The Speaker (The Hon. George Richard Torbay)
Thursday 5 June 2008
took the chair at 10.00 a.m.
read the Prayer and acknowledgement of country.
GROWTH CENTRES (DEVELOPMENT CORPORATIONS) AMENDMENT BILL 2008
MEDICAL PRACTICE AMENDMENT BILL 2008
SUPERANNUATION ADMINISTRATION AMENDMENT BILL 2008
Messages received from the Legislative Council returning the bills without amendment.
JURY AMENDMENT BILL 2008
Bill received from the Legislative Council and introduced.
Agreement in principle set down as an order of the day for a later hour.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Notices of Motions
General Business Notices of Motions (General Notices) given.
JURY AMENDMENT BILL 2008
Agreement in Principle
Mr BARRY COLLIER
(Miranda—Parliamentary Secretary) [10.07 a.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now agreed to in principle.
As the bill was introduced in the other place on 15 May 2008, the second reading speech appears in the Hansard
galley for that day. The bill is in the same form as introduced in the other place. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Daryl Maguire and set down as an order of the day for a later hour.
JURY AMENDMENT BILL 2008
Agreement in Principle
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
Mr GREG SMITH
(Epping) [10.08 a.m.]: The Opposition does not oppose the Jury Amendment Bill 2008, but I would like to make a few comments about it. The objects of the Jury Amendment Bill 2008 are as follows:
(a) to amend the Jury Act 1977 ... to implement (with some modifications) certain recommendations of the NSW Law Reform Commission in Chapter 11 of its Report 117: Jury selection, and
(b) to amend the Criminal Appeal Act 1912 to enable appeals to be made, with the leave of the Court of Criminal Appeal, about decisions concerning the discharge of a jury.
The amendments to the Jury Act are as follows:
(a) to clarify the power of a court or coroner to discharge a juror by expressly setting out the circumstances in which a court or coroner must, or may, discharge a member of a jury during trial or coronial inquest, and
(b) to set out the circumstances in which a court or coroner that discharges a juror must discharge the remaining jurors or may instead continue the trial or coronial inquest with the remaining jurors, and
(c) to give a court or coroner the express power to order that a trial or coronial inquest continue if a juror dies, and
(d) to ensure that the verdict of a jury is not invalidated if a juror who was summonsed for jury service is empanelled irregularly or by mistake or becomes disqualified from serving, or ineligible to serve, as a juror during a trial or coronial inquest, and
(e) to expressly enable jurors and former jurors to report misconduct and other irregularities in the conduct of other jurors and former jurors, respectively.
The bill also makes amendments of a savings and transitional nature to enable the making of savings and transitional regulations. As I said, the bill seeks to implement the recommendations in Law Reform Commission Report No. 117, which was released in January 2008. In his second reading speech the Attorney General stated that the bill proposes to implement the recommendations contained in that chapter with only minor modifications. He said that it is anticipated that these reforms will reduce the need to hold retrials and thereby maximise the use of court time. There is no doubt that the amendment is a sensible solution to avoid the expense of a retrial.
Some procedural irregularities have arisen recently: long-running trials were either aborted or the Court of Criminal Appeal ruled that they should have been at a particular point. These amendments are designed to address those procedural irregularities so that society will be saved the expense of retrials. The cost of a trial was estimated at $20,000 a day 10 years ago. Imagine what it would be now. That $20,000 covered the cost of the court system, the judge's salary and so on. It is a great no-no to waste trial time and to throw away sometimes months spent on a criminal trial because of these technicalities. In Regina v Brown and Tran
, the Court of Criminal Appeal found that the trial had not been conducted with a jury selected in accordance with section 19 of the Jury Act. One of the jurors had mistakenly attended court a month earlier than required. I must read the case again because it is not entirely clear how that juror was called to serve on the jury.
These days a number rather than a name is used in the ballot box. Surely the sheriff's officers would check the numbers to ensure that they coincided with the numbers on their list of those summonsed. Nevertheless, this fellow's number was put into the box and the trial judge had his attention drawn to the fact that the juror had appeared one month early. With the consent of the parties, the judge continued the trial to verdict. The court had the consent of the parties; the accused consented. There was no unfairness; it was not an unfair trial that had to be rerun. This is one of the technicalities that the courts have said is so important that its breach results in a mistrial. The Court of Criminal Appeal said there had been a failure to comply with the mandatory provisions of the Jury Act and therefore the trial was a nullity.
Of course, the Crown does not have enough Crown prosecutors to run all the trials conducted in this State. That is a black mark on the Government's record because it is not providing that key area of law enforcement with adequate resources. As a result, the Crown sometimes briefs private barristers to run trials. There is a discretion in the Crown Prosecutors Act, the Director of Public Prosecutions Act or the Criminal Procedure Act for the Director of Public Prosecutions to authorise a non-Crown prosecutor to sign an indictment. However, that happens only in special cases. Normally a private Crown prosecutor is supplied with an indictment that has already been signed by an authorised person. Authorised persons can include my friend the member for Maitland, who has probably been able to sign an indictment as a senior solicitor, and other people who have been delegated. For some reason, private barristers are generally not authorised to sign indictments.
In a series of cases a private barrister signed a number of indictments in trials that resulted in convictions. Late one night, in the comfort of his chambers, the penny dropped for a barrister who was looking for appeal grounds for his client. He noted that someone who was not a Crown prosecutor had signed the indictment. Inquiries were made and it was established that the barrister was not an authorised person. I know of two trials—one of which was fairly lengthy—that the Court of Criminal Appeal declared to be mistrials on a technicality although there was no unfairness or miscarriage of justice. That is an example of a technicality costing a great deal of money but not benefiting the State. However, the law must be followed.
Mr Barry Collier:
Was there a conviction the second time around?
Mr GREG SMITH:
There was a conviction the second time around in one case, but I am not sure what happened in the other case. It is expensive and a waste of time to rerun trials. Since then legislation has been enacted to address that defect, and trials run with indictments signed by unauthorised people were declared to be valid up to a particular stage. Thereafter hopefully the practice has been resolved.
In Regina v Petroulias
it was discovered mid trial that one juror who had been empanelled was disqualified because he was the subject of an order disqualifying him from driving a motor vehicle. The trial judge made an order under section 22A of the Jury Act discharging the juror in question and a further order that the remaining 11 jurors be considered for all remaining purposes of the trial to be properly constituted as the jury. A majority upheld an appeal that the trial process was flawed from the outset since the jury did not comply with the explicit statutory requirement that it consist of 12 persons returned and selected in accordance with the Act. The original 12-member jury included one juror who should not have been there. As a result, the trial was deemed to be a nullity. Proposed section 73 is intended to avoid such further situations arising and it is a necessary amendment.
I see no significant arguments against the proposed amendments. The views of various parties have been sought, but very little feedback has been received. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Legal Aid, the New South Wales Law Society and the Bar Association often do not have time in the period available to get their criminal law committees together to determine a view, and that is a problem. The Government should give more notice of these criminal justice bills that make significant changes.
The Law Reform Commission made an extremely important recommendation that has not been acted upon. I urge the Government to act promptly on the commission's recommendation that jurors' fees should be increased and indexed. At the moment many people seek to be excused from jury service when they are told in the letter accompanying the summons that the trial is estimated to last six weeks, and sometimes much longer. People with their own business, people who know their employer will not top up their salary and others cannot afford to give up that time if they are not adequately recompensed.
Although the jury fee might be attractive to a university student or a pensioner, it is not adequate for many people. It is nowhere near the average wage; it is much less. Law Reform Commission recommendation No. 58 states that the jury should be entitled to a basic daily allowance that can be supplemented by a capped amount to provide a measure of compensation for any loss of earnings or income as a result of jury service. A review should be undertaken with a view to increasing the daily allowance and establishing a capped additional amount that would be available by way of compensation to those who suffer such a financial loss.
The payment of any allowance for loss of earnings or income should depend upon the production of a certificate of loss of earnings or income. Recommendation 59 was that people who attend for jury service in response to a summons but who are released in less than four hours should receive a part allowance. They forgo a day's pay, so they should receive some money for that because they are attending to serve the community.
Recommendation 60 states that jurors should be paid the daily attendance allowance for days during a trial when they are not required to be present in court but only when their employers have not paid them for those days. During the running of a trial, occasions may arise when either the judge or counsel must be absent for a day to fulfil other commitments. For example, the judge may have a number of sentence matters set down for the Friday, so the trial will not proceed on that day. This usually happens during long trials when judges cannot put aside duties for which they have been responsible in the past. Sometimes counsel appearing for the trial accused also is involved in sentencing matters. As they have an intimate knowledge of the sentence case they must attend to that matter and, therefore, they request to be absent from the trial.
A trial may not proceed because a juror may become ill for a day. Sometimes a juror or jurors may be ill for days or weeks and they cannot be excused—although in most instances they usually are excused from further service. The number of jurors who can be excused is limited, depending on how long the trial has proceeded and the remaining number of jurors. For example, the trial may be near its conclusion but only nine jurors remain. The trial cannot proceed any further with fewer jurors, so the court must wait for the juror who is unwell to recover. I have appeared in trials that have been adjourned for more than a week because a juror has had to undergo an emergency operation or something similar.
In those circumstances the other jurors often cannot return to work—they may be able to do so if the adjournment of the trial is for a few weeks. An employer may have recruited someone under an agreement for a certain period to replace an employee who is absent attending jury duty and suddenly the juror becomes available for a week. The employee's availability may not suit the employer because the business has committed itself to paying for a replacement. Recommendation 61 asserts that travel allowances should be adjusted.
For years these items have been the subject of complaint by the Bar Association, the Law Society and various other organisations. The Law Reform Commission is not expressing anything novel. The Government should have been quick to remedy the problem with juries because the State suffers when a good cross-section of citizens is not selected for jury service. Juries should not comprise all students or all pensioners. Each of those groups does a good job and I do not cast aspersions on those classes of people, but a jury should comprise a mix of all community groups. The court needs the experience and wisdom of the community. That will not be achieved if half the people summonsed for jury duty are trying to avoid it because they cannot afford to attend.
When a juror is discharged defence counsel, on realising that the jury seems to be focusing favourably on the Crown case, may think "If we can get rid of this trial at the moment, we will." I hasten to add that that is a hypothetical example and I am not accusing any particular counsel of deliberately taking advantage of such a situation. However, on a number of occasions I have heard defence counsel plead with the judge to discharge the jury so they could have a new trial. If that happens early in a trial process, counsel has a better chance of the judge acceding to that request.
Mr Barry Collier:
Particularly on a country circuit.
Mr GREG SMITH:
Yes, it can cause great inconvenience to a country court circuit; it could result in the trial not recommencing during that sitting and the parties having to return some months later. The problem with all of these delays in criminal trials is that many witnesses choose not to continue on the resumption date. Victims in sexual assault matters or serious physical assault matters often reach the end of their tether: they have had enough; it is the last straw. They may have attended court on three or four occasions for the commencement of the trial, particularly in a country region where many trials are set down, but the trial does not go ahead. Country circuits run three or four times each year for periods of one week or two weeks, sometimes a month, and often cases set down for trial on the court list are not reached.
Witnesses prepare themselves to give evidence in a trial, refresh their memory and perhaps speak to a different Crown prosecutor on each adjourned date because Crown prosecutors often become jammed in other cases due to the overlapping of hearing dates. When trials are delayed continually, witnesses just give up. Therefore, it is most important to keep a trial rolling once it starts to ensure that the body of evidence from both prosecution and defence can be presented at the earliest possible opportunity. I do not believe anyone would object to that course except, perhaps, hardened criminals who are wily and constantly try to find ways of avoiding a trial to answer the charges against them—I am afraid there are plenty of those cases.
A juror listening to the evidence in a dangerous driving trial may believe that he or she is helping by taking his or her own photographs of the scene, and then showing those photographs to the remaining jurors. In that instance, the entire jury must be discharged. If it is not established that the juror showed the photographs to another juror or anyone else, he or she alone could be discharged. I once appeared for the Crown in a case that was appealed but, for some reason, the appeal did not proceed. The defence did not have good grounds on which to appeal, but had a good technical point: during the jury's deliberations the foreman of the jury attended the local police station to tell the police he was worried because the accused travelled on the same train as another jury member.
That should never have happened; it so happened that he was speaking to a police officer who had knowledge of the case. That juror could have been influenced by information gleaned from the police officer. We learned that the juror told another jury member, but not the rest of the jury panel, about his visit to the police station and his concern about the accused. It was a murder trial and the accused was convicted. An appeal was lodged, but it did not proceed. The Crown case was strong, but that type of irregularity by a juror may have resulted in a retrial because it could be said that justice did not appear to be done because a juror spoke to police about the accused while the jury was in deliberations.
I appeared for the Crown in the appeal of the notorious Bilal Skaf. During deliberations the foreman and another juror went to Gosling Park, Greenacre, and conducted their own view of the park at night-time to see if the lighting was sufficient for the complainant to identify various accused. This particular case involved the two Skaf brothers—the judgement has been published and contains their names, so I am free to mention them. If those two jurors had wanted a view of the park, they should have asked the judge. The whole jury should have gone to the park with the judge and lawyers for the various parties so that any objection to their actions could have been avoided. People could have asked if the conditions in the park 6, 12, 15 or 18 months ago could be restaged to determine whether they were the same on the night the attack occurred—it is no longer an alleged attack because the men were convicted at the conclusion of the retrial. This big park has training fields and huge lights that enable sports teams to continue their training.
No doubt the appeal of Bilal Skaf would have been dismissed but for that irregularity. The appeal was heard the previous November. I appeared for the Crown and I was not called upon to respond to the appeal, which meant the Crown had won the appeal. The practice is for the Court of Appeal to call upon each party to present a case. If it is thought that the appellant has raised a good argument, the respondent Crown will be called to put forward its case. When the appellate court does not call on a party to respond, that party knows it has won the appeal. However, over the Christmas period one of the jurors in the trial told a solicitor at a Christmas party or some such event that he had visited the park because the case had attracted enormous notoriety.
The solicitor, quite correctly, reported this to the Crown. Of course, we had to report the matter to the sheriff. The sheriff conducted an inquiry and interviewed the jurors concerned. Evidence was put before the appellate court that two jurors had visited the park during jury deliberations. That clearly is misconduct by those jurors. Jurors must be warned that under the provisions of this bill penalties will apply for that type of behaviour whereas previously no penalties were imposed for such behaviour. At least that story had a happy ending for the victim and community generally because the accused were convicted at the retrial.
That meant the expense of another trial. It saw a change in the law because the complainant, the girl who had given evidence once, ultimately refused to come back to give evidence. The case was no billed and the Government decided then to move legislation to allow the transcript of the original evidence of the complainant to be read to the jury in the second trial. That is hardly a satisfactory way of conducting a second trial but it still led to a conviction. It often does not. That girl was cross-examined for three days. Imagine how boring it is to listen to somebody reading out question and answer from a three-day transcript and how hard it is to get people to concentrate. There is none of the physical presence of the witness. Jurors cannot see whether the witness seemed a bit inconsistent or lacking in credibility. Demeanour means a lot to a jury assessing evidence in the trial.
In 2004 or 2005, when the Government enacted new law as a result of the Skaf trial, the Hon. Bob Debus, the then Attorney General, undertook that the Government would install video cameras in all courts throughout the State so that the recording of complainants' evidence in the first trial would be available for the jury to watch. It is much easier for a jury to understand a case, and it is a much better presentation, if there is a film or video so the jury can watch the complainant's demeanour. Recently in a case in Port Macquarie court—which was the subject of some complaint because of the length of the defence barrister's cross-examination—the evidence of the complainant was not recorded. Why? Because the equipment was not installed and there were no people trained to do it. It is three years since that promise was made, and in the current budget there is no allocation for this video evidence.
Mr Frank Terenzini:
Yes, there is.
Mr GREG SMITH:
There might be some talk about remote video link evidence. I ask the Government to show me where in the budget papers there is money for the courts to have trained technicians to film witnesses and for the equipment. This is not witnesses in a remote location; this is all witnesses in the witness box, in all country courts as well as city courts. Is the member telling me that all courts have the cameras? They do not at the moment, as that Port Macquarie case shows.
Mr Frank Terenzini:
Mr GREG SMITH:
But if somebody is in the witness box—and that is how most trials run—one only gets an order to allow video link evidence to be given where there are sufficient grounds to alter normal circumstances. One has to show that people have much greater fears than a normal witness would, or there are reasons for someone to feel they are in danger so they can give evidence via a remote link. Normally those orders are made in favour of children, although legislation now allows its use by adults—
Mr Barry Collier:
A vulnerable person.
Mr GREG SMITH:
A vulnerable person. But one cannot declare, just because it is a sexual assault case, that each complainant is a vulnerable person. One has to establish more. We are talking about cases involving not just children who have been sexually assaulted but also adults—women and men—who have been sexually assaulted. In the main, they will give evidence in the witness box. They will face the man they are accusing—sometimes a woman, but generally a man—and the Government has to put in the equipment and train people in the court system how to operate it and check to make sure it is filming. Otherwise victims of sexual assault are still suffering.
All this talk about improving things by changing the laws on consent and various other things are just tinkering. The issues that would really help the women and the male victims of sexual assault apart from having specialised sexual assault courts—which they should—would be not having to come back again and by having a film or video of them being played to the jury when there is a reasonable chance that a presentation would bring about justice. If the man or woman is not guilty, fair enough. No-one should be convicted wrongly. But in cases where they are guilty, they should not get off because the Government has been lacking and has not honoured its commitment—made with hand on heart almost—to all those sexual assault victims whom it says it is helping but has done nothing to help. Otherwise, the bill to change the Jury Act is quite reasonable.
Mr FRANK TERENZINI
(Maitland) [10.34 a.m.]: I think somewhere in the speech of the member for Epping he said he was not opposing the Jury Amendment Bill. I am pretty sure he said the bill was a good idea, but that was some time ago. Again, he made a colourful contribution. I support the Jury Amendment Bill 2008. It is a good piece of legislation that accords with the Law Reform Commission's jury selection report, which was released in January. The report was a major review and contained 74 recommendations on a range of issues relating to the New South Wales jury system. The Government has already acted on a number of the recommendations contained in the report, including those recommendations concerning the ability to appoint additional jurors in lengthy trials. The Government has also responded to the recommendations relating to improving people's understanding of the jury system and their experience as jurors. Consultation with the community and key stakeholders in relation to the report's outstanding recommendations remains ongoing—a process that the Government is committed to in order to ensure the best outcomes for the New South Wales jury system.
This bill implements all the recommendations contained in chapter 11 of the Law Reform Commission report, with some minor modifications. The bill amends the Jury Act 1977 to, first, provide judges and coroners with the express power to discharge individual jurors in certain circumstances. They include, first, where it is discovered that a juror was mistakenly or irregularly empanelled or, second, a juror becomes disqualified from serving on a jury or otherwise ineligible to serve as a juror during a trial or coronial inquest or, third, a juror has engaged in misconduct in relation to a trial or inquest. Further, it provides judges and coroners with the discretion to continue with the trial or coronial inquest with the remaining jurors or discharge the remaining jurors, in circumstances where a continuation of the trial would not give rise to the risk of a substantial miscarriage of justice.
Further, the bill gives a judge or coroner the express power to order that a trial or coronial inquest continue if a juror dies. Again, it will ensure that the verdict of a jury is not invalidated if a juror who was summoned for jury service is empanelled irregularly or by mistake, or becomes disqualified from serving, or ineligible to serve as a juror during a trial or coronial inquest. Further, it will give jurors the ability to report any reasonable concerns they have about the conduct of another juror in circumstances including misconduct, refusal to take part in the jury's deliberations, incapacity to take part in the proceedings or an inability to be impartial.
The bill also amends the Criminal Appeal Act 1912 to enable appeals to be made by both parties to the Court of Criminal Appeal about decisions to discharge an entire jury. This right of appeal is subject to the Court of Criminal Appeal granting leave to appeal. An application for leave would have to be made. I imagine there would be a provision or a practice direction to enable that appeal to come on very quickly in view of the jury being in abeyance. This bill has been developed following careful consideration and consultation with relevant stakeholders. They include the New South Wales Law Reform Commission, the Supreme Court of New South Wales, the District Court of New South Wales, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Law Society of New South Wales, the New South Wales Bar Association and the Legal Aid Commission of New South Wales. The New South Wales Government is committed to ensuring that the jury system is efficient and sustainable. I for one can say unequivocally that these reforms are welcome and follow on from the recent reforms in regard to empanelling further or additional jurors in trials exceeding three months.
It is very important to make sure that the criminal justice system works efficiently, particularly when victims come into contact with the system. The member for Epping has been involved in as many trials as I have over the past 10 or 11 years and appropriately has drawn attention to the plight of victims who are involved in the criminal justice system. The reforms presented in the bill assist victims. It is very difficult for victims to give evidence in court. It is very difficult for victims to summon the courage to give their evidence while facing the accused. It is doubly difficult and sometimes impossible to persuade victims to give their evidence again in the event that a jury is discharged.
The bill's reforms will assist other reforms in the case of a retrial by eliminating the need for victims to give their evidence again. The legislation provides a discretion for the trial judge to enable a trial that might otherwise be aborted to continue. It should not be the case that a jury is discharged automatically when allegations of misconduct are made, illness of a juror occurs, or a juror raises problems with impartiality. Those matters should be investigated by the judicial officer, evidence should be called, and the judicial officer should have discretion to make a decision based on the evidence and based on inquiry about whether a substantial miscarriage of justice might occur of the trial proceeds.
All too often it was my experience that when a juror indicated certain difficulties, such as illness, partiality or misconduct, a judicial officer discharged the jury on an application being made by the defence. One of the grounds for such an application was that an accused is entitled to a jury of 12 because the Jury Act provides for that, and that is just. But if a matter has proceeded for two weeks or even six weeks on trial and an issue arises it should be proper for a judicial officer to have discretion and determine whether or not, in the interests of justice, the trial should continue or the whole jury should be discharged. If the issue arises because one juror is ill, for example, or for the other reasons I have mentioned, the jury should not automatically be discharged.
Discretion should be exercised by balancing considerations of the efficiency of the system, the needs of victims and the provisions of the Jury Act. It is an important advancement that this legislation provides judicial officers with discretion to continue with a trial, and their decision may be reviewed on appeal. A factor that should be taken into consideration is that jury trials are very expensive. As a former prosecutor I welcome the new provisions of the bill. The legislation will result in further enhancement of the efficiency of the criminal justice system for the reasons I have outlined and because the bill provides for a discretion to be exercised by judicial officers in relation to continuation of trials. For the reasons I have stated I commend the bill to the House.
Mr BARRY COLLIER
(Miranda—Parliamentary Secretary) [10.43 a.m.], in reply: I thank the member for Epping and the member for Maitland for their contributions to the debate. The primary purpose of the Jury Amendment Bill is to amend the Jury Act 1977 to confer express powers on judges to discharge juries for cause or due to irregularities in empanelling, and to allow trials to continue in appropriate circumstances. The bill implements recommendations in chapter 11 of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission's Report 117, "Jury Selection", which was released in January.
The bill proposes to implement, with only minor modifications, the recommendations contained in that chapter. The Government has already implemented a number of other recommendations in the report concerning the empanelling of additional jurors in long trials. Those reforms commenced on 1 January 2008. The Government is continuing to consult with the community and stakeholders on the report's remaining recommendations. In developing the legislation before the House, the following organisations were consulted: the New South Wales Law Reform Commission, the Supreme Court of New South Wales, the District Court, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Law Society of New South Wales, the New South Wales Bar Association, the Public Defender's Office and the Legal Aid Commission of New South Wales.
For the information of the member for Epping I note that both the Law Society and the Bar Association were briefed prior to the announcement of the reforms and before the bill was tabled. The President of the Law Society, Mr Hugh Macken, described the reforms as "wonderful". I note that the bill was introduced in the other place in early May and that the second reading stage occurred on 15 May. Sufficient time for consultation and feedback has been allowed during preparation of the bill.
New section 53A will require a court or a coroner to discharge a juror if, in the course of a trial or coronial inquest, it is found that the juror was mistakenly or irregularly empanelled, whether because the juror was disqualified or ineligible to serve as a juror or was otherwise not returned and selected in accordance with the Act; a juror has become disqualified from serving or ineligible to serve as a juror; or the juror has engaged in misconduct in relation to the trial or coronial inquest. For the purpose of that new section "misconduct" is defined in the Jury Act. New section 53B gives a court or a coroner discretion to discharge an individual juror in the course of a trial or colonial inquest on certain specified grounds, or for any other suitable reason. Schedule 2 amends the Criminal Appeal Act to allow appeals to the Court of Criminal Appeal in circumstances in which a trial judge has decided to discharge an entire jury. That amendment is complementary to section 5F of the Criminal Appeal Act 1912.
The member for Epping mentioned jury allowances. Jury service is an important responsibility for all New South Wales citizens. The attendance fee that is paid to jurors is an allowance provided to people for performing a very important civic duty. It must be remembered that the allowance is not a wage, nor is it a salary. New South Wales already pays the highest jury allowances in the country. Unlike many other States and Territories, New South Wales currently does not pay different rates for jury service on the basis of a distinction drawn between jurors who are employed and those who may be retired, unemployed or engaged in study.
Jury allowances are increased in line with the escalation rate on 1 July each year. In Law Reform Commission report 117, "Jury Selection", the commission recommended a review of attendance fees and other allowances that are paid to jurors. The Government is currently conducting consultation with the community and key stakeholders in relation to the Law Reform Commission's remaining recommendations. The Government currently is also investigating a range of options in relation to allowances paid to jurors. Both the community and the New South Wales Government acknowledge the sacrifice made by jurors. We value their commitment to undertaking what I have already described as a very important civic duty.
I also point out for the information of the member for Epping that New South Wales courts have the highest caseload in Australia and the shortest waiting list. The New South Wales Government is proud of its court and legal staff and thanks them for their continued hard work. I personally thank them because, as a solicitor and barrister for the Director of Public Prosecutions and as a solicitor for the Legal Aid Commission, I have seen them in action. They do a wonderful job and we are indebted to them.
The member for Epping referred to changes made to laws relating to consent in the context of sexual assault as "tinkering". I take exception to his remark. The changes made to the State's sexual assault laws are more than just tinkering; they are major reforms. Recently when I was in London examining the United Kingdom's sexual assault laws officials and Crown prosecutors were highly complimentary about New South Wales' new laws. In my view New South Wales is leading common law countries in relation to sexual assault laws. We have rejected the common law principle promulgated in the House of Lords case of D.P.P. v Morgan
 A.C. 182 that applied a subjective test, no matter how unreasonable was an accused's belief that a woman had consented to sexual intercourse. The case was authority for the view that if an accused genuinely believed that a woman consented he was entitled to an acquittal.
We have changed the law, chucked out the 1970s House of Lords case of Morgan and replaced it with the objective test of a "reasonable person". Important changes have been made in relation to intoxication regarding sexual assault and consent to sexual intercourse. The British did not go down the same path. Crown prosecutors and people in the Home Office tell me that the UK is now reforming its laws to follow the path taken in New South Wales. The shadow Attorney General's comments about changes to the sexual assault laws regarding consent were ill advised and I ask him to rethink his view. I note that he referred to private Crown prosecutors. I appeared with a private Crown in my first trial for the Director of Public Prosecutions on the Queanbeyan circuit before His Honour Judge Knoblanche, QC. I am sure the shadow Attorney General would agree that that was quite an experience!
Juries are a central feature of our criminal justice system and, despite the importance of juries, in the past issues affecting one or two jurors had threatened the continuation of the whole trial. Sometimes these issues have resulted in aborted trials or retrials, leading to wasted resources and inconvenience for all involved, particularly victims and witnesses who have had to testify again. Changes to the Jury Act 1977 implemented by this bill will allow trial judges and coroners to remove additional jurors in a number of circumstances. Judges and coroners will now have the express power to continue a trial or inquest, provided they are satisfied that doing so would not give rise to the risk of a substantial miscarriage of justice.
The New South Wales Government is committed to creating a robust, efficient and equitable jury service. The bill implements recommendations of the Law Reform Commission in its report on jury selection. A number of recommendations have already been implemented, including legislation to allow for up to three additional jurors in long trials. The Government is continuing to consult with the community and key stakeholders in relation to the report's remaining recommendations. I shall comment on those. The Law Reform Commission's jury selection report was a major review, with 74 recommendations in total. These recommendations call for the most significant reforms of the Jury Act 1977. Upon the release of the report in January, the Attorney General stated that the report would need to be carefully considered and that a comprehensive consultation process would need to be undertaken. That is precisely what the Government has been doing since the release of the report. I am pleased that so many Opposition members have entered the Chamber to listen to my speech in reply.
Order! The member for Terrigal will cease interjecting.
Mr BARRY COLLIER:
Consultation in relation to the report's outstanding recommendations remains ongoing. We should use this opportunity as far as practicable to have a best-practice model for jury service. The Government has already acted upon a number of recommendations contained in the report. The bill currently implements all of the recommendations contained in chapter 11 of the report with only minor modifications. The Government has also already implemented the report's recommendation concerning additional jurors. As such, it is now possible for an additional three jurors to be empanelled in lengthy criminal trials.
The Government introduced this legislation in order to lessen the danger that long trials would be aborted, thereby avoiding significant distress to victims of crime and their families. It is also designed to make the justice system more efficient and save taxpayers millions of dollars in the cost of holding retrials. The New South Wales Government is also committed to addressing the recommendations in the report that relate to improving people's understanding of the jury system. A range of improvements is currently underway to achieve this. These initiatives include preparation of a plain English jury summons and a new jury information brochure, which has been developed for distribution with all summonses. The brochure is designed to answer many of the questions that jurors often have about jury service.
There is also a new 1300 number for the jury telephone information line, which will ensure that it is more accessible to people living in regional and rural New South Wales by allowing them to call the information line for the cost of a local call. The final initiative is the creation of a new website, www.sheriff.nsw.gov.au
. The website contains easy access to comprehensive information on jury service in New South Wales.
The question is often asked: Will saving verdicts where there was mistaken empanelment or a change in a juror's eligibility status simply validate unfair trials? That is an important question for practising lawyers. If the member for Terrigal were to listen he might learn something. I know that Hansard is listening. Section 73 (a) of the Jury Act currently provides that a jury's verdict is not invalidated merely on the basis that a member of the jury was disqualified from serving as a juror or was ineligible to serve as a juror at the time he or she was empanelled. The bill will amend section 73 to include circumstances where a juror was summonsed but mistakenly empanelled or where a juror's eligibility status changes during a trial.
Order! Opposition members will cease interjecting.
Mr BARRY COLLIER:
These amendments are based on one of the Law Reform Commission report recommendations. This change will remedy situations such as that which arose in the case of R v Brown and Tran
 NSWCCA 324 where a juror received a jury summons but reported for service a day early. The mistake was not noticed and the person was empanelled. During the trial the mistake became apparent but the prosecution and defence agreed to continue the trial. Despite this agreement the defence lodged an appeal after the accused was convicted. The Court of Criminal Appeal held that the trial and therefore the verdict were invalid because of the failure to comply with the statutory requirement that a jury consists of persons "returned and selected in accordance with the Act".
In order to protect the integrity of the jury system it is important that any case in which there has been impersonation of a juror, suspected impersonation of a juror or evidence of other attempts to manipulate the composition of the jury is excluded from the operation of section 73. The amended section will clearly state that situations of this type are excluded. A further safeguard will be the condition that section 73A only applies to cases of mistaken empanelment where the juror has already been summonsed, which is a process of random selection. This will significantly reduce the risk of potential jury tampering.
I am sure that Opposition members are interested in why the Criminal Appeal Act is being amended to allow appeals against a decision to discharge an entire jury. The bill amends the Criminal Appeal Act 1912 to allow appeals against decisions by a judge to discharge an entire jury. There is currently a gap in the Criminal Appeal Act as section 5F already allows the Court of Criminal Appeal to review interlocutory orders in criminal proceedings, including decisions to discharge a single juror and continue a trial. However, the Law Reform Commission's report argues that section 5F of the Criminal Appeal Act does not apply to orders to discharge an entire jury because such orders are not interlocutory orders but final orders ending a trial. Therefore, the new ground of appeal being inserted in the Criminal Appeal Act by this bill will expressly allow the Court of Criminal Appeal to review decisions by trial judges to discharge entire juries. This amendment complements the right under section 5F of the Criminal Appeal Act to appeal a decision to discharge a single juror. I am confident that this bill will help jury service continue to meet the challenges of the modern criminal justice system, and I commend it to the House.
Question—That this bill be now agreed to in principle—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bill agreed to in principle.
Bill declared passed and returned to the Legislative Council without amendment.
Passing of the Bill
Order! In accordance with the resolution of 3 June 2008 proceedings of the House are interrupted for the resumption of the debate on the Appropriation Bill and cognate bills.
APPROPRIATION BILL 2008
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL 2008
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL 2008
STATE REVENUE AND OTHER LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (BUDGET) BILL 2008
Agreement in Principle
Debate resumed from 3 June 2008.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL
(Ku-ring-gai—Leader of the Opposition) [11.00 a.m.]: The big lie of this budget is that it is the State Government's third budget. In fact, this is the fourteenth budget delivered since Labor was elected in 1995. It is the fourteenth time a Treasurer has risen and delivered a "record" investment in State infrastructure and services. It is the fourteenth time the citizens of New South Wales have been promised improvements in the basic services they expect of State governments, such as schools, hospitals, transport and community services. It is the fourteenth time they have heard the same promises of improvement; the same commitment to do better. Regrettably, more than 13 years of bitter experience with this Government means that the citizens of New South Wales know better than to raise their hopes for delivery of Labor's promises.
Despite record revenues, the plans and the pledges have failed to deliver the promised improvements. After all this time people across New South Wales know that the biggest crisis they face is the continuing Labor deficit: the yawning gap between what the Government says and what families face every day. It is this history—the history that Labor is so keen to disown—that explains the public's lack of enthusiasm for and its scepticism about Tuesday's Budget Speech. The only first in this budget was its reception by Labor members of Parliament in this Chamber. For the first time in 14 years there was no applause from the Treasurer's Labor colleagues at the end of the speech. The truth is that after 13 years in office everyone—including Labor members of Parliament—see through this Government's spin.
This year's budget is no different from its 13 predecessors. It is more of the same, but heading in the wrong direction—high taxes, cost blowouts and promises of urgently needed infrastructure to be funded by ballooning debt. A year ago the Iemma Government refused to give the then Howard Federal Government any credit for the budget turnaround. This year it refuses to acknowledge the challenges posed to the State budget by the nervous man, the Federal Treasurer, who is now in charge of the nation's economy. Despite all the undertakings from Labor before the Federal election, the promised "fairer" GST deal and the Sydney Airport stamp duty payment have not yet materialised. Wall-to-wall Labor governments have failed to provide any benefit—or any relief—to New South Wales families.
We continue to be one of the highest-taxing States in the nation: $2,645 for every man, woman and child in New South Wales. Last year the State Government received another windfall tax bonus of $913 million, which took the annual tax take to more than $18 billion. And if you are not being taxed you are being fined. Revenue from fines increased to $300 million—or $56 million more than expected. And when long-overdue tax reforms are undertaken they come with Labor's usual sleight of hand. Changes to the State's employment tax will still return more in payroll collections for each of the next four years than last year—a cumulative tax total of $1.94 billion. And after the three-year phased tax reduction takes effect the New South Wales payroll rate will still be higher than in Queensland and our threshold will still be lower than that State's.
Despite all the record revenues—a massive $17.5 billion—that Labor has received over the past 13 years, this State has too little to show for it. In order to make up for those years of neglect, and despite repeated pledges in each budget of record infrastructure spends and improvements in services, the State is going deeper into the red. With this Labor Party it is either feast or famine; yet the public gets only crumbs or hunger pains. Debt levels in New South Wales are forecast to nearly double over the next four years, from $22.2 billion to $41.7 billion. Borrowings are not necessarily bad, providing you can meet the payments and your asset value is increasing. But we live in a time of economic uncertainty for the State's families, and everyone knows that maxing the credit card comes with a price.
The cost of Labor's 13 years of financial mismanagement is clear from the interest bill that flows from Labor's debt binge. When Morris Iemma became Premier annual interest payments were $2.2 billion—or $323 for every man, woman and child across the State. In 2011-12 the annual interest bill is forecast to be $4.4 billion, or $632 per head across the State. The figure of $4.4 billion is equivalent to the annual allocations to the State's community services, disability and emergency services budgets combined. Labor's debt levels have once again exceeded its own legislated fiscal targets. In other words, Labor, having put itself on a calorie-controlled debt diet, is continuing to binge. As usual, it is the public that is left to pay for Labor's incompetence—and, as usual, the public has no guarantee that improvements will be delivered on time or on budget.
This week's budget confirmed further cost and time blowouts on the Epping rail link, which was originally promised as a link between Parramatta and Chatswood. Labor extolled the line's virtues as allowing residents in Sydney's west to access the dot.com corridor jobs at North Ryde. It was originally to cost $1.3 billion. In 2003 then Minister for Transport Michael Costa halved the project and promised to have it finished by 2008. Budget papers now reveal that it will not open until next year and that the cost has blown out to $2.35 billion. That is right: The public is getting half the original project for almost double the cost, and still Western Sydney residents do not have direct rail access to North Ryde.
The Iemma Government's failure to deliver improvements in infrastructure is again highlighted by its failure to spend the $1.13 billion allocated for capital works projects in areas such as water, transport, electricity and ports. However, Labor has kept intact its record of never once bringing in a State budget on budget. Last year expenditure exceeded forecasts by $376 million—almost equal to the total amount of road funding set aside for Sydney's west and north west. Employee-related expenditure is forecast to increase at a rate of 4.5 per cent per annum but it is dependent upon the Government meeting its 2.5 per cent wage cap. The size of that task is highlighted by the fact that over the past four years average wage growth in this State has been 5.8 per cent. Labor's inability to match expenditure with revenue—to live within its means—is again on display, with general government spending forecast to continue to exceed receipts over the next four years. This year Labor will spend $268 million more than it receives. In four years that will escalate to $779 million.
This budget also fails to outline any strategy or plan to deal with the challenges for the State's economy, businesses and families as a consequence of climate change. The absence of any mention of climate change in his Budget Speech confirms Michael Costa's reputation as the State's biggest climate change sceptic. But that does not excuse his failure to use this budget to start to engage the community on the challenges and costs we all face as the nation seeks to adjust for the impact of climate change.
This budget does nothing to ease the burden on Labor's so-called "working families" in Western Sydney or elsewhere across the State. This budget does nothing to provide assistance to valued front-line workers. This budget does nothing to guarantee the improvement in schools, hospitals, transport and the other services and infrastructure upon which our citizens and enterprises rely—nothing about easing the burden facing families, nothing to guarantee delivery, nothing to provide better services. Labor has lost touch with the problems confronting people across the State. And, in return, the public has lost faith in this Government.
But it is not just the public that feels it is not getting value for money or service from the Iemma Government. Since its election the Rudd Government has expressed similar concerns. This year the Federal and State governments battled over attempts by Kevin Rudd's health Minister to link proposed increases in health funding to greater accountability from State governments, including performance measurement of hospitals. Not surprisingly, the Iemma Government resisted with the Minister for Health leading the efforts to stop the proposal. It is a battle in which we, on this side, go with the public interest and back the Federal initiative. It should not take Federal Government action to encourage or coerce better value for taxpayer funds, improved accountability and better performance measurement in the delivery of State services. Any State government committed to improving its citizens' quality of life should do so willingly. But that assumes the government of the day—unlike the Iemma Government—is in touch with the needs of those it purports to represent and is determined to do better.
Knowing that we have the worst retention rate of students in years 7 to 10 of all State and Territories should drive efforts to increase the numbers staying in school. Understanding that the average wait for elective surgery in New South Wales is 35 days compared with 30 days in Victoria and 25 days in Queensland should ensure we are committed to doing better. Publicly reporting that New South Wales spends less than all the other States and Territories on child protection activities could have prevented the disasters—and their personal consequences—we have witnessed in the Department of Community Services in recent times. Through its State Plan, Labor pretends to adopt this approach. But it is more bench than mark: it entrenches the political low bar that Labor always sets for itself and that has added to the State's problems.
Labor's approach is best epitomised by a report leaked to the media last year. The RailCorp consultant's report compared CityRail's performance, efficiency, cost-effectiveness, reliability and maintenance with those of other rail systems around the world. Commuters were not surprised to learn that this independent report recorded very poor CityRail results. But did the Iemma Government publish the report and use its findings to drive improvements for commuters and would-be train travellers? Of course not. Instead it tried to bury it and, as Sydney's train commuters can attest, nothing has changed on our rail system. Setting clear, measurable goals and publicly reporting against them can help deliver improvements in performance and help overcome community cynicism about government.
Upon election the Liberal-Nationals Coalition is committed to establishing this regime as part of its efforts to substantially improve the performance of government. We do so to achieve better government for New South Wales—government that: is disciplined and focused on public needs, performance and results; understands that the "quality" of government is not determined by size and that an ever-increasing agency budget is no guarantee of better services; and one that knows that openness and accountability are essential in protecting individual freedom and lifting performance. We are determined to end Labor's lethargy. We are committed to changing the culture of government by better focusing on the public's needs. We unashamedly want to improve people's lives.
In office the Liberal and Nationals will: set clear goals and targets for each State government agency; annually report publicly on the achievement of these targets; and introduce benchmarking of each agency's costs and performance against public and private best practice. To ensure accuracy and public confidence we will require the New South Wales Audit Office to verify the reporting process. It is about setting yearly goals—public goals—not just election goals. Our principal aim is to lift the performance of government in delivering services to people across the State by rebuilding a robust public sector that is adequately resourced and has pride in what it does. Labor has demoralised and attempted to politicise the public service to a level never seen before in this State's history. Yet, in the face of all the State's crises, we need—like never before—an energised, focused, responsive and "can do" public sector. Unlike the Iemma Government, the Liberal-Nationals Coalition is prepared to embrace the rigour involved in setting benchmarks and improving outcomes. We do so knowing that the current system is failing the public. We do so to offer people the hope of better government, better services and better quality of life.
This year's budget papers reveal that windfall receipts totalling $1.75 billion were received last financial year. That brings to $17.5 billion the total of all windfall revenues received by this State Government over the past 13 years. It is a sum greater than anything the Premier and Mr Costa are likely to receive if their power privatisation push succeeds. Yet, as families across this State can attest, instead of being wisely invested in services and infrastructure it has been mismanaged and wasted. It has not been used to ensure our hospitals, schools and transport are first class and meet community needs. Instead the State Government is now being required to ratchet up borrowings to renew these and other essential State services. It is a situation that has undermined public confidence and fed scepticism about grand government announcements.
Last year I announced that the Liberal and Nationals, in government, would establish a State Infrastructure Fund charged with the task of revitalising and rebuilding critical State assets. To stop Labor-style siphoning off of funds for political purposes, legislation will require moneys allocated to the fund to be spent only on intended purposes. It is a guarantee designed to restore community trust. It provides certainty of delivery. Today I announce that a future Liberal and Nationals government will take another step to improve budget discipline, realise improved services and infrastructure and support critical State employees. We are committing to a three-year better workplaces for teachers and nurses program as part of that fund. To be funded from revenue windfalls, the program will be used to improve working conditions in our hospitals and schools across the State.
This program will provide new, additional funding for these purposes. Existing health and education departmental programs will continue. We understand the critical importance of both areas to communities across the State and that performance depends upon the efforts of those who work within those systems. Upon our election we will survey teachers and nurses in our public schools and hospitals asking them to detail the capital works projects they believe will help them to do their jobs better. For instance, teachers might nominate a better staff room with improved computer facilities and workstations. Nurses could nominate secure parking or patient lifters to assist them in their duties. But, importantly, those employed in our hospitals and schools will be responsible for identifying where the funds are best used. Rather than being driven by remote head offices, projects will be determined by local workplaces. Funds will be allocated to these projects on a priority basis.
If the program were already in place $1.75 billion would be available this year to improve the working conditions of the State's teachers and nurses. At the end of the first three years we will review the program and determine its suitability for application to other front-line workplaces, whether police or ambulance stations or the like. This initiative will positively assist in recruiting and retaining people in those important professions. It will assist in meeting the needs of those who rely upon our public hospitals or attend our public schools. It reflects the Liberal and Nationals commitment to treating problems, rather than Labor's preference for treating symptoms.
Practical solutions are also required for problems such as the State's escalating housing affordability crisis—a crisis affecting both urban and country areas. Yet Labor ignores the issue, or is so out of touch that it does not understand the impact it is having upon the State's families. In May the Real Estate Institute reported that 39.8 per cent of a New South Wales family's income is required to meet average mortgage repayments. In dealing with its clients the Department of Housing assesses households paying more than 30 per cent of their income in rent or mortgage as suffering "housing stress". This crisis has been driven in large part by Labor's failure over 13 years to ensure sufficient land release and to encourage property ownership and investment, and its decision to view this area—like too many others—simply as a source of tax revenue.
Despite Labor's responsibility for this area, the budget fails to offer relief to those affected by housing stress, or any change in policy settings that helped create it: no assistance to the public at large; no assistance to frontline workers employed by the Iemma Government, on whom we all rely, facing the same problem; no assistance for families struggling with the high cost of living in New South Wales. Unlike Labor, the Liberals and Nationals are not prepared to ignore the plight of those trying to deal with the State's housing affordability crisis. We believe that there is action that government can and should take to provide help—steps a Liberal-Nationals government would take. One practical step is allowing shared equity, which works by reducing the initial cost faced by people purchasing a home.
Targeted at low- and moderate-income first home buyers, shared equity would allow a government to join in the purchase of up to 40 per cent of a home, depending on household and depending on income. Available for the purchase of homes and units valued at up to $400,000 a shared equity scheme could provide access for as many as 4,000 singles, couples and families to buy their own home. It could help people cope with Labor's housing stress by applying with income limits up to $90,000. The scheme would also encourage our critical front-line workers such as nurses, teachers and police officers to remain in New South Wales.
A bonus of the scheme is the broad socioeconomic benefits involved. Property ownership has a lasting positive impact throughout life on a person's and a family's standard of living. This program reflects the Coalition's views about the benefits of home ownership, it reflects the reality that is confronting families across New South Wales, it reflects the determination of the Liberals and The Nationals to provide practical solutions to the State's problems. Over the coming months we will consult widely with homebuyers and property and finance sector representatives to develop this initiative and so offer hope to first home buyers struggling to break into the State's property market. My Liberal and Nationals colleagues and I understand that doing nothing is not an option.
The Liberals and Nationals have a strong commitment to education. We believe that education is crucial to unlocking the potential everyone possesses and should be encouraged to realise for their own benefit and the benefit of the wider society. It is a commitment that saw us argue in 2002 for lower class sizes in years K-2 in primary schools—in the face of Labor opposition and claims by the current Premier that the benefits were unproven. On the eve of the 2003 election Labor backflipped and students across New South Wales are now enjoying a better start to schooling in smaller class sizes. Our understanding of the importance of education is why we have argued for a greater focus on preschool education. It is why, in the lead-up to the 2003 election, we started discussions and debate about shifting responsibility for regulation of New South Wales preschools from the Department of Community Services to the Department of Education and Training. It is why we have repeatedly proposed a substantial lift in spending in this critical area.
Labor's neglect and lack of funding have left New South Wales with the highest fees and lowest preschool participation rates in the nation. As the Federal Government's Productivity Commission's 2008 report on government services found, the preschool participation rate of New South Wales four-year-olds is less than 65 per cent, while the national average is 87 per cent, and it is 97 per cent in Victoria. A child in a New South Wales family has less chance of attending preschool than a child in any other State. These figures also revealed that the Iemma Government spends less than any other State on preschool education: $726 per child aged three to five years compared with the national average of $1,061.
City or country, rural or regional, there are children who, as I speak, are missing out on the benefits of a preschool education. Instead of addressing this problem, Labor has opted for political fixes. Even in an area involving the future of our children, Labor dangles promises, before snatching them away. The Liberal and Nationals are determined to end this situation and give four-year-olds greater access to the benefits of preschool. During our first term we are committed to raising to 95 per cent the participation rate of New South Wales four-years-olds in receiving two days a week of preschool. To achieve that target up to 25,000 additional places at preschools would be available to families across the State. That represents an additional investment of $50 million a year—a far better use of taxpayer funds than spending on the Iemma Government's twin obsessions of advertising and consultancies.
Starting in communities of greatest need and disadvantage, the program will extend across the State—because those children deserve access to the opportunities preschool can provide. We propose it in recognition of the social and economic value of early childhood education. We are committed to it because we want the State's children to have the best possible futures.
At last year's State election Morris Iemma admitted there was more work to do and promised to get on and fix the State's problems. More than a year on there is even more work to do—and the public is still waiting for him to start. Despite all the Government's efforts to convince people otherwise, this year's budget confirms what the public knows—Morris Iemma and his Labor team have been in Government too long. The budget confirms Labor's financial mismanagement; it confirms its failure to ensure services and infrastructure kept pace with community and industry needs; and it confirms that Labor cannot be trusted to deliver on what it promises.
My colleagues and I will continue to offer solutions to this State's problems and to remind the public that it does not have to be like this. The State can do better and it deserves better government. The public knows that the Iemma Government is out of touch and out of ideas—and they want it out of office.
Mr ANDREW STONER
(Oxley—Leader of The Nationals) [11.25 a.m.]: The single moment that best captured the essence of this year's State budget occurred in the stony silence of the Government benches when Michael Costa concluded his Budget Speech. It is a time-honoured tradition of Westminster parliaments that the Premier and his team use the Budget Speech to applaud and congratulate their Treasurer, the individual who perhaps more than any other Minister guides the direction and future of the Government. But that was not the case on Tuesday 3 June. There was no applause, no congratulations from the Government benches, just stony silence. And who could blame Government members? The Treasurer was quick to promote himself as a reformer, and in the name of change he has trampled on almost every stakeholder that the Labor Party holds close.
He claims to be committed to change and to embrace challenges yet brought down a budget that can best be described as mediocre. It contained no new ideas, no innovation. It contained no answers to the budgetary challenges facing New South Wales. It contained no leadership or vision. At its core it was a budget that was pedestrian and predictable, a compilation of numbers that one would expect of an accountant or an actuary. It was delivered by a man who desperately wants to be known as Costa the crusader but better fits the tag of Michael the mediocre.
Mr Michael Daley:
Mr ANDREW STONER:
I am glad you appreciate it. This morning, through my reply to the budget, I will make three points. Firstly, the budget has done nothing to address the fundamental financial challenge that faces New South Wales: the fact is that expenses consistently exceed revenues. Secondly, after 13 years of Labor's managerial incompetence the people who are paying the price are hardworking families, families from Western Sydney to western New South Wales, from the Sutherland shire to the Tweed coast, families who are struggling each day just to meet the basic cost of living. And worst affected by the budget are front-line staff—teachers, police, nurses and firefighters. Those people now face the prospect of cuts in real terms to their take-home pay, because the Government has squandered a decade of prosperity and record revenues through its mismanagement and misguided priorities. Thirdly, there is an alternative, and today the Liberal-Nationals Coalition lays down a platform for genuine reform.
It begins by addressing the lack of transparency that is inherent in the budgeting and reporting process under Labor and puts forward a package of measures that include more funding for hospitals and schools, increasing preschool participation and addressing housing affordability. Together these comprise a rescue package for New South Wales families, who were forgotten by the Premier and the Treasurer on Tuesday.
In October 2005 Morris Iemma commissioned the Stokes and Vertigan audit, which was charged with identifying the systemic issues facing the New South Wales budget. It found one principal financial challenge: the growth of government expenses consistently outpaced the growth of government revenue. To put this in context, the cost of a 1 per cent gap between expenses and revenue on a more than $40 billion budget equates to $400 million annually. The Stokes and Vertigan audit included options for reform, which could have put our State's finances on a sustainable footing—options such as enhanced accountability and structural reform of the Government. As is too often the case, the Premier lacked the courage to tackle these challenges. Many members may recall the Premier telling the Sydney Morning Herald
almost two years ago of his plan to restructure the public service that would lead to savings of $2.5 billion because, in his words, "This is a process that will deliver prudent financial savings and it will allow us to deliver enhancements to our priority areas of health, policing and education."
Like most of Labor's plans, it was never delivered. Yet again his actions did not match his words. Two years later this budget predictably fell short on health, education and police. The consequences of the Premier's inaction and indecision were evident in Tuesday's budget. Over the forward four-year period revenues are projected to increase by 4.4 per cent and expenses are projected to increase by 4.5 per cent, leaving a gap in excess of $160 million. Whether it is a $45 billion government budget or a $450 weekly household budget one principle always holds true: if you spend more than you earn you will need to borrow to balance your budget. If you can borrow no further, you will need to start to sell assets. I issue this stark warning: The Premier's proposal to sell all New South Wales' electricity assets is the tip of the iceberg. If he cannot get his house in order and impose some financial discipline this Government will continue to be forced to sell taxpayers' assets, whether it be Sydney Ferries or the electricity transmission grid. One thing we can be sure of is that there will be more sales to come. Of course, the Premier will deny this just as he denied his intention to sell our State's electricity assets prior to the last election.
At its core the budget is the vehicle by which a government influences the quality of life of taxpayers. The commitments it makes are only as valuable as the difference they make to the lives of everyday people. This budget did very little in this respect. Families across the State are struggling with the cost of living, struggling with increasing mortgage payments, struggling with skyrocketing fuel prices and struggling with the raft of taxes, fees and charges that are imposed on them by this Labor Government.
This budget saw New South Wales take the mantle of Australia's second-highest taxing State, second only to Western Australia, which has collected record revenues on the back of the resources boom. In New South Wales every single person pays $2,645 in tax each year, which is the price of a summer holiday or of a new fridge, freezer and washing machine combined. However, this statistic does not capture the full impact of hidden taxes and charges. It does not capture the additional $250 Sydney households will pay on their water bills to cover an unneeded desalination plant, the 9 per cent increase in fees facing TAFE students or the impact on rents paid by tenants in rental housing. Then there is the higher price of fuel paid by motorists in New South Wales, for which this Labor Government is at least partly responsible. I find it staggering that a resource rich State such as Queensland can secure a better Federal-State tax deal on the GST carve-up than the one Bob Carr signed off on. That deal enables Queensland to offer cheaper fuel to that State's residents. What is Morris Iemma doing about it? Absolutely nothing. He stands condemned by his silence. This budget does nothing to relieve the pressure on New South Wales families who work hard and play fair. They pay their taxes but get precious little in return.
Throughout this week the Premier has repeatedly told us that business has described his budget as delivering the trifecta. However, he seems unwilling to tell us what families in Dubbo, Queanbeyan and Tamworth think. This is a Sydney-centric budget. There are billions of dollars for transport infrastructure as a result of this Government's failure to plan for growth outside the metropolitan area. Country and coastal people helped to pay for the Olympics but got little in return. Now they will have to help pay the interest bill on borrowings for more Sydney infrastructure. There was an opportunity with the Rural and Regional Taskforce recommendations to invest in decentralisation and regional development, but it was an opportunity lost. Not one dollar in this budget is going towards implementing these recommendations. The Government's response has been to suggest that this may be funded out of whatever funds are realised from Labor's plans to sell off power. Frankly, it is an insult to country people. They should have had their fair share in this budget with no conditions attached.
I especially want to note some of the concerns I share with front-line staff, some of whom protested outside this place during question time yesterday. Those sirens were signalling alarm with your budget and your Government, Morris. This budget requires agencies to fund any salary increases above 2.5 per cent from internal offsets in the portfolio. I know that in the Education portfolio, for example, there is little room for offsets. The school maintenance budget has been cut by 5.5 per cent in real terms since 2002 and total education funding as a proportion of the budget has fallen compared with last year. To put it bluntly, the Premier is offering teachers a cruel choice—to accept a cut in their take-home pay or force a cut in funding for classrooms, school halls and sporting facilities. That infrastructure is already crumbling, as I witnessed when I visited four government schools during Education Week.
I take this opportunity to remind the Premier, who seems to have completely lost touch with working families, that for people who live in suburban New South Wales and have a mortgage of $500,000 or who face regular repayments on their mortgage of $4,000—for example, a registered nurse earning $53,000 a year or a probationary police constable earning $51,000—there is precious little room for real pay cuts. Nor should they be forced to do more with less, given the appalling state of many of our hospitals, schools, and police, fire and ambulance stations. These people and their families are already doing it tough. They work hard and they make a fantastic contribution to our community.
These front-line workers and their families should not be forced to bear the burden of a decade of waste and mismanagement by Labor. They should not be forced to wear the consequences of $95 million wasted on unnecessary government advertising, $95 million lost on the Tcard debacle, and billions of dollars lost through blow-outs on the Pacific Highway and the desalination plant. Every dollar that has been lost or wasted is a dollar that should have been put back into the pockets of the taxpayers of New South Wales through tax relief, better services, or renewal of infrastructure. People deserve a lot better from their Government.
Today, as the Leader of the Opposition has outlined, the Liberal-Nationals Coalition puts forward an alternative. It starts with genuine reform to the process by which we measure government performance. Whether it is McKinsey's Consulting or the Stokes-Vertigan report, experts consistently point to the importance of transparency and accountability. The great irony is that, year after year, Michael Costa reduces the ability of the New South Wales public to scrutinise the performance of this Government. Budget papers change without warning, programs and projects disappear without reason, and variations to layout and inclusions in the budget documents occur without explanation.
It seems that the Treasurer does not understand that the short-term gain of denying the public access to information is far outweighed by the damage done by a Government that is not held to account. A Liberal-Nationals Coalition government would take a fundamentally different approach. In office, we would set clear goals and targets for each agency, report publicly every year on the achievement of those targets, and introduce benchmarking of each agency's cost and performance against public and private best practice. These changes would enable the public to measure our success and to hold us to account for our promises. These changes would readjust the political pendulum to make substance more important than spin, and they would provide a platform for us to deliver meaningful change for working families.
Today we have started to spell out the process of this change. I am delighted to join the Leader of the Opposition in announcing three key initiatives that will help the taxpayers of New South Wales. The first initiative is a commitment to invest windfall revenues in upgrading working conditions in our hospitals and schools. This will provide funding for simple things such as lunchroom upgrades, better car parking and Internet facilities. They might be simple but they are important for the morale and the performance of those front-line workers. It is a grassroots program where the teachers and nurses working at the front line tell us their priorities. It is not just a statement of the importance we place on the portfolios of health and education but the esteem with which we hold the teaching and nursing professions. We cannot afford to underestimate their importance, nor the crisis in which this State will find itself if it fails to address the shortages that potentially will face us in the future.
The second initiative is a commitment to raise the participation of four-year-olds in preschool for two days a week to 95 per cent. That would be above the national average. We will do this by creating up to an additional 25,000 preschool places across the State. No sensible person disputes the importance of early childhood on a child's physical and emotional development, but it is a poor reflection on this State that we have the highest fees and the lowest preschool participation in the nation. Importantly, our efforts will begin with the most disadvantaged communities. As a leader of a political party that represents 9 of the 10 poorest New South Wales electorates I am delighted to be part of this announcement.
The solution to the growing gap between metropolitan and non-metropolitan New South Wales is investing in young people—investing in education, especially early childhood education. I also make the point that our policy stands as a stark alternative to the policy of this Government, whose approach to early childhood education is to shift its responsibilities onto the childcare sector. This week we learned that Australia's largest childcare provider is looking at raising its fees by up to 10 per cent. The Prime Minister, who rose to power on hollow promises to address the cost of living, has thrown his hands in the air in defeat. Today our commitment is to raise preschool participation to 95 per cent. We will give parents in New South Wales a choice and a solution to escalating childcare fees.
Finally, today the Liberal-Nationals Coalition proposes a shared equity home ownership scheme. This will give young families a foothold in the New South Wales property market. New South Wales is currently Australia's second least affordable State. On average, 40 per cent of a family's income is required to meet mortgage repayments. Moreover, contrary to popular opinion, this is not just a Sydney issue; it affects young families across New South Wales, especially on the north and south coasts, in towns such as Ballina, Lismore, Tweed Heads, Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour, where housing affordability is a major issue. We are putting forward a scheme that will give families a leg-up in life. We will get in return a generation of young people who decide not to take the flight to Queensland or Victoria—the more affordable States—but to establish a home and a life in our community in New South Wales. If you asked me I would say that this is a handsome reward for that investment.
Together, these three initiatives—additional funding for schools and hospitals, a commitment to increase preschool participation to 95 per cent, and a proposed scheme to help low and moderate income earners buy their first home—comprise a rescue package for New South Wales families; families that are struggling with the high cost of education; and families that are struggling to raise the deposit for their first home. Together, these initiatives show that only one side of this House has a kitchen cabinet outlook to its approach to policy. In conclusion, I turn to Abraham Lincoln, who, exasperated—
Order! Everyone is interested in this quote.
Mr ANDREW STONER:
Bob Carr would appreciate this quote. Abraham Lincoln, exasperated with the inaction of his own General in Chief, George McClennan, a man who, though he led a well-fed and well-equipped army that outnumbered the Confederate forces three to one, refused to engage in battle, famously said, "If General McClennan does not want to use the army, I would like to borrow it for a time." Premier, New South Wales is desperately in need of leadership. Members on this side of the Chamber are increasingly exasperated by your inaction. They are increasingly exasperated by the extent to which you have allowed the personalities of members of your Government to dominate policies. They are increasingly exasperated that, while working families struggle, your Ministers and staff have time to engage in self-indulgent attacks on YouTube. Does the member for Mount Druitt know what YouTube is?
Mr Richard Amery:
It is a pop group!
Order! The member for the Mount Druitt can find out about YouTube after this speech is concluded.
Mr ANDREW STONER:
On this side of the House a team is ready for government; a team that is full of ideas and energy; a team committed to change and reform—committed to making a difference for the people that they represent. Premier, if this Government is so tired and out of steam that it is not prepared to harness the potential of the public service, if it is not prepared to make the budget a vehicle for change—in short, if you are not prepared to use the resources of executive government to change the lives of the people of New South Wales—to use the words of Abraham Lincoln, would you mind if we borrowed it for a time?
Question—That these bills be now agreed to in principle—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bills agreed to in principle.
Passing of the Bills
Bills declared passed and transmitted to the Legislative Council with a message seeking its concurrence in the bills.
BUDGET ESTIMATES AND RELATED PAPERS
Financial Year 2008-09
Motion by Mr John Aquilina agreed to:
Pursuant to resolution debate adjourned and set down as an order of the day for a future day.
That this House take note of the budget estimates and related papers for 2008-09.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Postponement of Business
General Business Notice of Motion (General Notices) No. 2 postponed by Mrs Karyn Paluzzano.
TRAILER TOWING LICENCE
Mrs DAWN FARDELL
(Dubbo) [11.50 a.m.]: I move:
That this House:
(1) acknowledges the increasing number of vehicles fitted with tow bars for towing trailers for recreational and business purposes.
(2) acknowledges the number of road accidents involving the above vehicles; and
(3) acknowledges that the law does not presently require licence class C drivers to complete a driving test to tow trailers.
I call on the Government to legislate for all class C licensed drivers to successfully complete a mandatory driving test before towing trailers for recreational and business purposes. I do not intend that these mandatory tests be any form of revenue raising; rather, it is to ensure that people are qualified suitably before towing a caravan or trailer behind their vehicle. The Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Act is the current legislation covering class C drivers licences in New South Wales. Section 20 (m) reads:
(m) prescribe different classes of driver licences, and grade each class by reference to the driving skills required for each class, and the eligibility criteria for the issue of each class of licence
Paragraph (v) reads:
(v) require persons who are:
(i) applicants for driver licences or renewal or variation of driver licences, and
(ii) holders of driver licences, to submit to tests or retesting or medical or other examinations for the purpose of assessing fitness to hold or continue to hold a driver licence, or a varied driver licence, and—
Paragraph (x) reads:
(x) provide for driver training schemes.
With respect to towing, the national licence classes, provisions for a class C licence, read:
—any vehicle no more than 4.5 tonnes Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM), which carries up to 12 adults including the driver.
—any implement or tractor or a car-based motor trike.
Provisional 1 licence holders can tow small trailers with up to 250 kilograms of unloaded weight. In regard to the current regulations governing size and weight of towing vehicles and trailers, the Australian Vehicle Standards Bulletin, published on the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government website, states:
Maximum length of trailers (except for semitrailers) must not exceed 12.5 metres.
The total length in combination … must not exceed 19 metres
The width of a trailer must not exceed 2.5 metres.
The height of a trailer must not exceed 4.3 metres.
In relation to variations of towing capacity, the bulletin states:
Maximum towing capacity of a Holden Commodore is 2.1 tonnes
Maximum towing capacity of a Ford Falcon is 2.3 tonnes
Maximum towing capacity of a Landcruiser wagon is 3.5 tonnes.
The maximum weight of a trailer must not exceed 4.5 tonnes; however, the weight limits imposed on the vehicles I have mentioned restrict class C licence holders to the weights outlined above. A driver who wants to tow a trailer at the maximum weight of 4.5 tonnes will require another class of licence—an LR or light rigid licence. Australian and imported car manufacturers provide recommended towing speeds for their vehicles. Australian insurance companies use the car manufacturers' recommended speed-to-weight ratios when assessing claims and may refuse a claim if it was determined the vehicle was travelling in excess of the recommended speed limit.
Another more important issue is the effect these slow speeds have on traffic flow on busy roads such as the Newell Highway, which has a 110 kilometre per hour speed limit for the majority of its length. The slow speed of caravans and trailers can cause frustration for truck drivers and other road users and lead to risk taking when drivers try to overtake those slow vehicles. An incident at Alectown was caused by a vehicle towing a caravan attempting to overtake a B-double truck on a windy day. The accident was catastrophic and provided further proof that anyone can hook up a caravan or trailer to a car without having a special licence.
The Roads and Traffic Authority provides guides for towing trailers, but there is no obligation for licence holders to read those guides or undertake any form of training prior to towing a caravan or trailer. The Roads and Traffic Authority suggests that if someone wants to tow a caravan or trailer that person should obtain a copy of the booklet. This approach is supposed to make every driver qualified to tow a caravan or trailer. Provisional licence holders are not allowed to drive a vehicle with manual transmission if they qualified for their licence in a vehicle with automatic transmission. We do not give them a little book and say, "This is how you do it."
Many four-wheel drive clubs recommend that their members participate in driver-training programs before partaking in organised trips; however, this does not always happen. The Caravan and Camping Industry Association has produced the National Caravan and Recreational Towing Guide in response to requests from members. Online caravanning directory GoSeeAustralia has produced a towing information guide providing advice related to weight capacities and speed limits, which is ignored at times. The NRMA has recommended that if members intend to use their vehicles for towing, they partake in a training course offered by the private training organisation Tow-Ed. Unfortunately. members do not always take the advice and undertake this course.
If we surveyed drivers on the Newell and Pacific highways or those driving to the local dam we would find that many motorists have not partaken in the education offered by these voluntary motoring organisations. NRMA members are offered a 10 per cent discount on the $425 fee for Tow-Ed's on-road courses. The Federal Standing Committee on Transport and Regional Services published its report entitled "National Road Safety—Eyes on the Road Ahead" of June 2004. A number of submissions were received calling for a graduated licensing system for four-wheel drive vehicles, and for towing caravans and large trailers.
Dubbo truck driver Rod Hannifey, in his submission, alerted the committee to the anomaly that any car driver could, without any special training, convert his or her car into an articulated vehicle, simply by attaching a caravan. Mr Hannifey recommended that caravan and large trailer owners should have an understanding of weight distribution and loading on their vehicles, because some people are driving vehicles of similar length to a semitrailer. The standard length of a conventional semitrailer is 19 metres.
In the past few years an increasing number of road crashes involving vehicles towing caravans or trailers has occurred on the Newell Highway. The possibility of more accidents involving vehicles towing caravans or large trailers is likely to increase with the growing combination of heavy vehicles and holidaymakers using the Newell and Pacific highways. The risk factor of crashes involving caravans, trailers and heavy vehicles in the region is further increased due to Dubbo being located at the hub of three major highways and a number of major arterial roads. Major roads in the Dubbo region, which I represent, include the Newell Highway, Mitchell Highway, Golden Highway and Castlereagh Highway.
Key points from the National Transport Commission (Draft) National Transport Plan and Policy Framework, March 2008, reveal that over the past three years more than 4,800 people have been killed on Australian roads. That equates to 4 people per day or 30 deaths per week. The cost of road trauma to the Australian community is $17 billion per year. The Council of Australian Governments agenda has emphasised improving heavy vehicle productivity. However, the community will need to be assured that potentially larger and heavier vehicles—B-triple vehicles, et cetera—will deliver better safety outcomes than the current fleet. This should involve a balanced evidenced-based approach that aims to improve driver behaviour. I refer not only to B-double vehicles but also to vehicles towing caravans.
In May 2007 the Australian Transport Council Ministers agreed that action was required for large-scale implementation of a best-practice model of road safety measures, including improved speed management and enforcement. The following are statistics as at June 2007: motorised vehicles registered in New South Wales exceed four million; passenger and off-road passenger vehicles in New South Wales exceed three million; trailers registered in New South Wales total 755,121; motor homes registered in New South Wales total 8,883; class C driver licence holders in New South Wales total 4,032,264; passenger vehicles registered in the Dubbo local government area total 16,212; off-road passenger vehicles registered in the Dubbo local government area total 2,418; and trailers registered in the Dubbo local government area number 7,605—many of which are owned by people not suitably qualified. The majority would be class C licence holders who have received no training, except perhaps from a family member, and no testing before hooking up that caravan or boat to their vehicle and getting on the road.
The Warrumbungle Shire Council's report on the Newell Highway states that it is 1,055 kilometres long and runs from the townships of Boggabilla-Goondiwindi on the Queensland border to Tocumwal on the Victorian border. It carries across the State goods to markets, brings goods and services to the region, and carries people to and from work and school, as well as holidaymakers. It is also the major transport link between Melbourne and Brisbane. I travel along part of the Newell Highway three times a week. Driver fatigue is a significant cause of accidents on the Newell Highway. In the five-year period between 1998 and 2002, 35 people were killed and 188 people were injured. Fatigue was a major factor in 24.5 per cent of casualties and accounts for 18.9 per cent of all crashes.
The crashes often involve local people from towns located along the Newell Highway. Statistics from media reports show that from the start of 2006 to the present eight men, two women and four children were killed on the Newell Highway near Dubbo, and 12 men, one woman and one child were killed on other roads near Dubbo, with the total number of deaths being 28. I have other statistics showing the number of recorded crashes and casualties from 2003 to 2007 for the Dubbo region, but time does not permit me to read them. Responsible citizens who wish to tow a trailer or a caravan do not have to take a Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] test to be able to do so. The Roads and Traffic Authority simply provides people with a brochure for them to read and some dos and don'ts. I ask members to seriously consider how many people would be bothered reading that information before hooking up their boat, caravan or trailer to a car.
Mr MICHAEL DALEY
(Maroubra—Parliamentary Secretary) [12.01 p.m.]: With the greatest respect for the member for Dubbo, who no doubt is motivated to act in the best interests of her constituents, the Government is unable to support her motion. I am advised by the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] that, while the number of caravans and trailers registered in the State is compiled, the number of vehicles that are fitted with towbars is not. The number of registered trailers and caravans under two tonnes has remained relatively constant. As a proportion of registered vehicles on New South Wales roads, they constituted 14 per cent of the vehicles registered in 2002 and 14.1 per cent of registered vehicles in 2007.
While the statistics represent an increase in the number of those two types of vehicles from 637,849 to 725,978 in that period, the House should note that over the five-year period from 2002 to 2006 motor vehicles towing a trailer accounted for less than 3 per cent of all motor vehicles involved in fatal crashes and less than 1 per cent of all motor vehicles involved in all recorded crashes. The Road Transport Driver Licensing Regulation 1999 does not require new class C driver licence holders to undertake a driving test to tow trailers. The Joint Standing Committee on Road Safety, which is known as the Staysafe committee, previously examined the safety of towing caravans and programs. Research shows that crashes involving caravans and trailers constitute only a very small proportion of the overall traffic crash statistics.
The Staysafe committee's report entitled "Towing caravans and trailers safely" states that the available evidence did not support a requirement for special licensing or testing requirements for towing. The latest Staysafe committee's report, "Driver licensing in New South Wales: first entry into the driver licensing system", Staysafe report No. 37, did not recommend any changes to the towing requirement limits for novice drivers. Under the 1999 Road Transport and Driver Licensing Regulation, the holder of a provisional P1 car licence is restricted to towing vehicles having an unladen weight of not more than 250 kilograms. I trust that the information I have outlined clarifies the issues for the House. With the greatest respect to the member for Dubbo, the Government does not believe that an analysis of the perceived problems that the motion seeks to rectify warrants the intervention embodied in the motion. The Government does not support the motion.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put.
Division called for and Standing Order 181 applied.
Question resolved in the negative.
HORNSBY ELECTORATE CHILD AND ADOLESCENT MENTAL HEALTH FACILITY
Mrs JUDY HOPWOOD
(Hornsby) [12.09 p.m.]: I move:
That this House:
(1) notes the specific needs of children and adolescents with mental illness; and
(2) calls on the Government to establish a child and adolescent mental health facility at Hornsby Hospital.
I am extremely concerned about the welfare of children and adolescents in the Hornsby electorate. Indeed, facilities specifically designed for children and adolescents with mental illness are inadequate across New South Wales. I note that Hornsby hospital has a mental health unit of long standing. The recent addition of a psychiatric emergency care centre to the accident and emergency department has provided four beds for use by mental health patients. There is also a mental health intensive care unit, to which I will refer later. However, the specific needs of children and adolescents in the Hornsby area have not been met. This is an immense problem for those children and adolescents and for their parents and significant others.
I note that this year's budget, which was delivered on Tuesday, mentions further planning and some expenditure related to a local mental health unit. Unfortunately, the details are not known. I do not know whether it will be specifically for children and adolescents, and I await information in that regard. Most areas of New South Wales urgently need child and adolescent mental health facilities, and since my election to this place in 2002 I have called for their establishment. There is nothing more distressing than receiving a telephone call in the middle of the afternoon from a mother who says that her 18-year-old daughter—a good student studying for her Higher School Certificate—is experiencing a psychotic episode and standing on a station platform removing her clothes.
In that instance police and ambulance officers were called. The girl was in danger of falling from the platform into the path of an oncoming train. I assisted the mother with the transfer of her daughter to the accident and emergency department but I knew that there was no child and adolescent facility at Hornsby hospital into which she could be admitted later. That is an absolute disgrace. The girl was assessed in the accident and emergency department and ultimately admitted into the mental health unit. I pay tribute to the staff of that facility. They work very hard as the unit is usually understaffed. However, it is totally inappropriate to admit children to adult wards. This young girl—and all other young people who present for admission into mental health facilities—requires specific, appropriate care.
A couple of years ago I held an eating disorders forum in my electorate. Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia are a great concern in our community and there are not enough beds for young people who suffer from them. Some 200 people attended the forum at Hornsby RSL club. One hundred were sufferers of anorexia nervosa or bulimia and the other 100 attendees were their parents and significant others. I alert the Government yet again to the need not only to provide child and adolescent mental health facilities in the Hornsby electorate—specifically on the campus of Hornsby hospital—but to devote parts of such units specifically to the treatment of eating disorders. I have discussed this issue many times with the parents of young people with mental illness, local community groups and health professionals. I pay tribute to the work of Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Association Inc. Action for Mental Health, whose many calls to establish a specific child and adolescent mental health unit at Hornsby hospital have gone unheeded.
Mental health facilities in the Hornsby area include an early psychosis intervention centre in the grounds of Hornsby hospital. It is an extremely busy unit and its services are in constant demand. A child and adolescent psychiatrist works out of the hospital, and there are other similar support facilities. Future child and adolescent psychiatrists are trained through the local psychiatrist-in-training program. However, there is no unit into which to admit children and young people with mental health problems. The Hornsby hospital accident and emergency department and the four-bed psychiatric emergency care centre act as pseudo child and adolescent wards. The only option for many young people who present to the accident and emergency department is to be placed in a bed in the psychiatric emergency care centre. However, this solution is not adequate as those young people can remain in the unit for only 48 hours and must then be transferred elsewhere—inevitably into the adult ward of the mental health unit.
Some $7 million has been spent on the mental health intensive care unit, which was built specifically with last year's State election in mind. But the Government gave no adequate consideration to staffing it, and the unit remained empty for 11 months. The unit has many problems, and considerable funds will have to be spent correcting design faults. Since the unit has had the ability to take patients—11 months and one day after being completed—the 12-bed unit has housed between one and four patients. Although that intensive care unit is needed, a child and adolescent mental health facility was required more urgently. Young people continue to be admitted into the mental health unit and not placed appropriately into the mental health intensive care unit because of understaffing and its design faults.
The expenditure of $7 million, the inclusion of the psychiatric emergency care centre in the accident and emergency department, the training of future child and adolescent psychiatrists, and the existence of a child psychiatrist and an early prevention intervention facility point to the fact that there is a yawning gap in the services provided by Hornsby hospital and in its ability to meet the needs of local children and adolescents with mental health problems. It is absolutely imperative that the Government establish, sooner rather than later, a child and adolescent mental health facility in the grounds of the hospital. Such a facility would be a logical inclusion and enable admission into a unit that specifically meets the needs of young people. The establishment of such a facility would allay the concerns of parents and significant others of young people who are admitted into the accident and emergency department or directly into the mental health unit and adult wards. They are not happy with the current state of affairs and lobby me continually about the establishment of a child and adolescent facility at Hornsby hospital.
The current situation is not good enough. Considering the Government's focus on mental health, this is a glaring oversight that requires rectification. We are seeking immediate clarification of what the Government plans to build in Hornsby in the future. I note the child and adolescent facility in the long-term plan for infrastructure but it needs to be provided sooner rather than later. It is an absolute emergency. Young people with mental illness are not accommodated in an appropriate way in the Hornsby area.
Mr PAUL LYNCH
(Liverpool—Minister for Local Government, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and Minister Assisting the Minister for Health (Mental Health)) [12.20 p.m.]: I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting paragraph (2).
The mental health of children and adolescents is a major public health issue and vital to the future wellbeing of individuals, families and the community. Robust international research indicates that the majority of adults with mental disorders had recognisable problems by the age of 15. New South Wales Health is building a more secure base for children and adolescents to maximise their potential and increase their chances of a positive future. To provide a comprehensive system to address the mental health needs of children, adolescents and their families, the full range of interventions needs to be available through linked partnerships, including those with adult mental health services; generalist health services; general practitioners drug and alcohol services; early childhood, paediatric, child and family and youth health services; private practitioners; the departments of Education and Training, Community Services, Juvenile Justice, and Ageing, Disability and Home Care; and inevitably non-Government organisations.
Mental health problems in this age-group require comprehensive approaches including specialist community-based services for children and adolescents and their families; specialist day programs for more intensive treatment; specialist acute and non-acute inpatient services for children and adolescents; specialist outreach services such as the telepsychiatry program to increase support for families and service providers in rural communities; support for children of parents with a mental illness; and forensic services for adolescents whose mental health problems have led to interaction with the justice system. The great majority of children and young people with mental health problems who receive treatment do so in a community setting. Community-based child and adolescent mental health services are therefore the service foundation. However, some young people with more severe or complex problems require a period of specialist assessment and treatment in hospital.
When the Labor Government was elected in 1995 there was only one unit in New South Wales that could provide the full range of acute inpatient services to children and adolescents: the Acute Adolescent Unit at Redbank House, Westmead Hospital. There are now additional child and adolescent acute mental health inpatient services at Campbelltown Hospital, John Hunter Hospital, the Children's Hospital at Westmead and the Sydney Children's Hospital. Further units are planned for Orange, Shellharbour and Hornsby, and 16 adolescent beds are planned for the new Forensic Hospital at Malabar. The budget is now three times what it was when we came to office. There are now 47 specialist child and adolescent mental health acute beds in New South Wales, with more in the planning and design phase. A new specialist acute child and adolescent mental health inpatient unit is about to commence operation at Lismore. Indeed, it was formally opened last week.
The development of inpatient units in regional centres allows more families to receive more comprehensive specialist treatment closer to home. Construction is also nearing completion for a new specialist child and adolescent mental health unit within the new mental health precinct at Concord hospital. This service will complement the existing specialist programs at Rivendell in the adjacent Thomas Walker Hospital. It will fill a statewide role providing specialist high intensity longer stay inpatient care for 12 young patients. This new unit will also have capacity for two beds for parents or carers, which will help young people's transitions in and out of hospital and improve family involvement in care planning and treatment. Planning has also commenced for an upgrade of the Sydney Children's Hospital inpatient service to fill a higher acuity role.
In 2005-06 the funding for New South Wales Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services [CAMHS] was approximately $98 million, which represented 10.3 per cent of the overall mental health program budget. CAMHS was expanded further during 2005-06 with the allocation of $4 million enhancement funding across area health services, including Justice Health and the Children's Hospital Westmead. The 2007-08 budget provided an additional $2 million enhancement for CAMHS across New South Wales. A further measure of this Government's commitment is the provision of additional funding in the 2008-09 budget of $2.6 million for new and enhanced child and adolescent outpatient services across New South Wales. Area health services will be funded to offer community care for children and adolescents with a mental illness and to improve the linkages between inpatient treatment and local community-based teams.
The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Statewide Network [CAMHSNET] was established in March 2003 to support existing child and adolescent services and to provide ongoing education and training for specialist staff. CAMHSNET has now evolved into its next phase of development as MH-Kids, an area-hosted unit of the Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol Office. It is leading policy development and service planning to improve the mental health of children and adolescents in New South Wales. MH-Kids now guides a number of prevention and early intervention initiatives delivered by area health services targeting children and adolescents and their families.
Child and adolescent mental health services are provided both on-site at Hornsby hospital and in the neighbouring community. Those services are part of a broader network of child and adolescent health services provided across Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service. Increasingly young people are being treated in developmentally appropriate specialist mental health settings. These specialist CAMHS settings are the ideal and the practical goal to which we are working. Assessments of the provision of further specialist child and adolescent mental health settings across the State are being made on a continual basis and this is certainly the case in relation to the Hornsby Ku-ring-ai area. The Government is continuing with the provision of services to enhance the quality and continuity of care for consumers of child and adolescent health services. I commend the amendment to the House.
Mr GREG APLIN
(Albury) [12.25 p.m.]: Across New South Wales the number of children and adolescents with mental health problems is rising. It is a problem not confined to Australia, of course, and many psychologists believe it is caused mainly by environmental rather than biological factors, by social fragmentation and the breakdown of the family unit. However, whatever the fundamental causes may be, the rise in numbers is alarming and its effects are being felt in our schools and health services. Getting the attention of Government for funding, research and improved treatments is increasingly difficult. With childhood usually being associated with happiness and carefree fun, there is a greater need to prevent the early years of life from being hindered with the weight of sadness, depression, pain and inner torment.
Many childhood or adolescent disorders can be treated with medication or behavioural management therapy—in other words, intervention. The need to identify and effectively treat these conditions at an early age is vitally important to allow our young Australians to lead a mostly normal life if identified and managed early. With the Mental Health Association of New South Wales indicating that one in 10 children between the ages of six and 12 experience persistent feelings of sadness, providing care and assistance for that vulnerable age group is imperative to facilitate the need for a sense of normality in their developing years.
Unfortunately, the list of disorders affecting children and adolescents is increasing. Today that portion of society faces conditions including anxiety, a whole host of phobias, separation anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression and bipolar, to name just a few. Between 1996 and 2006 cases of self-harm in adolescent girls increased by 51 per cent, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. In a report published only yesterday by the institute, it indicates that that is more than double the rate of self-harm for adolescent males in the same time frame. The report continues to state that young people account for almost one-third of intentional self-harm admissions to hospital in 2005-06, and that young people accounted for 14 per cent of suicide deaths in 2005.
A significant number of adolescents, particularly girls, suffer from serious eating disorders. Those conditions place a great deal of pressure on community health resources as the treatment—namely, counselling—needs to be ongoing and can take many months. In my electorate, to take one example, the Albury-Wodonga Acorn Support Group provides assistance and care services for people with eating disorders and their families to meet once a week. However, as beneficial as that is to my community, many other communities have no facilities at all and families are forced to travel to major centres. For example, I refer to Oak House in Melbourne, a specialist outpatient facility providing recovery programs for sufferers of all forms of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge eating disorder and eating disorders not otherwise specified, which includes obesity. We are significantly under-resourced in New South Wales, particularly in the country. The Minister could look at this issue in relation to the Hornsby electorate.
With the onset of adolescence, depression becomes a real problem, particularly for boys in Australia. Studies indicate that there is a close correlation between depression and self-harm incidents and, of course, the high rate of suicide in Australia among adolescent boys. Treatment of depression is essential and, through the use of psychotherapy and sometimes medication, children and adolescents can learn to express their feelings and develop coping strengths and strategies to deal with their illnesses. Hence, they improve their self-esteem and prospects for the future. Organisations such as Lifeline and Kids Help Line are often the first point of contact for those young people. Again, there is an ever-increasing need for trained people to handle this very serious problem. Again, as my colleague the member for Hornsby has amply identified, a child and adolescent mental health facility providing those services in the electorate of Hornsby is needed.
However, the Government seems to be wavering in its efforts to provide real, long-term assistance to this important sector of our society. Tuesday's budget revealed that New South Wales Labor has not only underspent on the Shellharbour Hospital child and adolescent unit but the day unit portion has been delayed another 12 months. How can the Government claim to make mental health a priority when there is major underspending on vital projects and delays in completion? That is not an isolated case. The Sydney Children's Hospital proposed child and adolescent inpatient unit has also been delayed by 12 months, and underspent to the tune of $1.7 million. Children and adolescents across New South Wales are being hurt by a Government that is unable to effectively plan or manage a mental health system that is crying out for assistance and support.
Taking into consideration the dramatic increases and instances of mental illness among children and adolescents, and the appalling cases of self-harm and abuse by that age bracket, the Government must provide more services to combat this alarming and rising crisis. Hornsby has a need for a child and adolescent mental health facility, but unlike its mental health intensive care unit it needs to be staffed for operation. Twelve months on with the establishment of the unit only four of those 12 beds are operating. That is not the way to run the mental health system.
Ms GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN
(Willoughby) [12.31 p.m.]: I support the motion moved by the member for Hornsby. For a short period I had the privilege of being the shadow Minister for mental health. In that period I noticed that the overwhelming lack of services in our community related to the lack of the provision for mental health services for children and adolescents. I commend the efforts of the member for Albury, the shadow Minister for mental health. He more than anyone understands cross-border issues: he understands the difference between the services provided to children and adolescents in Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland services and those provided in New South Wales.
I am concerned most that every time the State Government talks about mental health it fails to back it up with action. I was shocked to learn of the number of gaps in mental health services, especially in acute services but more particularly in community-based services. New South Wales has almost zero psychosocial services available to people who are not sick enough to be in hospital but are not well enough to be on their own. That is where the huge hole is in our community services. The motion moved by the member for Hornsby specifically addresses that issue.
There is nowhere for people to go when they are not sick enough to be in a hospital but are not well enough to be at home. Very few services are available throughout New South Wales, and those that are available are, in the main, provided by non-government organisations such as Lifeline. In my electorate a woman operates an eating disorders organisation from her home in Artarmon, very close to where I live. The woman has managed to respond to 20,000 calls to her home by families with children, especially teenage girls, but also boys, who have eating disorders. She gets minimum funding from the State Government but operates the service because nothing else is available.
There is a huge void in mental health services. Although this issue should never be politicised, it is beyond politics. It is a huge shame but, regrettably, the State Government talks about this issue but does not back it up with action. The member for Albury has a keen and active interest in this issue. When I was the shadow Minister for Mental Health I visited his community and was absolutely appalled that people there had to either rent a place in Victoria or claim that they lived in Victoria to access the children's psychosocial services just across the border. The services there are so much better than those in New South Wales.
The member for Hornsby also has a passion for mental health. As co-convener she has been instrumental in putting together the Parliamentary Friends of Mental Health group and has done a lot of work alongside the Schizophrenia Fellowship and others making Parliament more aware of those issues. I am concerned that the State Government has said a lot about mental health, but regrettably the same announcements are repeated, the same amount of funding is repeated. We hear a lot about the psychiatric emergency centres [PECs]. Yes, they are important but there are not enough of them. What happens to a person who leaves a centre? Nothing. That is the problem. People are released too early because there is a demand on the number of available acute services.
After a person leaves hospital and returns to the community no support services are available, except for those provided by the non-government sector. Much has been said about the Housing and Accommodation Support Initiative [HASI], but how many positions does it offer? In the last year that I was shadow Minister for mental health the HASI program offered an additional 12 places a year. What did that achieve? Not very much. These are all good programs, but it is not good enough to just announce a program; it has to be backed up with services on the ground. No mental health services are provided between the hospital ward and the home. That is why homelessness is at such an acute level. That is why so many young people get into trouble.
We do not have the services that the member for Hornsby is advocating for her community. I commend her efforts to meet a need that all communities face. The member for Hornsby is exceptional in her efforts: she is constantly advocating for her community. The least the Government can do is to respect her motion, not amend it; accept the need and do something about it. That is what we should all expect and do as members of this place. I commend the original motion to the House and urge the Government to support it, and to support people who have serious mental health issues. That support can be achieved only by providing the community-based services which have been fought for so strongly this morning.
Mrs JUDY HOPWOOD
(Hornsby) [12.36 p.m.], in reply: It is with pleasure that I commend the member for Albury and the member for Willoughby for their wonderful support of my motion. I acknowledge that the Minister Assisting the Minister for Health (Mental Health) has attended the Chamber and saw fit to spend time on what I consider—and what every member of the House should consider—to be a very important issue. However, I am extremely disappointed that the Minister moved an amendment to my motion to remove the Government's responsibility to establish a child and adolescent mental health facility at Hornsby Hospital.
I invite the Minister to visit Hornsby Hospital and attend a Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Association Inc. Action for Mental Health meeting and talk to the parents and significant others of the young people. I am sure that if he did so he would be repent moving the amendment to remove the call for the Government to establish that child and adolescent facility. Members on this side will oppose the amendment. I refer to Budget Paper No. 4, page 3-4, which states:
Planning Funds—$26.5 million ETC ($22.3 million in 2008-09) for planning future new works including Mental Health Stage 4 (including a new unit at Hornsby Hospital)
That is what I referred to when I mentioned the lack of detail. The Minister's speech did not enlighten us about what that new unit is. Obviously, I will write to the Minister asking him to explain it. It seems to be a serious oversight in his speech. That unit is not a mental health unit for children and adolescents. It is an extreme oversight and I implore him to respond to my questions and I ask him to agree that a child and adolescent mental health facility is important.
The Early Psychosis Intervention Service [EPIS], which I mentioned earlier, is a busy, well-frequented unit. It addresses the needs of young people from 18 to 26 years who have a primary diagnosis of psychosis, with onset in the past 12 months. Because the first intervention relating to mental illness is so well frequented we need a child and adolescent mental health facility in the Hornsby campus that will meet the needs of young people. Many of them will go on to have a history of mental illness, and they need adequate and appropriate support.
The Minister's response is not good enough. We will not support his amendment and I call on other members not to support it. There is an extreme need for an adolescent unit to be established to deal with mental health issues. As the member for Willoughby pointed out, the Hornsby area has a big problem with homelessness and the age group of that population is becoming younger and younger. Many younger homeless people have a mental illness. I had a round table discussion in my office last Monday to talk about the escalating problem of homelessness and it was a big shock to find that the Department of Housing did not have any demographics on the number of homeless people in the Hornsby electorate. There are hundreds of them. I was absolutely flabbergasted by that. It goes to show that planners have not given adequate consideration to funding to meet the needs of young people in the Hornsby electorate who have mental health issues. I commend the member for Albury for his extensive knowledge of the subject, and the member for Willoughby in her role as the shadow Minister. Even though I acknowledged the Minister for coming to the Chamber, that is often not the case.
Mr Daryl Maguire:
It never happens.
Mrs JUDY HOPWOOD:
No. He may feel that the issue is important but he cannot see his way clear to establishing a child and adolescent mental health facility. The issue is imminent; it is very important for these young people as they go forward in education and look for employment opportunities. A stitch in time saves nine, to borrow a phrase. These young people need early intervention to ensure they can lead the sorts of lives they desire and not have continual problems with mental illness that should have been addressed earlier.
Question—That the amendment be agreed to—put.
The House divided.
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr J. D. Williams
Mr R. C. Williams
Mr R. W. Turner
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Motion as amended agreed to.
|Ms Burton||Mr Kerr|
|Mr Gibson||Mr Stokes|
WESTERN SYDNEY SPORTING FACILITIES
Mrs KARYN PALUZZANO
(Penrith) [12.49 p.m.]: I move:
(1) congratulates the Government on the recent announcement of a $5 million upgrade of the Credit Union Australia Stadium at Penrith; and
(2) congratulates the Government on improving sporting and recreational facilities in Western Sydney.
The Iemma Government is committed to improving sporting and recreational facilities in Western Sydney, with a $5 million allocation to upgrade the Credit Union Australia [CUA] Stadium in Penrith—the home of the Penrith Panthers—and budgetary allocations for a number of other sporting facilities from the grassroots community level through to the development of elite sport. The Government's $5 million commitment for the CUA stadium will complete stage two of the redevelopment of the Penrith stadium master plan, which has been ongoing since 2007. I commend the Minister for Sport and Recreation, Mr Graham West, for allocating funding for that project last year.
In February 2007 Premier Morris Iemma announced that funding allocation at a home match that I attended where I watched the mighty Panthers play. Unfortunately, they did not win the game, but they played quite well at the CUA stadium. I thank the member for Londonderry and the member for Mulgoa for their commitment to improving sporting facilities in their local area and for the work that they have done to lobby for and improve Penrith's sporting facilities, in particular, the Penrith CUA stadium upgrade. The CUA stadium upgrade, a long-term community effort, commenced in 2002. Members of the community made representations to me as I have lived in the electorate all my life and I have attended matches at Penrith stadium. In the 1960s I remember going to a match with my grandparents, taking our thermos flask with us and sitting on the hill. That hill changed a few years ago as a result of the first stage of the redevelopment and upgrades to the western grandstand.
The Iemma Government's $5 million allocation will provide for the upgrading of the eastern grandstand, which at present has no disabled access or lift access to the corporate boxes, so workers have to carry all their gear to that area, and that poses occupational health and safety issues. Of major concern is the lack of appropriate amenities at the eastern grandstand. I referred earlier to the games that the Penrith Panthers play, but quite a lot of soccer or football is also played at the stadium. People use the venue for a range of sporting activities. The Iemma Government's $5 million allocation will provide for upgrading of amenities at the eastern grandstand, access for the disabled, and the installation of a lift to a viewing platform. A lift will also be provided for workers at the CUA stadium to enable them to move resources to that area. People will have access to the eastern grandstand and void space in an undercroft will be filled with rooms for community organisations, such as the Western Sydney Institute of Sport, or for the Penrith Rugby League Panthers on the Prowl program.
Proposed upgrades to the eastern grandstand will make the CUA stadium a first-class sporting venue. On the completion of this upgrade the Rugby League World Cup will be played at the CUA stadium. I look forward to Tonga playing Samoa at that match in October. The CUA stadium is not the only sporting and recreational facility that the Iemma Government has improved; wonderful sporting grounds in the Penrith electorate have been supported by local capital assistance program [CAP] grants. A few years ago Blue Mountains Rugby received money from a CAP grant and was able to add to its changing rooms, which I unveiled. I have not seen the plaque, but first-grade rugby union players have told me that it is located in the men's changing rooms. I acknowledge the Government's contribution by way of a CAP grant.
CAP grants have enabled the upgrading of facilities at the Glenbrook and Lapstone tennis clubs. The Sydney International Regatta Centre received funding to repair floorboards and upgrade footpaths. In 2008 CAP grants were allocated to the Waratah's Junior Rugby League Football Stadium to improve amenities in Doug Rennie Fields. Under this year's CAP grants the Sydney International Hockey Centre, which is located in the grounds of the University of Western Sydney, will also be upgraded. Regional sporting facilities have also been upgraded. The Penrith District Netball Association received funding to upgrade its amenity and administrative blocks. All those men and women who play netball at the Nepean District Netball Association complex in Jamison Park will appreciate using those improved amenities.
In May last year the Premier announced a $1 million boost for disability sports in New South Wales. That funding will provide $250,000 each year for the next five years to enable the extension of community-based sports programs for people with disabilities. The Sydney International Regatta Centre, which is located in the Penrith electorate, is home to Sailability NSW—a project that commenced as part of the disability sports assistance program. This financial year 36 community and sporting organisations throughout New South Wales have been awarded funding under that program. Sailability NSW and the Penrith District Football Association are sharing $34,000 in State grants as part of a program to address the sporting and physical activity needs of people with a disability.
Sailability NSW is using $20,000 to run a series of open days and regattas at Penrith Lakes to teach sailing skills to people with a disability. The overall focus of Sailability NSW at a grassroots level will be on personal development, social interaction and participation for people with disabilities. I commend the Iemma Government for introducing that program. One-off sporting support provided by the State Government has enabled the grants scheme, which was previously restricted to greater Western Sydney, to be extended across New South Wales. In addition to programs in specific areas, such as the Junction House program, there is funding for statewide programs such as the Australian Electronic Wheelchair Hockey Association program to teach coaches and referees, and the Disabled Winter Sports Association program to teach ski instructors and ski guides to increase availability of ski programs and services for people with disabilities, which is to be commended.
Earlier I mentioned the capital assistance grants. The Iemma Government is committed to ensuring that people have more opportunities to participate in their chosen sport or recreational activity with the aim of achieving good health for all sections of the community. This applies not only to Western Sydney as defined by the Penrith area, but broadly in other parts of Western Sydney. The Parramatta Stadium Trust has received a $6 million grant towards the redevelopment of the southern grandstand at Parramatta Stadium—the home of the Parramatta Eels. The grandstand will provide an extra 2,700 seats and will increase the overall stadium capacity by 15 per cent.
I commend the working party that will ensure the $6 million grant for the Credit Union Australia Stadium at Penrith is well spent. At the moment that project is on time and on budget. Formwork for the lifts and the undercross construction has commenced. I note that Penrith Panthers, Penrith City Council and the private companies involved in the project are working towards improving the facilities for western Sydney.
Mr WAYNE MERTON
(Baulkham Hills) [1.00 p.m.]: I support additional sporting and recreational facilities for Western Sydney. I had the privilege of being born and bred in Wentworthville and attending school at Granville South Public School and later Fairfield High School. Indeed, if I may digress slightly, it was my pleasure and privilege only last week to attend Granville South Public School and meet the principal. It was a wonderful occasion to return to the school where I commenced my education. I was fortunate to find an old school photograph. Whilst the school has undergone some changes, in the days when I attended many children did not wear school shoes. Of course, now the children are resplendent in their lovely school uniform. The school now essentially has many multicultural Australian students, and provides a happy learning environment for young people.
Returning to the topic at hand of sporting and recreational facilities in Western Sydney, I note that notice of this motion on 5 June 2007 referred to the recent announcement of a $5 million upgrade of the Credit Union Australia Stadium at Penrith. Of course, whilst I visit Penrith as much as possible, I am not the local member and would not encroach upon her territory on a daily basis. I am not aware of the stadium's present state of construction, but I assume that it has been completed.
Mrs Karyn Paluzzano:
It is being constructed as we speak.
Mr WAYNE MERTON:
It is being constructed now—that is what rang the alarm bells. No-one would deny that the member for Penrith is an enthusiastic member for her electorate; today she was resplendent and keen in speaking to her motion. However, it occurred to me that on 5 June also she was pleased to receive the announcement of a $5 million upgrade for the Penrith stadium. Yet here we are, 12 months later to the day, and work on that stadium has not finished. Like everything else this Iemma Government promises the community, this project is on the old drip feed: drip, drip, drip, slowly, slowly does it. I am reminded of the North West Rail Link, which has an interesting history dating back to 1988. The Minister of the day promised that the North West Rail Link would be completed by 2010. Now, many years later, when the rail link was supposed to be nearing completion, no work has been done. However, returning to the motion—
Dr Andrew McDonald:
Point of order: My point of is order relates to relevance. I refer to Standing Order 129. I was interested to hear about the North West Rail Link, but it does not fall within the ambit of the motion.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! The member for Baulkham Hills knows from his experience in this place that he should return to the motion being discussed.
Mr WAYNE MERTON:
The member could appreciate that it was merely a passing remark. In fact, by the time he was quick enough to get to his feet, the moment had passed and I had moved very quickly across to Penrith. Unfortunately, the Baulkham Hills transport system does not allow people to move as quickly as I did! The people of Penrith deserve the best. Penrith is a vibrant central business district area; it is a vibrant and wonderfully picturesque community that enjoys a tremendous amount of parklands. As I told the member for Penrith earlier, when I was a student at Fairfield Boys High School we often played cricket at Penrith oval and it certainly was an enjoyable experience.
Mr Barry Collier:
Not as good as Bradman.
Mr WAYNE MERTON:
I can assure the member that there was no comparison between Bradman and me.
Mr Barry Collier:
He is an honest man.
Mr WAYNE MERTON:
Bradman had an average of slightly less than 100, and mine was not quite as high as that.
Mr Barry Collier:
Not even in the backyard?
Mr WAYNE MERTON:
Of course, I was 400 not out on many occasions in the backyard. I return to the motion. When the chips are down this Government takes Western Sydney for granted. The Government considers Western Sydney to be its heartland. The 23 or 24 electorates that form the Greater Western Sydney area, as allocated by this Government, have something like 10 per cent of the Australian population. It has also the third greatest business output of Australia after Sydney and Melbourne. Western Sydney is an essential part of our Australian culture, life and economy, but at the end of the day its people have been denied resources. I note that the $5 million grant for the Penrith stadium was allocated in 2006-07.
Mrs Karyn Paluzzano:
No, it was 2007.
Mr WAYNE MERTON:
No. This $5 million allocation is in the 2006-07 budget proposal. After reading the budget papers I find it hard to determine how much has been spent to date on that stadium. Perhaps the member for Penrith could explain in reply how much has been spent of the money allocated in 2007. How much work as been done on the commitment of her Government to Western Sydney? At the end of the day this State Government is very big on talk, very big on making statements and promises, and very big on "gonna". The reality is that many projects end up on a drip-feed situation.
I suggest that the member for Penrith, who is a hardworking member, keep pushing her Government because the squeaking wheel often gets the oil. She certainly works very hard for her community. I sympathise with her regarding the enormous problems she faces working under a Government that considers this area its heartland on the basis that, like homing pigeons, at election time the people of the heartland will come home to roost. I urge the member for Penrith not to be misled into a false sense of security. When the great day comes on the fourth Saturday in March 2011, many of those pigeons will change direction. Those pigeons, the people of Western Sydney, will have had enough. Enough is enough! They turned on the Howard Government. They will turn to the Coalition.
Mr Barry Collier:
Point of order: This debate is not about racing pigeons or electoral prospects for the member for Baulkham Hills or the Coalition in 2011. I ask you to bring him back to the leave of the motion.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! The second part of the motion refers to sporting and recreational facilities in Western Sydney, and racing pigeons need sporting facilities.
Mr WAYNE MERTON:
The reality is that the State Labor Government has a dismal record. I move:
That the motion be amended by leaving out paragraph (2) with a view to inserting instead:
(2) condemns the Government for its failure to provide sufficient funding and resources for sports and recreational facilities in Western Sydney.
The people of Western Sydney have suffered the legacy of this Government's failure, its taking people for granted, and its betrayal of the people who have been Labor's voting core for years and years. As I stated before I was interrupted, I advise the member for Penrith not to take the people of Western Sydney for granted. A classic example of the Government's failure is that money was allocated in 2007 as part of the 2006-07 budget, but very little has been done with that money. [Time expired.
Dr ANDREW McDONALD
(Macquarie Fields) [1.11 p.m.]: The Macquarie Fields area will receive more than $40,000 for local sporting facilities under the lemma Government's 2007-08 Capital Assistance Program. The funding includes $10,602 to the Campbelltown City Council for the construction of a barbeque area and shelter at Bensley Reserve, which is home of the mighty Gunners, and $24,700 to Campbelltown City Council for an upgrade of the existing floodlighting at the Milton Park Softball Complex, which is now a major facility for softball in south-western Sydney.
Many other facilities have been completed. For example on 12 April I was able to be at the Ash Road complex, near the M7 at Prestons, to help open the marvellous facilities for local teams, such as Liverpool Robins soccer club, with funding jointly provided by the Liverpool City Council and the New South Wales Government. This year a total of $4 million has been allocated under the State Government's sports Capital Assistance Program for 299 sporting facilities across the State. Through the Capital Assistance Program, the Government helps local councils and not-for-profit sport and recreation groups to develop sports facilities for the community by funding up to 50 per cent of a project's cost.
As much of the work is done by volunteers, this is second-to-none value for money for our people, and excellent for public health. Most of the beneficiaries of the funding are our children. Childhood sets up your behaviour for life, and children who remain active as adults will increase their life expectancy. If governments are serious about enhancing population health in the most cost-effective way, they should build sporting facilities, not intensive care units. As another example of its commitment, the Iemma Government has provided $150,000 this year to the South West Sydney Academy of Sport.
The South West Sydney Academy of Sport was established in 1997 by the New South Wales Labor Government to service the south-western Sydney region, which includes the local government areas of Liverpool, Camden, Campbelltown and Wollondilly. I was able to attend the academy's annual dinner last year. The academy's mission statement is "to provide high quality, community focused, talented athlete identification and development programs, which assist athletes to successfully realise their sporting potential". The academy's role is to facilitate the development of and support talented junior athletes in the region—we have a large number of those participating in many sports—to provide those athletes with access to specialist support services, including coaching, sports science and sports medicine, to identify and support the development of high performance coaches at the local level, and to provide a clear pathway for athletes from junior development through to State and national representation.
The academy's focus is therefore more on the development of athletes rather than competition and winning. Most participants will never be professional athletes, but all will be able to excel in their sport for many years, with health benefits for generations. The New South Wales Government and local councils are principal partners in the South West Sydney Academy of Sport. Other sponsors include Softball NSW, Tennis NSW, Hockey NSW and local businesses, such as the Paul Wakeling Motor Group—this is another example of the extensive local philanthropy by Mr Paul Wakeling—AMP, and Snap Printing.
The academy offers programs in sports such as athletics, hockey, football, rugby union, golf, basketball, softball, and tennis, and provides coach education. Graduates of the academy who have competed at an international level include Bronwyn Eagles in athletics and James Darby in baseball. The local profile of the South West Sydney Academy of Sport and the achievements of its graduates encourage all our local athletes to participate in and play sport. There is nothing better for the self-esteem of a young person than to excel in any field. This excellence builds resilience that spills over into all aspects of their lives.
By having these excellent facilities and coaching support for our local young people, we build the future of our community. The facilities will help meet the State Plan target of increasing by 10 per cent participation in sport and recreation activities by 2016. Finally, I encourage all in this House, including those present in the gallery, to lead by example, and do 30 minutes of moderate activity four days per week. They will look and feel better—and live longer!
Mr NINOS KHOSHABA
(Smithfield) [1.16 p.m.]: The Iemma Government continues to invest in community and elite sporting facilities for a range of sports right across New South Wales. The Smithfield area will receive $45,907 for local sporting facilities in the 2007-08 Sport and Recreation Capital Assistance Program. This funding comprises $15,907 to the Fairfield City Council for new cricket nets at Terone Park and $30,000 to the Holroyd City Council for the renovation and resurfacing of the oval at the Gipps Road Sporting Complex. The Capital Assistance Program helps communities to build facilities that support local athletes and encourages better health and wellbeing. The Iemma Government wants more people to use parks, sporting and recreational facilities and participate in sport and physical exercise. The Government's grants will assist in achieving that aim.
Last year the Iemma Government provided $500,000 to improve the warm-up riding area at the Sydney International Equestrian Centre in the Smithfield electorate to ensure that the equestrian centre's world-class standard is maintained. Drainage was installed at the warm-up arena to ensure that excess water is removed from the new sand surface that has been installed as part of the project, thereby decreasing the risk of mishap to equestrian competitors. The new surface also will reduce the maintenance that the warm-up arena requires. The Sydney International Equestrian Centre was established in 2000 for the Sydney Olympics and is Australia's top location for equine events. Once the upgrade to the warm-up arena is complete, it will complement the 14 world-class show jumping and dressage arenas that are situated on 6.5 hectares of purpose-built sand and grass surfaces.
The Sydney Equestrian Centre hosts more than 80 events each year and has more than 42,000 competitors and visitors trotting through its doors. Improvements to the facility will assist the centre to meet further demands, increase the number of international events, and facilitate the accommodation of equestrian groups, schools and community groups. The Sydney International Equestrian Centre is a major venue that provides an important economic boost to Western Sydney through the spectators and competitors it attracts. The Iemma Government encourages participation in sport and recreation, not just through the provision of grants to improve facilities, but by increasing capacity in a range of activities. One way in which the Government does that is through the Women's Sports Leadership Scholarship Program.
No amateur sport would be possible without the valuable contribution of volunteer coaches, referees and other sporting officials. The Government assists those people with training and other support. While the participation of women in sport and recreation in New South Wales is higher than is the case in some other States, it is generally lower than it is for men. The Women's Sports Leadership Scholarship Program is designed to boost the number of women in leadership and decision-making positions in the sport and recreation industry. This year 69 scholarships worth a total of $79,000 have been awarded to women from a variety of sports, including cricket, gymnastics and tennis.
Twenty-seven coaching and official development scholarships have been awarded to help recipients undertake accredited training and qualifications to assist their progress in this field. Twenty-four sports leadership scholarships have been granted that will enable recipients to undertake a comprehensive four-day professional development course in sports administration and management. Seventeen sports management and development scholarships have been awarded for further professional development, such as courses to help build accounting, marketing or quality management skills. In addition, six State sporting organisations have received funding grants worth a total of $21,000 for initiatives that specifically assist women to progress in a particular sport and provide women with appropriate training and support networks within the sport. In the past 11 years since it began, the Women's Sports Leadership Scholarship Program has awarded more than 450 scholarships throughout New South Wales. The Iemma Government's Far West Travel Scheme helps people in remote areas of the State to participate in regular sporting competitions and events by assisting them with travel expenses.
Mr Wayne Merton:
Point of order: Although I am reluctant to interrupt the excellent speech of the member for Smithfield, he has gone far beyond the leave of the motion. The motion refers specifically to Western Sydney and the member is now talking about far western New South Wales. It is a question of relevance. I ask you to bring him back to the leave of the motion.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
I am sure the member for Smithfield will come back to the motion as he draws his remarks to a close.
Mr NINOS KHOSHABA:
I was about to do so, Mr Acting-Speaker. The Iemma Government is committed to improving access to, and involvement in, the sport and recreation industry at all levels for all residents of New South Wales.
Mr ALLAN SHEARAN
(Londonderry) [1.22 p.m.]: I support my colleague the member for Penrith in acknowledging the exciting program of works underway at Penrith stadium. Many other sporting facilities require similar assistance, and the Government is providing it throughout Western Sydney. The Iemma Government is committed to sustaining and enhancing community access to a wide range of sports. We want to see more people using parks and sporting and recreational facilities, and ensuring that these facilities are in top condition will help this to happen. In February this year the Londonderry electorate was granted $45,000 for local sporting facilities under the Iemma Government's 2007-08 Sport and Recreation Capital Assistance Program. Of this funding, $20,000 went to the Hawkesbury City Council for the installation of shade shelters and seating facilities at Smith Park; and the remaining $25,000 went to YMCA Camp Yarramundi for the modification of a cabin at the camp. These grants are vital to our communities. Not only do such upgrades promote sport and physical fitness but also they support community initiatives to counter obesity among young people and promote fitness in older people.
In addition to this funding, under the annual Regional Sports Facility Program the New South Wales Government helps sports and community groups and local government organisations construct or upgrade major sporting facilities throughout the State. The Londonderry electorate received more than $250,000 from both government programs in the past financial year. Some $200,000 was provided for the upgrade of the Richmond Swimming Centre; $17,450 was provided to resurface tennis courts at the Richmond Tennis Centre; $4,260 was provided for the installation of starting platforms at the swimming pool at the University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury; $15,000 was for provided for the construction of an underground water supply at the Londonderry soccer field; and $13,400 was provided for the provision of a cross-country course and riders ring at the Londonderry Pony Club.
The Government is 100 per cent committed to ensuring that people have more opportunities to pursue their chosen sport or to take part in their favourite recreational activity. The most recent figures reveal that more than 570,000 children aged between 5 and 14 years participate in organised sport and physical activity in New South Wales. This equates to 54.7 per cent of all children in this age group in New South Wales, and is a 4 per cent increase on April 2003 figures. The Government, in addition to the capital assistance program and the Regional Sports Facility Program, has launched a number of initiatives that encourage more young people to get involved in sport and physical activity. In April this year the Premier launched the Premier's Sporting Challenge, which included a $58 million funding boost to reinvigorate sport and activity in public schools. This challenge requires primary and secondary school students to keep a logbook and tally their time spent participating in any moderate to vigorous physical activities. The Premier also launched a website on which schools can register to take advantage of the program.
In addition, the Government is investing $50 million to provide schools with the sports equipment they need to engage in the program. The Premier's Sporting Challenge will increase the popularity of, and participation in, sports and physical activities for children in the Londonderry and Fairfield areas, as well as right across New South Wales. Information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed the top five sports and physical activities for children in New South Wales in the 12 months to 2003. Soccer came in at number one, with a participation rate of almost 20 per cent. This means that more than 175,000 people aged between 4 and 15 years participate in the game. Next was swimming, with 155,000 participants; and netball, with 80,000 participants. Rugby league came in fourth, with a participation rate of 7.7 per cent and almost 70,000 children taking part. Tennis was fifth, with more than 55,000 participants.
While New South Wales boasts a large number of children who take part in sport and who lead active and healthy lifestyles, the Government is working towards encouraging even more children to get involved. Physical activity is absolutely essential for children and young adults not just for their physical wellbeing but also for their mental and social development. With the most recent health data revealing that about a quarter of school students are overweight or obese—as are more than half of all adults—we must face this issue head on as a community. In addition to the grants and the funding that I have mentioned, the Iemma Government is spending $10 million providing additional upgrades to specialist sports high schools. Beneficiaries include Hunter, Endeavour, Illawarra, Matraville, Narrabeen, The Hills, and Westfields sports high schools. These initiatives and funding grants work to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle to school communities, which encourages lifelong participation in sport and physical recreation.
Just last week the Iemma Government announced funding of more than $2.7 million for the development of sport in New South Wales. The funding is allocated to State sporting organisations and peak industry bodies. This injection of funding will benefit the sports of golf, yachting, archery, netball, ice-skating, polocrosse, swimming and volleyball. By providing assistance for specific projects, we are enabling precise focus on identified areas of need. The Iemma Government, through its leading sporting initiatives and funding of sports across New South Wales, is ensuring that our future generations have the best possible foundation for a healthy life. [Time expired
Mrs KARYN PALUZZANO
(Penrith) [1.28 p.m.], in reply: I thank members who spoke to this most important motion about sport and recreation and the $5-million upgrade of the Credit Union Australia Stadium—the home of the mighty Panthers. Good luck on Sunday, guys! I note that once again the Opposition did not meet its quota of speakers for the debate. That is most disappointing. Several Labor members who represent electorates in Western Sydney outlined the capital assistance grants and sporting programs provided by the Iemma Government. I acknowledge the contributions of members representing the electorates of Macquarie Fields, Smithfield and Londonderry.
Mrs Judy Hopwood:
Point of order: In response to the comment by the member for Penrith regarding Opposition speakers in the debate only one Government member—the Minister Assisting the Minister for Health (Mental Health)—spoke to my motion.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! There is no point of order.
Mrs KARYN PALUZZANO:
The member for Baulkham Hills commended my efforts as a local member. It is great to get support from both sides of politics: we all work hard as members of Parliament. The stadium working party that has been rolling out the $5 million upgrade met soon after the money was delivered to Penrith City Council. It met in September, December and last week. As members know, plans for a $5 million construction are not done in a day. Scoping works have to be carried out and architects have to be commissioned for the planning. A quantity surveyor ascertains the cost of the project and then tenders are called for, all of which does not happen overnight with due diligence and the appropriate governance. The project is on time and on budget.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted and set down as an order of the day for a future day.
[The Acting-Speaker (Mr Thomas George) left the chair at 1.30 p.m. The House resumed at 2.15 p.m.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Notices of Motions
Government Business Notices of Motions (for Bills) given.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Notices of Motions
Private Members' Business Notices of Motions (for Bills) given.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
My question is directed to the Premier. With preschool participation rates in New South Wales languishing behind those of other States, as confirmed by the Rudd Government's latest Productivity Commission report, will he support the Coalition plan and boost preschool funding to ensure that 95 per cent of four year olds are able to attend preschool in New South Wales?
Order! Members will cease interjecting.
Mr Kevin Greene:
That is a Dorothy Dixer.
Mr MORRIS IEMMA:
Yes, it is. I am happy to inform the Leader of the Opposition that I am very pleased to support his statement because his statement supports our policy—which he would know if he had bothered to read the budget.
Ms ANGELA D'AMORE:
My question is addressed to the Premier. Can the Premier inform the House of risks to the New South Wales economy, following comments by the Leader of the Opposition?
Mr Chris Hartcher:
Now that's a Dixer.
Mr MORRIS IEMMA:
It is a very good, detailed question formulated after a thorough examination of the budget, which I note the member for Terrigal had a cursory glance at the other day in relation to Kincumber fire station.
Mr Chris Hartcher:
Are you going to build it?
Mr MORRIS IEMMA:
Yes, and we will staff it too.
Order! I call the member for Terrigal to order.
Mr MORRIS IEMMA:
It was the second budget-in-reply speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition and the biggest magic pudding we have seen so far. It was a string of rehashed and cobbled together announcements, all coming from the same pool of money. I note that the Leader of the Opposition is still drawing on the proceeds of last year's announcement that he would sell the electricity retailers. Last year there were no ifs or buts; just spend the money. Last year he said that he would spend the proceeds on infrastructure. This year he is spending it somewhere else.
Mr Barry O'Farrell:
Mr MORRIS IEMMA:
Mr Barry O'Farrell:
You weren't listening.
Order! Members will cease interjecting.
Mr MORRIS IEMMA:
It was a reference to the fact that last year he said he would set up a community infrastructure fund and this year he made reference to it. He did not say what he meant by last year's infrastructure fund. He left out the words "electricity retailers" because he is still working out what his position on it is. Twelve months ago his position was that he would privatise electricity and establish a community infrastructure fund.
Order! I call the member for Epping to order.
Mr MORRIS IEMMA:
Then it was, "I will sit on the fence." Then it was, "I will support but with conditions." Then it was, "I will support with those conditions but not in its current form." The latest proposition is, "I still want to think about it in its current form and see if I can make my mind up as to exactly what it is that I stand for when it comes to the State's electricity industry. Nevertheless, in my budget-in-reply speech I will make reference to an infrastructure fund that I announced last year. I will spend the proceeds but I will not say where they come from." If you cannot work that out—and we will assist the Opposition here—that was his position on energy. We heard a lot in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition about debt.
Mr Brad Hazzard:
Do you want a signed copy of the speech?
Mr MORRIS IEMMA:
Order! I call the member for Wakehurst to order.
Mr MORRIS IEMMA:
But there was not one word from the Leader of the Opposition, who feels the State's debt levels are too high, as to which infrastructure projects he would abandon, suspend or put back to reduce the State's debt levels. The Leader of The Nationals has had plenty to say about the budget in coastal areas and rural New South Wales. If he feels that the debt levels are too high—namely for borrowing to build the New South Wales of tomorrow today, borrowing to build economic infrastructure, renewing the electricity network, renewing our ports, improving the capacity of our farmers to get their produce to the ports and into export markets, or the ability of our manufacturers to get their goods to ports and to export markets to earn revenue—he could assist his Leader by going through Budget Paper No. 4 and informing the House in his response to the Budget which of the projects he would abandon.
Order! I call the Leader of The Nationals to order.
Mr MORRIS IEMMA:
We have heard all week about wages. But was a wages policy referred to in the budget-in-reply speech? No, of course not. Not even a starting point. There was nothing about a wages policy. There was nothing about an infrastructure policy. There was nothing about an economic policy for New South Wales. Not surprisingly, given that the Opposition went to the last election with no transport policy, the speech in reply to the budget said nothing about what the Leader of the Opposition would do to build transport for New South Wales. There was, however, something about benchmarking. The Leader of the Opposition has proposed that we set targets and benchmarks and report on the performance of government agencies. What a good idea!
Order! I place the member for Wakehurst on two calls to order.
Mr MORRIS IEMMA:
That is something that agencies have been doing for some time and was pulled together back in 2006 when over 4,000 groups and individuals came together to help the Government develop the State Plan to set targets in 34 key areas of Government. And guess what? We keep it all secret! Yes, it is all updated regularly on the Government website but don't tell anyone! If that was too difficult for the Leader of the Opposition to understand as he raced out of the Chamber on budget day and went up the stairs to Level 8 to collect his budget papers, I remind him that in the packet there was Budget Paper No. 3, in which government agencies report their progress on State targets and what they spend.
We then come to the proposal by the Leader of the Opposition for school and hospital capital works: he will seek submissions from teachers and nurses. The Leader of the Opposition will get the nurses from emergency departments into offices to fill out a submission. There will be $834 million spent this year on hospital redevelopment or new hospitals—$2.3 billion over the next four years—and there will be 31 new school and TAFE college projects totalling $700 million. Yet the best the Leader of the Opposition can come up with is to ask teachers and nurses to fill out a submission.
If the Leader of the Opposition had bothered to read the Budget, he would have discovered one thing: when you build a new hospital you actually improve the working conditions of the staff that work there. That might come as a surprise to him, but it is something that does happen when you spend money on capital works. The teachers and nurses ought not to hold their breath on receiving an outcome from their submissions if the Leader of the Opposition should ever sit on this side of the House.
I now come to how The Leader of the Opposition would pay for the school and hospital car park upgrade. For the benefit of the Leader of The Nationals I advise that he would start by taking $205 million from farmers to pay for that proposal. The Leader of the Opposition discovered an item in the budget of $1.75 billion, which he described as a windfall revenue gain to the State to be hypothecated to the car parks. On examination of that $1.75 billion, $1 billion is from Commonwealth grants, including $205 million for drought assistance. Good work, Barry!
Order! I call the member for Epping to order for the second time.
Mr MORRIS IEMMA:
That is part of the windfall revenue gain the Leader of the Opposition referred to. That pool of funding also includes $168 million from the Commonwealth for public hospitals. The next one is not surprising because, as we heard yesterday, The Nationals will never support water for the environment. The amount also includes $129 million for environmental water flows, which will help restore health to our rivers. That is the windfall gain the Leader of the Opposition talks about. The final amount is $49 million to help combat the equine influenza. The Leader of the Opposition is either too lazy or simply does not care to analyse the budget. That is the windfall gain that he said he would spend on those car parks. It is less than the Government is spending on capital works for hospitals and schools, and it would deny farmers drought assistance, the horse industry equine influenza compensation and environmental flows for our rivers.
Order! I call the member for Hawkesbury to order.
Mr MORRIS IEMMA:
That is the so-called windfall gain referred to by the Leader of the Opposition.
Order! I call the member for Hawkesbury to order for the second time.
Mr MORRIS IEMMA:
Then the Leader of the Opposition spoke about housing and the shared equity scheme. Remember the last time they dabbled in housing? We had to bail out the Home Fund disaster. Far from helping battlers into a home, this scheme would drive prices up, not down. It would boost demand in the housing sector, without a single measure to address the supply issue. On the Opposition's own assumptions, it would cost an estimated $632 million over four years, adding pressure on spending in other areas. The Leader of the Opposition did not mention the measures the Government has taken already to assist families into their first home, such as providing 33,000 additional lots at moderate prices by increasing supply.
Order! I remind the member for Wakehurst that he is on two calls to order.
Mr MORRIS IEMMA:
The biggest impediment to home ownership is the nine interest rate rises, the legacy of John Howard and Peter Costello. I was sure that I had heard about this shared equity scheme before. It struck a chord. Sure enough, the shared equity scheme has been recycled from a proposal in 2006 by the former Leader of the Opposition, the member for Vaucluse, and Malcolm Turnbull. I thank the Opposition for its endorsement of the Government's policy to increase the participation rate at preschools to 95 per cent. While the Leader of the Opposition worked on his magic pudding, the Government commenced its investment in preschool education. By 2011 preschool participation rates will be at 95 per cent, thanks to our current investment plan.
The Department of Community Services, assisted by my colleague the Minister for Community Services, has advised that currently 72,000 children, or 83 per cent of four-year-old children, are receiving a preschool education in New South Wales. If the Opposition had bothered to read the budget, it would have found that we are providing an additional 10,500 children the opportunity to attend preschool two days a week. Whilst the Leader of the Opposition was fixing the photocopier, we were getting on with the job of investing in additional preschool positions. I am advised that the Leader of the Opposition's plan would lead to an oversupply of almost 20,000 places, or preschool spots for 40,000 children who do not exist. The mums and dads across New South Wales better get ready.
FIRST HOME BUYERS SHARED EQUITY SCHEME
Mr ANDREW STONER:
My question is directed to the Premier. Given that young families in New South Wales, including those of teachers, nurses and police, are struggling to build up a deposit to pay for their first home and the Government's budget did not contain anything on housing affordability, will the Premier now support a shared equity scheme for first home buyers to help families get into the property market? If not, what will he do to help working families cope with the cost of living?
Mr MORRIS IEMMA:
Professor Stoner, the master of economics, has asked another ignorant question. First, while the Leader of The Nationals was asleep late last year, he missed the fact that that Minister for Planning, the Treasurer and I announced a reduction in levies in greenfield areas to the tune of $25,000 to $30,000 in order to reduce the cost on families wanting to get into their first home. I repeat: a $25,000 to $30,000 tax cut in greenfield areas. In new land releases, the Government took the decision to reduce the cost on young families buying their first home.
Order! I call the member for Hawkesbury to order for the third time.
Mr MORRIS IEMMA:
Second, the Government abolished stamp duty for first home buyers—a tax cut of $500 million. Third, when it comes to mortgage duties, I could not offer assistance in this budget or even less in last year's budget because, while the Leader of The Nationals was asleep, the Government got rid of mortgage duty for owner-occupiers. Fourth, for families who want to invest in addition to the home they occupy, we started abolishing duty on that property to stimulate investment in the housing market. As to the fifth measure, we brought the land tax rate down from 1.7 per cent to 1.6 per cent and raised the threshold for those families who want to invest. Given that the Leader of The Nationals was asleep through all of that, he may have been awake when I announced together with the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Ms Clover Moore, a joint venture between the Department of Housing and City of Sydney Council to provide 1,000 affordable housing places in and around the inner city of Sydney. That is in addition to a four-year investment, presided over by the Minister for Housing, of 2,500 homes for battlers. The number in this year's budget, from memory, is 1,200, if the Leader of The Nationals had bothered to read it.
LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES
Ms DIANE BEAMER:
My question is addressed to the Minister for Police. Will the Minister update the House on the Government's latest initiatives to deliver strong scrutiny and accountability of our law enforcement agencies?
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
I thank the member for Mulgoa for her question and note her interest in this important area of public policy. The New South Wales Crime Commission plays an essential role in keeping New South Wales safe by fighting serious organised crime. As Minister for Police I want to ensure that the highest levels of integrity and oversight are in place for the Crime Commission to remain strong into the future. I can advise the House that the Government is going to take the important step of installing the Police Integrity Commission as the oversight body for the New South Wales Crime Commission.
The Police Integrity Commission, which scrutinises the work of the New South Wales Police Force and has the powers of a standing royal commission, will now be the authority that watches over the activities of the New South Wales Crime Commission. The Government will act immediately to make that happen, and this will not diminish the oversight role of the ICAC, which remains fundamental to ensuring the necessary checks and balances are in place for government agencies. This landmark move will mean that all New South Wales crime-fighting agencies are now overseen by the Police Integrity Commission, which reflects the position at the Commonwealth level. Our law enforcement agencies must be subject to the highest standards of integrity and accountability.
The Government is securing the future of the New South Wales Crime Commission so it can continue to be as strong as ever and continue to strike fear into the most hardened criminal bosses at the State, national and international level. The great work of the Crime Commission includes: last financial year making 445 arrests and laying 2,482 charges for a range of serious crime; confiscating more than $140 million in criminal assets since 1990; taking away mansions, exotic cars and luxury boats from drug dealers and gun smugglers; and freezing other assets—hitting criminals where it hurts. That is outstanding work. However, the scrutiny of any law enforcement agency, as always, is welcomed by the New South Wales Government.
I make it clear: scrutiny of the New South Wales Crime Commission arose because of a major win for the good guys—the smashing of what police allege is a multi-million-dollar international crime syndicate. It is the culmination of more than one year's work by the Federal police, with the full cooperation of the New South Wales Crime Commission. It must have come as a shock for those hardworking men and women of the Crime Commission that one of their own had been the target of that covert operation. Officers from the Australian Federal Police and the Crime Commission must be congratulated on their outstanding efforts in that operation, in what one can only imagine were most trying circumstances—with one of the main targets of the operation working behind a desk not only in the same organisation but also in the same building and on the same floor.
According to the Australian Federal Police, that operation would not have been possible without the efforts of the New South Wales Crime Commission. Now, even though there is no evidence to date of the involvement by any other New South Wales law enforcement official, the community deserves to be reassured about the integrity of that investigation, in which the Crime Commission was involved. That is why the activities of the Crime Commission's assistant director at the centre of these allegations have been referred to the ICAC by the head of the Crime Commission, Phillip Bradley; and why, as Chair of the Crime Commission Management Committee I have asked the ICAC to review the internal processes of the Crime Commission to ensure its corruption resistance is at an optimum following a decision of the committee in December 2007.
We need to ensure that past cases involving the accused, Mark Standen, are properly scrutinised. It is what the public expects; it is what I expect. The crime authorities in New South Wales can be assured that the New South Wales Government will continue to supply them with the resources, support and tough powers they need to keep the community safe and put dangerous criminals behind bars. The New South Wales Government thanks the New South Wales Crime Commission for the great work it does. Serious criminals can be sure that they remain in the sights of that elite crime-fighting body.
I welcome to the gallery the Deputy Mayor of Goulburn Mulwaree Council, Ken Sullivan, and his wife, Jenny, guests of the member for Gosford.
HOSPITAL AND SCHOOL WORKING CONDITIONS
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER:
I direct my question to the Premier. With scared nurses giving secret evidence about inadequate resources affecting their ability to do their jobs, will the Premier do more than pay lip service to nurses and highly committed teachers by supporting the Coalition's policy to use unfunded tax windfalls to improve working conditions in our hospitals and schools?
Mr MORRIS IEMMA:
I note that the shadow Minister made the point that evidence was given at the special commission of inquiry. In response to the question, first, there is no place for bullying or harassment in the workplace at all and, secondly, it is entirely appropriate that the commissioner would take that evidence. The Government supports the commission and the commissioner in all their efforts to support those staff.
WORLD YOUTH DAY 2008
Mr NINOS KHOSHABA:
My question is addressed to the Minister for Ageing and Disability Services. Will the Minister update the House on preparations for World Youth Day?
Order! The member for Terrigal will contain himself.
Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY:
The member for Smithfield, along with many members, is looking forward to World Youth Day. It is just 40 days until World Youth Day comes to Sydney, when Sydney will host the widest event on the globe this year outside of the Olympics. World Youth Day has attracted 40,000 registered attendees from within Sydney, 60,000 domestic visitors from outside Sydney and 125,000 visitors from around the world, including the United States of America, Asia and Europe. I am pleased to update the House on some of the latest measures that the Iemma Government has put in place to stage this great event.
Yesterday we announced that the Iemma Government, along with Tourism New South Wales and the Australian Hotels Association, has launched a range of great hotel deals for people who want to attend World Youth Day, as well as up to 300,000 Sydneysiders who are expected to attend World Youth Day events. The more people who choose to stay in the central business district for World Youth Day events the better—they will get the full experience of the happy buzz of the world's young people in our city and have easier walking access to events such as the Pope's arrival on Sydney Harbour and the Stations of the Cross.
We encourage the public attending the events to consider staying in the central business district. Information about great deals is available on the www.Sydney.com
website. Today I advise the House that $10 million worth of work funded by the New South Wales and Federal governments has been completed at Warwick Farm and Rosehill Gardens racecourses. As part of the preparation of the venue for World Youth Day, all horses currently in training at Royal Randwick Racecourse—approximately 620 in total—will be vacated by 15 June 2008. At Rosehill, the Sydney Turf Club is in the process of constructing permanent stables, which will increase capacity for 100 horses both throughout and after the World Youth Day events.
The majority of the horses are moving to Warwick Farm, where they will enjoy new and improved facilities including 408 new stables, an underground equine tunnel, and an all-weather synthetic training track. Together with the horses that already train at Warwick Farm, once the Randwick horses arrive there will be up to 1,000 horses training at the venue for the 10-week relocation period. With increased capacity, improved safety and a more reliable and efficient synthetic training surface, Warwick Farm will be perhaps Australia's training facility of excellence. The Government's contribution reflects our commitment to both the 2008 Spring Carnival and a successful World Youth Day. World Youth Day will be a great event for many Sydneysiders, Australians, and even the Pope. He will see or visit many of Sydney's best-known buildings and precincts while the accompanying media beams our city around the world.
World Youth Day is going to be a huge event. It is worth reminding the House of the changes that will be put in place. There will be 300 road closures and 500 special event clearways. There will be four peak-hour services on the rail network and changes to more than a quarter of the bus services. Crowd management and emergency services are well advanced and the security arrangements surrounding the Pope's itinerary will be at their usual and expected high standard. A community information line has been established to handle individual, resident or business concerns about the road and transport changes: 1300 360 933.
Extensive information is also available on the websites of RailCorp, the Roads and Traffic Authority and the World Youth Day Coordinating Authority, as well as by calling the Transport Infoline on 131 500. Sydney hosts global events such as World Youth Day because we are a great host city. In fact, we are a brilliant global city and we host these events because we are good at planning them and staging them. Our construction projects at Warwick Farm and Rosehill and the hotel deals we have online now are just part of the effort that has gone into making this a great event.
Order! I call the member for Clarence to order. I call the member for Cessnock to order.
MR MARK STANDEN ALLEGATIONS: INDEPENDENT COMMISSION AGAINST CORRUPTION REFERRAL
Mr GREG SMITH:
My question is to the Minister for Police. In light of the Minister's statement after Mark Standen's arrest on 3 June 2008 in which he said, "The allegations against this individual have been referred to the ICAC", and in light of what the Minister said today about it being referred by the commissioner, Mr Bradley, and that that investigation has had the full cooperation of the Crime Commission, which has been going for a year, when was this matter involving Mr Standen referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption?
Order! The question was too long but I will allow it. I ask members to keep their questions concise. I call the Minister for Housing to order. I call the member for Cessnock to order for the second time.
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
I understand that the Commissioner of the New South Wales Crime Commission referred these concerns and allegations to ICAC in September last year.
RETAIL REGULATORY REFORM
Ms LYLEA McMAHON:
My question is to the Minister for Small Business and Regulatory Reform. Will the Minister update the House on the Iemma Government's plans to cut red tape for retailers in New South Wales?
Mr JOSEPH TRIPODI:
Not many people realise that the regulation governing when shops can and cannot open is quite strict in New South Wales.
Order! I call the member for Ballina to order.
Mr JOSEPH TRIPODI:
Currently the Shops and Industries Act 1962 prohibits shops trading on Sundays. It also prohibits trading on New Year's Day, Australia Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Anzac Day, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. However, through an involved system of exclusions and exemptions New South Wales has a relatively deregulated retail trade. In recent times shops in New South Wales have been opening on Sundays and many public holidays because they have been granted extensions.
The Iemma Government is committed to making the lives of working mums and dads easier by opening up Sunday shopping. What was originally simply a convenience for weekend shoppers has now become an essential service for working mums and dads who need to provide for their families. Consumers now expect and need to be able to shop over long weekends and holiday periods. In line with these needs and demands of consumers the Government has been providing exemptions to many businesses across New South Wales so shops can legally open their doors on Sundays and some public holidays. Exemptions have been provided for small shops, specific kinds of shops, individual businesses, holiday resort areas and other specific geographical areas. This patchwork of exemptions has become messy and confusing and applying for an exemption can also be costly.
The legislative requirements around public holidays are also outdated and confusing. The legislation currently require shops to close on the day observed as a public holiday, usually the following Monday, rather than the day itself. This means that every year Christmas and Boxing Day fall on a weekend the Government must enact amending legislation to ensure shops close on the actual Christmas Day and Boxing Day but can open on the Monday and Tuesday. This uncertainty is frustrating and costly for retailers. One major national retailing chain has indicated that managing the staffing and other administrative issues around opening on public holidays can cost up to $10,000 per holiday. This is in addition to advertising expenses of up to $50,000 to inform the community of the new opening hours.
The Government requested its Better Regulation Office to examine trading hours as a targeted red tape review. The review was prompted by a recommendation from the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal [IPART] in its investigation into the burden of regulation and improving regulatory efficiency, which reported to the Government. The Better Regulation Office's report is now complete and recommends a number of measures to cut red tape out of the system and make the regulation of shop trading hours clear, simple and reflective of contemporary community expectations.
The review found there is still a case for some regulation of shop trading hours. Retail workers need time off to spend with their family and friends on certain days of cultural significance. Submissions to the review from retailers indicated shop owners also appreciate shops should close on certain days of the year. That is why these reforms will maintain Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and the morning of Anzac Day as prohibited trading days. This amounts to four and a half days a year.
The review recommends a number of reforms that will make the legislation work effectively and cut red tape for retailers. Restrictions on some public holidays, such as New Year's Day and Australia Day, and restrictions to trade on Sundays, will be completely removed. The process for providing extensions to allow a shop to open on prohibited days will be streamlined into a single power of the director general with transparent criteria set out in the Act. While this Government is keen to provide for the needs of working families, we will also protect the rights of retail workers. Any exemption granted from now on will be on the proviso that staff working on a prohibited day in a shop that has been exempted will only do so voluntarily. This is a new industrial right secured through consultation with the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Union for its members and all hard-working retail employees.
This provision will provide an extra level of worker protection. Penalties for shops that unlawfully trade on prohibited days will be increased to $10,000 for a first offence. This is a significant red tape reform. Red tape reform is never easy. The challenge is to maintain appropriate protections while imposing the least possible burden, which I believe we have achieved with this package. Regulatory reforms such as this demonstrate the Iemma Government is delivering on its promise to ensure New South Wales is open for business. Our recent budget was endorsed by the New South Wales business community, in particular the $3.6 billion in tax cuts such as payroll tax, and massive infrastructure spending. These trading hours reforms complement a business friendly budget. I thank the Better Regulation Office for its work on a tough but necessary reform. I also want to thank the Australian National Retailers Association and the Shopping Centre Council for their endorsement of this package and reform.
STATE WATER SERVICES, FORBES
Mrs DAWN FARDELL:
My question is to the Minister for Water Utilities. I have been advised by the mayor of Forbes that State Water will be closing its services in Forbes, forcing users to travel to Dubbo or Deniliquin. Will the Minister confirm that State Water will continue to maintain its presence and remain in Forbes?
Mr NATHAN REES:
I thank the member for her question and her tireless advocacy for the people of Forbes and those communities.
Order! I call the member for Bathurst to order. Members will cease interjecting.
Mr NATHAN REES:
I thought this might be of some interest to Nationals members. As members will know, I am the portfolio Minister for the State-owned corporation State Water and it would not be appropriate for me to interfere with its commercial operations. However, this issue was raised at the Shires Association conference yesterday and I can assure the member that State Water will maintain a presence in Forbes.
Mr RICHARD AMERY:
My question is to the Minister for Fair Trading. Will the Minister update the House on what action the Government is taking to assist consumers affected by the collapse of Beechwood Homes?
Ms LINDA BURNEY:
I am profoundly aware of the stress that Beechwood home owners are experiencing while they await a resolution to this situation, particularly in this worsening weather. Beechwood's collapse on 13 May affected around 350 families whose homes are in various stages of construction in Sydney, the Hunter and the South Coast. A further 580 people paid Beechwood to draw up plans and lodge them with council. Tradespeople, suppliers and employees are among the other victims of this collapse. In fact, just before I came into the Chamber I was advised that a number of Beechwood employees might well receive termination notices today.
This terrible news for the staff and their families underlines the personal toll incurred when a major company such as this folds. I understand that more information about this issue will be available later today from the receiver. I will update the House on progress for the homeowners affected by this collapse. Since 13 May the Office of Fair Trading has been in frequent contact with the administrator, Armstrong Wily, the receivers and managers, Chris Campbell and David Lombe of Deloitte, and the insurer, Vero. I am receiving daily updates and I have regular meetings with all relevant parties. The Office of Fair Trading is doing everything in its power to protect the interests of homeowners.
Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
Ms LINDA BURNEY:
While Fair Trading has no capacity to step inside a company in receivership, in my capacity as Minister we are asking the receiver to work as quickly as possible to achieve a positive outcome for all, including suppliers, tradespeople and employees. To date, more than 320 people have approached Fair Trading for advice about the Home Warranty Insurance Scheme and how the process will unfold in getting their homes completed. As I have said, this is a difficult and stressful time, but a process is underway and it is crucial that we let it run its course. We must also be methodical. The receiver is endeavouring to find a buyer, or buyers, to take over the building contracts. Expressions of interest were due on 23 May. There was considerable interest and a number of expressions of interest were accepted after the due date. Deloitte is working through the due diligence process as quickly as possible.
Order! There is still too much audible conversation in the Chamber. This is a very important matter.
Ms LINDA BURNEY:
As I said earlier, expressions of interest were due on 23 May. Regardless of the outcome of that process, customers should immediately lodge an insurance claim with Vero. This will avoid delays should consumers need to fall back on their insurance. The current version of the Home Warranty Insurance Scheme was established in 2002. In recent weeks much of the criticism of the scheme has been ill informed and unhelpful. If a builder becomes insolvent consumers can recover their deposit, complete construction of a half-built home, or rectify defective work. Last night I met with senior representatives of the insurer Vero. They have written to Beechwood homeowners who have been in contact providing them with a claim form and a letter explaining what they should do. Claim forms are coming in at around 20 to 30 each day.
Homeowners who are worried about the potential for exposed building sites to be damaged have been advised by Vero that it will work with the receiver to gain access to sites so that adequate protection can be provided. Vero is also working with the receiver to complete a number of homes that are almost finished. This morning the receiver advised me that work has already resumed on 10 properties. I am advised that some families will move into their new homes by the end of the week.
I also advise the House that I have written to the Chairman of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission [ASIC] and suggested that the Beechwood collapse warrants further investigation. In particular, I have drawn the attention of ASIC to information that has recently come to light that one of the directors of the Beechwood companies ceased to be a director only two weeks prior to the collapse. Fair Trading has moved to prohibit Mr Larry King, Beechwood's owner, from being granted a further licence for three years. Once we receive the report from the administrator and receiver Fair Trading will determine whether further disciplinary action should be taken against Mr King and former directors. This situation has a way to go before it is resolved, but progress is being made. I am monitoring the situation on a day-to-day basis. I assure all affected parties that the Iemma Government will do, and is doing, everything it can to assist them through a very difficult time.
Question time concluded.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Notices of Motions
Government Business Notices of Motions (for Bills) given, by leave.
Pyrmont to Town Hall Bus Service
Petition requesting a 10-minute bus service between Pyrmont foreshore via Broadway to Town Hall, received from Ms Clover Moore
Edgecliff Interchange Upgrade
Petition requesting the upgrading of Edgecliff interchange, received from Ms Clover Moore
CountryLink Pensioner Booking Fee
Petition requesting the removal of booking fees charged to pensioners on CountryLink services, received from Mrs Shelley Hancock
Pensioner Excursion Bus Tickets
Petition requesting that South Coast pensioners be able to access the $2.50 pensioner excursion ticket for bus travel, received from Mrs Shelley Hancock
South Coast Rail Services
Petition opposing any reduction in rail services on the South Coast, received from Mrs Shelley Hancock
Hawkesbury River Railway Station Access
Petition requesting improved access to Hawkesbury River railway station, received from Mrs Judy Hopwood
Public Library Funding
Petition requesting increased funding for public libraries, received from Mr Daryl Maguire
Merimbula Town Centre
Petition requesting support for the council's strategy to limit the size of retail shops in Merimbula's town centre to 1,000 square metres, received from Mr Andrew Constance
Tathra River Estate
Petition opposing the proposed development of 300 lots in the Tathra River Estate, received from Mr Andrew Constance
Tumut Renal Dialysis Service
Petition praying that the House support the establishment of a satellite renal dialysis service in Tumut, received from Mr Daryl Maguire
Hornsby Area Haemodialysis
Petition asking that a public haemodialysis centre be established in the Hornsby area, received from Mrs Judy Hopwood
Shoalhaven Mental Health Services
Petition requesting funding for the establishment of a dedicated mental health service in the Shoalhaven, received from Mrs Shelley Hancock
Petition requesting increased police numbers in the Culburra area, received from Mrs Shelley Hancock
Falls Creek Traffic Arrangements
Petition requesting consultation with residents concerning the intersection of the Princes Highway and Parma Road, Falls Creek, received from Mrs Shelley Hancock
Petition opposing any driving regulation changes that will be detrimental to senior drivers, received from Mrs Shelley Hancock
Petition opposing the sale of animals in pet shops, received from Ms Clover Moore
Petition requesting a total ban on sow stalls, received from Ms Clover Moore
Drought Relief Worker Job Protection
Petition requesting that the jobs of drought relief workers be protected, received from Mr Greg Aplin
Queensland Fruit Fly Eradication
Petition requesting funding for local councils to conduct fruit fly eradication programs in the Albury electorate, received from Mr Greg Aplin
Shoalhaven City Council Rate Structure
Petition opposing a 27 per cent rate increase proposed by Shoalhaven City Council, received from Mrs Shelley Hancock
CONSIDERATION OF MOTIONS TO BE ACCORDED PRIORITY
Illawarra Budget Allocations
Mr PAUL McLEAY
(Heathcote) [3.06 p.m.]: My motion should have priority because this year's allocation of $423 million for the Illawarra is a major commitment to local infrastructure projects. Last year's $455 million record level of investment reflected a significant capital spend at Port Kembla, which has now become Australia's leading car import centre and a major driver of our local economy. This year's budget shows an increase of more than 78 per cent, or $134 million, compared with the allocation for the Illawarra four years ago.
Once again the Illawarra has received its fair share in the Iemma Government's third budget. This investment will build new roads, increase energy capacity, secure water supplies, and provide vital health education and transport infrastructure. It will deliver significant capital works to the Illawarra that will benefit residents for years to come—projects such as the upgrade of the Princes Highway to dual carriageway between Oak Flats and Dunmore and the Northern Distributor extension from Bellambi Lane to the Princes Highway at Bulli, and $6 million to start work on the Princes Highway-Lawrence Hargrave Drive intersection upgrade, which will be welcomed by residents in the northern suburbs of Wollongong.
A further $11 million will be spent upgrading Port Kembla as it gears up to become the State's car importing hub. Health will benefit from $1.7 billion in funding for the South Eastern Sydney Illawarra Area Health Service—$76 million more than the figure for last year. We have a commitment to the region's growing energy needs, we are investing in nurses and teachers, and we are providing more police and new technology in local schools. This investment will enable us to get on with the job of improving local services and infrastructure.
Mr ANDREW STONER
(Oxley—Leader of The Nationals) [3.08 p.m.]: My motion, which is all about a fair share for country and coastal New South Wales in the budget process, should be given priority. This is the most Sydney-centric Labor budget in a decade, and that is really saying something. The two major planks of the Iemma-Costa budget have been borrowings for infrastructure and these much-vaunted tax cuts, which are only payroll tax cuts. Neither of those cuts are of much benefit whatsoever to country and coastal communities. Most of the infrastructure budgeted for in this State budget is Sydney transport infrastructure such as the North West Metro, which will cost over $12 billion. I do not dispute that this infrastructure is needed in Sydney, but why is it needed? For 13 years this Sydney-centric Labor Government has failed to plan and invest for growth in country and coastal New South Wales. That is why we have population pressures, traffic congestion almost 24/7 in Sydney and a transport network that looks like a bowl of spaghetti and does not work. There is no integrated transport plan.
All of these problems are of the Government's own making. They are problems in Sydney because the Government has failed to encourage growth, decentralisation and regional development for the rest of New South Wales. This motion deserves debate because we have a vicious cycle under Labor: more people in Sydney and more money needing to be spent in Sydney. More people are coming into Sydney because more money is being spent in Sydney. Now Mr Rudd wants to put another million immigrants into the Sydney Basin. The vicious cycle will not improve whilst ever we have Labor at the State and Federal levels. Instead of breaking the vicious cycle, over the past decade or so Labor has cut back on funding for regional development and primary industries. It has centralised jobs from regions such as the Riverina, the Murrumbidgee and every other part of regional and rural New South Wales into the city. Labor has centralised everything and has failed to invest in regional and rural infrastructure. It cut back on funding for Country Week.
Order! The member for Monaro will cease interjecting.
Mr ANDREW STONER:
Country Week is a great scheme: it encourages people to get out of the city and to create an economy and jobs in regional and rural New South Wales. What does Labor do? It cuts funding to Country Week. The problem gets worse under this mob. The only significant exception in this budget has been funding for the Pacific Highway, due only to the strong and united efforts of The Nationals over many years. We do not count that allocation in this year's budget and beyond as any sort of big victory because the reparation works on the Pacific Highway should have been completed two years ago. The Government said the project would be finished two years ago: it is not and people still are dying on that road due to the Government's mismanagement, cost blowouts and delays for project after project. This motion should be debated today because country and coastal people are not getting their fair share. But they will be getting their share of the interest bill for the Government's big credit card debt that it is running up.
Order! I call the member for Monaro to order.
Mr ANDREW STONER:
The Government is maxing out the plastic. Country people did not begrudge paying part of the cost of the 2000 Olympics for the wonderful infrastructure in Sydney.
Ms Katrina Hodgkinson:
Bob Carr said we would get the money back.
Mr ANDREW STONER:
Bob Carr did say we would get the money back. Guess what? We never did. Labor did not worry too much about that, but once again country people will be asked to pay for infrastructure in Sydney and, worse still, an ongoing interest liability as a result. This motion deserves to be debated. Is it any wonder this Government lost the seats of Murray-Darling, Tweed and Port Stephens at the last election? I predict that that pattern will continue because country people are fed up to their back teeth. I predict that Monaro, Bathurst and Cessnock are the next electorates in line that Labor will lose because country people have simply had enough. This budget magnifies the palpable anger in regional and rural areas because this State Government treats them with contempt. An opportunity for change was provided by the Regional and Rural Task Force report, but the Government blew it.
Order! The member for Parramatta will remain silent. The member for Heathcote will remain silent.
Question—That the motion of the member for Heathcote be accorded priority—put.
The House divided.
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr J. D. Williams
Mr R. C. Williams
Question resolved in the affirmative.
|Ms Burton||Mr Hartcher|
|Mr Gibson||Mr Stokes|
ILLAWARRA BUDGET ALLOCATIONS
Motion Accorded Priority
Mr PAUL McLEAY
(Heathcote) [3.21 p.m.]: I move:
1. congratulates the Iemma Government on investing more than $423 million in the Illawarra to deliver improved services and invest in infrastructure;
2. applauds the Government for increasing the budget for the Illawarra by more than 78 per cent, or $134 million; and
3. congratulates the Premier on introducing a cut to payroll tax which will help create investment and more jobs in the Illawarra.
More than $423 million will be invested in the Illawarra to build new roads, increase energy capacity, secure water supplies and provide vital health, education and transport infrastructure. The Illawarra has won a healthy share of the Iemma Government's third budget. In the last four years the budget for the Illawarra has increased by more than 78 per cent, or $134 million. The Government's third budget delivers significant capital works programs to the Illawarra that will benefit residents for years to come. The Minister for Police, and Minister for the Illawarra and member for Keira, Dave Campbell, the member for Shellharbour, Lylea McMahon, the Minister for Housing, and Minister for Tourism and member for Kiama, Matt Brown, and the member for Wollongong, Noreen Hay, have been working hard to ensure that the Illawarra region receives a healthy share of the State's record $13.9 billion capital works and roads maintenance budget.
The budget includes $132 million that will be spent on maintaining and building new roads, with the majority of funds, $92 million, going towards major road infrastructure projects, such as the Princes Highway upgrade to dual carriageways between Oak Flats and Dunmore and the Northern Distributor Extension from Bellambi Lane to the Princes Highway at Bulli. In addition, $11 million will be spent on upgrading Port Kembla as it gears up to become the State's car importation hub. People living in the Illawarra will benefit from $1.79 billion in funding for the South Eastern Sydney Illawarra Area Health Service, which has been allocated $76 million more than last year.
The Iemma Government's commitment to securing the State's electricity supply has increased by 30 per cent this year to a massive $3.5 billion. The Illawarra's growing energy needs will continue to be served with a $73.4 million capital works program to upgrade and increase the capacity of substations. The Iemma Government is also spending large amounts on key services, such as funding for nurses and teachers, more police and new technology in schools. Spending in 2008-09 will include the following roads projects: a $45 million Princes Highway upgrade from Oak Flats to Dunmore; a $33 million Northern Distributor extension from Bellambi Lane to the Princes Highway at Bulli; $6 million to commence work on the Princes Highway and Lawrence Hargrave Drive intersection upgrade; $4 million for completion of the $14 million Kiama ramps project; and $4 million to continue planning for the Princes Highway upgrade from Gerringong to Bomaderry.
Budget allocations for education in the Illawarra include a new upgrade at the Nowra TAFE to replace accommodation for Aboriginal studies and electro-technology, upgrades to toilets at Warrawong Public School and a new library for Bargo Public School. Helensburgh Public School will have $2.4 million spent on upgrades, creating 60 jobs. Budget allocations for health care and facilities include $3.2 million for the construction of a child and adolescent inpatient unit and a child and adolescent inpatient day unit at the Shellharbour Hospital; $1 million for completion of the hospital's new $6.6 million 20-bed mental health unit; $1 million for equipment for Wollongong Hospital's operating theatres; $1.8 million for continuing the work on the Wollongong Psychiatric Emergency Care Centre; and $577,000 for the completion of the Illawarra Older Persons Mental Health Unit at Wollongong Hospital.
Budget allocations for water resources include $18 million to install remote control and monitoring systems for water and wastewater infrastructure assets throughout the Illawarra and $18 million to upgrade Tallowa Dam on the Shoalhaven River. The allocations will improve environmental flow releases, protect threatened native fish species and will include $1.2 million for new sewerage systems in Kangaroo Valley and at Robertson. Other infrastructure projects include $15.5 million for the construction of new public and community homes, crisis accommodation and improvements to existing stock; $5 million towards the construction of the $17 million Lake Illawarra police station; $700,000 to upgrade the walking tracks from Sublime Point to Austinmer, Forrest Walk and Bulli Tops; and $78,000 to upgrade Garie Beach Surf Safety Centre, including the provision of a solar power system and a kiosk fit-out.
The Iemma Government is delivering to the people of New South Wales by providing better services and by investing heavily in new infrastructure. I will focus on some of the budget allocations that specifically relate to the Heathcote electorate by beginning at the top with improvements at Garie Valley. Improvements there follow a $3 million investment in Garie Valley on a new surf safety centre. The funding will be used to install solar power panels and provide a kiosk fit-out. The Garie Beach Surf Safety Centre has done a magnificent job of protecting the lives and safety of visitors to Garie Beach—a unique place within Royal National Park that receives approximately two million visitors every year. As tourists drive down the coast highway before they get to the Seacliff Bridge they will see the new Helensburgh Public School, featuring the new hall and covered outdoor learning area and kiosk that was built last year. Several hundred thousand dollars will be spent to provide new teachers' facilities, administration facilities and classrooms at the Helensburgh Public School.
When tourists arrive at the crest of Bulli Tops they will find magnificent walking tracks. Over time, people will be able to walk from Bundeena all the way to Dapto along an unbroken chain of walking tracks through national parks. I look forward to the day I join the member for Lismore on a walk. The area has been allocated $700,000 this year. At the bottom of Lawrence Hargrave Drive people will be able to see the results of the $4 million that has been allocated to construct the massive significant flyover at the intersection of Bulli Pass and Lawrence Hargrave Drive. Many people, after they have driven across the $49 million Seacliff Bridge, arrive at Bulli Pass to find significant congestion, particularly on Sundays and during peak hours. The Government has resolved the problem with a dramatic flyover structure that will take into account local sensitivities.
Given that the Leader of the Opposition failed to mention the Illawarra during his reply to the Treasurer's Budget Speech today, members of the House who represent the Illawarra region's electorates are pleased to support the Illawarra region.
Mrs SHELLEY HANCOCK
(South Coast) [3.28 p.m.]: What a very sombre dissertation from the member for Heathcote! One would have thought that with the record budget announcements to talk about he would have spoken with more passion and excitement to show how pleased he is. The truth is that we are debating a desperate motion from the desperate Illawarra members of Parliament who have been trashed in the media over the past two days because of cuts in the budget that will affect the Illawarra. That is the truth of the matter.
There are only three members who represent electorates in the Illawarra who are presently in the Chamber. The Minister for Police, and Minister for the Illawarra and member for Keira and the member for Wollongong have scuttled away because their counterparts on the other side of the Chamber know they have been deeply shamed, embarrassed and humiliated by a Government that has taken Illawarra members for granted by delivering very little for their region. Government members representing the Illawarra are sitting very quietly at the moment. Where is the member for Kiama? Instead of joining the member for Heathcote in listing all the wonderful things that the Government has done for the Illawarra, he scurried from the Chamber. I suppose he is too busy amending his pecuniary interest returns. So many clerical errors—five in respect of his 14 properties—from a mathematician! I suppose he is fixing those errors now.
Ms Tanya Gadiel:
Point of order: The member for South Coast is clearly making derogatory comments about another member of the House. I ask that you draw her back to the leave of the motion.
Order! The member for South Coast knows that attacks on other members must be made by substantive motion.
Mrs SHELLEY HANCOCK:
I was not making derogatory comments; I was stating facts. The matter is the subject of an investigation ordered by the Speaker. The member for Kiama is not here because he is not at all excited about the budgetary allocations for his part of the world. The Kiama off-ramps to which the member for Heathcote referred were promised two or three years ago and are still not completed. The member for Kiama, who is a Minister of the Crown, cannot get even that small project done. Yes, the budget allocates planning money for Gerringong to Bomaderry, but the member for Kiama cannot decide on the route. He will not meet with the community of Berry to decide on an appropriate route. Well done to the member for Kiama, who as we speak is making corrections to his pecuniary interest returns!
The member for Heathcote made a very sombre, quiet contribution—and no wonder. I expected him to be extremely excited because I was looking forward to an announcement about the F6 extension. But the member for Heathcote has been scuttled because of a dummy spit by the member for Miranda, who jumped to the left and then back to the right—God knows where he is now! The member for Miranda stopped the project even though the member for Heathcote knows that his constituents and those in areas south to my electorate and to the border would be very pleased to see the F6 extended. What has the media said about that issue in the past two days? They think it is shameful that the budget did not mention the F6 extension. The member for Wollongong appears to have left the Chamber—she is embarrassed about the budget. The member has heard the media reports.
Ms Tanya Gadiel:
The member for Wollongong picked up a piece of paper and is clearly consulting an officer. I ask the member for South Coast to withdraw that comment. She is trying to make the member for Wollongong look bad.
Mrs SHELLEY HANCOCK:
That's not a point of order.
Ms Tanya Gadiel:
You know exactly what you are doing. Withdraw!
Mrs SHELLEY HANCOCK:
I have nothing to withdraw, Mr Deputy-Speaker.
Order! I cannot force the member for South Coast to withdraw the remark. The member will confine her remarks to the motion, which is about infrastructure projects on the South Coast.
Mrs SHELLEY HANCOCK:
That is exactly what I am doing: I am talking about the F6 extension. The member for Shellharbour is a new member of this place and I am sure that she, in her own naive way, is very excited about the budget. I am certain that she has caught up with the budget announcements for her electorate. But did she hear anything about the West Dapto transport link? No. Is the member for Shellharbour aware of the problems in that area? Of course she is, because her office is right there. The truth of the matter is that the Federal members of Parliament from the Illawarra are aware of the issues. Sharon Bird and Jennie George, although Labor members, are working hard. The people of Wollongong know very well who is not. The member for Wollongong, the member for Kiama and the member for Keira are not working hard for their communities; they are more concerned about rank corruption in Wollongong. They are fighting to stop the unions overtaking them.
Ms Noreen Hay:
Point of order—
Order! The member for Wollongong rises on a point of order.
Mrs SHELLEY HANCOCK:
Instead of working for infrastructure in Wollongong—
Order! The member for South Coast will resume her seat.
Ms Noreen Hay:
Point of order—
Order! I will hear the point of order of the member for Wollongong in a moment. When a member rises on a point of order the member with the call should resume her seat. She should not have to be asked to do so several times. I will now hear the point of order of the member for Wollongong.
Ms Noreen Hay:
The member for South Coast is being disorderly. She is spraying allegations—
Order! What is the point of order?
Ms Noreen Hay:
The member for South Coast is misleading the House.
Order! There is no point of order. I have already reminded the member for South Coast that she should not make attacks on other members except by substantive motion.
Mrs SHELLEY HANCOCK:
Of course I would not attack other members of the House. I was simply saying that the two Federal members of Parliament from the Illawarra, Sharon Bird and Jennie George, are working extremely hard for their electorates—unlike the five State members who represent electorates in the Illawarra. This is a pathetic motion. The Illawarra is not receiving a 78 per cent increase over one year as the motion suggests, but a 78 per cent increase over four years. Get it right! Those opposite could not come up with the correct wording because they are embarrassed about the budget and about the media coverage that they have been copping in the past two days on ABC Illawarra and 2ST, and in the Illawarra Mercury
and every other newspaper. Why? It is because their Government takes them for granted. Members opposite are not working hard enough to deliver for their electorates—in fact, they are not working at all to deliver for their electorates. If anything, it is the Federal members who are working hard. [Time expired
Ms NOREEN HAY
(Wollongong—Parliamentary Secretary) [3.35 p.m.]: It is interesting to note that the member for South Coast had absolutely nothing good to say about the member for Gilmore, Joanna Gash. It is understandable that the member for South Coast would sing the praises of Federal Labor members. She would probably have more to say if she did any work in her electorate. But she is too busy hanging out at secret meetings in other member's electorates. That is why she can talk about everything except the making of obnoxious and offensive videos in her electorate.
I welcome the Iemma Government's third budget, which sees a massive injection of funds to improve local infrastructure and services across the State—including the electorate of Wollongong, which I am extremely proud to represent in this place. People should not bad mouth particular areas. Very good people live in the electorate of Wollongong, and they get good parliamentary representation from members of the Australian Labor Party. I was particularly pleased to see investment of more than $11 million to expand Port Kembla, as it gears up to become the State's car importing hub. I commend the Minister for Ports and Waterways for making a special effort to visit Port Kembla fairly regularly in the past few months. This is a huge show of confidence in our port by the Iemma Government. Investing in infrastructure in Port Kembla means local jobs—the member for South Coast might like to hear some ideas for creating jobs. Indeed, 1000 jobs will be created when car importing operations have relocated fully.
Local health services will receive a boost, with a $1 million investment in new equipment at Wollongong Hospital's operating theatres. More than half a million dollars has been allocated to the Illawarra Older Persons Mental Health Unit. There will be four new beds at the Medical Assessment Unit at Wollongong Hospital and one additional intensive care bed. The Government has also provided $1.8 million for continuing the work on the Wollongong Psychiatric Emergency Care Centre. The Iemma Government is making unprecedented investments in mental health services, and I commend the Premier for that initiative.
I remind the House that before the last State election the member for Terrigal made it quite clear that a Coalition government would ensure that no cars were imported through Port Kembla. I congratulate the Government on its commitment to funding four clinical nurse educators and an additional midwife. The list goes on. I congratulate the Government on its commitment to improved healthcare services, increased investment in health and better services across the board.
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI
(Murrumbidgee) [3.38 p.m.]: I support the Illawarra, which is a very important part of New South Wales. It is terrific to see the Illawarra doing so well. I am sure all members support any investment that any Government makes in the Illawarra. The Australian Labor Party has done the most damage to Wollongong in the past 12 months. Not only has the Illawarra been getting bad press in the Illawarra Mercury
but also in newspapers, television and radio right across Australia and even in international newspapers because of the behaviour of the Labor Party, particularly the member for Wollongong.
Ms Lylea McMahon:
Point of order: Yet again, rather than dealing with the motion before the House, which involves the budget, the Opposition is making scurrilous allegations and raking over old issues.
Order! I remind the member for Murrumbidgee that the motion before the House deals with investing money in the Illawarra, the budget for the Illawarra and cuts to payroll tax. I ask him to makes his remarks relevant to the motion before the House.
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI:
I was talking about the investment of money in the Illawarra in campaigns in Wollongong, particularly the campaign of the member for Wollongong. That is an investment in Wollongong.
Ms Lylea McMahon:
Point of order: I ask you to draw the member back to the budget. This is not a discussion about spurious matters.
Order! I remind the member for Murrumbidgee, who has long experience in this House, to address the motion before the House.
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI:
I move to omit all the words after "House" and insert instead "notes with concern the second report of the Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into Wollongong".
Ms Noreen Hay:
Point of order—
Order! The member for Murrumbidgee has proposed an amendment to the motion. I will seek advice from the Clerk but I will hear the point of order first.
Ms Noreen Hay:
The amendment has been moved purely because the member for Murrumbidgee has been drawn back to the leave of the motion, and he did not know what the motion was.
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI:
If the member for Wollongong can accuse and attack the member for South Coast about matters that have nothing to do with this motion, and the member for South Coast can take it, so can her accomplice, the member for Shellharbour.
Order! The proper procedure for moving an amendment is to put forward the amendment, speak in support of it in the time available, and sign it. This was not the case when the amendment was proposed.
Ms LYLEA McMAHON
(Shellharbour) [3.42 p.m.]: This budget continues to deliver for the people of Shellharbour. Shellharbour families have won a healthy share of the record $13.9 billion being invested this year in schools, hospitals, roads, transport and other infrastructure. Funding better health services at Shellharbour Hospital is one of the local highlights in the Iemma Government's third budget. The Government has set aside $3.2 million for the construction of a child and adolescent inpatient unit, and a child and adolescent inpatient day unit at the hospital. The budget also includes $1 million for the completion of the hospital's new $6.6 million 20-bed mental health unit, an excellent facility that will work to further support those with a mental illness to develop long-term strategies as they transition back into the community. In addition, Shellharbour Hospital will get six new acute care beds.
The Government also continues to strengthen police resources throughout the Shellharbour electorate. The Government is delivering on its election commitment to build a new Lake Illawarra police station. The Government committed $4.9 million to commence the construction of the $17 million Lake Illawarra police station. That builds on last year's $600,000 commitment for its design and planning. Providing shelter for the most vulnerable in the community is a commitment that the Government is delivering on. An amount of $3.7 million has been allocated for new public housing projects and improvements. That is on top of the $5.1 million allocated in last year's budget to increase the public housing stock in the electorate of Shellharbour. This Government supports Shellharbour families.
Local residents within the Shellharbour electorate met the announcement of the Government prior to the March election in relation to the commitment to upgrade the Princes Highway to dual carriageway between Oak Flats and Dunmore with strong support and enthusiasm. Completion of that integral section of road infrastructure will result in the end of lengthy traffic congestion through that area, especially on weekends and school holidays as both local residents and holidaymakers from across the State travel to and from the many wonderful destinations in the Shellharbour. This year's budget commits $45 million to continue the Oak Flats to Dunmore upgrade and deliver on that key piece of infrastructure.
Whether it is better services or investment in infrastructure, the Iemma Government is delivering for the people of New South Wales, particularly the people of Shellharbour. Older people, and people with a disability, their families and carers living in the Illawarra, are set to benefit from the Government's allocation of $97.3 million to fund support services and programs in this region as part of this year's budget. This investment reflects the Government's spending policy and priorities, outlined by the Premier in Stronger Together. This demonstrates the Government's commitment to ensuring that the Illawarra, particularly the people of Shellharbour, have specialist mainstream services to respond to the needs of people with a disability, older people and their carers. This budget is delivering for the community and the people in the electorate of Shellharbour.
Order! The amendment moved by the member for Murrumbidgee is not relevant to the motion before the House. Therefore, I rule it out of order.
Mr Daryl Maguire:
I ask for the reasoning behind the decision to rule it out of order. When the member for Murrumbidgee moved the amendment 35 seconds remained on the clock and he was about to sign his written amendment. A point of order was taken by the member for Wollongong and instead of ruling on the adequacy of the amendment you heard the point of order.
I said at the time that the amendment had to be signed and given to the Clerk in the proper form. Having now examined the wording of the amendment, I have ruled it out of order as it is not relevant to the motion.
Mr Daryl Maguire:
On a point of clarification: It was ruled out of order because the wording was not relevant to the motion rather than because the member's speaking time had expired?
I ruled it out of order because it is not relevant to the motion.
Mr PAUL McLEAY
(Heathcote) [3.47 p.m.]: The criticism of the member for South Coast that I delivered my address in a sombre mood is extraordinary. I know that budgets for accounting and financing arrangements are interesting and exciting, but this time I delivered my speech with seriousness and treated it with the respect and courtesy that the budget deserved. The budget delivered magnificent news for the Illawarra, and we are here to celebrate it. It is pathetic if delivery of my speech in a gentle voice is the only substantial matter the member for South Coast can talk about. She looks from below from the South Coast and has nothing to support her electorate. She even praised the Federal Labor members in the area and failed to mention her political colleague, Joanna Gash. I have no doubt we can read between the lines on her failure to mention her work. The Leader of the Opposition refused to even mention—[Quorum called for.
[The bells having been rung and a quorum having formed, business resumed.
Order! The member's time for speaking has expired.
Order! During the forming of a quorum the member's time for speaking continues.
Motion agreed to.
Order! Debate on motions to be accorded priority having concluded, the House will now proceed with Government business.
MARINE SAFETY AMENDMENT BILL 2008
Bill introduced on motion by Mr Joseph Tripodi.
Agreement in Principle
Mr JOSEPH TRIPODI
(Fairfield—Minister for Small Business, Minister for Regulatory Reform, and Minister for Ports and Waterways) [3.52 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now agreed to in principle.
New South Wales has a 2,140 kilometre coastline, 12,500 square kilometres of navigable waters and covers an area of 800,000 square kilometres. It is home to 6.6 million people, 87 per cent of whom live in areas adjacent to the New South Wales coastline. There are more than 450,000 licensed recreational vessel operators and some 217,000 registered recreational boat owners, and more than 18,000 of these operate on Sydney Harbour. In total, the marine industry estimates that more than 1.5 million people enjoy the State's waterways each year. The boating industry in New South Wales is estimated to be worth more than $2 billion per year.
Boating and other on-water activities provide a source of enjoyment and a livelihood for many New South Wales families. The majority of people who go boating act responsibly. However, the aquatic environment is not without its risks. Tragically, since 1992, more than 275 people have been killed and more than 630 people have been seriously injured as a result of boating activities on New South Wales waterways. This represents an average of 17 fatalities and 41 serious injuries per year. As the affordability and popularity of recreational boating in New South Wales increases, so does the potential for user conflict and accidents on the water. Just recently we saw the risks that exist on the water with a tragic incident on Sydney Harbour that resulted in the death of six people.
Last year two fatal incidents on Sydney Harbour resulted in the deaths of five people. These incidents demonstrate the importance of the Government continuing to look at new ways to improve the safety of New South Wales waterways. The Ports and Waterways portfolio is accountable for building a strong safety culture and reducing the potential for user conflict on New South Wales waterways. As part of my commitment to this responsibility, I propose a number of amendments to the Marine Safety Act that are designed to enhance the safety of the State's waterways. The amendments proposed in the Marine Safety Amendment Bill 2008 will achieve better safety outcomes in a number of areas.
Firstly, this bill proposes various changes to penalty provisions to ensure they adequately reflect the seriousness of the offence committed and to ensure consistency with other legislation. For example, the current penalty for negligent, reckless or dangerous navigation that results in death or grievous bodily harm will be increased so that it is consistent with the penalties for similar offences on the roads. The bill will introduce an imprisonment term for reckless or negligent navigation resulting in death or grievous bodily harm. The current penalty provisions for driving a vessel at 10 knots or more or a personal watercraft at any speed without a licence will also be toughened. The purpose of a boat licence is to ensure that the operator of a power-driven vessel travelling at speed has demonstrated a basic knowledge of waterway rules and safe boat operation.
Unlike roads legislation, the current penalty regime for driving a vessel when disqualified from holding a licence does not address the issue of repeat offences. This bill introduces an imprisonment option for repeat offences of driving a vessel while disqualified so as to reflect the seriousness of this offence. This amendment will again introduce consistency with similar offences under the roads legislation. Another proposed amendment relates to the penalty for negligent, reckless or dangerous navigation on larger vessels such as trading vessels. Since the safety consequence of this offence is far greater on a large vessel than on a small recreational vessel, a sliding scale of penalties, depending on the type of vessel, will be introduced.
A number of other amendments to penalty provisions in the Marine Safety Act are also proposed. These include the penalties for operating an unregistered or unsafe vessel and creating excessive vessel wash. Such amendments are necessary to ensure penalties adequately reflect the seriousness of the offence committed and to ensure consistency with the roads legislation. The bill seeks to further improve safety outcomes on New South Wales waters by giving New South Wales Maritime and New South Wales Police Force officers certain direction-giving powers. The purpose of these powers will be to maintain general on-water safety and to prevent damage to property on or in the vicinity of navigable waters. For example, these powers will enable New South Wales Maritime and New South Wales Police to direct the master of a vessel not to cross a coastal bar during dangerous conditions.
This power could also be used to direct a vessel operator to refrain from entering an area being used for a special aquatic event such as the swim leg of a triathlon. Providing this direction-giving power will implement recommendations by the New South Wales Coroner. Currently there is a deficiency in the legislation that enables a person with a suspended or cancelled New South Wales boat licence to legally operate a power-driven vessel in New South Wales waters by using a boat licence from another State. Current legislation also allows a person with a suspended interstate boat licence to obtain a New South Wales boat licence to operate in New South Wales and possibly his or her home State. This is clearly inappropriate from a safety point of view and is inconsistent with licence requirements on the roads. Therefore, it is proposed that the legislation be amended to ensure that any person with a cancelled or suspended boat licence from any State or Territory in Australia cannot legally operate a vessel in New South Wales.
National boating fatality studies conducted on behalf of the National Marine Safety Committee for the period 1992 to 2004 concluded that the most common contributing factors in fatal boating incidents were error of judgement and alcohol. Alcohol was involved in at least 35 per cent of fatalities investigated in the earlier study, and 40 per cent in the later study. The later study found that 47 per cent of vessel operators involved in fatal boating incidents were positive for alcohol. It is clear the consumption of alcohol has the same safety implications on the water as on the road. Despite this, the current alcohol and drug provisions on the water are inconsistent with those that apply on the roads. This situation is clearly inappropriate. The general water traffic provisions in the Marine Safety Act in relation to alcohol, speeding, distance-off and negligent navigation type offences do not apply to any type of Defence Force vessel. This is appropriate for commissioned Defence Force vessels, which are formally designated as an operational warship in order for them to carry out their day-to-day functions.
However, this is not appropriate for non-commissioned vessels such as small supply-type vessels, which may be used like any other vessel on the harbour to transport goods or persons on the water. This bill introduces amendments to clarify that non-commissioned Defence Force vessels should be required to comply with the Marine Safety Act. It is not intended that this provision apply to Defence Force personnel who are engaged in military exercises. This amendment will also serve to preserve the current application of general water traffic laws to non-commissioned vessels contained in the Maritime Services Act 1938 and the Water Traffic Regulations. I also note the New South Wales roads legislation does not exempt vehicles belonging to the Australian Defence Force from its operation. This amendment will therefore also ensure consistency between the legislation that applies on the road and the water. The Marine Safety Act currently provides for the continuation of existing certificates and licences through the marine safety licence framework. These include vessel registration certificates, survey certificates for commercial vessels, boat driving licences and marine pilots' licences.
The arrangement whereby a vessel greater than 30 metres in length can be operated without a pilot in a pilotage port provided the master holds a certificate of local knowledge will now be included. Greater efficiency in port operations will also be achieved through a number of changes to provisions relating to harbourmaster and marine pilots. Currently, in order for a pilotage vessel to move within a pilotage port without a pilot on board, a written exemption order must be provided to the relevant harbourmaster under a sub-delegation from the New South Wales Maritime chief executive. As this process is unnecessarily cumbersome, it is proposed that the Marine Safety Act be amended to allow such a vessel to move within the port without a pilot on the basis of a verbal approval from the harbourmaster provided the movement is recorded in the ship's log. This bill will also provide the option for more than one person to be appointed to exercise the harbourmaster's functions to ensure that a harbourmaster is available at all times.
These proposed amendments to pilotage and harbourmaster provisions in the Marine Safety Act will improve efficiencies and simplify the administration of both roles. New South Wales Maritime has consulted extensively with the port corporations in relation to these amendments. The proposed amendments will also allow for the making of regulations in relation to the crew to be carried on a commercial vessel. Appeals and reviews of crewing determinations will be subject to appeal by safety crewing committees in the first instance and, if necessary, to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal. In addition to improving safety on the State's waterways, another key aspect of this bill is the introduction of a number of amendments to facilitate the implementation of the National Standard for Commercial Vessels. This standard will be the principal technical standard for commercial vessels and is gradually replacing the Uniform Shipping Laws Code. The progressive development of this standard is a national initiative, which provides a common national standard for the design, construction, crewing and operation of commercial vessels.
Under the current provisions of the Marine Safety Act, New South Wales Maritime is responsible for the inspection of public ferry wharves and can, if necessary, issue a notice to improve, or prohibit the use of, a wharf. To improve the effectiveness of this process, the proposed amendments will allow New South Wales Maritime to require a report from an appropriately qualified engineer to satisfy itself that a wharf complies with the relevant design, construction and safety requirements. It is also proposed that New South Wales Maritime be provided with statutory protection from liability when it relies on such certificates. The increasing popularity of boating in New South Wales and its possible adverse safety consequences have resulted in a clear need for ongoing evaluation of the marine safety legislation. This bill highlights the New South Wales Government's commitment to improve the safety of New South Wales waters and the administrative efficiency of its legislation. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Thomas George and set down as an order of the day for a future day.
STATUTE LAW (MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS) BILL 2008
Bill introduced on motion by Mr Steve Whan, on behalf of Mr Morris Iemma.
Agreement in Principle
Mr STEVE WHAN
(Monaro—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.04 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now agreed to in principle.
The Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008 continues the established statute law revision program that is recognised as a cost-effective and efficient method for dealing with amendments of the kind included in the bill. The form of the bill is similar to that of previous bills in the statute law revision program. Schedule 1 contains policy changes of a minor and non-controversial nature that the Minister responsible for the legislation to be amended considers to be too inconsequential to warrant the introduction of a separate amending bill. That schedule contains amendments to 41 Acts. I will mention some of the amendments to give members an indication of the kinds of amendments that are included in the schedule.
Schedule 1 makes a number of amendments relating to the constitution of various entities. These include amendments to the Australian Museum Trust Act 1975 to increase the number of trustees from 9 to 11 and to require at least one of the trustees to have knowledge of, or experience in, Australian Indigenous culture. The Poultry Meat Industry Act 1986 is amended to enable the members of the Poultry Meat Industry Advisory Group who represent poultry growers to be appointed from persons nominated rather than elected. This amendment streamlines the process for appointing the advisory group and is supported by the advisory group and the Poultry Meat Industry Committee.
Amendments to the Guardianship Act 1987 will enable the appointment of more than one deputy president of the Guardianship Tribunal. Schedule 1 also makes a number of amendments to the Nature Conservation Trust Act 2001. These amendments arise from recommendations made in a statutory review of that Act that was tabled in Parliament last year and are intended to improve the functioning of the trust. The Ombudsman Act 1974 is proposed to be amended to improve the operation of the Ombudsman's office. This amendment will allow the Ombudsman to delegate to a special officer of the Ombudsman the largely administrative reporting function of keeping complainants informed of the progress of the Ombudsman's investigations in relation to their complaints. Currently that function may only be delegated to an Assistant Ombudsman.
Schedule 1 also amends a number of as yet uncommenced amendments to the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 made by the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Car Hoons) Act 2008. These include amendments to ensure that an appropriate person will be available to receive a vehicle involved in a street racing or burnout offence when it is produced, as required by the Act, following the giving of a production notice. They also clarify the circumstances in which a court may order that a vehicle be clamped, instead of being impounded in an area where clamping is being trialled. The amendments in schedule 1 to the Police Act 1990 will permit the Commissioner of Police or the Ombudsman when deciding whether a complaint against a police officer needs to be investigated to use additional information from the complainant and any existing relevant information to which they can readily gain access. The Ombudsman supports these amendments.
The amendment made by schedule 1 to the State Records Act 1998 will confirm the power of the State Records Authority to enter into an arrangement for providing access to State archives to enable a party to the arrangement—for example, an organisation providing genealogical services—to make copies of those archives or to publish or provide other persons with access to copies of those archives. The proposed amendment does not give the authority power to override any right in the nature of copyright and does not give any power to do anything that would be an infringement of copyright. The last schedule 1 matter I will mention is an amendment to the Zoological Parks Board Act 1973. The amendment will give statutory authority for the use of the name "Taronga Conservation Society Australia" by the Zoological Parks Board. Schedule 2 deals with matters of pure statute law revision consisting of minor technical changes to legislation that the Parliamentary Counsel considers are appropriate for inclusion in the bill. Examples of amendments in schedule 2 are those arising out of the enactment or repeal of other legislation, those correcting duplicated numbering and those updating terminology.
Schedule 3 contains statute law revision amendments that are consequential on the enactment of the Legal Profession Act 2004. Most of these amendments involve standardising terms used in other Acts. Schedule 4 repeals a number of Acts and instruments and provisions of Acts and instruments that are redundant or of no practical utility. These include Acts that formerly regulated the incorporation of companies and their management, acquisition of shares and other dealings in securities and the future and securities industries, being matters that are now regulated by the Commonwealth. The repeal also extends to amending Acts or provisions that have commenced. The Acts and instruments that were amended by the amending Acts or provisions being repealed are up to date and available electronically on the legislation database maintained by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel.
Schedule 5 contains general savings, transitional and other provisions. These include provisions dealing with the effect of amendments on amending provisions, saving clauses for the repealed Acts, and a power to make regulations for savings and transitional matters, if necessary. The schedule also contains, for abundant caution, a power for the Governor, by proclamation, to revoke the repeal of any Act repealed by the bill. The various amendments are explained in detail in the explanatory notes set out beneath the amendments to each of the Acts and statutory instruments concerned or at the beginning of the schedule concerned. If any amendment causes concern or requires clarification, members should seek information from the responsible Minister. If necessary, Ministers will arrange for government officers to provide additional information. If any particular matter of concern cannot be resolved and is likely to delay the passage of the bill, the Government is prepared to consider withdrawing the matter from the bill. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Thomas George and set down as an order of the day for a future day.
COAL AND OIL SHALE MINE WORKERS (SUPERANNUATION) AMENDMENT BILL 2008
Bill introduced on motion by Mr Michael Daley, on behalf of Mr John Watkins.
Agreement in Principle
Mr MICHAEL DALEY
(Maroubra—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.12 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now agreed to in principle.
The Coal and Oil Shale Mine Workers (Superannuation) Amendment Bill follows a joint industry submission to the Government from coal industry employer and employee representatives to simplify the superannuation contribution arrangements for the some 13,000 New South Wales coal mine workers. The bill amends the Coal and Oil Shale Mine Workers (Superannuation) Act 1941 to implement the request. New South Wales coal mine workers, like most other Australian workers, will consequently receive superannuation contributions under the Commonwealth's superannuation guarantee legislation. This process of bringing superannuation contributions in line with the Commonwealth's community standard began with amendments passed by the Parliament in 2006.
This bill signifies the further progress of coal mine workers superannuation arrangements to those of a modern mainstream industry superannuation scheme. These arrangements began with the 1940-1941 Royal Commission of Inquiry into Mine Safety. Under the original Act the New South Wales Government established a pension scheme for coal mine workers and their widows. Over time, the coal industry has taken greater responsibility for the scheme and sought to address the scheme's funding liabilities. Various industry agreements prescribed superannuation contribution arrangements for this purpose. Successive governments have supported the industry, where appropriate, by legislating to reflect the agreements reached by the industry parties.
Under a 1988 agreement, employers agreed to contribute $14 per week for each eligible employee. A 1991 agreement increased this amount to $31.20 per week. Further changes were implemented through the 1992 restructure, and salary sacrifice agreements. Contributions were required at prescribed percentages of a reference rate based on an award rate of pay. Employees also undertook to make contributions on a salary sacrifice basis to the fund. In 1995, at the request of the industry parties, the scheme largely moved under Commonwealth superannuation regulation, with a corporate trustee comprising employer and employee representatives. While the scheme rules were mainly transferred to a trust deed, the contribution arrangements were retained in the Act, again at the request of the industry.
In 2000 the contribution arrangements of the last industry agreement, the 1999 superannuation agreement, were incorporated into the Act. These form the basis for the flat weekly rate formula currently in the Act. It is a complex combination of variously allocated prescribed percentages of a reference rate determined by the corporate trustee. An additional fixed amount is also required under the fund's trust deed. The resulting contribution does not reflect or fluctuate with the coal mine worker's individual salary. It produces a flat weekly contribution of about $120 per week. Employees contribute about $45 of this on a salary sacrifice basis. Employers are also required to make payments for each mineworker to finance the miners pension fund and consumer price index pension adjustments.
By 2006 it became apparent that these arrangements had not kept pace with superannuation arrangements for other Australian workers. The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the industry's major employee representative, was concerned that employer superannuation contributions for coal mine workers in New South Wales were below the community standard. They suggested that many coal mine workers received contributions less than the 9 per cent of their ordinary time earnings generally required under Commonwealth superannuation guarantee legislation. In 2006 amendments placed a contribution safety net in the Act. This was to ensure that coal mine workers received contributions of at least the 9 per cent community standard.
The amendments retained the employer's obligation to calculate contributions using the existing flat weekly rate formula. If, however, the resulting contribution amount was less than 9 per cent of the mineworker's ordinary time earnings, employers were expected to make up the shortfall to the 9 per cent amount. Since 2006 the industry parties have continued consultations to reform the contribution arrangements for coal mine workers. The parties negotiated a memorandum of understanding to further simplify contribution arrangements. The aim of the memorandum is to move the industry fully to compliance only with Commonwealth superannuation contribution requirements.
This bill progresses the transition-to-community standard contribution arrangements initiated by the 2006 amendments. To better implement the subsequent agreements reached by the industry parties, the bill is backdated to 1 July 2006, the date on which the 2006 amendments commenced. The complex contribution provisions of the Act are removed under the bill. Employers will instead defer to the Commonwealth superannuation guarantee legislation for their superannuation contribution obligations. Mineworkers will generally receive employer contributions of at least 9 per cent of their ordinary time earnings. Most coal mine workers are already getting superannuation contributions at the 9 per cent rate. Current employed mineworkers, eligible for a higher contribution, will remain entitled to the higher contribution.
In keeping with agreements by the industry parties, the higher amount does not include miners pension fund finance payments or salary sacrifice contributions. The higher contribution entitlement continues if another industry employer later engages the mineworker. The requirement to make payments under the Act to finance miners pension fund liabilities remains under the bill. Payments to finance pension indexation adjustments will however cease as they are to be funded from another source.
I turn to the amendments related to the various industry agreements described earlier. These previously prescribed the contribution arrangements for New South Wales coal mine workers. This task now becomes redundant. The bill accordingly clarifies that the four industry agreements made in 1988, 1991, 1992 and 1999 no longer have legal effect in relation to contributions. A fifth agreement, the 1992 salary sacrifice agreement, was also recently revoked for this purpose by order of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. This bill represents a major overhaul of the superannuation contribution arrangements for New South Wales coal mine workers in line with industry agreements. It will improve efficiencies for the industry and the fund. Superannuation will also become easier to understand for coal employers and employees alike.
The bill is the result of detailed negotiations between the industry parties. It follows extensive consultation with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and the Minerals Council of New South Wales, on behalf of broader industry representative bodies, and with the fund's administrator, AUSCOAL Services Pty Ltd. This is another example of the Iemma Government's commitment to reducing red tape. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Thomas George and set down as an order of the day for a future day.
WORKERS COMPENSATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT
Bill introduced on motion by Ms Virginia Judge, on behalf of Mr John Watkins.
(FINANCIAL PROVISIONS) BILL 2008
Agreement in Principle
Ms VIRGINIA JUDGE
(Strathfield—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.21 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now agreed to in principle.
The Workers Compensation Legislation Amendment (Financial Provisions) Bill 2008 contains proposed amendments to the workers compensation legislation to introduce a new more transparent model for the funding of the WorkCover Authority of New South Wales. Before I detail the bill to the House I will outline the current arrangements for the funding of the WorkCover Authority. The New South Wales workers compensation system comprises the Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer, a statutory entity that manages the Workers Compensation Insurance Fund, self-insurers and specialised insurers.
The Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer insures the majority of employers and 74 per cent of employees. WorkCover's budget is funded by levies on the premium income of the Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer and specialised insurers and the deemed premium income of self-insurers. Like most Government agencies WorkCover receives some funding from other sources, including licensing fees investment income and other miscellaneous sources. WorkCover can also draw down funds from the Workers Compensation Insurance Fund to support its activities undertaken on behalf of the Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer. Each financial year WorkCover makes an estimate of its total budget and the amounts the WorkCover Authority Fund requires to be contributed.
The contribution paid by the Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer specialised insurers and self-insurers is based on a percentage determined by the authority and paid into the WorkCover Authority Fund. The contribution is a percentage of the premium income of the Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer and specialised insurers in the relevant financial year and of the deemed premium income of self-insurers. The legislation requires the percentage to be the same for all licensed insurers and for all self-insurers. The Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer specialised insurers and self-insurers pay the contributions in regular instalments throughout the relevant financial year as determined by WorkCover.
The Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer consistent with its market share of the workers compensation system pays by far the largest contribution. Several problems exist with the current model in relation to the premium income of the Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer. Firstly, WorkCover's budget is determined on the basis of WorkCover's operational needs. Premium income may rise or fall directly impacting on WorkCover's operational funding. Secondly, the formula for determining a percentage of premium is complex, making budgetary planning more difficult than if specified sums were withdrawn from the Workers Compensation Insurance Fund.
I refer now to the reforms to WorkCover's budget-setting process proposed in the bill. It is proposed that rather than a percentage being imposed on the premium income of the Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer that WorkCover will prepare an annual base expenditure budget and estimates in relation to income WorkCover expects to receive from various sources. These sources include contributions on the premium income of specialised insurers and the deemed premium of self-insurers, licensing fees, investment income and other miscellaneous sources. WorkCover will then be permitted to receive a specific sum from the Workers Compensation Insurance Fund. This sum will be calculated by deducting WorkCover's estimated income from the base expenditure budget.
WorkCover will be permitted to withdraw sums from the Workers Compensation Insurance Fund at regular intervals throughout the relevant financial year up to the value of the specific sum described above, which will be specified in the WorkCover budget. The Workers Compensation Legislation Amendment (Financial Provisions) Bill amends the Workplace Injury Management and Workers Compensation Act 1998 to provide for WorkCover to make an estimate of the amount required to be contributed to the WorkCover Authority Fund from the Workers Compensation Insurance Fund before the beginning of each financial year. The bill further provides for the Minister to approve the payment into the WorkCover Authority Fund of amounts from the Workers Compensation Insurance Fund having regard to the estimates made by WorkCover and the need for any additional funding to provide for the proper exercise of WorkCover's functions.
It is proposed that the amount calculated by WorkCover to fund its operations and approved by the Minister under the proposed new funding model incorporate an amount to cover WorkCover's costs in acting on behalf of the Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer. The Government is confident that the reforms embodied in the bill will significantly enhance the transparency and predictability of WorkCover's budget-setting process. The WorkCover budget-setting process will be subject to extensive scrutiny and oversight. Funds can be drawn only from the Workers Compensation Insurance Fund with ministerial approval.
WorkCover will, of course, consult with the WorkCover Board before submitting its budget to the Minister. WorkCover will consult also with Treasury in a similar manner to other Government agencies in the course of setting its budget. The Minister responsible for WorkCover and WorkCover officials will continue also to be subject to the scrutiny of the estimates committees in the course of the consideration of the budget. WorkCover will again have to seek ministerial approval if it requires further funding during the year exceeding its estimate. Under the new funding model it will be clear in advance exactly how much money WorkCover will receive from the Workers Compensation Insurance Fund instead of the contribution varying in accordance with the actual premium income of the Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer throughout the relevant financial year.
The amount paid to the WorkCover Authority Fund therefore will be predictable and transparent. The new funding model will remove the risk of volatility to WorkCover's budget caused by unanticipated surpluses and deficits arising from unforeseen changes to premium income. The bill before does not affect the determination of the contributions made by self-insurers and specialised insurers to the WorkCover budget. WorkCover will continue to collect contributions from specialised insurers and self-insurers using the current method. The change to WorkCover's current financial model is not expected to have any financial impact on self-insurers and specialised insurers. There is no intention that the new funding model proposed by the bill will result in an overall increase in WorkCover's funding as compared with the current funding model. Rather, the proposed funding model is intended to be a more efficient, transparent and predictable method of funding WorkCover.
If WorkCover were to require further funding, then WorkCover would have to seek further approval from the Minister. Such approval would be sought for enhancement of effort or where additional responsibilities necessitated an increase in funding. The bill further provides a mechanism for WorkCover to transfer money or other form of surplus from the WorkCover Authority Fund to the Workers Compensation Insurance Fund. An example may be where WorkCover has a budget surplus at the end of a financial year. In line with Treasury's expectations, WorkCover will develop its budget to result in a zero net cost of services. As a transitional measure, the bill provides for the Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer to pay over to the WorkCover Authority Fund any outstanding contributions from premium as at 30 June 2008.
This provision simply ensures that funds that were due to be paid into the WorkCover Authority Fund from the Workers Compensation Insurance Fund under the old funding arrangements nevertheless are paid into the WorkCover Authority Fund. The bill is an important reform to WorkCover's budget-setting process and will make that process more transparent and accountable. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Thomas George and set down as an order of the day for a future day.
Order! Government Business having concluded, the House will proceed with private members' statements.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENTS
Question—That private members' statements be noted—proposed.
SOUTH SYDNEY JUNIOR RUGBY LEAGUE FOOTBALL CLUB CENTENARY
SOUTHS JUNIORS CLUB FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY
Mr MICHAEL DALEY
(Maroubra—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.30 p.m.]: It is with great pleasure and pride this evening that I honour two iconic organisations and the people who founded and have supported them throughout the past 100 years. The South Sydney Junior Rugby League Football Club was formed in 1908 and is celebrating its centenary this year. The Souths Juniors Club, which is a licensed club at Kingsford, is celebrating its fiftieth year. Both clubs have served the local community and the junior league catchment area tremendously well over a long period. The football club, or the junior league as it is referred to, was formed in 1908 with only four teams—a stark contrast to the many teams that play under the Souths banner currently.
In 1908 the club's junior league teams played a curtain raiser to the Australia-New Zealand test match. It is awesome to contemplate that seven years before the Anzacs stormed the hill at Gallipoli, junior league teams were playing rugby league against each other. I congratulate all Souths junior league teams. Since its inception, the junior league has been a wonderful servant and wonderful vehicle for the community by not only providing youngsters in my electorate with an opportunity to play rugby league and a platform for social and personal development, but by doing so at no cost to families. It remains the case that many underprivileged people live in my electorate, and that would have been the case, or perhaps more so, many years ago. Youngsters have always played for the junior league teams free of charge.
Souths Juniors Club has been more than a rugby league club—there are probably still a few scoundrels around my electorate—because it has played a mentoring role, provided for social contact, and has provided direction in life, advice and support for young people. The junior league also has supported many families over the years, and many mums and dads, uncles and aunties, and friends have responded by taking up coaching, and managerial and volunteering roles. I thank them all. The junior league has also been a tremendous feeder ground for the Rabbitohs—they certainly need support at the moment, although I have no doubt they will come good next year.
How good are some of the players who have come through the ranks of the junior league? I am pleased to say that 43 international players have come through the ranks of the junior league. On Friday 16 May the centenary ball for South Juniors junior league was held at the Australian Jockey Club at Randwick to celebrate the club's centenary. An esteemed selection panel comprising Alan Clarkson, Tom Cocking, Frank Cookson, Rod Gorman, Ian Heads, Henry Morris, John Riordan and Brad Ryder selected the team of the century—at full back, the legendary Eric Simms; on the wings, Harold Horder and Benny Wearing; in the centre, Paul Sait and Ray Branighan; at five-eighth, Greg Hawick; half-back, Clem Kennedy; at lock, as well as captain, one the greatest rugby league champions of all time, Ron Coote; at second row, George Treweeke and Bob McCarthy, who is still serving the game; in the front row, Ian Roberts, the legendary George Piggins and Brian Hambly; the reserves, Gary Stevens, Craig Coleman, Terry Hill, Craig Wing; and the coach, Alf "Smacker" Blair. The team of the century would hold its own in any sporting company.
I congratulate the club on hosting a tremendous night. Mario Fenech gave one of the keynote speeches and outlined in great and emotive detail what the junior league has meant to him. I know he spoke on behalf of all youngsters and families associated with the junior league. I also congratulate the presidents of the club, although my research dates back only 50 years: Darcy Thompson, Wally Dean—a character—Len Hart, Henry Morris who was president of the junior league for 27 years and is still serving the community, Frank Cookson, and the current president whom Henry Morris refers to as the "Mighty Craw", Keith McCraw, a great community leader. I am sure I speak on behalf of the member for Coogee, the member for Heffron, and the member for Marrickville in congratulating the Juniors for all it has done for the local community over 100 years, and will continue to do.
Mrs BARBARA PERRY
(Auburn—Minister for Juvenile Justice, Minister for Western Sydney, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Citizenship) [4.35 p.m.]: I thank the member for Maroubra for bringing such an important matter to the attention of the House and for honouring the South Sydney Junior Rugby League Football Club in its centenary year as well as the Souths Juniors Club at Kingsford, which is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. There is no doubt that the junior league in the Maroubra electorate has served its local community very well by providing services and, even more importantly, by giving the community a sense of purpose through sport as well as giving young people and families a sense of purpose, a sense of friendship and self-esteem.
A club's existence for 100 years is a pretty amazing feat. I point out to all the people who have made the club what it is over 100 years—the families, the players, the administrators, the coaches and the managers—that that magnificent 100-year record is a tribute to them. They will go down in the clubs' history as being part of the first 100 years of its existence. The member for Maroubra is very fortunate to represent such marvellous institutions. The two sporting clubs are well known, not only in his electorate but also throughout New South Wales. The players who are members of the team of the century are absolute legends in the history of sport. Even I know people such as Bob McCarthy and Ron Coote because they are not only incredible players but also incredible leaders. They have continued to work with young people and have never forgotten their origins. On behalf of the New South Wales Government, I congratulate both clubs.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE
(Bega) [4.37 p.m.]: Noting the comments of the Minister at the table, the Minister for Juvenile Justice, Minister for Western Sydney, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Citizenship, I hope she will likewise recognise my remarks by conveying them to the Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Energy, Minister for Mineral Resources, and Minister for State Development. I draw to the attention of the House a very serious matter affecting farming communities on the far South Coast, other farming communities along coastal New South Wales, and farming communities in other areas that extend west to the Great Dividing Range—to the spread of a noxious plant, fireweed.
Last week the National Fireweed Conference at the Bega RSL was attended by hundreds of delegates from not only the Bega district but also from Eurobodalla, Cooma-Monaro, Bombala, Shoalhaven, Coffs Harbour and Wingecarribee shires, representatives from NSW Farmers, the Noxious Weeds Advisory Committee, the Rural Financial Counselling Service, the Far South Coast Dairy Development, the Southern River Catchment Management Authority, the University of Adelaide and the University of New England, Landcare, the CSIRO, the Adelaide Botanic Gardens and Herbarium, and the Rural Lands Protection Boards.
Hundreds of delegates participated in the two-day forum. They were told at the opening of the conference that fireweed has become more of a financial burden for many farmers than the drought. This is a very serious issue. The Minister should assess the extent of the problem and examine the ramifications very closely. Farmers can lose upwards of 60 per cent of their land to this noxious weed, which cripples production. Farmers can also be crippled financially by attempting to manage the weed through chemical control.
Everyone at the conference was keen to see a biological agent developed to combat this noxious weed, in line with international practice. For the past 12 months the Minister has been fully aware of the work undertaken by Reg Kidd and the Noxious Weeds Advisory Committee, which has prepared a report for the Minister. He has had that report since March, and he must respond urgently to its recommendations. The farming community is crying out for a ministerial response. I believe bureaucrats who do not appreciate the extent of the problem have stonewalled the New South Wales Government. I hope that the Minister will address this problem, regardless of bureaucratic advice.
Fireweed is a major problem not only in my electorate but also throughout coastal New South Wales, particularly in the north and south. It is crippling farms and farmers. Mr Noel Watson and the Bega Valley Fireweed Association have done much work at a community level. The association was established to bring the perils of fireweed to the Government's attention. The Federal Government has responded with a $300,000 grant to the association to commence preliminary work in preparation for what it hopes will become an extensive study of biological control. I urge the Commonwealth to undertake similar work through the CSIRO. This much-needed research project could cost in the order of $5 million or $6 million—
Mr Peter Draper:
A small investment.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE:
However, as the member for Tamworth says, that is a miniscule amount when considered in the context of the Government's total revenue and expenditure. Such a figure is nothing if it resolves a problem that is costing the farming community and this State millions of dollars. Noxious weeds cost New South Wales in the order of $600 million. The State Government provides only $8.1 million to local control authorities to combat noxious weeds. That is peanuts. I call on the Minister to respond to the recommendations of the Noxious Weeds Advisory Committee and start investing in research to develop a biological agent that will combat this noxious weed that is causing enormous damage to farming communities throughout New South Wales.
SALVATION ARMY TAMWORTH ELECTORATE SERVICES
Mr PETER DRAPER
(Tamworth) [4.42 p.m.]: Over the weekend of 24 and 25 May Salvation Army volunteers in the electorate of Tamworth were out and about doorknocking for the national Red Shield Appeal. In Tamworth city alone, some 600 people collected for the appeal, raising close to $40,000. With more to come from business and postal donations, they hope to reach a total target of $100,000. Our local Salvos were doing their bit to help reach the 2008 national target of $68 million. The sale of recycled goods through the Salvation Army store provides a large proportion of the yearly budget for local programs—some $100,000 per annum. It is food for thought that the Salvos will help more than one million Australians in 2008.
At a time when the national political debate seems focused on 5¢ a litre on petrol and spirit taxes, community organisations such as the Salvos have been shouldering more of the responsibility for assisting fellow Australians who are doing it tough. Sadly, recent increases in food and petrol prices plus interest rate hikes mean that even more people find themselves in need of assistance. Our local Salvation Army officer, Captain Mark Everitt, told me there has been a noticeable spike in requests for assistance in the past 12 months from across the community. Across the board, the farming community, seniors, those dependent on Centrelink payments and struggling working families are battling to make ends meet and finding it increasingly impossible to balance a budget. Locally, the Salvation Army's formal interview times for assessment of client needs averaged six hours per week, but more recently they have had to double that requirement in order to meet demand. Captain Everitt said:
The main request from the farming community recently has been for assistance with power accounts. After six or seven years of drought they don't have the income for power for essential farm production requirements. There are also calls for assistance in registering motor vehicles, rate payments, water haulage, insurance and stock feed. Somehow they have managed to survive to this point, but demand is increasing and putting much greater strains on the drought assistance available.
We're finding that people who are budgeting carefully and diligently are seeking more assistance because income is not keeping up with the cost of living. I've had an experience with a mother who has responsibly managed her home, has laid out her weekly budget and is in despair because she can't meet the cost of supporting her family and this is not an isolated case. Senior citizens who have worked hard all their life to help build this nation find themselves in a position where the nation is in an enviable financial situation but they're finding it hard to put food on the table.
According to Captain Everitt:
There has been a considerable increase in the number of families with full time employment who have requested assistance from the Salvation Army to relieve pressure on their weekly budget due to the increase in mortgage repayments and general increases in the cost of living, particularly food and transport costs.
Some of these people come in dressed in business shirts and ties but it disguises the desperate financial need they are in. Twelve months ago these people may well have considered themselves a part of an independent middle Australia, but now find themselves seeking assistance.
The Salvation Army is still hugely dependent on public donations. However, as the financial crisis bites, many individuals are finding it more difficult to give, and in fact are seeking assistance themselves. There are two tiers to Salvation Army support in our region. Addiction recovery programs and telephone counselling are provided by the national organisation while, locally, financial counselling, rural chaplaincy, disaster relief and emergency services are just part of the support network.
At the same time the Salvation Army is facing massively increasing overheads in providing its services due to the very factors that are increasing demand for those services. Captain Everitt told me that the Salvos were currently providing about $4,000 a month to meet food costs alone, and he expects that this figure could increase by at least 50 per cent in coming months. Currently around $2,500 worth of electricity payment vouchers are issued through the Tamworth office, about $1,000 a month goes to assisting people with their telephone bills, and fuel vouchers total about $1,000 a month—and all demand is increasing rapidly. Captain Everitt summed up the situation extremely well when he said:
This is a loud wake up call to our nation. We are part of a global community affected by many forces outside our control. It is time to reassess our values as a community, and how we will deal with increasing pressures on people causing more demand for support services. The Lucky Country must be that for all, not just a lucky few, and we must find equity for the disadvantaged.
To many, it appears the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Thank God for our local Salvos!
KYOGLE BOWLING CLUB INSURANCE CLAIM
Mr THOMAS GEORGE
(Lismore) [4.47 p.m.]: I have spoken previously in the House about the January 2008 floods that affected the Northern Rivers region—namely, Kyogle, Lismore, Casino and Murwillumbah. The problems that people faced were documented at the time, and I place on record my appreciation to the Insurance Council of Australia, and Karl Sullivan and his team—we have dealt with quite a few people, so I apologise for not naming them all—for providing backup, support and advice to many of my constituents who were having insurance problems. This afternoon I will highlight the experiences of the Kyogle Bowling Club. I pay tribute to its board of directors and its secretary-manager, Todd Newton.
Kyogle is part of the electorate of Lismore, and it is a great, extremely parochial community. It certainly copped a hiding from the January floods. I have no qualms in stating that if its sister clubs and the community had not come to its rescue the Kyogle Bowling Club would have faced closure. The flood destroyed everything, and sister clubs provided the bowling club with replacement carpet, chairs, tables and stands for the poker machines. The community also provided support. The Kyogle Bowling Club was insured with Lloyd's and in its wisdom, the club provided relevant information, but its claim was knocked back. When Australian insurance companies knock back claims from clients the decision can be appealed in Australia. However, Mr Mark Smith, Policyholder and Market Assistance, Lloyd's Market Services, wrote to the bowling club stating:
At this stage I am statutorily obliged to inform you that you have the right to refer this matter to the Financial Ombudsman Service in the UK provided you do so within six months of the date of [the claim].
Who wants to appeal a decision in London? Underwriters Freeman and McMurrick have been asked to review the decision, which will be resolved in London. I understand that Lloyd's insures a lot of clubs but in the fine print, when clubs are in trouble, appeals have to be made in the United Kingdom. I spoke to the office of the Minister for Emergency Services about this matter. People should be warned that if they use overseas underwriters and make a claim against Lloyd's their appeal must be lodged overseas. That prevents many people from successfully appealing, because they do not have the resources. That is the situation of Kyogle Bowling Club. Before the flood the club was already struggling. It has had the help of sister clubs and the community. I am at a loss as to how I can assist the club to handle its appeal in the United Kingdom. It has no alternative.
KIRRAWEE BRICK PIT DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL
Mr BARRY COLLIER
(Miranda—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.52 p.m.]: There are 29 shopfronts in Oak Road Kirrawee. To the west of that small shopping strip is the Sutherland central business district, complete with more than 110 shops. To the east of Kirrawee lies the bustling Gymea village, with more than 100 shops. A further 1.6 kilometres east a very large Westfield Shoppingtown dominates Miranda. One end of the Kirrawee shopping strip is currently a construction zone with the Cronulla rail duplication well underway. The other end of the Kirrawee shopping strip is the old Kirrawee brick pit site. This 4.5 hectare former quarry owned by Sydney Water has not been used for 30 years, and much of the site is now a large hole in the ground which fills with water when it rains.
The Kirrawee shopping strip has long lived in the shadow of Gymea, Sutherland and Miranda and continues to struggle after losing its only bank in 2000. In 2001 I launched the Kirrawee Living Centres project, to which the State Government contributed $500,000. The outcome, following 20 months of extensive community consultation and approval by council, was the Kirrawee Master Plan. Backed by the council's economic development committee, the Master Plan provides a sustainable and economically viable plan for the future of Kirrawee, including the brick pit site. The plan for the site provides a mix of residential and much-needed employment land, and 20 per cent of the site is a public park. After appropriate rezoning the new owners have lodged a development application with council for a staged development.
The proposed $120 million development, stage one, includes two full line supermarkets, Woolworths and Coles, associated shops, possibly a bank, 65 apartments, car parking and the park. The new owners say their proposal, when completed, will employ 600 people in full-time equivalent positions, bringing in $13 million per annum for the local economy. They argue that the proposal will provide convenience for local residents, who do not have a large supermarket in Kirrawee but now have to go to Sutherland, Miranda, Sylvania Southgate, Menai Marketplace and Kareela for their weekly groceries. Sutherland Mayor, David Redmond, and other councillors apparently oppose the supermarket proposal and have done so since rumours first began circulating and even before the development application was lodged. Contrary to their arguments, and like it or not, I am advised by the Department of Planning that a zoning does, in fact, allow supermarkets on the site.
But by far the most vocal opponents of the supermarkets on the site are not the council, not the 28 shopkeepers of Kirrawee but the shopkeepers of the very much larger Gymea and Sutherland shopping centres. Gymea Chamber of Commerce President, Mr Ron Stapleton, and Sutherland Chamber of Commerce Treasurer, Mr Dennis Cato, are running a short-sighted, self-interested scare campaign against the proposed supermarkets at Kirrawee. Mr Stapleton, whose family owns very successful butcher shops in Gymea and Sutherland, told the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader
on 1 May that the Kirrawee supermarkets would "kill off local shopping strips" and "destroy local shops and businesses" and "be a disaster for local businesses". In his letter to me Mr Dennis Cato said:
The project will be detrimental to all retail centres in the Shire but devastating to Gymea, Kirrawee and Sutherland centres.
That is very interesting because there are development applications for not one but two supermarkets in the Sutherland centre. So it is okay for Sutherland but not Kirrawee. Interestingly, while Mr Stapleton and Mr Cato say they speak for Kirrawee, I cannot find one public statement in the local newspaper, the Leader, from any shopkeeper at Kirrawee about the brick pit supermarket proposal. Unlike Messrs Stapleton and Cato, I do not want Kirrawee to be the poor relation any longer. Kirrawee has been through a tough time, it has lost its bank and it has been patient with the station upgrade. Now it is time for Kirrawee to become the vibrant twenty-first century shopping place it has the potential to be. I have spoken to Kirrawee shopkeepers and written to all Kirrawee households, but I will canvass that at a later time. Recently I uncovered a report entitled "Development appraisal of the Kirrawee Town Centre Master Plan" by independent consultants, Hill PDA, dated August 2002, which states:
Whilst Kirrawee is trading viably, it lacks a bank and a modern style supermarket—IGA, Coles, Woolworths or ALDI. These are anchor tenants and there is nexus between them and the specialty shops. Hence they generate the vitality and increase the viability of specialty retailers. Without these anchor tenants there will be considerable loss of trade to Gymea, Miranda and Sutherland.
The pulling power of Miranda, Gymea and Sutherland is likely to keep a check on the feasibility of Kirrawee expanding.
Of course, the decision on the proposed supermarkets on the Kirrawee site is for the consent authority, Sutherland Shire Council, after consideration of all relevant factors, including traffic, building heights, and floor space ratios. But rather than giving a blanket "no" to the proposal and kowtowing to the bleat of misguided self-interest in Gymea and Sutherland in the lead-up to the council election, I call on all councillors to really focus on the future of Kirrawee. The people of my electorate and I do not want to see the Kirrawee brick pit site as a hole in the ground for another 30 years. As I said, I do not want Kirrawee to continue to be the poor relation.
Ms PRU GOWARD
(Goulburn) [4.57 p.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House the Kangaloon aquifer and my electorate's concerns that the New South Wales Government is proceeding with a project that does not stack up either economically or environmentally. The aquifer spreads through the Southern Highlands, and a treatment works is being planned for Mittagong. This project is expected to provide an estimated seven days supply of water for the metropolitan area and will cost the taxpayer, or water user, upwards of $80 million. That works out at a cost per litre of approximately 0.7¢, about four times as much per litre as Sydney Water currently charges the hapless residents of metropolitan Sydney—an extremely expensive way to give Sydney an extra supply.
This back-of-the-envelope arithmetic should be noted by all members who represent metropolitan electorates, and who will need to explain that part of the increase in water charges. But it is the environmental impact of mining this aquifer I address today. As most members who have been to the Southern Highlands know, it is a beautiful area, blessed with wonderful rainfall and magnificent woodlands. It has forests of gums hundreds of metres high and a depth of green not often seen in sun-bleached Australia. But there is now fear throughout the highlands—from farmers, townspeople, green groups, the elderly and schoolchildren—that this might all change. And what underlines this fear is the lack of evidence for proceeding.
In particular, we just do not know enough about the environmental impacts to be able to go ahead and mine this area with any confidence that the local environment will survive. Once a swamp is dead and those giant gums are dead, they will not come back. Once a dairy farmer has gone broke because there is no water left in his or her bore, and a farmer's lucerne crops fail, a whole community starts to change, to wither and die. It is true that the Government has provided an environmental assessment report based on test trials since 2005. The trouble is, my communities have no confidence in them. The most recent Technical Services Report to the Wingecarribee Shire Council in the Southern Highlands states:
Sustained long term monitoring within a period of average seasonal and climatic variation has not been achieved. The claims that sufficient monitoring has been performed and which support the idea the project is sustainable are rejected.
The people of my electorate might be more disposed to this project if its so-called purpose, to drought proof Sydney, could be proven. However, they believe that to be far from the case. There is a strong view that other options such as better demand management, stormwater harvesting or recycling should be explored and exhausted before alternatives such as bore field extractions are imposed on unwilling communities in what is left of Sydney's green belt. I note from an answer by the Minister for Water in question time yesterday that the Government is investing in stormwater harvesting and recycling this year and with any luck that investment will obviate the need to spend $80 million on a project in the Southern Highlands with such huge question marks hanging over it. The Minister must be encouraged.
To go ahead with a project possessed of such manifestly significant question marks means it fails the first test of sustainable policy: it fails the precautionary principle test. Government members might recall that their argument for investing billions of dollars in climate change abatement and mitigation is also based on the precautionary principle test. And again I refer to the limited assessment period over a period of great climate variation—from drought to flooding rains—all in the space of one six-month period. That was just the climate. Also we know very little about the impact on vegetation and on the fractured sandstone that forms the aquifers in the area. In longwall mining, that sandstone can crack and leak. However, that is not mentioned in discussions about the aquifer.
Perhaps that is why the Government's environmental assessment report used the terms "unlikely", "considered" and "anticipated". In other words, the report is admitting to only a guess at these impacts. A couple of comments stand out from that report, "difficulty in accurately detecting" and "the shape of the final drawdown pattern is difficult to accurately predict because of the complexity of fractured rock aquifers and three-dimensional underground flow". Well, no wonder my community is uneasy about the Government's claims that this project is environmentally sustainable—they can read.
One might well ask if it is the same report that the Government read. It is this gulf that undermines public confidence in State government, and this Government in particular. I call upon the new Minister to review the evidence openly and without prejudice. The people of the Southern Highlands deserve no less.
SCHOOL ZONES FIXED SPEED CAMERAS
Mr TONY STEWART
(Bankstown) [5.02 p.m.]: I refer to the use of fixed speed cameras within my electorate of Bankstown and also their application to certain school zones. Before doing so I will make a few important comments as a preamble to the concerns I will raise. Firstly and most importantly, there is no such thing as safe speeding, regardless of road conditions or what type of vehicle is being used. Secondly, I recognise the significant role that fixed speed cameras play in New South Wales in enforcing road rules and increasing safety for both motorists and pedestrians. Thirdly, I point out that along with many thousands of motorists I have fallen fowl of fixed speed cameras and received two speeding infringements.
On 26 May 2008 the Daily Telegraph
reported that I had been fined $500 for speeding on 27 July 2007. The fact is that I was caught by fixed speed camera on 25 July not on 27 July, and I was fined a total of $100, not the reported $500, for driving at 72 kilometres an hour in a 60-kilometre an hour zone. While again emphasising that there is no such thing as safe speeding, the second infringement I received was during December 2007 when a fixed speed camera clocked me travelling at 52 kilometres per hour in a school zone at 9.20 a.m. According to a report in the Daily Telegraph
on 29 May 2008 that intersection is the most heavily fined location in New South Wales—eastbound and westbound speed cameras caught some 19,033 speeding motorists over the six months in the second half of 2007.
Regardless of my situation, which I have already outlined, I have received numerous representations from constituents who have complained to me about the Stacey Street and Hume Highway intersection, and the manner and circumstances in which they received speeding fines. In the main, people complained about the lack of effective signage at that intersection to properly warn motorists that they are entering a school zone, particularly for those travelling in a westbound direction. I consider those concerns to be fair and reasonable, because no school is easily visible to motorists on the six-lane Hume Highway at the Hume Highway and Stacey Street intersection. The westbound speed camera is situated in a relatively hidden position behind a tree immediately after the traffic signals. The flashing 40-kilometre zone signs are small and poorly illuminated.
There are three different speed limits in the immediate lead-up to the intersection, ranging from 70 kilometres down to 40 kilometres in less than a couple of hundred metres. Intimidating large semitrailers, including B-doubles, often tailgate motorists moving through that very wide intersection—so some drivers would consider braking through the intersection to be dangerous. As I stated earlier, 19,033 motorists have been caught speeding in that school zone in a six-month period. A number of those motorists caught speeding at that intersection have contacted me about their concerns, many of whom have now lost their driving licence as a result of the fixed speed cameras.
These people are not the stereotype hoons that drive fast, hotted-up cars with little regard for the safety of others or themselves. These people are grandmothers, grandfathers, schoolteachers, school counsellors, professional drivers and working mums and dads, who have had years of previous exemplary driving experience on New South Wales roads. Max McLeay received three infringement notices for the same location in less than a month, between 20 July 2007 and 13 August 2007, for exceeding the speed limit by less than 15 kilometres an hour in a school zone. Max is aged 73 years; and has been driving for 43 years with an exemplary driving record of only one past infringement. Max was unaware that speed cameras were in that location. I can understand his concerns.
I could cite many other complaints received about that intersection, but time prevents me from doing so. I again emphasise that there is no such thing as safe speeding. However a more liberal speed enforcement framework could exist to deal with licence suspensions. I cannot understand why the New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority has a system in which an infringement for 15 kilometres an hour and under attracts a fine of only $79 with the loss of a whopping three demerit points, but a driver who exceeds the speed limit by more than 30 kilometres an hour, and is clearly and wilfully speeding, loses only four demerit points. Clearly this system is disproportionate.
In this regard, and potentially taking into account the modern context of fixed speed camera road enforcement expansion, I strongly believe that the Roads and Traffic Authority's speeding demerit point system should be reviewed to allow for the loss of only one demerit point for motorists caught exceeding the speed limit by 15 kilometres an hour and under, and perhaps a two or three demerit point loss for exceeding the speed limit by 15 kilometres an hour and over in a school zone. That is still a decisive penalty and recognises that speeding is not safe. However, it would a fair and reasonable system for motorists.
ROAD, RAIL AND SEA FREIGHT TRANSPORT
Mr DONALD PAGE
(Ballina) [5.07 p.m.]: I refer to future transport options in light of the large increases in freight forecast to occur over the next 20 years along Australia's eastern corridor. I will refer to road, rail and sea transport options. Firstly, there is a need to fast track the upgrade of the Pacific Highway given the enormous number of semitrailers and B-doubles that currently transport freight between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane through the Ballina electorate on an inadequate highway. The AusLink report entitled "Building our National Transport Future: Sydney-Brisbane Corridor Strategy", released in April 2007, stated:
Freight on the Sydney to Brisbane corridor will almost triple over the period to 2029, rising from approximately 7 million tonnes to approximately 17 million tonnes … This compares to an expected doubling of freight on most other AusLink corridors.
This prediction has serious implications for the Ballina electorate and every community on the Pacific Highway between Sydney and Brisbane, with the forecast of large population increases in the same area over the same period. We also have a projected large increase in tourism numbers visiting destinations along that corridor. At this time only 40 per cent of the Pacific Highway between Newcastle and the Queensland border is dual carriageway. The forecast trebling of the freight load on the Sydney-Brisbane corridor begs the question: how much of that forecast freight increase can be carried by rail or by sea?
As far as rail is concerned, the former Federal Coalition Government created the Australian Rail Track Corporation, which took over responsibility for interstate rail freight about five years ago. New South Wales received about $800 million to upgrade the State's track. This was a very good initiative, which will double the amount of freight carried by rail over the next decade or so. At the moment around 17 per cent of Australia's total freight load is carried by rail. The Federal Government's investment in interstate rail will lift this to around 34 per cent according to the forecasts. While this is very commendable it still leaves an awful lot of freight to be carried by road unless another alternative can be found.
I believe the sea freight option should be more fully explored. The Pacific Ocean is a major freight corridor between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane yet it is not really used for domestic freight movements within Australia. Why? I believe there is a good case for non-time sensitive freight to travel on ships. The State and Federal governments should look at this option and remove any current impediments that prevent this from happening. Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane all have good deep sea ports, so why is shipping along the Australian east coast not used more as a serious freight corridor for domestic freight movements that are not time sensitive? After all, the major infrastructure—the ocean and port facilities—is in place.
Shipping provides opportunities for economies of scale. A container ship, while taking twice as long as a train, can carry 30 times the amount of freight. However, it may not be economically viable to use container ships of this size for domestic coastal shipping. Even halving the scale to 15 times the capacity of rail freight would make a significant impact in reducing the amount of freight carried on the Pacific Highway. One ship could take approximately 900 semitrailers off the Pacific Highway. There would be a requirement to improve access in and out of ports, but the long-term benefit of this type of investment would reap major dividends. Other benefits of shipping include savings in storage costs, especially for non-time sensitive heavy items, cost savings in transport due to shipping freight being charged at a flat rate and not by weight, and the ships themselves acting as warehouses on water and thus freeing warehouse space for the companies being supplied. There would also be large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Further benefits of increased coastal shipping would be a decrease in use of the Pacific Highway by heavy transport vehicles. This would lead to much safer roads and a reduction in the cost of maintenance of the Pacific Highway. In the year to June 2007, 228 people died in Australia in motor vehicle accidents involving heavy rigid or articulated trucks. I have long believed that mixing heavy freight traffic with local and tourist traffic on a road that is a non-dual carriageway—single lane each way—is a recipe for disaster. With only 40 per cent of the Pacific Highway being dual carriageway it is clear that it is going to be many years before the entire length achieves this status. In the meantime, people will die and communities will suffer.
I am not opposed to heavy vehicle freight but I believe it should be much safer, which in my view requires dual carriageway at the very minimum. We must complete the upgrade of the Pacific Highway to dual carriageway as quickly as possible. However, I believe we must also explore the open corridor that exists at our doorstep in the form of the Pacific Ocean. I urge both State and Federal governments to look seriously at coastal shipping as a freight option especially for non-time sensitive freight up and down the Australian eastern corridor. This would save lives and money, and reduce greenhouse gases. We should get on with it.
RURAL FIRE SERVICE AWARDS
Ms ALISON MEGARRITY
(Menai) [5.12 p.m.]: It was a great pleasure to officially present a range of service awards at the Sutherland Rural Fire Control Centre at Heathcote on Saturday 31 May 2008. I presented these important awards to volunteers from Bundeena, Engadine, Grays Point, Kurnell, Maianbar, Sandy Point, and fire centre volunteers and staff on behalf of the Minister for Emergency Services, Nathan Rees, and in my own capacity as the local member for the bushfire-prone electorate of Menai. The member for Miranda also attended the ceremony, together with local Federal parliamentarians and Sutherland council representatives, including the mayor, David Redmond.
We joined with Chief Superintendent Dominic Lane, the executive director of operations and regional management and Superintendent John Cook, fire control officer, in honouring many dedicated and professional Rural Fire Service volunteers who had a combined service of over 700 years to communities in the Sutherland shire. This is an outstanding achievement by anyone's measure and it demonstrates the depth of the commitment from these volunteers. Our community's gratitude for their respective contributions was expressed by the presentation of the National Medal and clasps. Time will permit me to mention only those who received the National Medal: John William Cook, for 35 years of service; Sandra May Collins, 23 years; Veronica Roberts, 23 years; Edward Roberts, 23 years; Colin Roberts, 23 years; Ian Richard Kemp, 20 years; Noelene Trewin, 19 years; Peter Trewin, 19 years; Deborah Anne Pinfold, 19 years; Kirsty Gay Lowder, 18 years; David Scott Brown, 17 years; and Margaret Susan McKinney, 15 years.
There were also five people who received a first clasp award and two who received second clasps. In addition, long service awards were presented to 20 volunteers in recognition of their continued resolve to serve their community. On the day I explained that the medals were a token of the community's thanks, but I also said that I hoped they would understand that it was much more than a token recognition of the outstanding work they had done over so many years. Rural Fire Service volunteers answer a call for help whenever it goes out. Often they put their own health and safety at great risk so that they may help others.
I was very happy to hand over a new personnel carrier to the wonderful Sandy Point brigade, which is situated in the Menai electorate. The carrier replaces a 12-year-old vehicle and takes advantage of design changes for this type of vehicle. I was also pleased to hand over a new category 1 heavy tanker to the Kurnell Rural Fire Brigade. It replaces that brigade's existing seven-year-old vehicle and provides the brigade with the best in bush fire fighting technology and support for other incidents. A new vehicle for a senior volunteer officer was funded and presented by Sutherland council, which is very supportive of the Rural Fire Service and contributes financial as well as in-kind support. This vehicle also replaces a 12-year-old vehicle. These vehicles will help keep the Sutherland shire Rural Fire District fleet amongst the most modern in the State.
The Sutherland shire area is predominantly urban interface along ridges of the valleys of the Georges River and the Woronora River. The shire's boundaries are the Georges River in the north, Deadman's Creek and Woronora Dam in the west, the Royal National Park in the south and the Pacific Ocean in the east. The 217,000 residents make Sutherland Shire Council one of the largest council areas by population. It covers a total of 37,000 hectares, of which the New South Wales Rural Fire Service is responsible for 29,280 hectares. The Rural Fire Service organisation has been actively coordinated in the Sutherland shire for more than 55 years. Currently 13 brigades, with more than 650 members, are very active in their commitment to the community.
This Government has long recognised the importance of the Rural Fire Service and the invaluable work it does, not just in fighting fires but also in areas such as community education and a range of other activities that people may not automatically think the Rural Fire Service would be involved in. That is why we have continued to ensure that the Rural Fire Service gets the funding it needs to do its work. I am looking forward to yet another presentation of awards, medals and equipment on 14 June, when another group of people will be recognised for their ongoing contribution to our community by protecting both life and property. I look forward to advising the House of those achievements. I take this opportunity again, on behalf of everyone who knows and appreciates the work of the Rural Fire Service, to thank them very much for going above and beyond the call of duty. I said on the day that the words "professional" and "volunteer" sometimes seem contradictory; in the case of the Rural Fire Service, "professional" and "volunteer" belong together because the people involved in the service exhibit both traits.
HENTY CEMETERY PROJECT
Mr GREG APLIN
(Albury) [5.17 p.m.]: On Saturday 10 May I attended a community event in Henty that marked the culmination of years of planning and effort by several residents who had set out to identify and put names to more than 250 graves at the town's cemetery. The project was a long-held dream of Henty funeral director Edward Dale, and with the help of local Tidy Towns coordinator Yvonne Booth and many volunteers it is now almost complete.
Ed Dale had made it a personal mission to identify and mark the unmarked graves. It concerned him that some graves were occupied by stillborns, by families unable to afford burials and by people who were the last in line of their family. He knew that some of the graves dated back to before 1925 but he had the old funeral book records and plot maps and he started the research and soon attracted support from others, for Henty is renowned as a town that embraces community projects. Yvonne Booth knew that the project would not only bring emotional and practical closure for relatives but would also present an opportunity for residents to develop a civic project for entry in Keep Australia Beautiful's Tidy Towns program.
Henty enjoyed great success in the 2005 awards when Henty Public School won the Litter Prevention Award in the small town category, the Henty Community Club took out the ClubsNSW Partnership Award, and the town itself won the Friendly Town Award. As I said at that time—and repeated at the Saturday function—Henty is a friendly town and it has a great community spirit. So it was no surprise that volunteers from Henty Rotary Club and Henty Garden Club, along with other residents and Greater Hume Shire Council, all responded to the call to undertake this community project.
In the absence of any funding from government for placing plants on the unmarked graves, organisers set about raising funds, researching the records, contacting descendants and relatives, and beautifying the grounds. Hundreds of research hours were spent searching newspapers for death notices dating from the 1890s and cross-referencing records kept by funeral directors, churches and the Wagga Wagga archives. Mrs Booth said that they found Anglican records from 1903 in the Wagga Wagga archives. The Lutheran records were in South Australia and Henty, while the local church held the Catholic records. However, the Presbyterian records were missing.
Church records were cross-referenced with the original map and funeral directors' ledgers from 1925. The ledgers noted the minister, cemetery details and denomination. The Rotary Club of Henty funded the plinths for the unmarked graves and any relatives of the families were usually happy to help with the cost of the plaques. The Tidy Towns Committee organised various fundraisers to pay for the remaining plaques. The organisers said that the project had unearthed many amazing stories about the people who had lived in Henty and in the surrounding district. The discovery of stillborn babies without first names in unmarked graves had been a compelling and heart-warming story that had brought closure for mothers like Mary Driscoll of Yerong Creek and Margaret Hasler of Pleasant Hills.
Mrs Driscoll knew that her stillborn baby had been buried in the Henty cemetery in 1956 but she had no idea where. She said that in those days the hospital made arrangements with the undertaker and people basically were told to go home and forget about it. But Mrs Hasler said it was something that she could never forget, which is why she wrote "Never forgotten" on the plaque that is now laid on the site. Contacting families of the stillborn children was a difficult and sensitive task for Yvonne Booth. Although the news of the identified grave brought back sad memories the mothers were pleased to know that there was a place they could visit to remember their babies.
Two of the graves recently marked were those of Indian merchant traders, whose ashes were buried in the cemetery over 50 years ago. The traders had travelled the land in wagons, sleeping in tents, the wagon, or under the stars. They visited farms and towns selling clothing, fabrics, toys, household goods, toiletries and haberdashery. The committee invited the Indian High Commissioner, Her Excellency Mrs Sujatha Singh, to the unveiling of the plaques and was thrilled when she accepted the invitation. Accompanied by defence adviser Captain Jatinder Singh, the Indian High Commissioner visited Henty for a civic reception hosted by Greater Hume Shire Council, and then all the guests travelled to the cemetery.
Beneath an Indian flag the high commissioner unveiled the two plaques placed on the gravestones and laid a wreath at each—one for Sundah Singh who died in 1947 aged 67, and the other for Putarb Singh who died in 1951 aged 82. It was a moving experience and the high commissioner offered her heartfelt thanks to the Henty community for honouring the lives of her countrymen. Three Henty residents were then introduced by Ed Dale to share their recollections of the two traders, and Mary Schlue, Edna Wilson and Sid Rohe all spoke of their childhood memories when the turbaned traders' wagons arrived at their properties with a wide variety of merchandise. The historic occasion concluded with a country afternoon tea beneath the gum trees. It was an unusual setting to celebrate a community achievement, but all agreed it was appropriate, and it was a good day for Henty.
FORBES SUPERBEE HONEY FACILITY
Mrs DAWN FARDELL
(Dubbo) [5.22 p.m.]: I acknowledge the great work of Forbes Shire Council and the Forbes community for their efforts in attracting a major honey processing business to their town. It was particularly satisfying to attend the official opening by Mayor Rhonda Keane of the $4 million Superbee facility at Forbes on Saturday 24 May, given the difficulties that many rural communities have in attracting major businesses to their towns. Superbee is an exciting development for Forbes. The business directly employs 10 people and it aims to double that number with a range of value-added products in coming years. Superbee relocated to Forbes after 20 years on the Queensland Sunshine Coast, where it needed additional space to expand but met with indifference from councils in that region.
In contrast, Forbes Shire Council was enthusiastic at the prospect of a new industry entering the local economy. A popular function of the former Superbee facility was to operate as a free tourist attraction for school parties and weekend visitors, with a visitor centre and theme park that attracted up to 200,000 visitors a year. Superbee aims to develop a similar tourist facility at the Forbes site over the next two to three years, along with the expansion of its honey extraction plant. The establishment of the new Superbee plant was assisted through a $100,000 grant from the New South Wales Department of State and Regional Development, which provided significant support for the company to relocate.
As a demonstration of its faith in Forbes, Superbee purchased a 15-hectare site in the town's industrial area, including a factory with a total undercover space of 3,800 square metres. To date, the company has invested about $4 million in cash and in-kind commitments. A visit to the Superbee site is an interesting learning experience, as one can discover how and where honey is sourced, processed and marketed. The honey processed at Forbes is sourced from apiarists across the eastern States of Australia, in particular, from the Riverina and Central West. One of the key motivating factors in the Forbes relocation was its proximity to major honey-producing areas. Forbes has good highway transport infrastructure and it is located within a several hundred-kilometre radius of country that, in a good season, can produce up to 40 per cent of Australia's honey.
The honey is supplied to the Forbes factory in bulk steel drums in a raw and unprocessed state. It is heated to about 150 to 170 degrees Celsius for easier flow and then it is ultra filtered to remove pollen and other unwanted particles. Honey from the Forbes factory is supplied in quantities ranging from six-gram portions to 20 tonne bulk orders. The factory can process about 1,500 tonnes of honey per year and currently has 600 barrels—about 120 tonnes—of unprocessed honey ready for processing at the new facility in 2008. Superbee sells to supermarkets and the food service industry and it aims to establish a retail outlet at the new factory for direct sales to the public.
The company has a retail outlet in Sydney selling 30 different varieties of products, including honey, pollen, dried honey, propolis, Manuka honey, honey and ginger, royal jelly and honeycomb. Members might have noted that one of the products Superbee markets is propolis. It has also been exporting to Singapore. This natural product is produced by bees and has long been used as traditional medicine for a range of ailments, including inflammation, viral diseases, ulcers, superficial burns and sore throats. Propolis is an age-old remedy with recognised benefits. However, it must be noted that its use may cause severe reactions in some people who are allergic to bee products.
The new Superbee factory at Forbes started production in February after transferring all of its packaging and processing equipment from the old facility and reinstalling it. Local Forbes contractors Rodney Neilson Concreting, Shead and Nicholson and Complete Plumbing assisted with the reassembly of the processing and filling plant. The factory then had to go through several weeks of commissioning and tests before starting full production. Chris Kath, Superbee's general manager, said that on a good day the Forbes factory could produce about 15 pallets, or about 4,500 three-kilogram jars of processed honey. Mr Kath said that the focus at Forbes was to store and blend honey to provide a consistent product throughout the year.
The honey is filtered to remove all the trace particles and potential allergens. It is then supplied to customers all over Australia and to 25 countries internationally. Superbee is an environmentally conscious company that closely monitors its water and natural gas use during its processing operations. The honey needs to be heated so that it can be filtered and the water is needed for wash down when the process is completed. In addition to processing honey, Superbee is aiming to include cold storage facilities on the site as a means of expanding its marketing opportunities.
The company is also looking to purchase equipment to produce a new product called honey straws, or honey stix. The honey stix are a drinking straw-type package containing about five grams of honey that can be sucked from the straw. It is also an alternative to putting sugar in coffee or tea. The honey stix are popular in the United States as a natural alternative to sweets for children. I again congratulate Forbes Shire Council on its initiative in accommodating Superbee, the Forbes community for its ongoing commitment to the town, and the owners of the Superbee factory for having the confidence to move into the Forbes area.
SYDNEY FOOD SUPPLY
Ms CLOVER MOORE
(Sydney) [5.27 p.m.]: Inner-city residents are dependent on city fringe areas for their food and I request the New South Wales Government to take action to secure Sydney's food supply. The United Nations World Food Program sees rising food prices from natural disasters, lost harvests and climate change, affecting the world's key food producing areas as the world's biggest challenge over a period of 45 years and threatening 100 million people with hunger in a global food crisis. Diversion of food crops into biofuels to replace declining oil stocks increases pressure on food supplies, and the green revolution is offering limited production increases. Rising oil prices add to fertiliser and transport costs.
Prices of food staples have skyrocketed globally: there is panic buying in many countries and food riots in others. Australians have been insulated from the worst impacts, but Sydney is experiencing increasing food prices, which are not just the result of drought. This is a serious concern in Australia, where only 10 per cent of the world's driest continent is suitable for growing food. Presentations at a recent Planning Institute of Australia Congress indicated that 18 per cent of New South Wales food production comes from the Sydney fringe where development is encroaching through growth corridors. The Sydney Food Fairness Alliance, which works towards a fair and sustainable food policy for Sydney, has contacted me about this threat to our food supply.
We rely on foods grown in the Sydney Basin: 90 per cent of perishable vegetables, all Asian vegetables, 80 per cent of mushrooms, 90 per cent of spring onions and shallots, and most tomatoes, peas, beans and cucumbers are grown in the Sydney Basin. The Sydney Basin is 30 times more productive than the rest of New South Wales and it employs about 12,000 people. The alliance identifies that the current Metropolitan Strategy and Regional Growth Strategies propose urban development on the most productive land where there is fertile soil, natural water supply, transport and nearby markets for perishable produce. Planning for the metropolitan area has focussed on managing population growth, but should also ensure our long-term food and water supply.
Locally, we should support community gardens and space for growing foods in the city. This will require supportive planning controls and incentives for small shops selling locally grown fresh produce. Community gardens can operate even in the most densely populated areas; already there are gardens in places such as Woolloomooloo and Newtown, which directly help people on low incomes. Urban agriculture is very efficient; it reuses organic waste, and could reuse grey and stormwater. The United Kingdom has a long history of allotment gardens, and for more than 30 years the Danish Government has been buying small plots to provide city allotments. Sustainable city gardens have been working in Cuba, Mexico and Central America for decades.
The Centre for Education Research in Environmental Sustainability city farm in Melbourne and the Ecoliving Centre at the University of New South Wales show how residents can improve our city's sustainability, including growing fresh foods. As a wealthy country, we should help with funds to prevent starvation, but we also need to take strategic action ourselves. We should remove incentives to turn food into biofuels, control financial speculation over food supplies, end harmful trade policies and support sustainable agricultural productivity in developing nations; and we should act to protect our national land and water resources, and give priority to locally produced foods.
Governments should support and educate farmers to be custodians of the land, soil and water, and actively support efficient smallholders. The Department of Primary Industries should be reformed to provide leadership towards sustainable farming, and not leave this vital industry to market forces. We must protect the Sydney food basin so that Sydney residents have access to fresh foods grown sustainably close to the city. This needs control of urban growth in our food basin, complemented by planning controls and incentives to retain small farms on the city fringe. Governments can support small sustainable farmers with fresh food programs that give priority to locally grown fresh foods using fewer chemicals over processed foods that have been grown with high levels of mechanical and chemical inputs and transported long distances, with high greenhouse costs in food miles. I call on the New South Wales Government to work with the Commonwealth, local councils and the community to develop a food security project to ensure long-term fresh food supplies for the Sydney Basin.
Mr JOHN AQUILINA
(Riverstone—Leader of the House) [5.32 p.m.]: I am proud and pleased to support the member for Sydney as I represent an electorate that covers the fringe area of Sydney. My electorate has a large representation of persons involved with the production of food. They are finding producing food an increasing challenge, particularly as Sydney's residential area continues to burgeon, driving farmers out even further. They find it difficult to produce the quantities of food required by Sydney in a location amenable to transporting that produce to the Sydney markets, and also the food quality and grade required to meet the demands of Sydney.
Coincidentally, last Friday I attended a field day held in the grounds of the University of Western Sydney's Richmond campus, the site of the former Hawkesbury Agriculture College, which has a reputation of more than 120 years in educating people on how to provide produce not only in Sydney but around Australia. The area I represent has a large percentage of market gardens, poultry farms and the ever-increasing, highly efficient, intensive and environmentally sensitive hydroponic farms. In many ways these farms will be the answer for Sydney's future food needs. Hydroponic farms are expensive to set up, but the quality of food produced, particularly being free of disease and grown under strict control and stringent guidelines, is the way of the future. One thing the Government can do is to provide educational courses for traditional farmers who now need to get their heads around the new scientific methods of producing quality food. I very much support the member for Sydney and thank her for this important contribution to the House.
Question—That private members' statements be noted—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Private members' statements noted.
Motion by Mr John Aquilina agreed to:
That this House do now adjourn.
The House adjourned at 5.35 p.m. until Friday 6 June 2008 at 10.00 a.m.