Council is based in Braidwood and is a major employer in the town. Any talk of amalgamation or changes affects not only the council and staff but the businesses in the town and the people in the local community, surrounding villages and towns. They do not want the tyranny of distance made even worse by having to travel further and further to access local government services. They do not want the roads serviced to a lesser standard because the local road gang is based in a town that is located over the range.

The Labor Government is taking the confidence out of rural communities. Smaller local councils need proper funding. The area and the population cannot be condensed. Those councils must be funded to do the job and the funding must be equitable. It is a different matter in the cities where one can throw a stone not only across local government areas but across electorates. There is a big area of bush out there and lots and lots of roads for local councils to look after. The tyranny of distance is a major factor in the country; one cannot get away from it. People must live in the bush. They pay the same taxes and they pay similar rates to those paid by city people. It could be argued that they pay a lot more. Their litre of milk and their loaf of bread cost a lot more when they have to travel 60 kilometres to town and back to get them.

Changes should first be forced on city councils so we can see what happens. Between councils there is a great deal of duplication. Road building gangs and other resources are consumed if councils are close together. I call this legislation compulsory amalgamation by stealth; it is something that is sneaking in. The Labor Party told everyone that it would not do it, but one month down the track it is doing it. There should be due process. Change should be encouraged rather than forced. It may happen that way. The Woods style of amalgamation, with Government members condemning the Kennett style of amalgamation, is a farce. The Government should ensure proper consultation, proper scrutiny, public inquiries and adequate timing for councils to meet and make decisions. The Government should ensure that the public is informed, that people examine opportunities, share information technology, share plant and staff, consider co-operative management, investigate their bioregion, investigate their budgeting and see how things could be done better.

Changing the lines on the maps and changing other forms of representation do not necessarily fix something that may or may not be broken. The deadline is too close to the forthcoming local government elections. People do not know whether the elections are on or off. They do not know whether their council will be there for them. The legislation has been introduced too close to the Olympics, which are just around the corner. They will be on us before we know it. Councils, particularly those that have anything to do with the Sydney Olympics, even councils across the State that are relying on planning and budgeting to promote their region to visitors, have had their confidence taken away. They do not know what to do.

I have been involved through the Local Government and Shires Associations with six councils in the H division in New South Wales - Yarrowlumla, Queanbeyan City Council, Cooma-Monaro, Tallagandra, Yass and Eurobodalla - in an extensive round of public consultations to justify amalgamations and boundary change. A great deal of work is still to be done. The councils are happy to talk about it but they need more time to make decisions about how councils can do their jobs better, budget better, spend their money better and co-operatively share resources. That will all happen in time. The employment role of local government is of fundamental importance to rural New South Wales.

It is also important in the cities, but the social consequences of amalgamations on a broader scale in the bush, merely because there are only 400, 1,000 or 2,000 people in the local government areas is simply not fair. Such amalgamations take the heart out of those areas. The people who have been paying their rates and who know where they can access services in country towns have faith in their system, good or bad, whether it is broken or not. If this Government forces amalgamations, forces boundary changes in those circumstances, there will be dire consequences. The confidence those people have in Australian government - local, State and Federal - will be taken away. That will not auger well for the next millennium.

Page 1649

Mr CRITTENDEN (Wyong - Parliamentary Secretary) [9.26 p.m.]: I move:
    That this debate be now adjourned.

The House divided.
Ayes, 48

Ms Allan Mr McBride
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 Nagle
Ms Burton Mr Newell
Mr Campbell Ms Nori
Mr Collier Mr Orkopoulos
Mr Crittenden Mr E. T. Page
Mr Debus Mr Price
Mr Face Ms Saliba
Mr Gaudry Mr Scully
Mr Gibson Mr W. D. Smith
Mr Greene Mr Stewart
Mrs Grusovin Mr Watkins
Mr Hickey Mr Whelan
Mr Hunter Mr Woods
Mr Iemma Mr Yeadon
Mr Knight
Mr Knowles Tellers,
Mrs Lo Po' Mr Anderson
Mr Lynch Mr Thompson
Noes, 34

Mr Barr Mr Piccoli
Mr Brogden Mr Richardson
Mr Collins Mr Rozzoli
Mr Debnam Ms Seaton
Mr Glachan Mrs Skinner
Mr Hartcher Mr Slack-Smith
Mr Hazzard Mr Souris
Ms Hodgkinson Mr Stoner
Dr Kernohan Mr Tink
Mr Kerr Mr Torbay
Mr McGrane Mr J. H. Turner
Mr Maguire Mr R. W. Turner
Mr Merton Mr Webb
Ms Moore Mr Windsor
Mr Oakeshott
Mr O'Doherty Tellers,
Mr O'Farrell Mr Fraser
Mr D. L. Page Mr R. H. L. Smith
Pairs

Ms Andrews Mr Armstrong
Mr Carr Mrs Chikarovski
Ms Harrison Mr George
Mr McManus Mr Humpherson

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Motion for adjournment agreed to.
PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES
Referral of Documents and Proceedings

Motion, by leave, by Mr Whelan agreed to:
    That this House refer to the following statutory and standing committees all documents and proceedings of any committee appointed during the Fifty-first Parliament for a similar purpose:
    (a) Public Accounts Committee
    (b) Regulation Review Committee
    (c) Committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption
    (d) Committee on the Ombudsman and the Police Integrity Commission
    (e) Committee on the Health Care Complaints Commission
    (f) Standing Ethics Committee
    (g) Joint Standing Committee upon Road Safety
    (h) Standing Committee on Public Works
    (i) Public Bodies Review Committee
STATUTE LAW (MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS) BILL
Second Reading

Debate resumed from 23 June.

Ms SEATON (Southern Highlands) [9.37 p.m.]: The Opposition does not oppose the bill, but I take this opportunity to comment on a number of serious concerns associated with one of the four Acts related to the environment portfolio. I refer specifically to the Contaminated Land Management Act. At the outset, I draw the attention of honourable members to section 23 of the Contaminated Land Management Act, which deals with remediation orders. The bill seeks to amend the Contaminated Land Management Act by inserting in section 23, "Remediation order", "or, at the discretion of the EPA, a plan recommended by the EPA or submitted by a site auditor accredited under Part 4" after subsection (1) (b) in section 23 (2).

The Coalition does not oppose the amendment. However, if the Government is serious about
Page 1650
cleaning up contaminated land and about ensuring a level of industry or public confidence in the process, the role of the Environment Protection Authority [EPA] must be strengthened and clarified in respect of remediation orders. The Government's amendment seeks to bring a new player into the possible means of preparation of remediation orders - site auditors accredited under section 4. The idea that fully accredited expert environmental consultants should have their expert work considered in the making of a remediation order is not an issue, and indeed the amendments indicate that the Environment Protection Authority [EPA] may or may not choose to incorporate that work or part of that work in the formulation of a remediation order or a plan that becomes an order.

The EPA is gathering about itself more and more powers, and increasingly complex powers. The Protection of the Environment Operations Act is coming into effect and confusion is reigning in local government and industry about exactly where they stand with the new load-based licensing requirements. Yet the authority is busily divesting the obligation to implement and police those new requirements onto local government and anyone else it can palm them off to because it has not been given the resources by the environment Minister to do the job itself.

There is no commitment, despite the rhetoric, from the Government to follow through on the environmental improvements that the Protection of the Environment Operations Act seeks to achieve, which are generally supported by the Coalition. There is a danger that the Government will be tempted to abrogate the EPA's responsibility and to rely on site auditors' reports without the EPA playing a role in ensuring that site auditors' recommendations are transformed into remediation orders in a way that is consistent across the State in similar contamination situations and does not produce widely varying remediation order outcomes throughout the State.

This is about quality control by the EPA and making sure that the EPA is in a position to make sure that all those outcomes are fair and comparable. If not, environment, industry and local government stakeholders would soon lose confidence in the whole contaminated lands management regime. Individual site auditors of undoubted expertise cannot always be expected to have the statewide context in mind, or even to have access to it, when they make a report. They must also be made very aware that the report they produce for one landowner might find its way into the makeup of a remediation order. There is potentially a question of future liability for that site auditor down the track.

The State budget brought down last week showed without a doubt that the Government has failed to resource the EPA to do the things that the community, industry and local government expect it to do. In order to resource some of the new Protection of the Environment Operations Act responsibilities the EPA has had staff robbed from various arms of the organisation. I will give the House some examples. The budget papers show that 101 jobs have been slashed from existing programs. It is proposed to slash four jobs from the EPA's air and noise program. This is at a time when air quality goals are being exceeded at record levels and when the issuing of infringement notices has dived. Air quality is of huge concern to people in New South Wales, particularly in the Sydney Basin.

Additionally, the waters and catchment program is reporting more beaches failing the enterococci contamination test. And while that is happening the Government is planning to cut 34 jobs from the program. While callers to the pollution line in the Supporting the Community program have increased since 1996, it is intended to cut staff numbers from 95 to 70. The total of all the jobs it is planned to cut from EPA programs is 101. No wonder the Government is keen to hive off whatever jobs it can find in the EPA to other agencies and organisations such as local government. The Government should understand that the EPA must control a quality control oversight over the site auditor process.

It is not easy to unravel the Government's sleight of hand in the budget because the practice of publishing a chart of numbers and changes in public sector employment levels across all agencies has been abandoned. The Government does not want to reveal the true extent of public sector job cuts. The Government is not serious about supporting the EPA in doing the vital job it has ahead of it. The Government's amendments to the remediation order process will work only if the EPA is given the teeth and strength to play a strong, overarching quality control role to ensure that all remediation orders, especially those based on site auditor reports, produce consistent and fair outcomes and requirements so the essential level of public confidence in the Contaminated Land Management Act can be retained. The bill will amend section 105 of that Act with respect to guidelines by changing the requirements under which guidelines are to be published in the Government Gazette. The amendment contained in the bill reads:
    Omit section 105 (2) (c). Insert instead:
    (c) to publish notice of the making of the guidelines in the Gazette and to include in that notice a brief
Page 1651
description of the matters dealt with by the guidelines and information as to where and how copies of the guidelines may be obtained,

This seems a clear step backwards from any transparency and from any commitment to making sure that people are able to get easy access to very important details about government proposals in the form of guidelines. I raised this issue earlier this evening with the honourable member for Wyong. I am grateful for the consultation he afforded me. I had considered proposing an amendment. I oppose the watering down of the requirements for full publication of the guidelines. Basically, my amendment would have required that all documents, such as guidelines, should be available electronically and posted on the Internet on the EPA web site and linked to all other New South Wales Government web sites. I intended to propose that the guidelines should also be made available as soon as they are produced by the Government to all local government agencies and to all public libraries.

In a briefing from the EPA I was advised that it always intended to have the guidelines available in full at public libraries and also through the EPA's pollution line. It is important that we do not step back from the ideal of publishing the guidelines in full in the gazette because, much as we would like to think that everybody has access to the Internet, this is not the case. It is not only a matter of financial equity; it is a matter of telecommunications infrastructure. In many parts of regional New South Wales, not so far from Sydney, it is not possible to use modems with any degree of reliability. Many people rely on the gazette. They know that by looking through the gazette they have basically covered everything they need to cover.

Some will say that this is an exercise in trying to reduce the amount of paper used. That is an admirable objective and nobody would step away from it. However, the argument that the gazette is read by only a small number of people and is very specialised is not relevant in this context. The gazette is accessible and, even though people might be interested in only three or four pages from time to time, it is a document that is recognised universally as virtually a bible of public sector information. I would be very unhappy indeed if the guidelines were no longer fully published in the gazette. My concerns are totally consistent with a successful Coalition amendment last November to the Sydney Water Catchment Management Bill requiring that the guidelines for the authority also be published in full in the gazette. I am glad to acknowledge that the honourable member for Wyong has taken on these concerns and, I understand, proposes to amend the bill by omitting the relevant provision. I will await confirmation from him.

The importance of transparency must be recognised to ensure that everyone in New South Wales can have easy access to the full details of important documents, such as guidelines on contaminated lands. The objectives of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act and the Contaminated Land Management Act must be upheld by empowering the Environment Protection Authority and ensuring that the authority has the strength to maintain an overarching quality control role so that everyone can continue to have faith and confidence in the objectives in the implementation of the Contaminated Land Management Act.

Ms SALIBA (Illawarra) [9.50 p.m.]: I support the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. In particular, I refer to the Lake Illawarra Authority Act 1987. The Lake Illawarra Authority came into being through proclamation of the Lake Illawarra Authority Act in February 1988. The objective of the authority was to transform the degraded waters and foreshores of Lake Illawarra into an attractive recreational and tourist resource. Prior to the formation of the Lake Illawarra Authority the lake clearly showed signs of some 150 years of neglect and misunderstanding. It has been pleasing for me to note a number of the achievements of the authority, such as the removal of foreshore ooze and mud deposits, and the consequent return of seagrass and prawns at places such as Griffins Bay, Tuggerah Bay, Koonawarra Bay and elsewhere. The permanent opening of the lake, which is currently under way, will improve even further -

Mr Hartcher: Point of order: I assume that the honourable member for Illawarra is referring to the amendments to the Lake Illawarra Authority Act, which are to omit the number "7" from section 6, to appoint three new members to the committee, and to change "Public Works Department" to "Department of Land and Water Conservation". The honourable member is not permitted to deliver a general speech on the beauty or glory of Lake Illawarra. Her contribution must relate to the specific amendments to the Statute Law Revision Act. Otherwise, every member of this House will be entitled to talk about every bill and every Act that is mentioned in the Statute Law Revision Act.

Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Mills): Will the honourable member for Gosford refer me to the page?

Mr Hartcher: I refer to page 25, the Lake Illawarra Authority Act.

Page 1652

Mr ACTING-SPEAKER: Order! At the moment I have heard nothing to indicate that the honourable member's contribution is outside the leave of the bill.

Ms SALIBA: The permanent opening of the lake, which is currently under way, will improve even further the condition of the lake. I am pleased that the authority has been able to work with other agencies to provide on-the-job training for some 300 long-term unemployed youth. The formation of the authority saw the implementation of improvements to public foreshore access to the lake and the uniting of the Wollongong community to support real environmental improvement to the past poor condition of this valuable waterway.

The Lake Illawarra Authority has been extremely successful in achieving noticeable improvements to the appearance and quality of the lake. Today the lake can attract national and sport title sailing regattas and rowing events. In the early 1970s the lake exhibited, for the first time, symptoms of heavy pollution when massive blooms of algae formed on the extensive lake shallows. These blooms were followed by periods when vast mats of algae were washed onto foreshore areas, where decay and pungent sulphurous odour generation occurred. These smells led to some unfortunate name-calling.

Mr Hartcher: Point of order: I draw your attention to page 25, the Lake Illawarra Authority Act, and the amendments that this bill makes to it. The honourable member for Illawarra is entitled to speak to the specific amendments, of which there are four. However, she is not entitled to make a general speech about the odour emanating from Lake Illawarra, the beauty of the lake or its history.

Mr Whelan: To the point of order: There have been passing references to the Lake Illawarra Authority Act. I remind honourable members that we listened in silence for 15 minutes while the honourable member for Southern Highlands made what I thought were three very good points in relation to contaminated lands. She specifically referred to contaminated lands, the legislation and the environment. There was no interruption. The honourable member for Illawarra is delivering a short presentation. She is making passing reference to the beauty of Lake Illawarra. For the better management of the House, if honourable members were to listen we may learn a great deal about Lake Illawarra and whether the honourable member intends to support the Government in the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

Mr ACTING-SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order.

Ms SALIBA: I am referring to some of the work that the Lake Illawarra Authority has done and how the increase in the membership of the authority will improve the situation even further. Therefore, it is very relevant. The smells I referred to earlier led to some unfortunate name-calling. On one visit to the area the then Prime Minister, the Hon. Bob Hawke, is said to have coined the phrase "Lake Stinky". Incidents of this kind have substantially declined since the authority commenced its work. Prior to 1987 the lake was an embarrassment from a tourist point of view and was never mentioned in brochures and promotional material.

On Friday 18 June I attended the launch of the Tourism Shellharbour promotional video, and Lake Illawarra was prominently featured as a tourist attraction. In 1997 the work by the authority for sustainable restoration of the lake won the prestigious Bradfield Prize in the engineering excellence awards. In another facet of its work the authority, in oversighting ground-breaking, practical research in the area of stormwater management, won the distinguished merit award from the Stormwater Industry Association.

The authority continued to generate new ideas and approaches which I find exciting and commendable. The Lake Illawarra Authority consists of seven part-time members appointed by the Minister for Land and Water Conservation. Wollongong and Shellharbour city councils each have one councillor appointed as an authority member. The other five members are selected with regard to their ability to represent different community interests. It is now proposed to build on the significant gains made by the authority by increasing its membership from seven to 10 to include representation by other State agencies of land and water conservation and fisheries, and to formalise the membership of the chairman of the Illawarra Catchment Management Committee to the authority. The amendment to the Act will further strengthen the authority's stakeholder representation and forge closer linkages between the authority and the Illawarra Catchment Management Committee. I have no doubt that the changes will further support the authority in achieving its objective of transforming the degraded waters and foreshores of Lake Illawarra into an attractive recreational and tourist resource.

Mr FRASER (Coffs Harbour) [9.59 p.m.]: I have a number of concerns in relation to the Statute
Page 1653
Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. I notice that the Leader of the House is laughing. There is one change to the Constitution Act 1902 No. 32 and one change to the Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Act 1912 No. 41. Those changes were made only because this Government wishes to appease the factions within the Labor Party. I acknowledge that this Government has a large majority in this House, but it now wishes to change the way in which this House has been run for many years. The amendments in this bill will enable the Government to appoint a Deputy-Speaker and a Chairman of Committees. In the past the Chairman of Committees represented Mr Speaker when he was absent from the State, but this bill provides for the Deputy-Speaker to represent Mr Speaker. The Government is attempting to resolve the factional problems within the Labor Party.

Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Mills): To which amendment is the member for Coffs Harbour referring?

Mr FRASER: I am referring to amendments to the Constitution Act 1902 on page 9 of the bill, and to amendments to the Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Act 1912 on page 33 of the bill. These amendments - which have been moved purely for party political purposes - will remove those powers from the Chairman of Committees and give them to the Deputy-Speaker. That is not a good reason to change laws in this State or to change the way in which this House has operated for many years. Amendments will be made to the Contaminated Land Management Act 1997. Earlier the honourable member for Southern Highlands expressed concern about the fact that that Act is to be amended by the inclusion after section 17 (1) (c) of new paragraph (d):
    the most appropriate means for undertaking remediation of the land.

That will place the onus for remediation on owners of the land. Whilst the Contaminated Lands Management Act has some jurisdiction in this State, the amendments on pages 11 and 12 of the bill will result in the Environment Protection Authority [EPA] adopting a big brother approach. I draw to the attention of honourable members the reduction in this year's budget papers to the number of EPA officers who are able to communicate and consult with the community. However, there has been an increase in the policing side of the EPA. The budget shows a reduction in the number of consultative and education opportunities for farming communities. These amendments will result in a more oppressive Act - an Act which, once again, will create additional problems for the farming community.

On page 37 of the bill schedule 1.36 of the Protection of the Environment Administration Amendment (Environmental Education) Act will also be amended. In the past the chairperson of the New South Wales Council on Environmental Education was an independent person. Under this bill he or she will now be appointed by the Minister and will no longer be independent; we will have a political appointee yet again. I expected this sort of politicisation from this Government. This Government, with its arrogant attitude, is determined to continue doing what it has done over the past four years. The Minister for Local Government, the honourable member for Clarence, suffered a 19 per cent swing at the last election when most other Labor members gained a swing towards them.

The Minister for Local Government should be sitting in the caucus room fairly ashamed of himself as other Government members gained substantial increases. In fact, the Leader of the House won a former Liberal Party seat with a swing towards him. This Government is treating country people with absolute contempt. The Government's proposed amendment to this Act reflects that contempt. That gives us some idea as to why the seat of the Minister for Local Government is so vulnerable and why he will lose that seat in the year 2003.

I referred earlier to the concerns of the honourable member for Southern Highlands and to the Government's big brother approach. The role of the Government is to independently review the work of contaminated land consultants; not to be told by the EPA what it should do. This amendment will create many problems. In my ostensibly farming electorate of Coffs Harbour I have had a lot to do with the remediation of contaminated land and the formulation of policies adopted by the EPA and this Government. It is an expensive process to add additional layers of authority. Because of urban encroachment farmers already wish to change the use to which they put their land. This amendment will give the EPA further dictatorial powers and impose additional costs on land-holders because they want to change the use to which they put their land.

In the past all governments have used the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill to slip changes through. A few things have been slipped through in this bill. The honourable member for Barwon and shadow minister for agriculture is concerned about union appointments for the Meat Industry Authority. This legislation is not as clear-cut as the Government would have us believe. We will keep an eye on it. I would like my concerns noted in Hansard. I know that they will not be answered, but at least they will be on the record.

[Debate interrupted.]

Page 1654
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Extension of Sitting

Mr WHELAN (Strathfield - Minister for Police) [10.08 p.m.]: I move:
    That the sitting be extended beyond 10.30 p.m.

Mr FRASER (Coffs Harbour) [10.09 p.m.]: The Opposition does not oppose the motion moved by the Minister for Police to extend the sitting beyond 10.30 p.m. However, I understand that tonight this House will rise on the ringing of one long bell. A number of speakers are still to speak to the Local Government Amendment (Amalgamations and Boundary Changes) Bill and to the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. The Minister wants the House to sit beyond 10.30 this evening and to rise until the ringing of one long bell on Friday so that the Government does not have to face question time again.

Mr Whelan: You are wrong.

Mr FRASER: We will see later if I am correct. The Government is attempting to avoid scrutiny and accountability until the end of this session. The Opposition should have the opportunity to put the Government under scrutiny at question time. That opportunity will not be afforded us. The Leader of the House knows that. He sits there and shakes his head. But the Opposition knows about the honourable member for Auburn and other staff members. We know what is going on. The reason the Government has moved a motion to sit beyond 10.30 p.m. is that it does not want to face scrutiny. We will not oppose the motion. We are happy if the Government wants to sit through. I well remember the Labor Party doing it more than once when the Coalition was in Government.

Mr Markham: I can remember Greiner having us here until 6 o'clock in the morning.

Mr FRASER: Longer than 6 o'clock in the morning, and you know it. The Opposition is happy to sit through, as long as we have question time. The gag will be applied tonight, and the House will rise until the ringing of one long bell. The media is aware of what the Government is up to. It knows that the Government wants to avoid scrutiny in a public place. The sittings of the House are being extended beyond 10.30 p.m. because of the Government's cowardice in regard to question time.

Motion agreed to.
STATUTE LAW (MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS) BILL
Second Reading

[Debate resumed.]

Mr MARKHAM (Wollongong - Parliamentary Secretary) [10.11 p.m.]: In speaking to this important bill I refer to page 25, schedule 1.21, Lake Illawarra Authority Act 1987 No. 285. The authority currently comprises seven members. The amendment will increase membership to 10, providing opportunity for input of sustainable State policy issues through membership of State Fisheries and the Department of Land and Water Conservation. In addition, the formalisation by the amendment of the important role of the Illawarra Catchment Management Committee through recognition of the chairman of the Illawarra catchment management as an active member of the authority will ensure the greater integration of the improvements to the lake with catchment activities.

It is most important to understand that this bill will strengthen a great authority, which the Unsworth Government introduced prior to 1988. Laurie Kelly, who was appointed as the first chair of that authority, did an incredible job to make sure that Lake Illawarra achieved greater prominence within the region. Even the Coalition, when it was in government, was prepared to support the authority. Opposition members, especially the honourable member for Southern Highlands, should not interrupt or interject. I have no doubt that the Illawarra Mercury would be interested to know that she is criticising this amendment, which proposes greater opportunity for the community to interact and be involved in the decisions on the future of Lake Illawarra.

The recent opening of the $1 million cadet defence facility on the shores of Lake Illawarra demonstrated the benefits resulting from improved environmental conditions of the lake since the authority commenced its work in 1989, under the chairmanship of Laurie Kelly. At Griffins Bay the authority has substantially improved water circulation and foreshore access to the community, whilst addressing excessive siltation from past development activities in the catchment. The local authority was first established because of the urban run-off and rubbish that caused degradation of the lake.

The authority has been particularly active in improving public access to the lake foreshore. At Windang the authority virtually turned an environmental sow's ear into a silk purse. A lakeside wasteland was transformed into a tourist attraction. The improvements provided work for about 30 unemployed youths between the ages of 18
Page 1655
and 24. The authority should be congratulated on its strategic approach to environmental improvements and providing skills training to the benefit of the Illawarra. This amendment provides the greater involvement of community representatives within the lake authority. I commend the Government for this great initiative.

Mr THOMPSON (Rockdale) [10.16 p.m.]: I move:
    That this debate be now adjourned.

The House divided.
Ayes, 48

Ms Allan Mr McBride
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 Nagle
Ms Burton Mr Newell
Mr Campbell Ms Nori
Mr Collier Mr Orkopoulos
Mr Crittenden Mr E. T. Page
Mr Debus Mr Price
Mr Face Ms Saliba
Mr Gaudry Mr Scully
Mr Gibson Mr W. D. Smith
Mr Greene Mr Stewart
Mrs Grusovin Mr Watkins
Mr Hickey Mr Whelan
Mr Hunter Mr Woods
Mr Iemma Mr Yeadon
Mr Knight
Mr Knowles Tellers,
Mrs Lo Po' Mr Anderson
Mr Lynch Mr Thompson
Noes, 34

Mr Barr Mr Piccoli
Mr Brogden Mr Richardson
Ms Chikarovski Mr Rozzoli
Mr Debnam Ms Seaton
Mr Glachan Mrs Skinner
Mr Hartcher Mr Slack-Smith
Mr Hazzard Mr Souris
Ms Hodgkinson Mr Stoner
Dr Kernohan Mr Tink
Mr Kerr Mr Torbay
Mr McGrane Mr J. H. Turner
Mr Maguire Mr R. W. Turner
Mr Merton Mr Webb
Ms Moore Mr Windsor
Mr Oakeshott
Mr O'Doherty Tellers,
Mr O'Farrell Mr Fraser
Mr D. L. Page Mr R. H. L. Smith
Pairs

Ms Andrews Mr Armstrong
Mr Carr Mr Collins
Ms Harrison Mr George
Mr McManus Mr Humpherson

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Motion for adjournment agreed to.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT AMENDMENT (AMALGAMATIONS AND BOUNDARY CHANGES) BILL
Second Reading

Debate resumed from an earlier hour.

Mr WOODS (Clarence - Minister for Local Government, Minister for Regional Development, and Minister for Rural Affairs) [10.24 p.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members for their contributions to the debate. The bill is designed specifically to streamline the process so that councils which have agreed to seek a proposal for voluntary amalgamation in the interests of their communities are able to do so with minimal red tape. Councils which seek voluntary amalgamation will have recognised that this will enable them to become better able to efficiently provide services to meet the needs of their communities.

Let me be perfectly clear: The intention of the bill is to allow some councils the opportunity to pursue a proposal for amalgamation if they wish to do so. When that occurs I will refer the proposal to the Boundaries Commission or to the Director-General of Local Government for examination and report. Under section 263 of the Act the Boundaries Commission must have regard to the financial advantages or disadvantages, including the economic -

Mr D. L. Page: On a point of order: This is an important bill relating to local government. I ask that you ensure that members are able to hear what the Minister says in his reply.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I uphold the point of order.

Mr WOODS: The Boundaries Commission must give regard to the financial advantages or disadvantages.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Members wishing to conduct private conversations should do so outside the Chamber. As the honourable member for Ballina has said, this is an important bill, and it should be of interest to all honourable members. The Minister will be heard in silence.

Page 1656

Mr WOODS: Under section 263 of the Act the Boundaries Commission must have regard to financial advantages or disadvantages, including economies or diseconomies of scale, of any relevant proposal to the residents and ratepayers of the areas concerned. The commission must have regard to the community of interest and geographic cohesion in the existing areas and in any proposed new area, the existing historical and traditional values in the existing areas, and the impact of change on them.

It must have regard to the attitude of the residents and the ratepayers of the areas concerned, the requirements of the area in relation to elected representation for residents and ratepayers at the local level, the desirable and appropriate relationship between elected representatives and ratepayers and residents, and such other matters as it considers relevant in relation to the past and future patterns of elected representation for that area. The commission must also have proper regard to such other factors as it considers relevant to the provision of efficient and effective local government in the existing and proposed new areas.

These provisions remain unchanged. The current Act allows for forced amalgamations. If the Government wished to proceed down that road it could do so now. The Government needs to change nothing to force amalgamations. But we do support voluntary amalgamation and we are assisting councils that regard it as advantageous to themselves and their ratepayers to go down that path. The Boundaries Commission would then report with recommendations. If the councils agree, only then will I follow that recommendation. Again, the provisions for forced amalgamation already exist in the current Act. I remind the House that the current Act was passed by this Parliament when the Coalition was in government. The legislation does not introduce a forced amalgamation by stealth, as some who sit opposite have suggested.

Our policy is clear: no forced amalgamations. It has been clear since we came to office in 1995, and it has not changed. We will not go down the path of the Opposition's counterparts in Victoria, where Premier Jeff Kennett implemented a policy of forced amalgamations. He forced amalgamations on councils without consultation, then appointed non-elected commissioners to run them. Since I first raised structural reform I have received a good deal of positive response from both metropolitan and country councils. I am also encouraged by the support I have received from the Local Government Association, the Shires Association of New South Wales, the Property Council of Australia, the Urban Development Institute of Australia, and others. I quote from a letter from the Local Government and Shires Associations of New South Wales, which states:
    The Bill appears to address the concerns expressed by the Associations in relation to the potential disruption of conducting a Local Government election while councils pursue voluntary amalgamations.
    The Local Government Act itself ensures there is a thorough process undertaken, including a public consultation, once a proposal is referred to the Boundaries Commission.

A letter from the Local Government Association of New South Wales states:
    The Local Government Association is pleased to support the Local Government (Amalgamations and Boundary Changes) Bill 1999.
    It is our sincere hope that this legislation will pass without amendment.

As an example of some of the responses I have received from some councils, Yass Council states:
    In summary, Yass Shire is very supportive of the Minister's initiatives, which will allow in the future stronger and more viable local government units. The options submitted by Yass Shire Council have been designed with the values of communities of interest, acceptable economies of scale, geographical cohesion and local democracy built into them.

As I told the shires conference last month, councils, like any other authority, have had to respond to changing circumstances, particularly in rural areas. I do not see that in a pessimistic fashion, but rather as a challenge for the opportunities it presents. Perhaps the ratepayers and councillors of a council that goes through this process will be better informed and better able to make a decision on the recommendations. Changing times call for flexible and adventurous thinking. Governments have had to do it, and so do councils. Some councils, not all, are just keeping their heads above the financial water line, but others are in trouble. We are proposing a way for councils to look seriously at their future, not just for tomorrow or next year but for the next 10 or 20 years and further into the future.

I am also concerned to protect the interests of employees in councils that seek to amalgamate. In rural areas in particular, local councils often are major employers. The impact on employment from forced redundancy in country areas is critical. It would also be unfair to employees if entitlements and other benefits accrued in councils were lost due to an amalgamation. I intend to protect the rights of
Page 1657
employees resulting from the process of voluntary amalgamation. Any voluntary amalgamation of councils would be completed only when the rights of employees are protected. When it is time for proclamation of a newly amalgamated council following the decisions by the councils involved I will ensure that the rights and entitlements of staff are preserved.

That will mean preservation of employment conditions as if the employee were continuing with the same employer, subject to the same remuneration and benefits and with the same duties until a new award or agreement is reached; preservation of all leave and superannuation entitlements with the new council; no forced redundancies as a result of amalgamations within three years of amalgamation; and preventing the relocation of staff from their previous base of operations to acceptable locations. Senior staff will continue to be employed by the new council under their existing contracts, although they would not be included within the exclusion from redundancy provisions. Unions, the local government industry and affected councils will be consulted during the drafting of proclamations.

I would now like to respond to a number of the outrageous statements made by the Opposition in a media release today. The Opposition spokesman on these matters, Mr Gay, claims that the proposed legislation is full of deliberate loopholes to encourage forced amalgamation. That is patently untrue, although it has been repeated here a number of times tonight. All our amendments are clear and are intended only to assist councils with voluntary amalgamation. There are no trapdoors or hidden tricks. For close to 80 years the legislation has contained provisions that have enabled forced amalgamations. This Government has chosen not to use those provisions, and seeks to assist voluntary amalgamations.

The second outrageous claim made by Mr Gay is that the legislation does not allow full and complete community consultation. That is wrong again. The provisions of the present legislation require the Boundaries Commission to consider community interest and other matters, as I outlined earlier. The Opposition spokesman should read this and the previous legislation. The legislation is a minimalist approach to assist councils that seek to voluntarily amalgamate. There is nothing sinister, as the Opposition would have us believe. There is no hidden agenda. There is no forced amalgamation by stealth. The Government's position has been unequivocally repeated on many occasions: no forced amalgamations.

In relation to issues raised by the honourable member for Bligh, I indicate that the Government will not support the amendment, which completely deletes the reference to election postponements. It is not fair to expect ratepayers to go to the polls in September only to find they have to vote again some months later if their council is pursuing a joint voluntary amalgamation proposal. I now speak briefly on some of the other requests made by the honourable member for Bligh. She asked whether I can refuse a deferral of an election in a non-genuine case.

The bill provides that I can revoke the deferral of elections at any stage if work with the proposal is no longer being carried out or if the proposal has been abandoned. I believe that proposals that are not genuine fall into this category, and I will invoke those provisions if voluntary amalgamation proposals are not genuine. The honourable member asked for a commitment that where there is contention a public inquiry be held. Voluntary amalgamations proposals are required to be reviewed, as I said earlier, under section 263, which specifically gives consideration to the views of the community. If appropriate, an inquiry that involves submissions from the public can be included as part of the process under the proposals in the bill.

The honourable member for Bligh suggested that before a recommendation is made a proposed amalgamation would be the best outcome for a local government area and its communities. This is already in the legislation and these provisions will not be changed. It is the aim of the Government and the legislation, and the proposal I set before the House, that councils and ratepayers will be in a position to make those judgments; they will have information from the Boundaries Commission that covers all the issues I mentioned so that they can make a judgment about it. The legislation does not advocate amalgamation, but it shows the process whereby, if councils want amalgamation, it can be achieved. I commend the bill to the House.

Question - That this bill be now read a second time - put.

The House divided.

Page 1658
Ayes, 50

Ms Allan Mr Markham
Mr Amery Mr Martin
Mr Aquilina Ms Meagher
Mr Ashton Ms Megarrity
Mr Bartlett Mr Mills
Mrs Beamer Mr Moss
Mr Black Mr Nagle
Mr Brown Mr Newell
Ms Burton Ms Nori
Mr Campbell Mr Orkopoulos
Mr Collier Mr E. T. Page
Mr Crittenden Mr Price
Mr Debus Ms Saliba
Mr Face Mr Scully
Mr Gaudry Mr W. D. Smith
Mr Gibson Mr Stewart
Mr Greene Mr Torbay
Mrs Grusovin Mr Watkins
Mr Hickey Mr Whelan
Mr Hunter Mr Windsor
Mr Iemma Mr Woods
Mr Knowles Mr Yeadon
Mrs Lo Po'
Mr Lynch Tellers,
Mr McBride Mr Thompson
Mr McGrane Mr Anderson
Noes, 31

Mr Barr Mr D. L. Page
Mr Brogden Mr Piccoli
Mr Debnam Mr Richardson
Mr George Mr Rozzoli
Mr Glachan Ms Seaton
Mr Hartcher Mrs Skinner
Mr Hazzard Mr Slack-Smith
Ms Hodgkinson Mr Souris
Dr Kernohan Mr Stoner
Mr Kerr Mr Tink
Mr Maguire Mr J. H. Turner
Mr Merton Mr R. W. Turner
Ms Moore Mr Webb
Mr Oakeshott Tellers,
Mr O'Doherty Mr Fraser
Mr O'Farrell Mr R. H. L. Smith
Pairs

Ms Andrews Mr Armstrong
Mr Carr Mrs Chikarovski
Ms Harrison Mr Collins
Mr McManus Mr Humpherson

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time.
In Committee

Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.

Schedule 1

Ms MOORE (Bligh) [10.49 p.m.]: I move the following amendment circulated in my name:
    Page 7, schedule 1, line 1 to page 10, schedule 1, line 22. Omit all words on those lines.

My amendment proposes the removal of the right of the Government to defer local government elections. I have moved the amendment because I believe those elections are a basic democratic right that deserves the support of this Parliament. I seek the support of both the Opposition and the Government for the amendment.

Mr J. H. TURNER (Myall Lakes - Deputy Leader of the National Party) [10.50 p.m.]: The Opposition opposes the amendment. The shadow minister has given a commitment in relation to those councils that have come together by mutual consent that there should be a delay in the council elections, but only where there has been mutual consent; not the drafting of one reluctant bride to the altar under this bill. As such, we will not support the amendment of the honourable member for Bligh. If there is mutual consent the commitment of the shadow minister for local government will be adhered to, unlike the situation with the Minister for Local Government. He has not in any way abided by his pre-election promises and statements indicating that there would be no forced amalgamations. Dragging reluctant third parties to the altar involves compulsory amalgamations.

Ms HODGKINSON (Burrinjuck) [10.51 p.m.]: I oppose the amendment. As the Deputy Leader of the National Party has pointed out, the amalgamations must be by mutual consent only. The Government has let down the electorate of Burrinjuck by introducing this bill to allow the forced amalgamation of councils. During the election campaign the Government repeatedly promised not to introduce compulsory amalgamations. Now it seems to have turned its back on that promise. Everyone in Burrinjuck - indeed, in New South Wales - is now supposed to wear this simply because the Minister for Local Government says that we should. The Government should be completely ashamed of itself. Is it any wonder that the Opposition and some of the Independents cannot support the bill as it currently stands?

The councils in the electorate of Burrinjuck include Yass, Goulburn, Gunning, Crookwell,
Page 1659
Yarralumla, Tumut, Mulwarree, Gundagai and Boorowa. Some of these councils, most notably Yass - but the Minister omitted to mention Goulburn - are dominated by party-political councillors, that is, members of the Labor Party. The ALP should take the good example of the Coalition, which is sticking by its local government policy after the election - something which is foreign to the Labor Government - of not forcing amalgamations.

We should ensure that in true democratic style - something which the Coalition is known for - the people in the local government areas concerned have some input into any final decision in relation to amalgamations. I reinforce at this stage that voluntary amalgamations are welcomed. However, that is not what the bill provides. As the Deputy Leader of the National Party pointed out, the bill removes the need for a public inquiry to be held. New section 218A in division 2A will remove the need for a public inquiry. The Minister's second reading speech stated that to streamline and otherwise facilitate the process where all affected councils agree to the proposed amalgamations the requirement for prior notification and public inquiry will be removed.

Mr Mills: Point of order: I refer to page 57 of the October 1996 edition of Decisions from the Chair. Speeches should not be read verbatim. I have taken careful note that the honourable member for Burrinjuck is reading her speech verbatim. The two rulings of Speaker Rozzoli that are referred to on page 57 make clear that there are restricted situations in which speeches may be read verbatim. Speaking in Committee is not one of them. Madam Temporary Chairman, I ask you to uphold the standing orders in this regard.

Mr J. H. Turner: To the point of order: If Government members want to play this game Opposition members will start playing it with the lightweights on the Government side. All the honourable member for Burrinjuck is doing is referring to copious notes, which is permitted under the standing orders.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mrs Beamer): Order! I remind the honourable member for Burrinjuck that it is inappropriate to read a speech verbatim. I am sure that at this stage she is merely referring to copious notes and will continue to do so.

Ms HODGKINSON: I can reassure the House that I am referring to copious notes and not reading my speech verbatim. If my notes are compared with Hansard that will be obvious. I will say the same things that are in my notes anyway. The Minister referred to Yass Shire Council. The mayor of the local council has put into the public arena the notion that local government elections will be delayed for at least 12 months. He has stated that publicly in the media across the Canberra area. Why would he do that if he were not already in the know about something we possibly do not know about?

Yesterday the editor of the Yass Tribune bailed me up in Yass and asked why we had let this bill go through unopposed. I tried to explain to him that it was still before the House and had not yet been decided on. He found that very difficult to believe after the manner in which some members of Yass Shire Council had been acting in recent days. Obviously, there is great confusion as a result of the small amounts of information filtering out of the Minister's office into the local newspapers.

I reinforce what other members on this side of the Chamber have put forward previously on the bill. Information coming from the Minister's office and going into the local arena has been confusing. It is regarded as dillydallying by the Minister. It is regarded as totally unacceptable behaviour by this side of the Chamber and by the residents of the Burrinjuck electorate. Many councils and residents are terrified of the predatory actions of some highly vocal ALP-aligned mayors in the Burrinjuck electorate. It is totally unfair and undemocratic that this should be allowed to happen.

In a truly democratic society - if that is what the Carr Labor Government is going to have us live in - we have to ensure that the people decide. Why not have the majority of all councils involved in proposed mergers be the judges? It would be far preferable if the residents of the local government areas had the final say in this matter. By that I mean that there could be some form of postal referendum - 45¢ per vote. Under a truly democratic system that would be the way to ensure what the majority of residents in local government areas want. That would be the democratic way to decide.

If the Government is sincere about delaying local government elections it must allow the residents of the local government areas to have the final say, not only a few local Labor mayors pushing a Labor Party agenda very vociferously and actively. They are causing a great deal of fear in the electorates. I once again refer to Yass Shire Council. I have a lot of time for that council. I recognise that it is active and vocal but it does the job at hand. The Labor candidate in the Burrinjuck electorate stated recently that he would like to see Boorowa amalgamated with Yass. This was a complete shock
Page 1660
to Boorowa. Boorowa Council is probably the last council in New South Wales that wishes to be amalgamated. It has been terrified by these reports. The endorsed Labor candidate in Burrinjuck saying these things in the local press gives cause for concern. Other local councils which are also very concerned about the legislation are Crookwell Shire Council and Mulwaree Shire Council, which has been very public in its fight against the Goulburn City Council so far as forced amalgamations are concerned, and there is little wonder why.

Mr Whelan: Are you voting for or against the amendment?

Ms HODGKINSON: I am voting against the amendment. As has been pointed out earlier in the debate, one thing that the Government seems to be overlooking, although I will admit that the Minister has referred to it recently in his speech, is that in country towns local councils are often the major employers. Country areas, especially Burrinjuck, cannot afford to lose any more jobs. Councils deserve to have their rights protected. As I said earlier, some sort of constitutional referendum conducted by a postal vote could result in the end to the confusion that has been caused by the Carr Labor Government.

This bill is another insult to the electorate of Burrinjuck. Over the past couple of months under the Carr Labor Government a great many insults have added to the injuries of the electorate of Burrinjuck. Most recently we heard about the local government department being moved from Sydney to Nowra and about staff cuts in that department. At some stage we would appreciate some jobs coming into our local area. Inland New South Wales certainly seems to miss out much of the time. We are given a couple of jobs, and then a few are taken away. In the past couple of weeks in the Goulburn area, 19 FreightCorp workers have lost their jobs. We certainly want those jobs replaced at some stage - and sooner rather than later.

In his contribution the honourable member for Manly made the point that the larger councils become, the less able they are to look after their local communities. That is a valid point, particularly in regional areas where local councils often look after a large amount of space. Even though there may not be a large number of residents within the area, local councils still have a large physical area to look after. That is also something that needs to be taken into consideration when considering forced amalgamations.

Labor's election policy document was titled "Supporting Local Communities". The policy states that the Carr Government will continue to oppose forced council amalgamations. The Government is boasting about keeping its election promises. However, this bill is proof that after four years and more than 400 broken promises in the last term, nothing has changed. I oppose the amendment, and I also speak against the bill.

Mr STONER (Oxley) [11.03 p.m.]: The amendment moved by the honourable member for Bligh addresses some, but not all, of what is wrong with this legislation. It is appallingly conceived legislation, developed without adequate community consultation or due regard to its impact on rural communities. In 1995 the Premier promised that there would be regional and rural impact statements on new policy. I wonder whether there has been a regional or rural impact statement prepared in relation to this bill. The bill rivals some of the poorer bills and regulations we have had recently, for example, the septic tank regulation, which stinks.

Mr Whelan: Point of order: I listened to the contribution to the Committee stage of the honourable member for Burrinjuck, which was actually a contribution to the second reading debate. I did not take a point of order because that was only the second or third time she has spoken in the House. Her remarks bore absolutely no relevance to the amendment, which she indicated she will join the Government in rejecting. We are again heading down the track of a major filibuster, a major contribution to the second reading debate.

The honourable member for Oxley is limited to speaking to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Bligh. The opportunity to speak in the Committee stage does not give any member the right to engage in wide-ranging debate about every aspect of the bill. In my 23 years in this place I have never heard debate on the statute law bill continue for longer than five minutes. If members opposite were given the opportunity, the debate would probably go on for five hours or five days. The same could be said about other bills before the House. The Government intends to pursue the proposed legislation. We will not stop legitimate debate, but will insist that members abide by the standing and sessional orders in relation to contributions. If members do not abide by those rules, other action will have to be taken to end the debate.

Mr J. H. Turner: To the point of order: Clearly, the honourable member for Oxley was
Page 1661
speaking to the amendment. If there is a postponement, the Opposition will have to consider the ramifications of the Government's draconian stink regulation. It is clear that the remarks of the honourable member for Oxley related to the wide-ranging provisions of the amendment that is under discussion. It goes to the very core of the operations of council at a time -

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mrs Beamer): Order! The Deputy Leader of the National Party is now debating the bill, not the point of order. I remind the honourable member for Oxley that the question before the Committee is that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Bligh be agreed to. The honourable member for Oxley should speak to the amendment, and to the amendment only.

Mr STONER: I was merely pointing out that the amendment does not go far enough and that it does not address all that is wrong with the bill.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Order! I remind the honourable member that he is required to speak to the amendment. If he continues to speak to the substance of the bill, I will ask him to resume his seat.

Mr STONER: The Opposition cannot support the amendment. In one respect it does not go far enough. In relation to the deferral process -

Mr Woods: It goes too far?

Mr STONER: The deferral process can catch out councils who genuinely want to work together in a voluntary sense to look at better ways of working together. Perhaps that might be amalgamation, or perhaps it might be a boundary change. The provisions relating to that have faults, but I cannot go into those. However, in relation to voluntary amalgamation, if two willing councils go to the altar together, willingly and in a loving relationship, in that sense we would not want to inconvenience them. We would not want to put them to the trouble of having to go to a local government election, perhaps only to have to do so again shortly thereafter. That is something about which I believe the Opposition has made some commitment to local government representatives.

Although the amendment addresses a problem relating to the deferral of elections, I believe that it is a carrot to encourage local governments to think about amalgamating. They have only one day in which to put it on the Minister's table, and he has refused an extension. Nevertheless, the amendment cannot be supported from this side because of the potential inconvenience and hassle that it would cause to local councils. In short, the Opposition does not support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Bligh.

Mr J. H. TURNER (Myall Lakes - Deputy Leader of the National Party) [11.09 p.m.]: In his reply the Minister referred to three letters, including a letter from the Local Government Association, a letter from the Shires Association, and a letter from the Property Council. We ask the Minister, in the interests of fairness, to table those letters.

Mr Whelan: No.

Mr J. H. TURNER: What transparency! The Minister said "No." We formally ask the Minister to table those letters so that we can see exactly what was said to him. The Leader of the House has already given the Minister his riding instructions. I ask the Minister to table the documents.

Mr Woods: No.

Mr J. H. TURNER: So much for the transparency of this legislation!

Mr GLACHAN (Albury) [11.10 p.m.]: I am opposed to this amendment. There could be good reasons for councils wanting to defer their elections. If they are not able to defer their elections it could result in ratepayers paying unnecessary expenses. If two councils agree to amalgamate and they go ahead with their election, they will have to have another election when the amalgamation is completed. That could cost many councils a great deal of money. Because of that unnecessary expenditure - it would cost ratepayers money that need not be spent - I am opposed to this amendment.

The question as to whether councils should amalgamate or have elections is causing enormous confusion in a number of councils in my electorate. Albury City Council wants to amalgamate with Hume Shire Council, which surrounds Albury. Holbrook Shire Council has already put in a bid to amalgamate with Hume Shire Council. This issue is confusing. Amalgamations might have been suggested and agreed to by two councils that might be totally inappropriate. I cannot support this amendment because of the unnecessary costs to ratepayers in those councils that decide to amalgamate, because they will have to have another election at some time in the future.

Page 1662

Ms MOORE (Bligh) [11.12 p.m.]: Tonight we have heard about costs and expenses. I suggest - as others have suggested - that democracy is worth that price. We are talking about not disfranchising thousands of electors. If this amendment is not accepted, either in this Chamber or in the upper House, it will mean that 80,000, 90,000 or 100,000 Sydney voters will have no say about who they want to run their local area. That is a serious consideration. We have a different situation in rural and city areas. The councils that I am concerned about comprise 80,000 and 30,000 electors respectively. Those people could be disfranchised for perhaps 12 months because a lot of political power play is going on in those two councils. The people who are already submitting petitions to the Minister to oppose these amalgamations take that seriously. They want to be able to have a say in the election in September. It is not a matter of inconvenience in the city; it is a matter of basic democratic rights. If this amendment is not accepted it means that those people will be disfranchised. That is an important consideration for the Committee.

Mr J. H. TURNER (Myall Lakes) [11.13 p.m.]: In view of the fact that the Minister will not table the letters that I requested, and if the Minister is happy about this legislation and is pleased that it will advance the cause of local government, I ask him to read that letter onto the parliamentary record. If the Minister does not intend to table the letter, will he continue to selectively quote from it? I presume that, as I have received no reply from the Minister, he will not table the letter?

Mr Woods: No, I will not table the letter.

Question - That the words stand - put.

Division called for. Standing Order 191 applied.
Noes, 2
Mr Barr
Ms Moore

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Amendment negatived.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Bill reported from Committee without amendment and passed through remaining stages.
WORKERS COMPENSATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL
Second Reading

Debate resumed from an earlier hour.

Mr HARTCHER (Gosford) [11.19 p.m.]: I lead for the Opposition on this bill. This bill was introduced at 4 o'clock this afternoon and the Minister made his second reading speech at that time. Now, pursuant to the suspension of standing orders, it has been brought on for debate, the five-day rule having been abrogated. This indicates the bankruptcy of a Government that is not prepared for its legislation to be properly considered and debated. The 1 July date, when the premium structure for workers compensation commences, looms close. The Government is anxious to rush this legislation through both Houses of Parliament so it can give effect to it prior to 1 July.

The workers compensation scheme in New South Wales, which this bill relates to, is in crisis. It has a debt of $1.8 billion, which is increasing at $2 million a day. A study conducted by the Solicitor General found that no-one was responsible for the Statutory Fund. The Statutory Fund simply operates in limbo, for which no-one - the Government, the insurance companies or WorkCover - has a legal responsibility. In auditing the operations of WorkCover the Auditor-General found in his report of 1998 that if WorkCover were a private sector organisation it would be technically bankrupt. It is not classified as bankrupt only because it is a government instrumentality. At the end of the day, regardless of the legal structure, the Government will have no option but to stand behind it.

When this Government took office in 1995 the WorkCover fund had a surplus of approximately $800 million. The deficit is now $1.8 billion - a deficit that has accrued in four years. The deficit is rising at a rapid rate each day. When the Carr Government took office approximately 6 per cent of claims dealt with liability periods in excess of six months - the largest single cost driver of the scheme. At present approximately 11 per cent of all workers compensation claims relate to claims in excess of six months. There has been a doubling in the length of claims, which has caused massive haemorrhaging of the fund. The Carr Government has made a number of attempts to reduce the deficit, including slashing workers' benefits under the table of maims by 25 per cent, which is what it did in 1996. This has had no impact on the ongoing spiralling costs.

Page 1663

Jeff Kennett accurately described the New South Wales scheme. He said that WorkCover is becoming the black hole of the Carr Government. The Government has no strategy to overcome this black hole. It is faced with an ongoing crisis, which it simply seeks to continually defer. Sooner or later the chickens will come home to roost, and that will occur during the term of the Carr Labor Government. As I said, the New South Wales scheme is in crisis. Urgent remedial action is needed. The Government instituted a report by Mr Grellman, who was an officer with the Motor Accidents Authority, and a senior accountant with a major accountancy firm, Coopers and Lybrand. The Grellman report contained a number of valuable recommendations. The recommendations were endorsed by the Coalition and were grudgingly accepted by the Government.

The first recommendation of the Grellman report was the establishment of an advisory council. The second recommendation was the institution of the Workplace Injury Management and Workers Compensation Act 1998. This Act was significant. First of all, it sought to set up a case management system for managing workers compensation claims. Rehabilitation plans were required of injured workers who were injured beyond a certain cut-off point, the whole idea being to get people back to work rather than simply have them languishing on workers compensation benefits. However - and this relates specifically to this bill - it also determined that private underwriting should be allowed for workers compensation policies as from 1 October 1999.

That legislation was passed approximately 15 months ago - I do not recall the exact date. Unlike the Minister for Information Technology, who is in the Chamber, I do not have an army of advisers who scribble everything down for me. Therefore, at least 15 months warning has been given to the Government, the WorkCover Authority, employers, employees and insurance companies to prepare for the institution of private underwriting as from 1 October 1999. What has happened? Of course, we have heard nothing. The Minister for Industrial Relations has repeatedly issued press releases stating that the Government is acting vigorously to reduce premiums. As the election approached, the press releases and the Minister's statements became more shrill. The Hon. Jeff Shaw told everyone that the new scheme would be in place from 1 October 1999 and we could expect the cost drivers of workers compensation to start to fall. In addition, to make sure there was no angst on 1 October, the legislation provided that the premium rate of 2.8 per cent average should be maintained until 1 July 2000.

Everyone was happy. The premium system was locked in, yet the underwriting scheme would have the opportunity between 1 October 1999 and 1 July 2000 to get under way. All the teething problems could be overcome. Pursuant to that, the ANZIC code was developed for a whole reclassification of the employment system in New South Wales on new codes to be assigned to various forms of work to ensure that the cross-subsidisations, which had been so prevalent under the old industry classification system, were removed. That code has not been adopted. It is presently in draft form and there is considerable angst among a number of employers that the code may disadvantage them.

Nonetheless, an enormous amount of work has been done in the development of a system to try to identify the appropriate premium rate for the appropriate risk in relation to workers compensation insurance. For example, I refer to the abattoirs in Casino, on the North Coast. The newly elected member for Lismore, Thomas George, is a director of the abattoirs and referred to this situation in his inaugural speech tonight. The abattoirs face premiums of approximately 15 per cent. That town is heavily dependent on the abattoirs for employment. It used to be a railway and abattoirs town, but the railways have closed down. The abattoirs employ about 800 people. If the abattoirs are not viable Casino will be placed at risk. The abattoirs are becoming less viable. Casino is barely two hours from the Queensland border, where workers compensation rates are half those of New South Wales. The abattoirs in Casino are finding it harder to compete. They are a typical example of an industry that has been massively squeezed by the high rates of workers compensation in New South Wales.

The timber industry also faces a high premium rate: 13 per cent. New South Wales has the highest rates of workers compensation insurance in Australia across the board. In fact, they are almost double the rates that apply in some industries in Victoria and Queensland. The rates in New South Wales are between 60 per cent and 100 per cent more than the rates in Queensland. Industry in New South Wales is becoming less competitive. The high rates of workers compensation premiums simply mean that employment is being placed in jeopardy. The Government's stated aim is to create jobs, jobs, jobs - as the Premier tells us every time he creates 10 or 12 jobs in an isolated factory. However, New South Wales is losing hundreds of jobs - and the potential to create hundreds of jobs - because of the spiralling costs of the workers compensation premium.

Page 1664

Any company that will invest in New South Wales and develop, especially a labour-intensive organisation, will look twice at a system where workers compensation rates are so high, the Workers Compensation Fund is virtually bankrupt, and the whole scheme is essentially unmanageable and unmanaged. That is no reflection on the personnel of WorkCover. I have a good regard for the people who run the authority and a high regard for John Grayson, the General Manager of WorkCover, who is a competent and amiable person. The staff and the management of the authority are caught in the structure imposed upon them by the Government and by the unwillingness of the Government to address seriously the shortcomings of the present workers compensation system in New South Wales.

At the very time when we are having this debate the Government is forcing through the Legislative Council the Motor Accidents Compensation Bill, a bill designed to cut the cost of motor vehicle insurance premiums. The motor accidents compensation scheme is the one that is most comparable to the workers compensation scheme. The Government is reducing the premiums for motor vehicle accident insurance by a simple method: it is dramatically reducing benefits for those injured in accidents after 1 October 1999, a significant date - the scheduled commencement date for the bill. One wonders whether the Government is not also contemplating at some stage finally taking the axe to workers compensation benefits.

I know that you, Mr Speaker, are a valiant fighter for left-wing causes in this State, some of which at an international level I am happy to support, though I am not happy to support them at a State level. How far is the Government prepared to go in reforming workers compensation in New South Wales by reducing benefits for injured workers? Is it willing to embark upon the same course as it has taken in respect of the victims of motor vehicle accidents? One wonders about the attitude of members of the Labor Party who believe in the working class - and they are few and far between.

One has only to look at members opposite to know that they do not believe in the working class. Despite his background in the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union [CFMEU], the Minister for Information Technology, Minister for Energy, Minister for Forestry, and Minister for Western Sydney has closed more timber workers jobs than any other Minister in the State. Though he represents the Minister for Industrial Relations in this place, he has presided over a continuing spiral in workers compensation premiums which have cost hundreds of jobs every year. The Minister can talk all he likes about the trade union movement, the CFMEU, sing the songs and get excited about solidarity forever, but at the end of the day he is the enemy of jobs and job creation.

Words fail me when it comes to the honourable member for Wyong. I have never heard that great numbers man from the Central Coast - the young Della Bosca - say anything about job creation. He is always concerned about where the votes might be. After seeing the results of the recent preselection for Wyong Shire Council I can say that he is good at that. I do not know what he has done for job creation - the only job he looks after is his own.

Mr Yeadon: He does not interfere in local government.

Mr HARTCHER: The Minister says that the honourable member for Wyong does not interfere in local government. He should go up to Wyong and see what happened in the recent preselection for mayor and deputy mayor. He will learn then whether the honourable member for Wyong interferes in the democratic process. I have digressed, and I will not be driven to digress again by the interruptions of the CFMEU delegate opposite.

Mr Yeadon: I am not a member of the CFMEU. I am in the LHMU.

Mr HARTCHER: That is John Morris' union - the Minister is John Morris' representative in the New South Wales Parliament. The insurance companies of New South Wales, reliant upon the legislation passed last year, spent millions of dollars in the development of computer modelling and schemes for the implementation of this Act. They have taken on additional staff and developed programs to ensure that by 1 October they will be ready to implement the legislation. Now, without any advice to them - because they have not seen the legislation; it was only put before the Parliament this afternoon - the legislation is to be raced through the Parliament and will have the effect of deferring the operation of the scheme for a further 12 months at least, to 1 October 2000.

What does the bill say about compensation to the insurance companies? What does it say about giving recognition to them? It says nothing at all. In common decency and according to the principles of an open market where people act according to law - as the insurance companies have acted according to the Workplace Injury Management and Workers Compensation Act 1998, and have relied upon the
Page 1665
date set out in that Act - they are liable to be compensated if that reliance is to be changed unilaterally barely two days before the 1 July cut-off when premiums fall due.

The Government may well say that it can have all systems in place for the year 2000, but the premium rate must not change on 1 July because it is frozen until 1 July 2000. Nonetheless, it knows and has been advised by the insurance council of the great cost the legislation will impose upon insurance companies. It may think it is okay to be unsympathetic to insurance companies, but insurance companies are huge investors in New South Wales. They attract money by way of premiums, develop pools and invest those pools in the State. If they cannot rely upon the sovereign risk that they must undertake to operate in New South Wales, they will invest those pools of money elsewhere.

This Government, in its cavalier fashion, continues to put in jeopardy investment and jobs in this State. The failure of the workers compensation scheme that this bill underlines - and it is only because the scheme is not working properly that the date has to be deferred - is shown as a disguised tax on jobs. The ongoing cost will mean that people will not invest and jobs will not be created. The bill specifies that the date which was to be 1 October 1999 is to be changed to 1 October 2000. That is contained in the definition in proposed section 4, which states:
    private insurance start time means:
    (a) subject to paragraph (b), 4 pm on 1 October 2000, or

    (b) 4 pm on such earlier day as may be appointed by proclamation for the purposes of this definition.

I will wager now that there is no way there will be an earlier day. I have every suspicion, as I am sure many people do, that on 1 October 2000 the Government will not be ready to proceed with the private underwriting. No report, no statistics and no evidence have been presented to the Parliament or to the public to suggest that though the Government will not be ready by 1 October 1999, it will be ready by 1 October 2000. The Government is simply deferring matters for a year in the hope that something will turn up over the next 12 months to enable it to bring down the cost of workers compensation premiums.

What is the Government's rationale for this change? It is that premiums will rise. The Advisory Council has been advised and the Advisory Council has advised the Government and the Government has acted on the Advisory Council's advice that premiums will rise to a level of between 3.6 per cent and 4.1 per cent after 1 October 1999 if the scheme is allowed to operate as it is presently constituted. What does that tell us? It tells us that the present scheme is operating with an underlying deficit that is not being addressed or recouped from the 2.8 per cent. We have the figure that people are being charged and the actual figure that is piling up in lost money each day. That is why the scheme is losing $2 million. It is not at present a fully funded scheme. As from 1 October the insurance companies will not be writing policies to cover risks from that date unless they are fully funded policies, regardless of the premium freeze until 1 July 2000.

The Government does not want that to happen and, accordingly, has deferred the commencement date. What will happen on 1 October 2000? Unless the Government has put into place suitable measures to bring down the cost of workers compensation insurance it will face a worse problem on 1 October - the deficit will be another $700 million. It will have hit $2.5 billion by then. The underlying rate will continue to rise to between 3.6 and 4.1 per cent. New South Wales will be a basket case because workers compensation rates are the second highest on-cost for employers in the State after wages. New South Wales will suffer accordingly.

The chickens will come home to roost for the Government. It may have a four-year term, but it has to be ready to accept the responsibilities of government - something it was not prepared to do in the past four years. It sought to defer and conceal. By 1 October 2000 the Government will have had to put in place measures to reduce the costs of the scheme, face another deferral or face a massive blow-out. The Government has three options.

Cutting the costs of the scheme means cutting benefits. If the premium rate is kept the same the only way to cut costs will be by cutting benefits - we all know that. Where can they be cut? What will be the attitude of the trade union movement and the Labor Council of New South Wales? The Labor Council made a token protest when the table of maims was reduced by 25 per cent, but clearly a deal was done between Peter Sams, the then secretary of the council, the executive of the council and the State Government. The Government was shocked by that protest but nonetheless proceeded with the legislation.

It will not be the same next time, because the cuts will have to be far more substantial if they are to achieve any real effect. The Labor Council's complaint will be genuine and not token next time. Another option is to defer the date until 1 October
Page 1666
2001. That will merely put off the evil day and ensure that the deficit continues to grow. The final option for the Government was to allow the private scheme to commence on 1 October 2000 and with it a rapid increase in rates.

Having been warned that the rate could go as high as 4.1 per cent on average, the Government was not prepared to take that risk. It is now caught by its own mismanagement of the past four years. The Coalition parties will not oppose the legislation. The Coalition will allow the legislation to pass through this Chamber and will not oppose its second reading in the Legislative Council. The Coalition believes that workers compensation needs to be rectified in New South Wales but it accepts that the Government has the responsibility to govern. The Opposition will watch the Government govern on workers compensation as it has done for the past four years and the black hole, as Jeff Kennett referred to New South Wales, will continue to grow and grow.

Mr Ashton: What would the Mexicans know?

Mr HARTCHER: The honourable member for East Hills, the token left-winger opposite, asked, "What would the Mexicans know". New South Wales is fast becoming the Mexican economy of Australia. If it were not for the strength of John Howard and his economic reforms, New South Wales would be suffering even more. In the Legislative Council, however, the Opposition will highlight these concerns and it may take appropriate action in respect of a number of those concerns.

The Opposition is determined, however, to ensure that the Government will wear the responsibility of this scheme - and it will wear it. Each day $2 million goes out of New South Wales, each day the left-wing mates of the honourable member for Liverpool, the Minister for Information Technology, the honourable member for East Hills and the honourable member for Wollongong continue to rort the system. But the day of reckoning will come and it will come faster than they realise. Accordingly, the Opposition does not oppose the legislation, but it will simply watch the Government try to make it work. The Opposition will be here to watch the Government when it fails.

Mr YEADON (Granville - Minister for Information Technology, Minister for Energy, Minister for Forestry, and Minister for Western Sydney) [11.45], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Gosford for his contribution to the debate. I note that the Coalition will not oppose the bill. The bill is an example of direct stakeholder involvement in the workers compensation scheme provided for by the 1998 reforms to the legislation.

The honourable member for Gosford referred to the Grellman report and indicated that the Opposition supported that report. He identified one of its specific recommendations, which was the establishment of a workers compensation advisory council. He clearly indicated that the Opposition supported the establishment of such an advisory council at the time that legislation passed through this House.

In line with the proposals in the Grellman report, a doctrine of private underwriting was intended for the benefit of employers and workers who are the key stakeholders in the scheme. They are the beneficiaries of the scheme. The scheme was set up for the employers and workers and they are the ones that the Government is cognisant of - as is the advisory council - as the stakeholders represented on it. The bill was introduced by the Government at the request of stakeholders, employers and employees. Accordingly it is consistent with the original intention of having stakeholders as a fundamental part of managing and directing the workers compensation scheme. The honourable member for Gosford spoke at length about the cost of the scheme. He tried to attribute those costs to the Government, but over the past four-plus years the Government has attempted to rectify the problems within the scheme; problems created by the Greiner Government's reforms in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

For the edification of the honourable member for Gosford, the latest information on the financial position of the current scheme, which remains in deficit, shows that the rate of deterioration has slowed significantly. The reforms introduced by the Government are working. That is a positive indication that previous cost containment measures are having an effect in reducing the cost of claims.

The honourable member for Gosford also indicated that the situation would not be rectified simply by deferring private underwriting for 12 months. The Government acknowledges that. In my contribution to the second reading debate I made it clear that the Government would examine further reforms and take active steps to assist and encourage injured workers to return to work as safely as possible; at the same time, of course, containing costs. The deferral of private underwriting insurance provided by the bill will allow the greater establishment of those and similar measures, as well as further necessary reforms under consideration by the advisory council. Consequently, the bill deserves the support of the House.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.

Page 1667
STATUTE LAW (MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS) BILL
Second Reading

Debate resumed from an earlier hour.

Mr HARTCHER (Gosford) [11.50 p.m.]: I forestalled my colleague closing off the debate. I want to raise two issues that are not on the notice paper. One relates to the amendment to the Constitution Act. For some time the Opposition has been curious to find out why the position of Deputy-Speaker was created. We now see the reasons set forth in the Constitution Act: If the Speaker travels overseas the Deputy-Speaker can act in his stead. It is significant that the Government would try to put this type of legislation through the Parliament as a statute law revision. The position of Deputy-Speaker relates to the operation of the Parliament.

As paragraph 1.7 on page 9 shows, it is a position that carries with it an additional salary. It serves no purpose whatsoever. This issue will come back to haunt the Government, given its ongoing penchant for trying to create more and more positions with less and less work attached to them. There is no work attached to the office of Deputy-Speaker that is not, or was not, already handled by the Chairman of Committees. It is extraordinary to find such an amendment buried in the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which is an amendment to the Constitution Act of this State, the most fundamental law of the State.

The proposal omits references to Chairman of Committees and instead provides for the Deputy-Speaker of the Legislative Assembly to act in the place of the Speaker. I cannot understand what that amendment achieves. The Chairman of Committees was quite capable of acting on the Speaker's behalf, but now if the Speaker is absent from New South Wales he is represented by the Deputy-Speaker. The taxpayers of New South Wales are $30,000 or $40,000 a year poorer simply to suit the convenience of the right wing of the New South Wales Labor Party in creating a job for the boys.

Mr Ashton: It is the bear pit; it needs control.

Mr HARTCHER: The honourable member for East Hills is eminently qualified to comment on the need for control. I want to make another point - which does not relate to the Lake Illawarra Authority, although clearly honourable members are entitled to talk about the lake as much as they like - which relates to the sheer triviality of amendments with which this House is burdened. The amendment to sections 406, 414A and 444 of the Crimes Act omit the word "magistrate" wherever occurring and insert instead the word "Magistrate". The Crimes Act is amended not once but eight times to put a capital M in the word magistrate.

The Minister for Police thinks that is a Jesuitical point, but it is not. It is a valid point and it is a reflection of how this Government uses the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill for simple triviality and, at the same time, sneaks through its amendments to the State's Constitution Act for its jobs for the boys. I will not excite the Minister for Police by saying that we will divide on this issue and go all the way, because we will not. Once again we will take the appropriate course and highlight what the Government is doing with legislation in this State and let it be accountable for it. Honourable members opposite are members of the Government. We want them to govern.

Mr CRITTENDEN (Wyong - Parliamentary Secretary), on behalf of Mr Carr [11:55 p.m.], in reply: No-one could accuse the honourable member for Gosford of being Jesuitical because no-one would accuse him of being a man for others. Both the honourable member for Illawarra and the honourable member for Wollongong spoke cogently and lucidly about the Lake Illawarra Authority Act 1987. The shadow minister for the environment, the honourable member for Southern Highlands, mentioned various concerns about the Contaminated Land Management Act. I foreshadow that I will move an amendment that has been circulated in Committee.

I would like to address the contribution by the honourable member for Coffs Harbour, who rambled on about the amendment to the Protection of the Environment Administration Amendment (Environmental Education) Act 1998. He thought it was all a conspiracy; that political appointees would somehow overtake the whole situation. It might interest the honourable member that that proposition came from the Opposition. In fact, the Protection of the Environment Administration Amendment (Environmental Education) Act was passed in December 1998.

The Act established the New South Wales Council on Environmental Education and provided for its membership and functions. The change from the election of the chair by other board members to appointment by the Minister was made by Parliament in that Act. The bill, as introduced to Parliament, proposed election of a chair. However, as a result of amendments moved by the Opposition, a new provision was added to the effect that the Minister would appoint an independent chairperson.

Page 1668

Because of our great desire for transparency and accountability, the Government accepted the amendment during debate in the Legislative Council. We are keen on accountability and we want of government. It is unfortunate that the honourable member for Coffs Harbour is carrying on about conspiracies when, in fact, none exist - except perhaps in his mind. I certainly hope that when the honourable member for Coffs Harbour issues his so-called contribution tonight he is courteous enough to at least attach relevant sections so that the good people of Coffs Harbour are aware of the facts.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time.
In Committee

Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.

Schedule 1

Amendments, by leave, by Mr Crittenden agreed to:
    No. 1 Page 13, schedule 1, line 4 to line 10. Omit all words on those lines.
    No. 2 Page 14, schedule 1, line 1 to line 6. Omit all words on those lines.

Schedule as amended agreed to.

Schedules 2 to 8 agreed to.

Bill reported from Committee with amendments and passed through remaining stages.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Days and Hours of Sitting

Mr WHELAN (Strathfield - Minister for Police) [12.01 a.m.]: With the exception of a bill to come from the Legislative Council, commonly referred to as the green slips bill, that concludes the legislative program of the Legislative Assembly. The House will have to return to consider that legislation from the Legislative Council. Mr Speaker, for that purpose and other purposes I suggest that you do leave the chair and cause the House to resume on the ringing of one long bell.

Honourable members will understand that the time for the ringing of the long bell will depend on what occurs in the Legislative Council. The best prediction is that the Council's consideration of that bill will conclude tomorrow. Therefore, it is likely that the Legislative Assembly will resume on Thursday at 12.00 noon. However, I ask all members to contact their respective Whips so they can be more properly advised of the time the Legislative Assembly will resume.

Mr HARTCHER (Gosford) [12.03 a.m.]: I understand what the Minister is putting to the House. We rely upon the assurance he has given that the House will not sit before 12.00 noon on Thursday.

Mr Whelan: I promise.

Mr HARTCHER: He promises that, and I accept his word. I note that the Government is running away from having a question time on Thursday.

[Mr Speaker left the chair at 12.04 a.m., Wednesday 30 June.]
______
Thursday 1 July 1999

[Continuation of Tuesday’s sitting.]

[The House resumed at 6.00 p.m.]
ASSENT TO BILLS

Assent to the following bills reported:
    Racing Administration Amendment Bill
    Road Transport (General) Bill
    Road Transport Legislation Amendment Bill
    Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Bill
BILL RETURNED

The following bill was returned from the Legislative Council without amendment:
    Workers Compensation Legislation Amendment Bill
MOTOR ACCIDENTS COMPENSATION BILL

Bill received and read a first time.
COURTS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL

Bill received and read a first time.
INDEPENDENT COMMISSION AGAINST CORRUPTION
Reports

Mr Speaker announced the receipt, pursuant to the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988, of the following reports:

Page 1669
    Investigation into Aboriginal Land Councils in New South Wales: Investigation Report, dated June 1999.
    Investigation into the Department of Corrective Services, Third Report: Betrayal of Trust: The activities of two correctional officers, dated June 1999;
    Weighing the Waste: An Investigation into Conduct at Local Council Waste Depot Weighbridges at St Peters and Elsewhere, dated June 1999; and
PRINTING OF PAPERS

Motion, by leave, by Mr Whelan agreed to:
    That the following reports and papers be printed:
    Separate Report of the Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service entitled "The Paedophile Inquiry", dated August 1997
    Report of the Trustees of the Anzac Memorial Building for 1998
    Report of the Youth Advisory Council for 1998
    Report of Charles Sturt University for 1998
    Report of Macquarie University for 1998
    Report of Southern Cross University for 1998
    Report of the University of New England for 1998
    Report of the University of New South Wales for 1998
    Report of the University of Newcastle for 1998
    Report of the University of Technology, Sydney for 1998
    Report of the University of Western Sydney for 1998
    Report of the University of Wollongong for 1998
    Report of the Community Justice Centres Council for the year ended 30 June 1998
    Report of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission for the year ended 30 June 1998
    Report of the Parramatta Stadium Trust for 1998
    Report of the Inspector of the Police Integrity Commission entitled "Review of the Law Enforcement (Controlled Operations) Act 1997 for the purposes of Section 32 of the Act", dated 16 April 1999
    Report of the New South Wales State Emergency Management Committee for the year ended 30 June 1998
    Report of the Serious Offenders Review Council for 1997
    Report of the University of Sydney for 1998
    Initial determination of additional entitlements for Members of the Parliament of New South Wales by the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal Pursuant to the Parliamentary Remuneration Act 1987 as amended, dated May 1999
PRIVILEGE

Mr O’FARRELL (Ku-ring-gai - Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [6.08 p.m.]: I raise a matter of privilege under Standing Order 101. Erskine May, in its twenty-second edition, at page 65, describes parliamentary privileges as:
    . . . the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively as a constituent part of the High Court of Parliament, and by Members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions, and which exceed those -

Mr THOMPSON (Rockdale) [6.08 p.m.]: I move:
    That the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai be not further heard.

The House divided.
Ayes, 43

Mr Amery Mr McBride
Mr Aquilina Mr Markham
Mr Ashton Mr Martin
Mr Bartlett Ms Meagher
Mrs Beamer Mr Mills
Mr Brown Mr Moss
Ms Burton Ms Nori
Mr Campbell Mr Orkopoulos
Mr Collier Mr E. T. Page
Mr Crittenden Mr Price
Mr Face Dr Refshauge
Mr Gaudry Ms Saliba
Mr Gibson Mr Scully
Mr Greene Mr W. D. Smith
Ms Harrison Mr Stewart
Mr Hickey Mr Watkins
Mr Hunter Mr Whelan
Mr Iemma Mr Woods
Mr Knight Mr Yeadon
Mr Knowles Tellers,
Mrs Lo Po’ Mr Anderson
Mr Lynch Mr Thompson
Noes, 29

Mr Armstrong Mr O’Doherty
Mr Barr Mr O’Farrell
Mr Debnam Mr Piccoli
Mr George Mr Richardson
Mr Hartcher Mr Rozzoli
Mr Hazzard Ms Seaton
Ms Hodgkinson Mrs Skinner
Mr Humpherson Mr Slack-Smith
Dr Kernohan Mr Stoner
Mr Kerr Mr Torbay
Mr McGrane Mr J. H. Turner
Mr Maguire Mr Webb
Mr Merton Tellers,
Ms Moore Mr Fraser
Mr Oakeshott Mr R. H. L. Smith
Pairs

Ms Allan Mr Brogden
Ms Andrews Mrs Chikarovski
Mr Carr Mr Collins
Mr Debus Mr Glachan
Mr McManus Mr D. L. Page
Mr Nagle Mr Souris

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Page 1670
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Bills: Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders

Mr WHELAN (Strathfield - Minister for Police) [6.19 p.m.]: I move:
    That standing and sessional orders be suspended to allow:
    (1) the following bills, which originated in the Legislative Council, to be passed through all stages at this sitting:
      Courts Legislation Amendment Bill
      Motor Accidents Compensation Bill; and
    (2) consideration of the clauses and schedules of the Motor Accidents Compensation Bill and the Courts Legislation Amendment Bill to be dealt with in Committee of the Whole in globo and for any amendments to the Motor Accidents Compensation Bill to be dealt with by the Chair proposing one question, "That the amendments be agreed to".

As honourable members would be aware, the legislation relating to green slips was introduced after extensive consultations with individual solicitors and barristers, the Law Society, the Bar Association, insurance companies, the Insurance Council of Australia, the Injured Persons Advocacy Group, doctors, rehabilitation specialists, the Australian Medical Association, the College of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the College of General Practitioners and crossbench members in the other place. The bill was tabled in the upper House on 3 June. The Government has already amended the bill in response to further comprehensive consultation. The bill was debated in the upper House for 20 hours. The Government believes that is fair and ample time for the consideration of such important legislation.

Mr HARTCHER (Gosford) [6.21 p.m.]: In the 11 years that I have been a member of Parliament I have never heard a motion along the lines of the motion moved by the Leader of the House. A bill of 128 pages -

Mr THOMPSON (Rockdale) I move:
    That the question be now put.

[In Division]

Mr O’Doherty: I draw your attention to Standing Order 405, which states that when a motion to suspend standing or sessional orders is being debated - and that is the matter that was before the House - closure shall not apply. The honourable member for Gosford was speaking to a motion for the suspension of standing and sessional orders, whereupon the honourable member for Rockdale moved: That the question be now put. Clearly, that is a motion for closure. The division should therefore be called off and the honourable member for Gosford should be given five minutes within which to speak, as is envisaged in Standing Order 405.

Division called off.

Mr HARTCHER (Gosford) [6.27 p.m.]: I acknowledge that the honourable member for Hornsby made some attempt to ensure that democratic rights are preserved in this Chamber -

Mr THOMPSON (Rockdale) [6.27 p.m.]: I move:
    That the honourable member for Gosford be not further heard.

The House divided.
Ayes, 42

Mr Amery Mr McBride
Mr Aquilina Mr Markham
Mr Ashton Mr Martin
Mr Bartlett Ms Meagher
Mrs Beamer Mr Mills
Mr Brown Mr Moss
Ms Burton Mr Orkopoulos
Mr Campbell Mr E. T. Page
Mr Collier Mr Price
Mr Crittenden Dr Refshauge
Mr Face Ms Saliba
Mr Gaudry Mr Scully
Mr Gibson Mr W. D. Smith
Mr Greene Mr Stewart
Ms Harrison Mr Watkins
Mr Hickey Mr Whelan
Mr Hunter Mr Woods
Mr Iemma Mr Yeadon
Mr Knight
Mr Knowles Tellers,
Mrs Lo Po’ Mr Anderson
Mr Lynch Mr Thompson
Noes, 28

Mr Barr Mr O’Farrell
Mr Debnam Mr Piccoli
Mr George Mr Richardson
Mr Hartcher Mr Rozzoli
Mr Hazzard Ms Seaton
Ms Hodgkinson Mrs Skinner
Mr Humpherson Mr Slack-Smith
Dr Kernohan Mr Stoner
Mr Kerr Mr Torbay
Mr McGrane Mr J. H. Turner
Mr Maguire Mr Webb
Mr Merton
Ms Moore Tellers,
Mr Oakeshott Mr Fraser
Mr O’Doherty Mr R. H. L. Smith
Page 1671
Pairs

Ms Allan Mr Armstrong
Ms Andrews Mrs Chikarovski
Mr Carr Mrs Collins
Mr Debus Mr Glachan
Mr McManus Mr D. L. Page
Mr Nagle Mr Souris
Ms Nori Mr Tink

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Mr O’DOHERTY (Hornsby) [6.36 p.m.]: Standing and sessional orders should not be suspended because this House ought to have the opportunity to fully debate matters -

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Standing Order 405 provides that only the mover and one other member may speak to the motion. The question is: That the motion be agreed to.

Question put.

The House divided.
Ayes, 42

Mr Amery Mr McBride
Mr Aquilina Mr Markham
Mr Ashton Mr Martin
Mr Bartlett Ms Meagher
Mrs Beamer Mr Mills
Mr Brown Mr Moss
Ms Burton Mr Orkopoulos
Mr Campbell Mr E. T. Page
Mr Collier Mr Price
Mr Crittenden Dr Refshauge
Mr Face Ms Saliba
Mr Gaudry Mr Scully
Mr Gibson Mr W. D. Smith
Mr Greene Mr Stewart
Ms Harrison Mr Watkins
Mr Hickey Mr Whelan
Mr Hunter Mr Woods
Mr Iemma Mr Yeadon
Mr Knight
Mr Knowles Tellers,
Mrs Lo Po’ Mr Anderson
Mr Lynch Mr Thompson
Noes, 28

Mr Barr Mr O’Farrell
Mr Debnam Mr Piccoli
Mr George Mr Richardson
Mr Hartcher Mr Rozzoli
Mr Hazzard Ms Seaton
Ms Hodgkinson Mrs Skinner
Mr Humpherson Mr Slack-Smith
Dr Kernohan Mr Stoner
Mr Kerr Mr Torbay
Mr McGrane Mr J. H. Turner
Mr Maguire Mr Webb
Mr Merton
Ms Moore Tellers,
Mr Oakeshott Mr Fraser
Mr O’Doherty Mr R. H. L. Smith
Pairs

Ms Allan Mr Armstrong
Ms Andrews Mr Brogden
Mr Carr Mrs Chikarovski
Mr Debus Mr Collins
Mr McManus Mr Glachan
Mr Nagle Mr D. L. Page
Ms Nori Mr Souris

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Motion agreed to.
MOTOR ACCIDENTS COMPENSATION BILL
Second Reading

Mr WHELAN (Strathfield - Minister for Police) [6:45 p.m.]: I move:
    That this bill be now read a second time.

It gives me great pleasure to introduce the Motor Accidents Compensation Bill. The bill implements the Government’s promise to deliver cheaper green slip prices to the families of New South Wales. Just as importantly, this is achieved by a range of new measures to improve the position of people injured in motor accidents and to promote a more competitive market for green slips. As honourable members of this House are well aware, there can be no doubt that the cost of green slips for motor vehicle owners in New South Wales is too high. Complaints over premium prices form a major component of complaints to members of Parliament and detailed market research undertaken by the Motor Accidents Authority confirms the level of community concern.

This research shows that not only are people concerned about the price of green slips, but also about the process that an injured person must go through to obtain compensation. They are concerned about the length of time it takes an injured person to reach a settlement with an insurance company, that it is an expensive legal process, and about the number and cost of medical examinations that an injured person may have to undergo. For people with minor injuries, or who knew someone who had been through the process, it was often reported that
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it left the claimant feeling that the whole thing had not been worth the effort especially once the lawyers and doctors had taken their share from the eventual payout.

This Government has accepted the challenge to introduce cheaper green slip prices. We have chosen to do so in a way that also addresses the other concerns the public has about the compensation process and in a way that causes the least impact upon compensation paid to people injured in motor vehicles, particularly those who suffer serious and catastrophic injuries. These problems in the current scheme were built into the system introduced by the Greiner Government in 1988. Over time, both the reliance upon court-determined common law and the supposed benefits from competition by private insurers have failed to deliver the suggested benefits. In framing the fundamental reforms introduced in this package the Government has consulted with both the insurance industry and the legal profession, but unlike previous Coalition governments, this Government has recognised that the interests of the insurers and lawyers are not paramount.

There are many groups with legitimate interests in the motor accident compensation scheme, but there are only two stakeholders - the motorists who pay green slip premiums and the injured people who receive compensation through the scheme. Everyone else is a service provider supporting the scheme. This legislation is designed to benefit the two stakeholders, motorists and injured people, by reducing green slip premiums for motorists, by improving the process by which injured people obtain compensation, and by keeping reductions in compensation to a minimum through significant savings in other areas. The new scheme was developed following an extensive examination of options for reducing the cost of green slips by a working party established by a Canadian expert on motor vehicle personal injury insurance, Ms Shelley Miller, QC.

Ms Miller was brought out to Australia by the Motor Accidents Authority and she established a working party of experts involved in the motor accidents compensation scheme. That working party examined ways of reducing green slip prices and developed recommendations that this Government has accepted and which form the basis of the legislation now before the Parliament. This bill represents a fair, effective and reasonable reform package that will lead to a substantial reduction in green slip premiums. The bill also improves the processes for obtaining compensation, and it ensures that people injured in motor accidents will receive fair compensation. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr HARTCHER (Gosford) [6:48 p.m.]: The bill will not achieve the objects outlined by the Minister. It will slash benefits to ordinary people in New South Wales, especially children who are involved in motor vehicle accidents. It will not reduce premiums by $100, as stated by the Government. The bill is a result of a pledge by the Premier following the 1999 election to use Mr Della Bosca, as Special Minister of State, in his first assignment to cut the cost of green slips by an average of $100. The bill is a complete con.

It relates only to an attempt to cut the cost of green slips by $100 on an average basis. Not every person in New South Wales will benefit; an attempt will be made to average it out. People will still pay as much as $500 or $600 per year. The bill seeks to guarantee only that the reduction in costs is for 12 months. That is the classic flaw in the bill. If the Government were really serious about reducing the cost of green slips it would be prepared to stand behind the bill and guarantee a reduction for a reasonable period, not 12 months. It will be a one-off for every motorist, because premiums are paid on a 12-month basis. Accordingly, the people of New South Wales will lose substantially in terms of benefits, and motorists will gain very little by way of a reduction in premiums.

The bill will commence operation on 1 October. I challenge members opposite to note over the next 12 months their constituents’ green slips for last year compared to those for 1999 and to note also the number of people whose green slips have been reduced by $100. I suggest that very few people will have received a reduction of $100, because the reduction in premiums has been structured to be averaged. A reduction in premiums has been gained at the expense of a loss in benefits for injured parties; but, more significantly, it has been designed to enhance the career of the Special Minister of State, and Assistant Treasurer. I warn honourable members opposite that the provisions of this bill will rebound on each and every one of them. The Opposition will not vote against the bill at the second reading stage. We are quite happy to let the bill be passed because backbench members opposite will be the ones who suffer.

The Minister for Police will not suffer; he can build new police stations in Strathfield for as long as he likes, but backbenchers will be the losers because their constituents will not get the benefits. Who suffers from this legislation? It will be the people who are injured in motor vehicle accidents. The first way they suffer is that they will be entitled to make a claim only for non-economic loss. The Minister for Police, who has been a solicitor for many years,
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knows the importance of such a claim to so many people. They will be able to claim compensation for their injuries only if they are more than 10 per cent permanently disabled. According to the bill, the extent of the disability is calculated by reference to the American Medical Association table.

The Minister for Police may not be aware - although most people in the community who have followed the issue are - that the disability assessment is based upon motion, that is, the degree of mobility in limbs. Accordingly, Tjandamurra O’Shane - the little boy who had petrol poured over him at a primary school in Queensland and suffered burns to approximately 80 per cent of his body - would not receive any compensation under the provisions of this bill if he had received those injuries in a motor vehicle accident. Why would he not receive any compensation? The answer is that he had no facial burns, which the American table expressly covers, and the bill excludes psychiatric and psychological conditions from being taken into account except when they form part of the 10 per cent. Accordingly, a whole category of people will be disbarred by the provisions of this bill.

The Law Society has calculated that approximately 80 per cent of claimants who are presently entitled to make a claim will be barred from making a claim for non-economic loss. This provision has been especially designed to cover whiplash victims. Most honourable members would appreciate that many whiplash victims suffer severe neck strain for the rest of their lives which is potentially quite disabling for them and they suffer severe trauma. However, under the provisions of this bill they are denied any claim. I reiterate that these provisions will apply to approximately 80 per cent of claimants. Why has this Government moved to slash benefits to people who are injured in motor vehicle accidents whereas nothing has been done to reduce the costs of workers compensation premiums, which are similarly spiralling upwards at a great rate?

The answer is quite simple: There is an organised group to represent people injured in workplace accidents - the trade union movement - but there is no organised group to represent people in workplace accidents. Those people have no voice at all. The Labor Council will never wear this type of legislation in the workers compensation field, even though, as we all know, workers compensation premiums are spiralling out of control, resulting in a loss of $2 million a day. I challenge the Government, if it is sincere in wanting to reduce the costs of premiums for motor vehicle insurance, to show why it has not reduced the costs of workers compensation premiums. All that this Government has done is push through legislation and apply the gag in Parliament to extend the date of operation to 1 October.

People will have to prove permanent disability greater than 10 per cent based on an American table which is designed to assess mobility. I cite another classic example: A woman who loses two breasts in a motor vehicle accident would not qualify under this legislation because the American table classifies that disability as 5 per cent. The reason for that classification is that the woman can still walk, and in spite of having lost two breasts she would receive nothing to compensate her for the enormous pain and suffering that she endured. Another example is the loss of an internal organ, such as a kidney, which results in the person still being mobile. That injury is not a compensatable injury under this table.

The list of percentages and disabilities has been exhaustively set out and presented to the people of New South Wales. It is well known who qualifies and who does not. For the price of reducing some premiums by a certain amount - not $100 - the largest group of people injured in motor vehicle accidents, namely, children, and the second largest group, namely, the elderly, will be disentitled and will have to bear terrible scars all their lives without receiving any compensation whatsoever. Accordingly, the Opposition will move an amendment to delete the 10 per cent threshold and substitute a clause to provide that any permanent disability, that is, a disability that a person carries for the rest of his or her life, will entitle a person to compensation for pain and suffering. The Opposition also does not accept the capping of payments.

The Government has proposed that in rare cases when a person is entitled to receive compensation for direct economic loss, such as loss of wages or income, the amount will be capped at $2,500, which will amount to approximately $120,000 a year. Quite a number of people, especially young people, earn in excess of that amount. These people have assumed liabilities based upon their expectation of income. People work out their budgets, what sort of house they want to buy, what sort of education they want for their children and all their other responsibilities based upon their income. When a catastrophic car accident occurs, they not only suffer the impact of the car accident and the devastation that it wreaks upon their lives, but also suddenly find that they cannot recover the level of income they were previously accustomed to and upon which their expectations and commitments have been based for their future life. Those people will be forced to change their entire lifestyle simply as a result of this legislation.

Page 1674

The Opposition’s position on this bill is that people who suffer a catastrophic car accident should not be penalised and punished. The Government should not punish people because they are innocent victims of a car accident, yet that is exactly the effect of this legislation. The Opposition will move an amendment that will permit the $2,500 to be retained but will provide for people to be entitled to 80 per cent of their income over and above that amount.

The Opposition is also concerned about the denial of legal costs and legal costs recovery. This legislation seeks to force people who are involved in motor accidents into a system to be known as the Claims Assessment and Resolution Scheme [CARS]. The whole process will be administrative. People will be required to submit to this administrative system before they can institute legal proceedings to recover damages. That sounds like a good idea because it forces everybody into a mediation system, but the Government has put a sting in the tail. If people do not accept the amount that is offered by the mediation system and instead insist on their legal rights to go to court, they will place recovery of legal costs in jeopardy.

Many people who are injured in car accidents have to wait months for treatment. Having done that, they then have to wait months to go before the assessment tribunal, which is a common feature of assessment systems, only to be told sooner or later that they have to accept the amount that has been offered to them. The alternative is to go to court and wait for a determination after a long court process. If they go to court, they will risk having to pay their own legal costs unless they get judgment for a significant amount.

What is the impact of that system? The system has been deliberately designed to force people to settle for relatively low amounts which will be offered through CARS. People will be denied their legal rights to take the matter to court because they will be penalised in relation to costs. The people to whom I refer are not rich and I am not talking about insurance companies. I am talking about ordinary people - children, who form the largest group, and the elderly, who form the second-largest group - who are injured in motor vehicle accidents.

It should be borne in mind that third party insurance covers only the innocent victims of motor vehicle accidents. It does not cover the party who is at fault, who is called the third party - the three parties being the owner of the vehicle, the driver of the vehicle and the person injured by the impact of the vehicle. These are the people who will suffer as a result of the Government’s bill.

I do not intend to make a longwinded speech. This matter has been debated quite comprehensively in the Legislative Council - for three days. The concerns put by Coalition members and interested people in the community were articulated there but it is important that it be placed on record in this House that debate could have commenced at 12 o’clock today, which was the time the Legislative Assembly was due to commence. By this time we could have had seven hours of debate. The Government has no interest in having this issue debated. It is simply denying members of this House the right to participate in the debate.

Mr Ashton: You said that it was debated for three days in the Legislative Council.

Mr HARTCHER: Yes, but this is a Chamber of Parliament. The honourable member for East Hills might still adhere to the Marxist-Leninist theories of the Supreme Soviet. Even in the Supreme Soviet debate on legislation is allowed. The honourable member for East Hills would find that even the communists would debate legislation.

The bill as originally introduced guaranteed that a reduction in premiums across metropolitan Sydney would be in force for only six months. Caught out on that, the Government changed the period to 12 months. That was the guarantee, but it was not for country New South Wales, only metropolitan New South Wales. After that time the Motor Accidents Authority [MAA], on independent actuarial advice, can act to determine the appropriate premium rate to ensure that the scheme is fully funded. After 12 months of premiums being kept low they will explode. From 1 October in the year 2000 there will be a steady rise, not a massive rise, in motor vehicle insurance premiums.

The Insurance Council has advised me that regardless of the bill it was preparing a submission to increase green slip costs by 8 per cent. The goods and services tax [GST] will come into force on 1 July 2000, thanks to the Democrats. That will impose an additional 10 per cent. Labor Party members are the guys putting their heads on the line for this legislation. Even without the bill there is already the potential for green slips to rise by 18 per cent. Actuarial calculations show that in any industry after a freeze of 12 months - be it on rents, insurance or anything else - premiums or costs rise
Page 1675
very quickly after having been artificially held down.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for East Hills would have heard the member for Gosford say that he did not intend to make a long speech. The honourable member for East Hills should not prolong that speech by constantly interjecting.

Mr HARTCHER: The honourable member would have heard also that even in the Supreme Soviet that he so much admires speeches are allowed. If the Government really is sincere in standing behind its commitment it will agree to our amendment, which simply states that a period of 30 months is the appropriate period. That would take the Government right up to the election period. How attractive it would be to keep premiums down. Why does the Government not have the courage to do it? Because Government members, the Insurance Council and government advisers know that the bill is simply an artificial attempt to force premiums down for a short period. If ever an Act of Parliament will come back to haunt its perpetrators it will be this one. It is interesting that debate on the bill is being gagged in the House. The Government will never be able to claim that the bill was properly debated and the Opposition had the opportunity to raise all the points it wanted to, because as soon as I sit down the honourable member for Rockdale will move the gag.

Mr Markham: You have already accepted that it has been debated for three days.

Mr HARTCHER: It has been debated for three days in the Legislative Council.

Ms Moore: By the House of review.

Mr HARTCHER: By the House of review. The referendum in September should not be on the abolition of the Legislative Council; it should be on the abolition of the Legislative Assembly, because on that argument the Legislative Assembly has no role to play.

Mr Whelan: Then you should resign.

Mr HARTCHER: Well may the Minister tremble, because he is the perpetrator of denying this House the right to scrutinise bills that the Government has introduced. If the House had sat at 12 o’clock today there could have been an extra six hours of debate. I return to the thrust of the bill. The Government and its advisers are not prepared to stand behind the bill for a period longer than 12 months because they know that it is artificial and it is a con. The Government is caught out. The original bill was 128 pages long. Do honourable members know where it said that the reduction was only to last six months? It was in the very last part on the very last page. It was a classic con in the worthiest traditions of the Australian Labor Party.

Mr Whelan: We could put it up front.

Mr HARTCHER: Show some integrity of process in this even if you will not show some integrity of process in anything else. The Opposition has prepared a series of amendments. I look forward to the Committee stage of the bill to ensure -

Mr Whelan: So do we.

Mr HARTCHER: Of course you do, because you intend to force them through in globo.

Mr Whelan: The House has made that decision.

Mr HARTCHER: After long debate and careful consideration the House made that decision! I finish by saying that the bill will come back to haunt Labor members. Members in marginal seats - Miranda, South Coast and Georges River - will all rue the day that the bill went through. They can smile now; it is all good fun. But time is ticking away. The honourable member for East Hills and the honourable member for Wollongong will survive but other members will not survive, because this is the sort of legislation that will be targeted in the lead up to the 2003 election. Members can smile now because three years seems like an awfully long time. It is amazing how quickly it passes. Each year people will be reminded when they get that little green slip through the post what a con it was when they were told that green slips would be reduced in metropolitan Sydney by an average of $100 - at the price of sacrificing benefits to the children and elderly people of this State.

Mr KERR (Cronulla) [7.08 p.m.]: I want to speak on behalf of the victims -

Mr THOMPSON (Rockdale) [7.08 p.m.]: I move:
    That the question be now put.

The House divided.

Page 1676
Ayes, 41

Mr Amery Mr McBride
Mr Aquilina Mr Markham
Mr Ashton Mr Martin
Mr Bartlett Ms Meagher
Mrs Beamer Mr Mills
Mr Brown Mr Moss
Ms Burton Mr Orkopoulos
Mr Campbell Mr E. T. Page
Mr Collier Mr Price
Mr Crittenden Dr Refshauge
Mr Gaudry Ms Saliba
Mr Gibson Mr Scully
Mr Greene Mr W. D. Smith
Ms Harrison Mr Stewart
Mr Hickey Mr Watkins
Mr Hunter Mr Whelan
Mr Iemma Mr Woods
Mr Knight Mr Yeadon
Mr Knowles Tellers,
Mrs Lo Po’ Mr Anderson
Mr Lynch Mr Thompson
Noes, 28

Mr Barr Mr O’Doherty
Mrs Chikarovski Mr O’Farrell
Mr Debnam Mr Piccoli
Mr George Mr Richardson
Mr Hartcher Ms Seaton
Mr Hazzard Mrs Skinner
Ms Hodgkinson Mr Slack-Smith
Mr Humpherson Mr Stoner
Dr Kernohan Mr Torbay
Mr Kerr Mr J. H. Turner
Mr McGrane Mr Webb
Mr Maguire
Mr Merton Tellers,
Ms Moore Mr Fraser
Mr Oakeshott Mr R. H. L. Smith
Pairs

Ms Allan Mr Armstrong
Ms Andrews Mr Brogden
Mr Carr Mr Collins
Mr Debus Mr Glachan
Mr McManus Mr D. L. Page
Mr Nagle Mr Souris
Ms Nori Mr Tink

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time.
In Committee

The CHAIRMAN: Order! I remind honourable members that, pursuant to the resolution of the House carried earlier today, the clauses and schedules and any amendments will be dealt with in globo.

Mr HARTCHER (Gosford) [7.18 p.m.], by leave: I move Opposition amendments Nos 1 to 5 in globo:
    No. 1 Page 41, clause 61 (2) (a), lines 18 and 19. Omit all words on those lines.
    No. 2 Page 74, clause 125, line 3. Omit all words on that line. Insert instead:
        would (but for the injury or death) have exceeded the relevant maximum amount.
      (3) For the purposes of this section, the relevant maximum amount of the injured or deceased person’s net weekly earnings is the sum of the following amounts:
        (a) $2,500,
        (b) 80% of the average net weekly earnings of the person above $2,500 over the period of 3 years before the injury or death.
    No. 3 Pages 84 and 85, clause 146, lines 29 and 31 on page 84 and lines 4 and 8 on page 85. Omit "125" wherever occurring. Insert instead "125 (3)".
    No. 4 Page 89, clause 152, lines 5-9. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:
      152 Costs where court proceedings
        (1) This section applies where a claim is determined by court proceedings (including court arbitration).
    No. 5 Pages 161 and 162, schedule 5, line 21 on page 161 to line 4 on page 162. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:
      14 Maximum premiums that may be charged for first 30 months
        (1) This clause applies to the premium that may be charged for a third-party policy in the case of a passenger motor vehicle in a metropolitan area, being a third-party policy that is issued or taken to have been issued during the period of 30 months after the commencement of this Act.
        (2) The premium that may be charged by a licensed insurer for any such policy may be (and may only be) the premium approved by the Authority under this clause.
        (3) The Authority may approve of such a premium proposed to be charged by a licensed insurer if and only if:

Page 1677
          (a) the insurer has filed with the Authority the premium or set of premiums the insurer proposes to charge (whether filed before or after the commencement of this Act), and
          (b) the Authority is satisfied (after taking into account independent actuarial advice) that:
            (i) the filed premiums provide, in the case of a passenger vehicle in a metropolitan area, an average annual premium of not more than approximately $330, and
            (ii) the annual premium for any policy for such a vehicle in that area will not exceed that average annual premium by more than 20%.
        (4) The Minister is, on or before 1 October 2000 and on or before 1 October 2001, to declare, by order published in the Gazette, the amount which is to apply, as from the date specified in the order, for the purposes of this clause.
        (5) The amount declared is to be the amount of $330 (or that amount as last adjusted under this clause) adjusted by the percentage change in the amounts estimated by the Australian Statistician of the average weekly total earnings of full-time adults in New South Wales over the 4 quarters preceding the date of the declaration for which those estimates are, at that date, available.
        (6) An amount declared for the time being under this clause applies to the exclusion of the amount of $330 under subclause (3).
        (7) If the Australian Statistician fails or ceases to estimate the amounts referred to in subclause (5), the amount declared is to be the amount determined in accordance with the regulations.
        (8) In adjusting an amount to be declared for the purpose of this clause, the amount determined in accordance with subclause (5) is to be rounded to the nearest $1 (with the amount of 50 cents being rounded up).

First, I remind honourable members that the Opposition will be voting against clause 45, which is the provision relating to the American Medical Association guidelines. Those guidelines relate to impairment, not to disability; they are based upon a table that is concerned with mobility. The Opposition is opposed to the percentages the guidelines impose. We believe that a permanent disability should be determined by medical practitioners, not simply by reference to guidelines. Our vote against this clause will be consistent with other amendments with respect to clause 131.

Amendment No. 1 relates to clause 61, which deals with the status of medical assessments. This too is a consequential amendment upon the abolition of the 10 per cent permanent impairment threshold. The Opposition will vote against clauses 65 and 124. The important distinction here is whether a person has a 10 per cent threshold or is permanently injured. As I outlined in my contribution to the second reading debate, the Opposition believes that a person who is permanently injured carries that injury for the rest of his or her life and is therefore entitled to appropriate compensation depending upon the nature of his or her permanent injury. If a woman loses a breast, or if a man loses his testicle, or if a person loses a kidney, or if a person has some other permanent sprain or whiplash injury causing trauma, that person should be entitled to compensation. Accordingly, the Coalition seeks the removal of the 10 per cent threshold and to simply have the test of permanence.

Amendment No. 2, which refers to clause 125, relates to another aspect that I addressed in my contribution to the second reading debate - that is, the cap on damages for economic loss. The Opposition believes that people who earn more than $2,500 a week should be entitled to a greater amount; they should be entitled to 80 per cent of their earnings over that figure. That is simply based upon the fact that those people will have entered into economic contracts and commitments based upon their income. Those people should not be punished for having had a catastrophic car accident, for example. This legislation punishes them twice: first, for the car accident and, second, for the massive disruption to their lifestyle. Many people in New South Wales will be severely affected by this legislation. The Opposition will vote against clauses 131, 132 and 133.

Amendment No. 3, which relates to clause 146, is a further consequential amendment. The Opposition will vote against clause 151, which relates to costs. That amendment provides that if a person exercises his legal right to go to court, he cannot recover costs unless he receives more than $2,000 or 20 per cent, whichever is the greater. The Opposition believes that the normal rule of law in all aspects of life is that if a person wins a judgment he is entitled to the costs of the judgment. The important point about this clause is twofold. First, it penalises people who exercise their legal rights. But, more significantly, it seeks to create a culture whereby people who are involved in motor accidents and who have to wait for a lengthy period to have an assessment are then forced to accept a figure that they do not like.

Page 1678

They are forced to accept it because over their head hangs the Damoclean sword that if they dispute the amount of damages and they do not receive 20 per cent or $2,000 more than the amount referred to in the certificate of assessment they risk having to pay the costs. The clause also contains an amendment - which was forced upon the Government by the crossbenchers and the Opposition in the Legislative Council - that the maximum a claimant is liable to pay for the insurer’s costs is to be $25,000 or such other amount as is determined by the authority. I believe that the authority would quickly determine a much higher amount at the behest of the insurance companies.

This legislation is riddled with escape clauses for insurance companies. There is supposed to be a cap on a person’s liability to pay an insurance company’s costs of $25,000. Then there is the escape clause "or such other amount as is determined by the Authority". All through the bill are similar clauses about acting on independent actuarial advice, and clauses which allow the Motor Accidents Authority to go to the insurer’s actuaries and change what is in the legislation simply because that is the advice that they will be receiving. Those clauses are peppered all the way through the bill, as they are in clause 151.

If amendment No. 3 is successful the Opposition will move amendment No. 4, which inserts clause 152 (1). That provision states that where a person takes a matter to a court or an arbitrator and wins a judgment, he is entitled to the costs of the court hearing. That is simply fair and is a basic principle of the common law. People have the right to exercise their concerns before a court of law and not be overcome by an offer through the resolution service that they regard as unsatisfactory. The whole point of this legislation is to punish people if they do not accept the advice given to them by the resolution service. People will come to the offices of members of Parliament and say, "I took the low figure, even though I didn’t like it, because I was frightened that if I went to court I would lose it all in legal costs unless I got this 20 per cent or $2,000 excess which the Act now imposes."

Ms Moore: You have lost me.

Mr HARTCHER: The Government is saying, "If you have an accident, before you can do anything you have to go to the Claims Assessment and Resolution Service. The service will issue you with a certificate as to how much it thinks you are entitled to. You will have to wait a long time before you get there, because there is always a queue. If you do not like that amount, you can then go to the District Court and join the queue there. But when you go to the District Court, you must get 20 per cent or $2,000 more than that which was given to you by the Claims Assessment and Resolution Service."

Ms Moore: There is an audience of two here.

Mr HARTCHER: You are the jury. I do not really expect to convince the Minister or the honourable member for Rockdale. The Government says, "Unless you accept the figure that they give you, you run the risk when you go to court that, even though you win in court, you will not get your legal costs." People will then have to receive a 20 per cent greater judgment than the amount that was offered to them under the certificate of assessment.

Mr Whelan: Explain why that is the case.

Mr HARTCHER: That is the case so that the Government can try to force people to accept the offer that is put to them -

Mr Whelan: Tell me what court jurisdiction does not have facilities like that.

Mr HARTCHER: Not one court in this land says that a person must receive more than the mediated amount. It does not apply in workers compensation through the mediation service. A person does not have to get more there; he only has to get an amount.

Mr Whelan: You have said that there are punitive sanctions on people if they do not receive more damages in court than they receive at the Claims Assessment and Resolution Service.

Mr HARTCHER: Yes, that is right, because they do not get their legal costs. The Minister will have an opportunity to reply to that. He can tell the people of New South Wales that if they reject the certificate of assessment by the Claims Assessment and Resolution Service, then go to court and receive a lesser amount than what was offered, or an amount which is not 20 per cent or $2,000 more, they will then receive their legal costs. That is not what the bill says, and the Minister knows that that is not what the bill says. He knows that he would not include such a provision in workers compensation legislation, and it is not in workers compensation legislation. The final amendment relates to clause 14 of schedule 5, "Initial premiums for third-party policies", and the period of time during which maximum premiums are to be set. Clause 14 is no longer the last clause but appears on pages 161 and 162. Subclause (1) reads:

Page 1679
    This clause applies to third-party policies issued or taken to have been issued during the period of 12 months after the commencement of this Act.

The clause then goes on to provide that the majority of policies in the metropolitan area will attract a premium of not more than approximately $330. So it is no longer the average. An insurance company can write 51 per cent of policies around the $330 figure and 49 per cent at $600 or $700. All that the insurer has to do is to show that for 12 months the majority of policies issued in metropolitan Sydney were written at $330. As the legislation does not apply to country New South Wales, non-metropolitan drivers will not benefit from guaranteed $330 premiums. While the majority of policies must be issued at around that figure, the rest can go sky high in the 12-month period after the commencement of the Act. After the 12-month period the clause will not apply.

The purpose of the clause, as honourable members know, was to allow Mr Della Bosca and the Premier to say that they had reduced premiums by $100. I have told honourable members opposite that they will be the losers because few people, even in the 12-month period, will be able to show a $100 reduction. If the Government were serious, it should be able to enforce the reduction for a longer period, and the Opposition suggests that period should be 30 months. If a problem arose within that period, the Government could increase the amount by up to 20 per cent. If the Government could hold the premium at $330 for 30 months within a band of 20 per cent, premiums could go as high as $396, but not to $700.

For more than a week anyone listening to the Alan Jones program would have heard the constant calls he received from people paying $500, $600 and $700 for green slips. That shows how wide the band is. The Opposition, through its amendment, is seeking to keep the premium within an average band of $330 to $400. It does not support the confidence trick perpetrated in the bill as drafted that only 51 per cent of policies had to be issued at the stipulated figure.

Originally, the bill set an average but the insurance companies pointed out that it would mean that all premiums had to be taken into account. It was far easier to have a majority because the remaining 49 per cent could go all over the place. This further confidence trick, which was only exposed in the debate in the Legislative Council, is the reason that the Government amended the bill in the way it did. Debate lasted for three days in the Council because that House does not have a gag and does not require the Minister to answer questions. The Minister could not answer many of them in the three days that I watched him.

Mr Whelan: You instructed them.

Mr HARTCHER: I did not instruct on the bill. I simply observed.

Mr Anderson: Just a lawyer.

Mr HARTCHER: The member for Londonderry said, "Just a lawyer". I am proud to be a lawyer and proud to have been of service to the people of this State. The Opposition commends its amendments, which are designed to improve legislation to protect the rights of injured parties so that there is no 10 per cent threshold, to protect the right of injured parties to go to court, to ensure that they recover their costs if they go to court and to ensure that the band, the figure of approximately $330, is widened to include all of New South Wales, not just metropolitan Sydney. The $330 policy should not relate just to a majority of policies but should be set on an average basis, be kept within a certain continuum and not be allowed to spiral out. The Opposition challenges the Government, if it is sincere, to introduce the legislation for a period longer than 12 months.

Mr WHELAN (Strathfield - Minister for Police) [7.35 p.m.]: This legislation was considered by the Legislative Council over a long period. Though there may have been three days of debate in the Legislative Council the issue was in the public arena and the bill was introduced in the Legislative Council on 3 June. The Government accepted a number of crossbench amendments and rejected others. The Opposition moved many amendments but none received the approval of the Legislative Council. The Opposition’s amendments in this House today are not dissimilar to the amendments that the Opposition moved in the upper House. In other words, this Chamber is revisiting the Liberal Party and National Party Coalition Opposition’s amendments tonight, and that is worthwhile reporting.

I want to refer to a few of the issues that the Opposition has raised and to reply to the amendments it has moved. First of all, the 10 per cent permanent impairment guideline provides an objective threshold for non-economic loss damages under the scheme to ensure that the scheme is less subjective and that premiums are reduced but at the same time to ensure that people who are seriously injured in motor vehicle accidents are adequately compensated for those injuries. The examples that the Opposition provided in the Legislative Council
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included an assertion that this threshold would exclude a woman, for example, who suffered from the loss of both breasts. That is not correct. That would easily meet the threshold. So would a child who is badly burned. There is no question they will be excluded from the threshold, as a letter that I will read makes clear.

It should be clear also that the non-economic loss damages are the only damages to which the threshold will apply. The threshold does not apply to damages for economic loss, medical treatment or other expenses relating to a motor vehicle accident. The threshold has also been amended so that psychological and psychiatric damages will be taken into account. However, they cannot be aggregated with physical injuries to overcome the threshold. A mother who suffers a serious psychological reaction on seeing her five-year-old child killed will be compensated under this bill.

The bill provides an objective method for determining permanent impairment. The American Medical Association’s guidelines to assess permanent impairment will be used initially. However, there is scope for the Motor Accidents Authority to produce its own guidelines. This will be done quickly should any substantial injustice occur in practice. I indicated that I would quote from a letter. That letter is to the Government from Dr Stephen Buckley, a consultant rehabilitation specialist. He was asked to comment on the effects of the Motor Accidents Compensation Bill on claimants who suffer catastrophic injuries. He said in his letter:
    I reject the allegation that the current Bill removes entitlements from those most seriously injured.
    •The Bill preserves completely the rights and benefits available to seriously injured claimants under the Scheme.
    •The legislation recognises that the community does not support large sums of money being paid out to those with relatively minor injuries.
    •A child who suffers excessive burns would easily meet the 10% threshold.
    •Serious depression caused as a result of an accident will satisfy the threshold test.
    •A knee injury involving a moderate ligamentous laxity is a 10% impairment.
    •A person with significant restriction of movement of the neck would satisfy the threshold.
    •A broken leg would generally not satisfy the 10% threshold.
    •Finally, the proposed changes will reduce the risk of delay in receiving appropriate treatment by introducing an early notification period with early provisional liability decisions being made by insurers, those suffering more minor injuries can start the recovery process virtually immediately.

On 23 June Associate Professor Ian Cameron from the Rehabilitation Studies Unit of the University of Sydney commented on the extent of the impairment of people mentioned in the real life story section of the advertisement placed by the Bar Association and the Law Society. He stated:
    The extent of impairment that I have estimated is based on Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, American Medical Association (fourth edition).
    Case history 1 - a child with burns to more than 70% of his or her body but no injury to the face. The child will have an impairment of more than 10%. The exact extent of impairment will depend on the degree of limitation in the performance of activities of daily living.
    Case history 2 - a man who suffers severe on-going depression but no major physical injury. This man will have an impairment of more than 10%. The level of impairment will be determined by the extent of restriction in functioning that the depression causes.
    Case history 3 - the football player who requires major reconstructive knee surgery and can move his knee at least once during a medical examination. He is unable to play football for more than 10 minutes. There is severe impairment of knee function with an impairment of approximately 15%.
    Case history 4 - mother with young children, who sustains a back injury in a car accident who is able to bend once or twice during short medical examination but not without experiencing excruciating pain. This injury is difficult to evaluate without further information. Depending on other factors the impairment could range from 5% to 20%.
    Case history 5 - a 45 year old man with a broken leg. This man’s impairment is less than 10% unless the fracture heals with marked malalignment.
    Case history 6 - a 35 year old woman with a serious whiplash injury and major psychological and psychiatric consequences. This injury is also difficult to evaluate without further information. The whiplash related impairment may range from 5% to 15% and the psychological consequences 10% to 20%. The combined impairment may be 15% to 20%.

I now refer to Liberal Party amendments Nos 2 and 3. The bill places a cap on the compensation that is payable for loss of earning capacity of $2,500 per week net. That equates to $210,000 per annum gross. The purpose of this provision is to cap the compensation that is payable to extremely high income earners - compensation that might be payable to someone like Tom Cruise were he to be injured in a motor vehicle accident in Sydney. Honourable members may recall the Blake case, in which a young actor with a lot of potential who was seriously injured in a motor accident was awarded tens of millions of dollars for his loss of earning capacity. The ordinary motorists of New South
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Wales should not have to pay for this. Persons who earn more than $2,500 net per week are well able to afford income protection insurance.

The amendment of the Liberal Party proposes that, as well as any loss of earning capacity up to $2,500 net per week, 80 per cent of the person’s earnings above this are also payable in compensation. This amendment would defeat the intention of the section. Instead of having to pay, say, $1 billion in compensation for loss of earning capacity, an insurer may have to pay approximately 80 per cent of $1 billion. Motorists pay approximately the same amount for green slip insurance but, under the current scheme, the wealthy obtain a much greater benefit as green slip insurance covers the full amount of any loss of earning capacity they suffer. The motorists of New South Wales should not be paying higher green slip prices for income protection insurance for the very wealthy.

I turn to amendment No. 4, which deals with clauses 151 and 152. The cost penalties in the bill relate only to claimants because insurers have no right of appeal from a decision of the Claims Assessment and Resolution Service [CARS]. In other words, the bill has already created a position where only the claimant needs to consider whether to proceed with the matter to court. The purpose of the cost penalties is to ensure that a claimant proceeds to court only when there is a clear case for doing so and that the CARS process is not used just to test the waters. It is expected that the great majority of claimants will accept the court assessment. The market research undertaken by the Motor Accidents Authority indicates that most claimants under the current scheme are greatly concerned at the amount of time it takes to get a decision from the court and that it significantly increases the costs they have to pay. Claimants want early decisions so that they can get on with their lives. This will be delivered through the CARS system.

However, it must be acknowledged that when legal practitioners are involved there is often an expectation created as to entitlement, and claimants are encouraged to pursue claims, perhaps beyond the point which is realistic. Of course, this also results in higher fees being paid to legal practitioners. I understand that the Legal Services Commissioner alluded to this in the evidence he gave to the Standing Committee on Law and Justice. Certainly he made explicit reference to it in a recent paper given to the green slips conference in March. In the paper the commissioner noted that the biggest source of complaint about legal practitioners in relation to motor vehicle accident matters is the fact that, when a claimant first sees a lawyer, he or she is given an indication of the likely value of his or her claim, but when the matter comes on for hearing, perhaps some years later, a claimant is put under pressure to accept an offer of settlement well below what he or she was originally led to believe would be the result. In other words, the lawyers often inflate the claimant’s expectations of a result and, when reality kicks in, they pressure the claimant to accept much less. There is no doubt that this practice will continue until the cultural change, which the Government’s legislation is intended to address, starts to have results.

Claimants will be pressured to continue with cases by being led to believe that they will get a better result than that achieved at CARS. The purpose of the cost penalties is to concentrate the mind upon whether the CARS decision is reasonable. The cost penalties are not an onerous imposition upon a claimant as no more apply than under the current system. At present, if an insurer makes an offer of compromise, under the current District Court rules, if the result at court is not greater than the amount of the offer the claimant must pay the insurer’s legal costs. This is exactly the point of the Government’s provision.

However, the position is even more clear when it comes to the Government’s bill as the cost penalties apply in relation to an independent assessment by CARS and not an offer by the insurer. It is nonsense to suggest that this will impose some new penalty upon claimants. Under the offer of compromise rules the legal costs are for the whole matter and are not limited in value. In addition, the Government accepted an amendment in the Legislative Council to put a cap of $25,000 on the legal costs payable by a claimant. The Government’s legislation is seeking to create a fair and just alternative for determining compensation without the need to go to court. If the CARS assessor gets it wrong claimants can comfortably go on to court knowing that the assessment will be corrected and that they will have their fees paid. However, if claimants simply want more, whether under incitement from a legal practitioner or otherwise, they will have to think carefully about whether to proceed.

I deal now with Liberal Party amendment No. 5, which relates to schedule 5[14]. The Liberal Party amendments to the transitional premium provisions deliberately misrepresent the way in which premiums are determined. That is particularly so in relation to the spurious comments about country premiums. There is a reference in the transitional clause to the metropolitan class one premium because this is the base premium from which all premiums are set. Premiums vary on a scale of relativities based on location and type of vehicle. There are four geographic zones - metropolitan Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong and country. The
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relativities are worked out on the basis of claims history for the vehicle type and the particular zone. As it happens, country premiums are lower than metropolitan premiums. Under the new scheme the premium for the country will continue to be worked out by applying the relativity. Therefore, the Minister will be able to guarantee that the reduction for country residents will be the same percentage decrease as for city motorists. If the Opposition’s amendment is successful it would overturn the country relativity and lump country motorists in with city motorists. They would lose the benefit of the lower relativity and the current lower price and, therefore, would receive hardly any premium reduction as a result of this legislation.

I deal now with changing from the majority of premiums below $330 to the average below $330. That $330 represents a $100 reduction from the current average metropolitan sedan premium of $430. The average is worked out from the premium charged for all motor vehicle owners across that class. At present, the average class one premium, filed with the Motor Accidents Authority, is approximately $470. As has already been noted, this is a benchmark premium from which all other premiums are set. Under the current rules that apply, insurers may charge between 15 per cent above or below that amount, creating a range in premiums between a low of $400 and a high of $550. If the same formula was used following the amendments, the reduction to the top rate in dollar terms would be more than $100 and the reduction to the bottom rate would be less than $100. However, as part of the package, the Government wishes to create a more competitive market for green slips and is therefore proposing a lower reduction in the top rate.
Honourable members should bear in mind the earlier report to the Legislative Council in which the Minister indicated that high-risk motorists, particularly younger drivers, are massively subsidised under this scheme. On full-risk rating they would be paying more than $2,000 per annum. The Government recognises the need to retain this community rating system to avoid the problem of a significant increase in uninsured vehicles on the road. However, at the same time the Government believes that the benefits of the reduction in premiums arising from this package should go primarily to the motorists with the better risk profile.

Therefore, while there will be a reduction off the top rate, it will not be $100; it will be more like $30. On the other hand, the changes in premium setting and the introduction of risk pool for high-risk motorists will result in much greater competition for the better risks and many motorists will obtain a reduction in excess of $100. At present, the profile for premiums is that the great majority of motorists are at or near the lowest rate, with about 15 per cent on the top rate and a smaller percentage somewhere in the middle.

While there will be no change to the number on the top rate, it can be expected that there will be a greater spread of premiums reflecting the additional factors, such as gender and driving record, that the insurers may take into account. With a wider range of premiums the average will not be able to be calculated until after premiums are issued, because the exact price will not be known. As the Government wants to encourage a more sophisticated approach to risk pricing it is preferable to have a different means of measuring whether the $330 target is met. Therefore, the Government has changed the reference to ensure that the majority of metropolitan class one licence holders are at or below the $330 rate, as this can be more closely vetted by the Motor Accidents Authority. The Opposition’s amendments are rejected.

Mr HUMPHERSON (Davidson) [7.51 p.m.]: I want to respond to a number of the comments made by the Minister.

Mr THOMPSON (Rockdale) [7.51 p.m.]: I move:
    That the question be now put.

The Committee divided.
Ayes, 40

Mr Amery Mr McBride
Mr Aquilina Mr Markham
Mr Ashton Mr Martin
Mr Bartlett Ms Meagher
Mrs Beamer Mr Moss
Mr Brown Mr Orkopoulos
Ms Burton Mr E. T. Page
Mr Campbell Mr Price
Mr Collier Dr Refshauge
Mr Crittenden Ms Saliba
Mr Gaudry Mr Scully
Mr Gibson Mr W. D. Smith
Mr Greene Mr Stewart
Ms Harrison Mr Watkins
Mr Hickey Mr Whelan
Mr Hunter Mr Woods
Mr Iemma Mr Yeadon
Mr Knight
Mr Knowles Tellers,
Mrs Lo Po’ Mr Anderson
Mr Lynch Mr Thompson

Page 1683
Noes, 27

Mr Barr Mr O’Doherty
Mrs Chikarovski Mr O’Farrell
Mr Debnam Mr Piccoli
Mr George Mr Richardson
Mr Hartcher Ms Seaton
Mr Hazzard Mrs Skinner
Ms Hodgkinson Mr Slack-Smith
Dr Kernohan Mr Stoner
Mr Kerr Mr Torbay
Mr McGrane Mr J. H. Turner
Mr Maguire Mr Webb
Mr Merton Tellers,
Ms Moore Mr Fraser
Mr Oakeshott Mr R. H. L. Smith
Pairs

Ms Allan Mr Armstrong
Ms Andrews Mr Brogden
Mr Carr Mr Collins
Mr Debus Mr Glachan
Mr McManus Mr D. L. Page
Mr Nagle Mr Souris
Ms Nori Mr Tink

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Question - That the amendments be agreed to - put.

The Committee divided.
Ayes, 24

Mrs Chikarovski Mr Piccoli
Mr Debnam Mr Richardson
Mr George Ms Seaton
Mr Hartcher Mrs Skinner
Mr Hazzard Mr Slack-Smith
Ms Hodgkinson Mr Stoner
Dr Kernohan Mr Torbay
Mr Kerr Mr J. H. Turner
Mr Maguire Mr Webb
Mr Merton
Mr Oakeshott Tellers,
Mr O’Doherty Mr Fraser
Mr O’Farrell Mr R. H. L. Smith
Noes, 43

Mr Amery Mr McBride
Mr Aquilina Mr McGrane
Mr Ashton Mr Markham
Mr Barr Mr Martin
Mr Bartlett Ms Meagher
Mrs Beamer Ms Moore
Mr Brown Mr Moss
Ms Burton Mr Orkopoulos
Mr Campbell Mr E. T. Page
Mr Collier Mr Price
Mr Crittenden Dr Refshauge
Mr Gaudry Ms Saliba
Mr Gibson Mr Scully
Mr Greene Mr W. D. Smith
Ms Harrison Mr Stewart
Mr Hickey Mr Watkins
Mr Hunter Mr Whelan
Mr Iemma Mr Woods
Mr Knight Mr Yeadon
Mr Knowles Tellers,
Mrs Lo Po’ Mr Anderson
Mr Lynch Mr Thompson
Pairs

Mr Armstrong Ms Allan
Mr Brogden Ms Andrews
Mr Collins Mr Carr
Mr Glachan Mr Debus
Mr D. L. Page Mr McManus
Mr Souris Mr Nagle
Mr Tink Ms Nori

Question resolved in the negative.

Amendments negatived.

Clauses 1 to 233 agreed to.

Schedules 1 to 5 agreed to.

Bill reported from Committee without amendment.
Adoption of Report

Mr WHELAN (Strathfield - Minister for Police) [8.05 p.m.]: I move:
    That the report be now adopted.

The House divided.


Page 1684
Ayes, 44

Mr Amery Mr McGrane
Mr Aquilina Mr Markham
Mr Ashton Mr Martin
Mr Barr Ms Meagher
Mr Bartlett Mr Mills
Mrs Beamer Ms Moore
Mr Brown Mr Moss
Ms Burton Mr Orkopoulos
Mr Campbell Mr E. T. Page
Mr Collier Mr Price
Mr Crittenden Dr Refshauge
Mr Gaudry Ms Saliba
Mr Gibson Mr Scully
Mr Greene Mr W. D. Smith
Ms Harrison Mr Stewart
Mr Hickey Mr Watkins
Mr Hunter Mr Whelan
Mr Iemma Mr Woods
Mr Knight Mr Yeadon
Mr Knowles
Mrs Lo Po’ Tellers,
Mr Lynch Mr Anderson
Mr McBride Mr Thompson
Noes, 24

Mrs Chikarovski Mr Piccoli
Mr Debnam Mr Richardson
Mr George Ms Seaton
Mr Hartcher Mrs Skinner
Mr Hazzard Mr Slack-Smith
Ms Hodgkinson Mr Stoner
Dr Kernohan Mr Torbay
Mr Kerr Mr J. H. Turner
Mr Maguire Mr Webb
Mr Merton
Mr Oakeshott Tellers,
Mr O’Doherty Mr Fraser
Mr O’Farrell Mr R. H. L. Smith
Pairs

Ms Allan Mr Armstrong
Ms Andrews Mr Brogden
Mr Carr Mr Collins
Mr Debus Mr Glachan
Mr McManus Mr D. L. Page
Mr Nagle Mr Souris
Ms Nori Mr Tink

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Motion agreed to.

Report adopted and bill passed through remaining stages.
COURTS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL
Second Reading

Mr WHELAN (Strathfield - Minister for Police) [8.16 p.m.]: I move:
    That this bill be now read a second time.

The Courts Legislation Amendment Bill is a most important bill. This bill emanated from the Attorney General in the Legislative Council where it was first read on 2 June and debate was resumed on 23 June. I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.

Leave granted.
    The Government seeks to amend certain Acts relating to courts and court procedures. These amendments are necessary to improve the operation of courts of New South Wales. The first proposal in schedule 1 to the bill is a consequential amendment that relates to amendments to be made to part 5 of the Justices Act 1902 by schedule 4. Those amendments clarify that an appeal may be brought with leave of the Supreme Court in relation to committal proceedings and interlocutory orders made by magistrates in summary proceedings.
    Section 5F of the Criminal Appeal Act 1912 also allows for appeals to be made to the Court of Criminal Appeal against certain interlocutory judgments and orders, including orders made in committal proceedings. The amendments therefore provide that such an appeal cannot be made if the person has already instituted an appeal to the Supreme Court under part 5 of the Justices Act 1902, and vice versa.
    Schedule 2 will extend by two years, to September 2001, the period within which awards must be reviewed under section 19 of the Industrial Relations Act 1996, while retaining the requirement for subsequent reviews at least once every three years. Because section 19 requires the commission to review and make changes it considers necessary to awards, the section is of key importance for the maintenance of awards that cover the most disadvantaged workers in the labour market.
    The potential importance of section 19 in the provision of pay equity has also been recognised in the commission’s 1998 pay equity report. A section 19 test case was only concluded by the commission on 23 April 1999 and as at 15 April only 61 applications for review had been received by the Industrial Registry, of which five have been completed.
    Given that there are about 800 multi-issue awards in New South Wales, it was considered essential that the time frame for the first review of these awards be extended. The first proposal in schedule 3 will amend the Jury Act 1977 to provide that persons who receive a notice of inclusion on the jury roll will no longer be required to return the notice to the sheriff unless they are disqualified from service, ineligible to serve, make a claim for an exemption as of right, or are required to notify the sheriff of any change in their particulars.
    At present the Act requires all persons selected randomly from the data transferred from the State Electoral Commission to be sent by mail a notice of inclusion on the jury roll. Each person is required by the Act to complete and return the notice to the
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Sheriff. Real improvements in both service delivery standards and cost efficiencies can be achieved by no longer requiring every person to return his or her completed notice of inclusion. Dispensing with this requirement will reduce significantly the workload of the jury services section of the Sheriff’s Office. Better processing and turnaround times and higher customer service standards will be delivered as staff will no longer have to open mail, scan returns and upload data for the 65 per cent of returns which currently require no alteration to the record.
    It is also proposed that the Sheriff have a discretionary power to require individual prospective jurors to complete and return a notice of inclusion to ensure that in particular cases relevant information for the purposes of administering the Jury Act may be obtained. Schedule 3 to the bill also amends the Jury Act 1977 to provide a discretion to the Sheriff under the Jury Act to exclude from the current jury roll persons whose special circumstances preclude them from jury service temporarily but who do not fall within schedules 1 to 3 of the Act.
    At present any qualified elector who cannot claim disqualification, ineligibility or exemption as of right under the schedules of the Act must be included on the jury roll in their district. The Sheriff has no discretion to remove persons from the roll who satisfy him or her on the return notice of inclusion on the jury roll that they have special circumstances which preclude them from serving on a jury. This includes persons overseas or interstate for the life of a roll. In these circumstances the Sheriff is required to include the person on the jury roll and if he or she is subsequently randomly selected, forward that person a jury summons. It is only when the person again informs the Sheriff of his or her special circumstances on receipt of the summons that the Sheriff has a discretion to excuse the person from jury service under section 38 of the Act.
    The discretion now sought for the Sheriff is similar to that which exists under section 11 (3) of the Victorian Juries Act 1967. It is also proposed that the Sheriff may, in relation to a claim for exemption in these circumstances, require persons to verify their claim by way of a statutory declaration. Schedule 3 to the bill also amends the Jury Act to clarify the right of challenge in relation to civil juries. Since the commencement of the Jury Amendment Act 1997, which made provision for the anonymity of jurors in July 1998, some judges have interpreted the amendments as removing the right of pre-emptory challenge in relation to civil juries. Prior to the commencement of the amendments, section 49 of the Act provided that each party, or their representative in civil proceedings, was entitled to strike off from the list of jurors drawn by ballot the names equal to half the number of persons required to constitute the jury.
    The amendments to section 49, however, remove the procedure of striking names off a list of jurors and make provision for juror identification numbers to be drawn from the ballot box in order to constitute the jury. The section provides for challenges for cause but makes no reference to pre-emptory or other types of challenges. This amendment clarifies that each party is entitled to pre-emptory challenges without restriction equal to half the number of jurors required to constitute the jury for trial. Schedule 3 to the bill also amends the Jury Act to provide for an increase in the penalties imposed on persons for failing to attend for jury service. The proposed amendments arose from a recommendation of the jury task force, which had been informed by the Sheriff that on occasions up to 20 per cent of persons summoned for jury service failed to attend.
    The task force was also informed that some of those persons summoned, particularly sole traders, professionals and persons on renewable short-term contracts, had indicated it was more economical for them to pay the fine provided for by the Act rather than lose their income for the period they were required to serve on the jury. The daily attendance fee payable to jurors was never intended to fully compensate jurors for loss of income during the period they serve on a jury. There are very few jurors who are not inconvenienced, do not suffer detriment, hardship or financial loss, or do not experience disruption to their lives by performing their civic duty. However, it is essential that the integrity of jury service be maintained.
    The Attorney General is of the view that the penalty for an offence of failing to attend for jury service should be set at a level which would discourage persons summoned for jury service from electing to pay the fine rather than attending for jury service. It is therefore proposed to increase the penalty from two penalty units, $220, to 10 penalty units, $1,100, where the penalty is paid on receipt of an initial notice to show cause; from 2½ penalty units, $275, to 15 penalty units, $1,650, where a penalty notice is issued; and from five penalty units, $550, to 20 penalty units, $2,200, if the matter is taken to the Local Court. The proposed increased penalties fall within the normal range for offences of that type. There is currently no defence provided for by the Act and it is proposed, given the substantial increase in the penalty provided for by the section, that section 63 of the Act be amended to provide for a defence of reasonable excuse where the matter is dealt with by the Local Court.
    Schedule 3 to the bill also amends the Jury Act 1977 to remove an inconsistency between schedule 1 of the Act and the provisions of the Criminal Records Act 1991 in relation to spent convictions. Schedule 1 of the Jury Act provides that a person who, at any time within the past five years in New South Wales or elsewhere, has been found guilty of an offence and detained in a detention centre or other institution for juvenile offenders is disqualified from serving as a juror. The Criminal Records Act, however, provides that a person is not required to disclose to any other person for any purpose information concerning a spent conviction. A conviction is spent in relation to orders made by the Children’s Court after a crime-free period of three consecutive years. It is therefore proposed to amend Schedule 1 of the Jury Act to reduce the period specified from five years to three years.
    The first proposal in schedule 4 to the bill amends the Justices Act 1902 to make provision in relation to the pretrial disclosure and paper committal provisions of the Act consequent upon the new provisions of the Evidence (Children) Act 1997, allowing for child witnesses to give evidence at trial by way of a prerecorded interview. The Cabinet Office has been convening a interdepartmental committee co-ordinating steps necessary to enable the commencement of the Evidence (Children) Act 1997. It is proposed that the Act be commenced in July or August 1999 - with the exception of part 2 of the Act, which would make it necessary for all interviews with child witnesses or accused to be recorded.
    Part 3 of the Act contains provisions relating to the reception of evidence of children by way of a previous recording of interview. As a practical matter, the intention is that recordings of interview only be made, initially at least, by the existing police-community services joint investigation teams. These teams are responsible, principally, for the investigation of allegations of child sexual assault. The Justices Act 1902 makes provision for the disclosure of evidence to the defence
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by the prosecution in relation to committal proceedings and prescribed summary proceedings. Two concerns have been raised in relation to the operation of these pretrial disclosure provisions of the Justices Act.
    The first is that the provisions might require the prosecution to provide the defence with a copy of the video recording to be used at trial. This is considered inappropriate in sexual assault matters and may result in the defendant using the recording for gratification or in a trade being established in such tapes among paedophiles. Second, the provisions of section 48AA of the Justices Act would seem to require the prosecution to provide to the defence a written statement from the child witness. A formal requirement to take a separate written statement from the child witness is considered inconsistent with the aims of the Evidence (Children) Act, which sought to remove the need for a child to give a series of different statements and allow reliance to be placed on the video recording of the child’s interview.
    In response to these concerns it is proposed to amend the relevant provisions of the Justices Act to provide that, first, a requirement for service of a written statement in relation to evidence to be given by the child in proceedings for a prescribed summary offence by way of a recording can be satisfied by the service of a copy of the transcript of the recording with the child. The transcript must be certified as an accurate transcript by the investigating official. Second, the provisions will also provide that such a transcript satisfies the requirements for the provision of a written statement in committal proceedings. Third, a copy of a recording of an interview with a child witness need not be provided to the defence as part of a brief of evidence or as part of disclosure in relation to committal proceedings. The prosecuting authority will be required, however, to provide a reasonable opportunity for the tape to be viewed by the defence.
    Schedule 4 to the bill also amends the Justices Act 1902 to provide that a person may not make an application under sections 100D or 100G of the Act if an appeal or application for leave to appeal has been made to the Full Bench of the Industrial Relations Commission in Court Session. Section 100P of the Act currently prevents a person from applying under sections 100D or 100G if the person has lodged an appeal or an application for leave to appeal to the District Court, Supreme Court or Land and Environment Court. The amendment makes the same provision in relation to the Industrial Relations Commission. The Justices Legislation Amendment (Appeals) Act 1998, which commenced on 1 March 1999, replaced the provisions relating to appeals to the Supreme Court, District Court and Land and Environment Court in part 5 of the Justices Act 1902 with new parts 5, 5A and 5B.
    Schedule 4 to the bill provides for further necessary amendments to parts 5, 5A and 5B of the Act. First, there is an amendment to part 5 of the Act to clarify that an appeal under the part may be brought, with leave of the Supreme Court, in relation to committal proceedings and in relation to interlocutory orders made by a magistrate in summary proceedings. Second, there is an amendment to section 104 (2) of the Act to provide for an appeal by the informant against an order of the Local Court permanently staying a summary criminal prosecution. Third, there is an amendment to section 104 of the Act to clarify that an appeal under part 5 of the Act may be brought by either party as provided for by section 69 of the Local Courts (Civil Claims) Act 1970. Fourth, amendments to sections 107, 127 and 133AH of the Justices Act 1902 clarify the term "custody" to include periodic detention and home detention.
    Fifth, the amendment to section 123 of the Act provides that an appeal against conviction, in relation to an apprehended violence order which was consented to by the appellant in the Local Court, may be made only with leave of the District Court. Sixth, the amendment to part 5A of the Act provides that an appeal against the severity of a sentence is to be by way of rehearing of the evidence. Seventh, the amendment to sections 132 and 133AM of the Act provides for Registrars of the District Court or Land and Environment Court to supply free transcripts to the parties. Eighth, the amendment to section 133AT of the Act corrects a drafting error. Finally, the Act is amended to provide for the repeal of section 146 to be reversed in relation to appeals determined by the District Court.
    Schedule 4 to the bill also amends the Justices Act 1902 and consequentially the Land and Environment Court Act 1979 to provide for appeals on a question of law involving an environmental offence heard in the Local Court, to be determined in the Land and Environment Court rather than the Supreme Court. The amendments confer on the Land and Environment Court the same jurisdiction the Supreme Court has under part 5 of the Justices Act to hear and dispose of appeals relating to environmental offences. As a result of the amendments it will be possible for a person to appeal to the Land and Environment Court against any conviction, order or sentence of a magistrate - including orders in relation to committal proceedings and interlocutory orders - relating to an environmental offence.
    In addition, the amendments will prevent appeals in relation to environmental offences from being heard by the Supreme Court, except with the leave of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is to give leave to appeal only if it is of the view that the appeal is likely to require the resolution of a matter relating to constitutional law or a matter of general application. Otherwise, the appeal is to be heard and disposed of by the Land and Environment Court. The Land and Environment Court Act 1979 is also amended to create a new class of jurisdiction of the court for the hearing of the types of appeals currently disposed of by the Supreme Court and to give the judges of the court power to make rules concerning those appeals.
    The first proposal in schedule 5 to the bill amends the Land and Environment Court Act 1979 to provide that appeals under section 49F and references under section 49G of the National Parks and Wildlife Amendment (Aboriginal Ownership) Act 1996 fall within class 3 of the court's jurisdiction. As a consequence of the transfer of jurisdiction to class 3, section 37 of the Act - commissioners sitting with a judge - applies in relation to the hearing. Accordingly, the court may, in hearing the proceedings, or any part of the proceedings, be assisted by two commissioners of the court, or by one commissioner if the chief judge of the court so directs. Any such commissioner must, in accordance with section 30 (2A) of the Act, be a person who has suitable knowledge of matters concerning land rights for Aborigines and qualifications and experience suitable for the determination of disputes involving Aborigines.
    Schedule 6 to the bill amends the Local Courts (Civil Claims) Act 1970 to increase the jurisdiction of the small claims division of the Local Court from $3,000 to $10,000. The amendment arose from a recommendation contained in the "Report on Security of Payment for the New South Wales Building Industry", dated September 1998, of the Joint Standing Committee on Small Business. The recommendation initially was to increase the jurisdiction of the small claims division of the Local Court from $3,000 to $10,000 for
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construction industry disputes. However, following consultation with the Chief Magistrate, it was considered necessary to increase the jurisdiction of the small claims division generally rather than for construction industry disputes alone.
    Schedule 7 to the bill amends the Supreme Court Act 1970 to enable a hearing commenced in the court by three or more judges to be continued where one or more of the judges dies, resigns from office or otherwise becomes unable to continue as a member of the Court of Appeal for the purposes of the appeal, so long as two Judges remain and the parties consent. The Supreme Court Act 1970, as presently drafted, provides that a decision of the Court of Appeal heard before three or more judges is not affected because one or more judges dies before the decision is given, so long as the majority of judges are in agreement as to the decision. Several other State Supreme Courts - Victoria, South Australia and Queensland - and the Federal Court have similar provisions to the proposed amendment in their legislation.
    The amendments also provide that where an appeal is continued by two judges and they are divided in opinion as to the decision determining the appeal, the appeal is to be reheard by the Court of Appeal, including, if practicable, the two judges who completed the hearing of the appeal. In relation to any other decision, the decision of the court is to be in accordance with the opinion of the senior judge present. Schedule 7 to the bill also amends the Supreme Court Act 1970 to remove the requirement that video link communication be of television standard. There is a capacity at the present time for high-quality reception to be available without necessarily being of television standard, which is an extremely expensive standard to deliver. The requirement for television standard is no longer necessary and it is proposed that the specification of an appropriate standard be left as a matter for the Supreme Court Rules.
    Schedule 8 to the bill amends the Wills, Probate and Administration Act 1898 to remove reference to the "Registrar in Probate". The Crown Solicitor has provided advice that the position of Registrar in Probate was effectively abolished on the commencement of the Courts Legislation Further Amendment Act 1998. The effect of this advice is that the current Registrar in Probate may no longer exercise the functions of a registrar within the meaning of section 19 of the Supreme Court Act 1970.
    It is therefore proposed to replace the obsolete reference to the Registrar in Probate in the Wills, Probate and Administration Act 1898 by a new definition of "Registrar" which requires the Registrar be appointed in accordance with section 120 of the Supreme Court Act 1970 and to be nominated by the Principal Registrar of the Supreme Court for the purposes of the Wills, Probate and Administration Act. All of the amendments contained in this bill are designed to improve the operation of the courts of New South Wales. They have been formulated with appropriate consultation.

I commend the bill to the House.

Mr HARTCHER (Gosford) [8.17 p.m.]: The Opposition’s objection relates only to the schedule. I will speak to the bill at the Committee stage.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time.
In Committee

The CHAIRMAN: Order! The question is: That clauses 1 to 3 and schedules 1 to 8 stand part of the bill.

Mr HARTCHER (Gosford) [8.18 p.m.]: The Coalition opposes schedule 2 in relation to its amendment of section 19 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act. That is the only part of the bill that the Opposition will oppose. Because of the wording of the suspension of standing orders, the Opposition will have to vote against all the clauses. However, I place on record the Opposition’s objection. Accordingly, the Opposition will not oppose the other clauses of the bill.

We are opposing the schedule because it was imposed in 1996 when the Industrial Relations Act was passed by the Parliament. That Act required all the awards to be reviewed by 1 September 1999. It allowed a period of three years grace for awards and then required their review. The schedule states that the awards have not been reviewed and that the review will be postponed until 2001. That is extremely significant because approximately 800 awards were to be reviewed in a three-year period to address issues that are dear to the heart of the honourable member for Bligh, such as pay equity.

Of those 800 awards, only 61 applications have been lodged and up until the present time only five have been completed, according to the Minister's second reading speech. The Government and the Department of Industrial Relations have been incredibly negligent in not ensuring that adequate resources are provided to the Industrial Relations Commission and that a proper presentation of awards is made. The Minister said in his second reading speech:
    A section 19 test case was only concluded by the commission on 23 April 1999 and as at 15 April only 61 applications for review had been received by the Industrial Registry, of which five have been completed.
    Given that there are about 800 multi-issue awards in New South Wales, it was considered essential that the time frame for the first review of these awards be extended.
In three years there has been a review of five awards, despite the clear stipulation in the Act, of which the Government has always been aware. The Government has been conscious of issues such as women’s pay equity because it commissioned a study on that issue. The Government included that section in the 1996 Act to ensure that those issues were addressed. Accordingly, the Opposition is not
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happy with the extension of time for two years until September 2001. We have not had the opportunity to draft an appropriate amendment to express the proposal that was put in the Legislative Council, namely, that there be a staged process for the awards to be reviewed.

To express our disapproval at the way the Government has handled this very important industrial relations issue we will vote against the clause. It is amazing that honourable members opposite, who claim to represent more than any other section in the community the trade union movement, are prepared to vote for this bill. What they are saying is that all the awards will simply pass over until the year 2001. Of the 800 awards, only five have been reviewed. So there are 795 awards outstanding. Issues of consequence to the trade union movement and the labour movement will be put on hold for another two years. That is what the honourable member for Rockdale, a former officer of the Finance Sector Union of Australia; the honourable member for Wollongong, a former member of the CFMEU -

Mr Markham: No, never. That is wrong.

Mr HARTCHER: He is a former officer of the miners federation, the ETU or some other left-wing union. He claims to speak for the workers in this Chamber. Buried away in the Courts Legislation Amendment Bill is a provision for the award structure of this State to be simply placed on hold for two years. The very important issues that were supposed to be addressed under section 19 will not be addressed. Two of the members present in the Chamber are the honourable member for Bligh and the honourable member for Southern Highlands. There is a total lack of interest by members opposite in addressing pay equity for women. How extraordinary! It bears repeating.

A political party that claims to represent the interests of the workers in this community is prepared to shove the whole issue of review of the award structure under the carpet for another two years when only five out of 800 awards have been reviewed. Members of the public would not be aware; it is buried in the second reading speech. The Industrial Relations Commission has not been given the resources for the review and there has been no impetus from the Department of Industrial Relations.

The Coalition will stand up for the employees and for women, who are entitled to have important issues such as pay equity addressed. We represent all of New South Wales - employers and employees, city and country. We represent every person in this State. We do not claim to have a sectional interest which we sweep aside when it suits us. The political party that claims to stand up for the injured and the disadvantaged is the one that has just rammed through a bill to reduce benefits to the injured and the disadvantaged. The political party that claims to represent the workers of this State is now prepared to slide through a bill which denies workers an effective award review system.

Why are awards reviewed? To keep them up to date and contemporary, to make sure that workers and employers can get the appropriate benefits that employers and employees together are creating. Yet the whole system is to be placed on hold for another two years. I will not labour the point any more. As a protest against a cynical Government and a poorly structured Government that fails to support the Industrial Relations Commission and fails to stand behind the award system the Opposition will vote against the clause.

I am surprised that the Labor Council is prepared to supinely allow this bill to simply slide through. The message needs to be sent that the Labor Council is not really trying to represent the workers of New South Wales. It is part of the vast bureaucratic structure that the trade union movement has become, one that suits and serves the interests of the Australian Labor Party. The Coalition rejects the proposal. We will support the women of this State in relation to pay equity. We will support the workers. There is only one party that looks after the workers and that is ours.

Mr WHELAN (Strathfield - Minister for Police) [8.25 p.m.]: That was a sabre-rattling and gripping speech by the honourable member for Gosford. The Attorney General gave the reasons for the Coalition amendment’s defeat by the Government and crossbenchers in the upper House. It had no validity. There is no need for me to reiterate what the Attorney said. The proposition was rejected by the Legislative Council and the Government rejects it now.

Question - That the clauses and schedules stand - put.

The Committee divided.

Page 1689
Ayes, 42

Mr Amery Mr McBride
Mr Aquilina Mr Markham
Mr Ashton Mr Martin
Mr Barr Ms Meagher
Mr Bartlett Ms Moore
Mrs Beamer Mr Moss
Mr Brown Mr Orkopoulos
Ms Burton Mr E. T. Page
Mr Campbell Mr Price
Mr Collier Dr Refshauge
Mr Crittenden Ms Saliba
Mr Gaudry Mr Scully
Mr Gibson Mr W. D. Smith
Mr Greene Mr Stewart
Ms Harrison Mr Watkins
Mr Hickey Mr Whelan
Mr Hunter Mr Woods
Mr Iemma Mr Yeadon
Mr Knight
Mr Knowles Tellers,
Mrs Lo Po’ Mr Anderson
Mr Lynch Mr Thompson
Noes, 24

Mr Debnam Mr Piccoli
Mr George Mr Richardson
Mr Hartcher Ms Seaton
Mr Hazzard Mrs Skinner
Ms Hodgkinson Mr Slack-Smith
Dr Kernohan Mr Stoner
Mr Kerr Mr Torbay
Mr McGrane Mr J. H. Turner
Mr Maguire Mr Webb
Mr Merton
Mr Oakeshott Tellers,
Mr O’Doherty Mr Fraser
Mr O’Farrell Mr R. H. L. Smith
Pairs

Ms Allan Mr Armstrong
Ms Andrews Mr Brogden
Mr Carr Mrs Chikarovski
Mr Debus Mr Collins
Mr McManus Mr Glachan
Mr Nagle Mr Souris
Ms Nori Mr Tink

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Clauses 1 to 3 and schedules 1 to 8 agreed to.

Bill reported from Committee without amendment and passed through remaining stages.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Bills: Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders

Mr WHELAN (Strathfield - Minister for Police) [8.36 p.m.]: I move:
    That standing and sessional orders be suspended to allow the following bills, which originated in the Legislative Council, to be passed through all stages at this sitting:
    Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill
    Offshore Minerals Bill.

Mr HARTCHER (Gosford) [8.37 p.m.]: The Opposition does not agree to the motion. There are a whole range of days available for Parliament to meet. It is appropriate that legislation be properly considered. There is no urgency -

Mr Whelan: These are all upper House bills.

Mr HARTCHER: I understand that. However, there is no urgency facing the State of New South Wales that causes the Government to rush these bills through tonight. If the Legislative Assembly is to have any role at all over the next four years, it must have the right to consider legislation. That is fundamental, and that is why I object to the suspension of standing and sessional orders. With due respect to the Minister, for him to say that the Opposition answered this point in the Legislative Council and therefore it is not necessary that we answer it here in the Legislative Assembly is not just an insult to the Legislative Assembly, it is an insult to the people of New South Wales who elected us. The Government might as well put a referendum at the September local government election to determine whether we retain the Legislative Assembly, because it simply will retain no function at all other than to be the ultimate rubber stamp. It will not even be the rubber stamp which passes legislation by the Government’s weight of numbers after debate; it will be the rubber stamp that passes legislation regardless of whether there is debate at all.

An important function of members of Parliament is to represent their electors in this place, and to ensure that their views are properly put to the Parliament. If the Parliament rejects those views, that is appropriate. On 27 March the Government gained a majority for its policy platform and program. But it surely has the responsibility to debate issues in the Parliament. Not one of the members opposite, however inattentive and facile they may appear now, would dare to go out to the electorate and say that Parliament should not debate
Page 1690
issues. They would not dare say to their branches that they believe there should not be proper debate or proper consideration of legislation in the Parliament.

On behalf of the Coalition I object to the motion. I am sure that if the honourable members representing the electorates of Bligh, Manly, Northern Tablelands and Dubbo were allowed to speak they also would object to the motion - not necessarily because they agree with us but because they believe that they have a role in this place, that they were sent here by their constituents, and that they have a duty, if they are to take their salaries in good faith, to represent them and present their arguments.

Accordingly, the Opposition does not agree to what the Minister is proposing and records its objection in the strongest terms. I will not call it the death of democracy, but it is an insult. The House could have sat at 12 noon or it could sit tomorrow or next week to provide opportunities for honourable members to consider the legislation properly, but the Leader of the Government was not prepared to do that and can only ask cynically why he should explain it when it has already been explained to the Legislative Council. That is not why honourable members are here, and the Leader of the Government knows that.

Motion agreed to.
CRIMES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL

Bill received and read a first time.
Second Reading

Mr WHELAN (Strathfield - Minister for Police) [8.41 p.m.]: I move:
    That this bill be now read a second time.

The Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill, just to put it into proper perspective, emanated from this Chamber. The Opposition agreed to it totally in this Chamber before it went to the Legislative Council for consideration, when the Government decided to give it better effect by changing it. It has returned to this House because of the independent authority and constitutional independence of Her Majesty’s upper House. When a bill is amended in the upper House it has to be confirmed in the lower House, the people’s House. There has been wide-ranging discussion. If the Government did not want to amend the bill, it would be at Government House to be signed by the Governor and honourable members would not have known anything about it. It is a separate issue.

Mr Hazzard: You should not have amended it.

Mr WHELAN: This bill has already been through the Legislative Assembly, as I have affirmed. It was considered in the Legislative Council on 23 June. There was one amendment, which has been referred to. The bill reflects the Government’s ongoing commitment to monitor the criminal justice system in order to identify areas where improvements can be made and anomalies removed. This process would be difficult, if not impossible, without the valuable suggestions and observations of those who work closely with the administration of justice in this State. In particular, amendments in this bill have been prompted by the Commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the Director of Public Prosecutions, a crown prosecutor, the Law Society and various courts’ administrators. I take the opportunity to thank them for their contributions.

I turn now to a detailed consideration of the provisions of the bill. Schedule 1 to the bill amends the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 to enable a summons or warrant to be issued for a child who has failed to comply with an outcome plan arising out of a youth justice conference held under the Young Offenders Act 1997. This amendment applies only to conferences that have been ordered by the Court under section 33 (1) (c1) of the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act.

Schedule 2 makes a number of amendments to the Crimes Act 1900. Firstly, the definition of "agent" for corruption offences contained in part 4A of the Crimes Act is amended to make it clear that a local government councillor is considered to be an agent. The councillor is an agent of the local council to which he or she has been elected or appointed. This amendment arises out of a recommendation made by the Commissioner for the Independent Commission Against Corruption in the report on the commission’s investigation into the conduct of a former alderman of Fairfield City Council. The amendment will ensure that local government councillors can be prosecuted for corruption offences under part 4A of the Crimes Act.

Amendments are also made to part 15A of the Crimes Act in relation to interim apprehended violence orders. The clerk of a Local Court or the registrar of a Children’s Court will be permitted to make interim apprehended violence orders in situations where the complainant and the defendant
Page 1691
consent to the interim order being made. The amendment specifies that the court is not to conduct a hearing in relation to consent orders. Currently, interim consent orders must be made by a magistrate. These amendments streamline the procedure for obtaining an interim apprehended violence order for both complainants and defendants. Neither party will be disadvantaged by these proposals. If a defendant does not wish an interim order to be made, he or she will still be able to contest the application before a magistrate in the usual manner.

Two minor drafting amendments are made to the provisions in the Crimes Act. The first amendment will ensure that the language used in sections 61O and 61N is consistent. This amendment will make it clear that all aggravated acts of indecency can be prosecuted under 61O. Second, amendments are made to section 77 of the Crimes Act, which provides that consent is not a defence to certain sexual offences committed against children, except in limited circumstances. Consent is a defence if the child was over the age of 14 at the time of the alleged offence and the person charged had reasonable cause to believe, and did in fact believe, that the child was of or above the age of 16 years.

Correct interpretation of this section currently requires recourse to the Interpretation Act 1987. This amendment will avoid that cumbersome process. The amendment will make it clear that a child is considered to be over the age of 14 years when the child is of or above the age of 14 years. This will ensure that the wording of section 77 is consistent with the drafting terminology contained in other sex offence provisions in the Crimes Act. Schedule 3 amends the Justices Act 1902. The amendment makes it clear that requirements relating to the service of summary briefs of evidence apply to indictable offences dealt with summarily under part 3 of the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987.

Schedule 4 amends the Young Offenders Act 1997 to make it clear that a record of a warning given to a child is inadmissible in any proceedings before the Children’s Court. This is because the warning is recorded in the police officer’s notebook whether or not the child admits to the offence or would have been found guilty of the offence. It is therefore inappropriate to include the warning on the child’s criminal record. This concludes my detailed discussions of the provisions of the bill. The bill contains a number of changes that are necessary for the better functioning of the criminal justice system in New South Wales. This bill is indicative of the Government’s ongoing commitment to the constant review and improvement of all aspects of the administration of justice in this State.

Mr HARTCHER (Gosford) [8.47 p.m.]: The Opposition does not oppose this legislation, nor did it oppose it when it went through the House earlier. However, I need to reinforce that it is appropriate that members have the chance to examine it and, if they wish to express views, to express those views. That is why they are in the House. I am grateful, therefore, that the Minister saw fit to make an appropriate second reading speech rather than seeking to table it, and I am grateful that I now have the opportunity to speak. I should not have to be grateful. The Government should acknowledge that as a basic right. But in the interests of making clear that I do not want to waste time and that the Opposition does not oppose the legislation, I will say no more.

Mr WHELAN (Strathfield - Minister for Police) [8.47 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable member for his contribution.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
OFFSHORE MINERALS BILL

Bill received and read a first time.
Second Reading

Mr WHELAN (Strathfield - Minister for Police), on behalf of Mr Woods [8.49 p.m.]: I move:
    That this bill be now read a second time.

The Offshore Minerals Bill arose from an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States as provided for in the Offshore Constitutional Settlement of 1979 that there should be common offshore exploration and mining legislation. This bill mirrors the Commonwealth legislation and applies from the low-water mark out to three nautical miles. Common legislation for the offshore waters of Australia will ensure that exploration and mining proposals in both Commonwealth and State waters will be dealt with in the same way. The bill has been passed through the Legislative Council with amendment to strengthen the environmental provisions and to ensure that the setting of royalties is prescribed by way of regulation. No explorational mining can take place in aquatic reserves or marine parks. In addition, it should be noted that the
Page 1692
Environmental Planning and Assessment Act will continue to apply offshore as it does onshore. In particular, the need for an environmental impact statement will still be required and the capacity for a public inquiry is maintained. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr J. H. TURNER (Myall Lakes) [8.51 p.m.]: This bill was introduced in this House over a year ago but because of the intransigence of the former Minister for Mineral Resources he would not yield in any way to well-reasoned and well-thought-out amendments - which are now in the bill - which were primarily formulated by the Opposition. At that time the former Minister made a great song and dance about this bill. He supposedly reported me to the headmaster - the then Federal Minister for Mineral Resources, Warwick Parer - who shrugged off the nonsense put forward by the Minister. We agree with these amendments.

The amendment relating to the setting of royalties by the Parliament, which we were particularly keen to see included in this legislation, has been accepted by the Minister. We were not about to give the former Minister or any Minister an open-ended chequebook. We are not really sure whether the setting of royalties by the Parliament will work in a democratic way because of the arrogant manner in which the Government has treated this Parliament tonight. A year has just gone by because of the bloody-mindedness of the former Minister. The Opposition has now achieved what it set out to do. The Opposition supports the bill.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
STATUTE LAW (MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS) BILL

Bill returned from the Legislative Council with amendments.
In Committee

Consideration of the Legislative Council’s amendments.
Schedule of amendments referred to in message of 1 July
    No. 1 Page 28, schedule 1.24, lines 6-16. Omit all words on those lines.
    No. 2 Page 29, schedule 1.24, lines 8 and 9. Omit all words on those lines.

Legislative Council’s amendments agreed to on motion by Mr Whelan.

Resolution reported from Committee and report adopted.

Message sent to the Legislative Council advising it of the resolution.
PARLIAMENTARY CONTRIBUTORY SUPERANNUATION FUND
Appointment of Trustees

Mr WHELAN (Strathfield - Minister for Police) [8.53 p.m.], by leave: I move:
    That in accordance with section 14 (1) (B) of the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Act 1971, the following members be and are hereby appointed as trustees of the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Fund: Mr Crittenden, Mr Debnam, Mr J. H. Turner, Mr Whelan and Mr Mills.

I omitted to move that motion when motions were moved to appoint members to various committees.

Mr HARTCHER (Gosford) 8.54 p.m.]: The Opposition supports the appointment of the new members of the fund. I simply flag that this whole issue of members’ entitlements, which are interrelated to the superannuation issue, must be resolved. All we have so far before us are media reports, other than the tabling of the report of the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal, which will not be adopted by the Government. So members of Parliament continue to be in limbo as to what are their entitlements or positions. That is not appropriate. No employee in New South Wales should be left in that situation. It is important that, at some stage, the Government indicates just what its proposals are in respect of members’ entitlements.

Motion agreed to.
BILLS RETURNED

The following bills were returned from the Legislative Council without amendment:
    Federal Courts (State Jurisdiction) Bill
    Gas Supply Amendment (Safety) Bill
    Home Building Amendment Bill
    Liquor and Registered Clubs Legislation Further Amendment Bill
    Registration of Interests in Goods Amendment Bill
    Roads Amendment (Transitways) Bill
    Survey (Geocentric Datum of Australia) Bill

[Mr Speaker left the chair at 8.56 p.m. The House resumed at 9.31 p.m.]

Page 1693
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Days and Hours of Sitting

Mr WHELAN: A quick assessment of the Legislative Council reveals that honourable members are still involved in the second reading debate of the Local Government Amendment (Amalgamation and Boundary Changes) Bill. A large number of speeches are to be made. I believe that there are a modest 47 amendments to the proposed legislation. With that in mind, I suggest that my early prognosis that we could resume at 10.30 p.m. was wrong.

Mr Hartcher: Another lie.

Mr WHELAN: We were going to have to resume after the ringing of another long bell.

Mr Hartcher: We voted against that.

Mr WHELAN: No, the Opposition did not. This House will sit tomorrow. Mr Speaker, I now ask you to leave the Chair and resume at 2.00 p.m. tomorrow. I hope that, at that stage, members of the Legislative Council will have completed their consideration of the Local Government Amendment (Amalgamations and Boundary Changes) Bill.

Mr SPEAKER: I shall now leave the Chair until the ringing of one long bell at 2.00 p.m. on Friday.

[The Speaker left the chair at 9.32 p.m.]
______
Friday 2 July 1999

[Continuation of Tuesday’s sitting.]

[The House resumed at 2.00 p.m.]
BILLS RETURNED

The following bills were returned from the Legislative Council without amendment:
    Appropriation Bill
    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
LOCAL GOVERNMENT AMENDMENT (AMALGAMATIONS AND BOUNDARY CHANGES) BILL

Bill returned from the Legislative Council with amendments.
In Committee

Consideration of the Legislative Council’s amendments.
Schedule of amendments referred to in message of 2 July
    No. 1 Page 6, Schedule 1. Insert after line 8:
      (3) For the purpose of examining a joint proposal of 2 or more councils for the amalgamation of two or more areas under section 218A, the Boundaries Commission or Director-General, as the case requires, must seek the views of electors of each of those areas:
        (a) by means of:
          (i) advertised public meetings, and
          (ii) invitations for public submissions, and
          (iii) postal surveys or opinion polls, in which reply-paid questionnaires are distributed to all electors, or
        (b) by means of formal polls.
      (4) The period over which the views of electors are to be sought as referred to in subsection (3) must be a period of at least 40 days.
      (5) Part 3 of Chapter 4 applies to a formal poll taken by the Boundaries Commission or Director-General in the same way as it applies to a council poll referred to in that Part.
    No. 2 Page 6, Schedule 1, line 10. Insert ", or that is an amalgamation proposal (as defined in section 218G)," after "it".
    No. 3 Page 6, Schedule 1, lines 26 and 27. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:
      but may not do so if of the opinion that the modifications constitute a new proposal.
    No. 4 Page 7, Schedule 1. Insert after line 17:
      (2) An order under this section may not be made in respect of a council unless the council has resolved to seek the making of such an order.
    No. 5 Page 9, Schedule 1. Insert after line 8:
      (2) An order under this section may not be made in respect of a council unless the council has resolved to seek the making of such an order.
    No. 6 Page 10, Schedule 1. Insert after line 31:
      (2A) Reasonable public notice must be given of the holding of an inquiry under subsection (2).
    No. 7 Page 11, Schedule 1, lines 1-5. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:

Page 1694
      (2A) Despite subsection (2), the Boundaries Commission must hold an inquiry for the purpose of exercising its functions in relation to a proposal for the amalgamation of two or more areas that has been referred to it in accordance with section 218F.
    No. 8 Page 11, Schedule 1. Insert after line 5:
      [10] Section 263 (3) (e1)-(e5)
      Insert after section 263 (3) (e):
      (e1) the impact of any relevant proposal on the ability of the councils of the areas concerned to provide adequate, equitable and appropriate services and facilities,
      (e2) the impact of any relevant proposal on the employment of the staff by the councils of the areas concerned,
      (e3) the impact of any relevant proposal on rural communities in the areas concerned,
      (e4) in the case of a proposal for the amalgamation of two or more areas, the desirability (or otherwise) of dividing the resulting area or areas into wards,
      (e5) in the case of a proposal for the amalgamation of two or more areas, the need to ensure that the opinions of each of the diverse communities of the resulting area or areas are effectively represented,

Mr WHELAN (Strathfield - Minister for Police) [2.02 p.m.] I move:
    That the Legislative Council’s amendments be agreed to.

Mr J. H. TURNER (Myall Lakes) [2.03 p.m.]: The Opposition does not oppose the amendments. However, Opposition members were concerned, until negotiations were carried out with members in the upper House, about the powers of the Minister for Local Government to order compulsory amalgamations. Clearly, that is not the intention of the legislation. Because of the diligence of the shadow minister for local government that draconian measure was omitted from the legislation.

Mr HARTCHER (Gosford) [2.04 p.m.]: The Local Government Amendment (Amalgamations and Boundary Changes) Bill is an interesting bill as it reveals the lack of bona fides of the Australian Labor Party. This legislation was designed to ensure that there would be -

Mr THOMPSON (Rockdale) [2.05 p.m.]: I move:
    That the question be now put.

The Committee divided.
Ayes, 39

Mr Amery Mr Lynch
Mr Aquilina Mr Markham
Mr Ashton Mr Martin
Mr Bartlett Mr Moss
Mrs Beamer Mr Nagle
Mr Brown Mr Orkopoulos
Ms Burton Mr E. T. Page
Mr Campbell Mr Price
Mr Collier Dr Refshauge
Mr Gaudry Ms Saliba
Mr Gibson Mr Scully
Mr Greene Mr W. D. Smith
Mrs Grusovin Mr Stewart
Ms Harrison Mr Tripodi
Mr Hickey Mr Whelan
Mr Hunter Mr Woods
Mr Iemma Mr Yeadon
Mr Knight Tellers,
Mr Knowles Mr Anderson
Mrs Lo Po’ Mr Thompson
Noes, 26

Mr Barr Mr Richardson
Mr Brogden Mr Rozzoli
Mr Debnam Ms Seaton
Mr Hartcher Mrs Skinner
Mr Hazzard Mr Slack-Smith
Ms Hodgkinson Mr Stoner
Mr Humpherson Mr Tink
Dr Kernohan Mr Torbay
Mr Kerr Mr J. H. Turner
Mr McGrane Mr Webb
Ms Moore
Mr Oakeshott Tellers,
Mr O’Doherty Mr Fraser
Mr Piccoli Mr R. H. L. Smith
Pairs

Ms Allan Mrs Chikarovski
Ms Andrews Mr Collins
Mr Carr Mr Glachan
Mr Debus Mr Maguire
Mr McManus Mr O’Farrell
Ms Meagher Mr D. L. Page
Ms Megarrity Mr Souris
Ms Nori Mr R. W. Turner

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Legislative Council’s amendments agreed to.

Resolution reported from Committee and report adopted.

Message sent to the Legislative Council advising it of the resolution.

Page 1695
MINING AMENDMENT BILL

Bill received and read first time.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Bill: Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders

Mr WHELAN (Strathfield - Minister for Police) [2.19 p.m.]: I move:
    That standing and sessional orders be suspended to allow:
    (1) the Mining Amendment Bill, which originated in the Legislative Council, to be passed through all stages at this sitting; and
    (2) consideration of any amendments to the bill to be dealt with in Committee by the Chair proposing one question: "That the amendments be agreed to" and for consideration of the clauses and schedules of the bill to be dealt with in Committee of the Whole in globo.

Mr HARTCHER (Gosford) [2.20 p.m.]: This is yet another suspension of the standing and sessional orders. The mining industry, which is a great industry in this State, is supported by the Coalition parties and employer and employee groups. There is no need for the Government to ram this legislation through. Everyone is prepared to consider it in a fair way. The legislation was greatly supported by the Labor Council of New South Wales, of which every single member of the Government is a supporter, and it was supported by Peter Sams, who is President of the New South Wales division of the Australian Labor Party and secretary of the New South Wales Labor Council. That is the same Peter Sams who made threatening telephone calls to an employee of the member for Parramatta in an attempt to get her to withdraw allegations in an affidavit. That is the same person who is now a member of the Industrial Relations Commission in this State.

Mr Whelan: Point of order: The honourable member for Gosford is straying from the leave of the motion.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I uphold the point of order.

Mr THOMPSON (Rockdale) [2.21 p.m.]: I move:
    That the honourable member for Gosford be not further heard.

The House divided.
Ayes, 39

Mr Amery Mr Lynch
Mr Aquilina Mr Markham
Mr Ashton Mr Martin
Mr Bartlett Mr Mills
Mrs Beamer Mr Moss
Mr Brown Mr Nagle
Ms Burton Mr Orkopoulos
Mr Campbell Mr E. T. Page
Mr Collier Dr Refshauge
Mr Gaudry Ms Saliba
Mr Gibson Mr Scully
Mr Greene Mr W. D. Smith
Mrs Grusovin Mr Stewart
Ms Harrison Mr Tripodi
Mr Hickey Mr Whelan
Mr Hunter Mr Woods
Mr Iemma Mr Yeadon
Mr Knight Tellers,
Mr Knowles Mr Anderson
Mrs Lo Po’ Mr Thompson
Noes, 26

Mr Barr Mr Richardson
Mr Brogden Mr Rozzoli
Mr Debnam Ms Seaton
Mr Hartcher Mrs Skinner
Mr Hazzard Mr Slack-Smith
Ms Hodgkinson Mr Stoner
Mr Humpherson Mr Tink
Dr Kernohan Mr Torbay
Mr Kerr Mr J. H. Turner
Mr McGrane Mr Webb
Ms Moore
Mr Oakeshott Tellers,
Mr O’Doherty Mr Fraser
Mr Piccoli Mr R. H. L. Smith
Pairs

Ms Allan Mr Armstrong
Ms Andrews Mrs Chikarovski
Mr Carr Mr Collins
Mr Debus Mr Glachan
Mr McManus Mr Maguire
Ms Meagher Mr O’Farrell
Ms Megarrity Mr D. L. Page
Ms Nori Mr Souris

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Question - That the motion be agreed to - put.

The House divided.

Page 1696
Ayes, 39

Mr Amery Mr Lynch
Mr Aquilina Mr Markham
Mr Ashton Mr Martin
Mr Bartlett Mr Mills
Mrs Beamer Mr Moss
Mr Brown Mr Nagle
Ms Burton Mr Orkopoulos
Mr Campbell Mr E. T. Page
Mr Collier Dr Refshauge
Mr Gaudry Ms Saliba
Mr Gibson Mr Scully
Mr Greene Mr W. D. Smith
Mrs Grusovin Mr Stewart
Ms Harrison Mr Tripodi
Mr Hickey Mr Whelan
Mr Hunter Mr Woods
Mr Iemma Mr Yeadon
Mr Knight Tellers,
Mr Knowles Mr Anderson
Mrs Lo Po’ Mr Thompson
Noes, 27

Mr Barr Mr Piccoli
Mr Brogden Mr Richardson
Mr Debnam Mr Rozzoli
Mr Hartcher Ms Seaton
Mr Hazzard Mrs Skinner
Ms Hodgkinson Mr Slack-Smith
Mr Humpherson Mr Stoner
Dr Kernohan Mr Tink
Mr Kerr Mr Torbay
Mr McGrane Mr J. H. Turner
Mr Merton Mr Webb
Ms Moore Tellers,
Mr Oakeshott Mr Fraser
Mr O’Doherty Mr R. H. L. Smith
Pairs

Ms Allan Mr Armstrong
Ms Andrews Mrs Chikarovski
Mr Carr Mr Collins
Mr Debus Mr Glachan
Mr McManus Mr Maguire
Ms Meagher Mr O’Farrell
Ms Megarrity Mr D. L. Page
Ms Nori Mr Souris

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Motion agreed to.
MINING AMENDMENT BILL
Second Reading

Mr WHELAN (Strathfield - Minister for Police), on behalf of Mr Woods [2.39 p.m.]: I move:
    That this bill be now read a second time.

As this bill was introduced in the other place on Wednesday 23 June, the second reading speech appears at pages 20 and 21 of the Hansard proof for that day. The second reading debate took place on Thursday 1 July and appears in the Hansard proof for that day. The bill is in the same form and has been amended in a minor way. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr J. H. TURNER (Myall Lakes - Deputy Leader of the National Party) [2.40 p.m.]: The Opposition does not oppose the bill. I want to place on record the incompetence of the Minister in the other place and the Minister for Police. If this bill had not gone through today - and there was no guarantee that we were going to get it through today - all exploration in New South Wales would have been stopped. The mining industry in this State could no longer have operated. That is intolerable from a Minister who should know what is going on. To make matters worse, he also neglected to consult the industry in any way on this issue. In a recent letter to the Minister, the Minerals Council said it was surprised that the bill was introduced without prior consultation. I hope we are not seeing a repeat of the performance of the previous Minister who held the mining portfolio. The mining industry is far too important to the State of New South Wales to have this sort of incompetence put upon it.

Mr HUMPHERSON (Davidson) [2.41 p.m.]: As Government members are well aware, the Government has no -

Mr THOMPSON (Rockdale) [2.42 p.m.]: I move:
    That the question be now put.

The House divided.
Ayes, 39

Mr Amery Mr Lynch
Mr Aquilina Mr Markham
Mr Ashton Mr Martin
Mr Bartlett Mr Mills
Mrs Beamer Mr Moss
Mr Brown Mr Nagle
Ms Burton Mr Orkopoulos
Mr Campbell Mr E. T. Page
Mr Collier Dr Refshauge
Mr Gaudry Ms Saliba
Mr Gibson Mr Scully
Mr Greene Mr W. D. Smith
Mrs Grusovin Mr Stewart
Ms Harrison Mr Tripodi
Mr Hickey Mr Whelan
Mr Hunter Mr Woods
Mr Iemma Mr Yeadon
Mr Knight Tellers,
Mr Knowles Mr Anderson
Mrs Lo Po’ Mr Thompson

Page 1697
Noes, 27

Mr Barr Mr Piccoli
Mr Brogden Mr Richardson
Mr Debnam Mr Rozzoli
Mr Hartcher Ms Seaton
Mr Hazzard Mrs Skinner
Ms Hodgkinson Mr Slack-Smith
Mr Humpherson Mr Stoner
Dr Kernohan Mr Tink
Mr Kerr Mr Torbay
Mr McGrane Mr J. H. Turner
Mr Merton Mr Webb
Ms Moore Tellers,
Mr Oakeshott Mr Fraser
Mr O’Doherty Mr R. H. L. Smith
Pairs

Ms Allan Mr Armstrong
Ms Andrews Mrs Chikarovski
Mr Carr Mr Collins
Mr Debus Mr Glachan
Mr McManus Mr Maguire
Ms Meagher Mr O'Farrell
Ms Megarrity Mr D. L. Page
Ms Nori Mr Souris

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Question - That this bill be now read a second time - put.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
SPECIAL ADJOURNMENT

Mr WHELAN (Strathfield - Minister for Police) [2.50 p.m.]: I move:
    That this House at its rising today do adjourn until Tuesday 7 September 1999 at 2.15 p.m.

Mr HARTCHER (Gosford) [2.51 p.m.]: Mr Speaker -

Mr THOMPSON (Rockdale) [2.51 p.m.]: I move:
    That the question be now put.

The House divided.
Ayes, 39

Mr Amery Mr Lynch
Mr Aquilina Mr Markham
Mr Ashton Mr Martin
Mr Bartlett Mr Mills
Mrs Beamer Mr Moss
Mr Brown Mr Nagle
Ms Burton Mr Orkopoulos
Mr Campbell Mr E. T. Page
Mr Collier Dr Refshauge
Mr Gaudry Ms Saliba
Mr Gibson Mr Scully
Mr Greene Mr W. D. Smith
Mrs Grusovin Mr Stewart
Ms Harrison Mr Tripodi
Mr Hickey Mr Whelan
Mr Hunter Mr Woods
Mr Iemma Mr Yeadon
Mr Knight Tellers,
Mr Knowles Mr Anderson
Mrs Lo Po’ Mr Thompson
Noes, 27

Mr Barr Mr Piccoli
Mr Brogden Mr Richardson
Mr Debnam Mr Rozzoli
Mr Hartcher Ms Seaton
Mr Hazzard Mrs Skinner
Ms Hodgkinson Mr Slack-Smith
Mr Humpherson Mr Stoner
Dr Kernohan Mr Tink
Mr Kerr Mr Torbay
Mr McGrane Mr J. H. Turner
Mr Merton Mr Webb
Ms Moore Tellers,
Mr Oakeshott Mr Fraser
Mr O’Doherty Mr R. H. L. Smith
Pairs

Ms Allan Mr Armstrong
Ms Andrews Mrs Chikarovski
Mr Carr Mr Collins
Mr Debus Mr Glachan
Mr McManus Mr Maguire
Ms Meagher Mr O’Farrell
Ms Megarrity Mr D. L. Page
Ms Nori Mr Souris

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Motion for the special adjournment agreed to.
House adjourned at 2.59 p.m. until Tuesday 7 September 1999 at 2.15 p.m.