Wednesday 13 November 2002
Mr Speaker (The Hon. John Henry Murray)
took the chair at 10.00 a.m.
offered the Prayer.
ELECTION FUNDING AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from 31 October.
(Ku-ring-gai) [10.00 a.m.]: The Opposition does not oppose this bill, which seeks to vary slightly the arrangements under which electoral funding payments are made after an election campaign. The Act allows payments to be made directly to candidates. The bill provides an option under the electoral funding mechanisms for candidates to opt, if they so desire, to have payments made directly to their party. A candidate can elect to receive those public funds directly after a campaign or direct them to his or her party if he or she represents a party. It is a voluntary provision and has an opt-out clause. It also requires the consent of the candidate. Of course, the option can be varied from election to election.
This is a sensible amendment. It does not increase the funding available to candidates, reduce the accountability of candidates and political parties in applying for funding, or weaken the public interest in relation to election funding in this State. However, in the past decade or so people have been elected to Parliament representing a particular party and subsequently have changed allegiance or become Independents and unseemly arguments have ensued about election funding returns. If this option had been available, in many of those instances we would have avoided the heartache, concern and the bad reputation that resulted for parties and candidates. The Opposition supports the bill as a sensible measure to protect the public interest in this regard.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
CRIMES AMENDMENT (SCHOOL PROTECTION) BILL
Debate resumed from 31 October.
(Ku-ring-gai) [10.05 a.m.]: This bill is the attempt by Government to improve security around schools in the face of an apparent increase in violence. The legislation includes four offences in the Crimes Act. First, a person who assaults, stalks, harasses or intimidates staff or students on school property without causing bodily harm will be guilty of an offence and a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment will apply. Second, a person who assaults, stalks, harasses or intimidates a member of staff or a student entering or leaving school property for the purpose of school work or duty will be guilty of an offence for which a maximum of five years imprisonment will apply. Third, a person who assaults staff or students on school property causing actual bodily will be guilty of an offence for which a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment will apply. Fourth, a person wounding or inflicting grievous bodily harm on a teacher or student on school property will be guilty of an offence that will carry a maximum penalty of 12 years imprisonment.
The Opposition supports this legislation. It represents the Government's belated recognition of a problem in our school system. Members on this side of the House have been critical, particularly in this term of Parliament, about the level of violence in and around our schools. Notwithstanding the fact that the Minister has had this portfolio for just on a year and that within that year he has produced this legislation, the Carr Government has been in power for 7¾ years, the problem has become worse and this is its first concerted effort to tackle the issue.
I am concerned about the culture within the Department of Education and Training that seeks to downplay the issue of violence in our schools. I have first-hand experience of that culture. A very short time ago an incident occurred at Killara High School in my electorate. A gang of youths entered the school grounds in a blue Mercedes allegedly to deal with students at the school. A teacher saw them entering the school property and intervened. He was hit on the head with an iron bar for his trouble. If he had not averted his head, he might have had far more serious and life-threatening injuries. The perpetrators have yet to be caught. Our problem is that this legislation, however well meaning and supported by the community, is an attempt to send a message about violence in schools, but it closes the gate after the horse has bolted. The Opposition's argument is that we need to be far more proactive in dealing with violence in schools and we must employ a range of options to address these issues. We must not deny that a problem exists or seek to cover up problems.
As the local member I sought information about the incident at the Killara High School and was told that the Department of Education and Training has a policy not to comment publicly about such incidents. The only reason I was inquiring was that parents were ringing my office and I wanted to be able to tell them something meaningful about the incident, the status of the injured teacher and, most importantly, what steps were being taken to avoid a repetition of the incident. The parents were concerned about the fact that the teacher did not have a mobile phone and was not in contact with the central school office or the police. There seemed to be a breakdown in communication. However well intentioned these initiatives are, until the department and schools are prepared to be upfront with the community about violence in schools we will never be able to solve the problem. We get nowhere in life by denying that problems exist; we must face up to them and be upfront with school communities and the wider community.
I make the point—as has been made in this House previously—that we have had cause to be concerned about increasing violence within our schools. Indeed, the Opposition has released figures indicating that the number of assaults in government schools that were serious enough to be reported to police had soared by more than 120 per cent between 1995 and 2001. As a result of the Opposition's release of that information, essentially, the Department of Education and Training stopped compiling it. At that stage the Department of Education and Training compiled the information and we had to use freedom of information legislation to obtain it. I would argue again that that is a symptom of a department not prepared to deal openly and honestly with an issue of critical significance to teachers and students and parents who support our public schools. In fact, the response from the department was that that sort of information was no longer being compiled in that form and therefore could not be provided to the Opposition under freedom of information legislation. We were told by one of the Minister's officers that:
... on 20 March 2002, the Minister for Education and Training, the Hon. John Watkins MP, announced a new, comprehensive plan to provide independent reporting to the public about school discipline and safety.
The letter went on to say that the "plan will provide for the delivery of independent, six-monthly reports" on violence and safety within schools. This letter from one of the Minister's advisers said that the Minister made that statement on 20 March 2002. I acknowledge the presence of some students in the public gallery. I know that our fine public schools teach students to count and that we have some of the highest levels of numeracy and literacy in the world, as the Minister is wont to tell us. However, more than seven months on, we have yet to see one of those independent reports on this issue, which is critical to parents, students and teachers in New South Wales.
Forgive me for being cynical, but once again we have an example of the Carr Government simply trying to hush up an important issue in advance of an election campaign. I use the opportunity provided by this debate to ask the Minister: Where is the first report? It is now seven months since the Minister made that statement. It is seven months since the Minister promised six-monthly independent reports. I would like to see those reports. I know that parents, teachers and students would like to see those reports so that we can consider legislation like this against the background of what is actually happening within our schools.
Along with the Minister, I was present last Friday at an education forum jointly sponsored by the University of Technology, Sydney and the Daily Telegraph
. One of the contributors to that forum was the headmistress of Abbotsleigh school, Mrs Judith Wheeldon. In her remarks Mrs Wheeldon commented upon the issue of violence in schools. I simply place some of her comments on the public record. Mrs Wheeldon, in speaking to the forum, said:
In 1993 I took sabbatical leave as principal of another school. I was to study technology and the education of gifted and talented students. What I learned most about was the terrifying growth of violence in American schools.
She went on to say:
Returning from this trip I spoke in public forums, wrote articles and testified to a NSW Parliamentary Committee investigating violence in children's lives. I predicted that we would face violence in our own schools. Impossible, said most people.
Mrs Wheeldon went on to say:
Tensions did increase and violence did come to our schools... Gang rivalry has become in places gang warfare and no one can blithely consider train travel to be safe for students any more. There are transport interchanges and train stations that are notorious for thefts, threats, assaults and drugs. Our children are often frightened in school and travelling between home and school.
Experienced teachers do not need Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to know that a child cannot learn until she/he feels safe and secure. Neither can the teacher teach in an atmosphere of threat and violence... Our ability to educate our children is under threat.
You know violence is a real presence in our schools. I do not need to give examples. We face serious consequences unless we take the steps urgently needed to stop it. I feel like Cassandra, the prophet who was not believed until it was too late.
That is the experience of a fine educator in New South Wales. It is an experience of more than nine years. This experience was related to an education forum held at News Ltd last Friday by someone who nine years ago sounded the tocsin in relation to violence in our schools and who, nine years on, is concerned about what has happened and the lack of response. I say again, in the best possible spirit, that I acknowledge the Minister has been responsible for the education portfolio for only 12 months, and I acknowledge that in his first 12 months as Minister he is putting forward legislation that seeks to deal with the issue. But I say again that the Opposition is concerned that this measure may, at least in part, be about being seen to be doing things rather than seeking to achieve outcomes. This simply closes the gate after an event has occurred.
It is important to indicate one of the options that the Liberal and National parties have highlighted we would like to trial in relation to the issue of violence in our schools. We know that in certain parts of this city and this State there are high schools that have an endemic school violence problem. We know this from the figures that we have received from the Minister's department. And the Minister and his officers will know this from the figures that they have but do not share with others. People in the Department of Education and Training, in schools, in the police service and in the communities surrounding those schools are endeavouring to deal with the problem. The Liberal and National parties believe that New South Wales should follow the lead of a number of other States. Those States, I hasten to add, have Labor governments and have implemented this policy. They have trialled a program of police presence in selected high schools to see whether the stationing of police in those schools can assist in dealing with this issue.
A Liberal-National government would immediately undertake a pilot of a police in high schools initiative, a measure that has already been successfully implemented in Queensland and Western Australia. Under the trial a police officer would be stationed at each of 10 high schools across New South Wales selected as being most at risk. The primary goal of the initiative would be prevention, but just having police in schools would be a tremendous deterrent to gang activity developing. The aim of the Liberal and National parties is to keep drugs, knives and gangs out of high schools, and to keep teachers and students safe in those schools. We want to bridge the gap between the police service and the school community so that our young people in particular will have the confidence to pass on information about gang activities in and around their schools.
This is a serious issue, and not one that relates solely to education. We need to encourage and strengthen the ability of young people to blow the whistle on those in our society who, through gangs and other antisocial behaviour, seek to impact detrimentally upon the lives of students, against those who seek to profit through theft and drug abuse and sales. We need to protect young people from such gangs. As members of society and as members of Parliament, we must do everything we can to encourage young people to be prepared to blow the whistle on this issue and not to live in fear and be afraid to do so, because at the end of the day fear helps those who would prey upon the goodwill of others within our society. I do not intend to delay this debate. I have said to the Minister previously, and I say to him again, the Opposition supports the bill. We may quibble that whilst it is a measure, it is only one measure, and it is a measure coming from a Government that has a very poor track record in this area.
I turn to specific issues on which I would appreciate the Minister's advice. We may have to consider these issues when the bill is presented to the upper House. I am not in the business of amending legislation; indeed, I believe legislation should be passed as quickly as possible. However, it would be remiss of me not to draw the Minister's attention to these issues. I am pleased that the legislation will apply to preschools, as covered by the definition set out in the legislation. However, what is the situation in relation to TAFE colleges, training colleges and universities? Clearly the legislation could equally apply to those educational institutions, notwithstanding that, given the ages of the students, it may be far more difficult to apply, and with some offences it is difficult to draw lines around some educational institutions and not others.
I raise the issue of home harassment of school staff, which unfortunately can occur in today's society. For the benefit of the honourable member for Murray-Darling—I know he has a wide association with schools in his electorate, particularly given his background—home harassment of school staff can be a serious problem in rural and remote communities. In those areas it is difficult not to know where a teacher lives, and it is not uncommon for a vendetta or feud, whether it be by outsiders to the school or members of the school community—
The honourable member for Murray-Darling mentioned Wilcannia. Other schools in north-western New South Wales have been brought to my attention where vendettas have been pursued to teachers' homes. I accept that the vendettas can range from eggs being pelted at homes to the more severe acts of violence. I ask the Minister how the issue of home harassment of school staff will be addressed.
I conclude on a far more difficult issue: that of volunteers in our schools. We all know that schools in both the public education system and the non-government sector could not achieve the fine outcomes they achieve and could not offer the fine courses they offer without the involvement of a range of volunteers. Those volunteers include the mentors I met at Gorokan High School a few weeks ago through to the magnificent parents and others who assist with reading classes, but they also include people who volunteer to assist with sporting classes and the like at local schools. I would be concerned if those people, who are also integral to the school system but are not paid staff, somehow fell between the cracks of this legislation. I would appreciate the Minister's response on those issues. As I have said, the Opposition supports the intent of the legislation, encourages the Government to use a wider range of options and, above all, urges the Minister to encourage his department to address the entire issue with far more transparency and accountability than we have seen to date.
(Ryde—Minister for Education and Training) [10.23 a.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai for his contribution to the debate. I also take this opportunity to thank those who have contributed to community consultation on the bill. I acknowledge the presence in the gallery of representatives from six schools in my electorate; it is appropriate that they are here. I welcome to the Parliament the principals, parents and students from Ryde Public School, St Kevin's at Eastwood, West Ryde Public School, St Charles Primary School at Ryde, North Cross Christian Community School at Ryde and Ermington Public School.
In the past two weeks since the bill was introduced, my office has had the benefit of the input of a number of interested members of the broader education community. I thank the Secondary Principals Association, the Federation of School Community Organisations, the Commissioner for Children and Young People, the Catholic Education Commission, the Council of Catholic School Parents, the Association of Independent Schools, the Parents Council, the Federation of Parents and Citizens Organisations, Trinity Catholic College and the Independent Education Union, amongst many others who have taken an interest in the development of this legislation.
As foreshadowed in the second reading speech, the Government will move amendments in the Legislative Council as a result of community consultation on the bill, and the definition of "a school" will be clarified. Further issues will be clarified to ensure that staff provisions apply to authorised volunteers, a matter raised by the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai. Volunteers on school grounds who are recognised by the school community and subject to the direction of the principal or authorised staff members should be deemed to be staff members for the purposes of this proposed new division of the Crimes Act. The application of the provisions will be clarified to ensure that they apply to all schools and school premises as defined by the bill.
As currently drafted, the bill could be construed to contain some clauses applying to schools and only one clause applying to school premises, being places used by schools outside the regular school grounds. A number of other points were raised during the consultation period, which I will briefly cover today. In that context I emphasise that I will ask the Attorney General to have his department review the operation of the bill after a period of 12 months, the purpose being to examine the legislation in light of the operation of the bill, its general impact and its effectiveness.
I have received representations concerning the bill's application to situations of serious bullying. The Government has given this issue serious consideration. Whilst it is not the intention that the bill specifically apply to curb bullying, it is a consequence of the drafting that a bully who assaults a student may well have committed a serious criminal offence as prescribed under the bill. Equally, a bullying incident could be prosecuted under the current law. The potential outcome is the difference. The consequences could be more severe, with the stronger penalty provided for by the bill.
Stronger penalties are the intention of the bill. Severe consequences will flow for violent criminal behaviour impacting upon the operation of our schools. Honourable members would be well aware that the courts, particularly the Children's Court, take into account when passing a sentence the facts of the offence and the circumstances of the offender. It is my view, and that of the Government, that an attempt to quarantine bullying violence would add confusion and only act to undermine the intention of a positive, strong new law.
It would not be good public policy to attempt to excise bullying from the bill. The argument for an attempt to exclude bullying could be that juvenile justice considerations mean we do not load up the existing sanctions for young offenders. The argument against such an attempt is that we should not send a message to bullies that they will be let off lightly. On balance, bullying is usually contained within schools, unless a serious assault occurs and police are called in. Police should be called when criminal activity is suspected.
My office raised the issue at the most recent meeting of Task Force Var, the joint police-education task force to address school security. Police officers present indicated that excising bullying from the bill could clearly send the wrong message. Violence perpetrated against young people by young people—those who are deemed at law to be capable of forming a criminal intention—will be the subject of serious sanction under this bill. However, the bill is not aimed specifically at young people; it is aimed at criminals. On the whole, it is generally opportunistic older offenders who use the vulnerability of a school as a place to behave violently. The penalty level allows the offence to be heard on indictment. I am aware that this is serious, but I believe it is appropriate. Another issue of drafting has been raised with me, and I am examining the issue further in considering whether we should amend the bill. Concern has been raised that the terminology "stalk, harass or intimidate" may not be appropriate for the school setting. These words were drawn from the words used in section 60, the assault police provision, and are consistent with them.
An argument that the school community is different and not conducive to such a broad range of offences carrying an indictable penalty is one that I must consider. Should we criminalise young people who harass other young people? Already this may constitute an assault at law, depending upon the elements and the level of harassment. However, the day-to-day life of a school community may mean that trivial complaints are made relating to these proposed offences, which is something we want to avoid. Naturally we could leave this to the court to decide, but conversely we do not want to trivialise series offences and waste the court's time. However, we must balance that with the potential for a serious criminal to enter our schools to stalk, intimidate or harass a teacher, staff member, or student.
The Commission for Children and Young People, the Federation of School Community Organisations, and the Independent Education Union have expressed views on this issue. I am considering these, and I will seek further advice before the bill reaches the Legislative Council. Intimidating, stalking, and harassing can certainly be serious, and this becomes a matter for evidence before the courts. However, we will consider ways of ensuring that serious offences receive a serious response at the same time as ensuring we do not encourage criminalisation of trivial matters. A number of submissions asked direct questions that I will not have the opportunity to respond to directly here. However, all of them have been considered.
One concern raised by the New South Wales Parents Council was whether the amendments open up an avenue for a crime if the rules of a sport are wilfully contravened and physical injuries are incurred. It is an insightful question and one that would be resolved by way of evidence in terms of the intent of the perpetrator. The Secondary Principals Association raised with my office, as did the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai, whether a TAFE campus could be included. The reason TAFE campuses are excluded is that they are a different entity. Generally, they have a security guard presence and are more open to movement throughout the campus. In fact, a TAFE campus almost encourages movement through it. TAFE campuses are also the venue for more senior and mature students, even when secondary students attend. For those reasons the bill will not apply to a TAFE campus.
The honourable member for Ku-ring-gai raised other matters. Home harassment of school staff is still of concern. Part 14A of the Crimes Act deals with apprehended violence orders. Assault provisions already in existence also apply. The bill does not take away from any of that, but it does something different: it recognises that our schools are special places and deserve special protection. The honourable member for Ku-ring-gai also said that the bill is the first concerted attempt to tackle violence in schools. We have been working on that throughout the year. We convened forums of committee members, parents, and police in April and August. We established a Safety and Security Directorate within the department. We have set up a schools response group. We have established task force Var, a standing task force involving representatives of police, education, and the non-government sector. The bill must be seen in the context of all the measures we have put in place.
The honourable member for Ku-ring-gai referred to the public reporting of some of these issues, and we will do that. Professor Andrew Gonsci is currently working on that. The honourable member referred to Mrs Wheeldon, who spoke at the forum last Friday. At the end of the forum I said publicly that I agreed with half of what she said and disagreed strongly with the other half. The half I disagreed with related to some of her conclusions about violence in schools. They simply did not accurately describe the situation in New South Wales. I know she has been to the United States and I know she has seen violence in that context. But that is not New South Wales in 2002. I am happy to have that debate with Judith Wheeldon or anyone else.
The Opposition's plan for police in schools would marginalise some schools and ignore others. We have a statewide, systemwide approach for the Safety and Security Directorate. We have 2,200 public schools in New South Wales and between 800 and 1,000 non-government schools. The Opposition's plan is for 10 police to monitor 3,000 schools. They will be exhausted! How would those schools be chosen and how would the police officers operate within them? The incidents of violence from outside that are coming into our schools generally happen on the extremities of the school grounds, at the school gate.
I know of one school that has six gates from which children leave at the end of the school day. If only one policeman is allocated to that school, which gate would the officer patrol? What bus queue would the officer supervise? Most of the violence that happens in and around schools is opportunistic and happens all of a sudden, like most violence in our community. One policeman cannot protect students and teachers of one school. It will not work. We need a systemwide, co-ordinated approach, and that is what we have been putting in place.
I accept the bona fides of the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai and a lot of what he said in this Chamber today. But, overwhelmingly, our schools are safe places. They are the safest places for our children. We have violence in certain parts of New South Wales, and sometimes that violence comes into our schools. It is wrong to put this debate in the context of schools being violent places that need to be attended to. Our schools are special, precious places that must be defended. We must stop the violence from coming into our schools from outside. That is the intention of the bill.
We must recognise our schools as special places and our teachers and students as special people. There is nothing more precious in New South Wales than the 800,000 children in our school system today. These places and people must be protected, which is why the Government introduced the legislation. It is simply and grievously wrong to suggest that our schools are unsafe: They are not. They are good, safe places where our children should be, and where they should feel safe. The intention of the bill is to assist and recognise schools. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
WORKERS COMPENSATION LEGISLATION COMPLIANCE FUNDING
Consideration of the Legislative Council's message of 31 October.
(Strathfield—Parliamentary Secretary) [10.38 p.m.]: I move:
(1) That, in accordance with section 42B (4) of the Workplace Injury Management and Workers Compensation Act 1988, this House approves funds being provided for an additional period of two years to fund the provision of claims assistance by organisations representing employers or employees to help them assist their members understand and comply with the new workers compensation and occupational health and safety legislation.
(2) That a message be sent informing the Legislative Council of the resolution.
Section 42 of the Workplace Injury Management Workers Compensation Act 1988 enables WorkCover to provide financial assistance to employer associations and registered unions for a period of one year to help them assist their members understand and comply with the new workers compensation and occupational health and safety legislation. This financial assistance has been provided under the WorkCover Assist program. On 30 October copies of a report on the administration of the WorkCover Assist program were tabled in the Legislative Council and made available to the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly offices. The report showed that the program has been very successful. Section 42B of the Act stipulates that WorkCover can provide financial assistance for a further period of two years if both Houses of Parliament pass a resolution before 1 January 2003. On 31 October 2002 members of the Legislative Council, including the Leader of the Opposition and cross bench members, resolved to extend the funding for a further two years.
In accordance with the Council's request, the Minister moved in the Legislative Council that that House pass a resolution pursuant to section 42B (4) of the Workplace Injury Management Workers Compensation Act 1988 to approve funds being provided for an additional two years to fund the provision of claims assistance by organisations representing employers or employees to help them assist their members understand and comply with the new workers compensation and occupational health and safety legislation. I provide that information for abundant clarity for the benefit of members so they can appreciate that the Government, and the Minister in particular, have responded very positively to this call by the Leader of the Opposition and the crossbenchers in the upper House to support the proposition. For that reason, on behalf of the Minister in the other House, I have moved the motion and I look forward to a continuation of goodwill and support by the Opposition on this matter.
(Gosford—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [10.41 a.m.]: We are all familiar with the old phrase "a nice little earner", and if ever there were a nice little earner it is this one. When the Government was trying desperately to get its legislation through in the face of the determined opposition of the trade union movement—and I am sure, Mr Speaker, you remember that day, as indeed the Leader of the House will, when the Premier slunk into the House through the cellars of the State Library—it offered its little sop: five million bucks a year to be given to the trade union movement to fund the so-called education programs. I acknowledge the presence of the Leader of the House because I am just about to quote him. The Leader of the House attempted to verbal the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council by saying that when this came before the Council on 31 October he supported it. What the Leader of the Opposition said was quite clear: the Coalition will revisit the matter in March next year when it is in government.
How did he vote?
He said, "We will revisit it next year when we are in government next March."
Wringing his hands at the responsibility.
He gave you six months. He did not give you two years. Your motion was for two years, and we did not divide on it. The Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council went on to say, "This is worthwhile and we will monitor the distribution of the funds." That is the real point, is it not? The real point is: Where was the money going? Which trade unions were getting their little share of the cut to keep them quiet? This was hush money intended to keep certain trade unions quiet, and it was a device to make sure there was not too much public disquiet about the money if a certain amount of it went to employer organisations as well. It was hush money for certain unions, and who was the big beneficiary?
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union [CFMEU]. The CFMEU was getting its little share of the money, getting its share of the proceeds as part of the program to keep the unions quiet: keep the CFMEU quiet, or we will have a demonstration out in Macquarie Street again.. So we have $5 million a year of publicly funded money going from WorkCover to the unions and, just to make it look even-handed, some of it going to the employer organisations as well. Consistent with what the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council said, we will support this program until March. That is why I formally move:
That the motion be amended by leaving out the words "two years" in paragraph (1) with a view to inserting instead "six months."
As the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council said, we will support it until March and no longer. The CFMEU is the great little gravy train grabber in this State, as revealed by the federal royal commission into the building industry. At every level the CFMEU is in there with its little fingers trying to prise the pie open to get some more. This program gave it even more. Did the Leader of the House table a schedule of payment under this bill?
No, no schedule of payments was tabled, because the CFMEU got three bites of the cherry, according to information given to me. This left-wing union got three grants of money and—
It also goes to employer groups.
It goes to employer groups too? Yes, very even-handed. The employer groups did not ask for it; the employer groups were not lining up for it, the unions were lining up for it, and it was hush money. The were told, "Keep quiet. Don't demonstrate in the street. Let the legislation go through. Don't complain about the workers who are missing out on their rights, and there will be a little pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for you." Well, time is up. We are not going to indulge in these sorts of games. This State urgently needs money for so many projects and what do we constantly hear: "Where is the money coming from?" I will tell you where some of the money is going; $5 million a year is going to the CFMEU. That would pay the salaries of an extra 100 police for one year, but that is where $5 million goes under this Government.
The Treasurer can talk about costing Opposition promises and ask where the money is coming from. Well, there are hundreds of programs like this all through his budget, and if we are pledging to employ an extra 100 police, there is $5 million to employ them. We are going to go through the Treasurer's programs and we are going to find all these little tidbits here and there, these little sweet lollies that have been flung to the trade union movement in the best traditions of rorting by the Australian Labor Party. Many of them will fund projects that the Coalition looks forward to exposing post-2003. They are being exposed one by one.
We saw what happened when the unions demonstrated in Macquarie Street in 2001. We saw what a sad day that was for democracy in this State. We saw the way the Parliament was rorted. We saw the way the Premier indicated, with his two-fingered salute, his contempt for his own core constituency. We saw his own cowardice as he slunk through the car park and through the cellars, and yet he expected his members of Parliament to march in phalanx behind the Leader of the House, who was then Minister for Police, who was himself behind a large phalanx of police bodyguards. We saw all that, and we have also seen these minor pay-offs along the way. This motion is not supported. The Coalition insists on its amendment so that the motion will be on foot, as the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council said, only until March 2003.
(Strathfield—Parliamentary Secretary) [10.48 a.m.], in reply: I am at a loss to understand why the Opposition has moved the amendment. I take the point raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, but I point out the folly of his amendment. If the provision of funds were to expire in six months, it is true to say that by then the New South Wales election will have been concluded. The honourable member is suggesting that if the Coalition is elected to government in March next year the provision of funds could be reviewed at the expiration of six months. If the Coalition is elected to government—and that is a matter of judgment for the people of this State—the Coalition will have the opportunity to rescind the legislation or take any other action it chooses. I cannot see the benefit of the amendment. I ask the Opposition to reconsider it. I note that in the Legislative Council the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Michael Gallacher, stated:
The project is worth while and we are happy to support it. Up to this time, from all accounts it appears to be working well.
He also stated:
Honourable members have had an opportunity to study the report tabled by the Minister in the past couple of days. It is fair to say that there will be pretty much a 50:50 distribution between employer representatives and employee representatives.
I cite these extracts so that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition might consider them in the context of his amendment. The Leader of the Opposition also stated:
The Coalition will revisit the matter in March next year when it is in government. The project is worth while and we will monitor the distribution of the funds.
The Leader of the Opposition gave the Hon. John Jobling an ironclad guarantee. The point I make is that there must be certainty in the resolution. Everybody agrees that this is a very worthwhile project. I remind the Opposition that the resolution passed by the upper House provided funding for two years, and that the resolution was agreed to by the Opposition. If the Coalition happens to win the next election—which, as I indicated, is a matter for the people—the Coalition Government can take whatever action it sees fit.
The Opposition would be aware that it will lose the vote on the amendment in this Chamber, and that pressing for the amendment serves no purpose other than to create slight uncertainty in the resolution that was presented by the Government and passed in the upper House. The resolution was agreed upon by both Houses of Parliament, but, apparently because of a change of mind, the certainty of the resolution is being attacked by this unnecessary amendment.
Question—That the words stand—put.
The House divided.
Ms AllanMr Aquilina
Mrs Lo Po'
Mr E. T. Page
|Mrs Perry |
Mr W. D. Smith
Mr D. L. Page
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr R. H. L. Smith
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
SUPERANNUATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL
SUPERANNUATION LEGISLATION FURTHER AMENDMENT BILL
Bills introduced and read a first time.
(Charlestown—Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development), on behalf of Mr Aquilina [11.04 a.m.]: I move:
That these bills be now read a second time.
The Superannuation Legislation Amendment Bill and the Superannuation Legislation Further Amendment Bill implement a number of proposals affecting the New South Wales public sector superannuation schemes. The bills amend the Superannuation Act 1916, State Authorities Superannuation Act 1987, State Authorities Non-contributory Superannuation Act 1987, Police Regulation (Superannuation) Act 1986, First State Superannuation Act 1992, Judges' Pensions Act 1953 and Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Act 1971. Honourable members would be aware that before amendments to the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Act 1971 can be passed in the Legislative Assembly, the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal must have certified that the amendments are warranted. I am pleased to advise that following his assessment, such certification has been provided by the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal, His Honour Judge Boland.
I will now provide a summary of the amendments contained in the Superannuation Legislation Amendment Bill. A number of the amendments contained in this bill accommodate Commonwealth changes that prescribe the manner in which ownership of superannuation benefits may be divided on marriage breakdown. The Commonwealth requires all superannuation funds to comply with the new rules from December this year. This bill also provides for the transfer of certain deferred benefits as they arise from the State Authorities Non-contributory Superannuation Scheme—also know as SANCS, or the 3 per cent scheme—to First State Super. Other amendments in the bill create regulation-making powers so that the surcharge cap which exists in the New South Wales public sector defined benefit schemes can be adjusted to reflect possible changes by the Commonwealth to the maximum superannuation surcharge rate, and to address inequities in the way the surcharge cap is applied.
The bill also introduces three reforms that are specific to the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Scheme. The first of these reforms will ensure that members are not entitled to superannuation benefits under the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Scheme whilst they are serving as members of Parliament. This is consistent with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Superannuation Scheme, and reflects general community expectations about parliamentary superannuation arrangements. The second set of amendments addresses an anomaly associated with the eligibility that members with combined Commonwealth and New South Wales parliamentary service of seven or more years have to a pension. Current provisions cannot always accommodate these members and they may be unable to purchase sufficient service with their lump sum Commonwealth superannuation benefit to qualify for a New South Wales pension.
The bill enables members who have at least seven years parliamentary service to also use other money to purchase sufficient service so they can qualify for a New South Wales parliamentary pension. The final reform to the parliamentary scheme reflects some minor changes to the actuarial investigation and reporting requirements, which were recommended by the Government Actuary. These amendments, which are supported by Treasury, will ensure that triennial actuarial reports are more useful to the Government and in line with standard actuarial practice. The bill also extends the circumstances in which pensions may be paid to spouses in all the schemes so that in certain situations pensions may be paid where the relationship commenced after the member's retirement. Currently, spouse pensions can only be paid if the relationship commenced before the member's retirement.
Finally, the bill also amends the Judges' Pensions Act to ensure that superannuation guarantee requirements for certain judges are met. I now propose to describe in more detail each of the amendments in this first bill. The Commonwealth requires the new rules for the division of superannuation on marriage breakdown to apply to all superannuation funds from December 2002. The bill amends the First State Superannuation Act 1992 to facilitate implementation of the Commonwealth requirements. The amendments will allow a separate interest in First State Super to be created for the member's spouse once the court has made orders, or the parties have agreed, on a division of the superannuation. Amendments to other New South Wales public sector superannuation legislation will be required, but these other schemes are defined benefit schemes and the application of the Commonwealth requirements to them is very complex. These amendments will be dealt with in a separate bill.
The Superannuation Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous) Act 2001 transferred 97,000 or so SANCS deferred benefits to First State Super [FSS]. This bill transfers SANCS benefits that have become deferred since then, and provides for the transfer of SANCS benefits that become deferred in the future. As with the original transfer, these transfers will only apply in respect of those members who do not also have a benefit in one of the closed New South Wales public sector schemes. The amount standing to the member's credit in SANCS will be transferred to a new or existing FSS account for the member, without alteration.
The reasons for the transfer remain the same as for the earlier transfers, that is, it is sensible for deferred SANCS benefits, which are accumulation-style accounts, to be transferred from a defined benefit scheme to an accumulations scheme such as First State Super, where they can be administered with other accumulation accounts. The transfer will benefit members as First State Super offers a choice of five investment strategies, whereas investment choice is not available in SANCS. The proposed provisions are consistent with the objectives of the earlier transfers in simplifying the administration of New South Wales public sector superannuation arrangements and providing scheme members with investment options.
I turn now to amendments intended to address the way in which the Commonwealth superannuation surcharge tax applies to New South Wales public sector employees and parliamentarians. Currently, New South Wales Acts require the superannuation scheme trustees to reduce members' benefits by an amount of Commonwealth surcharge tax which is payable at the time the benefit is paid. The maximum amount by which a benefit can be reduced is limited to 15 per cent of the employer-financed benefit that accrued since the surcharge was introduced in 1996. This amount is known as the surcharge cap. The Commonwealth Government has announced that it proposes to reduce the maximum superannuation surcharge rate over three years, from the 15 per cent to 10.5 per cent.
The bill creates regulation-making powers so that the 15 per cent cap can be adjusted to reflect changes made to the maximum surcharge rate imposed by the Commonwealth. This will ensure that members of the public sector schemes are protected by a surcharge cap that accurately reflects possible Commonwealth changes to the surcharge rate. The regulation-making power also provides flexibility in addressing anomalies identified in the application of the surcharge cap. For example, when the surcharge cap provisions were originally introduced it was not known that the Australian Taxation Office could issue surcharge assessments two to three years after the assessment period. This means that some members exiting the scheme in that time would become directly liable for a surcharge that they otherwise might not have been required to pay.
I will now address the proposals affecting the parliamentary superannuation scheme. Under current provisions, serving members of Parliament who reach 65 years of age may elect to receive their benefit, and serving MPs who reach 70 years of age must be paid their benefit. The payment of superannuation benefits to MPs who are still in office is inconsistent with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Superannuation Scheme and with general community expectations. The bill amends these provisions so that members are not entitled to superannuation benefits under the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Scheme while they are serving as members of Parliament. The new measures will not be extended to serving members currently receiving benefits. Members of the New South Wales Parliamentary Superannuation Scheme must have seven years service to be eligible for a pension benefit.
Former members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Superannuation Scheme who become members of the New South Wales Parliament can purchase service in the New South Wales Parliamentary Superannuation Scheme using their lump-sum payment from the Commonwealth scheme. However, the amount of service purchased is determined by the cost of providing the New South Wales pension, not by the length of Commonwealth parliamentary service. This means that, currently, some New South Wales parliamentarians who have a combined Commonwealth and New South Wales parliamentary service of seven years or more may not qualify for a New South Wales parliamentary pension, because they were unable to purchase sufficient New South Wales service with their Commonwealth superannuation.
The bill enables members who will have combined Commonwealth and New South Wales parliamentary service of at least seven years also to use other money to purchase sufficient service to qualify for a New South Wales parliamentary pension. The amendment will not allow members to receive both Commonwealth and New South Wales parliamentary pensions. The Government Actuary recommended that several changes be made to the requirements for actuarial investigation and reporting. The reason for the changes is to ensure that triennial actuarial reports are more useful to the Government and reflect standard actuarial practices.
The changes that will be made include the actuary recommending that the contributions be paid to the fund for the three-year period to the next actuarial valuation, instead of the next 25 years, as is currently required; the actuary reporting on additional issues of assets, liabilities, membership, benefit payments, investment earnings, legislative changes, demographic changes, administration expenses and any other matters referred by the trustees or the Minister; and the Minister having the power to instigate interim investigations. In all schemes in which superannuation benefits are payable in the form of a pension, rather than a lump sum, benefits are also payable to the spouse of the member when the member dies, provided that the member and the spouse were in a relationship at the time of the member's retirement.
The bill extends the circumstances in which spouse benefits can be paid so that spouse benefits may also be paid when the relationship commenced after the member's retirement and existed for at least three years prior to the member's death, and there is or has been a dependent child of the relationship. If the relationship existed for less than three years at the time of the member's death, the benefit payable will be reduced on a pro rata basis.
Finally, the Courts Legislation Amendment Act 2000 amended the Judges' Pensions Act 1953 to provide for a lump-sum superannuation guarantee benefit, as required by the Commonwealth superannuation guarantee, for judges and acting judges not eligible for a pension. The superannuation guarantee has been in place since 1992 and transitional provisions in the amendments will ensure that judges' post-1992 service is recognised for calculating the lump sum. However, due to an oversight, the 2000 amendments did not cover judges or acting judges who ceased to be judges before the amendments commenced. Amendments in this bill to the Judges' Pensions Act 1953 will ensure that the New South Wales Government satisfies its obligations to provide superannuation guarantee entitlements for all judges and acting judges.
I shall now summarise the amendments contained in the Superannuation Legislation Further Amendment Bill. This bill facilitates the implementation of an agreement to allow certain police officers to retire early from NSW Police, in line with one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service. It will also facilitate the implementation of an industrial award providing new death and incapacity benefits to certain firefighters. The Government recognises the inherent dangers faced daily by firefighters in the performance of their duties. The award is expected to be finalised over the next few months, and will include significant benefits for firefighters who are killed or injured as a result of their work.
Other amendments in the bill will enable the trustees of the State Authorities Superannuation Scheme—known as SASS—to offer scheme members a new investment strategy that will provide greater protection from volatility in the investment markets. Finally, the bill contains amendments that provide for the transfer of certain deferred benefits in defined benefit schemes to First State Super. The proposed amendments will support other amendments in 2001 that enabled the transfer of similar accumulation-style benefits to First State Super. I propose now to describe in more detail each of the amendments in the Superannuation Legislation Further Amendment Bill.
As honourable members may be aware, one of the recommendations made by the police royal commission was that an opportunity be given for certain police officers to accept early retirement after 20 years of service. I have been advised by my colleague the Hon. Michael Costa, MLC, Minister for Police, that an agreement has been negotiated which supports this recommendation. Under the terms of the agreement, 300 officers will be able to commence early retirement over the next three years. The bill amends the eligibility criteria for disengagement benefits in the Police Regulation (Superannuation) Act 1986 so that officers who are at least 45 years of age but less than 55 years of age with 20 or more years of equivalent full-time service will be eligible to receive the benefit.
The Government recognises that the work of firefighters is inherently dangerous, and agrees that firefighters should be adequately compensated if they are injured or killed while carrying out their duties. Over the next few months the Government expects to implement new death and incapacity arrangements for firefighters. New death and incapacity benefits will become available for permanent and retained firefighters who are employed by New South Wales Fire Brigades, their spouses and their children. The new benefits will apply to all firefighters who would not already be entitled to pension benefits from the old State Superannuation Scheme if they were killed or incapacitated. The purpose of the amendments in this bill is simply to ensure that the award provisions can be implemented for firefighters who are members of First State Super or the State Authorities Superannuation Scheme.
Members of the State Authorities Superannuation Scheme have certain member-financed benefits. These benefits consist of the members' contributions plus investment earnings and, along with deferred benefits in the scheme, are subject to the performance of the investment market. The Government recognises that many members, particularly those close to retirement, would prefer to invest their benefits in a more conservative type of investment strategy. The scheme trustee is currently developing a cash-plus option in respect of member-financed benefits and deferred benefits. This option will offer members greater levels of capital security and less volatility in investment returns.
Members will be allowed to invest all or part of their benefits, and to switch between the cash-plus option and the investment mix that applies to the scheme as a whole. Amendments to the State Authorities Superannuation Act in the bill will make it possible for the trustee to implement this investment strategy. The amendments will also allow the trustee to offer additional investment options in the future, reflecting the trend in the superannuation industry towards greater investment choice for members with accumulation benefits.
Finally, the bill provides for the transfer of certain deferred benefits to First State Super. The benefits to be transferred will be those that have been deferred in the State Authorities Superannuation Scheme and the State Authorities Non-Contributory Superannuation Scheme—also known as SANCS, or the 3 per cent scheme. Benefits under these schemes are deferred when members cease employment in the public sector, and accrue with interest until they are paid. Although the benefits are currently maintained in the defined-benefit SASS and SANCS schemes, they are really accumulation style benefits like those in First State Super. It is more logical for these benefits to be administered with accumulation accounts in First State Super, and for members to have the benefit of the investment choice available in First State Super.
The proposed amendments will only apply to deferred benefits for former members who have already reached the retirement age applicable to the schemes and who therefore have no other entitlements under the schemes. The transfers are consistent with legislative amendments introduced in 2001 that enabled the transfer of other deferred SANCS benefits to First State Super, which offers members a range of investment options and, in many cases, has facilitated the consolidation of members' superannuation accounts. As with previous transfers, the full amount standing to the member's credit in SASS and SANCS will be transferred to the new or existing account for the member in First State Super, without alteration. I commend the bills to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr R. H. L. Smith.
DRIVING INSTRUCTORS AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from 31 October.
(Coffs Harbour) [11.22 a.m.]: I lead for the Opposition on this bill. I indicate, first, that the Opposition will not oppose the bill. We support the legislation. The bill was developed in consultation with the Australian Driver Trainers Association, the representative body of professional driving instructors in New South Wales, as well as the New South Wales Road Freight Advisory Committee. The Australian Driver Trainers Association represents more than 1,500 of the 3,033 registered driving instructors in New South Wales. This is a major industry, which is entrusted with the lives of tens of thousands of young and inexperienced drivers. Broadly speaking, the Opposition will support any measure that will, directly or indirectly, improve the safety of young people on our roads.
Deaths due to transportation-related crashes are higher in the 15 to 24 years age group than in any other age group. In 1998 young people in New South Wales aged from 17 to 25 years represented 16 per cent of all licensed drivers and riders, yet accounted for 30 per cent of all drivers or motorcyclists killed or seriously injured on our roads. Research shows that if learners are provided with a structured approach to their training and driving experience they are safer, more competent drivers and are involved in far fewer crashes. They are able to ensure that bad habits are nipped in the bud. My 16-year-old son, Angus, has his learners permit. It is the bane of his mother's existence. Any 16-year-old believes that a vehicle with any power should be utilised.
His mother and I keep him well and truly under the speed limit of 80 kilometres an hour, but on the piece of road that I travel daily he tends to think that the car can go around corners faster than anyone who has been driving for a number of years would think it can. As a result, for his birthday he was given a wad of driver training certificates to ensure that he does not pick up his mother's bad habits—or mine—and that he will become a competent driver. He has been driving on the farm since he was seven years old. He can drive a tractor, a motorcycle and a ride-on mower—although I cannot get him on that very often. Although he is a competent driver off the road, it is when he is on the road amongst other drivers that one can see the benefit of bad habits being prevented before they develop.
The vast majority of New South Wales driving instructors take their responsibility very seriously. The Opposition will support any move that will crack down on those irresponsible few. The Minister for Roads pre-empted the introduction of this bill earlier this year when he released stories in the media about a driving instructor who ordered a female learner driver to chauffeur four men to a railway station, one in the boot of a car. That is an absolute disgrace. Parents and young people need to be more confident that their driving instructors are safe, well regulated and professional. The Driving Instructors Amendment Bill has been introduced as a result of the review of the Act last year.
The review, the first undertaken since the Act came into force more than a decade ago, resulted in a number of recommendations, some of which are contained in this bill—namely, those that relate to the tightening of requirements on driving instructors and schools, including strengthening character checks and checks on criminal records of applicants by the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA], requiring driving schools to report allegations of improper conduct to the RTA, and introducing provisions to allow for temporary suspension of an instructor's licence while allegations are being further investigated.
The Parliamentary Secretary told the House in his second reading speech that each and every year around 50 complaints are received by the RTA from the general public, the most common of which related to sexual harassment, instructors being late for class, rudeness, impatience and inadequate instruction. Impatience I can probably understand. Given that, I am somewhat surprised that the Minister has not seen fit to introduce measures at an early stage relating to strengthening character checks, requiring driving schools to report allegations of improper conduct to the RTA, and introducing provisions to allow for temporary suspension of an instructor's permit while investigations into serious wrongdoings are being conducted.
An applicant for a licence is not eligible to be issued with a licence whilst serving a period of good behaviour under sections 16 (8) or 16A (7) of the Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Act, which may be granted as an alternative to suspension for a person who incurs at least 12 demerit points within the three-year period ending on the day on which the person last committed an offence for which the merit points have been recorded. The person may, after being served with a notice of licence suspension by the authority, but before the commencement of the period of suspension, notify the authority in a form approved by the authority that he or she elects, as an alternative to undergoing the suspension, to be of good behaviour for a period of 12 months from the day on which the licence would otherwise be suspended.
The bill contains grounds for refusal of an application and identifies the grounds for suspension or cancellation of a driving instructors licence if the authority is satisfied that the applicant is guilty of misconduct, which is defined in clause 3 (1) of the bill as being any conduct relating to sexual assault, sexual harassment, fraud or dishonesty, the commission of any offence involving dangerous driving or the commission of any offence involving assault.
The bill raises a number of questions, which I ask the Government to deal with. For example, on what grounds of misconduct will a licence be suspended or cancelled? How serious does a case of misconduct need to be for the RTA to cancel a licence? When a matter is reported by a driving school to the RTA, what happens to the case? The bill contains an amendment that requires driving schools to report allegations of improper conduct to the RTA, but it does not contain details as to the procedure the RTA will undertake on receipt of such allegations. Is that the end of the matter or will the RTA be required to go through proper police channels and report it? When it comes to serious allegations of misconduct relating to sexual assault and sexual harassment the RTA is not a law unto itself.
One of the options discussed in the review was the deregulation of the industry. I am glad, as I know the Australian Driver Trainer Association is, that the Government has decided not to divest itself of its responsibility for the regulation of an industry that is critical to the safety of both novice drivers and the New South Wales motoring public. Another of the recommendations resulting from the review of the Driving Instructors Act 1992 was that an industry code of practice be developed. I note that the Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Minister for Roads made no further mention in the second reading speech of the introduction of an industry code of practice. The Government should introduce such a code.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to deal with that matter in his reply. The Australian Driver Trainer Association has worked extensively to draft a code of practice that it believes will increase structure and delivery for novice drivers. Whilst it is extremely important that young and inexperienced drivers in New South Wales are instructed to the highest standards—and this bill goes some way to improving the standards of driving instructors—we cannot get away from the fact that the Minister responsible for the Act is also responsible for roads.
The Minister for toll roads.
Exactly, the Minister for toll roads. The Minister tells us that the toll money is going to country New South Wales, but his idea of country New South Wales is marginal seats on the Central Coast and in the Illawarra and the electorate of his friend from Bathurst. That is where the bridge toll money is going. The Minister crows about the huge amounts of money he puts into roadworks, but a fair amount of that is Federal money. The Government has further delayed the upgrade of road black spots on the North Coast. The deferral of those roadworks means that drivers drive off good sections of road onto poor sections of road, and that causes accidents.
I remind the Parliamentary Secretary that since the completion of major roadworks between Englands and Lions roads, which took twice as long as estimated, and the Raleigh deviation, the section of road in between, the Bonville and Pine Creek deviation, is claiming lives. A life was lost there last year. I have written to the RTA requesting that the speed limit be reduced to 80 kilometres per hour on that section of road. With the Chinderah bypass now complete, more B-double and other heavy vehicles use the Pacific Highway. When they travel along that section of the Pacific Highway on wet nights major accidents are a distinct possibility. In the lead-up to Christmas the traffic on the Pacific Highway increases exponentially. I call on the Government to take action about that section of road now.
Today in the Coffs Harbour Advocate
there is an article headed "Koalas force route change". The Minister delayed the commencement of the upgrade of that section of road from 2003 to 2005. Today he tells us another redesign will be undertaken. Whilst I fully support the need to protect our native wildlife—an under-road fauna crossing will be constructed for the 400 to 500 koalas that live in the Pine Creek State Forest—I believe this is yet another excuse to delay those roadworks. The finish of the Lions Road deviation is the most dangerous section of new roadwork that I have seen for a long time. There is a concrete barrier in the middle of the road and the road verges into two lanes heading north and converges into one lane heading south. The line markings are woeful. At the intersection travellers heading north head off to Sawtell or merge with traffic coming south from Sawtell.
On a wet night—and I admit we have not had much rain of late—there will be a major collision at that intersection. The semitrailer drivers do not know the road because they are used to travelling up the New England Highway. Already a local builder has been involved in a head-on collision. He had to be cut out of his vehicle. If there had been a passenger in his utility, the passenger would have been decapitated. A piece of timber went through the utility cabin where a passenger would have been sitting. That section of road is extremely dangerous. I have written to the RTA about it, and I am sure that the Minister would be well and truly aware of it.
I plead with the Minister and the Government to take action about this section of road now. Soon many young people will head up the coast for schoolies week. They can be trained extensively by driving instructors, but if they come across these black spots after travelling on good sections of road they will end up killing or severely injuring themselves and other people. Excessive speed does not have to be a factor in accidents; traffic congestion and the poor condition of the road may be factors. Since the allocation of major State and Federal funding for the Pacific Highway, I believe that the maintenance on the sections of road that are yet to be improved has been reduced. The shoulders of the road around the Pine Creek area are evidence of that.
On the section of Lions Road that I have already referred to, drivers come from a four-lane 100 kilometres per hour zone into a 90 kilometres per hour zone. They then hit this bad section of road and merge with other traffic. That section of road is an accident waiting to happen. Another problem is that when drivers leave Coffs Harbour the speed limit varies from 60 kilometres per hour to 70 kilometres per hour and then varies from 60 to 70, 100, 90, 80 and 100 kilometres per hour. If the RTA inspection point is operating at Pine Creek, the speed limit is lowered to 80 kilometres per hour. The variation in the speed limit is confusing, particularly for those who are on holidays, who are perhaps not concentrating and probably travelling at an excessive speed for the road conditions.
I ask the Government and the RTA to reassess the whole section from Lions Road right through to the Raleigh deviation. Major accidents have occurred and there have been a number of deaths at Pine Creek. I believe that if roadworks are not undertaken before Christmas, the Government will have blood on its hands. The Government delayed the commencement of the major roadworks at Bonville bypass and the Pine Creek realignment from 2003 to 2005. Then I read today that the Government is considering further alterations to the design to protect koalas. It seems that the roadworks will be delayed beyond 2005. We can give young people as much training as we like, but the road system must be adequate. The public liability legislation, which was brought before this House in the last sitting week, provides that government authorities will be exempt from liability. I have put the Government on notice that these sections of road are dangerous. The Government cannot exempt itself from liability if accidents occur in this area. It will be sued when someone is badly injured or killed. The problem is obvious, yet the Government seems to be sitting on its hands.
As a young man learning to drive, I had an opportunity to take a couple of lessons on a police driver training range at Adamstown in Newcastle. I ask the Government to consider introducing such a scheme. Most young drivers today, like my son, are given lessons by their parents to learn to drive correctly. They should be trained properly in all conditions, on skid pans and on gravel roads, so that when they encounter oil on the road they will know how to deal with the situation and not go for the brake. There is an emergency services driver training range at Armidale. When I saw it three or four years ago it was overgrown and rarely used. The Government could introduce driver training ranges in regional New South Wales. It should provide training for young drivers in dual-control cars to deal with situations they might experience on our roads. Motorcyclists are required to undertake a skills training test at John Paul College. If we can do that with motorcyclists, we can do it with all young and inexperienced drivers.
We already have one facility at New England; it would not take much to develop these facilities in regional New South Wales and in city areas. Young and inexperienced drivers could be required to spend at least some time in training that would present them with the worst conditions they could expect to encounter on the roads. If such a scheme were put to the private sector, it would become an income producer. Such a system would not only assist in general road safety, it would also save lives. I drove many miles when I lived at Moree, and in those days there were no speed limits in certain areas. On a couple of occasions the conditions were different because of dust on the road or whatever and I managed to escape from some tricky situations. I put that down to the training I received at Adamstown as a young man.
You have slowed down now.
probably have. In those days there were no speed limits.
That was a long time ago.
Yes, it was, but not as long as it was for the honourable member for Georges River. He is not faring well at all. Statistics are often quoted indicating that young drivers like to speed and they get into trouble as a result. Rarely do we see newspapers that do not contain articles about young people who have wrapped their cars around telegraph poles or hit other vehicles. Nine times out of ten, speed is the cause of the accident, along with adverse conditions. We must accept the fact that young drivers will speed when they think they are not being watched. We should improve road conditions and provide better training involving exposure to a broader range of circumstances. I know that suggestion will fall on deaf ears. However, we have a responsibility to ensure that young and inexperienced drivers are given the opportunity to improve their skills to a level that could save their lives. I commend the legislation to the House.
(Bankstown—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.44 a.m.], in reply: I thank the Opposition for its support of this important bill. I also thank the honourable member for Coffs Harbour for his contribution to this debate. The legislation introduces measures designed to ensure greater consumer protection for novices learning to drive with driving instructors. It also implements a number of effective accountability measures for driving instructors, keeping in mind consumer protection and rights. It also brings the legislation into conformity with national competition standards, which is something the Government has been aiming to do for some time. This legislation will be much more effective and efficient in addressing consumer needs and will focus on learner drivers.
The honourable member for Coffs Harbour made a number of points in support of the bill and raised some concerns that I will briefly canvass. The Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] has a comprehensive and effective complaint-handling mechanism. It audits driving skills effectively and thoroughly, and those audits can and do result in fines, suspensions or cancellation of licences. Penalties are applied at differing levels depending on the seriousness of the offence. The system works appropriately and this legislation ensures conformity. The honourable member also raised the important issue of police investigations. Of course, the RTA refers all serious allegations of misconduct to the police. That has occurred in the past and it will continue to occur.
I am advised that the Australian Driver Training Association [ADTA] and the RTA have commenced drafting a code of conduct. This is an important issue and the process must be undertaken effectively and thoroughly, and with the involvement of industry stakeholders. That is why the RTA has commenced drafting the code in consultation with the ADTA. The Government wants to ensure that the code works effectively for the industry. When it is assured of that by the stakeholders, the code will be implemented. The honourable member for Coffs Harbour spent some time commenting on government spending. The Government has spent record amounts over a number of budgets on roads, and particularly on regional and country roads. As the honourable member knows, black-spot funding has been dramatically increased this year. I suggest he remind his Federal colleagues that Commonwealth spending has been dramatically decreased. That is a real concern.
Madam ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Beamer):
Order! The honourable member for Coffs Harbour will come to order. He was heard in silence. I ask him to extend the same courtesy to the Parliamentary Secretary.
The Commonwealth Government is responsible for national roads and it has not honoured its commitments. That was apparent during my visits to a number of regional areas and, interestingly, in Coalition electorates. The Government's emphasis has been on strong and equitable support for all areas of New South Wales, and I have seen the results of that approach while travelling around the State. The country timber bridge program is a good example of the Government's commitment. The Sydney Harbour Bridge toll has dramatically increased funding for regional roads and allows city folk to help country folk. That approach is working in regional New South Wales and country mayors and the wider community applaud the fact that city people have reached into their pockets to fund the significant needs of country and regional road programs. The Government has upgraded roads with the funding collected through the toll, and the timber bridge program is a direct result of that. More importantly, country people have seen the dramatic results of this Government's focus on their needs.
Point of order: Although the Parliamentary Secretary is waxing lyrical about the amount of funding the State is—
Madam ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Beamer):
Which standing order has been breached?
The Parliamentary Secretary is misleading the House. The Pine Creek deviation is 100 per cent State funded and has been deferred for at least five years. It is a disgrace.
Madam ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Beamer):
Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Coffs Harbour will resume his seat.
I raise these points in the context that they were raised by the honourable member for Coffs Harbour. The AusLink proposal of the Hon. John Anderson moves responsibility back to the States, which is unreasonable and unfair, and all States have recognised that. Last week's dubious announcement about AusLink and what it means indicates that the Federal Government is walking away from its responsibility for regional road funding. That is an absolute tragedy. The Government will do its best to keep the Federal Coalition honest in its approach to road funding for country and regional areas. The people in those areas deserve the best in road funding, and they are getting the best through State Government funding, but that funding is not being reciprocated by the Federal Government.
Over the past year the Federal Government collected from taxpayers more than $12 billion in fuel excise. However, only $1 billion of it found its way into funding for our country and regional roads nationally. Where is the remaining $11 billion from fuel excise that should be going back into our country roads? It is just not there. The lack of funding is extremely apparent when one looks at our national highways and hears the cries of country folk about what the Federal Government is doing to address their needs. Unfortunately, the Federal Government has walked away from country people. The State Government will never do that. We will continue to voice the concerns of country people. However, we would like to do that in a bipartisan way so that rural and regional road funding needs are met in an equitable and reasonable fashion.
I am proud to boast that the State Government, despite its limited resources, has dramatically increased black spot funding. That funding has significantly addressed some of the concerns that members have raised today. But let us put these matters in perspective. If these concerns are to be raised, let the Federal Government show us the colour of its money so that rural and regional areas receive the road funding they deserve. The honourable member for Coffs Harbour spoke to the bill and I am pleased that it has received the support of the Opposition. The bill is an important initiative that will ensure the increased accountability of driving instructors and their industry. Importantly, the bill will greatly benefit the consumer, the learner driver, and I commend it to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
RAIL SAFETY BILL
Debate resumed from 31 October.
(Vaucluse) [11.53 a.m.]: I am delighted to finally have the opportunity to comment on this important bill. At the outset I indicate that the Opposition will not oppose the bill. In fact, we will ensure that its passage through both Houses is not delayed. However, we wish to highlight a number of concerns about rail safety generally, and specifically about the independence and powers of the safety regulators. We serve notice on the Government that if it does not amend the bill to improve the independence, powers and resources available to the safety regulators, a Coalition government will do so immediately after the coming State election.
I wish to thank a number of people for the assistance they have provided to the Coalition in assessing the bill. I thank Simon Miller, Carolyn Walsh and Garry Sergeant for their comprehensive briefings and comprehensive answers to our many questions. I also thank the Director-General of Transport for arranging a number of visits. I had the opportunity to view the virtual reality training centre at Petersham, together with Fiona Love, Tony and Chris. A visit was also arranged to the new signalling control centre at Sydenham, where Arthur Smith and Kevin Wright briefed me on the new facility and the way the system worked, which was extremely beneficial from my point of view. I thank all those involved in arranging those visits and briefings, and I also thank Rita Capuzza of head office for her efforts in arranging the visits.
The letter arranging those visits ruled out two further visits I had sought on behalf of the Opposition. Members of this House and members of the public will not be surprised to hear that the first visit that was denied to the Opposition was a visit to the manufacturer of the Millennium trains. The Government's refusal to allow the Opposition to visit that major project, which involves several hundred million dollar and has had a lot of problems over many years, indicates that the Government is not sincere about accountability.
The second visit that was denied to the Opposition was a visit to the monitoring centres for the closed-circuit television [CCTV] and help points across the rail system. As we all know, the help points were years late in delivery and the CCTV system simply does not work. There are 5,700 cameras across the State's railway stations. During his time in office the Minister for Transport has simply gone for a strategy of getting the maximum number of cameras into railway stations—and, I might add, the maximum number of press releases to highlight those cameras—but he did not go for an effective monitoring system of that security network. As a result, I understand that the cost of that project has blown out from the original $50 million to closer to $100 million, and it may well take a sum well in excess of that to make the system viable.
It is a matter of concern to me that the Government did not allow the Opposition to visit those monitoring centres to at least allow us, in good faith, to improve our understanding of the system, the problems that have emerged in recent years and the opportunities that may be available to remedy the problems. As I said, the denial of the visits to the manufacturer of the Millennium trains and the monitoring centres indicates that the Government is not sincere about being accountable for rail safety. The Minister had no option but to seek the Opposition's co-operation on this bill, and we are delighted to provide it. Rail safety in New South Wales is a critical issue, and I will highlight the reasons for that. Every single member of this House should share the objective of getting this legislation through the Parliament if we are to improve rail safety in New South Wales. As I said, the Opposition raises a number of concerns about various provisions of the bill and believes a number of aspects have not been sufficiently strengthened.
In the Minister's second reading speech he made the comment that "recent safety incidents such as Hexham and Bargo are of concern for me". Since the Minister made that comment, we could also add the accident at Galong, the accident at Cockle Creek and a vast number of other accidents, many of which I do not have details about because the Government has not released information about all rail safety incidents. I wish to contrast the Minister's statement with the statement of the Minister's spokesman earlier this year, who said, "We're of the view that the network is now as safe as it has been in 100 years." I raised objections to that statement at the time. I can understand that the Government feels that part of its job is to improve public confidence in rail safety, but it simply cannot issue a message that is clearly wrong.
We found in the ensuing months after that statement was made that there was one problem after another, one accident after another, one derailment after another. As the Rail spokesman and the Minister found, their credibility just simply evaporated in the middle of this year. They had no credibility on rail safety. Hopefully this bill will to some extent reintroduce some credibility for the rail system in New South Wales. The Minister referred in his second reading speech to the objects of the bill. He said:
The bill achieves four major ends to implement the legislative changes agreed to by the Government in response to the McInerney Inquiry: a new risk management based accreditation model; increased penalties and powers for enforcing Rail Safety; a new multi-tiered statutory framework for rail investigations and expanded drug and alcohol testing powers.
We endorse those objectives; they are good. The Minister was talking there about the draft bill, but obviously those objects are the main thrust of the final bill. The Minister also referred to Justice McInerney's report. He said:
This bill is the final step in the establishment of that framework and enacts the Government's response to Justice McInerney's report.
The Minister was talking about developing a rail safety framework in New South Wales which delivers the safety outcomes expected by passengers and the community while enabling operators to effectively run the system. There is no doubt about that. That is exactly what we are all trying to move towards. The Minister's statement that this is the final step in establishing that framework is good, and it enacts the Government's response to Justice McInerney's report, but again I ask the Minister: What is the status of compatible radios today? What is the status across New South Wales of one of the fundamental recommendations of the McInerney report, which is to ensure that all trains operating in New South Wales have compatible radio systems? Referring to the Rail Safety Regulator, the Minister said in his second reading speech:
The Regulator is accountable through the Director-General to the Minister for Transport. This model recognises that, ultimately, the public and you will hold me accountable for rail safety.
It is clear in the industry that a lot of people are unnerved by the conflict of interest between operational management and the reporting lines for the Rail Safety Regulator. This bill will not relieve that nervousness. A lot of people simply use the words "conflict of interest" without referring to the director-general. Their concerns relate to the structure, and they are the concerns that are discussed in some depth through the Glenbrook reports and, to some extent, in the Minister's second reading speech.
Even after reading all those reports, the bill and the second reading speech, a number of people still have concerns about that basic conflict of interest. I have to say that the Opposition shares those concerns. That is probably the first reason why I said we will amend this bill after the election. If the Coalition Government is elected, one of our first changes will be to this bill, to improve the independence, the powers, and the resources of the Rail Safety Regulators. The last sentence of the Minister's speech that I quoted was:
This model recognises that, ultimately, the public and you will hold me accountable for rail safety.
I want to show you how insincere that statement is. On 31 May 1995 the Minister for Transport—at that time he was the Minister for Small Business and Regional Development, Minister for Ports, and Assistant Minister for State Development—spoke about the Ports Corporatisation and Waterways Management Bill, and I remember his enthusiasm that day. There was much euphoria, with all these new Ministers introducing bills. I have had one section of his speech on my wall for eight years and, it will be there for another four months until this Minister and this Government goes. He said:
An integral part of our reform agenda is the reintroduction of ministerial responsibility and accountability. The Government believes—
being the Carr Government—
that, so long as it is responsible for managing assets on behalf of the people, it should remain answerable, through its Ministers, for the competent management of those assets.
That was a wonderful speech for Minister Scully to start his ministerial career with, but over the past eight years the theatrics have been truly extraordinary and some Ministers—I must say with some style—have got away with squeaking out of their Ministerial responsibilities by whatever weasel words they chose to use at the time. Minister Scully was not one of them. Minister Scully, who was schooled by Minister Knight in how to deal with these sort of public issues of accountability to the people of New South Wales, ineptly went through press conference after press conference carpeting his senior bureaucrats.
Eventually most of them were sacked and I understand that there has been a considerable movement of staff through the departments. But have we got better accountability today after the removal of umpteen senior bureaucrats? No, because we have got the same Minister who made that statement back on 31 May 1995 and who had no intention whatsoever of sticking with it. Whether it is rail, blow-outs in road funding, or any other issue this Minister has dealt with, he has been insincere.
That is the second reason why I have real difficulty with this legislation. At face value it has good intent, but when you go through it in detail you begin to doubt whether the Government will live up to the expectations of the people of New South Wales when it comes to rail safety. Thankfully it will only be four months until the State election. The Minister said further in his second reading speech:
The new public reporting requirements will ensure accountability and promote vigilance and public scrutiny of both the activities of the Regulator and the broader industry.
That is another promise of delivering accountability through this bill, and I say again that it is simply not going to happen. There are a couple of reasons why I do not think it is going to happen, and they go back to the core issue of secrecy and cultural problems within the Carr Government and especially within Rail: this culture of cover-up, denial, and obsessive secrecy. There is no doubt in my mind that, regardless of the introduction of this bill, rail safety in New South Wales is still being undermined by obsessive secrecy. We have a number of examples of that. It was simply a matter of luck that no-one was killed or injured when a freight train derailed and hit Cockle Creek station on Saturday. It was not the first time we have been lucky in New South Wales, especially this year.
Cockle Creek was the latest in a series of rail accidents this year and although there was extensive damage, thankfully no-one was killed or seriously injured. Continuing derailments and rail accidents are worry enough, but, combined with the Government's culture of denial, cover-up and excessive secrecy, there is a deadly mix. Members are all aware that some years ago New South Wales introduced freedom of information legislation to assist public scrutiny of Executive government. Unfortunately, after eight years in office the Carr Government has perfected its tactics to frustrate public scrutiny. It is not just in this portfolio, it is not just in Transport, it is not just freedom of information applications, it is not just the responses that this Minister gives to questions on notice—it is across all portfolios, but it is especially bad in Transport and in Rail.
Obsessive secrecy about rail safety is just plain dangerous. Last week the Carr Government refused to release annual safety reports of the rail network. The refusal came 10 weeks after the Opposition sought copies of the safety audits under freedom of information applications. A few weeks later the Minister gave his second reading speech about increased accountability and public scrutiny. The Government agonised for a number of weeks over the release of the reports and after the Bali bombing it decided to use the threat of terrorism as an excuse for denying public scrutiny of the politically sensitive audit reports. The terrorism excuse is absurd. I was probably the first in October last year to acknowledge that terrorism is a threat in Australia. However, the rail safety reports sought by the Opposition would not assist terrorist planning, and in using that excuse the Carr Government again demonstrates an arrogant abuse of power and its contempt for the community.
The Opposition does not seek blueprints to the rail network but it does seek a copy of rail safety audits, which are the official report cards on how well the Carr Government has fulfilled its track maintenance and safety responsibilities. The Carr Government refused to release the rail safety audit reports because they document in detail the Government's failure to maintain the rail system. The audit reports will not assist terrorism but they are politically explosive. Rail safety is a major concern in New South Wales, especially since seven people died at Glenbrook in December 1999. Another 10 rail workers died in other rail accidents during a 12-month period. In May and June this year extensive cracks were discovered in the rail system, but the Carr Government did its best to downplay them; it even denied to me and the media that the cracks were as bad as they obviously were.
In downplaying those concerns the Government even suggested that the system was "as safe as it had been in 100 years". That is clearly not the case and over the past few months the Government has many times regretted making that claim. Rail safety and the Carr Government's culture of cover-up became such a concern that in late June the Opposition moved a motion of no confidence in the Minister for Transport. I remember that day, Thursday 27 June.
You lot would try anything on.
That is an interjection, isn't it?
Too right it is.
I moved that motion on 27 June and the Minister for Transport treated it with contempt. I do not think he was present for most of the debate but when he was present he spent all his time speaking about tollways and his actions on the M5 East, although he did not acknowledge that public transport patronage had taken a dive on the East Hills rail line following the opening of the M5 East. He took great credit for various road projects undertaken in recent years, but he did not refer to the fact that he had blown his roads budget by $956 million over five years, as highlighted by the shadow Minister for Roads in the following weeks.
The motion of no confidence I moved on Thursday 27 June signalled to the Government that the Opposition and the Parliament are concerned with rail safety and the Government's obsession with secrecy. Two weeks after that debate, rail accidents were again in the news. On 12 July a passenger train crashed into a derailed freight train at Hexham. Miraculously, passengers were not seriously injured when two carriages hit the freight train and jumped off the rails. I note that we are still awaiting the final Hexham investigation report, which I understand was completed in late September. Undoubtedly the Government has been waiting for a politically opportune moment to release it.
Passengers were lucky again in August when a passenger train crashed into a derailed maintenance train at Bargo. A week later another train derailed nearby. Three weeks ago a derailed freight train demolished a station at Galong in southern New South Wales, and thankfully no-one was on the station. On Saturday a derailed freight train hit the Cockle Creek station but missed passengers on the platform. There have been a number of accidents and derailments across the State, many of which have not received any publicity. Passengers have been lucky this year, but luck is not sufficient to ensure a safe rail network. Given the Carr Government's cutbacks on maintenance spending during the 1990s, the rail maintenance backlog highlighted by the Auditor-General in volume 3 of the Auditor-General's Report 2002, and the aging fleet of carriages, we still have a major challenge in New South Wales simply to make the rail system safe.
Apart from ensuring safety as a clear and major funding priority, the Government must adopt an honest and open approach to rail safety so that we can use public scrutiny to lift safety performance. I note that that is an unfamiliar concept to the Carr Government and I acknowledge that it is an unfamiliar concept to Rail. However, there are many very talented and committed people within Rail in New South Wales who encourage public scrutiny in the hope of lifting safety performance. I thank all the people who, at various times, assist us in highlighting Rail issues.
The Government must adopt this policy. It cannot merely introduce a bill that talks about public scrutiny and accountability while still retaining the option of doing nothing about it. The Government has to openly demonstrate that it has moved beyond that culture of cover-up and denial, and embrace honesty, transparency, and an open approach to rail safety. This month the Government introduced this long overdue, updated rail safety legislation. However, as I said at the outset, it does not provide real independence for the Rail Safety Regulator or for the rail accident investigation panel. A Coalition Government will amend the legislation immediately after the State election. The second reading speech stated:
The new public reporting requirements will ensure accountability and promote vigilance and public scrutiny of both the activities of the Regulator and the broader community.
Despite that promise, a few days later the Carr Government denied the Opposition access to the most basic report card on rail safety—the annual audit. In the interests of public safety the Opposition will not accept that rejection and will not let the matter rest there. The Opposition has sought an internal review and will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the reports are released as a matter of urgency. The public has the right to know about rail safety and it is critical that they know now, not when the Minister and the Premier think it may be safe to tell them. There will be no guarantee of rail safety in New South Wales until the Government adopts an honest and transparent approach to reporting rail safety issues.
The Minister referred in his second reading speech to the tabling of safety reports in Parliament. That is appropriate. In discussion on the bill I expressed major concern about when the reports will be available, how long they will sit on the Minister's desk, whether they will be tabled if Parliament is not sitting, whether they will be made available if Parliament is not sitting, and whether they will be put on the web site. I understand from the second reading speech that the reports will be put on the web site. My concern is with timing, and I have continually raised this concern since I became responsible for this portfolio. Rail safety must be beyond politics. It must be open, transparent and timely. Reports must be tabled urgently. We all want that basic information to be available.
We understand that investigators have a job to do and we understand that it may well take time. However, the public has the right to have information about rail safety, especially in a system that is under such stress. The system is under real stress today, just as it was when the Glenbrook and other accidents occurred. I am concerned about the timing. A Coalition Government will ensure that safety incidents are reported quickly—and by that I mean within hours and days, not weeks and months.
Clearly, investigation reports take some time. However, as soon as the so-called independent person has finished a report, the Coalition will move heaven and earth to get that report released publicly. The Government must take its medicine; it simply cannot delay release of the report until a politically opportune time, when there may be a very heavy news day. In relation to the final report on Hexham and the report on Galong, the Government issued a press release to cover up the import of those investigation reports. Timeliness is the critical issue. Reports should be subject to public scrutiny, and as quickly as possible.
I should like to refer to a number of points about a rail safety inspectorate that Justice McInerney made in his first, second and final reports. On pages 50 to 53 of the second report Justice McInerney made several comments about a rail safety inspectorate, which I will read into Hansard
because, although it would be good if honourable members read the reports, I acknowledge that they probably will not do so because of time pressures. On page 50 of the second report Justice McInerney said:
The rail safety regulatory function should be performed by a Rail Safety Inspectorate. The Inspectorate should report directly to Parliament and not to a Minister. This is because the Rail Safety Inspectorate has a single focus being the safety of rail operations. There may be competing demands between, for example punctuality of trains and the safety of their operations. By reporting directly to Parliament, the independence of the Rail Safety Inspectorate would be ensured.
In relation to a rail accident investigation board, on page 52 Justice McInerney said:
As I previously indicated, in my opinion, there should be a Rail Accident Investigation Board, this Board should also report directly to Parliament and not to the Minister. Its report should be made public.
On page 53 Justice McInerney said:
In my opinion, the Rail Accident Investigation Board should also have a system for confidential, anonymous reporting to it of any matter which may give rise to a risk to safety. The purpose of anonymous and confidential reporting is to enable the Board to become aware of trends or near misses and other matters which may give rise to a risk to safety.
I emphasise that final sentence: "The purpose of anonymous and confidential reporting is to enable the Board to become aware of trends or near misses and other matters which may give rise to a risk to safety." Having read the second reading speech countless times, and having read the bill and Justice McInerney's reports, I firmly believe that the bill will not address that sentence. If the Minister believes otherwise, I would love to hear his explanation. If he wants to make amendments to correct the Opposition's concerns, we would welcome such amendments and quickly support them. If the Minister does not do that, we will, and we will do it straight after the State election. On page 53 Justice McInerney continued:
The reasons why it is the Board which should have the power to receive anonymous and confidential reports are that it is the investigatory body and the anonymous and confidential reporting will provide a mechanism by which the competency of the Rail Safety Inspectorate can be monitored. Finally, the Rail Accident Investigation Board, in my opinion, should itself determine which accidents, incidents or other matters, it is to investigate.
I shall dwell on that for a moment. The way the bill is currently written, a rail accident investigation panel would address major accidents, or as directed by the Minister. I do not believe that it would address "trends and near misses or other matters which may give rise to a risk to safety". I acknowledge that the definition of "major accident" in this bill has been picked up from the Commonwealth legislation, but I do not think it is good enough. Given the state of Rail in New South Wales, given the problems we are experiencing every day, and given the stress the system is under, I honestly do not think that a rail accident investigation panel would have sufficient resources to pick up on those trends and have the option of investigating them at any time. The only way to clean up the system is to have external scrutiny not only of the rail system but also of the rail safety inspectorate as such. Justice McInerney continued:
Common sense suggests that any accident which involved substantial public disquiet or concern would be investigated but there may also be a series of minor accidents which demonstrate a trend which has the potential to lead to a catastrophic accident—
I have just made that point—
The Board should investigate those as well. The Board should report to Parliament on an annual basis. The existence of the Board should not prevent the Government from deciding to appoint some other form of inquiry into a rail accident or incident including, if necessary, a Special Commission of Inquiry.
The bill provides for that. Pages 50 to 57 of the report contain a number of recommendations for structural change. Recommendation 9 is to establish a rail safety inspectorate. Recommendation 11 is to establish a rail accident investigation board, the structure of which is referred to in further detailed recommendations.
I turn now to the final McInerney report of April 2001—a year and a half ago. When that report was delivered, a year and a half after the Glenbrook accident, I suppose we all hoped that sufficient cultural change would be achieved and that rail safety would improve. However, incidents over the past year and a half show that rail safety has not improved, and many of the concerns expressed at that time remain. On pages 160 to 178 of the final report Justice McInerney made a number of points that I think add to the argument that we should all be concerned to ensure that we have a structure that is truly independent and is seen to be independent. On page 160 Justice McInerney quoted the testimony of Mr Christie, the Co-ordinator General of Rail:
I believe that there is a nexus between the two and that a well run rail system, a well disciplined rail system, which is achieving good results in other areas, will also tend to be a safety conscious system and the question of safety is pre-eminent as far as I am concerned, but I am suggesting that the setting of standards for safety and the setting of standards for other aspects of the system should be compatible.
Justice McInerney then said:
As the second interim report stated, I do not agree that the Office of the Rail Regulator should be both a performance regulator and a safety regulator. There can be no doubt that if trains are running in accordance with the timetable, and there are no infrastructure or other defects, then the degraded mode of operation, which often gives rise to accidents, will not occur. The danger to public safety that exists is the attempt to meet performance standards in relation to punctuality of services when, for reasons due to infrastructure failure, defective procedural rules, poor training, inadequate communications technology or otherwise, this cannot be safely achieved. Mr Christie was the only witness who did not acknowledge the possibility of a conflict between meeting performance standards and ensuring the safety of operations. Achieving punctuality and reliability in rail performance will enhance safety but must not be permitted to assume a priority ahead of rail safety when performance targets are not being met.
I have not quoted that to highlight Ron Christie. Ron Christie has served this State very well and continues to do so. He did a fantastic job in getting the people of New South Wales and the Carr Government through the Sydney Olympics, when he managed the rail system. He left a legacy for many people in the rail system, including guidelines for the future, some of which unfortunately have been dismissed by the Minister as fanciful and a wish list.
He was a great Director-General of Public Works and Services, too.
Yes, he did a good job. He was one of the few people who said, "We can manage a good system and manage safety as well within that structure." I want to mention a number of other people who disagreed with him. It is clear today that some time after Mr Christie gave the testimony, we still have a major problem in Rail and a Government that is very much aware that the community is concerned about the timetable. I refer to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald
on 10 November, a week ago, headed "Rail delays solved by tweaking timetable." As I said in the media that day, this timetable change is not going to achieve anything for commuters. It is an admission on the part of the Government that it is failing to get the system to run on time. It improves the perception that trains are running on time. The Government is doing that because it is four months to the election. What is the focus of the Carr Government in New South Wales? It is clearly on the State election, as we are seeing every day.
The Premier is in a panic, running around the State, backflipping on anything that is a concern, and trying to put a lid on any issue that might be getting away from him. One of those issues is the rail system, which is not working well. This silly proposal that came out on the weekend to tweak the timetable to make the Government look better indicates again that the Government is focused on public relations and spin. It is not focused on fundamentals, on getting the system right. In his testimony Mr Christie said if the system was running well it would not be a problem. The reporting structures could go through to the one person and it would all work well and everyone would be a happy family, as another person testified later. I point out that the system is not working well and we have problems in operational management and in safety. On page 162 Justice McInerney said:
It should be very clear that the Railway Safety Inspectorate is not the servant of the railway organisations. The Railway Safety Inspectorate is the servant of the travelling public in particular, and the community in general, for the purpose of ensuring the safety of railway operations. Consequently, the funding arrangements of the Rail Safety Inspectorate should reflect its integrity and operational independence.
There is specific mention in here that funding for the rail accident investigation panel will flow straight from Treasury to give it some level of independence from the bureaucracy. I do not believe it is sufficiently independent. That is our major concern and we will make arrangements to ensure true independence, from a funding point of view, both for the rail safety regulator and for the rail accident investigation panel. Page 163 of the report notes that Mr John Hall, the Executive Director of the Transport Safety Bureau, supported the existence of an independent rail safety inspectorate. Mr John Cowling, the Chief Executive Officer of the Rail Access Corporation at that time, strongly favoured an independent rail safety inspectorate. Mr Terrence Ogg, chief executive of the former RSA, said:
I think separating the safety aspects from the regulation aspect is a very worthwhile operation, and I think having an independent Accident Investigation Board will also add significantly to the system that will operate in New South Wales …
Mr Simon Lane, the former chief executive officer of the State Rail Authority, also thought that those proposals were appropriate. Mr George Panigiris, the Assistant Secretary of the Australian Services Union, New South Wales Branch, supported the existence of an independent rail safety inspectorate and a separate rail accident investigation board. In relation to the latter he said:
I think it is clearly in everyone's best interest to do that because, if you allow investigations to be part of an organisation, let's say, for arguments sake, reports to a Minister who is responsible for that part of the industry, there would have to be, I think, a conflict of interest in relation to that.
I agree with him. Mr Roger Jowett, the National Secretary of the Australian Rail, Tram and Bus Industry Union said he:
… supported the existence of an independent Rail Accident Investigation Board …
When asked whether he supported the existence of an independent rail safety inspectorate he said, "most definitely." Mr Klaus Clemens, General Manager, Organisational Development of the SRA of New South Wales, stated:
I am very, very supportive of the Inspectorate idea and the independent safety investigator.
Mr Edward Oliver, an expert retained by the Department of Transport, gave the following evidence in answer to the question, "Do you support the existence of a separate Rail Safety Inspectorate?":
Absolutely. I have been arguing for that in every possible forum for at least ten years, so nothing makes me happier than to see you recommend it.
When asked why, he said:
Because it is the only way in which a safety supervision process can be applied which is free of commercial and, to put it bluntly, political motivations. It is the only way in which the railway system can understand that its safety performance is being monitored by people who are dedicated to safety performance, whose only objective is safety performance, and where any departure from safety performance will not be kowtowed to by commercial considerations.
He was then asked:
Should the Inspectorate be part of a Department of Transport or should it be somehow separated from a government department?
There are two parts of that and I am not sure how I can weigh them up. I believe that from a public perception point of view, and from a political reality point of view, it is important that it be properly independent. You can't have even the appearance of somebody getting in the way. On the other hand, I think it is vital that there be communications to the Minister and the Director General in such a way that, if this Inspectorate sees a problem, they can get on the 'phone to the Minister and say, "Hey, Minister, you have a real problem here", or similarly, to the Director General, and they need to be able to do that without going through intermediaries. There has to be a direct path. I favour independence, but it has to be accompanied by a system to ensure the rapid communication of problems.
Mr Oliver said, on page 166:
… another witness expressed one of my concerns, which is that the thing could be marginalised by insufficient funding, or simply be ignored, and the independence has to be structured in such a way that it can't be insufficiently funded and it can't be ignored.
On page 167 we get an interesting testimony from Dr Sally Leivesley, an international expert in safety, who was retained by the Director-General of the Department of Transport. She was asked her view about the independent rail safety inspectorate and stated:
All my reading of the facts that came out of the interim report, and going through the hearings and talking with the personnel, lead me to the view that an independent Inspectorate was essential.
She favoured an inspectorate that was located within the Department of Transport. She stated:
The reasons that I went the route that I did were that the rail service is like a family, and it operates like a family, and what I find is that, like many other service organisations, where people are quite committed to the service they are doing, they learn more through example and guidance than by punishment, or the feeling that they are being viewed by people who are remote from the organisation. In other words, it is like learning from the parent in the family and what I had felt was that the success of the safety management was really going to come from an Inspectorate that about 80 per cent of the time was leading and setting the standards and providing the top layer of safety management capability, and helping them along the way with that, and only about 20 per cent of the operation would be the actual negative, or side that was looking at the full exposures.
What I had felt was that, in having the Inspectorate in the family, this could be managed in an independent form, as long as the reporting was through to the Minister.
If there is any chance that there could be corruption of the independence of that inspectorate, then I would view a totally independent body as being the most important part.
I do not know the good doctor, I have never met her, but I suggest that she never met the Carr Government. Nobody would say that about a crisis in New South Wales if they had spent a couple of years living in New South Wales with the Carr Government in office. I find it truly extraordinary that this person, even if she is an international expert in safety, is suggesting a model that works well in isolation, but it is not in isolation; it is under the Carr Government. As I said before, thankfully we have only four months left. This system will not work under the Carr Government and I can only assume that the good doctor was not briefed and had not met the Carr Government. On page 168 Justice McInerney said:
From this body of evidence, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that there is strong support among witnesses from rail management, trade unions, the rail bureaucracy and independent safety experts for the existence of a separate Rail Safety Inspectorate and Rail Accident Investigation Board. Indeed, none of this evidence was contradicted in cross-examination or submission by any person or entity represented before the Special Commission of Inquiry.
All of this evidence confirms my own independent view, expressed in the second interim report, that a separate and independent Rail Safety Inspectorate and a separate and independent Rail Accident Investigation Board are essential.
Apart from the need for a separate and independent Rail Safety Inspectorate and a separate and independent Rail Accident Investigation Board, there seems to be an inadequate and inefficient allocation of resources to rail safety.
Further, Justice McInerney said:
On the uncontested evidence before me, rail operations were not being conducted with a proper regard to safety. The focus of the culture, such as it was, remained very much one of on-time running. Safety matters were either subjugated in whole or in part to on-time running and ignored.
At page 170 he said:
There are many examples of urgent safety matters not being addressed by rail organisations, which the Transport Safety Bureau was in turn required to monitor. These include incompatible radio systems …
I remind honourable members that an incompatible radio system was highlighted in the Glenbrook recommendations as one of the major problems. The Government perpetrated a fraud on the people of New South Wales. Up until the Hexham crash people believed that the rail network had moved towards compatible radio systems. On the Saturday night a press release from a Government spokesman muddied the water with an announcement of about $6 million of funding for radios. When we dug behind that press release and the Hexham accident we found that compatible radios had not been implemented for all trains across the State. Justice McInerney went on to say:
These include incompatible radio systems, inadequate safeworking units, poor training, deliberate disobedience by staff of safety directions from superiors and staff refusing to follow communications protocols. Inadequate resources, particularly staff levels, prevented the Transport Safety Bureau from so doing.
Justice McInerney highlighted, at that point and continually throughout his report, the issue of resources. He said at the bottom of page 170:
However, in my view, there must be an independent Rail Safety Inspectorate. The primary object of a Rail Safety Inspectorate should be the continual improvement of rail safety.
Importantly, at page 172, he said:
Reports of any such audit and inspection should be made public.
At page 174 he said:
I have considered various structural arrangements for the Rail Safety Inspectorate but have come to the conclusion that it should be part of the Department of Transport. The legislation creating it should preserve its independence from ministerial control.
That is the end point of his discussion. I highlight again that there are many qualifications to the final acceptance that the rail safety inspectorate should be within the Department of Transport. Justice McInerney talked about resources and the board not only being seen to be independent but obviously being truly independent. He talked about the funding arrangements and reporting to Parliament. I share his concerns. Even in the structure that the Minister has delivered in this bill—which I acknowledge is a major step forward in rail safety in New South Wales—I am not confident that the Government will fulfil the spirit of the Glenbrook recommendations. At page 176 Justice McInerney made the further point:
When it comes to determining how safe an industry is, an industry can go along for many years with a large number of potentially serious incidents occurring because it is not being safely managed until contributing factors coincide and a disaster results.
We saw that at Glenbrook, and we still see a substantial number of accidents, injuries and derailments across the system. We see a Government that finally brought itself to say that the accidents at Hexham and Bargo were of real concern, even after countless of its spokesman said, "Nothing could be more minor" and "The system is as safe as it has been in 100 years". The Government has finally acknowledged the seriousness of the situation. But the Government must embrace the spirit of the Glenbrook recommendations and ensure that the safety regulations and the accident investigation boards are truly independent, powerful enough and sufficiently well funded. At page 177 Justice McInerney said:
The Rail Accident Investigation Board should not be involved in investigating every accident or incident on the railway. It should determine for itself which accidents it should investigate.
I do not believe that the bill gives the board sufficient latitude to do so. The Minister said in his second reading speech:
The bill proposes significant reforms to the management of rail safety investigations. These changes are in response both to Justice McInerney's recommendations and to reforms occurring at a national level. As I previously stated, the rail industry is becoming increasingly national. The Commonwealth Government is currently enacting legislation which will enable the Australian Transport Safety Bureau [ATSB] to undertake investigations into any accidents on the interstate network. In New South Wales, this is the network from Sydney north to the Queensland border, south to the Victorian border and west to Broken Hill.
We welcome that increased co-operation with the Federal safety bureau. The Minister further said:
This bill details a multi-tiered investigation system, which provides for independent investigation of all major rail accidents and interfaces with the new Commonwealth legislation.
That is true, but we believe it is not adequate. The Minister went on to say:
There will be an appropriate level of investigation for each level of seriousness of incident. The Government has the power to appoint a royal commission or judicial special commission of inquiry in the most serious of cases … For most major incidents on interstate track, the Commonwealth ATSB will have the first right of refusal to conduct an investigation. If that body elects not to investigate, or if a major accident occurs outside the interstate network, an independent Rail Accident Investigation Panel will investigate the accident or incident. For less serious incidents, the Rail Safety Regulator will have the power to investigate. For the least serious incidents, an operator will conduct an internal review. To preserve the panel's independence, the Governor will appoint the chair for a three-year term. While not wanting to have a proliferation of rail agencies, a statutory independent panel chair is vital to ensuring continued community confidence in the rail system.
For each accident investigation the chair will be provided with the specialist expertise he or she requires.
The point I want to make in this regard goes to the crux of the matter. It is simply not good enough to have issued a press release in November last year stating that Ron Christie would head the rail accident investigation panel, discover that could not be done because the legislation had not been changed, then introduce this bill, which allows the Government to appoint Ron Christie, or any other person, to head the panel. The Government says that the chairman will get the resources he or she needs at the appropriate time to investigate any accident or issue that arises. That is not good enough.
The Government will have to properly resource the chair of the rail accident investigation panel on an ongoing basis so that he or she can monitor the entire rail system and the rail safety inspectorate. It is not good enough for the Government to simply say that when an incident occurs it will send the right people. I do not believe that will happen; I do not believe the panel will be truly independent. There is only one way to guarantee independence, that is, to have standing resources made available to the chair at all times so that the chair can decide whether an incident is major and whether there is a significant trend or disturbing issue and appropriately investigate. The Minister went on to say:
The chair will have a self-referral power to investigate all major rail accidents, which are defined in the bill using wording which captures the Australian Standard definition of a major incident.
As I have said previously, I acknowledge that the bill has picked up the Commonwealth definition of "major". I do not believe that definition is good enough. The Minister continued:
The Minister or Director General may also refer investigations to the panel. To preserve the integrity of the panel, all investigations will be funded directly by Treasury.
All honourable members know how Treasury works. We saw this week how Treasury works when the Treasurer tried to suggest that the New South Wales Treasury is truly independent and would be delighted to act as an independent consultant to cost the Opposition's election promises. That sentence in the second reading speech is a load of rubbish. As if, by divine right, the Minister can call upon Treasury to provide truly independent funding!
What a load of rubbish! I have watched Treasury closely, not only in the very brief time that I was in government when I first came into this place but also in the eight years since. There is nothing independent about New South Wales Treasury. Like many senior personnel in the public sector, I have very real concerns about the way it has done its job in recent years. Equating the New South Wales Treasury with independence is absurd and unacceptable.
The panel chairman needs to be appropriately resourced on an ongoing basis. The Minister said that the panel would be independent—not only the rail accident investigation panel but also the rail safety regulator. It will be independent only if it has ongoing resources. The Minister also said that reports to the panel will be tabled in Parliament and published on the parliamentary web site and the regulator's web site. It is good that investigations undertaken by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau will be published on its web site. It is standard practice across the public sector that information be made available on web sites. I agree with that, but my concern relates to the timing. We must get safety information out in hours and days, not weeks and months. The Minister should not be able to delay the publication of reports until a politically opportune moment.
The bill also refers to fatigue management. The Opposition endorses that concept. It is one of the good things that came out of the consultation process. I look forward to seeing more detail on the negotiated arrangements. The bill also refers to drug and alcohol testing, which is long overdue and problematic. It is a critical issue for the people of New South Wales. I look forward to seeing the Government negotiating workable arrangements in that regard. The issue of train radios has been raised a number of times. It is not specifically addressed in this bill, but it is a major concern and was a key recommendation resulting from the Glenbrook inquiry. We all thought the Government intended to address that problem. We are all concerned—I am very concerned—about that issue. I would welcome a detailed explanation of the status of compatible radios in all trains operating in New South Wales.
I repeat: The Opposition will not oppose this bill. Members on this side will work with the Government to ensure that it is not delayed in this House or in the other place. It is very important that this legislation be enacted quickly, but a number of concerns have been raised. The Opposition would welcome the government amendments to accommodate those concerns—to improve the independence, powers and resources of the safety regulator. However, if the Government decides not to go down that path the Coalition Government will do so immediately after the election.
(Campbelltown) [12.54 p.m.]: I support the Rail Safety Bill and, in doing so, express my support for the efforts of the Minister and the Department of Transport to improve the management of rail safety. Rail safety is an important issue for the people of Campbelltown. Each week nearly 14,000 rail trips are taken from the Campbelltown area. Passengers may be travelling to work, to school, to entertainment venues, or to visit family and friends across the city and the State. As these figures indicate, many people in Campbelltown are reliant on public transport, and they deserve a safe, reliable rail service.
This bill recognises that rail safety is not about only train operations. Rail safety also relates to the security of the 900,000-plus passengers who use the system every day. Commuters have a right to feel safe when travelling on trains late at night or when they alight at their home station after a long day. Earlier this year I was concerned by the number of security incidents occurring at Campbelltown and Leumeah stations and the surrounding car parks. Car theft was on the increase, as was antisocial behaviour in and around the railway stations. Although in many cases there are no quick fixes for crime, I approached the Minister about improving security at the station. I am pleased to advise that he and his agencies were very responsive. Since I first raised this issue a range of security measures have been put in place.
Improvements such as extra lighting and help points, remotely monitored closed-circuit television cameras and long-line public address systems have been installed at both Campbelltown and Leumeah stations. Co-operation between the councils, the department and the Police Force has increased. Additional security staff now patrol Campbelltown station, with an increased presence on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. As a result of these initiatives the number of security incidents at Campbelltown has decreased by 85 per cent from 20 in January to only three in September. Assistance has also been provided at the surrounding car parks at both stations. Lighting has been improved and Campbelltown has new cameras and security patrols. These initiatives have helped to reduce crime significantly in the station precinct and to provide commuters with the level of security they expect. These measures are supported by network-wide security measures, such as two security guards patrolling every train after 7.00 p.m. and the other specialised State Rail staff targeting crime on the rail system.
State Rail has made real improvements in providing security measures in Campbelltown. However, this bill takes that further. Safety accreditation requirements will now be expanded so that all passenger operators will be required to submit a passenger security policy and plan to the regulator. The bill also provides that if the Director General of Transport does not consider that passenger safety is being properly managed he or she may impose specific conditions or requirements on the operator. These conditions will be supported by penalties for noncompliance. This is a fundamental change to the existing regulatory framework, and it is a positive step.
Safety and reliability are paramount to all users of the CityRail network, and rightly so. However, I recognise that running a rail system of this size is hard work; it is a complex network that presents a range of operational and engineering challenges. It employs more than 12,000 people in the government sector alone. I have many railway workers living in my electorate, and I am aware of the challenges they face as employees in this environment. Those employees have been working hard and finding solutions to operational problems. The railways are no different from many workplaces in which staff in the field have valuable knowledge and on-the-ground expertise to contribute to solving problems.
A great example is a project examining why certain trains continue to perform poorly during peak periods. Allen Tollis—a State Rail employee with more than 45 years railway experience—was put in charge of investigating the issue. He initiated a co-operative effort and spoke to signalers, train controllers and other operational staff seeking their views on train performance at specific points on the network. Those consultations resulted in a range of operational changes that will increase the efficiency of trains running across the network. I know that I have not done the project justice, but employees continue to demonstrate a collegiate approach and a real desire to get things done for the benefit of all commuters.
Another terrific example is the incident-recovery project that was commenced under the former Co-ordinator General of Rail, Mr Ron Christie. That initiative examined how both State Rail and the Rail Infrastructure Corporation [RIC] manage breakdowns on the network. A single breakdown can result in significant delays throughout the network. Once again, the approach was to get the staff involved. Dennis Lambros from RIC and Tony Eid from State Rail led several teams over a period of months working through the problems that caused undue delays. These staff worked to deliver a single outcome, irrespective of organisational allegiances. The result is that incident-recovery time in some locations has been reduced from 50 minutes to as little as seven minutes. I know that my constituents who travel considerable distances by train are pleased to hear about such initiatives.
This bill is a fundamental step in the development of a proactive rail safety environment. This model is focused on rail safety management systems, which cover all elements of rail operations, not only the point at which the wheel meets the track. It is clear from these examples that rail employees make a significant contribution to the operation of the railways, not only to the day-to-day services but also to longer-term initiatives that require the collective skills and knowledge of the work force. Effective safety management systems ensure that the work force is trained to take on the challenges of the modern rail environment. As we have seen with these projects, with effective management and leadership State Rail staff are willing to work together to deliver improved safety outcomes.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Fraser.
[Mr Acting-Speaker (Mr Lynch) left the chair at 1.00 p.m. The House resumed at 2.15 p.m.
Harbord Telecommunication Facilities
Petition objecting to the installation of a telecommunications tower and antennas at 87 Harbord Road, Harbord, received from Mr Barr
Planning Control Reform
Petition requesting reform of planning controls by gazettal as a legal document, oversight by the Department of Planning, public benefit assessment of variations, and a ban on development-related donations to political parties and elected officials, received from Ms Moore
Mental Health Carers
Petition praying that the rights of carers be included in the Mental Health Act, received from Mr Barr
Coffs Harbour Radiotherapy Unit
Petition praying for increased funding for establishment of a radiotherapy unit in Coffs Harbour, received from Mr Fraser
Sutherland Hospital Kiosk
Petition praying that the House ensure preservation of Sutherland Hospital kiosk, received from Mr Kerr
Wagga Wagga Calvary Hospital Obstetric Services
Petition praying that the House provide assistance to make obstetric practice viable at Calvary Hospital, Wagga Wagga, received from Mr Maguire
Mental Health Services
Petition requesting urgent maintenance and increase of funding for mental health services, received from Ms Moore
Queanbeyan District Hospital
Petition requesting that Queanbeyan District Hospital be upgraded, received from Mr Webb
Manly Electorate Bus Services
Petition opposing the proposed discontinuation of bus service 146, received from Mr Barr
School Bus Safety
Petition praying that seats and seatbelts be provided for all students on school buses, received from Mr Debnam
Hornsby Shire Rail Parking Facilities
Petition requesting additional commuter parking facilities at railway stations in the Hornsby Shire, received from Mrs Hopwood
Surry Hills Bus Services
Petition praying that the State Transit Authority reinstate the old 301 bus route, extend the 352 bus service, provide bus shelters and seats at all stops, reinstate the Market Street bus stop, and provide better information, received from Ms Moore
Richmond Regional Vegetation Management Plan
Petitions seeking extension of the exhibition period of the draft Richmond Regional Vegetation Management Plan, received from Mr George
and Mr D. L. Page
Petition requesting that the House ensure that an achievable plan to put aerial cables underground is urgently implemented, received from Ms Moore
Old-growth Forests Protection
Petition praying that consideration be given to the permanent protection of old-growth forests and all other areas of high conservation value, and to the implementation of tree planting strategies, received from Ms Moore.
State Forest Management
Petition requesting that State Forests of NSW continue to manage the Pilliga, Goonoo and adjacent forests in central New South Wales, received from Mr Slack-Smith
Petition praying for opposition to the suffering of wild animals and their use in circuses, received from Ms Moore
White City Site Rezoning Proposal
Petition praying that any rezoning of the White City site be opposed, received from Ms Moore
Petition requesting further legislative changes to reduce graffiti on private and public property, received from Ms Moore
Homeless Services Funding
Petition asking that homeless services funding be increased urgently and maintained until no longer needed, received from Ms Moore
Albury Electorate Policing
Petition asking for increased police presence in Henty, Culcairn, Walla Walla and surrounding areas, received from Mr Glachan
Surry Hills Policing
Petition seeking increased uniformed police foot patrols in the Surry Hills Local Area Command and installation of a permanent police van or shopfront in the Taylor Square area, received from Ms Moore
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Withdrawal of Business
General Business Notices of Motion (General Notices) Nos 134 [Department of Education and Training Integration Review] and 178 [North Turramurra SEPP 5 Developments] withdrawn on motion by Mr O'Farrell.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Routine of Business
[During notices of motions for urgent consideration
Order! I call the Leader of the National Party to order. I call the honourable member for Myall Lakes to order. I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to order. I call the Minister for Public Works and Services to order. I call the Minister for Energy to order.
Point of order: The motion of which the Deputy Premier is giving notice is a political stunt. Nothing could better demonstrate that fact than on the day that the ICAC has heard the nature of a $1 million bribe to the ALP, the Government tries to waste taxpayers' time on this issue. Why did we not have this sort of debate on Eddie Obeid soliciting donations of $1 million?
Order! The honourable member for Ku-ring-gai will resume his seat.
Point of order: Under the Westminster system it is not the function of the Government to challenge the Opposition. Under the Westminster system the function of the Opposition is to hold the Government accountable. The motion is not in keeping with the Westminster system and should be ruled out of order. It is nothing more than a filthy stunt by a hypocritical Government that is not the slightest bit interested in addressing the substantive issues of government.
Order! There is no point of order.
I have received notice of a matter of public importance under the signature of the honourable member for Kogarah, which reads as follows: "Community support for the World Cup Soccer 2014 bid". Debate on that matter will commence later in the day.
Point of order: Standing Order 164 refers to the disallowance of a matter which is the same in substance as any question already determined in the affirmative or in the negative in the same session. The same topic was debated in this Chamber—the honourable member for Kogarah participated in that debate—as an urgent motion on 4 September this year. Aside from that, I find it hard to believe that a proposed event in 2014 is more important than the bushfire risk and the effects of the drought the State is now facing. Therefore, I ask you to disallow debate on that matter of public importance and instead allow debate on the matter of public importance submitted by the Opposition relating to bushfire risk in New South Wales.
Order! The honourable member for Oxley was perfectly correct when he said that the House cannot debate a motion which is the same in substance as any question already determined in the same session. However, a matter of public importance is not a motion. No vote is taken, so Standing Order 164 does not apply.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture. To date, exactly how much has the State Government provided in drought relief and subsidies to farmers struggling in the present drought?
Order! The Minister does not need the assistance of the honourable member for East Hills.
If the Leader of the Opposition had been listening to the debate yesterday, in which the Leader of the National Party and the shadow Minister for Agriculture participated, he would have heard a full run-down of all the issues relating to the drought.
Order! I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to order for the second time. I call the honourable member for Wakehurst to order.
The Government's drought package has been estimated at $14.5 million.
Order! The Leader of the Opposition has asked a question and the Minister is entitled to provide an answer that can be heard by the whole House. He does not need to be prompted by the Leader of the National Party or the honourable member for Myall Lakes. I call those members to order. The Chair will pay close attention to them for the next few minutes.
The Government has an open-ended commitment, which has been estimated at more than $14.5 million at this stage. Applications for assistance are flowing through with a 10-day turnaround, as opposed to the two months it took for the Federal Government to approve the exceptional circumstances application. I recall seeing a document recently that showed that in the first six weeks since the Government first announced assistance measures it had provided about $6 million. That works out at about $1 million per week. Although the current estimate is $14.5 million, the financial assistance, by its very nature, is an open-ended commitment. The Government is providing about $1 million per week, as opposed to the 50¢ being provided by the Federal Government. The question highlights the fact that about 1,500 farmers have now received State Government assistance, as opposed to about six farmers who have received assistance from the Federal Government. So any comparison between what the State is doing and what the Federal Government is doing does not bear mention at all.
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION PECUNIARY INTEREST DISCLOSURE
My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Planning. What is the latest information on the St Hilliers development at Zetland and related matters?
I was concerned to read allegations that the Leader of the Opposition received more than $110,000 in fees from the legal arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers while he was a member of Parliament and shadow planning Minister. This is relevant because on 7 August 2001 St Hilliers became the preferred tenderer as a joint venture partner with Landcom to develop part of the old Navy site at Victoria Park.
Point of order: Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to Standing Order 82, which states:
Imputations of improper motives and personal reflections on Members of either House are disorderly other than by substantive motion.
The Minister has given notice of a motion that will be debated by the House after question time. At present he is arguing the motion of which he has given notice, or, more precisely, he is breaching Standing Order 82 by making an imputation against a member of this House while answering a question. The Minister cannot have it both ways: He must either move a substantive motion and be speaking to that motion, or he must not breach Standing Order 82.
Order! There is no point of order.
During the due diligence process a dispute arose between the parties in relation to a number of issues, including height restrictions imposed by the Federal Airports Corporation. The parties were St Hilliers as the preferred tenderer and Landcom as the landowner. PricewaterhouseCoopers was contracted to provide legal advice to Landcom. All discussions between these parties were commercial in confidence. On 15 October 2001 an article appeared in the Australian Financial Review
announcing that St Hilliers was unsuccessful as a preferred tenderer. The following day the shadow Minister for Planning, the now Leader of the Opposition, released a media statement containing information about the tender process. On 17 October 2001 the shadow Minister for Planning asked three questions on notice about specific confidential information relating to Landcom's confidential agreement with PricewaterhouseCoopers. In light of the revelations in the Sydney Morning Herald
today, there are a number of issues I am concerned about. Why did the Leader of the Opposition comment on a confidential issue relating to a client of his employer, PricewaterhouseCoopers?
Order! There is far too much audible conversation in the Chamber. I call the honourable member for Davidson to order.
Has he taken advantage of his capacity as shadow Minister for Planning or as a member of Parliament?
Order! I place the honourable member for Davidson on three calls to order.
Why did he ask several questions on notice when he knew that they related to his clients' interest, or at the very least satisfy himself that they had no interest? I am concerned that the Leader of the Opposition has abused his position by using confidential information accessed during this time of employment with PricewaterhouseCoopers. I am concerned also that he used his position as a member of Parliament to ask questions and receive answers. It is a legitimate function of every member of the House to ask questions. However, it is wrong for the Leader of the Opposition to be asking a question without declaring a pecuniary interest. The standards of this House are paramount to the integrity of Parliament and must be upheld. This is like Neil Hamilton in the House of Commons; this is cash for questions. It is not good enough for the Leader of the Opposition, given his position in the party and in this Chamber.
Order! I place the honourable member for Wakehurst on three calls to order. I call the Minister for Public Works and Services to order. I place the honourable member for East Hills on two calls to order. There is far too much audible conversation on both sides of the Chamber. There is far too much movement around the Chamber by members of the Opposition. The Opposition Whip is entitled to move around the Chamber. The standing orders require other members to remain in their places.
This is not good enough for the Leader of the Opposition, given his position in his party and in this Chamber.
Order! I call the honourable member for Vaucluse to order.
I am concerned that for four years, from 1 August 1997 to 31 December 2001 the now Leader of the Opposition was receiving these payments, $25,000 a year in monthly instalments.
Order! I call the honourable member for Vaucluse to order for the second time. I remind the honourable member for Wakehurst that he is on three calls to order.
The Leader of the Opposition is claiming that he did not receive an income from PricewaterhouseCoopers, because the money was paid to his consultancy firm, Northmist Pty Ltd. He has gone to great lengths to hide his income, who is paying him and for whom he is working. I am extremely concerned about his failure to declare a conflict of interest.
Point of order: The words used by the Minister were a gross imputation of dishonesty that a certain person had gone to great lengths to conceal his income. That is a serious allegation that can be made only by way of substantive motion. I ask you, Mr Speaker, where is the substantive motion to which the Deputy Premier is speaking when he makes those allegations?
To the point of order—
Order! Members of the Government will remain silent. The honourable member for Ku-ring-gai is entitled to address the point of order.
I have listened with great interest to what the Deputy Premier has said to date. It is simply an attempt to place on the public record a series of allegations and smears against the Leader of the Opposition.
What is your point of order?
My point of order, for the benefit of the Leader of the House, is that this House has a code of conduct. This House has an ethics committee. This House has a procedure that can be followed if indeed the Deputy Premier has the concerns that he says he has. Instead, he misuses question time to put on the public record unfounded allegations against the Leader of the Opposition and he is not prepared to use the proper forms of the House. That is my concern. This is a stunt. The honourable member for Blacktown was not prepared to face up to any allegations. He was prepared to divert from it at any cost.
What about Barry O'Keefe?
I am happy to talk about Barry O'Keefe with you. There are two rules in this place—one rule for them and another one for us. It is about time we got some fairness.
Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai have both sought a ruling in relation to the words used by the Deputy Premier. If either of those members believes his character has been impugned, the Chair will provide him with an opportunity at the conclusion of question time to refute any allegations he believes are worthy of refuting.
The standards of this House are paramount. They are paramount to the integrity of Parliament and they must be upheld. This is like Neil Hamilton in the House of Commons. This is cash for comment.
Order! I call the honourable member for Coffs Harbour to order.
[Questions without notice interrupted.
I draw the attention of the House to the presence in the gallery of a delegation from the Seoul Metropolitan Council led by Mr Ju-Ung Park, Chairman of the Council Steering Committee. Honourable members will know that New South Wales has a sister-State relationship with the Seoul Metropolitan Government. We wish the delegation well in its visit to Sydney.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
[Questions without notice resumed.
EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES DROUGHT ASSISTANCE
My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Agriculture. Will he accept the offer made by the Federal Government today to participate concurrently and co-operatively in the preparation of exceptional circumstances applications to eliminate the risk of non-compliance and the time delays associated with the present preparation process?
The question asked by the Leader of the National Party and notice of motion given before question time relate exactly to the question asked by the honourable member for Tamworth on the last time we sat. That question asked whether we would agree with the changes to the exceptional circumstances [EC] program proposed by the Commonwealth.
Point of order: Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to explain to the Minister for Agriculture that the essence of the question refers to the simultaneous, concurrent, co-operative preparation of applications—the thing that he takes six months to do.
Order! There is no point of order.
I think he dreamed up this question on one of those long trips on the Milparinka Express
, the one that heads off from Sydney to Milparinka. What the honourable member is trying to cover up in this question is that after we have done all the work, after we have used Federal Government agencies and the like to compile the report, the Federal Government does a second check of the lot. It goes through the whole process again. It duplicates it. It now wants to come back with some face-saving position about concurrent or joint application. That is what it is all about.
In relation to all the reforms of the EC program, our position as a Government is the same as it was at the last ministerial council meeting, in that we support the reform program of EC. But we do not support the condition that we will fund half of the business component share of exceptional circumstances. Why? As I said in answer to the honourable member for Tamworth, there are a couple of reasons. When the EC program was introduced it was a Federal Government program, and it complements the State Government program. This multimillion-dollar State program, worth $14 million and rising, is not going to be jointly funded by the Federal Government, but it wants us to jointly fund the Federal Government program. As I said, the Federal Government spends very little and it wants to spend less. If the Federal Government has a package of reforms of the EC program that streamlines it and brings in buffer zones to make sure that applications are dealt with more quickly, we will support it. But if it means that we jointly fund a Federal Government program when it does not fund our program, of course we reject it.
OASIS LIVERPOOL DEVELOPMENT
My question is directed to the Minister for Land and Water Conservation. Will he explain which is correct—his statement to the House on 4 September, in which he said Crown land would be transferred to the Oasis project subject only to five strict conditions, or the letter from his department that says his predecessor approved it last year?
Order! The honourable member for Epping will remain silent.
As I have indicated to the House, the response was based on advice I received from the department. Therefore, I take it that the advice I received from the department, which I gave to this House, is consistent with whatever-else the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai has to offer.
WORLD TRADE ORGANISATION MEETING
My question without notice is to the Premier. What is the latest information on preparations for the upcoming World Trade Organisation meeting to be held in Sydney this week?
I could well ask why there is any suggestion of demonstrations against talks to free up world trade. It is appropriate that we talk about this issue with our friends from Korea being in the gallery today, because Australia, like Korea, is a great trading nation. Freer world trade enhances the living standards of our people. It is bewildering to me that protestors want to hold demonstrations against a meeting of trade Ministers from around the world, a meeting that is designed to achieve freer trade. Twenty per cent of Australia's gross domestic product [GDP] is generated by exports and trade accounts for nearly one-quarter of Australia's total income. In New South Wales exports are worth $37 billion per year. Our drought-affected farm families stand to benefit, perhaps more than any other section of the community, from a more open approach to world trade. There ought to be demonstrations of welcome to visiting world trade Ministers discussing liberation from unnecessary trade barriers.
The 2000 World Trade Organisation study called "Trade, Income Disparity and Poverty" concluded that trade liberalisation is generally a strongly positive contributor to poverty alleviation. As Bill Clinton said in one of his speeches in Australia and at Davos, the best impact we can make on the poverty in African villages is to open up the markets of rich countries to the Africans' primary produce. If they get the most modest access to the markets of North America and Europe, then their living standards are transformed. The ability to export their bananas, rice and grains to the markets of wealthy countries is the greatest transforming influence on third world poverty.
We all believe in the freedom to demonstrate. I can understand a new generation of energetic young people wanting to become involved in and raise issues. It is a little like the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai strutting his leadership potential a moment ago. It was good to see and it was rather touching. I could see the blood beginning to course through his leadership veins again as he sensed an opening. Not to be overlooked is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who, sensing the same opening, the same lingering possibility of leadership, has been forceful at the despatch box.
He did very well in the Sun-Herald
poll. I think that Frank did better in the Sun-Herald
poll than the honourable member for Epping would do in a poll in his electorate. Also not to be overlooked is our old friend the honourable member for Willoughby, who I am told phoned Liberal Party head office today to withdraw his withdrawal from Liberal Party preselection. That is a wise decision. They all have to be available. They are all walking the beat, waiting to be taken up. The Leader of the Opposition is having extensive consultations with the lawyers at the moment. He is asking them, "What is the meaning of this?
Point of order: The question was a statesman-like question along the lines of questions about stem cell research, terrorism and all those other important State matters that the Premier likes to talk about. The question is about globalisation and trade. The Premier should answer the question. He should try to answer a question in this Parliament.
Order! No point of order is involved.
The Leader of the Opposition, who is in difficulty, is out there talking to his lawyers and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is in here showing the stuff he is made of. He gave a great performance. We hope he does well. Enough of these distractions! Our Korean friends want to hear the view of the Parliament and the Government on world trade. I ask for no more distractions from the Opposition. The public gallery is bewildered by an Opposition that wants to talk about its own problems when we want to talk about initiatives for the people of New South Wales. What do the demonstrators propose? Do they want us to go back to higher tariffs and poor regulation? Do they want us to start blocking out the imported products that lift the living standards of our trade partners and give us a greater opportunity to sell Australian goods and services on the markets of the world?
According to a World Bank report last year, the selfish farm subsidies of rich nations are worth $700 billion—that is $1 billion per day. It is altogether fitting and appropriate that world trade Ministers come together—and we welcome them to Sydney—to talk about ways of freeing up world trade. We have spoken with regret in this House at the United States Congress' passage of the new farm bill and an increase of $US8 billion in agricultural subsidies. Anything that advances the course of more open markets benefits Australian living standards, and particularly the living standards of Australian farm families who are doing it tough at this moment. With that US-type protectionism on textiles, developing countries face average tariffs of 15 to 20 per cent, compared with 3 per cent for industrial goods. This reduces their living standards and their capacity to buy from us, which has a damaging impact on our living standards. We welcome this meeting. The New South Wales Police will facilitate legitimate protests. In a democracy, a protest that involves placards and shouted slogans is an advertisement for our liberties. The police will be at pains to facilitate such demonstrations. As Police Commander Dick Adams said yesterday:
People who wish to protest peacefully and lawfully at Homebush Bay will naturally be able to do so. Not only will we allow it, we will facilitate it.
That shows great spirit. That is the approach the New South Wales Police will take. Police have allocated an area for peaceful protest action. The accusation of some groups is that we live in a police State. On the contrary, our police force is actively making plans not only to permit but also to facilitate peaceful protest. I am concerned with the militarily-style preparations of some of these fringe protest organisations. There is advice on websites to protesters to use baseball bats and slingshots against police, "the use of spray or can paint on pigs". Two years ago we saw the use of marbles against the police force in Melbourne at the meeting of the Davos forum.
If the honourable member for Vaucluse has an interjection he should speak up. I cannot hear him and the House cannot hear him. The honourable member should try to use his voice to command the attention of his parliamentary colleagues, especially if he is going to be a candidate for the Liberal Party leadership. That is touching. The honourable member for Vaucluse got upset because I mentioned the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Willoughby. He is sitting there seething with frustration that he did not get a mention. I hope he is happy now that I have acknowledged his claim on the Liberal leadership.
I want to say, despite the incomprehensible interjections from the Opposition, that organisations that espouse humanitarian values and animal protection yet advocate violence against police men and women and cruelty to police horses are hypocritical. The radical element that has no concern for public or personal safety is doing no-one and no cause-certainly not the cause of free protest in a democracy—any favours. The threats of violence emanating from extremists are the reason NSW Police has denied permits for marches in the city.
Three messages are appropriate in this circumstance. First, NSW Police has our full support while officers are facilitating peaceful demonstrations and protecting property and safety. Theirs is a difficult job when they face provocateurs and they deserve our support. Second, peaceful protests will not only be permitted but also facilitated, because they are an advertisement for democracy. Violent protest is a breach of the law and will be treated as such. Protest organisers are responsible for their protests and they will be held to account. Third, free trade will help the world's poor; it will help the developing countries of the planet. It is selfish trade barriers erected by the United States and the European Union that keep those nations poor and dependent on aid when they could be, village by village, dependent on trade. Protestors should support the World Trade Organisation's efforts to give the world's poor a fair go.
SCHOOL FORMALS IN LICENSED VENUES
I direct my question to the Minister for Gaming and Racing. With end-of-year formals now being held in the electorate of Northern Tablelands, will the Minister inform the House what liquor licensing-related matters school groups should be aware of when organising and conducting such events?
I thank the honourable member for his question.
This is a dorothy dixer.
I am prepared for the question because a member of the Opposition, the honourable member for Burrinjuck, raised the issue with my staff a few days ago, and I thank her for that inquiry. It is not a surprise that the member for Northern Tablelands has asked this question, because he was the licensee of the University of New England Union bistro. We worked through many issues relating to that venue. I will answer this question for the member for Burrinjuck as well.
Year-12 formals will be held in hundreds of licensed venues as school leavers celebrate the end of the school year before embarking on tertiary studies, entering the work force, or simply taking a well-earned break. This State has no shortage of venues for school formals; most of them are licensed to sell liquor and can provide function packages to suit various budgets and other needs. They extend from five-star hotels in the Sydney central business district to suburban BYO restaurants. Of course, school formal venues can include hotels, restaurants, function centres, vessels, or registered clubs. Each type of venue is the subject of restrictions imposed by liquor laws, including how the liquor can be served, and the serving of minors.
Our liquor laws include provisions dealing with minors in licensed venues for good reasons. Only two months ago a large group of school students who had been drinking at a registered club at Bondi embarked on a drunken rampage at Bondi Beach. As we know from extensive media coverage of the incident, considerable damage was caused to cars, public property, and the North Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club. The fall-out from that incident is still being felt—a number of students are before the courts, criminal charges have been laid, and the registered club is facing disciplinary action following the three-day closure ordered by NSW Police in consultation with officers of the Department of Gaming and Racing.
I am grateful for the interest shown by the members for Northern Tablelands and Burrinjuck in school formals being held in registered clubs. The member for Burrinjuck seemed concerned that the Government was doing something sinister in regard to section 23 of the Registered Clubs Act. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Government and the community generally recognise the important role that registered clubs play in providing social, sporting and community services for young people. Whether they are the location for an event sponsored by the local cricket club or an alcohol-free function for minors, there is no doubt that registered clubs are an integral part of the community, especially in rural New South Wales. However, one of the underlying principles of registered clubs is that they be available to all members and guests.
In most cases, membership provisions capture out-of-town visitors in what is commonly known as the five-kilometre rule. A family from Sydney holidaying in Port Macquarie can go to the local club and enjoy meals and refreshments. That rule was introduced by the then Chief Secretary, the Hon. Anne Cohen, in 1994 and is now accepted by most people. The then Coalition Government also overhauled section 23 of the Registered Clubs Act to enable functions to be held for non-members and minors. The amendments included blanket approval for clubs to hold functions for non-members and minors without the need to obtain Licensing Court approval each time a function is booked. It is worth quoting the Hon. Mrs Cohen's second reading speech on the bill, in which she pointed out the need for controls to ensure that clubs do not become an open bar. She said in part:
The amendment will not allow clubs to conduct an open bar with unrestricted access for the public-clubs do not exist for that reason … any club which abuses this provision can expect to be subject to the appropriate disciplinary action.
The types of functions held for non-members and minors are set out in section 23 of the Registered Clubs Act. They include community, sporting, political, charitable or educational functions. Christmas functions can also be held subject to the condition that alcohol is not served. Clearly, these functions are designed to enable registered clubs to hold young children's Christmas parties, such as pantomimes and so on.
School formals do not meet the statutory criteria for the functions permitted by section 23 of the Registered Clubs Act. Put simply, organisers wanting to hold school formals in a registered club, whether it be in Sydney, Goulburn, Armidale or various other towns in the Northern Tablelands, must ensure that those attending the function meet the membership requirements. The club that has approached the honourable member is wide of the mark in that regard. It can hold a school formal at any time simply by meeting the statutory requirements of the membership provisions. In other words, if parents and teachers attend, the function can be held.
I spoke to the management of the very well run Coffs Harbour Services Club a couple of days ago. It holds both year-10 and year-12 formals under the membership provisions. Those functions are no different from a wedding reception or a similar function. Although concerns have been raised, members should understand that a function can be held in a club under certain conditions. I wish all groups having these functions a great deal of success.
LEVEL CROSSINGS SAFETY
I direct my question without notice to the Minister for Roads. What is the latest information on safety at level crossings?
This is an important policy matter. It is pleasing to see the Leader of the Opposition finally paying attention during question time. He has spent almost all of question time getting advice from lawyers, as he might. This honourable member has enjoyed himself!
Point of order: Fair dinkum, Mr Speaker! The Minister is now lying and the Premier lied. There are no lawyers in this Chamber. There must be some standards in this House. The Premier comes into this Chamber and behaves in a mendacious fashion, and the Minister for Transport tells lies.
Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Wakehurst will resume his seat.
I will continue after that rude interruption. Level crossings are a significant concern to the Government, as they should be to the Opposition. Recently I outlined to the House the Government's program to assess the safety of level crossings, install new safety measures, and, where possible, close level crossings. I informed members that our $12 million upgrade program—31 crossings upgraded last year and 48 crossings to be upgraded this year—was starting to have a positive effect, with fatalities, injuries and collisions all trending downwards. Unfortunately, there have been two fatal collisions interstate—in South Australia, between The Ghan
and a school bus, and in Victoria, between a steam train and a vehicle. Tragically, seven people lost their lives in those horrific collisions, serving as yet another reminder to drivers of the dangers of level crossings.
These interstate accidents raise the need for national risk assessment standards. In fact, I point out to colleagues that New South Wales has adopted a risk assessment matrix, similar to that developed by Queensland Rail, to assess risk at this State's level crossings. At my instigation the Australian Transport Council, which met in Sydney last Friday, has asked the Queensland Minister to put a paper to the next meeting of Ministers in May with a view to all rail authorities across the country adopting the Queensland model for risk assessment.
Initial investigations into the collision between The Ghan
and the school bus in Adelaide show that all the safety equipment—lights, boom gates and bells—was functioning correctly. The accident apparently occurred because traffic had banked back from an intersection, with the congestion causing a car and the bus to be trapped on the crossing. The lesson here is clear: even at a fully upgraded level crossing with all safety and warning equipment functioning, if a motor vehicle enters the crossing without being able to exit it, the result can be fatal. If a motor vehicle tries to beat a train through a crossing, the results can be equally devastating.
In the wake of the recent interstate accidents, I asked the Co-ordinator-General of Rail, the Rail Infrastructure Corporation, and the Roads and Traffic Authority to investigate ways to reduce the likelihood of similar tragedies occurring in New South Wales and to undertake steps to improve the safety of level crossings. I can now inform the House of a package of initiatives to address this risk, which includes boosting fines and introducing demerit points for level crossing-related offences; identifying level crossings where, despite safety measures and warning devices, congestion is a problem; trialling new road markings and signs at high-risk crossings; investigating the use of red-light cameras to deter dangerous driving behaviour; and a new advertising campaign.
Currently the fine is $74 for queuing across a level crossing, and $209 for racing a train. I believe that those penalties do not send a sufficiently tough message to drivers. Although drivers who queue across a level crossing face a fine of $74, I do not believe that is a sufficient deterrent to discourage them from getting caught in that congestion, banking up behind a car, a truck or a bus and literally parking their vehicle on the rail track, in the hope that a train will not come along.
Rather, motorists need to be reminded of the dangerous risk that that action poses not only to themselves and their passengers but also to the train driver and the train passengers. Motorists who do that will be reminded that if they do not value their lives, obviously they do not value their licence, because they will lose their licence. From 1 January a driver caught blocking a level crossing or racing a train will lose three demerit points and face a $300 fine. These offences will apply at all level crossings throughout the State.
I have also requested the Level Crossing Strategy Council, in addition to its program of identifying high-risk sites requiring safety measures, to identify level crossings where additional warnings of congestion are required, to highlight to motorists the need to have a heightened sense of safety at these locations. The Rail Infrastructure Corporation and the Roads and Traffic Authority are considering that request.
Criss-crossed, bright yellow lines will be painted on rail crossings at four locations to remind motorists of the need to take even greater care than they would normally take in crossing level crossings. The four high-risk crossings are in Garfield Road Riverstone, Park Road Woonona, Darling Street Dubbo, and Summer Street Orange. It is my hope that motorists will take a high degree of care at those crossings. The Government also proposes to trial red-light style cameras at some of these level crossings. I am absolutely astonished and disappointed to inform the House—
Look at the camera.
This might be a joke to you, but despite boom gates lowering, some motorists, almost feral in their behaviour, drive around the first boom gate, around the second boom gate, and continue on their way. The Government proposes to install red-light style cameras at some of these locations, to see whether they provide a greater degree of deterrence and are effective in terms of enforcement. The Government will continue to do all it can to enhance safety at level crossings, increase enforcement, increase the penalties, and provide improved education to remind motorists that they need to take care when crossing railway lines.
WOMEN ON GOVERNMENT BOARDS
My question is to the Minister for Women. What is the latest information on increasing the number of women on government boards, and related matters?
Never before have corporate governance issues been more in the news—for example, overseas with the collapse of companies like Enron and WorldCom and here in Australia with the collapse of HIH in particular.
We need women with integrity.
That's right. As these sad sagas have unfolded we have seen just how important it would have been to those companies if they had had proper governance at a board level and at a senior executive level, instead of reckless, risk-taking behaviour. I will give the House a case study that I believe highlights why women should be on boards. In the post-Enron environment, the Kellogg's school of management at Northwestern University in Chicago, for the first time, ran a course specifically for women who were specifically considering becoming directors. It was the first time Kellogg's had run such a course for women only.
Kellogg's used a case study of a small business that owned a racing car. The women were told that the car had a history of engine trouble, probably due to cold weather, the company was losing money, a major sponsor was wavering, and an important race was coming up. Then the women were asked whether the company should enter the race. Overwhelmingly, the women decided that the company should not enter the race. However, in earlier courses that were being dominated by men, the answer was, "Yes, let's go ahead and race." The participants were then told they had been given exactly the same data that matched all the information available to Morton Theocol and NASAR on the day they went ahead with the launch of the space shuttle Challenger in cold weather and 10 people lost their lives.
It is certainly not that women should perform the role of God's police on boards; it is simply that they bring different experiences and perspectives and, arguably, more caution to round out a board's consideration. Unfortunately, despite all the evidence that we need more women on private sector boards, the current figure is 3.4 per cent and falling. There is no shortage of skilled women to take up positions on boards, so why are they not being appointed? For example, Qantas, a major company in this country, has had the foresight to appoint Margaret Jackson, so why are other companies not doing the same? In fact, corporate government advisers Gaudry and Partners report that the top 500 listed companies have 3,474 board positions, but only 186 are held by women.
This Government does not have any direct control over whom companies appoint to their boards, but as Minister for Women I intend to take action to improve this totally unsatisfactory figure. In January I will bring together senior chief executive officers and other executive people in the field and in the workshop to see how they can best jointly tackle this issue. I will be working with the Premier's Council for Women and the chair of the Sydney Stock exchange, Mr Maurice Newman, on this project.
FARM DAM POLICY
My question without notice is to the Minister for Land and Water Conservation. Why will the Minister not provide, as part of the State drought assistance package, assistance to clean and improve on-farm dams, allowing farmers to carry out vital maintenance using local expertise?
The answer to the honourable member's question is simple: It is not my responsibility. He should address his question to the Minister for Agriculture.
EAST TIMOR EDUCATION FUND
My question without notice is to the Minister for Education and Training. What is the latest information on assistance to schools in East Timor?
In May this year I re-launched a fund-raising campaign in all New South Wales schools—
Point of order: Standing order 135 allows questions relating to public affairs to be asked of Ministers. Yesterday, in relation to a question asked of the Minister for Small Business, you ruled, Mr Speaker, that Ministers could be asked questions relevant to their portfolio as far as the State of New South Wales is concerned. This question relates to foreign affairs, and we have already had a question about globalisation. I ask you to rule the question out of order.
Order! There is no point of order.
Earlier this year I re-launched a fund-raising campaign in all New South Wales schools: Helping our neighbour—the East Timor education fund. New South Wales schools raised $42,000. I have added $10,000 to that and last week I gave a $53,000 cheque to Dr Domingos de Sousa, the director-general of East Timor's education system. The appeal was launched and used the support of the Federation of Parents and Citizens Association, the New South Wales Teachers Federation, the New South Wales Federation of School Community Organisations, the New South Wales Primary Principals Association, the New South Wales Secondary Principals Association, and the Independent Education Union [IEU].
I commend all schools that took part. Sydney Girls High School raised $7,000, Model Farms High School raised $1,300, and students at Five Mile Creek Public School donated $100 that was won by Maxine, a sheep that competes in a variety of competitions at the school. The students presented the prize to me and I passed it on. After meeting the director-general I have approved a program under which New South Wales will receive a group of four to five East Timorese district superintendents and principals each year for three years to assist them to rebuild their education system. We will also fund a New South Wales Department of Education officer to assist in East Timor.
Order! There is far too much audible conversation in the Chamber. The honourable member for Lismore will resume his seat.
I thank the hard work of Mr Angelo Gavrielatos of the Teachers Federation and Mr Patrick Lee of the Independent Education Union. We have also sent three containers of aid in kind from several institutions around the State and I can announce that government schools will also develop numerous sister city relationships with schools in Timor. We in the education system look forward to a future relationship with the Department of Education and Training in East Timor.
FARM DAM POLICY
The honourable member for Tamworth asked the Minister for Land and Water Conservation a question about cleaning up on-farm dams. I can inform the honourable member that on 26 August 2002 at Cobar the Premier announced an extension of transport water and fodder subsidies, among other things, an extension of the criterion for the special conservation loans to also include dam desilting, major repairs to stock water systems, piping and storage of stock water, and the planting of renewal species such as lucerne and old-man saltbush. I hope that answers the honourable member's question.
Questions without notice concluded.
CONSIDERATION OF URGENT MOTIONS
Leader of the Opposition Pecuniary Interest Disclosure
(Marrickville—Deputy Premier, Minister for Planning, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and Minister for Housing) [3.34 p.m.]: My motion is urgent because it goes to the heart of the standards of this Parliament. It is urgent, it is serious, and it is important. This is like the Neil Hamilton in the British House Of Commons. This is cash for questions.
Order! I call the honourable member for Murrumbidgee to order.
This is scandalous. The conduct of one of the most senior officers in this Parliament, the Leader of the Opposition, has been brought into question. The article in today's Sydney Morning Herald
raises grave allegations. The report confirms that the Leader of the Opposition has failed to declare a substantial income he received, as a consultant, over four years as a member of this House. This is urgent because the Leader of the Opposition has to explain why he is asking questions in Parliament about matters in which his client is involved and from whom he has received money. In other words, did the Leader of the Opposition receive cash for asking questions in this House? I urge the House to debate my motion.
Exceptional Circumstances Drought Assistance
(Upper Hunter—Leader of the National Party) [3.35 p.m.]: My motion is urgent and should have precedence over the Minister's motion because right now, today, yesterday, and tomorrow exceptional circumstances assistance has to be considered by both the State Government and the Federal Government. In light of the current circumstances the application that was lodged by New South Wales in September did not fully comply and the Commonwealth has had to reinterpret and adjust criteria to ensure the result was announced today.
My motion is urgent because this announcement was made today. The process of preparation by the State is long, in the order of six months. Drought has been declared for more than a year in many of the Rural Land Protection Board [RLPB] areas across the State. Of the two RLPB areas approved today by the Federal Government, Bourke was drought declared on 1 August 2001 and commenced to receive some level of assistance from the State on 1 February 2002, and eight months later the State Government finally lodged an application for exceptional circumstances. Having taken eight months to prepare an application for Bourke and 11 months to prepare an application for Brewarrina, the Government has the hide to claim that it is not mainly responsible for the non-compliance, the non-cooperation, and the length of time taken to lodge the applications. My motion is urgent because this morning the Federal Government received three more applications, cold canvas.
Point of order: I have risen in this Chamber many times to take a similar point of order under the standing orders. The Opposition is very good at moving standing orders and jumping up in question time.
Order! The Leader of the National Party will resume his seat. The honourable member for Murrumbidgee will cease interjecting.
The honourable member has to satisfy the Chamber why his motion is more important to be debated than the Minister's motion. He cannot debate the substance of his motion. It is simple and clear: he must prove why his motion should be debated; that is the only scope he has under the standing orders.
Order! The honourable member for Blacktown is perfectly correct. The Leader of the National Party should comply with the standing orders.
Of course this motion is urgent today. It is today that applications arrived in Canberra; it is today that the previous application was finally approved in Canberra; and it is tomorrow that we anticipate the arrival of three more applications for exceptional circumstances assistance. It could not be more timely and more urgent than to consider today the co-operation, concurrence and joint applications between the State and the Commonwealth to ensure that we do not again go through an eight-month delay in preparation for Bourke and an 11-month delay in preparation for Brewarrina. This is a genuine offer of co-operation. I am amazed at the scoffing and scorn of Government members on an issue as vital as the drought. They are either fair dinkum about the drought and the urgency of the matter or they are not. They should show the colour of their convictions—except they do not have any convictions; they just play games and pretend they have provided some assistance. However, the Opposition is fully aware that the Government has taken an eternity to prepare these applications. The Government is playing games at the expense of the emotions and financial viability of the rural sector of New South Wales and it should be ashamed.
Question—That the motion for urgent consideration of the honourable member for Marrickville be proceeded with—agreed to.
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION PECUNIARY INTEREST DISCLOSURE
(Marrickville—Deputy Premier, Minister for Planning, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and Minister for Housing) [3.41 p.m.]: I move:
(1) requests the Leader of the Opposition and member for Pittwater to present to the House by 11.00 a.m. on 14 November 2002 all documents, including contracts, letters of engagement, instruction invoices, payment advices, client activity reports, receipts, correspondence and all other papers concerning:
(a) income received by him and Northmist Pty Ltd from PricewaterhouseCoopers and Dunhill Madden Butler either directly or indirectly through any third party;
(b) details of specific services performed by the Leader of the Opposition that gave rise to income from PricewaterhouseCoopers and Dunhill Madden Butler; and
(c) his full list of clients.
(2) Further requests the Leader of the Opposition to table all documents relating to his relationship with any other company to which he has provided paid service while he was a shadow Minister for Planning or a member of Parliament.
Today's Sydney Morning Herald
reports matters of grave concern that go to the heart of the integrity of one of the senior members of this House—the Leader of the Opposition—and to the fact that while he was a member of Parliament and shadow Minister he was acting as a consultant for law firms Dunhill Madden Butler and PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal. He has been paid $110,000 in that capacity through his consultancy firm, Northmist Pty Ltd. He had not openly declared that source of income to this House in accordance with the Constitutional (Disclosure by Members) Regulation 1983 until the matter was brought to his attention by a journalist, and asked questions in this House as shadow planning Minister in matters in which PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal was acting for developers and he was, at the same time, acting for that firm as a consultant.
The Leader of the Opposition has been the most voluble champion of the pecuniary interests register and the most shrill defender of ministerial and parliamentary standards. Let him be held by those standards. The Leader of the Opposition must explain why he has asked questions in Parliament about matters in which his client is involved and from whom he has received money. The Leader of the Opposition must explain whether he received cash for asking questions in this House. This House has the right to know and the duty to ask. What did the Leader of the Opposition have to hide in not disclosing the sources of income being received by his company, Northmist? Why did he only declare the source of Northmist's income when asked by a journalist?
Why did he continue his arrangement with Dunhill Madden Butler and Pricewaterhouse Coopers Legal after being made shadow Minister for Planning in April 1999? Did he act for Dunhill Madden Butler or PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal in any of the matters upon which he has asked questions in this House? Did he otherwise use his position as a member of Parliament to raise issues and seek information that would directly or indirectly benefit Dunhill Madden Butler or PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal or their clients? Who were the clients of Dunhill Madden Butler and PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal for whom Northmist was paid to provide advice?
The Leader of the Opposition must make the position clear with respect to the Victoria Park project. When he asked his questions on notice was the Leader of the Opposition acting on behalf of PricewaterhouseCoopers because of its dispute with Landcom or did he ask them on behalf of the unsuccessful tenderer, St Hilliers, which was also a PricewaterhouseCoopers client? Until these questions are answered the Leader of the Opposition must stand accused of entertaining, for a period of more than four years, an intolerable conflict of interest. He must labour under the suspicion that he has abused his position of trust as a member of Parliament and shadow Minister to gain private advantage for himself, the company engaging him and its clients.
This Parliament is entitled to suspect, until otherwise proven, that he has engaged in cash for questions and in doing so has brought grave disrepute to himself and to this House. The secretive nature of the payments to Northmist and the fact that they continued for three years while he was shadow Minister are suggestive of moral turpitude. This matter invariably brings into question the fitness of the Leader of the Opposition to hold the high office to which he has been elected by his party.
Order! I call the honourable member for Wakehurst to order for the fourth time.
That therefore brings into question his fitness to continue to represent the people of Pittwater. It brings into question his fitness to continue to represent the people of Pittwater with the degree of confidence they are entitled to have in their representative. No more serious allegations have hung over the leader of his party since the late Robert Askin. This Parliament is rightly the judge of its own standards and those of its members. In today's press conference the Leader of the Opposition said in answer to a question, "Landcom were a client of PWC Legal. I criticise Landcom." Why? Is it because Landcom was in conflict with his own client, PricewaterhouseCoopers? The Leader of the Opposition must be and will be held to account. He must be and will be judged by the standards he has set for others. I commend the motion to the House.
(Pittwater—Leader of the Opposition) [3.48 p.m.]: I have no concern about complying with this motion in whatever capacity I am able to, and I will do it at my earliest convenience. However, I will do two things. First, I want to explain to the Minister the true events surrounding the Landcom matter. On 15 October 2001 an article in the Australian Financial Review
entitled "Height bungle bumps St Hilliers" referred to the incompetence of Landcom with respect to a property matter at Zetland. As the Minister well knows, I have been a reasonable critic of Landcom's commercial activities for some time, and have been consistent on that point. On that same day I issued a press release entitled "Landcom's inexperience with the Zetland site". That was run subsequently on 16 October 2001, with the Australian Financial Review
quoting me. I subsequently asked a number of questions of the Minister on 27 November and answers were received—
On matters in the public domain.
On matters in the public domain—on matters with respect to Landcom, a matter for which I was responsible as shadow Minister. In debate on the Landcom Corporation Bill on 5 December 2001 I also criticised in some detail the whole Landcom Zetland deal. At no stage was I aware, until yesterday, that PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal had any role with Landcom, and that matter was brought to my attention by the Sydney Morning Herald
in questioning. Finally, I refer to a document entitled "Re: Ordinary Returns and the Constitution (Disclosure by Members) Regulation 1983". It is a memorandum of advice provided and signed by Henric Nicholas of Selborne Chambers, who is one of the country's leading barristers. The advice refers to my pecuniary interests returns lodged in 1999 and 2000. The advice concludes:
It is my firm opinion that the disclosures made in paragraph 3, section B in each case in the terms already referred to constitutes full compliance by Mr Brogden with the requirements of clause 9(2)(c) of the Regulation.
I seek leave to table that document.
(Liverpool) [3.51 p.m.]: The Leader of the Opposition has found himself with a substantial conflict between his public duty and his private interest. As a member of this place, as the Leader of the Opposition and as a frontbench member, he has a number of duties to this House, to his electorate and to his party. Those duties include discharging his obligations without fear or favour. Those duties require him to perform his various functions without being paid, in effect, by private interests. Those public duties seem to be in clear conflict with his private interest, that is, being paid a substantial sum of money by PricewaterhouseCoopers via Dunhill Madden Butler. As I said, there is a clear conflict, on the face of it, between his public duty and his private interests.
This Parliament has developed a structure to deal with such conflicts and that is a thing called the pecuniary interests register so that declarations can be made. In that context, it is particularly disturbing that a very large payment of money was not recognised or acknowledged on the pecuniary interests form for a considerable period. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition has hidden it. The item concerned was not on the 1998 register, the 1999 register or the 2000 register. It was only mentioned on the 2001 pecuniary interests register. In that context, it is utterly beside the point, and it does not deal with the criticism to produce a silk's advice to say that he complied with the technical requirements. If that is the case, why did he change the register? If the silk's advice is right, if in fact the Leader of the Opposition complied with all his obligations, why did he have to change the register? There is a fundamental problem with the position he adopts. If the silk's advice had dealt with that point it might be a lot more substantial.
Did you give that advice to Eddie?
I thank the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai for giving me a point to attack the Leader of the Opposition. The interjection of the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai relates to another issue. Another problem for the Leader of the Opposition in this debate is that he has been complaining at length, and loudly, about other issues and other members. If that is the case, he must stand condemned by his own words. He cannot pretend to have one set of standards for Government members and another set of standards for himself and other Opposition members. The fact that the Leader of the Opposition has inconsistent standards for himself and for Government members leads to one conclusion: He is a hypocrite. There is no other word to describe his performance. In his view, producing a silk's advice solves his problem. Other people who produce similar advice cannot—
Order! I place the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on three calls to order.
The question of why the Leader of the Opposition has only got around to declaring this interest three years later is interesting. One must inevitably ask the question: Why has he declared it now? What has brought about this extraordinary recollection, and this display of honesty and integrity? It is very simple—journalists got to him. That is the only reason that he has declared this interest now. Inevitably, that goes to his credit and his integrity. As has been said in this debate a couple of times already, the Leader of the Opposition's behaviour, which is currently under discussion, goes to the heart of this institution and to the integrity of this place. It is about the payment of private money to perform public duties. That is thoroughly inconsistent with anything that can be regarded as a proper discharge of duties.
It means that the Leader of the Opposition becomes a member of Parliament [MP] for hire. It means that he is adopting the same sordid tactics that were adopted by Tory backbenchers at the tail end of the Major Government. He is replicating that sleazy exercise in the House of Commons. He has adopted all of the worst aspects of the Tory Party in England—in this way and in a number of other ways, I hasten to add. Another interesting point that emerges from this is that many people in my electorate would regard MPs as being fairly well paid. We do comparatively well in terms of pay, compared to the people in my electorate. Why does the Leader of the Opposition need the extra money? Why are members opposite so greedy that they are not content with an MP's salary? What drives them to get every last conceivable cent they can?
The honourable member for The Hills interjects about the politics of envy. This is about the politics of greed—the greed of the Leader of the Opposition, who is not prepared to perform his duties in this place for the salary the public pays him. He needs more money; he wants an extra $100,000 over a number of years because he is not content. If he is not prepared to perform the functions and duties he has in this place for the money he gets paid, there is a simple solution. He should get the hell out and go somewhere where he can make more money. There are certainly enough members opposite to cover his position. I was delighted to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that he wants to comply with the motion and produce all the documents. However, another question is: How many other times has he been paid? What else has he been paid for?
(Marrickville—Deputy Premier, Minister for Planning, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and Minister for Housing) [3.57 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Liverpool for his support of this motion. I am delighted that the Leader of the Opposition said that he will be able to comply with the motion to the best of his abilities. The nub of this question is clear: The Leader of the Opposition must explain why he asked questions in Parliament about matters in which his client was involved and from whom he received money. He must explain whether he received cash for asking questions. Neil Hamilton did exactly that in the British House of Commons. We need to ensure that it does not happen here. I urge all honourable members to support the motion.
Motion agreed to.
WORLD CUP SOCCER BID
Matter of Public Importance
(Kogarah) [3.59 p.m.]: I ask the House to note as a matter of public importance the community support for the Soccer World Cup 2014 bid. The Sydney Olympics confirmed that we can hold great events. We have an international reputation of doing it better than anybody else. That is why on Sunday 4 August the Premier stood on the steps of the Sydney Opera House with FIFA President Mr Sepp Blatter, Victoria's Acting Premier John Thwaites and the Chairman of Soccer Australia, Ian Knop, to announce Australia's intention to bid for the world's biggest single sporting event—the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Two days later Steve Bracks and the Premier set up an intergovernmental working party to work towards establishing a national bid committee—a committee that has the full support of all State Premiers and Chief Ministers. New South Wales and Victorian officials will meet this month to start gathering information for the Australian bid. Meetings will also take place in South Australia. Victorian and New South Wales officials have already started work on collecting information Australia already holds and information it will need to bid for a football World Cup, learning from past World Cup hosts like Korea, Japan and France, developing a list of key people needed to move the bid forward, and developing a tactical approach for an effective bid. They are also looking at the full cost of staging the tournament, the budget for an official bid committee and the economic benefits to the Australian economy. But we do not need the precise dollar figure to know those benefits will be immense.
It has been rightly pointed out that Soccer Australia needs to become stronger, and the organisation is being reformed. We need to do even more to develop our elite players. That is why the State Government set up the Premier's Soccer Task Force to look at how we can improve elite soccer in this State, and appointed Mr Johnny Warren as the Premier's special adviser on soccer development. The task force is chaired by Johnny Warren, who will meet with soccer clubs, players, coaches and managers across the State. A soccer summit held recently in Wollongong attracted more than 50 representatives of the Illawarra's 10,000 registered soccer players. The task force report will be finalised by the end of November. This Government is planning ahead to ensure that we have the best possible team playing in the Australian World Cup in 2014.
Interest in the bid is enormous. The Premier is often stopped by people on the street, in shops and at the airport asking about the World Cup bid and urging us to stick with it. The honourable member for Miranda—himself a member of the local over-35s team, the Miranda Magpies—says the 13,120 registered soccer players in the Sutherland shire are 100 per cent behind the bid. The honourable member for Oxley should take note, so he can repeat this in his speech. The World Cup petition we have circulated is being signed by thousands of people. I am even aware that Mr Simon Aronov, the owner of the Premier's local pizza shop, Papa Pan Gourmet Pizza on Malabar Road, is constantly handing the Premier completed petitions. These local families clearly know a bit more about soccer than the Leader of the Opposition. Interviewed by the Illawarra Mercury
on Saturday 26 October, he enjoyed this exchange:
Can you name a radio station, or a sporting team?
A sporting team? It's got a very strong soccer team, hasn't it?
Yes, can you name that team?
No, I can't. The Cosmos? It's the Cosmos isn't it?
No John, that's the Greek word for space.
Anyway, he struggled on, prompted by his media adviser. That takes us back to the grand old days of that other outstanding Opposition staffer, Luke Walsh. I might add, Mr Walsh's instincts concerning the loyalty of the honourable member for Pittwater to his then leader was absolutely spot-on. But here is her successor struggling to name the Wollongong soccer team, being prompted by a none-too-subtle stage whisper:
The what? Is it Wolves, is it? Oh, the Wollongong Wolves, yes. Not that I'm a soccer fan—I could barely name the Northern Spirit! I don't pretend to be a soccer fan.
One of the most disappointing aspects of our bid has been the can't-do attitude that marred our announcement on 4 August. Prime suspects were an unenthusiastic Federal Government and a very cynical Nicholas Frank Greiner. The headline in the following day's Australian
said it all: "Greiner pours scorn on bid for World Cup". Not far behind was the Leader of the Opposition—but with a twist. At 9 o'clock that morning on radio station 2GB he said:
… in offering bipartisan support I also offer the suggestion that there be bipartisan involvement in the process … that the people of New South Wales know this bid is above politics … and both sides of politics are involved in the bid.
That was the bipartisan support this bid needs. But it melted away—much like a Bronwyn Bishop for Prime Minister campaign. The Leader of the Opposition may not know that Marconi invented the medium only 80 years ago, and, of course, one of the nation's finest soccer clubs, based in Fairfield, is named in honour of that great Italian scientist. The Leader of the Opposition may not know that anyone can listen to radio. Two days later we heard the Leader of the Opposition dumping on the World Cup bid. He told Phillip Clark on 2GB:
This was a pretty cynical stunt—not a lot more than a political stunt.
Normally we might call that a Brogden backflip, but I would refer to it as a triple backflip with pike. This manoeuvre involves holding your own opinion at 9.00 a.m.—a very sound opinion, I might add—having a subsequent phone conversation with your puppet master, Nick Greiner, and completely changing your tune in time for your next interview. How stupid does he think the people of New South Wales are? I am a huge soccer fan—I have followed it all my life. Until I came into Parliament I was a midfielder for Kingsgrove Olympic. I went to Melbourne to watch Australia play Iran for the 1998 World Cup campaign. The Melbourne Cricket Ground was filled to capacity, 100,000 fans, of which 95,000 were barracking for Australia.
I cannot begin to express the pride I felt for our country when I saw 95,000 people—from all different backgrounds supporting all different clubs—come together with their Aussie strips and face paint, singing Aussie chants. It was a great day for Australian soccer. I cannot impress upon this House strongly enough what an amazing boost it would be to Australian soccer to have the 2014 World Cup in Australia. Think what it would do for the development of our sport. It would firmly entrench us on the world stage.
You have kicked an own goal.
The honourable member for Oxley is the Escobar of New South Wales Parliament. If I were him I would be really quiet. With the exception of netball, soccer is the most played sport in this country. We all saw the impact the Olympics had on all Sydneysiders. To have that feeling again, to be the centre of the world again, is reason enough for this bid to be a serious bid and one we must strive to win. I call on the Federal Government, Nick Greiner and the Opposition to come on board. We all know that the only reason members of the Opposition do not support this bid and make fun of the people of New South Wales and Australia—all the 200,000 registered soccer players in this State who were desperately like to have the World Cup Here in 2014—is that they did not initiate it—even though they have their mates on the board of Northern Spirit. We now have an opportunity to host one of the world's biggest sporting events and to promote one of the most played sports in this country. We should all get behind the bid.
(Oxley) [4.08 p.m.]: As I stated during question time, this matter was debated by way of an urgent motion in this Chamber on 4 September.
What about the netball dinner?
I am going to the netball dinner tomorrow night.
None of their colleagues are.
No, they very rarely attend sporting functions. While the Opposition supports the bid for Australia to host the Soccer World Cup—
You do not.
I have said it again and again—this is about the tenth time. It is on the public record that the Opposition supports Australia's bid to host the soccer World Cup. This matter was recently debated in the Chamber. The event is 12 years away and right now New South Wales faces the pressing issues of drought and the risk of bushfires. I cannot reconcile Labor's priorities in debates on matters of public importance. Perhaps the honourable member for Kogarah, who is worried about her re-election prospects, is seeking to score points with her local soccer fraternity. Mr Speaker has ruled that this matter can again be debated, so we will have to deal with the same issues again. Perhaps Government members did not understand it the first time.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Mills):
Order! The honourable member for Fairfield and the honourable member for Kogarah will cease interjecting. They will both have an opportunity to make further contributions to the debate.
I will say it over and over and eventually the dreadful duo opposite might start to understand and it will sink into their grey matter. I will go through some of the issues again. Perhaps the constituents of the honourable member for Kogarah will regard this exercise as abuse of the conventions of the Parliament and her strategy will backfire.
Point of order: This matter of public importance is about support for the soccer community. Three minutes into his speech the honourable member for Oxley has said nothing about the subject matter of the debate. He has spoken about all sorts of other things.
Order! I will listen carefully to the contribution of the honourable member for Oxley. At this stage he is in order.
couple of months ago I said that the Opposition gave strong and unconditional support to a soccer World Cup bid, which would be in keeping with our peerless reputation as host of the world's biggest and best sporting events. That support gained strong impetus from the former Coalition Government's successful bid for the 2000 Sydney Olympic and Paralympic Games. I also said that the Carr Labor Government had announced a bid for the 2014 soccer World Cup without even talking to the Australian Sports Commission or the Prime Minister, despite the fact that any bid must necessarily be a national one facilitated by the Federal Government. I said then, as I say now, that this announcement, which was made in the Sunday morning papers, smacked of a publicity stunt rather than a unified, well-reasoned attempt to attract this hugely significant event to our shores. From memory, it was around this time in my speech that the honourable member for Kogarah began to rudely interject and hurl personal insults at me, sadly demonstrating her lack of debating skills, not to mention manners. I know what "moron" means, but what is a "nooner"?
Somebody who gets up in the afternoon and misses the boat.
Thank you. Again on 4 September I stated that the Labor Party, in its pursuit of a headline, had gotten ahead of itself, not to mention senior representatives of soccer in this country. The day after the announcement in the Sunday papers, the Prime Minister said:
And Mr Blatter has made it very plain to me this morning that FIFA's not interested in bids that don't have the full involvement of the national government. So my advice to Bob Carr and Steve Bracks is that if you're serious let's help Soccer Australia get its act together and when that occurs then let all of us sit down and work out how best we can promote Soccer Australia as a potential host at some time in the future for an event of this magnitude.
There the Prime Minister indicated his support for this event. However, he also indicated that the normal protocol should be followed, that is, the key stakeholders, including Soccer Australia and the Federal Government, should work together. The Chairman of Soccer Australia, Mr Ian Knop, said:
Soccer Australia will only participate in future bids for the FIFA Confederations Cup and World Cup if they are endorsed and supported by the Australian Sports Commission and the Federal Government.
However, since I became Chairman, I have sought to involve the Australian Sports Commission in our game, and they and the Federal Government must be part of any future bidding process.
The Federal Government and the Australian Sports Commission have been extremely supportive of Soccer Australia in recent times and we are planning many new initiatives in co-operation with them.
That is the Premier's press release.
No, it is not. It is clear that the Federal Government supports the event, but it supports a unified, well-reasoned bid free from party politics. Clearly, the sport of soccer in Australia was not quite ready for such an announcement. The Opposition has no doubt that there is a high level of community support for a soccer World Cup bid.
I just said that. You got that from my speech.
I wrote this speech long before the honourable member for Kogarah spoke. The strong community support is a reflection of the fact that there are more than 200,000 registered soccer players in New South Wales. They include my son Beau, who is a terrific soccer player. Incidentally, it is Beau's 15th birthday today. Happy birthday, Beau. If the bid is to be successful it must be unified and co-ordinated, it must involve all stakeholders and it must be free from political point scoring.
(Fairfield) [4.16 p.m.]: We have heard of Spiderman and Batman. Now we have the Copycat Man. Every speech that the honourable member for Oxley has made in this House on this matter has been copied straight off the press releases from the Premier's office. It is obvious that he knows little about the matter. Clearly, he is not interested at all in soccer. He spoke more about netball than about soccer, but this matter of public importance is about the bid for the soccer World Cup and the community support and momentum that is building up towards preparing for the bid. On 4 September I joined the honourable member for Kogarah and the honourable member for Miranda in speaking to an urgent motion in support of Australia's bid for the 2014 World Cup. During the debate the honourable member for Oxley, who apparently is the shadow Minister for Sport, made an interesting contribution. During his speech, which commenced at 3.58 p.m., he said that the performance of Australian players was improving. That is an acceptable comment, though a touch demeaning. He then rattled off the names of a few Australian players who have hit the big time overseas. He said:
The level of performance of Australian players is improving, with international players like Harry Kewell, Mark Bosnich, Mark Viduka, Paul Okon, Brett Emerton, Hayden Foxe, Lucas Neill, Marco Bresciano and more than 100 Australians playing in some of the world's best leagues in Spain, England, Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands.
I was sure I had heard that exact list of players before, and I was right. Those words appeared in a press release by the Premier exactly a month earlier to announce the establishment of a soccer task force. The Premier's release read:
Leading Socceroos including: Captain Paul Okon, Harry Kewell, Brett Emerton, Hayden Foxe, Lucas Neill, Mark Bosnich are all NSW products.
At present over 100 Australians are playing in some of the world's best leagues, in countries like Spain, England, Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands.
That speech by the honourable member for Oxley was an own goal. It is plagiarism, an exact copy. That is why we call him the Copycat Man. I was about to give him credit for mentioning Australia's most promising player, Marco Bresciano. He was not on the Premier's list, but then I read the final paragraph of the Premier's release, which stated:
Just last month, 22-year-old Australian midfielder, Marco Bresciano joined Italian Serie A side Parma on a transfer deal worth over A$22 million.
One would think that a shadow Minister would be sufficiently on top of his portfolio to be able to speak for five minutes without having to resort to lifting material from the Premier's press release, which was a good one. After all, New South Wales is the home of soccer in Australia, having more than 200,000 registered players. It did not stop there. During the 4 September debate, the honourable member for Oxley also stated:
The Australian World Cup side has done particularly well, especially in 1998, as have the Australian youth teams. I instance the performance of some of those sides. In the under-17 world championships the Australian side were runners-up in 1999 and quarterfinalists in 1991, 1993 and 1995. In the world youth under-20 championship, the Australian team were semifinalists in 1991 and 1993 and quarterfinalists in 1995, and in the under-23 Olympic tournament at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics the Australian side were semifinalists. Australia is well and truly up there on the international stage with its soccer performances.
That indicates some insightful and studious research. As the Premier likes to say, it is full of killer facts. I am sure this is what an Opposition leader wants from his team. Unfortunately, once again someone else did the legwork. It was not an Opposition staffer—although there seems to be plenty of them around—it was none other than the Premier of New South Wales. Once again, the Soccer Task Force release of 4 August was almost the only source of the speech of the honourable member for Oxley. The release stated:
Over the last decade, Australian youth teams have achieved some fantastic results on the international stage including:
FIFA Under 17 World Championships
Runners-up in 1994 - beaten on penalties by Brazil;
Quarter-Finalists in 1991, 1993 and 1995;
FIFA World Youth (under-20) Championships
Semi-Finalists in 1991 and 1993
Quarter finalists in 1995;
The speech of the honourable member for Oxley is exactly the same as the press release. He is Copycat Man. If anyone wants evidence that the Opposition does not care about the 2004 World Cup bid, this is it.
(Kogarah) [4.21 p.m.], in reply: I thank the member for Fairfield for his support. The performance of the honourable member for Oxley was not a contribution to this debate, and that saddens me. A "nooner" is someone who has wet hair at 2.00 p.m. because he got out of bed at noon. The honourable member drew attention to the fact that he was not included in the announcement about the bid. The announcement was made on a boat that left the jetty at noon. There was no way he could have arrived in time to be part of the event because he was just getting out of bed.
I cannot understand why members opposite are so opposed to the bid. Puppet master Nick Greiner contacted the Leader of the Opposition and told him that the Liberal Party would not support the bid because it was not Greiner's idea—and he is Mr Soccer. Two days later he was heard on the radio withdrawing his bipartisan support for the bid. Members opposite are now doing a backflip and saying they did not support the bid because the Federal Government was not involved in the process. That is not true. The honourable member for Oxley would not know because he was thinking about netball and sleeping in. The Federal Government does not support the bid. This motion urges members to support the bid for the benefit of the people of New South Wales and Australia.
Members opposite cannot claim that they support the bid but then say that we must go through a process. That is garbage. It is an attempt by the honourable member for Oxley to get his side out of deep water because the Liberal Party has missed the public opinion boat. Members opposite do not understand anything about soccer. The Leader of the Opposition has said that he has no idea about it. There are 200,000 registered players in New South Wales; it is the second biggest sport behind netball in this country. Members opposite are playing politics and interfering with a vital bid and an important event for Australian soccer. Holding this event would put us on the world stage. I urge the Federal Government and the State Opposition to get on board. They should not keep spouting rhetoric about going through a process. Let us get the bid going and win the nomination to hold the 2004 World Cup tournament in Australia.
TERRORISM (COMMONWEALTH POWERS) BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Maroubra—Premier, Minister for the Arts, and Minister for Citizenship) [4.36 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
It is clear from 11 September and the tragic events in Bali that Australia is not immune from terrorism. We must prepare calmly and coolly for the possibility of a terrorist outrage on our homeland. The Government's response to this threat has been decisive. Last month I announced the formation of the NSW Police Counter Terrorism Co-ordination Command. This 70-strong unit began operation on 1 November. Furthermore, a standing reference is being drafted to enable the New South Wales Crime Commission to work with New South Wales and Commonwealth agencies to investigate terrorist activity. The New South Wales State Emergency Management Committee is conducting a review of all critical State infrastructure to assess the level of protection needed. Honourable members know that I have also proposed a national counter terrorism strategy for consideration by States, Territories and the Commonwealth.
One of my major concerns is that we develop a new, higher degree of co-operation between the Commonwealth, States and Territories. One of the great lessons from 11 September is that relevant information collected by the Central Intelligence Agency was not passed on to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We must ensure that after Bali, intelligence gained by law enforcement and national security organisations is quickly shared. That means ensuring our Federal structure does not impede intelligence and information sharing. The consequences of getting it wrong are too high.
The Leaders Summit on Transnational Crime and Terrorism in April this year saw the beginning of a new culture of co-operation. This was followed by the signing of the inter-governmental agreement on counter terrorism arrangements on 24 October. We now need to ensure that the Commonwealth has all the power it needs to outlaw terrorist activities. The Commonwealth has already passed laws establishing new offences, including engaging in, providing training for, supporting and financing terrorist acts.
A terrorist act is an act intended to advance a political, religious or ideological cause and to intimidate and cause serious harm. It does not include legitimate protest or industrial action that is not intended to cause serious harm. The offences also prevent participation in groups declared to be terrorist organisations such as al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah. The Commonwealth's existing constitutional powers provide the legal basis for many aspects of the terrorist offences. However, there may be unforeseen gaps in the legal basis of the Commonwealth offences. We must fill those gaps so that suspects do not exploit legal loopholes to frustrate prosecutions. That is the central purpose of this legislation.
This is a short bill so I will not detain the House long in explaining its provisions; they are straightforward. The main provision is clause 4, which refers power to the Commonwealth to make laws with respect to terrorist acts or actions relating to terrorist acts as set out in the Commonwealth legislation annexed to the bill. Clause 5 provides that the referral is to continue indefinitely unless it is terminated by proclamation of the Governor. New South Wales' interests are protected by the provisions of the Commonwealth legislation, which is the subject of the referral.
Clause 100.6 of the legislation maximises the scope for both State and Commonwealth criminal laws to apply in New South Wales at the same time. Clause 100.9 of the Commonwealth legislation provides that the Commonwealth may not amend the legislation without the agreement of a majority of the States and Territories, including at least four referring States. I note that there is still debate between the Commonwealth and other States as to whether this amendment provision should be enacted by legislation or by an intergovernmental agreement. New South Wales has decided to go ahead with this bill on the assumption that it will be done by way of an intergovernmental agreement. However, if the Commonwealth and other States agree that it must be done by legislation, we will amend this bill at a later stage.
I am introducing the bill today because I do not want to delay this important legislation over one technicality. We cannot afford to leave the Commonwealth without the powers it needs to protect our people. This sort of measure could make a difference; it could give us that extra level of protection that will prevent the possibility of more stricken Australian families such as those that suffered as a result of the terrible and foul act in Bali. This bill is only the first step in the legislative reforms needed to confront the menace of terrorism. We are currently preparing a bill to complement the Commonwealth's Australian Crime Commission legislation. The New South Wales Police Force is also looking at the adequacy of its current powers to deal with terrorist threats. In summary, this is a bill to ensure there are no gaps in the constitutional basis of the new Commonwealth terrorism laws. It minimises the risk of legal technicalities standing in the way of justice. Any suspected terrorist will have a fair trial, but the community would be justly horrified if such people evaded justice because of legal or constitutional technicalities. With that purpose in mind, I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr R. H. L. Smith.
RAIL SAFETY BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
(Maitland) [4.32 p.m.]: I support the Rail Safety Bill, and I am pleased that the bill has been introduced in its present form. On a number of occasions I have spoken in this Chamber about rail transport and how it impacts upon the electorate of Maitland. I am certainly a supporter of rail and, more importantly, rail safety. I was pleased to hear the Minister refer in his second reading speech to the substantial amount of coal that is transported by rail through the Hunter Valley every year. Coal is the economic backbone of the Hunter and surrounding districts. The provision of safe and efficient rail services is essential to the continued development of the New South Wales coal industry. In supporting the bill my colleagues have spoken about the challenges facing passenger services in the Sydney region.
My perspective is somewhat different. The electorate of Maitland has passenger services, although they are not as busy as those in Sydney, as well as coal, grain and interstate traffic travelling through the region. For my constituents rail safety is about ensuring that all those types of rail services can operate safely on the network. Managing that traffic safely and efficiently is the real challenge for rail. The ageing technology of signalling and control systems is increasingly unable to cope with the demands of the modern international transport market. There is additional demand for paths on the network to accommodate long freight trains, and the rail system needs to be able to better co-ordinate the management of trains, both passenger and freight, on the interstate network.
To meet this challenge, a modern train control centre has been built at Broadmeadow. It will be a state-of-the-art computerised centre bringing together all the train control and signalling functions essential to enhance rail safety in the northern region. I am pleased to advise that the Government is spending more than $16 million on this facility alone. It will commence operations from late December this year, as signalling systems are progressively replaced. The operations of the centre will be crucial to streamlining safety critical communications, by co-locating signallers and train controllers. Co-location will reduce the number of interfaces in the communication chain between the training cabin and the control centre. Implementing this technology reflects the recommendations made by Justice McInerney.
Parallel with that, a country signalling improvement strategy is also being implemented. The strategy will consolidate country signal boxes into three key regional locations: Junee, Orange and in the Broadmeadow centre. Outdated signalling technology will be replaced by modern signalling equipment. Those improvements will go a long way towards making the system safer and more reliable for all network users. Investments such as those demonstrate the Government's commitment to working with the industry to improve the overall efficiency of the sector. The Government has set the objective of increasing the level of freight moved by rail. To do that, we are working with industry to identify strategic priorities.
The management of safety has benefited from the same close consultation with the industry. The House will recall that the Minister tabled the Rail Safety Bill for a period of eight weeks to enable further public consultation with key stakeholders. I thank all those in the rail industry who contributed substantial to the development of the bill. Submissions were received from a range of operators, both small and large, and track owners. I am pleased to advise that the New South Wales Minerals Council, the peak mining group in New South Wales, has indicated its support for the bill. Those who are aware of the activities of the Minerals Council will know that the organisation has had a long and close interest in rail safety and management issues. On behalf of the Minister I thank the council for its support, and I look forward to the mining and rail industries continuing to work together.
As the rail industry becomes increasingly national in focus, it will become more important that government and industry develop strategic alliances. Freight companies such as Pacific National operate not only long haul operations but also stevedoring activities. The concept of supply chains for freight is becoming more commonly understood. The co-ordinator general is working with stakeholders in the Hunter Valley to improve the efficiency of the coal supply chain. Quarterly meetings will be convened, which will enable the coal companies, rail operators, port authorities and rail infrastructure owners to meet and work through supply chain issues. This opening dialogue is essential if operational problems are to be resolved quickly. An efficient and profitable transport system means more jobs in electorates such as mine. The current drought has had a dramatic impact on rural economies. It is important that industries such as the mining and transport sector continue to thrive.
As I indicated earlier, Justice McInerney's report has informed the debate about rail safety in New South Wales. It is important that we learn from the tragedy of Glenbrook. This bill reflects the Government's commitment to address many of the issues raised in the inquiry. Many people in my electorate remember the Beresfield accident in 1997. That accident involved two coal trains. Fortunately there were no fatalities. I recall that accident vividly. It is significant that although there were no fatalities, two people today remain badly psychologically shocked by the accident. That clearly demonstrates to me and my constituents the importance of rail safety in a community that relies heavily on rail transportation for many thousands of jobs.
Many people are not aware that the Government requested that an independent investigation be undertaken into the Beresfield accident. Both the previous and current transport Ministers have been acutely aware of the importance of independent investigations of major accidents. The bill enshrines that requirement in legislation. I remind members of the openness of the report to the Minister on that accident, a report undertaken by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau because of its independence and complete separation from the rail industry. The bill provides for a multitiered approach to investigations to ensure the appropriate level of investigation for the level of seriousness of individual accidents. The Commonwealth Government, through the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, will have the option to investigate accidents on the interstate network.
I note that the Commonwealth was called in to undertake the Beresfield investigation. If the Australian Transport Safety Bureau elects not to investigate, or if a major accident is outside the interstate network, a rail accident investigation panel will be convened. The chair of the panel will have access to the specialist expertise that he or she requires to undertake the investigation. It is important as each accident may have been caused by a number of different factors, each unique to that accident. Specialist skills are necessary to ensure that the investigation is thorough. The requirement to table reports will ensure that there is transparency in reporting and that the public interest is protected.
Fatigue management is one of the key safety concerns for all rail workers, their families and their unions. Rail operations, and in particular freight operations, operate in an increasingly competitive environment. As an industry, Rail must be proactive in managing the health of its workers. Fatigued, overworked train drivers are a safety risk. A safe and healthy workforce is a good business investment. I am pleased to say that some operators are actively looking at a range of measures to manage fatigue amongst their employees. Initiatives such as this are welcomed, and I encourage operators to share their experience with the industry.
As a first step, however, this bill sets out maximum train driver working hours for both passenger and freight operations. Some may argue that this does not address all the factors associated with fatigue. To that I would say that we recognise that fatigue management is not a science, but that setting maximum driving hours deals with some of the main identified risks. Rail safety is difficult to achieve. No one industry player is solely responsible for delivering safety outcomes; it is the responsibility of all. While this bill provides for additional powers for the Rail Safety Regulator, it also ensures that responsibility for managing safety rests initially with those who best understand their business and its associated risks—that is, the operators. This model reflects a maturing industry that embraces this responsibility and knows that good safety makes good sense. I commend the bill to the House.
(Canterbury—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.42 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Maitland and the honourable member for Campbelltown for their contributions to this debate.
What about the member for Vaucluse?
I thank the Opposition for its support of the bill and I thank the honourable member for Vaucluse for much of what he had to say—though not all. A good deal of the comments of the honourable member for Vaucluse accord with the legislation. He expressed a number of criticisms. He said that if his party is ever in government it will legislate to improve the independence, powers and procedures of rail regulators. I believe that that was a somewhat hollow promise. I say that because the honourable member for Vaucluse did not really back up that statement. The fact that the Opposition will not oppose this bill indicates that it is in accord with the safety measures the Government is introducing in it.
I will respond to some of the points raised by the honourable member for Vaucluse. Under the bill any rail worker who anonymously reports a safety matter to the regulator is protected from their employer victimising or taking action against them. Also I am advised that the Rail Safety Regulator is in the process of establishing a 1800 hotline to enable anonymous reporting. We anticipate that this will be in place in the near future. I am pleased to advise that procedures for managing anonymous calls to the regulator are already in place. When a call is received the matter is investigated by transport safety officers and action taken as required.
The honourable member for Vaucluse said it is important for the rail accident investigation panel to have broad oversight of the safety of the rail network. The bill provides for that. All incident reports will, as a matter of course, be made available to the chair of the panel to enable that person to determine the need for a panel inquiry. If the chair's self-referral powers do not allow him or her to establish an inquiry, the chair can recommend that the Minister or director-general convene a panel. Any reasonable Minister would find it hard to refuse such a recommendation.
The shadow Minister spoke about the tabling of reports. Section 68 requires the Minister to table reports in Parliament within 28 days. If Parliament is not sitting there is provision for lodging such reports with the Clerks. It should be noted that 28 days is a maximum time frame, similar to procedures for presentation of reports by the Auditor General, ICAC and the Ombudsman. Therefore, in most cases it will be a shorter time frame. It should be remembered that there is currently no public reporting requirement, but to date reports have been made public within a reasonable time frame.
The New South Wales rail system is among the busiest and most complex in the world. During the past decade we have seen a number of significant structural changes that reflect policy initiatives at the State and Federal levels. These changes can be seen every day on the tracks. There is now an unprecedented mix of traffic types on the network. In Sydney we have national freight running alongside suburban passenger services. Rail freight traffic is essential to the continuing economic development of Sydney and New South Wales. Moving freight by rail eases pressure on our congested roads, and cuts down on noise and pollution.
Continuing the growth of rail freight traffic is a key economic role of this Government. However, providing commuters with timely and safe passenger services is also a core business of government. Safe public transport provides important social and environmental benefits as well as delivering people to their workplace. The Government seeks to maximise these benefits to facilitate the future development of Sydney as an international city. The challenge for the Government is to ensure that, irrespective of the type of rail service, safety is paramount. The regulatory framework must take account of the differences, but still deliver the safety outcomes that the community expects.
The Glenbrook accident and the subsequent inquiry by Justice McInerney demonstrated that we did not have it right. The rail safety legislation has not kept pace with the changes in the industry, and looking at the overseas experience we can see we are not alone. Justice McInerney's comprehensive reports provided valuable input into this new legislation and safety management more generally. Consistent with Justice McInerney's final report the Rail Safety Bill provides for a risk management based accreditation model, increased penalties and powers to enforce rail safety, a new multi-tiered statutory framework for rail investigations, and expanded drug and alcohol testing powers. These are the building blocks of an effective rail safety model.
In a complex operating environment, rail operators are best placed to determine how they manage the risks associated with their business. However, in doing so, they must meet the safety performance standards set by the independent regulator, and in this model the regulator will hold the operators accountable for their performance. That is what this bill enhances: clear and enforceable lines of accountability. Accountable reporting lines are central to the effective operation of a safe and reliable rail system. The Glenbrook accident, and the continuing poor performance of the railways in early 2000, put the spotlight on the activities of the rail authorities.
Although Justice McInerney identified a range of problems, lack of co-ordination between the separate rail agencies was a major concern. The creation of the Office of the Co-ordinator General of Rail in June 2000 reflected this concern. The Government's first priority was to ensure that the railways could deliver robust and reliable Olympic services. As we all know, the Olympic transport services were an overwhelming success and this was one of the high points of those three great weeks in September 2000. The Olympics demonstrated to the community the capability of the railways, but this needed to become standard practice. The key was effective co-ordination, and this was a priority for the Minister and me, as Parliamentary Secretary.
To this end, the Office of the Co-ordinator General has been working closely with rail agencies to build a collaborative partnership. Each day at 8.00 a.m. senior officials from State Rail, the Rail Infrastructure Corporation and the office of the Co-ordinator General of Rail meet to review the performance of the railways over the previous 24 hours. This enables problems to be quickly identified and resolved in a co-operative way. The key feature of these meetings is that the senior people, who know and manage the system, are accountable for its performance. These meetings are not about blame, but about taking responsibility for actions. The forum also provides early warning of potential safety problems, which is essential in any mature safety management system.
These operational meetings have laid the groundwork for fostering change in on-time running. Last year there were continued improvements in on-time running. The on-time running target of 92 per cent of peak-time trains arriving within three minutes of their scheduled time was frequently exceeded. In the last two years there was a 6.5 per cent improvement in these figures. But this is not just about statistics. The focused effort of all players is required to sustain the figures in the long term. There is now a shared understanding of the precision necessary to deliver these results. This ensures that the focus is on safety outcomes. I am not saying that we have it completely right, but these initiatives demonstrate that we are on track to deliver sustained improvements in rail services.
The wonderful thing about this collaborative approach is that these initiatives and projects are being developed and implemented by Rail employees who have a wealth of experience and, importantly, a desire to get things done. In recent years I have seen committed employees working across the Rail organisation to deliver a single outcome. This is essential if we are to build the safety culture to which Justice McInerney referred. The development of this safety culture requires a sustained effort by the entire rail industry. The Government accepted 93 of Justice McInerney's 95 recommendations. With the passage of this legislation, all 93 recommendations will either have been implemented or are in the process of being implemented. All the government agencies involved in rail have played a part.
For example, new training procedures are well under way, with much greater emphasis placed on competency-based training. The opening of the new virtual reality learning centre at Petersham is ushering in a new generation of rail training. There is progressive installation of data loggers in all trains to enable drivers' performances to be monitored. Also, more than 11,000 rail employees are currently being trained in the new safe working rules that will commence in December. The feedback from staff is very positive. Railway employees feel they now have a comprehensive understanding of the role of safety in their daily routines.
A new Rail Management Centre is currently being built at Central Station at a cost of $15.6 million. The centre will have a computerised training location system, which will allow training controllers to see the location of trains on a large computer screen, thus removing the dark spots. This is a significant development and demonstrates how investment in technology can improve safety outcomes. Passenger information and security support staff will be co-located in the centre to enable up-to-date information to be communicated and action taken quickly. The establishment of this centre implements a key McInerney recommendation.
Random testing for alcohol and other drugs is another key reform in the bill. This initiative is also in response to concerns raised by Justice McInerney. There is a strong community expectation that our public transport workers be free of alcohol or illicit drugs. I emphasise that this is not about unfairly targeting employees; it is about encouraging employees to take responsibility for their own health and behaviour. The bill provides that all accredited organisations are to have fair procedures in place for managing drug and alcohol testing, and to provide education and assistance for railway employees.
These provisions have been included to encourage employees who have a genuine drug and alcohol problem to come forward and seek counselling and rehabilitation. I know that government transport operators provide considerable support and counselling for those who have the courage to do that. The New South Wales rail industry is not leading on these issues; rather, it is catching up with the requirements in place around the country. In most other jurisdictions legislation provides for the random drug and alcohol testing of rail employees. Pacific National, Australia's largest private operator, already has a testing regime as a condition of employment. This was in place at National Rail prior to its sale, and will now be extended to all employees of the merged organisation. NSW Police also has these provisions in place. In fact, this provision in the Rail Safety Bill is modelled on the successful Police Service Act.
The bill as drafted recognises that safety is not a singular action or a quick-fix solution. It is about systems, be they mechanical, technical, managerial or training. Operators from the top down must demonstrate that they have the systems in place to effectively manage their risk. To ensure this is happening, the regulator and his team of safety officers will conduct audits. Where non-compliance is a problem, a range of penalties and sanctions will apply. It is in this area that the bill addresses some of the key weaknesses recognised by Justice McInerney.
In an increasingly complex, multi-operator environment, effective interface management is crucial to the safe working of the entire network. Again, this recognises the importance of clarity in accountabilities. The bill requires accredited operators to document all interfaces and to submit them to the regulator for approval. The process of identifying the interfaces will be invaluable as operators acknowledge the extent of the interdependencies and manage overlapping accountabilities. In the eight years I have been Parliamentary Secretary for Transport I have seen significant reforms in this portfolio. I support the bill, noting that its introduction reflects the hard work and commitment of an industry that is keen to embrace a culture of change and a culture of safety.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 42 agreed to.
(Canterbury—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.59 p.m.]: I move:
Page 23, part 2, clause 43, line 19. Omit "Director-General". Insert instead "regulations".
This amendment addresses an issue raised by the Rail, Bus and Tram Union. In order to ensure that exemptions to fatigue management cannot be granted without parliamentary scrutiny, the union proposed—and the Government agreed—that exemptions should be prescribed by regulation rather than administratively.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 43 as amended agreed to.
Clauses 44 to 121 agreed to.
Schedules 1 to 7 agreed to.
Bill reported from Committee with an amendment and passed through remaining stages.
ROAD TRANSPORT (VEHICLE REGISTRATION) AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from 30 October.
Mr J. H. TURNER
(Myall Lakes—Deputy Leader of the National Party) [5.02 p.m.]: The Opposition will not oppose this bill, but we want to make some comments about it. The primary purpose of the bill is to stop the rorting of vehicle registration that is taking place—that is, when a vehicle that is used primarily in New South Wales is registered interstate. The Minister referred in his second reading speech to lost revenue of about $800,000, but qualified that by saying that it is almost impossible to determine the exact amount of lost revenue. I suspect that it is much higher, and I will address other areas of lost revenue in a moment.
The bill makes it an offence for a licensed motor dealer to affix interstate plates to a vehicle in New South Wales without the approval of the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA]. That is to prevent New South Wales motor dealers who import cars through Sydney from registering the vehicles in another State and then operating the fleet primarily in New South Wales. The bill provides for a fine of up to $15,000, and certain other sanctions can be imposed.
The bill also makes it an offence for a corporation to cause, permit or allow an interstate-registered vehicle owned by a corporation to be used on New South Wales roads unless the corporation can show that the vehicle is less than 90 days old, that during the 90 days prior to the offence the vehicle had been outside New South Wales for a continuous period of at least 48 hours, and that, in the case of a rental car company, the vehicle was rented to the same person for the whole of the 90-day period immediately before the offence. Fines and other sanctions are associated with that.
The bill enables the RTA to direct the production of documents for the purposes of ascertaining whether a corporation has committed such an offence, and it provides for certain prima facie offences for people who may be caught under the provisions of the bill. A certain amount of "guilty until proven innocent" is attached to such offences, and the person under investigation will have to produce a number of documents to prove they were using the vehicle in accordance with the prevailing laws. At present in New South Wales, and indeed in the other States, there is a requirement that vehicles be registered in the State where they are effectively housed or garaged once a certain period has expired.
The Opposition has a number of concerns about this bill. In particular, why do people want to register their vehicles in another State? The obvious answer is that New South Wales has the highest taxes of any State in Australia, including vehicle registration tax. The cost of registering a motor vehicle in New South Wales is $45. A person registering a new car must also pay the licence plate fee introduced by the Government to prop up the failing roads budget presided over by the Minister, who has virtually bankrupted the RTA. A comparison of registration fees shows that the fee in Queensland is $36.90, in Western Australia it is $15.75 and in South Australia—it is no accident that we see many vehicles, particularly hire vehicles, in New South Wales that have been registered in South Australia—renewal of registration is $6 and a new registration is $21.
Clearly, New South Wales is the highest taxing State in Australia, and that is one reason people go interstate to register their vehicles. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the latest figures for State and local taxation in 2001 in Australia show that every person in New South Wales pays about $2,373, compared with $2,083 in Victoria and $1,517 in Queensland. Clearly, the bill's provisions are an extension of the high taxes imposed by this State Government that have seen people register their vehicles in other States.
One other factor, which is glaring, is the stamp duty payable on vehicles. I submit that that would be one reason people register their vehicles interstate. The stamp duty on motor vehicles in New South Wales is tremendously high, whereas other States have practically no stamp duty on motor vehicles. Naturally, car hire firms and other companies with a high volume of vehicles or vehicle fleets seek to minimise costs to the company by registering their vehicles in States in which more reasonable business tax rates apply. Tax rates in New South Wales are so high that they almost push businesses across the border.
We need to look at not only vehicle registration fees but also stamp duty and other ancillary fees attached to motor vehicle registration. Clearly, the Government's intention is to catch people who seek to minimise their motor vehicle outlays. As I said, the Minister believes that the RTA loses revenue of about $800,000. I believe it would be substantially more, given the ancillary charges and taxes the Government will reap when New South Wales vehicles registered interstate are registered in this State. One can only hope that the additional revenue will go back into the Roads budget because the weak Minister for Roads has been unable to obtain sufficient funds to ensure that New South Wales has a proper, safe road network.
Also, New South Wales has a greedy Treasurer who continues to overspend his budget and then prop it up by imposing more and more taxes. As I said, the figures show that New South Wales is by far the highest taxing State, with a per capita taxation rate of $2,373. That poor arrangement is necessary for the Treasurer to collect more money. In its report on a review of the New South Wales triple-A credit rating, Standard and Poor's stated:
The strong property market has delivered the government enough, though unexpected, extra stamp duty revenue to offset its difficulty of keeping costs within budget.
As Standard and Poor's puts it, this difficulty has run to $5.5 billion between 1996 and 2002. Indeed, the 2001-02 financial year was Labor's worst year yet; its expenditure ran over budget by more than $1.6 billion. The additional stamp duty that will be paid in New South Wales on vehicles that will be required to be registered in this State will enable the Treasurer to continue to prop up the budget, although he has already run up a deficit of more than $5.5 billion. As I said, registration fees will go into the Roads and Traffic Authority budget, and one can only hope they will be properly applied to funding better roads in this State.
The honourable member for Wagga Wagga raised a matter with me which the Parliamentary Secretary might address this in his reply. That matter concerns military personnel transferring from one base to another. Wagga Wagga is one that comes to mind, but there is also Singleton, Williamtown and many other bases in New South Wales. Interstate personnel who are transferred to those areas are reluctant, because of their postings, to change the registration of their motor vehicles from their home States. Non-military people have to change their registrations, but I understand there are some exemptions which allow military personnel transferring from another State to retain their original registration. I am not positive about that, but I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to look into it and perhaps inform me in his reply.
I understand from the shadow Minister for Local Government that that situation applies in relation to registration of animals belonging to service personnel. The registration of such animals brought from interstate to a New South Wales base is deemed sufficient for the purposes of the Companion Animals Act or any other ancillary Acts that apply to such animals. The Opposition does not oppose the bill. We have some concerns that it is really another grab for money. The Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads is cash-strapped and has blown his budget. He has no understanding whatever of the expenditures. We have gone through the Roads and Traffic Authority annual reports for the past five years. The Pacific Highway upgrade alone has caused a blow out of $660 million. I suggest this is another grab for money. It is another example of the Government wanting to tax the people of New South Wales. Having said that, we understand that the existing laws of New South Wales require people with motor vehicles registered in another State to register them in this State, and this is an extension of that practice.
(Bankstown—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.12 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Myall Lakes for indicating the Opposition's support for the legislation. The principle of the legislation is simple: If a business profits from the use of New South Wales roads, its vehicle should be registered here. We have busy roads, and the Opposition knows that all funds made through registration, stamp duty and so on are spent on road maintenance and construction. As businesses inflict damage on New South Wales roads, it is appropriate that they contribute to fixing them. This bill creates a level playing field so that those who try to shirk their responsibility are brought into line.
I point out that Avis and Hertz Australia, major car hire firms, have written to the Minister and advised that they fully support the legislation. Hertz says it fully supports the Government providing a level playing field for car operators who, like Hertz, register the majority of their vehicles in New South Wales as opposed to those rental car operators who choose to register the majority of their vehicles in other States where it is cheaper, even though they conduct their operations in New South Wales. This legislation will provide a level playing field and will make sure that those who are responsible for renting cars in New South Wales conform to those requirements. As I said, all revenue goes back to the maintenance of roads, and that is very important. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENTS
(Willoughby) [5.15 p.m.]: A few weeks ago in a private member's statement I referred to grounds currently under the administration of Willoughby Girls High School in my electorate and access to those grounds by primary school students from the adjacent Willoughby Public School. My speech was duly reported in the North Shore Times
and led to some reaction from Willoughby Girls High School. That reaction includes a letter in this week's issue of the North Shore Times
, part of which I intend to put on the parliamentary record. The letter, written by Suzette Young, the Principal of Willoughby Girls High School under the headline "Collins wrong on school", reads:
In the article, Malissa Milligan reported statements made [by me] about disputed use of the Willoughby Girls High School Oval by Willoughby Public School. Mr Collins raised this issue on behalf of some of his constituents … Unfortunately, he spoke without the benefit of the facts, since the assertions made merely reflected the views of one group of parents attached to Willoughby Public School. It is therefore not surprising the statements made do not accord with either the contractual realities governing the use of this particular asset and the relative open space assets of the two schools, or the prior history of discussion and resolution, and the legitimate needs of the high school students.
Mr Collins' error is understandable. Politicians have a responsibility to represent their constituents and sometimes, in their enthusiasm to do so, overlook the possibility that they might not be in possession of all the facts before they speak. What is a greater concern is that your newspaper accepted Peter Collins' statement in parliament as statement of fact without troubling to check elsewhere.
Ms Young went on to say:
I am not now in a position to canvass the facts of the matter as during the recent resolution of the dispute it was agreed that the parties concerned refrain from doing so. I feel no such constraint however, in pointing out that neither Mr Collins nor the North Shore Times sought all the pertinent information prior to making public comments potentially damaging to the otherwise good reputation of a high school in its local community.
I am pleased to say that it is good news to hear that after about a year of protracted dithering this matter has been resolved. I have taken the liberty of raising the issue directly with the Minister for Education and Training and indicating to him that I could not believe that two of his schools should be at loggerheads for such a long time. I do not resile in any way from the comments I made previously in the House in an attempt to get some commonsense to prevail. I am pleased to say that at least verbally I have the support of the Minister for Education and Training, in broad terms, in raising the matter. It is absolutely crucial that those school bodies have access to this facility. It was always the intention of Willoughby council when it backed this plan to provide some open space adjacent to the school grounds but under the administration of Willoughby Girls High School so that those schools and the community at large could have the benefit of this open space.
I raise this matter again today because this kind of stand-off cannot be allowed to happen between two adjacent government schools. In this case it has happened in Willoughby and I have raised the matter, and fortunately it has been finally resolved. But this sort of thing should not take up administrative time and should not distract teachers and principals from their primary duty of teaching their students. I am pleased that some progress has been made. I thank the North Shore Times
also for supporting the issue. It, too, has a long history of recording proceedings over this disputed territory. I am pleased to be able to report to Parliament and the Minister that finally a resolution has been reached. I hope there is a message here to schools right across the system in New South Wales that this kind of time-wasting exercise and dithering should not take place on future occasions.
WOLLONGONG WEST PUBLIC SCHOOL SEVENTY-FIFTH ANNIVERSARY
(Wollongong—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.20 p.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House the seventy-fifth anniversary celebration of Wollongong West Public School. It gave me great pleasure to be the guest speaker at the anniversary event, which was held on Friday 1 November. As I am a past student of the school and the State member for the area, I was invited to the celebrations and asked to write the foreword for the anniversary magazine. The school conducted a special assembly, where I had the opportunity to relay my support for public education. I will make reference to my views on public education later in my speech.
The invited guests were welcomed by Geoff Ewart, Principal of West Wollongong Public School. The special assembly commenced with a skit called "This is your Life", which recaptured school experiences of days gone by and how schooling has changed over the years. This was followed by a dance item called "Rock Around the Clock", which related to the music of the 1960s and 1970s, and "Remember the Days of the Old Schoolyard", which reminisced about school days. Then there was a performance called "Get the Party Started" to celebrate 75 years of West Wollongong Public School and 50 years in the current facility. The concert, which was performed by the students of West Wollongong school, was absolutely fantastic.
Steve Buckley, a senior representative of the Department of Education and Training, and Chris Carroll, District Superintendent, were in attendance, as was Mr Daryl Walker, a former teacher at the school. They all spoke about their views of public education and highlighted the incredible work of the school. I have always been a great supporter of public education, and since becoming a member of Parliament I have supported and praised the work of schoolteachers. As parents we know of the work that teachers do to make sure our children get a proper education. They make sure that our children, who are in their care for vast periods of their lives, are put on the right path in their journey to satisfy future education needs and to obtain employment. We should all recognise the professionalism of teachers in this State. The teachers at West Wollongong school are classic examples, as evidenced by their commitment and dedication to the teaching profession and public education.
I also take this opportunity to congratulate the parents and citizens association and the anniversary committee for their efforts in organising the fiftieth anniversary celebrations and recognising the seventy-fifth anniversary of the original school building, which now houses the Wollongong regional office of the Department of Education and Training. A school is more than a group of buildings and a mass of equipment. A school consists of the students who attend it, the staff who teach in it and the community that supports it. West Wollongong Public School has always exhibited tremendous school pride and the school has widespread teacher and community support. It is important that the history of this fine school be recorded for future generations.
The celebrations also provided a great opportunity for former students and teachers to catch up with each other and reminisce on school days gone by. On Saturday night an incredible function was held in Wollongong. About 350 former students, former teachers and others turned up to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of public education at West Wollongong school and 50 years at the current facility. I attended in 1952 as a sixth class student. The present school was opened on 1 November 1952, which is the event we celebrated last week.
On Sunday I had the opportunity to attend another major public education event at Mt Keira Public School, which is located on the side of Mt Keira, to celebrate 125 years of public education in the Wollongong area. My mother attended that school many years ago and her mother and father attended Mt Keira primary school in the late 1800s. I have a real commitment to public education and it gave me great pride to attend both functions in the one week. My wife, Melissa, and I enjoyed looking at the memorabilia which was housed in the assembly hall. There were photos of West Wollongong Public School in days gone by, going back many years. It was a great weekend of celebrations.
(Ryde—Minister for Education and Training) [5.25 p.m.]: I congratulate Wollongong West Public School on its seventy-fifth anniversary. Unfortunately, I have not had the pleasure of visiting the school, but I understand from the honourable member for Wollongong that it is an outstanding example of our public education system. The school has gone from strength to strength since it opened on a previous site in 1927. It has been 50 years on its current site. I am informed that the school focuses on promoting and developing the performing arts and environmental awareness. The school has its own rainforest and native gardens to encourage students to learn about and respect their local environment. It also focuses on physical fitness, and has its own cricket nets and basketball and netball courts. I am told that the school also has a swimming pool and promotes swimming skills and water safety.
Of course, the heart of all our schools is the basic skills of literacy and numeracy, and this school, like so many others in New South Wales, does very well in those areas because of its outstanding staff and the fine educational leadership that is provided by the principal. I put on record my thanks to the principal and staff principal, the executive of the school, the SAS staff who work in the front office and the other support staff who work at the school, including the general assistant. I look forward to visiting the school, meeting the staff and seeing its great programs in action. Again, I congratulate West Wollongong Public School and all its students, teachers and parents. I thank the honourable member for Wollongong for bringing this matter to the attention of the House.
PREMIER MOTOR SERVICES INDUSTRIAL DISPUTE
(Oxley) [5.27 p.m.]: I wish to raise a matter that I have raised previously in this House about the wage claims of a group of bus drivers employed by Nowra Coaches Pty Ltd, trading as Premier Motor Services. Several of the drivers reside in my electorate of Oxley. In the private member's speech I previously delivered, I stated that these drivers had been moved in 1999 from their existing award, the Motor Bus and Conductors State Award, and placed without their agreement in the Tourist Coach Drivers State Award. This movement resulted in a pay cut of approximately $2 per hour or roughly $70 per week. The drivers disputed the matter through their union, the Transport Workers Union [TWU].
A phone conference hook-up was arranged between the drivers, the employer and a union official. During the conference the union official, who was with the employer in the employer's office, with no other persons present, addressed the drivers and said that if they were to fight the employer's decision in court they would have little or no chance of winning the case. He then told them that they would be better off under a workplace agreement that he and the employer had put together. The drivers disagreed. They put a case to me that the TWU official was not properly representing them. They attempted to get the support of the TWU. At one stage several votes of no confidence were moved and carried against the official, whom I named in my previous speech as Mr Don Clode. This official was removed from their case. There was a great delay in getting a hearing before the Industrial Relations Commission but when the case was finally held the drivers were not satisfied with the outcome. They are not satisfied that all the documents were considered or represented properly to the commissioner, who subsequently ordered that both the TWU and the Bus and Coach Association should renegotiate the State awards. That was never done.
The drivers are still seriously out of pocket. They have told me that the TWU and the Department of Industrial Relations are displaying a continuing lack of interest in their back-wage claim, which in some cases exceeds $4,000 per individual over 18 months. The drivers have not had a wage increase since 1996 except for a small consumer price index flow-on in 2000. The drivers service the route between Cairns and Melbourne and are paid $13.07 an hour compared with the $14.75 that is paid to reservation and office staff. Looking after the needs of passengers and driving buses on the Pacific Highway between Cairns and Melbourne is a serious responsibility.
The potential for accidents is great, particularly given that some of the drivers have been forced to take on second jobs because of their exceptionally low rate of pay. They are working longer hours and driving at night and have suggested that another Kempsey bus crash tragedy is just around the corner. In short, this matter has not been resolved to the drivers' satisfaction. They have asked that the Minister for Industrial Relations again examine the issue and direct his departmental staff to consider the back wage claim, especially given that the union official is now the company's human resources manager. I understand that his life membership of the TWU has been revoked. The drivers are not satisfied they are getting a fair deal.
CESSNOCK ELECTORATE BUSHFIRES
(Cessnock) [5.32 p.m.]: The Cessnock electorate has faced weeks of fires and choking smoke. Last Saturday morning I awoke to the smell of smoke and the area was shrouded in a haze that permeated every house. Too often over the past month the people of the mid Hunter have been subjected to a very real threat of bushfire. Bushfires are now commonplace and people are becoming very complacent. Fires are still burning across the Cessnock and Singleton local government areas. Fortunately the weather has improved and is providing some respite for firefighters and property owners in the area under threat.
I thank the Tasmanian and South Australian firefighters who have come to our assistance. The fires started on 19 October and fire services in the area have been in action since then trying to contain outbreaks and make the area safe. We should also thank the employers and families of the firefighters, who have worked tirelessly. They have put their lives on the line to save people and properties. The Mount View fire that started to the south-west of Cessnock is now under control and helicopter water bombing is being carried out on the north-eastern edge of the fire to enable crews to construct a dozer line. Crews have also been water bombing and mopping up east of the Stringy Bark Ridge.
Our firefighters are acting with military precision and developing fallback strategies by strengthening containment lines. One person who has worked in State forests for years is working non-stop creating dozer lines to contain the fires and to ensure the safety of the community. Crews are working on the Fal Brook fire north-east of Singleton, focusing on property protection along Cassell Road and water bombing the northern and eastern edges of the bushfire. Hopefully the current weather will continue for a while so that the crews can have some relaxation and time with their families. Firefighters in the Cessnock and Singleton areas are battling six fires covering 15,000 hectares. That is a huge area. I have never seen the Hunter suffer conditions like these.
Cessnock City Council has offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of firebugs. The council is taking this issue very seriously. Apparently all of the fires have been deliberately lit. The perpetrators should be held accountable for the damage they are causing. It is sad that we have people in our community who can cause such misery. Luckily, the community is pulling together. Last Sunday the Cessnock service clubs, in particular the Cessnock Lions Club, held a charity day at which the band Toucan played. All the money raised went to the fire appeal. The Cessnock council also conducted a bushfire appeal that raised $125,000 in a week. That demonstrates the community's desire to work together to address this problem. The council is holding another event at the Neath Hotel involving pipe bands that I am sure will be well attended. It is great to see the community working together to deal with these bushfires.
(Charlestown—Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [5.37 p.m.]: I thank the honourable member for Cessnock for raising this matter. Cessnock is being ravaged by bushfires earlier this year than it was last year, and that is very sad. The repeated burning that is occurring will cause terrible erosion. Bushfire is a constant threat in that area and a solution is not imminent. It is typical of mining communities to rally during times of adversity. On Saturday the historic Neath Hotel will become a hive of activity. The Mayor of Cessnock, Mr John Clarence, is hosting a benefit day starting early in the afternoon and extending into the evening.
The old hotel has recently been renovated by an entrepreneur who is encouraging people to enjoy a different style of accommodation. The hotel will be the venue for a performance by a Queensland Irish pipe band which has strong affiliations with the Newcastle and Hunter areas and which always attends our tattoos and highland gatherings. It will be accompanied by an Irish dance group. The United Mineworkers Federation of Australia Pipe Band will also appear. I had the honour of leading that band to England, Scotland and Europe in 1998. The Mayor of Cessnock was the drum sergeant and I was the drum major. A barbeque will also be held. The honourable member for Cessnock and the mayor will attend and we will have a great day raising money for a very worthwhile cause in a grave situation in the Cessnock area.
WARRINGAH COUNCIL DEVELOPMENT MORATORIUM
(Wakehurst) [5.39 p.m.]: I call for a moratorium on development in the Warringah Council area, and I wish to record residents' concerns about the level of development forced on them by the actions of the State Labor Government. I emphasise that if there is to be an effective moratorium a partnership is needed between the State Labor Government and the council. To that extent, on behalf of the residents I call on both the Government and Warringah Council to join in this endeavour, which I know is wanted by the residents.
Between 1992 and 1995 a review took place of the 1985 local environmental plan [LEP], which, for various reasons, was not supported by local residents. At that time I attended a number of public meetings—in fact, I orchestrated a number of them—to discuss the relevant issues. As a result, the LEP went back to the drawing board. Further discussions with residents, public meetings and community consultation took place in the Warringah area. However, the problem was that the development of the LEP had by that stage fallen very much under the control of the State Government.
The Carr Government effectively planted PlanningNSW officers at Warringah Council. PlanningNSW largely set the directions for the development of a new LEP and the council residential housing strategy. The department worked with council not as a partner, but effectively as a hostage taker. As a hostage taker, PlanningNSW held a gun at the head of council, in the form of a threat not to remove State environmental planning policy 53 and other planning controls that were causing the council a degree of concern, including dual occupancies.
PlanningNSW and the Carr Labor Government effectively said to Warringah Council, "Unless you do what we want as the Government and the council implement this LEP, you will not be released from the threat of medium-density development throughout Warringah." Some members of the community thought that was an empty threat. However, recently the Minister for Planning undertook some amazing feats—real gun-at-the-head stuff—in Ku-ring-gai, where he took over planning controls and was going to allow the construction of seven-storey buildings. In fact, a cartoon in one of the national newspapers showed the Minister sitting in a bulldozer and demolishing old homes. Unfortunately, that is exactly how the residents of Warringah feel about what has been going on in their area.
The residents of Warringah—and I was one of them—wanted to see an end to a number of the dual occupancy issues and other planning issues, but we did not want the outcomes that have come with the new LEP 2000. I well remember that the Minister for Planning was so keen to have the new LEP implemented that only two years ago he threatened to take away the council's planning powers if council did not agree to the new LEP. Understandably, there are differences of opinion on the council. Some of the councillors had to live through the implementation of both LEPs, whereas some of the newer councillors have not had to live through those LEPs and have had the opportunity to take an opposing stand to what the State Government has been pushing for.
At the end of the day, the State Government has effectively driven a wedge into the community and the council. In fact, it seems as though the State Government has thrived on, enjoyed and delighted in the conflict on Warringah Council. I, for one, have tried to bring the councillors together to put aside any conflict and to work as a community. Unfortunately, that has not been possible. The reason for that is that the State Government has driven these people into the situation where they simply feel they have no alternatives.
Last night there was another public debacle at Warringah Council. PlanningNSW officers were ready to talk, and there was effectively a revolt from the public galleries. People were yelling and screaming, as often goes on there at the moment, unfortunately—some of them no doubt reflecting the frustration we all have, although I wish they would behave in a more orderly way and with a little less civil disobedience. Ultimately, such a public outcry does not help; it simply plays into the hands of the State Government. Over the last month I have received more than 600 development surveys from the Dee Why area and 400 development surveys from Collaroy Plateau, and every single one of them has been critical of the development that is going on in Collaroy and Dee Why. I ask the State Government to agree to a moratorium on development in the Warringah Council area so the community can consider what has been going on there in recent times and find a way forward. [Time expired.
TRIBUTE TO MARK WAUGH
(Blacktown) [5.44 p.m.]: I pay tribute to a truly great Australian sportsman. I speak about Mark Waugh, who is known affectionately as "Junior". Mark Waugh is one of the most majestic stroke-makers I have ever seen. Indeed, he is probably one of the most majestic stroke-makers the world of cricket has ever seen. As we all know, Mark was recently axed from the Australian side. His axing has been widely reported; it is difficult to axe an icon. I am certain that at the time many Australians felt that they had also been axed. Mark and Steve Waugh were born as twins at Bankstown. Mark is a typical western suburbs bloke. He loves a good time, he loves a punt, and he is a very decent fellow. As we all know, Mark played his last Test on foreign soil against Pakistan. To that extent I suppose the conclusion of his Test career could have been a lot better.
Steve and Mark Waugh first played cricket for Panania-East Hills in the under 10s; they were only seven at the time. Mark was out first ball in his first game of cricket, and Steve followed two balls later. So they did not set the world on fire when they were seven years of age. But in those days no-one had any idea that these two outstanding young brothers would eventually turn the cricket world upside down and turn out to be the most famous twin combination cricketers the world would ever see. I am certain that in my lifetime I will not see it happen again. Indeed, I would be extremely doubtful if it ever happens again.
It is worth noting the Test career of Mark Waugh. He scored 20 Test centuries, which is a remarkable achievement in itself. He is listed fifth on the all-time record of most appearances in Test cricket, having played 128 Test matches. He is third on the list of Australian leading run scorers, having scored 8,029 runs, and he is eleventh on the overall list of total run scorers in Test cricket. However, the fact that Mark took 181 catches in Test cricket indicates what a great cricketer he was. There is an old saying in cricket "catches win matches", and that is very true. Mark Waugh's catching ability, as well as his batting ability, was the reason for Australia winning many of the Test matches that Mark played in. It is worth noting that today Mark Waugh, on 181 catches, happens to be 65 catches in front of any current Australian cricketer or any other cricketer playing the game in the world today.
Mark Waugh came into Test cricket in January 1991, when he scored 138 in his debut against England at the Adelaide Oval. I still believe that that was one of Mark Waugh's greatest innings. As we know, Mark replaced his twin brother, Steve, in that Test match. In April 1991 Mark scored an unbeaten 139 runs against a West Indies attack, which included Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh. In January 1995, as a bowler Mark took career-best figures of five wickets for 40. In April-May 1995, in a partnership with Steve, the brothers scored 231 runs when Australia beat the West Indies in a historic match in Kingston. That was probably the greatest Mark Waugh ever batted. Mark Waugh is an extremely humble bloke. Reflecting on his career, he said:
I'm very happy. I played in a great era. I won a World Cup, a world-record 16 Test wins in a row. Statistic-wise, if I was a little bit harsh on myself I would say I probably could have averaged better than 45.
Indeed, he probably could have. But Mark Waugh did not go out there to run the opposition into the ground. He went out there to have a good time—and have a good time he did, with great ability. The fairytale farewell did not happen for Mark Waugh. There is not a nation in the world that would not have given him a great send-off, but he went from a jack to a king and on his axing he went from a king to a jack. We could have given him a better send-off. On behalf of everyone who has watched him play cricket I thank him for his great career and for everything that he has given the game of cricket and the world of sport.
HOME WARRANTY INSURANCE SCHEME
(Tamworth) [5.49 p.m.]: I raise an issue this evening that I have raised before, that is, the home warranty insurance scheme. I know this matter has been raised on several occasions and that there was a rally outside Parliament House earlier in the year at which many builders expressed their concerns about the application of the home warranty insurance scheme and the impact it was having on their businesses. I acknowledge that the Government has put some changes to the scheme in place, but the mere fact that many builders in my area are expressing concerns to me about the impact of the home warranty insurance scheme on their individual businesses indicates to me that the scheme is still not working. To illustrate the concerns that have been raised within my electorate, three different people have contacted me in the past couple of weeks: a builder, a supplier of steel garages and carports, and a person who installs swimming pools. They are all having difficulty trying to operate their individual businesses under the present home warranty insurance scheme.
The builder is no fly-by-nighter; he has just won the HIA Best Home North/Northwest 2002 Award. I commend him for that. The problem these people are encountering with the scheme is the limitation placed on their total annual turnover. The builder was originally in a scheme which limited him to a total of $2.5 million in a 12-month period with a limit of $250,000 for an individual house. In the new licence that has been issued to him he is restricted to $1.5 million with a limit of $450,000 on an individual home. The home for which he won the award fell into the category of $300,00 to $400,000.
The home warranty insurance is impacting on the ability of this builder to operate and increase the size of his business, particularly as he has just won the award. There is no doubt that his services will be in greater demand, yet he is concerned because of the limitation placed on him by this scheme. One of the other gentlemen I mentioned who builds swimming pools in my electorate. He found himself in the same situation as the builder in that he has been limited to $350,000 per year. The year before he entered this agreement he built $510,000 worth of swimming pools. Because he has been placed on a limit of $350,000, he had to spend three months last year not doing any work at all.
The difficulty that those in the construction industry have is that every time they appeal against these limitations they have to supply new financial figures and a great deal of accounting is necessary. No doubt the process is so complicated and time-consuming it is not easy for them to process a further application. I am concerned that when the builder and the swimming pool operator contacted the department they both received a letter back from HIA Insurance, a paragraph of which states:
Your assessment could be improved and your premiums reduced if for example, your business is directly associated with a stronger financial entity. You could have the opportunity to be re-assessed to reflect that entity's financial position.
Unless I am reading that incorrectly, the company is saying that these people cannot operate any longer as sole operators; they need to associate themselves with a bigger company so that they can gain the benefit of increased asset cover. However, in rural areas it is important to retain these small businesses within our local communities. As I have said, I am not talking about fly-by-night operators; I am talking about people who have won awards within their own individual industries. They do not want to associate themselves with bigger identities; they want to run their own business. They are sole operators, the heart and soul of our rural communities.
I want to make sure that they can operate their businesses profitably and can expand them. At this stage, under the conditions placed upon them, they find it very difficult to do that. The third person I mentioned, the person who supplies garages, is in the same situation. This year his premiums have increased 1,200 per cent. In the current market he is finding it difficult to process the increases in premiums and pass them on to his clients. I ask the Government to revisit the home warranty insurance scheme. It is an important matter, and the scheme is taking a toll on many businesses in regional areas. [Time expired.
ILLAWARRA ELECTORATE YOUTH INITIATIVES
(Illawarra) [5.54 p.m.]: On Saturday 2 November I had the pleasure of attending a great night's entertainment at Class Act. This was a celebration of performing arts talent in the Catholic diocese of Wollongong. There was a performance by a multi-skilled choir of about 420 students. A number of schools were involved: Dapto, Helensburgh, Kiama, Fairy Meadow, Rosemeadow, Ingleburn, West Wollongong, Gwynneville, Corrimal, Moss Vale, Narellan Vale, Campbelltown, Camden, Wollongong, Thirroul, Albion Park, Bellambi and Nowra.
Class Act, which is a showcase of young talent in the Illawarra region, would not have been possible without the support of the Catholic education teachers. A number of teachers from schools across the diocese were in attendance. The children showed their talent and it was an enjoyable night for my family and myself. Other local members from our area were there as well: the honourable member for Keira and his wife attended the function. It was terrific for us to be there to acknowledge what these young people were doing and the dedication of the teachers, who have spent a great deal of their free time with the students in preparation for this great night's entertainment. The Bishop of Wollongong, Peter Ingham, and Greg Whitby, the director of schools in the diocese of Wollongong, also attended. It was a great night of celebrating education in our region.
Recently we went to another celebration of achievements of young people in our area—the Southern Stars. I also had the pleasure on Wednesday 6 November of attending the Young Achievement Australia 2002 Illawarra and Southern Highlands Awards. I note that the honourable member for Wollongong, who is at the table, was also at that event. Under that program young people from schools in the region get together, form a company, decide on the products they are going to manufacture, make the products, promote them and then market them. They have a big fair at which they sell their products. When they wrap up their company they have to be able to show the exact amount of money that was spent, the money that was made on selling the products and the profits that the shareholders get out of it. The program teaches young adults how to establish a business. I am sure they will be able to use that experience in the future.
There were a number of awards: the Media Promotion Award, the Marketing Award, the Innovative Product Award, the Business Plan of the Year Award, the Manufacturing Award, and the Annual Report Award. There was also the Illawarra Business Chamber's Young Business Person of the Year Award. The winner of that award was a young girl by the name of Juanita Risorto and the runner-up was Emma Anderson. It was great to see these young people being acknowledged for the work that they put into the companies that they formed.
The winner of the company award was a group called Fantasia, which was sponsored by Wollongong City Council. The runner-up was a group called Superior, which was sponsored by BHP. The awards are made possible through business sponsorships. Indeed, a number of businesses have put in considerable time to help these young people design and market products, learn how to sell the product and then wrap up the business. I thank all those involved in this initiative because it would not have been possible without them. This is a national program and the winners from my area will go on to compete against other companies from other areas. [Time expired
Mrs LYN SKLAVOS DRIVER'S LICENCE SUSPENSION
(Baulkham Hills) [5.59 p.m.]: I raise the suspension of the driver's licence of one of my constituents. Mrs Lyn Sklavos of Baulkham Hills wrote to me to advise that on 14 August she attended the Parramatta Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] office to inquire why she had not received the renewal registration papers for her motor vehicle. She was astounded to be advised that her drivers licence had been suspended in February following non-payment of a fine for speeding that was detected by camera on 10 September 2001. Upon investigation it was discovered that the Police Infringement Bureau sent notification of the camera infringement to Post Office Box 99, Belmore, 2192, a mailing address she had changed 2½ years previously.
The subsequent penalty notices by the Police Infringement Bureau and the State Debt Recovery Office were also sent to her old post office box mailing address. Consequently, Mrs Skavlos declared that she had no knowledge of the fine, the penalties and, most important, the suspension of her driver's licence until the day she walked into the Parramatta RTA to inquire about the whereabouts of her vehicle registration papers, that is, 14 August. Mrs Skavlos claims that subsequent to the notification of change of her address to the RTA, all correspondence from the RTA had been received at the current address, including the registration papers for her motor vehicle for the years 2000 and 2001.
The State Debt Recovery Office advised Mrs Skavlos that the Police Infringement Bureau had indicated that her address was Post Office Box 99, Belmore. Upon further inquiries of the bureau she was told that her address had been changed in December 2001. That conflicts with information she received from the RTA that her change of address was correctly recorded on 1 December 1999. After speaking to my office, representations were made on Mrs Skavlos' behalf to the Minister for Police, the Minister for Roads and the Treasurer, because Mrs Skavlos was concerned that she had been driving unaware that her licence had been suspended. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Police responded to my representations as follows:
Advice provided by the Infringement Processing Bureau indicates that the penalty and penalty reminder notices were sent to the address of the vehicle owner as maintained by the Roads and Traffic Authority at the time the offences were committed.
Inquiries with the RTA revealed Mrs Skavlos attended Parramatta motor registry on 1 December 1999 where her residential address for the licence and registration were amended.
At no time has Mrs Skavlos notified the RTA to delete the PO box mailing address.
In response the Treasurer stated:
The RTA removed this mailing address when a letter sent to Mrs Skavlos on 24 January 2002 was returned which suggested the mailing address was no longer current.
I shall now outline the major facts in this matter. Mrs Skavlos attended the RTA on 1 December 1999 to notify the change of her residential address and, as such, she fulfilled her obligations to notify the RTA of her change of address. During the years 2000 and 2001 her vehicle registration renewals were forwarded by the RTA to the new residential address. It was only when she sought to find out why the registration papers had not arrived for 2002 that she discovered she was in this difficult situation. My constituent has paid the fine and penalty but believes she had fulfilled her obligations to notify the RTA of her change of address. It would appear that she was successful in achieving this objective because for the following two years her registration papers were received by her at her current address. I ask the Minister to investigate this serious matter. Important notices that result in suspension or cancellation of a licence must be received, and the papers should also have been sent to my constituent's residential address. [Time expired
CENTRAL COAST ANNUAL PICNIC FOR THE DISABLED
(Wyong—Parliamentary Secretary) [6.04 p.m.]: One of the great traditions on the Central Coast is the annual picnic each November for people with disabilities. The picnic is organised by Lions clubs on the Central Coast and this year's annual picnic was held last Sunday. It was a resounding success, with everyone having a wonderful time. The tradition commenced in 1975 when Lion Bill Cullen, a retired police officer from the Wyoming club, and Reg Earl, from Wyong, organised a picnic for young children with disabilities so that they could enjoy a day out. Children from Sydney also attended, including blind children from North Rocks, as Lions clubs have an empathy with people who are sight impaired.
The late Lion Athol McGann and Lion George Kinealy from Toukley took over the running of the event in 1988. Invitations were extended to clubs that cater for people with disabilities and aged care organisations. Athol's widow, Karen McGann, is now president of the Central Coast Lions, which meets only once a year to organise the event. George Kinealy is the Secretary-Treasurer, and his capable wife, Marilyn, assists. The Gosford and Wyong shires have around 24 clubs and each club is responsible for inviting organisations of their choice to the picnic. They each contribute $125 towards entertainment, such as the Scottish pipe band and other bands.
At the picnic, morning tea and afternoon tea was provided, and throughout the day cold drinks, Lions club cake, biscuits, ice blocks and fairy floss were available free of charge. In fact, this year a close friend of mine, Lion Vorn Waples, was in charge of ice creams. He undertook his duties efficiently, as is the case with everything he does. A cold lunch was served, and the dessert this year was apple pie and ice cream organised by the ladies. This year 520 meals were provided, the record being 918. Responsibilities for the day's activities were shared between the clubs. Lion Ian McPhan and Lion David Allen from the Wyong club were in charge of traffic control. It was wonderful that Reg Earl, who has been actively involved in the Wyong community for so long, organised the soft drinks. The Wyoming club provided morning and afternoon tea, while the Toukley Lionesses, under the leadership of Lioness Ruth McPhan, served luncheon. The Chittaway club was in charge of face painting, the Killarney-Bateau Bay club provided a quartet as entertainment and the Charmhaven club organised the raffle.
There was the usual strong contingent from the Gorokan-Kanwal Lions Club. The groups that attended this year's picnic for the disabled included the merrymakers, the local day care, the MS and handicapped group and the Yarran Early Intervention Centre, as well as many people from nursing homes in the area. For more than half a dozen years I have had the task of helping to set up the tents and the chairs and tables. This year I was pleased that on a particularly hot day the tents were already set up, so it was simply a case of putting out the tables and chairs. I felt I got off lightly but I was happy to do so in the circumstances because it was a particularly hot day. However, the heat did not detract from the enjoyment and camaraderie experienced at the picnic. Everyone had a great time. It is one tradition that I hope the central coast will ensure takes place each year because it is an important part of community building.
NRMA AND Mrs ANNA HEATH
(Manly) [6.09 p.m.]: I draw the attention of honourable members to the case of one of my constituents, Anna Heath, from Harbord, who was badly injured when a motorist struck her down at a pedestrian crossing in July this year. Anna's case highlights the serious deficiencies in our State's compulsory third party insurance system for motor accident victims. Anna and her husband, Darren, have been out of pocket thousands of dollars as a result of the length of time it has taken their insurance company, the NRMA, to admit liability for the accident. Anna's accident was not a complicated situation. Anna was out for a run when a motorist who failed to stop at a pedestrian crossing outside the Queenscliff Surf Club struck her down. The motorist was subsequently charged with negligent driving causing grievous bodily harm.
Anna's injuries resulted in considerable pain and suffering. She has had to have a metal plate inserted into her leg and a screw put into her ankle, and she needed to take considerable time out from her career. Even though this was a black and white case, it took the NRMA as long as three months from the date of the accident to admit liability for the claim. And that was only after her husband, Darren, had written to the NRMA's chief executive officer and group executive to complain about the time it was taking to process the claim. In the meantime Anna and Darren have had to foot a medical bill amounting to several thousand dollars entirely on their own. Insurance companies like to market themselves as being concerned with rehabilitation and the early payment of claims. For example, the NRMA's annual report from this year states:
We focus on early medical intervention and treatment that promotes rehabilitation.
It further states:
We encourage the finalisation of claims as soon as practicable. These practices help our claimants recover and return to their normal lifestyle.
However, in reality, the complex and adversarial nature of our fault-based system means that it can take many months for a claim to be processed. In the meantime the victim must somehow pick up the tab for their injuries and wear the financial risk of an adverse decision. Anna's injury-related expenses were numerous. In order to return to work she needed to travel by taxi as her injuries made it too difficult to use public transport. Getting the money out of the NRMA took considerable effort and meant that Anna and Darren were left out of pocket. Eventually, Anna's taxi fares were reluctantly reimbursed on a without prejudice basis.
Anna and Darren also had to foot the bill for physiotherapy after Anna's physiotherapist was told by an NRMA staff member that the company would not pay her accounts until liability was admitted. The physiotherapist was told that this was not likely to be before December. This meant that Anna and Darren were expected to pay the physiotherapy bills for as long as five months from the date of the accident. It is an unfortunate fact of life that accidents happen and people get injured, regardless of whose fault it is. The process of recovery from an accident can be one of the most difficult and traumatic episodes a person will have to deal with in their lifetime. The fault-based nature of motor accident legislation and our adversarial legal system mean that recovery from a serious motor vehicle accident is made even more traumatic.
The victim can be forced to pay thousands of dollars up front for their medical bills and face financial uncertainty while they wait for liability to be determined. Anna's case underscores the need for a big rethink about the way we care for accident victims. I believe the time has come for us to seriously consider moving to a no-fault system of compensation. While I acknowledge that the administration of such systems can be difficult to get right, as a caring and compassionate community we have a responsibility to take on this challenge. At the very least, the way we administer compulsory third party insurance needs to be revisited. Red tape has to be removed to allow claims to be more speedily processed. In that way, concern for victim rehabilitation might become more than just a bit of puff in an insurance company's advertising campaign.
Private members' statements noted.
[Mr Acting-Speaker (Mr Mills) left the chair at 6.14 p.m. The House resumed at 7.30 p.m.
LAW ENFORCEMENT (POWERS AND RESPONSIBILITIES) BILL
Clauses 1 to 25 agreed to.
(Epping) [7.32 p.m.]: I move Opposition amendment No. 1:
No. 1 Pages 17 and 18, line 33 on page 17 to line 2 on page 18. Omit all words on those lines.
This amendment will remove the double-barrelled warning requirement with respect to the police power to search for knives. I gave reasons for this amendment last night during the debate on the second reading.
(Blue Mountains—Attorney General, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Emergency Services, and Minister Assisting the Premier on the Arts) [7.32 p.m.]: For the reasons I gave last night, the Government will not support the amendment.
Question—That the words stand—put.
The Committee divided.
Mrs Lo Po'
Mr E. T. Page
Mr W. D. Smith
Mr D. L. Page
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr R. H. L. Smith
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 26 agreed to.
Clauses 27 to 41 agreed to.
(Epping) [7.46 p.m.]: I move Opposition amendment No. 2:
Page 26, clause 42. Insert after line 19:
(e) the vessel or aircraft contains, or a person in the vessel or aircraft has in his or her possession or under his or her control, a prohibited plant or prohibited drug in contravention of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985,
(f) circumstances exist on or in the vicinity of a public place or school that are likely to give rise to a serious risk to public safety and that the exercise of the powers may lessen the risk.
I rely on the reasons I gave in my second reading speech.
(Blue Mountains—Attorney General, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Emergency Services, and Minister Assisting the Premier on the Arts) [7.46 p.m.]: For the reasons I gave yesterday, the Government opposes the amendment.
Clause 42 agreed to.
Clauses 43 to 46 agreed to.
(Blue Mountains—Attorney General, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Emergency Services, and Minister Assisting the Premier on the Arts) [7.46 p.m.], by leave: I move Government amendments Nos 1 to 4 in globo:
No. 1 Page 30, Part 5, clause 47. Insert after line 9:
(3) To avoid doubt, an application may be made under subsection (1) with respect to an act or omission that is an indictable offence (within the meaning of this section) even though the act or omission occurred outside New South Wales and was not an offence against the law of New South Wales.
No. 2 Page 30, Part 5, clause 47. Insert after line 18:
indictable offence includes any act or omission which if done, or omitted to be done, in New South Wales would constitute an offence punishable on indictment.
No. 3 Page 32, Part 5, clause 53. Insert after line 8:
(3) To avoid doubt, an application under this section may be made under this Division with respect to an act or omission that is an offence even though the act or omission occurred outside New South Wales and was not an offence against the law of New South Wales, if the act or omission if done, or omitted to be done, in New South Wales would constitute an offence.
No. 4 Page 50, Part 7, clause 90. Insert after line 5:
(2) To avoid doubt, a crime scene may be established, crime scene powers may be exercised and a crime scene warrant applied for with respect to an act or omission that is a serious indictable offence even though the act or omission occurred outside New South Wales and was not an offence against the law of New South Wales, if the act or omission if done, or omitted to be done, in New South Wales would constitute a serious indictable offence.
Amendments Nos 1 and 2 correct an oversight and re-enact the provisions of section 5 (3) of the Search Warrants Act 1985, which was amended in Act No. 43 of 2000. This amendment ensures that search warrants may be executed in respect of offences committed in jurisdictions other than New South Wales. Consistent with those amendments, amendments Nos 3 and 4 apply the same principles to notices to produce crime scene warrants. These amendments are of a technical nature and arise as a consequence of consultations about the draft bill. They maintain existing police powers.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause 47 as amended agreed to.
Clauses 48 to 52 agreed to.
Clauses 53 as amended agreed to.
Clauses 54 to 89 agreed to.
Clause 90 as amended agreed to.
Clauses 91 to 98 agreed to.
(Epping) [7.48 p.m.]: I move Opposition amendment No. 3:
Page 54, Part 8, clause 99. Insert after line 18:
(3) A police officer may, without a warrant, arrest a person lying, or loitering, in any highway, yard, or other place, if the police officer suspects on reasonable grounds that the person is about to commit a serious indictable offence.
I rely on the reasons I gave in my second reading speech.
(Blue Mountains—Attorney General, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Emergency Services, and Minister Assisting the Premier on the Arts) [7.49 p.m.]: For the reasons I gave yesterday, the Government does not support the amendment.
Question—That the amendment be agreed to—put.
The Committee divided.
Mr D. L. Page
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr R. H. L. Smith
Mrs Lo Po'
Mr E. T. Page
Mr W. D. Smith
Question resolved in the negative.
Clause 99 agreed to.
Clauses 100 to 132 agreed to.
(Blue Mountains—Attorney General, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Emergency Services, and Minister Assisting the Premier on the Arts) [7.58 p.m.]: I move Government amendment No. 5:
No. 5 Page 77, clause 133, lines 6 and 7. Omit "and who has been or is intended to be charged with an offence". Insert instead "for any offence".
Clause 133 re-enacts section 353A (3) of the Crimes Act, which provides for the taking of identification particulars from persons in lawful custody. The Crown Solicitor provided advice in October that, as presently drafted, the clause does not correctly reflect existing powers to take identification particulars under section 353A of the Crimes Act. This amendment is designed to ensure that police retain existing powers to take identification particulars. The common law in relation to these powers remains unchanged.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 133 as amended agreed to.
Clauses 134 to 197 agreed to.
(Epping) [8.00 p.m.]: I move Opposition amendment No. 4:
No. 4 Page 113, clause 198, lines 3-7. Omit all words on those lines.
The amendment removes the requirement for a double-barrel warning to be given by police in connection with the power to give directions. I rely on what I said in the second reading debate.
(Blue Mountains—Attorney General, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Emergency Services, and Minister Assisting the Premier on the Arts) [8.00 p.m.]: For the reasons I outlined yesterday, the Government does not support the amendment.
Question—That the words stand—put.
The Committee divided.
Mrs Lo Po'
Mr E. T. Page
Mr W. D. Smith
Mr D. L. Page
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr R. H. L. Smith
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 198 agreed to.
Clauses 199 to 241 agreed to.
(Blue Mountains—Attorney General, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Emergency Services, and Minister Assisting the Premier on the Arts) [8.09 p.m.], by leave: I move Government amendments Nos 6, 7 and 8 in globo:
No. 6 Page 132, clause 242, lines 25 and 26. Omit "For the period of 2 years from the date of the commencement of this section". Insert instead "For the period of 2 years from the date of commencement of each Part or Division concerned".
No. 7 Page 132, clause 242, lines 27 and 28. Omit "Division 2 of Part 4, Division 3 of Part 5 and Part 7". Insert instead "Division 2 of Part 4, Division 4 of Part 4 (in so far as it applies to searches under Division 2 of Part 4), Division 3 of Part 5, Division 4 of Part 5 (in so far as it applies to notices to produce documents and crime scene warrants), Part 7 and Part 15 (in so far as it relates to functions exercised under Division 2 of Part 4 and Part 7)".
No. 8 Page 133, clause 242, line 2. Omit "that 2-year period". Insert instead "each 2-year period".
These amendments relate to the review powers of the Ombudsman that are set out under clause 242 of the bill. Amendments Nos 6 and 8 address concerns that are due to varying commencement dates of parts of the bill and that the Ombudsman may be limited in the length of time that is available to him to review certain provisions. Accordingly, clause 242 should provide for the commencement of each review to coincide with the respective commencement date for each of the functions. Amendment No. 7 concerns the Ombudsman's power to monitor personal search powers under division 2, part 4. This amendment clarifies that the Ombudsman is not limited to reviewing only those specified powers but also the relevant safeguards. These are integral to the Ombudsman's ability to review the operation of the powers.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause 242 as amended agreed to.
Clause 243 agreed to.
Schedule 1 agreed to.
(Blue Mountains—Attorney General, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Emergency Services, and Minister Assisting the Premier on the Arts) [8.11 p.m.], by leave: I move Government amendments Nos 9 to 13 in globo:
No. 9 Page 135, schedule 2, line 13. Omit "85". Insert instead "18".
No. 10 Page 148, schedule 4.12, line 12. Omit "3". Insert instead "2".
No. 11 Page 154, schedule 4.19, line 18. Omit all words on the line.
No. 12 Page 183, schedule 4.58, lines 6 and 7. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:
Omit "within the meaning of the Search Warrants Act 1985
No. 13 Page 209, schedule 5. Insert after line 32:
7 Monitoring of certain powers by Ombudsman
(1) The following provisions (the monitoring provisions
) are taken to continue in force and to apply as provided by this clause:
(a) section 72E, Firearms Act 1996
(b) section 13, Police Powers (Drug Detection Dogs) Act 2001
(c) section 21, Police Powers (Drug Premises) Act 2001
(d) section 43, Police Powers (Internally Concealed Drugs) Act 2001
(e) section 16, Police Powers (Vehicles) Act 1998
(2) The Ombudsman may, in respect of the period referred to in a monitoring provision, exercise functions under that monitoring provision relating to the powers conferred on police by, or the operation of:
(a) provisions that are referred to in the monitoring provision, and
(b) any provisions of this Act that re-enact the provisions so referred to.
Amendment No. 9 updates the cross-reference to the Community Service Complaints Reviews and Monitoring Act 1993. Amendments Nos 10, 11 and 12 are statute law revision amendments to correct drafting errors. Amendment No. 13 continues the Ombudsman's existing monitoring power in relation to more recently introduced Acts. In other words, these are essentially technical corrections to the text of the existing bill.
(Epping) [8.12 p.m.]: I have a query in relation to amendment No. 9. That amendment relates to page 135 of the bill and, as I understand it, page 135 of the bill on the relevant line refers to the Community Services (Complaints, Reviews and Monitoring) Act 1993. In the current bill it refers to section 85. As I understand it, the amendment now being considered deletes "85" and inserts "18". That is to say, it deletes the reference to section 85 of the Community Services (Complaints, Reviews and Monitoring) Act and inserts instead the reference to section 18 of that Act. This schedule refers in turn to clause 59 (1) (b) of the bill, which plainly refers to search warrants. Section 85 of the Community Services (Complaints, Reviews and Monitoring) Act is headed "Search warrants". Section 18 of the Act is headed "Commission may require further information". I cannot see why amendment No. 9 is being moved. It seems to be right in its current form in the bill. Section 85 refers to warrants; section 18 does not. I am not quite sure what is proposed.
(Blue Mountains—Attorney General, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Emergency Services, and Minister Assisting the Premier on the Arts) [8.14 p.m.]: As I generally understand the matter, the text to which the honourable member is referring has, in turn, been amended by another Act. The confusion that the honourable member identifies is real enough, relying on the text that he is looking at. But the change we are now proposing is a consequence of some observations by the Ombudsman to those who have been responsible for drafting this Act. I believe I am in a position to assure the honourable member that we are doing no more than ensuring that the cross-reference to the Community Services (Complaints, Reviews and Monitoring) Act is brought up to date in light of that history.
Amendments agreed to.
Schedule 2 as amended agreed to.
Schedule 3 agreed to.
Schedule 4 as amended agreed to.
Schedule 5 as amended agreed to.
Bill reported from Committee with amendments and report adopted.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Bill: Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders
Motion by Mr Debus agreed to:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to permit the introduction forthwith and progress up to and including the Minister's second reading speech of the Victims Rights Amendment Bill, notice of which was given this day for tomorrow.
VICTIMS RIGHTS AMENDMENT BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Blue Mountains—Attorney General, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Emergency Services, and Minister Assisting the Premier on the Arts) [8.18 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
In September last year the Government commissioned the former Governor, the Hon. Gordon Samuels AC, CVO, QC, to review and report on the adequacy of the policy and guidelines of the New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions [DPP] in relation to charge bargaining and tendering of agreed facts. The review was to have particular regard to a number of matters, including whether the policy and guidelines ensure adequate consultation with victims of crime. The report prepared by Mr Samuels was released in June this year and came after detailed consideration of submissions from victims, victims support groups, police, criminal lawyers and judges. Interviews were also conducted with key stakeholders, including the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Nicholas Cowdery, QC.
The report concluded that the DPP's existing policies and guidelines provide for adequate consultation with victims. Nevertheless, the report emphasised the need for the communication of information to victims and witnesses of crime. A number of recommendations were made in this respect and the Director of Public Prosecutions has advised that all of the recommendations have either been implemented or are being actively progressed. The Samuels report also commented upon the charter of victims rights, which is contained in part 2 of the Victims Rights Act 1996. Whilst not specifically recommending that the charter be amended, the report suggested there was a case for improvement in respect of paragraph 6.5 of the charter. Presently, paragraph 6.5 of the charter provides that a victim should, on request, be informed about certain aspects of criminal proceedings against the accused person, such as the charges laid, any decision to modify or not to proceed with charges, and the date and place of hearing of any charge laid against the accused.
Under the Victims Rights Amendment Bill it will no longer be necessary for a victim to ask to be given this information. A victim will be informed of these aspects of the criminal proceedings as a matter of course. The proposed amendments to the charter will assist victims and the immediate families of victims by ensuring that they are informed in a timely manner in relation to these aspects of the criminal proceedings. The amendments also make it clear that, when an accused has been charged with a serious crime that involves sexual violence or results in actual bodily harm, mental illness or nervous shock, the victim should be consulted before any decision is made by the prosecution to modify or not to proceed with the charges. This would include any decision to accept an accused's plea of guilty to a less serious charge.
The definition of a victim of crime in section 5 of the Act has also been amended to provide that if a person dies as a result of an act committed in the course of a criminal offence the victim's family may nominate a representative for the purposes of the charter. This would enable the family to receive information provided in accordance with the charter or to be consulted about a decision to modify or not proceed with charges against the accused. The proposed amendments also recognise that some victims of crime may not wish to be consulted in relation to some or all matters relating to the prosecution process. In these instances, their wishes will be respected. They will have the right to the information but they will also have the right to opt out.
The Victims Advisory Board, which includes representatives of a number of victims support groups, relevant government agencies and the Director of Public Prosecutions, has indicated its support for the proposed legislation. The Government created the charter of victims rights to enshrine in legislation a victim's right to be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect by government agencies. This bill will spell it out further, in line with Gordon Samuels' findings. Before closing I would like to touch upon a related matter. The Attorney General's Department is currently conducting the statutory review of the Victims Rights Act and the Victims (Support and Rehabilitation) Act. To ensure as much feedback as possible, the department contacted in writing around 150 stakeholders inviting submissions. The review has also been also widely advertised.
All submissions received have been carefully analysed and I expect to receive the report on the review very soon. The Government will look carefully at any recommendations that come out of this process and make the changes necessary to ensure the charter and the support services available to victims of crime are appropriate and effective. This legislation builds further on this Government's record in the area of victims rights. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr R. H. L. Smith.
COAL INDUSTRY AMENDMENT (FEES FOR RESCUE SERVICES) BILL
Debate resumed from 31 October.
(Murrumbidgee) [8.24 p.m.]: The Opposition is pleased to support the Coal Industry Amendment (Fees for Rescue Services) Bill. The bill amends the Coal Industry Act 2001 to permit fee charging by the Mines Rescue Service for the provision of rescue services after the first eight hours of an emergency at an underground coalmine. Many members of this House will be aware of the excellent work undertaken by mine rescue units across New South Wales. Highly trained members of mines rescue brigades undertake difficult, dangerous work at the time of accidents in underground coalmines, often putting themselves at risk to save the lives of miners trapped underground.
It is a sad fact that accidents do happen in underground coalmining operations, and it is only through the excellent work of these dedicated, highly trained rescue personnel that the death toll from underground mining operations is not greater. The former Mines Rescue Board and the Joint Coal Board ceased to exist from 1 January this year. The activities of those two entities were placed in a new private company called Coal Services Pty Ltd, which now charges to provide occupational health and safety, workers compensation and mines rescue services for the New South Wales coal industry. Coal Services Pty Ltd is owned by the coal industry, with the New South Wales Minerals Council and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union each having a 50 per cent shareholding in the company.
The board of directors of Coal Services Pty Ltd comprises two representatives from the New South Wales Minerals Council, two representatives from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, two independent directors and the seventh director to be the managing director and chief executive officer of the company. The reason I have highlighted the structure of the board of Coal Services Pty Ltd is that the proposed legislative change allowing Mines Rescue Pty Ltd to charge a fee for service in underground rescue operations exceeding eight hours resulted from a direct request from the board. In other words, it has the support of both the industry and the union movement.
It is a testament to the New South Wales coal industry that fatalities in New South Wales underground coalmines have fallen from a high of 16 in 1980-81 to only two in 2000-01. However, there will always be a need for a well-resourced and well-funded rescue service to provide rescue operations when they are needed. That is the nature of the industry. The move to cost recovery is a reflection of the need to maintain Mines Rescue Pty Ltd in an acceptable financial position. It is important to note that the proposed cost recovery measures do not extend to the other core work of mines rescue, that of training and equipping rescue brigades in underground coalmines. Instead, in the event that a rescue at an underground coalmine takes longer than eight hours, the service will shift to a cost recovery basis.
I have been informed that if the cost recovery mechanism does not take effect, it is likely that there would be a need in the future to raise the level of the compulsory levy that all coalmines in New South Wales pay annually to fund rescue services. While large corporate operators may not have a problem with funding an increased levy, smaller operators and mines operating at the edge of their financial resources may have some difficulty in meeting an increased levy. That, in turn, could lead to the closure of some marginal operators if they are unable to meet their annual levy contributions. The Opposition is pleased to be able to support this legislation. I thank the Executive Director of the New South Wales Minerals Council, John Tucker, for his advice on this matter. He is also one of the directors of Coal Services Pty Ltd. The Opposition offers support for this important legislation.
(Wollongong—Parliamentary Secretary) [8.28 p.m.]: I am pleased to speak on the Coal Industry Amendment (Fees for Rescue Services) Bill. The Opposition's support for the bill demonstrates a bipartisan approach to ensuring that mining in this State is as safe as possible. Honourable members are all aware that I worked in the coal industry for 26 years before becoming a member of this House, and some of my workmates were killed in underground mining accidents. Ever since mining commenced in this country major accidents fatalities have occurred in the industry. Indeed, in July we commemorated the one-hundredth anniversary of the Mount Kembla mine disaster when the village of Mount Kembla mourned the loss of the 96 young men who died in that explosion. It is ironic that in those days the Miners Federation in Wollongong argued that there was a real problem with methane gas in the Mount Kembla mine.
In the Coal Industry Tribunal at the time, the coalmine owners argued that if they had to provide lamps that were safe for working underground where methane gas was present, the industry would go bust and the mine would have to close. At the same time as that argument was being put forward by the coal barons, the explosion at Mount Kembla killed 96 men and boys. It is important that the mining industry in New South Wales have an effective and proactive rescue service. Over the past few years the Government has moved to ensure that rescue teams are properly trained and equipped. Most of the men involved in rescue operations come from the mining industry; they are working miners who undertake a process of training and are equipped to ensure that they can deal with anything that might happen if an accident or a disaster occurs in the course of mining.
Some major mining disasters have occurred over the period that coal has been mined in New South Wales. I know that Mr Deputy-Speaker has a close association with the mining industry in the area he comes from, and that he would appreciate the importance of ensuring that mine rescue squads are up to scratch at all times. A number of mine rescue competitions take place throughout the country. Teams from different mines compete against each other to hone their skills, as do many other professions, including emergency services and fire brigades. The teams comprise volunteer mine workers who join the mines rescue team at their mine, and they are prepared to go into other mines when the need arises to ensure that their comrades are safely brought out of the mine as quickly as possible.
The mines rescue service has played a significant role in the New South Wales coal industry since 1926. That came after the disaster at Mount Kembla and the disaster at Bulli some 114 years ago. The objective of the Mines Rescue Company is the provision of a rescue service to deal with emergencies arising at underground coalmines in New South Wales and the use of the rescue service in connection with emergencies at other mines. The company appoints brigade members from among mine employees, with breathing and rescue equipment and training requirements to be provided by mine owners. Levy contributions on mine owners defray the costs of its principal mines rescue functions. However, to ensure the ongoing viability of the service at individual collieries, this amendment is required.
Section 22 of the Coal Industry Act prohibits the charging of fees by Mines Rescue Pty Ltd in the exercise of its underground coalmine rescue services. The board of directors of the company, that is, representatives from the New South Wales Minerals Council and the mining division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union—or the Miners Federation as I know it—has unanimously requested the legislative change. This change has been requested on the basis that, first, the costs of a major rescue emergency would be financially crippling for the company; second, the charging after the first shift is the accepted industry practice; and, third, the alternative action in increasing annual financial levies payable by all coalmine owners could result in the closure of more economically marginal mines. There are enough economically marginal mines in the State already.
The charging will apply only to rescue services in an emergency and will not apply to the company's exercise of more general functions—for example, training and equipping of brigades—at underground coalmines. The proposed regulation-making power will be limited only to increasing the allowable fee-free period of the first eight hours. I support the amendments to the Act because it is important that all mines have adequate access to professional rescue services. That costs money—there are no two ways about it. However, the cost in lives would far outweigh any expense that companies might incur to ensure that rescue teams are fully equipped and capable of going underground at a moment's notice after a disaster, a cave-in or whatever to ensure that the workers have the best possible chance of survival.
Underground coalminers work in the most hostile working environment one could possibly imagine. I have often said in this place—and I will continue to say it—that we must do everything in our power to ensure that workers who go underground at the start of their shift come out at the end of their shift to go home to their family and loved ones. Finally, I indicate that I will be contesting preselection in the near future. The Miners Federation has come out in total support of my candidature and is totally supportive of my being re-elected to represent the federation in the Parliament, as I have done for the past 14 years. That gives me great pride. I am proud to be identified as a life member of the Miners Federation, which is an incredible organisation. I commend this amending legislation to the House.
(Ryde—Minister for Education and Training) [8.36 p.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members who participated in this debate. In particular, the honourable member for Wollongong brings to this Chamber special knowledge and commitment to the many thousands of miners who have worked so hard for the economic benefit of New South Wales and, indeed, Australia. This bill is important legislation relating to mine safety and mine rescue. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
GUARDIANSHIP AMENDMENT (ENDURING GUARDIANS) BILL
Debate resumed from 31 October.
(Wakehurst) [8.37 p.m.]: This bill was introduced in the Legislative Council by the Minister for Community Services, and accordingly it has been addressed by my colleague the Hon. Patricia Forsythe in the upper House. The bill amends certain provisions in legislation introduced approximately four years ago which set up a framework for the appointment of enduring guardians. As the shadow Minister for Community Services I indicate that the Opposition will not oppose the bill, but I have a few words to say about it. First, I take honourable members back to the situation pre-1998. For many years it has been possible for people to appoint powers of attorney. In days gone by powers of attorney were lengthy and burdensome documents that purported to set out a range of powers that formed the basis of an appointment of one's attorney. The concept was that a person had to ensure that each of the legal powers that they wished another person to undertake on their behalf were enumerated in that document.
About 20 years ago there were some amendments to the legislation. Those amendments established a short form of power of attorney which is now regularly used by solicitors throughout New South Wales when advising clients of the need to provide for persons no longer being able to look after themselves or the legal activities they might wish to pursue. The power of attorney document was and is ideally suited to enable somebody to appoint another person to look after property interests, bank accounts and financial matters generally. For many years the power of attorney was in a de facto sense used to allow another person—that is, the appointee—to also look after the personal affairs, personal accommodation arrangements and so on, of the appointor.
A classic situation was where an individual gave another person power of attorney and the appointor became incapacitated through stroke, perhaps the onset of Alzheimer's, dementia, or other major medical problems that stopped him from carrying out his normal business activities. In many cases there was a de facto administration pursuant to the power of attorney by the appointee to go beyond the distinct business aspects the subject of the appointment. Often the appointee would also be making decisions in a de facto sense about the appointer's personal circumstances such as accommodation, whether the person should go into a nursing home, whether the house should be sold and smaller accommodation purchased—all of the sorts of issues that start to verge on the personal. The decisions still had the business and financial element but they also had a distinct personal element.
While that worked more often than not, circumstances arose—perhaps more frequently when there was family conflict—that indicated a need to give the appointee a clear entitlement to make decisions about somebody's personal care. For example, a person may be suffering from dementia, Alzheimer's, the marked onset of Parkinson's disease, muscular dystrophy or one of those other sad medical problems that can limit one's capacity to look after oneself. In 1998 the Parliament deemed it appropriate that in those circumstances there could be a second type of appointment: the appointment of an enduring guardian. The Coalition did not oppose that. Philosophically we were supportive of it. It was sensible that while people had their full intellectual capacity they should be able to appoint people to deal with their business and personal affairs.
This bill addresses some practical problems that have arisen since 1998. When I received the draft bill, as the shadow Minister I was concerned about a number of issues in it. However, the basic thrust of the bill was not a problem. My concern related more to the detail of how some of its provisions would work. One of the essential amendments in this bill will enable an appointee to have the appointment explained and signed at a different time and before a different witness than the appointor. That is significant, because the original legislation required that the appointor and the appointee had to be in the same room at the same time with the same solicitor. The possible conflict of interest of a solicitor giving advice to both parties gave rise to certain issues.
There was also a practical problem. The appointee might have lived in Broken Hill and the appointor in Manly, yet somehow they had to get together with a single solicitor. Fixing that problem alone warrants the introduction of the legislation. The provisions of the enduring guardianship can now be explained separately to the appointor and the appointee. That makes sense. To some degree the amendment addresses a possible conflict, because more likely than not different solicitors will be giving advice in different locations.
The bill also provides that where more than one enduring guardian is appointed they will be able to act either jointly or separately. Where one dies, resigns or becomes incapacitated, the others will be able to continue to act. I was a little concerned about that and my views were reflected in a letter sent to me by People with Disabilities [PWD], a peak group that provides valuable information and support to both the Government and the Opposition on matters that affect people with disabilities. We sought consultation with the group. The group's letter said:
We have two suggestions, one relating to an explicit mechanism to address conflict in decisionmaking between 2 enduring guardians, the second to incorporate into the pro forma at Schedule 1 a requirement that information about rights, responsibilities and safeguards be provided to all parties at the time of signing. Presumably, the impetus will be on the Law Society (and Community Legal Centres) to develop this as part of ongoing professional development training about changes to the Act.
Schedule 1  does not set out a procedure for resolving a situation where two validly appointed enduring guardians (where empowered to act jointly or severally, or jointly and severally) disagree on a course of action. This seems likely to generate significant controversy where one joint guardian acts unilaterally against the wishes of the other.
That was also a concern I had. I asked the Government to provide a briefing by somebody who would be able to address that concern. I acknowledge that I have had the pleasure of being briefed by the President of the Guardianship Tribunal, Mr Nicholas O'Neill. The simple explanation he gave was that when the document is prepared and the appointment is made of more than one enduring guardian, there is provision in the document for the solicitor, the legal adviser, to draft a provision to provide that a particular guardian should have the right to make decisions in the event that there is any conflict.
In effect, a couple of family members or a couple of friends can work together but the document can be drafted in such a way that if there is a major conflict one of the individuals can have the final say. It was also pointed out that if that is not done, if there is a major conflict there is also the opportunity to go to the Guardianship Tribunal, which will make the final decision. I hope lawyers across the State will take that on board and not merely fill in the blanks on the form. If they do so they will be ensuring that potentially their clients will at some point have to pay additional fees if something goes wrong and there is a conflict. It is unfortunate that that was not clear in the bill and perhaps at some point the regulations will have to be addressed to make it clear. Most lawyers do not like to charge a great deal of money for executing a power of attorney or a document appointing an enduring guardian. It is generally regarded more as a service to the community and, therefore, they will rush things through to achieve the maximum with the minimum cost to the client.
I ask the Guardianship Tribunal and the Government to take on board that it would be helpful to have a form for this obvious situation, which I and people with disabilities have raised. Other amendments provide that appointees will be able to resign if they follow the procedure that is set out in the amending bill. The Guardianship Tribunal will be able to appoint a substitute enduring guardian if the original guardian has died, resigned or become incompetent; it will appoint an appropriately involved person, that is, someone who knows the person requiring an enduring guardian. The Guardianship Tribunal will be able to declare an appointment to be effective even if it was not completed before the appointor lost capacity.
At present there is an expectation that when the appointor is making the appointment he or she has the capacity to do so. That is an area of controversy because families often do not get around to granting power of attorney or appointing enduring guardianship until the person is starting to show signs of dementia, Alzheimer's disease, or some other incapacitating disorder. It can become controversial as to whether the person had the capacity to make the appointment. Sometimes when conflict arises, family members may declare that when the appointment was made mum or dad did not have the capacity to appoint the guardian, so they challenge the appointment and it becomes a Supreme Court matter.
Under this bill the Guardianship Tribunal still has some capacity to address the issue and specifically has the power to say that an appointment is effective even if it was not completed before the appointor lost capacity. It removes that crucial aspect of having to show by extensive medical evidence that the person had the capacity at the time. In other words, it is commonsense. The Opposition supports any measure that ensures that people are properly protected and have someone to look after them properly, but without the additional legal difficulties of having to go to the Supreme Court. Finally, the States that have enduring guardianships, and not all of them do, have reciprocity with other States and Territories.
Overall, this is a worthwhile bill. The Opposition consulted with the Alzheimer's Association of Australia, which indicated its total support for the amendments. We also sought to consult with the New South Wales on Law Society. We consulted and got feedback from people with disabilities and we also consulted the New South Wales Council on Physical Disabilities and the New South Wales Council on Intellectual Disability. All of these groups do a marvellous job offering advice. I encourage the Carr Government to make more of an effort in future to consult with these groups at an earlier stage. Often the Government does not consult as widely as it should. It would be beneficial for these organisations to have some input. I look forward to the wise words of the Minister for Education and Training in reply. Again I indicate that the Opposition will not oppose the bill.
(Ryde—Minister for Education and Training) [8.52 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Wakehurst and other members who spoke in this debate. Flexibility is the central theme of these amendments. The bill should ensure that appointments will be easier to make in the first place. The process will be able to operate more flexibly with multiple enduring guardians being able to make decisions jointly or separately, therefore better meeting the needs of the person for whom they are responsible.
Appointors will be able to nominate their own replacement guardians, that is, alternative enduring guardians. The Guardianship Tribunal will be able to appoint replacement enduring guardians or confirm the incomplete appointments of initial enduring guardians. Enduring guardians or their equivalents appointed in other States or Territories of Australia will be able to operate in New South Wales if they have to make decisions that are to be given effect to in New South Wales concerning the people for whom they are enduring guardians.
There is great interest in the appointment of enduring guardians. The President of the Guardianship Tribunal advises that his tribunal has distributed 47,000 forms for the appointment of enduring guardians since February 1998. The Office of the Public Guardian has distributed 45,000 copies of its booklet on enduring guardianships so far. Solicitors have shown considerable interest in advising their clients about enduring guardianship and the benefits to them, their carers and other family members. Non-government organisations, particularly those operating in aged care, support and promote the notion of enduring guardianships. Many aged care assessment teams advise people of the advantages of such appointments in the ongoing care of elderly people who are losing their decision-making capacity. Enduring guardianships give people the dignity of being able to appoint their own substitute decision-makers to make personal decisions.
Mr J. H. Turner:
Point of order: The Minister for Education and Training knows that the purpose of a speech in reply is to address issues that have been raised in the debate, not to make a further second reading speech to justify his position. The fact that he has a written speech shows that he is not replying to issues raised during debate.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Lynch):
Order! No point of order is involved.
I thank the honourable member for Wakehurst for his contribution and I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
STATE REVENUE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from 29 October.
Mr J. H. TURNER
(Myall Lakes—Deputy Leader of the National Party) [8.56 p.m.]: The Opposition does not oppose the bill, indeed, we support the measures in it. However, there are a number of matters of concern to us, including some aspects of land tax, and particularly the general application of land tax on property. The revenue from land tax has increased from about $200 million in 1995 to more than $1 billion at present. Such increases fall into line with the general approach of this high-taxing Government. However, the bill does not apply to the specific area of land tax, it applies to special trusts. We understand and accept the provisions in this legislation in that regard.
The aim of the legislation is to make New South Wales legislation more consistent with legislation in other States, increase the efficiency of tax collection, and update outdated provisions in Acts. This taxation bill, although it is entitled the State Revenue Legislation Amendment Bill, does not raise taxes. That is a start for the Government, which is one of the highest taxing governments in our history. The New South Wales Government taxes each person $2,373, compared with the Queensland Government, which taxes each person about $1,500. The Government has a reputation for being a high-taxing government. It was criticised by Standard and Poor's in its review of the New South Wales triple-A credit rating. Standard and Poor's acknowledged that the Government had produced a balanced budget, but said:
The strong property market has delivered the government enough, though unexpected, extra stamp duty revenue to offset its difficulty of keeping costs within budget.
That difficulty, as Standard and Poor's puts it, has run to $5.5 billion between 1996 and 2002. In the 2001-02 financial year, Labor's worst yet, its expenditure ran over budget by $1.6 billion. The bill contains a number of amendments to the State revenue legislation that will both clarify certain types of various Acts and improve the ability and efficiency of the Government in collecting revenue. The Coalition does not have any problems with these parts of the legislation. Changes have been made to the Duties Act, which adopts a new model for the imposition of mortgage duty for multijurisdictional mortgages. Mortgage duty will now be apportioned between States according to the value of the property in that State. This makes New South Wales legislation consistent with other States, including Victoria and Queensland. The Crown in other States will become liable to pay stamp duty in New South Wales for transactions made in this State. The New South Wales Government and the Federal Government will remain exempt from stamp duty.
Special trusts are currently taxed differently from other landowners. This is to prevent these trusts being used to avoid land tax. The legislation simplifies the definition of a "special trust", which is now considered to be a special trust if it is not a fixed trust; that is, it is considered a special trust if the equitable owners of the land in question cannot be identified. The legislation makes it clear that special trusts are not able to claim an exemption from land tax for a principal place of residence. That provision of the legislation allows and institutes reciprocal arrangements between the Office of State Revenue and its equivalent in other States for the purposes of investigation and enforcement. The Office of State Revenue will become authorised to undertake compliance audits on behalf of other New South Wales Government organisations. An example of this would be WorkCover. A single audit could be conducted into payroll tax and WorkCover premiums.
The Coalition has significant concerns regarding the proposed changes to the Petroleum Products Subsidy Act. Specifically, the changes to the Act will place a significant additional burden on service stations in the areas in the north of the State that receive the subsidy. This legislation will move the responsibility for claiming the petrol price subsidy from the buyer of the fuel to the seller. Already-busy service stations throughout this region will be forced to fill in forms to claim their subsidy. This also raises the issue of who will get the benefit of the subsidy scheme. Many service stations are subsidised by petroleum companies, which may reduce their payments to service stations to take account of the State Government subsidy.
The purpose of the change to the Petroleum Products Subsidy Act is to remove the opportunity for fraud by consumers who may attempt to claim both the Federal rebate for off-road diesel and the State rebate for on-road diesel. As the increased administrative burden on service stations from this change is large and the opportunity for fraud is limited, the cost to businesses of this proposal certainly outweighs any benefit that would be gained by the Government in reducing fraud in the scheme. This is yet another example of the increasing burden, both in terms of red tape and in high levels of taxation, that the Carr Labor Government has forced onto business. Although the Coalition opposes this increased burden on business, it will not oppose the legislation. However, I ask that the Minister examine ways in which the administrative burden may be reduced.
Turning to the Government's amendments to the State Revenue Legislation Amendment Bill, it concerns me that it took an article in the Australian Financial Review
for the Government to realise that it was being defrauded to the tune of millions of dollars through loopholes in the Duties Act. That is the reason these amendments will be moved—because the media is more on the ball than the Treasurer. Why were these amendments not included in the original legislation? An article in the Australian Financial Review
of 2 November 2002 states:
The New South Wales Government is investigating a series of clever property deals that has left it millions of dollars out of pocket.
In what could prove to be one of its worse tax nightmares, major institutions attempting to bolster returns to shareholders are buying big ticket properties on extravagantly long leasehold titles, saving millions of dollars in stamp duty.
According to the Australian Financial Review
, on a $350 million investment in New South Wales or Victoria, striking a leasehold deal could save about $18 million. There are two loopholes that these amendments are designed to close. The first relates to majority land acquisitions. The Duties Act includes provisions to charge duty on land transactions that are masked as transfers of shares or units in a company or trust that are considered "land rich". A majority interest test is applied to ensure that duty is paid when an interest of more than 50 per cent is acquired. It has become the practice for two unrelated entities to each acquire 50 per cent of a land-rich company or trust and not pay any duty at the transfer or conveyancing rate. This amendment will ensure that the land-rich provisions will apply, and that duty will be levied in situations in which unrelated entities acquire a majority interest in one arrangement.
Secondly, these amendments seek to close a loophole with regard to the use of long-term leases rather than freehold ownership of a property. As the rate of stamp duty on a lease, which is 35¢ per $100, is far lower than the rate of duty on the transfer of land—up to 5.5 per cent—there is significant incentive to structure a property deal in this way. The amendments will remove the 12-month time limit in the Act to trigger the anti-avoidance provisions. This will certainly help to stop this practice among related parties.
However, if the parties are not related, the anti-avoidance provisions will apply only if the Chief Commissioner of the Office of State Revenue is satisfied that a significant purpose of the arrangement was to reduce dutiable value. These loopholes certainly need to be closed. I congratulate the Government on cracking down on tax avoidance. However, it concerns me that these measures were not incorporated into the legislation when it was originally drafted. The Coalition will not oppose these amendments.
(Strathfield—Parliamentary Secretary) [9.06 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Myall Lakes for his comments. I foreshadow amendments to the bill. Since the introduction of the bill the Government's attention has been drawn to the need to make further amendment to the Duties Act to counter an increase in duty avoidance practices. The Office of State Revenue monitors business practices to identify emerging trends that may result in revenue leakage. Recent evidence suggests an escalation in the use of certain practices to avoid duty. Any delay introducing these amendments has the potential to encourage more widespread use of the practices at significant risk to revenue. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
(Strathfield—Parliamentary Secretary) [9.07 p.m.], by leave: I move Government amendments Nos 1 to 4 in globo:
No. 1 Page 2, clause 2. Insert after line 6:
(2) The amendments made by Schedule 1 to sections 8, 9, 24, 114, 115 and 118 of the Duties Act 1997
are taken to have commenced on 13 November 2002.
No. 2 Page 3, schedule 1. Insert after line 2:
 Section 8 Imposition of duty on certain transactions concerning dutiable property
Insert after section 8 (1) (b) (v):
(vi) the enlargement of a term in land into a fee simple under section 134 of the Conveyancing Act 1919
 Section 9 Imposition of duty on dutiable transactions that are not transfers
Insert at the end of the table to the section in Columns 1, 2, 3 and 4:
Enlargement of a term in land into a fee simple
|the estate in fee|
|the person who|
in fee simple
|when the term|
No. 3 Page 3, schedule 1. Insert after line 23:
 Section 24
Omit the section. Insert instead:
24 Arrangements that reduce dutiable value
An arrangement affecting the dutiable value of dutiable property that is subject to a dutiable transaction is to be disregarded in determining the dutiable value of the dutiable property if:
(a) the dutiable transaction is between associated persons, or
(b) the Chief Commissioner is satisfied that a significant purpose of any party to the arrangement was the reduction of the dutiable value of the dutiable property.
No. 4 Page 6, schedule 1. Insert after line 17:
 Section 114 What is a "relevant acquisition"?
Insert after section 114 (a) (ii):
(iii) that, when aggregated with other interests in the corporation acquired by another person or other persons under transactions that form, evidence, give effect to or arise from what is substantially one arrangement, results in an aggregation that amounts to a majority interest in the corporation, or
 Section 114 (2)
Insert at the end of the section:
(2) However, an acquisition of an interest in a land-rich private corporation under an arrangement that results in the land-rich private corporation ceasing to be a private corporation is not a relevant acquisition because of subsection (1) (a) (iii).
 Section 115 Acquisition statements
Insert "by the person on that date (or, if the relevant acquisition results from the aggregation of the interests of associated persons, particulars of the interests acquired by the person and any associated persons on that date)" after "particulars of the interest acquired" in section 115 (2) (c).
 Section 118 How duty is charged on relevant acquisitions
Insert after section 118 (1):
(1A) If a relevant acquisition results from the aggregation of the interests of associated persons, the reference in subsection (1) to the interest acquired includes a reference to any interests acquired by associated persons on the same date.
The Duties Act imposes different rates of duty on the transfer of property and the lease of property. The Office of State Revenue has recently uncovered methods of avoiding duty on the transfer of property by utilising long-term leases. The first scheme involves entering a lease for a term of more than 300 years, with any rent or premium payable on or soon after the commencement of the lease. This is subject to lease duty of 35¢ per $100 on whatever rent is payable. Subsequently, the lessee can register a deed under the Conveyancing Act by which the lessee acquires the fee simple. No duty is payable on this deed.
The bill imposes tax on the enlargement of the residue of a long-term lease into a fee simple at the same rate of duty as a transfer of the property. The second scheme involves a "purchaser" entering a long-term lease, with any rent or premium payable on or soon after the commencement of the lease, and obtaining an option to purchase the fee simple, which has a reduced value because of the lease. After 12 months the lessee exercises the option and acquires the fee simple for a nominal amount. As the fee simple is acquired more than 12 months after the arrangement was entered into, the current avoidance provisions will not apply. The bill strengthens the current provisions by removing the 12-month time limit, so that the effect of the arrangement on the dutiable value of the property is disregarded if the transaction is between associated persons, or if the Chief Commissioner is satisfied that the purpose of the arrangement was to reduce the dutiable value.
In 1986 all States and Territories introduced provisions to address the practice of masking land transactions by transferring ownership of shares in a company or units in a trust that is "land-rich". The legislation includes a majority interest test, so that duty is payable only where an interest of more than 50 per cent has been acquired. The interests of parties who are related or associated are aggregated to protect the majority interest test. This test is intended to restrict the duty to circumstances where one person or a group of associated persons obtains effective ownership and control of the land. It has become an increasingly common practice for parties who are not associated by definition to acquire, together, a majority interest in a company or unit trust under one transaction or arrangement. In many instances this is structured specifically for the purpose of avoiding land-rich duty. A direct acquisition of an interest in land by unrelated persons would be subject to transfer duty in these circumstances.
The bill applies the land-rich provisions to acquisitions by non-associated persons if the acquisitions form, show evidence of, give effect to, or arise from one arrangement. Such an arrangement would be an arrangement to acquire effective ownership and control of the land-holding entity, and is therefore within the intended scope of the land-rich provisions. The urgency of this issue has allowed only a limited consultation period with the New South Wales Property Council and Investment and Financial Services Association Ltd. Submissions from these bodies helped identify and remove unintended consequences. I commend the amendments to the Committee.
(Coffs Harbour) [9.13 p.m.]: I note that the Government amendments were drafted at 10.33 a.m. today. Unfortunately, the Opposition has not had sufficient time to properly assess the amendments and their effect on the legislation. Therefore, the Opposition has little choice but to accept at face value what the Leader of the House said about the amendments. However, we reserve the right to further consider the amendments when the bill is presented to the upper House.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause 2 as amended agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 as amended agreed to.
Schedule 1 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
Routine of Business: Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders
Motion by Mr Whelan agreed to:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to provide for the following business for the remainder of this sitting:
(1) no quorums or divisions;
(2) the introduction and progress up to and including the Minister's second reading speech of Government bills, notice of which was given this day for tomorrow;
(3) resumption of the debate on the take-note debate of the budget estimates and related papers 2002-03; and
(4) at the conclusion of the above business the House to adjourn, without motion, until tomorrow at 10.00 a.m.
PUBLIC FINANCE AND AUDIT AMENDMENT (COSTING OF ELECTION PROMISES) BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Strathfield—Parliamentary Secretary), on behalf of Mr Aquilina [9.19 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
For many years the New South Wales Treasury has undertaken the costing of Government and Opposition election promises following requests by the government of the day. At various times different conditions for this exercise have been negotiated between Treasury and the government of the day. These covered the scope and approach to be taken. The previous ad hoc arrangements for costing election promises can lead to conflict between the public service's duty to support the government of the day in implementing its policies and priorities, and its responsibility to avoid undertaking work predominantly directed towards achieving electoral advantage for the party in government.
This situation has led to protocols being developed in a number of jurisdictions to make the process of Treasury costing election promises transparent to political parties and the electorate. A protocol for costing election promises in New South Wales has been endorsed by the Government. It establishes the basis for a clear understanding on the part of the Government and the Opposition for the conditions under which the New South Wales Treasury will undertake an independent costing of election promises. The protocol is contained in an agreement which the Opposition has been invited to enter with the Government. The agreement sets out a formal process under which the policies of both the Government and the Opposition can be costed independently by the New South Wales Treasury, free of any political interference.
The agreement has been signed by the Premier and the Treasurer, and the Leader of the Opposition and his Treasury spokesman have been asked to sign as well. Although the Leader of the Opposition on 6 June 2002 called for "independent costings of policies by the Treasury during an election campaign free from political interference", he now displays reluctance to have Opposition promises subjected to this scrutiny. The alternative, mooted by the Opposition Leader, of having an accounting firm undertake this function, will not bring to the exercise the same level of scrutiny. It is the New South Wales Treasury that compiles the State's budget and the forward estimates. Only the New South Wales Treasury has the intimate knowledge necessary to accurately cost public sector budget proposals and assess the impact these proposals are likely to have on the State's fiscal position.
The bill now before the House will effect amendments to the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983 to ensure that information that Treasury obtains for the purpose of costing election promises and the actual costings cannot be accessed by anyone other than the person requesting the costing. Neither the Government nor the Opposition will be able to access information provided by the other to the Treasury for the purpose of having an election promise costed. For the election costing agreement to work as intended it needs to be accepted by both the Government and the Opposition. In so doing each party would be giving a commitment to provide all necessary information to enable the Treasury to undertake the most accurate costing possible.
Only through this process can the people of New South Wales go to the polls knowing that the programs outlined by the major parties have been subjected to an identical process of independent costing by the Treasury. Only then can they have confidence that they know how much the programs of each major party will cost and how they will impact on the State's budget and its balance sheet. On behalf of the Treasurer I again call on the Leader of the Opposition and his Treasury spokesman to enter this important agreement with the Government. However, even without the Opposition's commitment to this independent costing process, it is essential for there to be an endorsed protocol which is transparent publicly for the costing of election promises made by the major parties. The Government will, therefore, adopt the protocol contained in the proposed agreement as the basis for Treasury costing of the Government's election promises and the publicly announced promises of the Opposition.
The protocol, which is now a public document, outlines the scope and approach to the costing of election promises, and includes a detailed costing methodology to be observed by the Treasury. It also specifies the form in which Treasury will provide costings. The bill now before the House will ensure the integrity of this process by prohibiting the release of costings to anyone other than the party requesting the costing. Once this safeguard is in place there is no basis for the Opposition's concerns that the Government could obtain access to information provided to the Treasury or influence the costing process. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Fraser.
COAL MINE HEALTH AND SAFETY BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Riverstone—Minister for Land and Water Conservation, and Minister for Fair Trading), on behalf of Mr Woods [9.28 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The Carr Labor Government remains strongly committed to protecting the health and safety of the State's 9,500 coalmine workers. Coal is one of the State's largest exports with total production last financial year of $5 billion. However, the success that this industry has had in the past has come at a terrible cost. Tragically, more than 1,500 coalmine workers have been killed in New South Wales since 1900. This year is the centenary of the Mount Kembla disaster, in which 96 men and boys lost their lives. This tragedy remains Australia's worst industrial disaster.
Sadly, there have been other disasters which have taken coalminers from their families: catastrophes such as the fire and explosion at Bellbird colliery in 1923 with the loss of 21 lives, the fire at Bulli colliery in 1965 with the loss of four lives, and the explosion at Appin colliery in 1979 with the loss of 14 lives. In more recent times three miners were killed in the 1991 roof fall at Western Main colliery. The same year an outburst also occurred at the South Bulli colliery, where three more lives were lost. In 1996 there was the tragic loss of four lives in an inrush at the Gretley mine.
In late 1996, against the backdrop of tragic deaths and near misses, this Government commissioned a wide-ranging review of mine safety in New South Wales and implemented a number of key reforms. These changes have included a new specialist investigation unit to thoroughly investigate and report on serious mine safety incidents, the adoption of a prosecution policy and a $1 million Mine Safety Prosecution Fund, a Mine Safety Advisory Council to bring together government, employers and unions to work on mine safety issues, and the reform of mine safety laws.
This Government has overseen significant improvement in mine safety. However, there is no room for complacency when the lives and safety of New South Wales coalmine workers are at stake. The safety performance of the mining industry still needs to further improve. One death, one injury, is one too many. The Coal Mine Health and Safety Bill is the result of an extensive review of the laws covering health and safety in coalmines and, in particular, the Coal Mine Regulation Act 1982. The bill will modernise the current 20-year-old coal safety legislation. The Coal Mine Health and Safety Bill has been prepared following a detailed consultation process with mining industry operators and employees.
The Minister for Mineral Resources, the Hon. Eddie Obeid, announced the start of this process in July 2000. This saw the release of a comprehensive discussion paper entitled "Transforming Health and Safety Regulation in New South Wales Coal Mines". The paper called for comments and submissions from those with an interest in improving safety in the New South Wales coal industry. Based on the outcomes of the first round of detailed consultation, a further paper entitled "Safety Works" was released by the Minister for Mineral Resources for community comment in February. The Coal Mine Health and Safety Bill reflects the outcomes of this extensive consultation process.
On behalf of the Minister for Mineral Resources I take this opportunity to thank all those who, through submissions or comments, have contributed to the development of the bill. In particular, the Minister has advised me that the representatives of mining companies and mining workers have been constructive throughout the consultative process. As members of the House would be aware, the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 applies to every industry in New South Wales, including the coalmining industry. However, the potential danger inherent in any coal operation is too high to be dealt with solely by the Occupational Health and Safety Act. That is why there has always been specific coalmine health and safety laws in this State.
The bill replaces the 20-year-old Coal Mines Regulation Act with new, modern legislation that better protects the health, safety and welfare of people who work in the New South Wales coal industry. The Coal Mine Health and Safety Bill is complementary to the more general Occupational Health and Safety Act. The Government must have a strong role in the regulation and enforcement of mine safety standards. If coalmines are not appropriately regulated there can be catastrophic loss of life. This bill provides a framework to manage the particular risks arising from coalmining, such as underground fires, explosions or roof collapses. The bill lays the foundation for an integrated approach to mine safety through the development of health and safety management systems, major hazard management plans and emergency systems. This bill does not reduce the importance of government inspectors, investigators and mine safety officers in providing independent and effective safety regulation for the industry.
I will now describe some of the central features of the Coal Mine Health and Safety Bill. The bill will apply to all places of work within a colliery holding under the Mining Act 1992. The bill requires a colliery holder to nominate an operator for any coal operation. The operator must be the employer with day-to-day control of a coal operation. A coal operation may be an underground mine, an open-cut mine or a coal preparation plant. A central element of the bill is the requirement that an operator develop and implement a comprehensive health and safety management system as a condition for mining to be undertaken.
At the present time a variety of rules, schemes, systems and plans are required under the Coal Mines Regulation Act to the prepared by a mine manager. The bill consolidates that mixture of requirements within a single, integrated and comprehensive health and safety management system. The various rules, schemes, systems and plans will become important elements of the integrated system. Health and safety management systems will be required to cover such matters as major hazard management plans, the management structure for a coal operation and a contractor management plan. The systems will be comprehensive and cover all those at a coal operation, including employees, visitors and contractors.
To maintain existing arrangements, training requirements for the systems will need to be compatible with training schemes required under the Coal Industry Act 2002. An important part of an operator's health and safety management system will be a management structure. The management structure must include competent persons to perform key health and safety related functions. The ongoing operation of health and safety management systems will be monitored by the Department of Mineral Resources inspectorate. These officials will have available prohibition and improvement notice powers to ensure that identified safety deficiencies are remedied.
The bill will ensure that effective emergency provisions are also developed and maintained at coal operations. The bill requires an emergency management system to be developed. This system would operate separately from the health and safety management systems for two important reasons. First, it reinforces the importance of adequate emergency preparedness. Second, it recognises that in an emergency different means of management, such as the formation of incident control teams and the close engagement of external emergency services, may be necessary. As with the health and safety management system, an emergency system will cover employees, visitors and contractors at a coal operation.
The bill retains important provisions of the Coal Mines Regulation Act which are intended to protect the community from potential health and safety impacts of coalmining or to protect the safety of people in adjoining mines. These include an ability for the Minister to require the leaving of barriers or protective pillars in mines, the closing of shafts or outlets in abandoned mines, the control of emplacement areas, and a requirement for permits for former mines to be used for tourist or educational activities. To ensure appropriate compliance and enforcement of the new laws, a range of offences, in addition to those contained in the Occupational Health and Safety Act, are included in the bill.
Penalties for offences in the bill are at a level commensurate with similar offences under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. When enacted the legislation will be enforced in mines by inspectors and others with powers under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Another important feature of the bill is the proposed new Coal Competence Board, which will replace the Coal Mining Qualifications Board. The Coal Competence Board will oversee the development of competence standards and assessment of people performing particular functions in coal operations. Importantly, the board will be able to continue to arrange for the examination of candidates and the issue of certificates of competence. Standards of competence for those performing critical health and safety functions in coal operations are essential if risks are to be appropriately identified and managed.
Those who work in coalmines need to have the recognised competencies to ensure that they are able to perform their duties without placing themselves and others at risk. A person will not be able to be employed in connection with a coal operation as a manager, deputy manager, under manager in charge, under manager or deputy if they do not hold the relevant qualification for that position. The new Act will not commence without regulations being made that recognise these positions and the corresponding competency standards and functions. Those currently in statutory positions will be taken as having the necessary capability to perform the corresponding functions under the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act.
An important part of safety management is to ensure that employees, who often work in challenging underground conditions, are fit for work and not fatigued. Section 168 of the Coal Mines Regulation Act contains important safety provisions regarding powers of work. As part of the modern legislative framework, these provisions are not expressed in the bill but, rather, will be retained in the regulations. It is important to note that the regulations will be a key component of the safety framework that gives operational effect to important provisions of the bill. To ensure a smooth transition to the new legislation, the regulations will be developed in close consultation with mining company representatives and mineworker representatives.
When necessary, the regulations will be able to make provision for existing arrangements under the Coal Mines Regulation Act to be acceptable as fulfilling requirements under the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act for a limited period. This will allow existing safety measures to satisfy the relevant requirements of the new legislation while the required work is undertaken to implement new safety standards. The Coal Mine Health and Safety Bill provides a basis for a safer coal industry in New South Wales. We must learn from the lessons of the past by ensuring that effective measures are in place to prevent disasters and that the general safety, health and welfare of our coalmine workers are protected. The Carr Government remains committed to putting in place the best possible arrangements to protect the lives, health and safety of our coalmine workers. We trust that those who share a similar commitment will support the timely passage of this bill. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Fraser.
BUILDING LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (QUALITY OF CONSTRUCTION) BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Riverstone—Minister for Land and Water Conservation, and Minister for Fair Trading), on behalf of Dr Refshauge [9.42 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I am pleased to introduce this important consumer protection legislation into the House today. In March of this year the Deputy Premier announced that the State Government had set up a joint parliamentary inquiry to look into the quality of buildings in New South Wales. The select committee was to look at the role that building certifiers should or should not be playing in ensuring the quality of workmanship in buildings across the State. It would examine what checks and balances exist to ensure that consumers are protected and that their homes are safe, properly certified and built to an appropriate standard. This was also to include examining the builders licensing scheme.
In July 2002 the joint select committee released its recommendations on the changes it considered necessary to make the home building industry more responsive to the needs of consumers. In all, there were 55 recommendations relating to certification, licensing, dispute resolution, consumer education, building contracts, building standards and structural change. The select committee identified key challenges for home building in New South Wales. The first was to improve its structure so that it would be more efficient, less complex and costly, and better understood by both builders and consumers. In recent years improvements in home building have focused on resolving problems occurring at the end of the building process, and therefore often too late and burdensome on all parties.
The second key challenge was to focus attention at the point at which homes are actually being built, with locally based building inspectors intervening when things go wrong. Concerns have been expressed about the present system being too centralised, with all disputes referred to the Building Conciliation Service branch of the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal, which is based in Sydney. The third key challenge is to streamline co-ordination between government regulatory bodies involved in home building so that key functions are no longer fragmented. A need has been identified for the development of formal protocols for information sharing or regular liaison between bodies such as the Department of Fair Trading, PlanningNSW, the Department of Public Works and Services, and the Department of Local Government.
The New South Wales Government has responded to the committee's recommendations by introducing measures designed to improve the quality of residential buildings and the qualifications of people who build and certify them. These measures include both structural and legislative changes. The structural changes that have been announced do not form part of the bill. However, they are a key component of the reform package. A separate Office of Home Building within the Fair Trading portfolio, with regionalised service delivery and resources allocated on the basis of business activity, will be established. The Office of Home Building will be the main contact for builders, consumers and the industry on residential building matters falling within the Fair Trading portfolio.
A building professionals board is to be established. This will act as a single accreditation and registration body to register certifiers and design professionals. It will be similar to the existing Architects Registration Board. The board's establishment will be staged so that the four existing accreditation bodies are brought together, with council certifiers and lastly the building designers, such as draftspersons and designing engineers. The board and its members will report to the Minister for Planning. A building co-ordination committee will be established. The committee will remove duplication and improve co-ordination across the key government agencies—the Office of Home Building, the Department of Fair Trading, PlanningNSW, Public Works and Services, and the Department of Local Government—by identifying problem areas and focusing resources, providing a co-ordinated approach to problems in building quality, integrating and streamlining the building process from initial certification through to completion of construction, and developing protocols for the exchange of information between agencies.
The legislative reforms proposed in this bill also reflect the committee's recommendations. Dispute resolution functions will be focused on the building site, and will benefit consumers and builders with a timely, less costly and more personal service. When a dispute cannot be resolved in this way, it will be referred to a regionally based building inspector for on-site mediation between the parties. In the event that a mutually satisfactory resolution cannot be negotiated, the inspector will be empowered to make a rectification order against the builder, with the parties able to appeal decisions to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal. This will lead to more work being rectified and reduce the demand on the tribunal.
A regionalised approach to enforcement will mean that building inspectors will be able to deal with routine enforcement matters in local regional areas, that inspectors based at regional offices will play a key role in resolving disputes and detecting breaches of the Home Building Act, and that the building investigation and inspections branch of the Office of Home Building will concentrate on major investigations and more targeted inspection programs. Obtaining and using expert advice will be simpler, cutting costs for consumers. The Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal will be able to accredit experts to report jointly to the parties in dispute. The expert report and the Office of Home Building inspector's report will be the only reports used unless the tribunal determines otherwise. This will help to cut costs in tribunal hearings. The Director-General of Planning will be able to take swift action against certifiers by being given the power to suspend accredited certifiers and to issue fines when they do not meet their obligations under the Act.
It will also become an offence for developers to improperly influence the decisions of accredited certifiers. Councils will no longer be able to rely on self-certification by building practitioners under the Local Government Act. A compliance certificate under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act will now be required. The link between the certification process and the development consent will be strengthened by making it harder to start work without approval or without a certifier, linking the development consent to the occupation certificate and preventing transfer of title on new flats and house and land packages prior to the issue of an occupation certificate. The roles and responsibilities of certifiers will be clarified so that they must be appointed by the landowner and not the builder, they must inspect buildings at certain stages, such as framework and completion, they must take responsibility for enforcing development consents and they must ensure the building is the same building approved in the plans.
Consumers will have more control
over who certifies their buildings because they, not the builder, will appoint the certifier. On-the-spot fines will
be increased and additional penalties will apply for breaches of consents and fire safety requirements. The building licensing regime will
be tightened. Builders will have to undertake a financial test to be licensed. Other reforms to licensing are already being implemented. Licensees will have to undertake mandatory continuing education in order to renew their licences. New criteria for the ratio of supervisors in large building companies will be established. Penalties for breaches will be increased. Building contracts will be made fairer. New prescribed standard conditions will be implemented. Work will have to conform to the Building Code of Australia and relevant standards. The final 5 per cent of the contract price will not be paid until the work meets the requirements for the occupation certificate. A pilot consumer advice and advocacy service will
be established for building consumers, including information, advice, casework and advocacy. If the pilot is successful, consideration will be given to extending it on a statewide basis.
I now turn to the provisions of the bill. The bill will amend the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation to improve the way councils and accredited certifiers approve building plans and inspect buildings under construction. The role of certifying authorities will be defined and the powers of the Director-General of Planning will be increased to allow better investigation of the conduct of accredited certifiers and councils. The controls in relation to construction certificates and occupation certificates will also be improved. These amendments will contribute towards improvements in building construction quality through managing the certification and construction process. To improve the functions of certifying authorities, the role of the principal certifying authority, or the PCA, will be defined. This will ensure there is no confusion between accredited certifiers and council over who is responsible for a building during construction. The PCA will be responsible for ensuring that the building work has been approved, the builder is licensed and insured or that an owner builder permit has been obtained, the building is inspected at critical phases and the finished building is the same as the approved plans.
The bill will ensure that the same person who approves the plans for a building also approves any changes to those plans. The powers of the Director-General of Planning when investigating accredited certifiers will be made stronger. The bill will amend the Act to allow the director-general to suspend an accredited certifier where there is sufficient evidence that the certifier has acted improperly. The director-general will also be given powers to issue penalties to accredited certifiers who do not meet their obligations under the Act to send documentation to councils on time. The departmental auditors will be given power to audit the work of councils, as well as accredited certifiers. This will provide a consistent approach for all people who are certifying our buildings, This will ensure a level playing field, and provide the public with a level of confidence that councils and accredited certifiers are meeting the requirements of the legislation.
Accredited certifiers are controlled by both the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act and the Ombudsman Act. This ensures they are treated in an equivalent manner to council staff in relation to their conduct. However, they are not subject to the provisions of the Crimes Act in the same manner as council staff in relation to issue of improper influence, such as seeking or accepting benefits. The bill will introduce provisions that will make it an offence to influence an accredited certifier and for an accredited certifier to seek or accept any benefit. The maximum penalty for this offence will be the existing maximum penalty under the Act, being $1.1 million with the option of two years imprisonment.
It is common for a person who designs a building, or part of a building, to later come back and inspect the building to ensure that it meets their design. The strict conflict of interest provisions introduced in 1998 to prevent self-certification by non-accredited practitioners have prevented this type of inspection from occurring. The Government believes that the most appropriate person to inspect a building they have designed is the designer. Therefore the Act will be amended to allow this inspection to occur and not breach the conflict of interest provisions, so long as another certifier or the council has approved the plans and is acting as the PCA.
As part of this bill, the provisions of the Local Government Act that have allowed councils to continue to accept self-certification will no longer be saved under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. This amendment will ensure that certifying authorities seek compliance certificates under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, which ensures that the qualifications of the person issuing the certificate are adequate and that the person holds appropriate insurance. Many residential buildings are not presently required to have an occupation certificate before they can be occupied. The bill will amend the Act to ensure that all buildings, including dwelling houses, must have an occupation certificate. The maximum penalty for occupying a building, apart from a dwelling house, without an occupation certificate will be increased to $110,000.
The bill will also amend the Conveyancing (Sale of Land) Regulation to ensure that new strata units and house and land packages cannot proceed to settlement unless an occupation certificate has been provided for the building. These amendments will introduce significant improvements which will make accredited certifiers and councils more accountable, give the public more certainty as to how buildings will be approved and constructed, and ensure the quality of buildings in New South Wales are of the highest standard.
The Home Building Act is to be amended to require the Director-General of the Department of Fair Trading to reject an application for a licence, or for the renewal of a licence, unless satisfied that the applicant meets standards of financial solvency set by the director-general. The director-general's decision as to such standards is not reviewable. The standards will be established following consultation with industry and the home warranty insurers. The introduction of solvency standards will tighten the licensing system by ensuring that only financially sound contractors can obtain and retain a licence.
The bill introduces a new process for the resolution of disputes. Building disputes will be notified to the Office of Home Building. If the matter cannot be resolved informally it may be referred to an inspector. The inspector will visit the site and conduct an investigation. After completing the investigation the inspector must prepare a written report and provide copies to the consumer and contractor. If the inspector is satisfied that the work is defective or incomplete, the inspector may issue a rectification order. The order may specify conditions, including the payment of money, to be complied with by the consumer. It will specify the date by which the order must be complied with. Failure to comply with a rectification order without reasonable cause will be a ground for taking disciplinary action against the contractor.
If either the contractor or consumer lodges a building claim with the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal within the period of compliance given in the rectification order, then disciplinary action cannot be taken. This process enables the contractor or consumer to appeal against the inspector's assessment of the complaint. If a building claim is lodged by the contractor during the period of compliance and is later withdrawn, the tribunal may restore the rectification order. The new dispute resolution process within the Office of Home Building is intended to be the first step in dealing with all home building disputes. The registrar of the tribunal must not accept a building claim unless satisfied the process has been followed or unless the chairperson directs the building claim to be accepted.
In determining a building claim the tribunal may have regard to the inspector's report. An inspector may be called to give evidence in the proceedings only by the tribunal, although nothing prevents a party from cross-examining the inspector. The tribunal may appoint an independent expert from a panel of experts approved by the chairperson to advise the tribunal. In proceedings where such an independent expert has been appointed, no party may call any other expert to give evidence or tender any report prepared by another expert, except by leave of the tribunal. Subject to any order of the tribunal, the costs of an independent expert appointed by the tribunal are to be shared by the parties. The bill clarifies the Act to ensure that disciplinary action may be taken against members of partnerships or officers of corporations that hold or held a building licence. This will help to eliminate phoenix company activity and to prevent traders defeating disciplinary action by taking out licences under different corporate entities.
The bill makes amendments to the Home Building Regulation in relation to building contracts. New schedule 3A specifies conditions that must be included in building contracts. All work done will have to comply with the Building Code of Australia, all relevant codes, standards and specifications and the conditions of any relevant development consent or complying development certificate. All plans and specifications, including any variations to those plans and specifications, are taken to form part of the contract. Any agreement to vary the contract, plans or specifications does not have effect unless it is in writing and signed by the parties.
A new provision relating to final payment will also be introduced. This clause applies to work involved in the erection of a building for which an occupation certificate is required under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. The final payment, which must not be less than 5 per cent, does not become payable until the work satisfies all requirements that must be met by the work before an occupation certificate can be issued, in other words, the contractor has performed the work to the necessary standard that it meets the requirements for the issue of an occupation certificate. This provision addresses industry concerns that the issue of an occupation certificate may be held up for reasons beyond the control of the builder. The clause does not require the actual issue of the occupation certificate before payment can be demanded. This provision and the provision relating to the variation of plans and specifications will not apply to contracts between head builders and subcontractors or developers and to contracts for work not exceeding $1,000 in cost. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Fraser.
GAMING MACHINES FURTHER AMENDMENT BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Charlestown—Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [10.05 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The Gaming Machines Act was introduced by this Government late last year and commenced on 2 April this year. The new arrangements, which are aimed at limiting the growth of poker machines in New South Wales while still allowing open competition between gaming venues, are by necessity quite complex. However, the new system is now fully operational, and I am pleased to say that it is working extremely well. Since the commencement of the legislation, the Department of Gaming and Racing has established new systems and procedures to cope with the complexity of the new arrangements. Hotels and registered clubs have now been issued with certificates advising them of their current poker machine entitlements, as well as the number of approved amusement devices [AADs] they may be authorised to keep. The certificate also includes other details, such as, the number of hardship gaming machines that have been granted and the "SIA threshold". An example of the "SIA threshold" is the maximum number of gaming machines that may be authorised to be installed without the need to undergo a social impact assessment.
Various applications are now being lodged under the new scheme, and those applications are being processed and approved. However, the implementation of the new arrangements has identified certain technical difficulties with the way the legislation is currently drafted. In addition, clubs and hotels have been providing feedback on the way the legislation is affecting them, and this has led to some policy changes being proposed. I thank the industry for its co-operation in this regard. Its co-operation falls into line with my personal policy within the ministry and that of the department in monitoring procedures and any changes that are made.
During the implementation stage it has become apparent that, once again, there are some cowboys in the industry who, if given an inch, will take a mile. That is a symptom of a complex industry, but the cowboys are a minority group. As I have indicated on many occasions before, every time these cowboys find even the smallest loophole in the legislation I will act swiftly to make sure that it is plugged. Apart from those issues, the bill is primarily of a housekeeping nature to tidy up some of the loose ends of the legislation. If those in the industry are concerned about this bill, I assure them that this is primarily a housekeeping bill.
I now turn briefly to some of the key features of the bill. The bill will require "large-scale clubs" to forfeit entitlements when transferring between premises within one kilometre of each other. One of the key elements of the new gaming machine legislation was to require clubs with more than 450 poker machines to shed some of those machines and forfeit one-in-three of the poker machine entitlements they divested. One very large club has attempted to circumvent this forfeiture requirement by amalgamating with another small club close by and seeking to transfer the surplus requirements to the smaller club without forfeiture. This is because as the legislation presently stands clubs are not required to forfeit entitlements if they are transferring between two premises that lie within one kilometre of each other. To prevent large-scale clubs from using this exemption to avoid forfeiting entitlements, the amendment will provide that any transfer of entitlements between the premises of a large-scale club will require the forfeiture of one entitlement for every three transferred regardless of the distance between the premises.
The bill will also amend the Act to restrict the number of approved amusement devices that may be authorised to be installed in a hotel or club. These machines, commonly known as "cardies" or "draw poker machines", have been declining in numbers since the commencement of the legislation—from 2,510 on 2 April 2002 to about 620 at present. It is important to clarify the legislation to ensure that those that have been divested so far are not able to be replaced. That was always the intention of the Government.
The bill introduces a new definition of "SIA threshold". As I mentioned before, this term relates to the maximum number of gaming machines that may be authorised to be installed without the need to undergo a social impact assessment. The bill provides for the SIA threshold to be decreased when entitlements are transferred from a venue in a shopping centre. The Government is committed to controlling the availability of poker machines in large shopping centres. The few hotels that are already in shopping centres are permitted to retain those poker machines that they have, but once they sell any poker machine entitlements, the bill will ensure that the venues will not be permitted to buy any more to replace those that have been divested.
The bill also provides for a continuation of the previous arrangement that allowed persons with a declared financial interest in a hotel to share in the profits from the operation of gaming machines. The Liquor Act previously provided that a hotel licensee was not to share profits from gaming machines with another person, unless that person had declared an interest in the hotel by means of an affidavit, or other than in connection with linked gaming systems or the operation of the TAB's investment licence. The Registered Clubs Act, on the other hand, provided a blanket prohibition on a club sharing the profits from its gaming machines with other parties, other than in connection with linked gaming systems. The reason for previously allowing hotels, but not clubs, to share gaming machine profits with financially interested parties is that hotels are private, for-profit ventures, whereas clubs have been, will continue to be and must be non-profit organisations.
The version of the provisions relating to profit sharing that was carried forward to the Gaming Machines Act—section 73—was the registered clubs version, and not the version applying to hotels at that time. However, this has the unintended consequence of prohibiting a hotel licensee from returning any share in the profits from gaming machines to the person who owns the hotel, even in the case where the licensee may simply be a paid employee who has been appointed by the owner to manage the business on the owner's behalf. This result was clearly not intended. The bill will cure that problem by amending the Act to permit the sharing of hotel gaming machine profits by declared financially interested persons. The amendment is to be applied retrospectively from the date when the original provision allowing profit sharing by hoteliers was inadvertently removed. This will validate the many hotel leases that have continued to operate since that time under a profit-sharing arrangement.
The bill will extend the capacity for poker machine entitlements to be transferred between premises of registered clubs without forfeiture. At the moment, clubs can transfer poker machine entitlements between their premises without forfeiture, provided those premises are not more than one kilometre apart. The one-kilometre restriction is inappropriate in non-metropolitan areas, where distances between two premises of the one club can be significantly greater. The amendment will increase the distance threshold to 50 kilometres for non-metropolitan clubs. As I said when the original bill was introduced, we would need to address instances as we went along. It has never been my intention, or the Government's, to make it more difficult for registered clubs to amalgamate in country and regional areas. This amendment will ensure that clubs experiencing trading difficulties or those that want to merge for appropriate reasons will be able to do so.
The bill will also amend the Act to permit hotels and clubs to transfer all of their poker machine entitlements without forfeiture to temporary premises. Once again, that is another anomaly that has been identified. The Liquor Act and the Registered Clubs Act include provisions to allow temporary premises to be approved for hotels and clubs for a limited period. Approval to move to temporary premises is usually sought by hotels, in particular, following a disaster such as a fire or flood, or during a period of extensive refurbishment. This issue has been kicking around since 1989, when the devastating effects of the Newcastle earthquake created difficulties beyond their control for hotels and licensed premises.
The Gaming Machines Act does not make any provision for temporary premises. If a hotel or registered club receives approval to move to temporary premises, any application to transfer poker machine entitlements would be subject to the standard forfeiture arrangements. The bill amends the legislation to allow hotels and clubs that move to temporary premises to transfer their full entitlements to the temporary premises, and then transfer them back again to the permanent premises. The bill also clarifies that the same social impact assessment requirements will apply to temporary premises, as currently apply to a permanent removal. For example, a class 1 SIA will be required if the move is to premises within one kilometre of the original premises, and a class 2 SIA will be required if the move is to premises that are more than one kilometre and it is intended to transfer four or more gaming machines.
The bill will also clarify the arrangements when a club or hotel licence is surrendered or cancelled, or where the club or hotel moves to other premises. One important feature of the bill is to make it clear that the Liquor Administration Board is to have regard to the need for gambling harm minimisation and other related matters when exercising its functions to approve technical standards and declare devices to be approved gaming machines. I understand that one gaming machine manufacturer has challenged the board's right to consider whether a new feature on a gaming machine might exacerbate problem gambling before approving it. The bill will amend the legislation to make it absolutely clear that the board is to take harm minimisation and other matters into account when exercising relevant functions.
The bill will also amend the Act to provide that the board is not required to allocate a poker machine entitlement to a hotel or club unless the board is satisfied that the particular venue was in a position to keep the poker machine at the time the venue was authorised to install it. During the process of determining the number of poker machine entitlements that should be allocated to each club and hotel, it became obvious that, once again, some members of the industry had overstepped the mark by misrepresenting their circumstances when originally applying to the board to install poker machines. In some cases, the board had approved the authorisation of machines without being advised that the premises concerned were in no position to operate gaming machines at that time.
For example, in some cases the premises had been demolished, the address was simply a hole in the ground, or the licence owner had no legal right to operate at the nominated address. Although the machines were authorised to be installed, clearly they could not be installed and they could not be operated in such circumstances. The bill will amend the Act to provide that the board is not required to allocate poker machine entitlements unless it is satisfied that the hotel or club was in a position to keep poker machines at the time authorisation was granted, or would have been in a position to keep poker machines by the date nominated. I will not go into detail about the other miscellaneous amendments included in the bill, other than to note that they are important to the effective operation of the Act. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Fraser
BUDGET ESTIMATES AND RELATED PAPERS
Financial Year 2002-03: Take-note Debate
Debate resumed from 18 September.
(Peats) [10.18 p.m.]: "Getting Ahead", the theme adopted by the Treasurer, the Hon. Michael Egan, for the State budget 2002-03 is most appropriate. Certainly, getting ahead is what the electorate of Peats will continue to do over the coming months and well beyond, particularly in health, education, roads and transport, thanks to the funding allocations in this budget. This is the Carr Labor Government's eighth budget and, once again, it includes significant funding increases in key areas. The health portfolio has been allocated a massive $8.34 billion, an increase of $554 million over last year's budget. The education portfolio has been allocated $8.1 billion, $494 million more than last year and more than $2.3 billion since Labor came to office in 1995. The transport and roads portfolio has been allocated $5.2 billion, an increase of approximately 50 per cent since 1995. The community, aged and disability portfolio has been allocated $1.9 billion, an increase of more than $90 million on last year's budget. The police portfolio will receive $1.8 billion, an additional $153 million over last year's allocation.
The Treasurer's announcement in the budget speech on 4 June of a $26 billion four-year public works and investment program will ensure that the State's economy will forge ahead well into the future. It is a bold plan and represents the strongest commitment made by a New South Wales government to a public works program. The record expenditure represents an increase of $5.4 billion, or 26 per cent, on the $20.7 billion spent over the past four years. Projects in that period included the massive building program required to deliver the Sydney Olympic Games, the best Games ever. During the period of this record State asset acquisition program, the people of New South Wales will continue to be the beneficiaries of better hospitals, schools and roads. It will not be necessary for them to live in the city to be on the receiving end of better facilities, as the program encompasses the entire State. It will create numerous jobs in the construction industry, particularly in the Central Coast region.
It is noteworthy that once again, just as it did with the 2000 Olympic Games venues, the Carr Labor Government plans to pay in advance for all the new public works, without leaving any debt for future generations to worry about. The 2002-03 State budget will deliver for the people residing in the Peats electorate. Gosford Hospital is currently undergoing a massive redevelopment program. An allocation of $30.10 million has been provided in this budget towards the total cost of $113.52 million. The funding allowed for the establishment of a new catheterisation service which will take Gosford Hospital to a level six hospital.
I might add that the original plans for Gosford Hospital's redevelopment did not include the catheterisation service. However, one of my constituents told me that because Gosford Hospital did not provide that service, many Central Coast residents were required to travel to Sydney for treatment. I made representations to the Minister for Health, and I am pleased to inform the House that as a result the Minister ticked off on the provision of the catheterisation service. Gosford Hospital's new cardiac unit was officially opened by the Premier during his visit to the Central Coast for a Cabinet meeting held at Mt Penang Parklands on 15 October. The unit will make life a lot easier for many persons residing on the Central Coast who need to access the services provided by the unit. Apart from the incorporation of the catheterisation service, the redevelopment will include a new emergency department, 10 new operating theatres with a gerioperative service, consolidation of outpatient areas, and expanded clinical, diagnostic and support services.
To address the inequities created in our communities due to the heartless decision by the Federal Coalition Government, headed by John Howard, to abolish the Commonwealth Dental Scheme, the State Labor Government has consistently made extra funds available for dental services. This budget is no exception, with an allocation of $16 million, including an extra $5 million for dentures and other services for our senior citizens. The Woy Woy Peninsula will soon have a new dental clinic located within the grounds of Woy Woy Hospital. An allocation of $220,000 has been provided in the budget towards the total cost of approximately $600,000 for this facility. Work on the new clinic, which will have four chairs, two for adults and two for children, has been commenced.
The need for more podiatry services has been a catchcry in my electorate of Peats for some time now. I am therefore delighted that $2 million has been allocated for podiatry services, representing an increase of 40 per cent. This funding will provide an extra 40,000 treatments in metropolitan areas and an extra 15,000 in rural and regional areas. Other important aspects of the 2002-03 budget expenditure on health include a $30 million provision to indemnify all New South Wales doctors for their work in the State's public hospitals during the next 12 months. I congratulate the Premier and the Minister for Health on that significant move, which brings with it a sense of stability and confidence in the State's public health system.
Mental health services have been increased by 11 per cent on last year's budget. An extra $64 million has been allocated to enable 300 additional health beds to be opened for persons requiring psychiatric treatment. This increased expenditure will assist residents of the Central Coast, with a new mental health service being constructed at Wyong and further improvements to be made at the Mandala Clinic in West Gosford, in the Peats electorate. It is important to note that the Mandala Clinic has recently undergone an upgrade. An allocation of $8 million has been provided for the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Program. With the use of new technology, the hearing of every baby born in New South Wales after 1 December 2002 will be tested. Of the $60 million allocated to the Government Action Plan for Health, $35 million has been set aside for regional and rural areas. The plan will ensure that services hitherto delivered only in the Sydney metropolitan area will now be made available to Central Coast residents.
The 2002-03 State budget provides a record $8 billion for education and training. The major school projects announced in the budget for the Peats electorate include $1.5 million in funding towards the stage one upgrade of Brisbane Water Secondary College, on the Woy Woy Peninsula. The total cost of the project is $5 million and includes improvements to both the Woy Woy and Umina campuses. Work will continue on the $4.87 million stage one upgrade of Henry Kendall High School to provide state-of-the-art woodwork, metalwork, visual arts and food technology facilities, and a new lift. The key priorities from which all students attending public schools and TAFE colleges will benefit include an extra $88.5 million to be spent over the next four years to improve the quality and supply of teachers. A massive $963 million upgrade of technology in schools will be made over four years. It will include $247 million in funding for faster Internet access and $82 million for new e-learning accounts, including email and individual web sites for 1.33 million teachers and students.
TAFE New South Wales will receive more than $1.3 billion to provide quality vocational education and training across New South Wales. Funding of $259.3 million, or an increase of $14 million on last year's budget, is being provided for school global budgets for items such as reading materials, minor maintenance, and stores. Almost $500 million will be provided over four years for literacy and numeracy. New South Wales students are among the world's best when it comes to literacy and numeracy skills.
This budget increases support for older people and their carers through a funding boost of more than $28 million for the Home and Community Care Program, taking the New South Wales total contribution to $141 million; funding of more than $3 million for the next phase in the dementia program as part of an $11 million program over four years; and more than $570,000 for the second year of the Seniors IT Strategy, a $1.7 million program over three years designed to help older people access the benefits of information technology and the Internet. The budget increases support for people with a disability and their carers in a number of ways, including the provision of $828.2 million for community living and accommodation support services for people with a disability through government and non-government services—allocated in part through the jointly funded Commonwealth-State disability agreement. The New South Wales contribution is more than $657 million, or nearly 80 per cent of the total funding.
A $5.5 million allocation has been provided for one-off funding for immediate assistance to people with a disability to help them find appropriate accommodation and support. An $8.3 million allocation has been provided for respite services, which provide support for families caring for a person with a disability. A $2 million allocation has been provided for new equipment for children with a disability through the Provision of Aid for the Disabled Program, which is administered by the Department of Health.
An allocation of $3.5 million has been provided for the attendant care program, which provides personal care for people with a physical disability to help them stay longer in their own homes. A $5 million allocation has been provided for early intervention and prevention assistance to support families with young children with a disability. The budget allocation to New South Wales Police has been increased by 62 per cent, or $671 million over the Coalition's last Police budget. More than $8 million has been set aside to recruit and train new police for front-line duties. These officers will be part of a force that meets the community's demand for a highly visible, very professional force.
Major projects that will be of tremendous benefit to the Central Coast include an allocation of $6 million for continued improvements and eradication of black spots within the New South Wales Police country radio network; an allocation of $2.7 million to extend Livescan digital fingerprinting technology to another 25 rural and regional stations; and an allocation of $443,000 to continue the trial of civilian managers at 18 police and community youth clubs [PCYCs] across New South Wales. The aims of the program are to free officers from the burden of administration and paperwork and to allow greater interaction with youth at risk. The PCYC at Umina Beach, which was opened by the then Minister for Police, the Hon. Paul Whelan, approximately two years ago, was the first PCYC established under the Callingham report with a civilian manager and a full-time police officer. The facility is working very well; indeed, it is one of the greatest facilities provided to the Umina community for some time.
Rail maintenance work to enhance the safety, reliability and maintenance of train station facilities is among the Transport highlights of the State Budget for the Peats electorate. The 2002-2003 budget provided $4.4 million for transport expenditure for the Peats electorate over the next financial year. The Government will spend $4.3 million to fund track reconstruction, re-railing, underbridge renewal, signal and electrical renewal, and other maintenance work that will benefit all rail travellers in the area. Another $125,000 will be committed to the maintenance of station and passenger facilities at Lisarow, Ourimbah and Tascott.
Many people will benefit from the construction of 41 new outer suburban carriages servicing the Central Coast and other parts of the rail network, with $4.6 million allocated in this budget. The Peats electorate will also share in the benefit of a $145 million, or 6.7 per cent, increase in the Transport budget to $2.286 billion; funding of $732 million for concessions, with school student travel subsidies up by $11 million to $427 million, and subsidised concessions for students, pensioners, people with disabilities, and other travel subsidies increasing by $5 million to $305 million.
A number of roadwork allocations have been included in this budget, including $300,000 towards the planning of the intersection of Brisbane Water Drive and the Pacific Highway at West Gosford, $500,00 towards the upgrading of the Pacific Highway from Wiseman's Ferry Road to Woy Woy Road at Kariong and $288,000 for the upgrading of the Pacific Highway from Lisarow to the F3 at Ourimbah—and that is for the planning stages.
Federal funding of $20 million has been provided for the upgrading of the F3 to three lanes either way and already the two kilometre section from Mt White to Calga has been completed well ahead of schedule and that project has been managed by the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA]. An allocation of $1.5 million has been made for major intersection improvements at the intersection of Blackwall Road and Allfield Road at Woy Woy, and $310, 000 has been allocated for a continuation of the cycleway at Brisbane Water Drive and $100,000 for pedestrian facility improvements.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Extension of Sitting: Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders
Motion by Mr Whelan agreed to:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to extend the sitting beyond 10.30 p.m.
BUDGET ESTIMATES AND RELATED PAPERS
Financial Year 2002-03: Take-note Debate
Gosford City Council has received an allocation of $269,100 to carry out regional road improvements and traffic facilities improvements; $1,252,680 for traffic management, and $13,940 for a road safety officer within Gosford City Council. For the provision of rest facilities on the F3 at Calga, to be managed by the RTA, there is Federal funding of $550,00. The new rest facilities at Mooney Mooney are now up and running, and there is $152,000 for F3 safety audit works implementation from Hawkesbury River to Beresfield, and $144,770 for road safety. For pavement reconstruction at Manns Road $500,000 has been allocated; for reconstruction of the Pacific Highway, $750,000; for pavement reconstruction of the Sydney to Newcastle freeway there is Federal funding of $1,214,000 and "other infrastructure maintenance" has been allocated $4,262,640.
Young people will benefit from the budget, with payroll tax abolished for employers of apprentices. This will help 31,000 young people around the State, including a number within the Peats electorate. Local residents and businesses will also benefit from insurance tax cuts reducing household insurance bills by an average of $40 per year, and by small business insurance costs being cut by an average of $150 per year. New South Wales now has the lowest tax rates in Australia on general insurance policies. The Government has halved stamp duty on 33 types of insurance, including home and contents, travel, public liability, strata unit, business interruption, burglary, bad debtors, stock damage and property damage. These tax cuts took effect from 1 August 2002.
For the upgrading of the existing electricity substation at West Gosford $13 million has been allocated, and upon their completion these works will vastly improve the reliability of the electricity supply in the Narara and Ourimbah area. Improving emergency services throughout the State has been a priority for the Carr Government since 1995, and expenditure in this vital area has been increased by a massive 137 per cent since the last budget delivered by the Coalition Government.
In the Peats electorate two new New South Wales Fire Brigades Service stations have been built over recent years: one at Kariong and the other in Trafalgar Avenue, Umina. Umina now has a replacement fire engine costing $276,000, which will further enhance the state-of-the-art equipment available to members of the New South Wales Fire Brigades. In addition, considerable funding has been allocated to rebuild and improve Rural Fire Service stations and improve equipment and protective clothing for the many Rural Fire Service crews located in the Peats electorate.
The Carr Government has, through good and responsible fiscal management, reduced tax rates in five successive budgets. These cuts now amount to a cumulative $1.4 billion per year. In the words of the Treasurer in his Budget Speech, "Ours is a Labor Government with contemporary and modern methods and a century-old ethos of fairness and social improvement permeating every bone in our bodies." I congratulate the Treasurer and the Government on once again bringing down a budget that makes a genuine attempt to assist all those who need a helping hand.
(Strathfield—Parliamentary Secretary) [10.37 p.m.], in reply: This draws to a conclusion the budget estimates take-note debate. I thank all members for their contributions to the debate. A precedent has been created in the Parliament whereby all members have had the opportunity to speak for 20 minutes on the budget bills, irrespective of whether they agree with the Government's budget. I applaud members for allowing the debate to proceed without interruption. The hard-working honourable member for Peats has just made a contribution on one side of the debate and I have heard many alternative points of view. I will not be here for the next budget debate but the House should continue to give members the opportunity to speak without interruption on issues that relate directly to their constituents. The budget debate has concluded and I thank all honourable members for their contributions.
Motion agreed to.
The House adjourned at 10.39 p.m.