Mr Speaker (The Hon. George Richard Torbay)
Tuesday 28 October 2008
took the chair at 1.00 p.m.
offered the Prayer and acknowledgement of country.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Notices of Motions
General Business Notices of Motions (General Notices) given.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENTS
Question—That private members' statements be noted—proposed.
GRAEME PASH TRIBUTE
Mr KEVIN GREENE
(Oatley—Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister for Sport and Recreation) [1.04 p.m.]: Members of the House will know of the very recent passing of one of the stalwarts of the racing industry, Graeme Pash. I will take a few moments to acknowledge his enormous contribution to sport, in particular, horseracing and Australian Rules football. Graeme Pash was a sporting enthusiast, a man whose passions led him to become one of the most competent sport administrators in this State and, indeed, across the country. An engineer with a distinguished career in the corporate sector, Graeme put his skills and talents to work for the benefit of the sports he loved. For this alone he deserves the gratitude of sports fans in New South Wales and elsewhere, and our thanks. Graeme's love for horse racing propelled him to become a successful horse owner, occasional punter and powerful and fearless advocate for the industry. However, it was most likely his desire to make a difference to the sport that led him to take on some of racing's key roles.
He was a member of the Sydney Turf Club for more than 30 years, a director then chairman during a period of change and revitalisation. He continued to serve the industry through his role as the Sydney Turf Club's nominee on the board of Racing New South Wales. As Sydney Turf Club chairman, Graeme's contribution has been widely acknowledged as outstanding. His careful and considered governance gave the organisation a solid basis on which to rebuild itself as a premier racing club. His legacy can be seen especially at Canterbury Park and Rosehill Gardens racetracks, where he worked tirelessly to ensure a better deal for all involved in the sport of kings—whether punter or major player. His work on the board of Racing New South Wales was marked by similar success. We are all grateful for his generosity of spirit and hard work in this capacity.
A West Australian by birth, Graeme's love of Australian Rules football was applied, not only theoretical. He turned out for the East Perth Football Club and the University of Western Australia team, where as captain/coach he lead them to premiership victory. He carried the athlete's love for the game into later life. In 1987 he became a shareholder in the group that acquired the licence to operate the Sydney Swans. He was a Swans director for five years from 1987, and answered the call again from 1995 to 2002, when he rose to deputy chairman. But these bare facts do not do justice to his contribution to the Sydney Swans. His involvement with the team was clearly driven by devotion to the sport and the people in it. Graeme was made a life member of the Sydney Swans in 2003. In June, as a mark of the esteem and affection in which he was held by the club, Swans players ran through a special banner dedicated to him at the Sydney Cricket Ground. It was public recognition of the amazing effect Graeme Pash has had on all who knew him.
There are many other sporting facets to Graeme's life, including serving as a trustee of the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust from 1998 to 2005, and his interest in sailing and golf. Away from sport he was appointed chairman of the Forestry Industry Advisory Council in 1995, and was a fellow of the Institution of Engineers and a fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Since his sad death last week many tributes have been paid to Graeme. Running through these is a common theme: his innate decency; his willingness to share his time and skills; his focus and dedication to the task at hand; and his ability to mentor others for the lasting benefit of the sport.
It is clear that he was universally admired and respected. I know there are many in the worlds of racing and the Australian Football League who are mourning the loss of this charming, kind and sincere man. On this, the day of Graeme's funeral, I extend to his wife, Julie, and his family our sincere condolences on their loss. I pass on my personal sympathies. Having met Graeme on a number of occasions, I know that he was a lovely man, a gentleman and true icon of sporting administration and a great servant of sport.
The House joins in offering its condolences to the Pash family.
ABORIGINAL EMPLOYMENT STRATEGY
Mr ANDREW STONER
(Oxley—Leader of The Nationals) [1.09 p.m.]: One of the most challenging issues facing governments, both State and Federal, is the gap in a range of indicators relating to indigenous Australians. That gap exists whether we talk about unemployment, poverty, health outcomes, incarceration rates, school retention rates or domestic violence and child abuse in families. The Nationals are well aware of these issues and the unacceptable continuation of the gap that exists in relation to Aboriginal people. We represent eight of the 10 electorates with the largest Aboriginal populations. In my electorate of Oxley there are large Aboriginal populations in the Macleay and Nambucca valleys. I believe the solution to addressing this gap in the long term is, as Noel Pearson, one of the indigenous leaders, has said, to get away from the welfare cycle or, as he puts it, the "welfare poison" that is undoubtedly poisoning his people.
Governments have really failed to come to grips with a change in philosophy and a move towards engaging Aboriginal people in education and employment in more practical ways. While we all agree with the need to say sorry, I believe that actions speak louder than words. I have spoken on many occasions about the need for practical reconciliation, the things that really hit the mark in helping Aboriginal people to break the awful cycle of poverty. Participation in education and employment is without a doubt the way to go. This is where a program called the Aboriginal Employment Strategy has been achieving very positive results where governments for decades have failed. I refer to a brochure on the strategy, which states:
We are about work not welfare
We are about building pride, passion and commitment in Aboriginal communities
We are about building strong partnerships between Aboriginal communities and corporate Australia
The Aboriginal Employment Strategy came about largely due to the efforts of a cotton farmer from Moree, Dick Estens. He was concerned about the impacts of the cycle of poverty and social disadvantage on his community of Moree. At that time Moree had a dreadful reputation for crime and all sorts of social dysfunction. If you go to Moree today you will find a marked difference in that community. The program essentially changes the culture in towns where there are large Aboriginal populations. It changes the culture of not only the Aboriginal community but also the wider community and in particular the business community. It involves the use of mentoring and role models of young Aboriginal people in work, and is run 100 per cent by Aboriginal people. Dick Estens has knocked on the doors of corporate headquarters around Australia, including the banks, McDonald's and the Accor hotel chain to name a few, to ensure their participation in the program. They have participated magnificently.
The Aboriginal Employment Strategy has produced 1,500 jobs for Aborigines in the past financial year. It works because it avoids the entrenched interests in the Aboriginal welfare system, which include the bureaucracy and some members of Aboriginal communities. The success of the program has seen it expand from Moree to Dubbo, Tamworth, Maitland and Kempsey and also in Sydney to Blacktown, Campbelltown and Glebe, as well as Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. This expansion has occurred despite bureaucratic resistance to the program. It is already proving a success in Kempsey, where it opened earlier this year. A bright new office was established, which is a positive change for the town, and it seemingly inspired the neighbouring Department of Housing office to spruce up. The local manager, Ren Perkins, and his staff have liaised with the Kempsey Chamber of Commerce to employ 50 Aboriginal people in local businesses within six months. Ten young Aboriginal people have been employed in the first month.
In a town where general unemployment is amongst the highest in the State but indigenous unemployment is much higher, this is a massive achievement. Previously we saw a vicious cycle: because there are few role models in employment there has been little hope for young people in schools, and despite the best efforts of teachers many of these kids have simply dropped out. Crime, drug and alcohol abuse and ultimately jail were the cycle for these young people. The Aboriginal Employment Strategy is a positive step in breaking the cycle. It deserves the full support of government, State and Federal.
Ms SONIA HORNERY
(Wallsend—Parliamentary Secretary) [1.13 p.m.]: I agree and support the member for Oxley and Leader of The Nationals' comments about the Aboriginal Employment Strategy. I lived a large chunk of my life in Walgett and Kempsey and I saw the beginnings of these programs in their embryonic state. I know from my friends in Walgett and Kempsey that the programs are very successful. They are about giving people hope by giving them jobs, and that is really important.
SOUTH COAST TOURISM
Mr MATT BROWN
(Kiama) [1.14 p.m.]: Congratulations, Madam Deputy-Speaker, on your election to your position. I talk today about tourism and its challenges in the seat of Kiama, which tells the story of the whole South Coast. Unfortunately, the story is not a good one at the moment. In the tourism industries in Kiama, Berry, Shoalhaven Heads and Kangaroo Valley and further south at Jervis Bay, Milton, Mollymook or Ulladulla the response is the same. We need more people, especially from Sydney, to visit us and we need the media to start providing confidence rather than negativity. I say to all Sydneysiders: Come down and visit the South Coast. We love having you and we have heaps to offer. As far as value for money is concerned, people could not do better than have a short break on the South Coast. It has a great combination of beaches, valleys, small towns, country villages and wineries. There is so much for people to see and do.
For those who want to recharge their batteries there are many places where they can do absolutely nothing in a whole variety of bed and breakfast places and guesthouses. I say to the media: Let us not self-perpetuate a recession. We can avoid one if we remain positive and use some of our hard-earned vacation leave to have a break. What am I hearing? Firstly, sales have been slowing over the past few months and overall many operators are reporting a reduction of between 10 and 25 per cent on this time last year. That sort of percentage decrease makes all the difference to these small businesses and forces them to choose whether to keep staff or lay them off, or worse still whether to keep their doors open or to close.
To give an example of how slow things have become we need only look at cabin bookings in our caravan parks coming up to the October long weekend. This is usually a very popular weekend in the middle of the school holidays but this year people were able to book cabins less than a week out from the long weekend. This is highly unusual in that these popular forms of accommodation are usually booked out weeks in advance. Families are looking for just a two-night stay rather than a week's stay. That means that families are going to only one of our many attractions such as the Jamberoo Action Park, the Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk and the Mogo Zoo, not to two or more as they would have in the past.
Another clear indicator is advance bookings for 2009. Unfortunately, I am hearing that they have dropped significantly, and some providers are running on empty. Wine is a major industry on the Shoalhaven coast and less is being bought. It is also harder for wineries to sell it in restaurants. Members can see the flow-on effects to all the different industries that rely on tourism. Why is this happening? It is a good question. Blame has been attributed to many factors, such as higher fuel prices and less disposable income, but most importantly there is a lack of confidence and people are not taking well-earned breaks.
What will happen if this situation continues? It will be disastrous for operators. They will decide to cut seasonal staff, which in turn reduces local income. Many tourism operators are small family businesses and it will have a devastating effect on the families. What should be done? We do not need a big, fancy and expensive advertising drive from our advertising or tourism agencies. We do need the media to provide confidence to the public, not self-perpetuate a recession and the fear that many families are feeling.
I urge people in Sydney to pack up and come down to the South Coast because that will help keep the area alive. They should also spend wisely. I am encouraging people to consider the South Coast, with its huge variety of attractions, and I ask people to look at the excellent work that our South Coast operators are doing in their own businesses and in marketing the area and making sure that it remains very attractive. I ask people to really consider our regions. They are doing it tough but we can make sure they remain strong and vibrant if Sydneysiders pay us a visit. We look forward to seeing them shortly.
FOSTER CARE SIBLING CO-PLACEMENT
Mr RAY WILLIAMS
(Hawkesbury) [1.19 p.m.]: Last Friday two wonderful foster carers visited my office. They shared with me their harrowing experience at the hands of the Department of Community Services [DOCS], Life Without Barriers, the Director General of DOCS, Jennifer Mason, and the Minister for Community Services, the Hon Linda Burney. I have been asked to not mention these carers' names or the children's names as they are in genuine fear of the children being taken from them if their identities are made public. This couple have been DOCS assessed and approved foster carers for just under a decade. During this time they have been long-term carers for two siblings—a boy aged 9 years and his sister aged 11 years when they were first placed with this couple. These young people are now aged 16 years and 18 years respectively. There are six children in this family and four are currently in long-term foster care. The 16-year-old boy is currently studying for his school certificate.
A younger sister aged eight is very happy and living with another foster family, where she has been since she was one. Two years ago the two youngest siblings were taken into foster care and placed with two separate carers. Since this time the older siblings have been requesting that DOCS place all four children together so that they can grow up as a family in a loving, caring environment. The foster carers have an excellent record of care and the older siblings are fine, upstanding young people. No complaint has ever been made against these carers or the children, yet DOCS and the non-government agency Life Without Barriers have ignored these requests. DOCS continues to fight against the wishes of these children. No reason has been given and it is in contravention of its own documented policies on co-placement of children in out-of-home care.
Three months after writing a letter to the Minister the 16-year-old boy of this family finally received a response. Unfortunately, the Minister has endorsed a process that will further humiliate this family and cover up the appalling way DOCS and Life Without Barriers continue to treat this sibling group. The process that DOCS has now decided on involves the carers and the siblings attending a series of interviews and assessments with a clinical psychologist on 13 November 2008 on the Central Coast, some two hours away from home, to assess the merits of the younger boys being permitted to live with their older siblings. The proposed schedule will see every sibling and their carers interviewed in six separate interviews over six hours. These interviews are extremely humiliating and depressing to young teenagers who already have low self-esteem.
The 16-year-old boy will have to deal with this ordeal right in the middle of his school certificate examination. The fosters carers will have to take a day off work, as will the 18-year-old young lady who is only three weeks into her first full-time job, and all will lose a day's pay. The psychologist engaged to carry out this assessment at a Central Coast DOCS office has been handpicked because of her reputation for placing a greater emphasis on attachment. In the past two years DOCS has permitted the older siblings to see their baby brother only six times. In the first year DOCS permitted only three visits with the older siblings and Life Without Barriers is using every excuse to restrict access between these children. The older siblings have been seriously disadvantaged in their desire to form a bond and attachment with their younger brothers.
Unfortunately, the outcome is predictable before it is even undertaken. The report will state that the younger boys have bonded with their carers and that it will be detrimental to move them, which is totally wrong and not in the best interests of all the children. DOCS has recently raised the issue that the two younger children have high needs. However, at a meeting held at a DOCS community service centre with the foster carers and the older siblings all present were advised the toddler was meeting all his development milestones and the older boy was making exceptional progress. So the question is exactly when have these special needs suddenly arisen and what are they? DOCS policy states that when siblings come into care co-placing the siblings should be encouraged. This did not happen in this case; in fact, the exact opposite happened and there is no justification for this humiliating process and the continued separation of the children.
All that is being asked is that two younger siblings of these children already in care be placed together in a home that can accommodate them and welcome them in a loving, caring environment. One would think that if DOCS really cared about the future of these children it would do everything it could to keep the siblings together, especially when the carers have proven to be beyond reproach. The carers of the older sibling should be reassessed in the normal way, by the regional assessment team, and given the opportunity to foster the two younger boys. Instead, DOCS has created the current situation where a widowed grandmother looks after the seven-year-old boy and an unmarried mother cares for the toddler, hardly the best outcome for the future of this family. Will the Minister please explain to the carers why she is supporting this process and putting these children in foster care through such an ordeal, one that contravenes government policy on the treatment of siblings in foster care? The foster carers received a letter from the Minister dated 21 October. They blocked out the names and identifying data and forwarded the letter to the National Children's and Youth Law Centre National Director, James McDougall, who commented on the letter saying:
This is an excellent example of the token efforts that Government gives to supporting the participation of children. Its hypocrisy compounds the breach of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.
He went on further to say that:
They can use this as an example for the next Non Government Organisation Report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The Minister has the opportunity to do something positive and place these two young children with their older siblings in a wonderful caring environment. Her failure to intervene places in jeopardy the wellbeing of the children.
SANDY POINT DRAGON BOAT CLUB
Ms ALISON MEGARRITY
(Menai) [1.24 p.m.]: I have previously informed the House about remarkable Sandy Point in the Menai electorate. Technically it is a suburb, but it has no adjoining suburbs. It is situated in beautiful bushland and bordered on three sides by waters of the Georges River and Deadmans Creek. I have also previously acknowledged the intrepid community spirit of the people who live there. Sandy Pointers protect and enjoy every aspect of the precious environment on their doorstep. So perhaps it is not too surprising that the coinciding opportunities presented by the riverfront location and an abundance of motivation in a relatively small population, have combined to produce a highly successful dragon boat club.
Dragon boating is by nature a social sport requiring large numbers of people. There are 20 paddlers, l0 on each side and two abreast. All paddlers attempt to work in unison, stroking the water at the same time to pull the boat forward. For this reason timing as well as power is required to get the boat moving fast. Typically, there are four to six boats in races of 250 to 1,000 metres, testing the crew's strength to accelerate from the start line and endurance to maintain the boat's speed. As the races are conducted from a standing start, it is an adrenaline-charged and exciting sprint to the finish line. Teams can be categorised into women's, men's or mixed crews.
I attended the third annual general meeting of the Sandy Point Dragons Inc. on Saturday 18 October 2008. Club President, Peter Arnold, started his report with three words, "What a year!" He felt it had been the most successful one so far and in the time I have today I can only give a brief overview of all the achievements. In August 2007 at the Drummoyne 10s regatta, Sandy Point took first place in the premier mixed class. In September 2007, 10 members of the club volunteered as officials to assist in the smooth operation of the International Dragon Boat Federation eighth World Dragon Boat Championships held in Sydney. In the competition Lauren Schwizler and Dana Kalgovas won two silver medals each in the junior division. Between them, Bev and Peter Arnold won four silver and two bronze medals in the Masters. Peter said:
I must say, standing on the dais wearing the green and gold and being presented with the world championship medal has been the pinnacle of my career and I am sure I speak likewise for Bev, Lauren and Dana.
In October 2007 Vic Kalgovas, Bev and Peter Arnold took up a special invitation to paddle with the Australian Navy team and were successful in winning one gold and two silver medals in the masters division. At the Roseville Regatta in November 2007 Sandy Point joined forces with neighbours, the Port Hacking club, achieving first in the premier mixed B final and third in the masters open final. As part of the club's efforts to encourage juniors into this fantastic sport Jarrod Maronski and Dana Kalgovas, Lauren Schwizler and Lachlan Cavanagh competed in the March 2008 Canberra Festival. At the April 2008 Australian championships in Perth nine Sandy Pointers made the State team. That figure is 25 per cent of its membership and the highest representation of any club in New South Wales. Out of six events in the Masters and Grandmasters our State team achieved six gold medals and one bronze medal.
I was honoured to present State representative certificates to Dana, Jennifer and Vic Kalgovas, Peter and Beverley Arnold, John Nichols, Gloria Schwizler, David West and Alastair Paterson in recognition of their participation in the Australian championships. All things considered, President Peter Arnold certainly was not exaggerating when he said that it had been a big year for the Sandy Point Dragons. Special awards were also presented at the annual general meeting for best attendance, rookie, most improved, high achievement, support crew, best female and best male. Coach Vic Kalgovis presented his 2008 award to Dave West, one of nature's true gentlemen and an active participant in the Sandy Point Progress Association too. Vic diplomatically pointed out that Dave is the most senior paddler in the team, yet he is able to make virtually every training session summer and winter. In some other very well chosen words, Vic said:
In life it is easy to sit, do nothing and criticise others, but that won't develop self-esteem and a sense of achievement in our lives. Too many of us sit back and say I'm too old for this, or it's too hard to get up in the morning (even the younger ones), but the reality is that our body adapts to whatever our minds tell it.
Vic concluded his citation with:
Dave is a role model not only to his own generation, but every younger generation and a shining example of what you can achieve when you are young of mind.
Honourable members might give serious consideration to a question posed by the club in a local newsletter, "Are you making any time for your health?" The club contends that dragon boating is a great way to lose weight, get fit, make friends and have fun. Of course, not everyone can have the pleasure of experiencing what they have said is "the fastest growing sport in the world" with this particularly wonderful club. However, knowing the people involved and after seeing some impressive competition photos, I am willing to take their word that it is "serious fun, great fitness training and suitable for people of all ages". I also take this opportunity on behalf of the House to say good luck to the club's members—and, indeed, every club's members—participating in the Pan Pacific Masters Games on the Gold Coast from 1 to 9 November 2008.
Ms SONIA HORNERY
(Wallsend—Parliamentary Secretary) [1.29 p.m.]: I congratulate the member for Menai on her motivational speech on the Sandy Point Dragons. It sounds like a wonderful riverfront to visit. I am impressed by the abundant motivation of the Sandy Point Dragons, and I love their dragon boat racing. I congratulate also the Sandy Point Progress Association and commend the many active senior citizens in the Menai electorate.
PERILYA LTD BROKEN HILL MINE APPRENTICES
Mr JOHN WILLIAMS
(Murray-Darling) [1.30 p.m.]: When mining company Perilya Ltd announced on 20 August that it was to undertake a restructure, resulting in the loss of 440 jobs from the company's 760 strong workforce, the city of Broken Hill received a massive kick in the guts. Perilya, one of Australia's base metals mining and exploration companies, stated at the time that it had no option but to reduce operations at its Broken Hill facilities due to falling zinc metals prices. The 60 per cent reduction in staff numbers came from the Potosi and North Mine sections of the operation, which are scheduled for closure, but work will continue at the southern section of the facilities.
The move is the latest in a series of retrenchments undertaken by miners implementing cost-saving strategies. While all of the workers faced with retrenchment from Perilya will find it difficult to find other work, some of the most harshly done by from this restructure are the apprentices whom Perilya employed. In total, Perilya had 12 first-year, 10 second-year, three third-year and two fourth-year apprentices on its books at the time the restructure was announced. The company agreed to retain a number of those apprentices, but the vast majority have been left basically stranded. Two third-year apprentices have been retained, along with five second-year apprentices, but that still leaves 18 apprentices with uncertain futures. The fourth years were permitted early completion of their apprenticeships, after TAFE and Perilya agreed they had completed all of the necessary work to become trade certified.
The fate of the other apprentices is in the hands of the gods, as it seems nobody else is willing to take on the role of ensuring that they walk away from their training with an acceptable qualification. One has located employment in South Australia, but he is the exception to the rule. When centres across Australia have faced similar situations, the State Government has stepped in to assist the community and the individuals. This Government has failed to do anything of merit to assist the apprentices put off by Perilya. Despite claims from the Government that it has established a taskforce to work with Perilya and the community to assess what assistance is required to achieve the best possible transition for redundant employees, the apprentices feel they have been abandoned.
One such apprentice is 19-year-old Matt Nelson, who was a third-year electrical apprentice with Perilya. Matt's father, Bob, came and spoke with me earlier this week, concerned that his son was being left high and dry by Perilya. Mr Nelson said the apprentices do not want to leave town to find employment, but their chances of finding it in Broken Hill are almost non-existent. One company, Silver City Steel, which was contracted to Perilya to provide underground earthmoving repairs, is on the cusp of terminating three employees tomorrow, but is hoping to retain the four apprentices it has as owner Steve Holmes is very reluctant to let them go before they complete their apprenticeships. The flow-on effect of the Perilya restructure is being seen all around Broken Hill. People who contracted to Perilya are laying off staff, and there is no confidence in the community for those employees to find alternate arrangements.
The Government needs to put in place a rescue package to ensure the future of apprentices in Broken Hill. Young people who have received one, two or three years training need to have the opportunity to complete their trades. This Government needs to find a way to allow the apprentices of Broken Hill who are affected by this restructure to finish their apprenticeships and begin to earn a living. I hereby call on the Government to took to the example of the Bracks Government and the Rann Government when major retrenchments have occurred in Victoria and South Australia. Car manufacturer Ford was placed in a difficult situation two years ago, when it was forced to retrench 600 workers from Broadmeadows. The Bracks Government put in place a rescue package to save those workers' entitlements and to get the industry back on its feet. The New South Wales Government needs to take its lead from the Bracks Government, put in place a wage package to ensure apprentices complete their training and ensure the future of tradespeople in Broken Hill.
Mrs KARYN PALUZZANO
(Penrith—Parliamentary Secretary) [1.35 p.m.]: I thank the member for Murray-Darling for his contribution today relating to apprentices in his local area. Last Friday, in my role as Parliamentary Secretary, I represented the Minister for Education and Training in the first roundtable event in about a decade organised by the Federal Minister for Employment Participation, the Hon. Brendan O'Connor. On Friday we discussed a whole range of issues, changes and packages related to the workplace and to employment. Though employment is a Federal responsibility, the States discussed the current world economic climate and assistance that may be required for any changes that may occur. I will work with and assist the member for Murray-Darling in communicating with Minister O'Connor's office to see what we can do for the affected Broken Hill apprentices.
PENRITH RELAY FOR LIFE AND BREAST CANCER AWARENESS
Mrs KARYN PALUZZANO
(Penrith—Parliamentary Secretary) [1.36 p.m.]: I am glad that the member for Wyong and the member for Hornsby are in the Chamber as I speak not only about the recent Relay for Life in the electorate of Penrith but also about this being October and therefore Breast Cancer Awareness month. I acknowledge all the pink breakfasts occurring this week, noting that State Parliament is to have a pink breakfast tomorrow. Yesterday, in the electorate of Penrith, there were numerous pink breakfasts, but I would pay particular attention to a pink breakfast that I have been attending for a number of years at the Leonay shops. In Leonay, a little village in the electorate of Penrith, we meet not only for the breakfast but to do a lot of socialising as well. I thank Jenny, Michelle and all the girls who facilitate the morning tea. We had a great time.
Relay for Life is another cancer awareness fundraising activity conducted by the Cancer Council of New South Wales. The Penrith Relay for Life, unlike those in the electorates of the member for Hornsby and the member for Wyong, is held in May. This year our aim was to reach $1 million in funds raised over the seven years that the event has been running, but that target has been well and truly smashed. Over its seven years Penrith Relay for Life has raised more than $1 million for the Cancer Council to improve cancer services in the local area. We know that it is a key priority of this Government to improve survival rates and the quality of life of people with potentially fatal or chronic illness through improvements in health care. Two of the Government's main aims are to reduce the incidence of cancer and to enable patients to receive the specialist care that they require.
In the electorate of Penrith, millions of dollars have been spent on the Nepean Cancer Care Centre, providing specialist staff and new technologies as we strive to reduce cancer rates in New South Wales. I commend in particular the cancer care specialists, who are funded partially by the Cancer Council and the Sydney West Area Health Service. The annual Relay for Life was held in May at Howell Oval, in Penrith. I am quite proud to be the patron of this Relay for Life and to see so many local families out and supporting it—from elderly grandparents to families with newborn and children of all ages in between.
My thanks to the committee of management, headed by Julia Parashko, who has been chair for three years. In the recent Cabinet in western Sydney organised by the Premier, Julia Parashko was the Penrith electorate's nominee for the community award because of her efforts in fundraising for the Cancer Council and for the many years she has been out there in the community raising awareness of Cancer Council activities. I thank Julia and her wonderful team. I thank also the local businesses that supported the events, and a special thanks to the teams that supported them. It was good to see not only the teams that had been there from the beginning of Relay for Life but the newer teams also. I congratulate the schools that participated. McCarthy Catholic College had seven teams in the events and they stayed for the whole of the 24 hours, from the first to the very last lap. I note that they were next to the Saloon bar, a fundraising group that comes along every year and provides much needed nourishment for the walkers.
A number of people attended from Contours and Little Athletics. Also present were members of the Girl Guides, and I commend my daughter, who was in the junior guide section and walked the laps in those 24 hours. Lastly, I acknowledge that the Cancer Council has opened a community hub in the electorate of Penrith. This community space, managed by Nik Szafraniec and his team of volunteers, provides information about cancer or provides an area for cancer support groups or for raising awareness about cancer. I commend the Cancer Council for this initiative. I attended the official opening and cut the ribbon with Dr Andrew Penman, the Chief Executive Officer of the New South Wales Cancer Council. It is good that the Cancer Council is raising awareness and supporting people with cancer in Penrith.
I now call the newly shorn member for Hornsby.
HORNSBY MODEL ENGINEERS COOPERATIVE LIMITED
Mrs JUDY HOPWOOD
(Hornsby) [1.41 p.m.]: Thank you, Madam Deputy-Speaker. My hair is growing. Today I speak about a wonderful group in my electorate, the Hornsby Model Engineers Cooperative Limited. The group celebrated its thirty-fifth anniversary in October this year. It was a wonderful experience for me to be invited to address the group and participate in the celebration of 35 years of hard work. The club is situated at 29 Mid Dural Road, Galston, in my electorate. Members of the cooperative have operated under the name Galston Valley Railway.
The members build, run and maintain their own model locomotives, both steam and diesel outline. These engines run on five-inch gauge rails, with specially constructed carriages that allow passengers to be carried behind them around the track. The members open their site monthly to the general public, providing families an opportunity for an inexpensive day out. People from both within and outside the Hornsby electorate regularly visit this wonderful site. Children's birthday parties for sizeable groups are very popular. On Saturday 11 October Bob Dobson, a founding member, was asked to give a presentation, and he gave a short historical overview of the club. Also present on the day were a number of founding members as well as regular members and family and friends. One founding member, Allan Head, wrote me a letter and I would like to read it onto the record. His letter stated:
Firstly, it was a great pleasure to meet you out at our Railway Complex at Galston on Saturday 11th October 08. Both my young assistant Duncan and I enjoyed taking you for some rides. The locomotive that I used that day was a model of an English L.N.E.R. Shire class which I built entirely myself in my own little workshop at home. That is the third steam loco I have built in the last thirty five years, and all of them have worked their hearts out at Galston. I have built three in all. During the last 35 years I have been involved in almost every aspect of the Railways construction and maintenance. I have been responsible for 90 percent of the signalling and safe working circuits on the railway, it has been a big part of my life and I hope it to be for a while yet as I am now 84.
That is a wonderful tribute from a man who has devoted a great deal of his life to this fantastic group. I also congratulate chairman Terry Musson, deputy chairman Lloyd Ives, treasurer Shane Austin, secretary Ian Lamont, and directors John A'Beckett, Terry Bradley, Bill Firth and Peter Hartshorn. Many directors over many years have seen this railway go from strength to strength. I shall briefly outline the history of Hornsby Model Engineers Cooperative Limited. It was conceived at a public meeting called in October 1973 by Bob Farquhar and Bob Dobson, who worked as firefighters. This happened after an exhibition of models and hobby activities at the Hornsby Police Citizens Boys Club. A static display of a five-inch steam loco generated considerable interest. A brochure was handed out proposing the formation of a model engineering club and a meeting was held at Hornsby attended by about 30 people. An executive was formed, headed initially by Bob Farquhar. October became the anniversary month and 2008 the thirty-fifth anniversary.
One of the first matters to be dealt with was the acquisition of a suitable site on which a miniature railway could be built. Three sites were examined, with the current location in Galston being deemed suitable as it allowed both hilly and flat running. The site was then owned by Hornsby Shire Council, which granted a lease to the club. During 1974 plans for the three-staged development of the site were prepared. The initial plan was for a short loop railway, then an extended loop, and finally the track much as it is today, which provides a ride of approximately one kilometre in length. The site is now owned by the cooperative and its members, after many challenging times and tough decisions. The site preserves the historical record because the trains are built to specification and are identical to life-size. Galston Valley Railway is on a spectacular site that offers a wonderful opportunity for children to learn about trains, train history and model engineers, and I urge everyone to visit it.
WYONG ELECTORATE SCHOOL CONCERTS
Mr DAVID HARRIS
(Wyong) [1.46 p.m.]: Over the past few of months I have been very fortunate to attend sensational performances by schools within my electorate. This would have to be one of my most enjoyable duties as member for Wyong as I get to see the enthusiasm and vitality of the youth in the area as they show their talents on stage. The children in years 3 to 6 at Blue Haven Public School presented a Dance Concert based on Rock and Roll. The school organises a concert on a grand scale every two years but this year was the first year they were actually able to hold it in their own school hall. Thanks to Federal Government funding the hall stage was extended, curtains were fitted and a sophisticated sound and lighting system was installed that helped turn the performance into a professional event.
Chris Andrews, Principal of Blue Haven Public School, said that watching the performances was one of his proudest moments as principal in the school's 10-year history. He spoke highly of all staff and students and commended their overall cooperation and teamwork. Every child was given the opportunity to participate in presenting an event that showcased the stamina and drive of students and teachers. Gorokan Public School's Mega Musical: The Time Machine
, based on the Beijing Olympics, was outstanding. This huge, whole-school event involved all students and staff, as well as members of the parents and citizens association and the wider community, making props and backdrops, costumes, et cetera.
The school's teaching staff who wrote the musical cleverly weaved into it many aspects of the school curriculum so that it became a total learning experience for the children. The production was inspirational, with sights and sounds coming from all directions and intricate special effects creating a truly immersive effect. The performance was a tribute to the fantastic talents of Jason Clenton, who directed and led the production team. Principal Alanna Bell could not speak highly enough of the quality of the performance. She is fiercely proud of her school and everyone associated with it. She said that events like this help to raise the school's profile in the area. During the week of the musical there were three performances, which ensured that working parents and community members could see the students perform.
At the recent Central Coast Education Awards of Appreciation, the Gorokan Public School principal, school council and parents and citizens association executive nominated the whole school staff, support staff, students, parents and citizens association members and community members for the prestigious awards. Not one person could be singled out—it was truly a team effort. I also attended the Wyong Local Management Group Concert, held at Wyong High School. For members who may not be aware of it, our schools now have local management groups. Primary schools are linked with high schools to encourage better interschool relationships. The Wyong Local Management Group Concert was the first joint performance by participants from eight local schools, including Wyong Public School, Wyong Grove Public School and Wyong High School from my electorate.
I note the member for Lake Macquarie is present in the Chamber. Many schools in his electorate from the Wyong Valley also took part in the performance. Wyong Public School string group performed and was a credit to its exceptional teacher, Rosemary Reynolds. Rosemary works part time at Wyong Public School and was a member of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra where she played the viola. Rosemary has inspired her young students and passionately shares her talents with them. Principal Graham Holmes said that last year the Christmas present most asked for by children at Wyong Public School was a violin. Graham is extremely proud of his students and their progress in music over the past 18 months. He says that the string group has become a personal signature of the school and the school is so fortunate to have Rosemary on staff.
Wyong Grove Public School Dance Group, 28 talented boys and girls, also participated. It is great to see boys participating more in dance and expressing that talent in concerts. The coordinating teacher, Megan Cruwys, trained the students over the past 18 months and involved them in the choreography. The theme of the main dance, Let Me Entertain You
, was to showcase fun, and that was certainly achieved. Principal Jennifer Parke spoke proudly of the enthusiasm of the students and teachers involved and also of the developing talents of all the kids. The final performance was the showcase by Lakes Anglican Grammar School. This school is only five-years-old and is undergoing a rapid growth phase. The impressive performance opened with a number of high school items involving violin solos, vocal solos and an unaccompanied vocal quartet. The kindergarten to year six students then took over with an enthralling and highly entertaining musical about the human body. I congratulate all the schools that participated, as well as all schools in my electorate.
Mrs KARYN PALUZZANO
(Penrith—Parliamentary Secretary) [1.51 p.m.]: I thank the member for Wyong for his contribution acknowledging local schools in Wyong electorate and the vitality of their students who participated in creative arts events. I also commend all the teachers and parents who volunteer to make costumes and props for these creative arts nights, but I pay particular attention to the volunteers who come into the schools to provide music tuition. I know that the music programs of schools in the Penrith electorate would not survive if they did not have volunteers to assist in nurturing and encouraging young performers in the local areas.
PACIFIC HIGHWAY UPGRADE
Mr STEVE CANSDELL
(Clarence) [1.52 p.m.]: Sadly, today I raise in Parliament the occurrence of another death on the Pacific Highway between Coffs Harbour and Ballina. According to Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] figures this notorious stretch of road claimed over 52 lives between 2003 and 2006. Tragically, in the past two years more lives have been lost on that road and those fatalities have to be added to the tally. The Pacific Highway from Sydney to Tweed is roughly 850 kilometres. The notorious 200-kilometre stretch between Coffs Harbour and Ballina, about 23 per cent of the highway, is responsible for 33 per cent of the deaths.
One wonders why the Roads and Traffic Authority formula for fast-tracking funding for Pacific Highway upgrading is based on traffic volume rather than fatalities. This traffic-based approach to road upgrading should be changed to ensure that the safety of lives is paramount. Following those 52 deaths between 2003 and 2006, a 79-year-old man died north of Ulmarra on an undivided highway; a 13-year-old Broadwater youth died after being struck by a north-bound utility on a single-lane highway; a 46-year-old Queensland man died at Woodburn on a single-lane highway; and last year two priests were killed on a single-lane highway. The list of deaths on this highway specifically details that all occurred on undivided or single-lane sections of the road.
I could talk all day about these horrific road toll figures. It reminds me of the Vietnam War, when the increasing number of body bags resulted in a change in government policy. Perhaps the increasing number of body bags being used in road fatalities might change this Government's policy to enable fast-tracked upgrading of the notorious section between Coffs Harbour and Ballina from a single lane to a divided double lane highway at least. The recent 2008-09 budget allocated $7 million for the section from Wells Crossing to Ballina, for road planning only. That paltry amount would not even cover insurance for one year, let alone go towards essential road improvements to save people's lives. It is time this Government accepted the simple reality that this section of the highway is dangerous.
Minister Roozendaal's announcement two years ago as Minister for Roads to fast-track the highway upgrading appeared in a newspaper article under the headline "Highway Death As Fast-Track Plan Announced". The article states, "The Minister says he will cut red tape to speed up the highway upgrade after a man was killed in a crash at Knocknow." Once again, this is more spin from a Government that is out of control and not addressing the realities. I urge the Government to fix the Pacific Highway problem. All the spin in the world can be thrown at the public, and everything can be covered up, but the tragic and unnecessary deaths that occur week after week on the roads are ruining families and communities. The NRMA continued its pressure on the Government when it put out a release last year highlighting the danger of this notorious section of the Pacific Highway and the need to upgrade it.
Director Wendy Machin and Ernie Bennet, head of the Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Council [NOROC], toured the North Coast and saw the hot spots and the dangers of that highway, and they also saw the roadside crosses marking the tragic deaths of families' loved ones that increased the road toll statistics. I hope the Government remembers that. The previous Minister would not tour the highway, but I ask the current Minister for Roads to visit this region. I will take him along the highway and we will look at the crosses and inspect the dangerous bends and the lanes of undivided highway that cause these accidents. We all agree that most road accidents result from human error. Divided highways were designed to help eliminate human error, prevent loss of innocent life, and make travel safer for families and for truck drivers doing their daily jobs.
In 2003 I made a private member's statement at the request of an ambulance officer who was sick of attending tragic truck accidents every week. The following is an excerpt from what he told me. He said, "On arrival at the accident scene there was a semitrailer on fire, a section of the vegetation on the roadside was flattened." He said he walked past a lady, who was critically injured, and her husband. He walked over to another couple. The man was cradling his wife in his arms and he was covered in her blood. He was rocking backwards and forwards saying, "She was the love of my life, the love of my life." Sadly she was deceased. Let us stop the barrage of road deaths and do something about this highway urgently.
Mrs KARYN PALUZZANO
(Penrith—Parliamentary Secretary) [1.57 p.m.]: I thank the member for Clarence for his contribution. He should contact the Federal member regarding funding for upgrading a Federal road. I remind him also that the standing orders require that private members' statements contain information on members' electorates. I trust the information he gave the House was pertinent to his electorate.
Mr GREG PIPER
(Lake Macquarie) [1.57 p.m.]: I inform the House of plans to establish on Lake Macquarie a Toronto branch of Sailability—a group that through sailing enriches the lives of the disabled, the elderly and the financially and socially disadvantaged. Certainly, the member for Swansea is aware of this fantastic organisation. Sailability is a not-for-profit, volunteer-based organisation operating under various names at some 350 locations in 20 countries. Toronto Sailability would be part of Sailability New South Wales, an organisation whose mission is as follows:
Facilitate participation in sailing and boat usage at social, recreational and competitive levels on inland, estuary and ocean water, for people with disabilities regardless of age and level of disability.
Sailability has a broad view of what constitutes a disability and offers its services to people affected by acquired brain injury, amputations, asthma, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, hearing impairment, heart disease, intellectual disability, multiple sclerosis, paraplegia, quadriplegia, spina bifida and vision impairment. Since its genesis in the 1980s in Great Britain, Sailability has benefited over 15,000 participants. In 1991 Sailability was introduced to Australia and currently over 50 groups operate here. The proponents of the Toronto group have made great efforts to raise funds and to enlist the support of individuals and organisations in the community, but it will need to rely on the support of some government agencies if it is to succeed. There is a long list of requirements for a site to be suitable for Sailability. This includes suitable water quality, water depth, access to uncongested waters and suitable prevailing wind direction.
Requirements for access for onshore facilities include launching facilities, a ramp, a jetty with wheelchair access and a gantry for transferring clients. Onshore requirements include parking, shade, storage, and wheelchair-accessible showers and toilets. The proposed location at Toronto has all the natural attributes and already has many of the infrastructure requirements. In simple terms, the site only needs the improvements necessary to move disabled people between their car and boat, plus access to shower and toilet facilities. Five of the ten boats needed have already been acquired, as well as minor items such as life jackets. The group is fundraising by selling 1,000 copies of the book Sailing Legends of Sydney Harbour
, which were donated by local identity and author, the late Fred Thomas.
The major infrastructure requirement is a wharf and pontoon with a total value of $150,000. One-third of this is being sought as a donation from a local financial institution, one-third has been applied for through the New South Wales Maritime Infrastructure Fund, and the remainder is subject to an application currently being prepared for the Department of Sport and Recreation. Storage for boats will be provided by Toronto Amateur Sailing Club, which has lodged a development application for a $20,000 expansion. The club has also jointly lodged an application with the Department of Aging, Disability and Home Care for $10,000 for a wheelchair-accessible toilet block.
Investing in Toronto Sailability will bring great benefits. As with any endeavour, its value is in the results it produces, such as from the following examples. Ken, a 28-year-old paraplegic mildly afflicted with cerebral palsy since birth, arrived at a Sailability site with his full-time carer mother, who had heard of Sailability from a friend. Some four weeks later Ken had progressed from having a paralysing fear of boats and water to sailing single-handedly around a triangular course and back to the pontoon. When he reached the pontoon, his joy was such that he burst into tears. So did the volunteers and his mum.
A 35-year-old male pilot who had become paraplegic after a bad parachute landing was taught by Sailability Pittwater to sail a 2.4R keel yacht, similar to the single-person yacht used in the Paralympics. In recent years he migrated to Hungary for family reasons. This year he represented Hungary in the single-person 2.4R event at the Paralympics in Beijing. He emailed his thanks to Sailability Pittwater. These results are life changing and are more the rule than the exception. This happens because Sailability volunteers make the effort to turn out week after week to provide this remarkable social facility. Surprisingly, very few volunteers have disabled children, relatives or friends. They volunteer because they see the value in helping others. Sailing enables people with a wide range of disabilities to participate and achieve, and compete on equal terms—even with able-bodied sailors.
The dedication of those planning this valuable service for Toronto, particularly Mr Geoff Thornley, should be acknowledged and their efforts supported. I bring the House's attention to Toronto Sailability because I strongly support what it is trying to achieve. I am confident that this will be a view supported across Lake Macquarie. I sincerely hope that the group's requests for Government assistance can be met.
Mrs KARYN PALUZZANO
(Penrith—Parliamentary Secretary) [2.02 p.m.]: I thank the member for Lake Macquarie for bringing Toronto Sailability to the attention of the House. I acknowledge that there are 50 groups of Sailability around the State offering sailing experience to those with particular needs. One of those 50 Sailability clubs is located at Penrith Lakes. I have observed the Sailability program in operation on a number of occasions. I wish to commend the organisation's volunteers, whom the member for Lake Macquarie acknowledged in his speech. The volunteers do a wonderful job assisting people with a physical disability to and from their boats, and assisting the organisation of the Sailability clubhouse.
Every Australia Day, as well as every time an event is held—such as Activate, which took place last weekend on Penrith Lakes—Sailability volunteers are out there promoting the use of their sailboats. The program also has a spin-off effect. In the recent Paralympics, one of our local residents, John Maclean, a local sportsman who sustained a spinal injury, won a silver medal in adaptive rowing. Adaptive rowing, together with Sailability at Penrith Lakes, provides sporting opportunities for people with a physical disability. Once again I thank the member for Lake Macquarie for bringing the matter to the attention of the House.
BARRABA WATER SUPPLY
Mr PETER DRAPER
(Tamworth) [2.04 p.m.]: Motivational speaker Zig Zigler once said:
People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing—that's why we recommend it daily.
I assure members that motivation does last in the Barraba community, because Barraba residents are determined to secure a safe, reliable water supply so they can take a bath every day in clean and hygienic water. In June I spoke in this place of the Barraba community's disappointment when a staff recommendation was put to Tamworth Regional Council "that it not proceed with the Split Rock Dam Pipeline Option as a raw water source for Barraba on the basis of the high capital cost". This motivated Barraba residents to attend the council meetings in large numbers, and thankfully council rejected the recommendations, while making it quite clear that Federal and State authorities would need to contribute substantial assistance if the project were to proceed. What motivates the people of Barraba? Earlier this year I received a letter from Clare Ferris, who attends Barraba Central School. Clare is the president of the student representative council and also school captain for 2008. She wrote:
I am writing to express my concerns as a resident of Barraba, and as a Community and School Leader. As a school leader I have a great awareness of the issues that affect the school and the community, and the restrictions that are placed upon the town and community of Barraba due to the lack of water and its quality. This is of great concern to me.
Clare went on to say:
As a mandatory experiment within our chemistry syllabus my chemistry class was required to conduct water tests and assess the tests for water quality and its uses. When assessing the Barraba town water, we repeated experiments a number of times to ensure accuracy. It was found that when we tested the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) of the water it was outside the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines requirement. We established the water to be, through rigorous testing 600mg/L. I quote a report from Wilkes University:
"High total dissolved solids may affect the aesthetic quality of the water, interfere with washing clothes and corrode plumbing fixtures. For aesthetic reasons, a limit of 500 mg/L (milligrams per litre) has been established as part of the Secondary Drinking Water Standards."
Clare went on to say:
Through the World Health Organisation report "Total Dissolved Solids in Drinking Water":
"It was reported in a summary of a study in Australia that mortality from all categories of ischemic heart disease and acute myocardial infarction was increased in a community with high levels of soluble solids (TDS), calcium, magnesium, sulphate, chloride, fluoride, alkalinity, total hardness, and pH when compared with one in which levels were low. No attempts were made to relate mortality from cardiovascular disease to other potential confounding factors."
No wonder Barraba residents are motivated to obtain a secure, safe water supply. Following a recent Tamworth Regional Council estimate that a Split Rock Dam to Barraba pipeline would cost $15 million, council has been pressured by the State Government to adopt a third-rate bore solution to Barraba's water woes. As the Barraba development committee points out in its submission to Infrastructure Australia, "There is no real presence of substantial groundwater aquifers in the Barraba area and supply is usually limited, unreliable and only available through fractured rock." Investment in such a solution would be short term and short sighted.
Barraba residents want further investigations into the actual cost of a pipeline, as with the latest estimate being over $15 million the community believes that to make the project viable a more competitive costing should be developed. In Victoria, Wannon Water has recently started a 29-kilometre pipeline, slightly longer than the Barraba proposal, from Casterton to Coleraine, costed at just over $5 million. Wannon Water has informed me that the project cost approximately $1.6 million for materials, $3 million for construction, supervision and administration, and $600,000 for planning approvals and the carrying out of various studies, including cultural, heritage, flora, fauna and design.
Wannon Water pointed out that the proposed pump flow rate for the Barraba pipeline is roughly twice the rate of its project. Understandably, this would affect the pump station cost component. Given that the site for the Barraba proposal is located on the Dividing Range, the project may also require higher duty pumps, further adding to the cost. The question is whether the extra costs would add $10 million to the project. Council has committed $3 million to the project. Therefore, if the cost of the project could be reduced to close to the cost of the Victorian project, we could be looking for a much smaller contribution from Federal and State sources than was previously thought.
The Barraba community is highly motivated, and I congratulate the community development group on the submission it has presented to Infrastructure Australia seeking assistance. The group is currently working to develop economic activity in the region, including a proposed wind farm, a poultry industry and a specialist abattoir. There is also a proposal to rehabilitate and reinvent the Woodsreef asbestos mine site. What Barraba lacks when trying to attract business investment is a safe, secure water supply. This project will not break the bank, and as such, I believe all three tiers of government should unite to bring it to fruition to secure Barraba's future. I wish to pay tribute to my colleague the Federal member for New England, who is in the gallery today. Tony Windsor is a strong advocate on behalf of the Barraba community and I am very pleased to work with him on projects such as this.
Question—That private members' statements be noted—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Private members' statements noted.
I acknowledge and welcome to the public gallery the Federal member for New England, Mr Tony Windsor. I note his intense interest in the speech just made by the member for Tamworth about the Barraba community.
[The Deputy-Speaker left the chair at 2.09 p.m. The House resumed at 2.15 p.m.
ELECTORAL DISTRICT OF CABRAMATTA
Return of Writ: Election of Nickola Lalich
: I have to inform the House that my writ issued on 22 September 2008 in accordance with section 70 of the Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Act 1912 for the election of a member to serve in the Legislative Assembly for the electoral district of Cabramatta in the room of Reba Paige Meagher, resigned, has been returned with a certificate endorsed by the returning officer advising of the election of Nickola Lalich, to serve as member for the electoral district of Cabramatta.
PLEDGE OF LOYALTY
Mr Nickola Lalich took and subscribed the pledge of loyalty and signed the roll.
ELECTORAL DISTRICT OF LAKEMBA
Return of Writ: Election of Robert Anthony Furolo
: I have to inform the House that my writ issued on 22 September 2008 in accordance with section 70 of the Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Act 1912 for the election of a member to serve in the Legislative Assembly for the electoral district of Lakemba in the room of Morris Iemma, resigned, has been returned with a certificate endorsed by the returning officer advising of the election of Robert Anthony Furolo, to serve as member for the electoral district of Lakemba.
PLEDGE OF LOYALTY
Mr Robert Anthony Furolo took and subscribed the pledge of loyalty and signed the roll.
ELECTORAL DISTRICT OF PORT MACQUARIE
Return of Writ: Election of Peter Edward Besseling
: I have to inform the House that my writ issued on 29 August 2008 in accordance with section 70 of the Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Act 1912 for the election of a member to serve in the Legislative Assembly for the electoral district of Port Macquarie in the room of Robert James Murray Oakeshott, resigned, has been returned with a certificate endorsed by the returning officer advising of the election of Peter Edward Besseling, to serve as member for the electoral district of Port Macquarie.
PLEDGE OF LOYALTY
Mr Peter Edward Besseling took and subscribed the pledge of loyalty and signed the roll.
ELECTORAL DISTRICT OF RYDE
Return of Writ: Election of Victor Michael Dominello
: I have to inform the House that my writ issued on 22 September 2008 in accordance with section 70 of the Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Act 1912 for the election of a member to serve in the Legislative Assembly for the electoral district of Ryde in the room of John Arthur Watkins, resigned, has been returned with a certificate endorsed by the returning officer advising of the election of Victor Michael Dominello, to serve as member for the electoral district of Ryde.
PLEDGE OF LOYALTY
Mr Victor Michael Dominello took and subscribed the pledge of loyalty and signed the roll.
I am sure all members will join me in congratulating the new members on being duly elected to the Legislative Assembly.
Order! I acknowledge the presence in the gallery of the Federal member for Lyne and the Federal member for New England.
DEATH OF NATIONAL PARKS AND WILDLIFE SERVICE FIREFIGHTER BRYCE LAUT
Ms CARMEL TEBBUTT
(Marrickville—Deputy Premier, Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, and Minister for Commerce) [2.26 p.m.]:
We are once again reminded in the most tragic of circumstances and of the courage and commitment of our State firefighters. About 6.00 p.m. last Sunday afternoon, while fighting a fire in the Kumbatine National Park west of Kempsey, New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service Firefighter Bryce Laut died after being struck by a falling tree. I know that all members of the House will join with me in extending our deepest sympathy to the Laut family at this difficult time. This is a terrible tragedy.
New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife firefighters work side-by-side with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service and the New South Wales Fire Brigades crews from across the State. They work to protect the community; they take risks to preserve our natural and built heritage, and our lives. We owe them a vast debt. Mr Laut has paid the highest price for his vigilance and commitment. His colleagues in the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Department of Environment and Climate Change will sorely miss him. Mr Laut was one of four New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service officers working to put out a fire on the weekend. Our thanks go out to his colleagues as well, at what must be an extremely difficult time.
The Department of Environment and Climate Change is offering assistance to Mr Laut's family and colleagues. Staff of the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service spent time with Mr Laut's family yesterday and I spoke with his mother today. Mr Laut, who was from Port Macquarie, spent the last 14 years as a firefighter. He was an experienced, dedicated and senior professional, who had worked for both the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service and the New South Wales Rural Fire Service. He was well respected and well liked by his colleagues, with many of them counting him as a friend. Our State's firefighters deserve our highest praise and gratitude. I know that all members will join with me today in extending our sincere condolences to the Laut family at this difficult time.
Ms PRU GOWARD
(Goulburn) [2.28 p.m.]: The Opposition joins with the Government in paying tribute to Bryce Laut, who was tragically killed last Sunday. Mr Laut was one of the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Services most experienced and senior firefighters. He was killed while back burning in the Kumbatine National Park west of Kempsey. It is believed that the fire he was so courageously trying to contain was deliberately lit. What a tragic end for such a respected and well-liked officer. Mr Laut had worked for over 10 years with the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service as a senior ranger. Prior to that Mr Laut worked for the New South Wales Rural Fire Service where he began as a volunteer—a great mark of a person prepared to lay down his life for his community. He knew when he began his career with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service that each time he put on his uniform and left for work it may very well be for the last time. There is no more courageous vocation in Australia than that of a firefighter.
Sadly, it often takes a tragedy such as this for us to reflect on and appreciate the magnificent job that these men and women do. It is impossible to adequately express our gratitude. The circumstances surrounding the fire make this incident even more tragic. I understand a specialist squad will investigate the origins of the fire. During the 2007-08 bushfire season 18 adults and 55 juveniles were charged with a total of 92 arson-related offences. In Australia, a dry and fire-prone country, it is an unforgivable crime of violence and one we must take more seriously. We must not continue to lose men of the calibre of Bryce Laut and deprive family, friends and the community of their presence as a result of this crime. We must ensure that the Rural Fire Service and New South Wales Fire Brigades work closely with the New South Wales Police Force to investigate all arson-related bushfires, identify the culprits and ensure suitable punishments that will deter any future acts of vandalism which result in this sort of tragedy. Of course, prevention is always a useful strategy. On behalf of the Opposition, we share with the Government our sympathy and express our condolences to the family and friends of Bryce Laut.
On behalf of all members, I offer our sincere condolences to the family of Bryce Laut. I ask all members to rise as a mark of respect.
Members and officers of the House stood in their places as a mark of respect
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Notices of Motions
Government Business Notice of Motions (General Notices) given.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Notices of Motions
Government Business Notice of Motions (for Bills) given.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
SENIOR PUBLIC SECTOR WAGE INCREASES
My question is directed to the Premier. Given the Premier has been caught out trying to mislead the public on everything from Reba Meagher's resignation to reform on political donations and ferry privatisation, and again today on when he first learnt about pay rises for senior public servants, why should the public ever believe anything he says?
Mr NATHAN REES:
I answered a question at a press conference earlier today as to when I knew of the gazettal of pay rises arising from the determinations made by the Statutory and Other Officers Tribunal. I said at the first press conference I held today, "since I found out about the gazettal date last night". I held a subsequent press conference because after the media attention this morning I sought further briefing material on the matters at hand. What emerged was my signing of the original brief to my office from the Statutory and Other Officers Tribunal, which asked that I note the reports and the determinations of the tribunal.
Mr Barry O'Farrell:
And said that gazettal would be on 26 September—before the by-elections.
Order! The Leader of the Opposition will cease interjecting. The House will come to order.
Mr NATHAN REES:
It says that the earliest date of publication will be 26 September, that is true. The recommendation was, "The Premier notes the reports and determinations of the tribunal." The salient point is, "The tribunal has provided a 3.9 per cent increase to the SES remuneration levels. All SES officers will receive a 2.5 per cent increase. A further increase of up to 1.4 per cent is to be granted by CEOs to SES officers where"—my underline—"in the view of the CEO there have been productivity improvements in the agency sufficient to warrant increase." When I signed that and noted the advice from the tribunal I hand wrote, with an arrow to the "Director General", "No productivity improvements to be paid by CEOs until savings have become actual, that is, years 2009 and 2010."
Mr GEOFF CORRIGAN:
My question is addressed to the Premier. What is the latest information on climate change and its effects on New South Wales, and related matters?
Order! Government members do not need the assistance of the member for Terrigal.
Mr Adrian Piccoli:
The climate has changed in the Labor Party in the past few months.
Mr NATHAN REES:
The climate has changed with regard to a merger. I thank the member for Camden for his question and note his longstanding interest in this most important matter. This morning, together with our new Chief Scientist and the Deputy Premier, I attended Sydney's community consultation forum on our new New South Wales Government Climate Change Action Plan. As well as helping us curb our emissions, the action plan will deliver practical, on-the-ground work involving communities, local councils, businesses and government agencies, such as emergency services, health and transport. Central to the climate change debate is the science being generated on this topic every day.
Today the science for Sydney, conducted by the University of New South Wales, in conjunction with the Department of Environment and Climate Change, is in. The science tells us, with some certainty, that in the Sydney Basin temperatures are going to rise by 2 to 3 degrees by 2050. We are likely to have marginally warmer summers and substantially warmer winters. Rainfall will become more variable and erratic, making it increasingly difficult to rely solely on rainfall-dependent water sources to secure our water supplies. During our summers we are likely, regrettably, to see more bushfires threaten Sydney surrounds.
The facts on this are clear and my Government has a responsibility to act, not just for this generation but for generations to come. My Government is deadly serious about getting on with the job at hand and delivering real outcomes for the people of New South Wales. This includes genuine environmental outcomes. The Government has had a proud record of acting first on this issue, and under my leadership we will continue to do so. My Government is united on this issue and we are in agreement that while we all need to bear the cost of transitioning to a new low carbon economy, the cost of inaction is far greater. That is why the Rudd Government is getting on with the job at hand and implementing a national emissions trading scheme. It seems, regrettably, that members opposite cannot seem to get it together and do not recognise the importance of this significant environmental and economic challenge.
Mr George Souris:
Order! I call the member for Upper Hunter to order.
Mr NATHAN REES:
Raincoats will not help you against a hailstorm.
Order! There is too much audible conversation in the Chamber. I call the member for Goulburn to order. If the member for Hawkesbury and the member for Clarence wish to conduct a private conversation I suggest they do so outside the Chamber.
Mr NATHAN REES:
If Opposition members cannot even get agreement on an issue as critical as this, how can the people of New South Wales possibly rely on them to act? The member for Goulburn agrees with the Government. In the Bega District News
on 18 July 2008 she said:
All governments in Australia must work hard to promote programmes and policies that mitigate climate change.
She is yet to prevail over her Nationals colleagues. In further despatches from this policy front is this note from the Australian
Cracks have appeared in the Nationals' commitment to the implementation of an emissions trading scheme … the [National] party's think tank—
That comes under the Macquarie Dictionary's
definition of "oxymoron". But I digress. I continue the quote—
the Page Research Centre has convened a roundtable for tomorrow (25/7/08) to question the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the international grouping of scientists which has concluded the world must reduce its carbon emissions.
All the best minds that The Nationals have to offer assembled to take up the fight to 2,000 of the world's most eminent climate scientists. One can imagine the scene: the circled utes out the front as they arrive; all of them gathered around the table, sleeves rolled up, and perhaps a cold tube or two. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is chaired by Nobel prize-winning scientist Dr Pachauri. Which eminent person was called in to organise this Nationals' roundtable for these climate crisis talks—to query the most consensus-based scientific exercise in world history? It was the Chairman of the New England Federal Electorate Council, Bryan Pape, who was reported as leading the call for a royal commission into the science behind climate change. Not only are The Nationals falling behind in their response to climate change but they do not seem to believe that it is actually happening. It is just more inaction and more confusion on the part of The Nationals. The Leader of The Nationals keeps calling for more delays on a Federal scheme. He says:
Hard-working Australians shouldn't cop it in the neck on climate change if other countries aren't subject to the same rules. It might make north shore doctors' wives feel good about themselves, but it doesn't make any sense to families—
Order! Government members will remain silent.
Mr NATHAN REES:
Apparently climate change has been characterised as an item of interest only to North Shore doctors' wives; the rest of Australia and the rest of the community who have expressed an interest in this issue do not rate a mention. Of course, it is in Australia's interests that the world acts, but it is also true that we cannot influence the rest of the world on emissions reductions unless we act decisively.
Order! I call the Leader of The Nationals to order.
Mr NATHAN REES:
Governments have a responsibility to show leadership on this issue and ensure that we look after the environment for future generations. We are acutely aware of the impact of moving to a new carbon-constrained future and that is why we are committed to the New South Wales Government's Energy Efficiency Strategy. While I have said previously that I am ruling nothing in or out of the mini-budget process, I am convinced that acting early on this matter is warranted. That is why this morning, with the Deputy Premier, I confirmed the New South Wales Government's commitment to $63 million for 220,000 low-income households to be provided with audits and retrofits to help people cope with rising energy prices and reduce their energy bills.
With current rates of mortgage stress, rental stress and the rising cost of living, I believe it has never been more important than now to help shield low-income earners from rising electricity prices. I have asked for this program to be brought forward as a matter of priority. The Australian public has moved ahead of the debate and policy in this area; people see this as a problem and they want to see us fix it. Along with the rest of the New South Wales public, I recognise that climate change is a reality, and we are preparing for it. My Government is in unanimous agreement on this issue and we are committed to delivering real environmental outcomes for the people of New South Wales. The people of New South Wales have our commitment in helping the community meet the challenge of climate change and reducing emissions. That is a top priority for my Government.
GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS SUPPLY DEBT
Mr ANDREW STONER:
My question is directed to the Premier. In light of the fact that businesses are owed tens of millions of dollars after supplying New South Wales hospitals, will the Government match Kevin Rudd's commitment to pay businesses that supply government departments within 30 days or otherwise pay interest to help them meet the financial challenges caused by Government's failure to pay?
Mr NATHAN REES:
As I have said repeatedly to the House, I expect area health services and other government agencies to pay their bills on time and to meet their budgets. I have said previously that I will consider the applicability of the Federal Government's scheme in New South Wales.
GONDWANA RAINFORESTS WORLD HERITAGE LISTING ADDITIONS
Mr PAUL PEARCE:
My question is directed to the Minister for the Environment. What action is the Government taking to secure World Heritage listing for Gondwana land in northern New South Wales?
Order! I call the member for Coffs Harbour to order. I call the member for Murray-Darling to order.
Ms CARMEL TEBBUTT:
The Government is committed to pursuing additions to the existing Gondwana Rainforests World Heritage area in north-eastern New South Wales—an area that I am sure is well-known to your good self, Mr Speaker.
Ms CARMEL TEBBUTT:
The Australian Government has commenced negotiations to develop Australia's World Heritage Tentative List for submission to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in early 2010. The World Heritage Tentative List identifies those places that are considered as being in contention for future nomination to the World Heritage List. This is the first time that the Australian States and Territories have cooperated to develop an inventory of possible World Heritage places. We think this is a good idea because it sets out a 10-year list of possible areas that can be identified for World Heritage listing. The existing Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage area was inscribed in 1986 and covers rainforest area stretching from Barrington Tops to the far north-east of New South Wales and into Queensland. It is truly a spectacular part of the world.
As a result of the regional forest agreements for the upper and lower north-east of New South Wales, more conservation value land adjacent to the existing World Heritage area has been added to the reserve system. It is these lands that are being put forward by New South Wales for inclusion on the World Heritage Tentative List. Of the 680,000 hectares across New South Wales and Queensland that are proposed for addition to the World Heritage area, two-thirds are located in New South Wales. I understand that Queensland is also proposing additions to the Gondwana Rainforests World Heritage area from its own State. The Gondwana Rainforests contain the most extensive areas of subtropical rainforest remaining in the world and protect the largest and best stands of rainforest habitat remaining in this region. The Gondwana reserves contain significant threatened species habitats or biodiversity hotspots. Indeed, few places on earth contain so many plants and animals that remain relatively unchanged from their ancestors in the fossil record.
Order! The member for Wakehurst will cease interjecting.
Ms CARMEL TEBBUTT:
The proposed additions to the Gondwana Rainforests contain outstanding universal values. These include the record of life and evolutionary processes and significant habitat for threatened species of outstanding universal value for science and conservation. These reserves contain representatives of primitive plant families linked to the birth of flowering plants more than 100 million years ago. Many animals found in the reserves also have links back to the Gondwana super-continent, including lyrebirds, the rufous scrub bird, bowerbirds, the pouched frog, as well as the velvet and glow worms. The proposed additions to the Gondwana Rainforests were selected to minimise potential threats to the World Heritage values of the area and to maximise the integrity of the property as a whole. The addition of these areas to the Gondwana Rainforests will assist in managing and protecting this currently fragmented World Heritage property from the potential impacts of climate change, by improving its connectivity.
The listing of these additional areas also has potential tourism benefits as World Heritage is widely recognised as a significant drawcard, particularly for the international tourism market. There is evidence of a growing interest in nature-based tourism—something that Australia can and does excel in—and the nomination of these additional reserves is one way the Government seeks to focus attention on the conservation of New South Wales' northern rainforests and to also ensure that the reserves remain relevant to the contemporary needs of existing and potential visitors. The New South Wales Government looks forward to working with the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government to progress the World Heritage nomination of the Gondwana Rainforest extensions. If the nomination is successful the Gondwana reserves will add to the portfolio of World Heritage properties in New South Wales, which already includes great icons such as the Greater Blue Mountains, Lord Howe Island and, of course, the Sydney Opera House.
WESTMEAD HOSPITAL ANTENATAL ULTRASOUND SERVICES
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER:
My question is directed to the Premier. Will the Premier admit his priorities are completely out of touch when he has granted senior bureaucrats up to $60,000 in pay increases while the latest from Westmead Hospital is that, due to cost-cutting measures, it is unable to carry out 28-week ultrasound scans on women with high-risk pregnancies?
Mr NATHAN REES:
I will be very clear: I have nothing to do with those approvals. The Statutory and Other Officers Tribunal is a standalone tribunal. In fact, it probably had to be put into effect after members opposite introduced the senior executive service.
Order! Members on both sides of the House will come to order.
Mr NATHAN REES:
The tribunal is independent of the Government and has the statutory authority to determine the remuneration of judges, magistrates and public officeholders—for example, members of the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal, the Guardianship Tribunal, the Ombudsman and the senior executive service. The remuneration tribunal is at arm's length from the Government, as it should be. I have asked for advice on the options available to me to vary the most recent determination by the tribunal. As I previously outlined, my preference was for the 2.5 per cent and any other additional increase to be held back until productivity savings had been made. With regard to the specifics, I am happy to look into the situation affecting the maternity units at Westmead Hospital and come back to the member.
Mr ALLAN SHEARAN:
My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. How will the Government's proposed CBD Metro benefit communities in outer Sydney?
Order! The House will come to order.
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
I thank the member for his question. As a commuter from western Sydney I am sure he understands the importance of these issues and of working through—
Order! I call the member for Hawkesbury to order.
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
—them in a consistent and logical way rather than pursuing the nonsense we heard from the member for Murrumbidgee a moment ago. I make it absolutely clear that the CBD Metro is about addressing the problems people in the west confront when they travel into the city to work. It seems that members opposite do not understand. At the moment, six lines from across the city meet at Central Station, but only three go through it, despite the fact that most people want to go through the station, not to it. We need a new rail corridor under the city, and that is what the CBD Metro project will provide. I am sure that most members are aware that Sydney is a global city, despite the best attempts of members opposite to talk it down. It is home to 80 per cent of the multinational banks and pharmaceutical companies in Australia—
Order! I call the member for Willoughby to order.
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
—44 per cent of IT and communications companies in Australia, 65 per cent of regional headquarters of international companies in Australia and 40 per cent of biotechnology companies in Australia.
Order! I call the member for Willoughby to order for the second time.
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
Our $355 billion economy makes New South Wales the most economically important State in the nation. We produce about one-third of Australia's gross domestic product. Ensuring continued growth in our city is vital to the Australian economy and the key to supporting that growth is ensuring that we have the right infrastructure in place. Transport planning for Sydney was based on the city growing from 4.3 million people to 5.3 million by 2030. The Australian Bureau of Statistics now says that Sydney's population will reach 5.3 million by 2020. That is 10 years earlier than predicted and it is the reason that our transport plans must be changed. The Premier outlined the Government's vision for investing in New South Wales.
Order! Opposition members will cease interjecting.
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
That vision includes the CBD Metro, which will run from Central Station to Rozelle via Town Hall, Martin Place, Wynyard, Barangaroo and Pyrmont. This project will ease rail congestion in the central business district immediately and will be the first step for future metro projects to western, north-western, south-eastern or northern Sydney.
Order! The member for Castle Hill will come to order.
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
Extra trains from the west and south and extra buses from the north and north-west are constrained by the central business district. That is why Town Hall and Wynyard stations are struggling. That is also why we need to address this issue head-on by developing better central business district infrastructure.
Order! I call the member for Willoughby to order for the third time. That is her final warning.
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
She will stop whingeing and whining now because she always goes to the edge. It is a bit like the Opposition's approach to policies: It is always talking about them but it never delivers. There will be no more interjections from Wilma.
Mr Brad Hazzard:
Point of order: I refer to Standing Order 129. An extra 250,000 people are now going to the north-west sector—
Order! What is the member's point of order?
Mr Brad Hazzard:
Order! No "I just". The member will resume his seat. I call the member for Wakehurst to order for the second time. That is the worst point of order I have heard in my time as Speaker.
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
It is rude of the member for Wakehurst to wave his pen around like that. The students in the gallery would not do that in class. It is not surprising that members opposite have labelled this plan an insult to commuters. Let us look at the other side of the Chamber. It is a wide open policy space; the Opposition is a policy void. The only contribution from members opposite is their whingeing, whining and complaining about progress.
Order! There is too much audible conversation in the Chamber.
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
The Opposition's inability to see the benefits of building a CBD Metro—which would be the central hub for future growth to the west, the north-west, the south-west and the north—is nothing short of stupidity. Of course, no-one is surprised. Members opposite are focused on fighting among themselves. Is that not right, Mr Stoner? The Liberals are treacherous rats.
Mr Wayne Merton:
Point of order—
I am confident that the member for Baulkham Hills knows how to take a point of order.
Mr Wayne Merton:
My point of order relates to relevance.
I thank the member for assisting the Speaker. I will hear the point of order.
Mr Wayne Merton:
My point of order relates to relevance. The question clearly related to transport in western Sydney. Unfortunately, the Minister is not answering that question. He does not realise the difference between Rouse Hill and Rozelle!
Order! The House will come to order.
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
There is no way I would call the member for Baulkham Hills a treacherous rat, but that is what the Leader of The Nationals said. I hear my colleague the member for Monaro ask about the wave of the week. We embarrassed them last week by pointing out that The Nationals believe that the break at Bondi is best. I understand that this week it is the break at Broken Head. The Leader of The Nationals probably needs to prop up support for the member for Ballina for some reason. That is why he is moving.
Mr Adrian Piccoli:
Point of order—
Order! The member for Wakehurst will cease interjecting so I can hear the member for Murrumbidgee.
Mr Adrian Piccoli:
I have two points of order. First, in reference to standing Order 129, the question asked how the Government's transport policy will help people in western New South Wales. I think people genuinely want to know the answer to that question. Secondly, the Minister has had plenty of time to answer the question. He is now simply wasting the time of the House.
Order! I draw the attention of the Minister back to the leave of the question. I ask him to commence concluding his answer.
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
I note that the question was about western Sydney, not western New South Wales. I am sure that was a bid for the leadership of The Nationals, given that we know that the current leader has no interest in country New South Wales. The Government's proposal for the CBD Metro will assist in reducing pressure on the western line by giving commuters access to additional services that will take them through the central business district. Metro services are the future of transport in New South Wales and, as I said, the CBD Metro is the first step. Our proposal could see construction begin in 2010, with completion expected four to five years after that. Our case to Infrastructure Australia is strong. We need to invest in infrastructure like railways and roads to keep up with growth in our population, and to support businesses and jobs. We need to make sure that Sydney and New South Wales remain the number one place to live and to do business in Australia.
TWEED HOSPITAL CREDITORS
Mr GEOFF PROVEST:
My question is directed to the Premier. Given that at least three suppliers to the Tweed Hospital have been owed more than $150,000 since June, will he now detail to the House how many New South Wales Health invoices are more than 45 days overdue and the total amount owed to businesses, as per the commitment he made to the member for Barwon last Thursday that he failed to meet?
Mr NATHAN REES:
I have said before and I will say again today, leaving small businesses in rural communities or in regional or metropolitan communities—
Order! I call the member for Clarence to order.
Mr NATHAN REES:
I expect the area health services to pay their bills on time and to manage within their budgets. That is critical in making sure that our public health facilities have the supplies they need. If someone has been waiting since June, that is clearly unacceptable. The current situation of late payments is being addressed, and I have made it clear I want it addressed quickly. With regard to the specifics of the hospital that the member raised, I undertake to get a report from the Minister and report back to the member.
SCHOOL INFRASTRUCTURE PLANNING
Ms ALISON MEGARRITY:
Will the Minister for Planning update the House on changes to planning regulations to allow fast delivery of school halls and gyms?
Order! The member for Murray-Darling will cease injecting.
Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY:
I thank the member for Menai for her advocacy for schools in her electorate. Like most members on this side of the House, she is quite concerned to see infrastructure the Government has promised is delivered in a timely manner. Last month the Premier and I announced that we would overhaul the planning laws to cut red tape in the delivery of essential school infrastructure in New South Wales. The Rees Government has delivered on that promise. Last week an amendment to the State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure) was gazetted, ensuring simpler, faster processes for the improvement of important school facilities such as gymnasiums and halls. Up to now we could have taken up to 200 days to get planning approval for a school gymnasium or a hall. Delays of that length are simply not good enough. Improving our public schools is a top priority for the Rees Government and it is commonsense to do everything possible to make sure there are no unnecessary delays. The planning system had become far too complex in its treatment of proposals—
Order! The member for Murrumbidgee will cease injecting. I call the member for Murrumbidgee to order.
Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY:
This is disappointing. We have children here from a school in New South Wales keenly interested—
Order! The member for Wakehurst will cease interjecting. I place the member for Wakehurst on three calls to order.
Mr Barry O'Farrell:
Do they have a gymnasium? Would you like one?
Order! The House will come to order. All members who have been called to order are now deemed to be on three calls to order. The Leader of the Opposition will desist from engaging the gallery in debate.
Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY:
I notice the students who are here today are from a private school. The shadow spokesperson erroneously said they would get nothing out of this change. If he and other members opposite were a little quieter they might hear what the Government is delivering for school students, both public and private. The planning system had become far too complex in its treatment of proposals for school upgrades, despite the fact that many of these proposals had limited or no impact on adjoining land or local infrastructure. When the Premier and I announced our intention to change the infrastructure policy, we acknowledged that the State Government had played a role in the too complex approval system for what were relatively straightforward proposals. Last week's amendment to the infrastructure State environmental planning policy means that approval times will be cut back to as few as 10 days for certain types of new school facilities.
Under the new code, school facilities can be automatically ticked off if they meet specified criteria that make sure the new school building has a minimal impact on any surrounding homes. I instructed the Department of Planning to undertake extensive consultation about the complying development provision with key stakeholders to make sure we got the provisions right for New South Wales schools. These stakeholders included the Local Government and Shires Associations, the Department of Education and Training, the Association of Independent Schools and the Catholic Education Commission.
Following this consultation a code was developed that resembles a checklist through which school developments can be automatically approved if they meet specified planning criteria. When I announced our intention to do this, I said we would do it in weeks, not months, and that is exactly what we have done. The code we have gazetted includes rules about noise minimisation measures; building height and material standards; vegetation management; setbacks from neighbouring properties; provisions for solar access of neighbouring properties; and compliance with the Building Code of Australia. These reforms are commonsense. They will speed up the process of applications and bring significant benefit to the State's 750,000 public school students.
The changes will also benefit non-government schools—I inform the member for Wakehurst—by allowing basic infrastructure such as single-storey classrooms and libraries to be built in accordance with the complying code. I am advised that around New South Wales some 20 school gyms and halls are currently being built or are in the final stages of planning. If a school has a design for a hall or a gymnasium that does not impact significantly on surrounding communities, that plan should not be held up by unnecessary red tape. These reforms add to steps taken in January this year to simplify and speed up the installation of security fences, awnings and rainwater tanks in schools. The State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure) already exempts the Department of Education and Training from the development application process when improving schools with new security fences, awnings and rainwater tanks. These new changes will mean that we can now also provide facilities such as halls and gymnasiums to students and teachers without unnecessary delay.
The Government has a proud record of investing in our educational facilities, with more than $5.5 billion allocated in State budgets since 1995 on school and TAFE improvements. This year we are continuing to improve school facilities. In 2008-09 alone $648 million in funding has been provided for capital works on school infrastructure. The Government's four-year Building Better Schools Program includes constructing 27 school halls, building 17 multipurpose gymnasiums, upgrading 200 toilet facilities, and installing security fences at a further 200 schools. The Rees Government is committed to delivering the best facilities to our schools.
Mr Andrew Stoner:
Point of order: I refer to Standing Order 129. This should be a ministerial statement. It was the same announcement made by the Premier on 22 September.
Order! Both the question and answer are in order. The Minister has the call.
Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY:
I thank the so-called Leader of The Nationals for pointing that out, because we announced and we delivered. That is the point of this question today. We announced and we delivered. We promised to cut red tape for school developments, and we have today delivered on that promise.
Order! I remind the House that many members are on three calls to order.
MYALL LAKES ALGAL BLOOM
Mr CRAIG BAUMANN:
My question is directed to the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment. Despite thousands of fish being killed due to unknown toxic agents in the Myall River, why has her department turned a blind eye, saying that the situation will "correct itself" instead of conducting detailed studies to get to the bottom of this environmental disaster?
Ms CARMEL TEBBUTT:
There have been a number of recent environmental issues in the lower Myall River and Myall Lakes—a fish kill resulting from the fungal winter disease, some incidence of fungal red spots disease in fish and a prolonged period of low salinity and tannin-stained waters at Tea Gardens. Residents of Tea Gardens have attributed these issues to the shoaling of sand at one of the entrances to the Myall River in Port Stephens at Corrie Island. Local residents claim that the channel should be dredged.
I am advised that Myall Lakes has a history of algal blooms given its naturally poor flushing capacity, high population and high nutrient loadings from the catchment. The conditions that trigger these blooms are heavy rainfall that flushes further nutrients into the lakes, low salinity levels and warm weather with longer daylight hours. These conditions have coincided to cause the recent algal blooms, particularly exacerbated by the high levels of nutrients entering from the upper Myall River catchment. The last major algal bloom occurred in 1999-2000 under similar conditions. I am advised that the Department of Environment and Climate Change is concerned that the present conditions are suitable for the development of blue-green algal blooms in the Myall River and the Broadwater.
Departmental data from 1996-97 shows a very similar pattern of long-term low salinity at Tea Gardens, well before shoaling of the entrance was an issue. The channels are Crown lands and the Department of Lands is responsible for any dredging of navigation channels and entrances. The Department of Primary Industries is responsible for fisheries management and fish kills and has advised that the fungal diseases, whilst indicative of low salinity, are natural occurrences. All relevant agencies are discussing management options. Nutrient inputs into Myall, Smiths and Wallis lakes have been the subject of a major study by the Department of Environment and Climate Change. The results have been incorporated into the Great Lakes Council's draft Water Quality Improvement Plan, which complements the catchment action plan of the Hunter-Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority.
The draft water quality improvement plan clearly identified the need for targeted action in the Myall Lakes catchment to enhance the long-term environmental health of Myall Lakes. The Department of Environment and Climate Change has responsibility for the Myall Lakes National Park and the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park, and will continue to closely monitor the situation. The department has advised the public of the possibility of blooms of blue-green algae. Current data indicates that there are already moderate levels of blue-green algae in the Broadwater.
Mr GRANT McBRIDE:
My question is addressed to the Minister for Community Services. Will the Minister update the House on what action the Government is taking to support vulnerable families in New South Wales?
Ms LINDA BURNEY:
Recently I informed the House that the number of reports to the community services helpline is growing. By the end of this year we believe that number will be 300,000, with most reports from mandatory reporters. This is a serious concern for the Government and for the community. These days neighbours and families want to become involved and are more willing to report. In response, the Government has nearly doubled the number of caseworkers, which means there are more reports. We are helping more families at the acute end of the spectrum. We are also helping more families prevent the challenges they face from escalating into major problems, such as acute abuse. Mr Speaker, I can hardly hear myself.
Order! There is too much audible conversation in the Chamber. If the member for Wakehurst and the member for Coffs Harbour wish to conduct a private conversation, they will do so outside the Chamber. The Minister has the call.
Ms LINDA BURNEY:
Our job in government and our commitment is expanding early intervention. International research backs up what we know instinctively: for every dollar devoted to helping families with young children, $4 is saved within three years on child protection, health, education and the justice system. By the time the child reaches adulthood, this is increased to $7 and later in life to $17. These are important economic facts. But we must also remember that real benefits are measured in human lives. Benefits associated with early prevention include helping children avoid significant trauma in their early years, keeping families together, helping young people fulfil their full potential, and keeping children in the education system and out of the justice system.
The major early intervention commitment of the Rees Government is the Brighter Futures Program. This program identifies families who need early support and gives them sustained services to prevent problems escalating and placing children at risk. The Government has put its weight behind the delivery of community services in New South Wales. For the past five years the $1.2 billion program has reformed the department and the delivery of services. Brighter Futures provides 350 caseworkers, along with integrated services, so that families receive case management and support such as quality children's services, parenting programs and, importantly, home visiting. The focus is on children under nine years and the priority is from nought to three years. The first three years of a child's life are critical. We all know that. It is not just about the brain development but also about behaviour, learning how to treat people and relate to them, learning to trust people, and learning how to give and show love.
The highly respected Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales has been appointed to lead a consortium to undertake a four-year independent evaluation of the Brighter Futures Program. The first interim report shows really positive results. Over the past year the number of families volunteering to give their families a better start in life has more than doubled. This suggests that people know that it is different from statutory child protection work. Families are coming forward for help and over time this means that children face a better chance of avoiding more direct intervention by the department. As at June this year, 2,700 families are participating and 6,515 children in New South Wales are being supported. I expect many more will be included. It is expected that by next July, more than 4,000 families will be enrolled in the Brighter Futures Program.
This is a significant result. Thousands fewer children will enter the child protection and out-of-home care systems. And this must be the goal: children who do not have to go into those services because it is no longer safe for them to live at home. The benefits to these children and their families cannot be quantified. A good example of the success of the program is the story of Lisa and Scott, both very young parents just 18 years old. They were both abused and neglected as children and desperately wanted to do the right thing by their son. They wanted to break the awful intergenerational spiral of abuse. Lisa discovered she was pregnant and they knew she needed help. Scott lost his job and approached Matthew, the caseworker he knew as a child. Lisa and Scott were socially isolated and received no assistance from their families; they had no car and little money. Matthew was able to help them out of a difficult environment and into a rented flat; he persuaded the landlord to waive the bond. These two young people are enrolled in a child development knowledge course. Brighter Futures gave Lisa and Scott the key to becoming good parents.
Another avenue of success for Brighter Futures is the enrolment of Aboriginal families. We all know about the difficult history between the Aboriginal community and the Department of Community Services. This morning I attended a conference for our Aboriginal staff. Three hundred Koori caseworkers launched the Rees Government priority of getting more Koori carers—new resources in the hands of our Aboriginal caseworkers to encourage more Aboriginal people to become foster carers. Currently 22.6 per cent of families in Brighter Futures are Koori families. This is a quite remarkable figure. One of the drivers for this is the expansion of the Aboriginal Maternal and Infant Health Strategy. This partnership between NSW Health and the Department of Community Services provides assistance for young Aboriginal mums to ensure they are healthy for the delivery of their babies. It also provides assistance for Aboriginal dads. The key to Brighter Futures is our partnership with the 440 non-government organisations across New South Wales as well as the 14 lead agency organisations. In conclusion—
Order! The House will come to order. I call the member for Bathurst to order. The Minister is about to conclude her answer.
Ms LINDA BURNEY:
I have about three more pages for members opposite. In conclusion, Brighter Futures is absolutely fundamental to child protection in New South Wales. Social problems simply cannot be solved by one government department. It is essential to have the constant cooperation of numerous government agencies and the non-government sector, as well as the broader community. Currently, nearly one-fifth of Community Services funds are allocated to early intervention services. I anticipate that this funding will increase, because early intervention is clearly the key to addressing child abuse in our community. I am sure the House will join in agreeing that the recent success of Brighter Futures is a positive sign for the future.
WESTMEAD HOSPITAL ANTENATAL ULTRASOUND SERVICES
Mr NATHAN REES:
Further to the question asked earlier today by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I am advised that the Sydney West Area Health Service has not endorsed any service restrictions on antenatal ultrasound services at Westmead Hospital. I am further advised that the chief executive is not aware of, and has not endorsed, any budget strategy that would impact on such a vital service.
Question time concluded.
LEGISLATION REVIEW COMMITTEE
Report: Legislation Review Digest No. 12 of 2008
Mr Allan Shearan
, as Chair, tabled "Legislation Review Digest No. 12 of 2008", dated 28 October 2008, together with minute extracts regarding Legislation Review Digest Nos 9, 10 and 11 of 2008.
Report ordered to be printed on motion by Mr Allan Shearan.
Drink Container Deposit Levy
Petition requesting a container deposit levy be introduced to reduce litter and increase recycling rates of drink containers, received from Ms Clover Moore
Hornsby Area Haemodialysis
Petition asking that a public haemodialysis centre be established in the Hornsby area, received from Mrs Judy Hopwood
Ambulance Rescue Function
Petition opposing the recommendation of the Head Report to disband the rescue function within the Ambulance Service of New South Wales, received from Mr Daryl Maguire
Tumut Renal Dialysis Service
Petition asking that the House support the establishment of a satellite renal dialysis service in Tumut, received from Mr Daryl Maguire
Hawkesbury River Railway Station Access
Petition requesting improved access to Hawkesbury River railway station, received from Mrs Judy Hopwood
Bus Service 311
Petition requesting improved services on bus route 311, received from Ms Clover Moore
Edgecliff Interchange Upgrade
Petition requesting the upgrading of Edgecliff interchange, received from Ms Clover Moore
Companion Animals Travel
Petition requesting that companion animals be allowed to travel on all public transport, received from Ms Clover Moore
Barangaroo Planning Guidelines
Petition opposing the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority proposal to modify Barangaroo planning guidelines, received from Ms Clover Moore
Star City Casino Proposal
Petition opposing the Sydney Harbour Casino Properties proposal for the Star City Casino, received from Ms Clover Moore
Petition opposing the sale of animals in pet shops, received from Ms Clover Moore
Petition requesting that overhead cables be buried underground, received from Ms Clover Moore
Berowra Traffic Noise Abatement
Petition requesting that noise levels be reduced on the F3 Freeway at Berowra, received from Mrs Judy Hopwood
Preschool Speed Zones
Petition asking that 40 kilometre per hour speed zones be introduced outside all preschools in New South Wales, received from Mr Donald Page
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
General Business Notices of Motions (General Notices) Nos 1 to 10 lapsed pursuant to Standing Order 105 (3).
ADMISSION OF THE TREASURER INTO THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
Mr JOHN AQUILINA
(Riverstone—Parliamentary Secretary) [3.24 p.m.], by leave: I move:
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI
(1) on Tuesday 11 November 2008 standing and sessional orders be suspended to permit the Hon. Eric Michael Roozendaal, MLC, Treasurer, being admitted to the House for the purpose of giving a speech of unlimited duration in relation to the New South Wales mini-budget at 12 noon; and
(2) a message be sent to the Legislative Council inviting the Treasurer to attend the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday 11 November 2008.
(Murrumbidgee—Deputy Leader of The Nationals) [3.24 p.m.]: I move:
That the motion be amended by adding after paragraph (2):
(3) in the spirit of accountability and transparency, that the Treasurer be required to remain in the Legislative Assembly for a period of one hour to take questions without notice; and
(4) in the event that the Treasurer does not have the confidence to remain for questions without notice, that the Minister for Finance remain for a period of one hour to take questions.
It is critical that the Treasurer remain in the Legislative Assembly to answer questions on the mini-budget. New South Wales, by the Government's own account, is in crisis. The budget is in crisis; the Government is in crisis. There are no answers, and there are no solutions. All we have in New South Wales are problems. We now have a budget deficit. All we have is spin. We have had promises of accountability and transparency. If the Premier were genuine about that promise of accountability and transparency, he would allow the Treasurer to remain in the Legislative Assembly for an hour to take questions. It has been a strategy of the Labor Party over the past decade or so to keep its Treasurer in the upper House to avoid the accountability of the Legislative Assembly and to avoid questions from the Opposition and crossbenchers. That is why it is critical that the Treasurer remain in the Legislative Assembly for an hour.
It is easy for the Treasurer to come into the Legislative Assembly, deliver a speech for 45 minutes, and then return to the Legislative Council. But the Treasurer should remain in this Chamber to answer questions. The Treasurer must be accountable to the Legislative Assembly, and he must answer questions honestly. The Treasurer needs to give us answers regarding what New South Wales faces. In 2½ years there will be a change of government in this State and the Coalition needs to know what we are going to inherit from the Government. The Government has given us some indication, but we need to know exactly what we will inherit from these people who have vandalised the great State of New South Wales. As we drive around New South Wales we see numberplates with the words "The Premier State"—
Order! Opposition members will cease interjecting.
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI:
Without discouraging this great State, at the time the idea of New South Wales being the premier State came about it was indeed the premier State, but what we have become, unfortunately, under the governance of the Labor Party is the laughing stock of Australia.
Order! Members who have been called to order previously are deemed to be on three calls to order. I call the member for Cessnock to order.
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI:
When one looks at the statistics that compare the States of Australia, it is shameful for this Government where New South Wales languishes. Whether they are statistics on unemployment, economic growth, housing starts or housing affordability, they show what 13 years of Labor have done to New South Wales. The only thing that will turn those statistics around is a general election and a change of government. What a shame that general election is 2½ years away. We would like to see a few more by-elections. I noted that while the Minister for Planning was answering the questions asked of her, the member for Rockdale was not looking very happy. Perhaps there might be a by-election in Rockdale at some stage. Kiama is another opportunity for a by-election. In fact, a few members in this place could make the greatest contribution to New South Wales by causing a by-election.
Order! The member for Monaro will cease interjecting.
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI:
The member for Monaro, with his many skills—
Mr Anthony Roberts:
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI:
As the member for Lane Cove said, impersonation is one skill of the member for Monaro. Do that impersonation of an idiot that you do! Look, he is brilliant!
Order! The member for Murrumbidgee will resume his seat.
Mr Kerry Hickey:
Point of order: Would you please ask the member for Murrumbidgee to withdraw his unparliamentary comment.
Order! The member for Cessnock has asked the member for Murrumbidgee to withdraw his comment.
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI:
I do withdraw my comment. No impersonation is required.
Order! The member for Murrumbidgee will begin to conclude his comments.
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI:
To quote somebody well known to all of us, "enough of these distractions". We need the Treasurer or the Minister for Finance to come before this House to answer questions for one hour about the economic state of New South Wales.
Mr Alan Ashton:
There is not much to respond to there.
Mr JOHN AQUILINA
(Riverstone—Parliamentary Secretary) [3.31 p.m.], in reply: As my colleague the member for East Hills has just interjected, there is not much to respond to. The Government feels no need to acknowledge and accept the amendment as moved by the member for Murrumbidgee. I remind the member for Murrumbidgee, and all other Opposition members, that the Treasurer has been invited to attend this House on Tuesday 11 November 2008 at 12 noon. At precisely 2.15 p.m. on that day we will have question time and there will be plenty of opportunity for the Premier and for the Minister for Finance to respond to questions.
Question—That the amendment be agreed to—put.
The House divided.
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr J. D. Williams
Mr R. C. Williams
Question resolved in the negative.
Motion agreed to.
|Mr Fraser ||Ms Burton|
|Mr J. H. Turner||Mr Gibson|
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders: Inaugural Speeches
Motion by Mr John Aquilina agreed to:
That at 6.00 p.m. the business before the House be interrupted to permit the presentation of inaugural speeches by the members for Lakemba and Port Macquarie.
CONSIDERATION OF MOTIONS TO BE ACCORDED PRIORITY
Senior Public Sector Wage Increases
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL
(Ku-ring-gai—Leader of the Opposition) [3.42 p.m.]: During question time the Minister for Community Services talked about fundamental issues. There can be no more fundamental issue for the Government and for the person who leads the Government than dealing honestly with the public of New South Wales. Honesty and levelling with the public are what Premier Rees promised on day one of his Premiership. He said he would be honest and level with the public and that when he made mistakes he would say so. This morning at a press conference the Premier was asked when he first learned of public sector wage increases of 4 per cent for senior public servants. The increases involve public sector wage increases for senior public servants of up to $60,000 at a time when front-line workers—police, teachers, nurses—are being told to take a real cut in wages. He was asked by the ABC simply, "When did you first learn of this?" He said, "Last night when the media came to us." In reality, the Premier first learned of this, as he confirmed in question time today, in a memorandum that was submitted to him last month.
Order! Government members will cease interjecting.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
In reality—and this will be of interest to at least four members of the House—the matter could have been gazetted on 26 September 2008, according to the memorandum that the Premier referred to today. Of course, it was not gazetted until last Friday. What is the significance of that? Last Friday was after the four by-elections in Cabramatta, Lakemba, Port Macquarie and Ryde. The Premier was not prepared to be honest with the public of New South Wales. He was not prepared to tell teachers, police, nurses, firefighters and other front-line workers across the State, including those in the Department of Community Services, that while they are being forced to take real cuts in wages the fat cats, the senior bureaucrats, are getting pay increases of up to $60,000. Today John Stanley on 2UE opened his program with calls from people who said that they were at a function with the Premier three weeks ago at which it was announced that senior public servants would receive significant pay increases.
If people calling the John Stanley program said that three weeks ago the Premier was at a public event where this was announced, how is it possible for the Premier to say today that he did not know until last night? The Premier is not a bloke who is loose with the truth; this is a bloke who lies and misleads. This is a bloke who deliberately says one thing while doing something else. This is a bloke who on 13 September said that Reba Meagher's resignation was news to him, then on 14 September said on Channel 7 that he had missed 25 calls from Reba Meagher, and on 15 September admitted that he had lied about receiving those phone calls. This is a bloke who in the Politics in the Pub debate shook my hand and said that the Government would implement the recommendations of the Legislative Council inquiry into donations and campaign finance reforms. A week later he walked away from that and said at the estimates committee hearing:
I think realistically, as much as it pains me to say it, it is something that requires a national approach.
This is a bloke who makes it up as he goes along. He pretends to be down to earth and honest and truthful with the public, but on every occasion he misleads and seeks to deceive. At the estimates hearings he announced a 20 per cent reduction in the senior executive service [SES]. At that stage he knew that he had approved pay increases for the senior executive service that would not only give the SES a 4 per cent increase—higher than increases for front-line workers—but also give them a recruitment or retention bonus of up to $45,000. Did he say that on that occasion? No. When he was at university he worked as a garbo, but he does not seem to understand what garbage is anymore. On day one he said he would choose on the basis of merit those who served in his Cabinet, yet he sits in Cabinet with Joe Tripodi and Eric Roozendaal. He is the only garbo I know who has failed to take out the garbage: Roozendaal and Tripodi are still there. On each and every occasion he has misled the public. He said ferry privatisation would not happen; now it is happening. He promised no more spin doctors; yet every other day the Government is recruiting spin doctors. If he cannot be honest with the public of New South Wales he should not be in the job. He may have studied for an English literature degree but he is only into fiction. [Time expired.
Mr KERRY HICKEY
(Cessnock) [3.47 p.m.]: The reason my motion should be accorded priority and why it is more important than the Opposition's motion is quite clear: climate change is probably the most important issue that we face as a human race. As a Government we have to adopt strategies that will address the issues. This Government is working hard to develop strategies, provide support and address the issues of climate change. The Leader of the Opposition just spoke for five minutes about his motion but not once did he say why his motion should be accorded priority. All we heard were insults against the Government. Does he think that will win him votes in the real world? The real world is facing drastic change as a result of this major issue that has been thrust upon it. The real world faces the impact of climate change.
Order! The House will come to order. The member for Cessnock does not need the assistance of Opposition members.
Mr KERRY HICKEY:
The Opposition wants to ignore this issue. The Nationals want to pretend that climate change is not real. They want to continue down the path of the sceptics. They will not join with their Coalition partner, the Liberal Party, and develop a policy that will help rectify the problem of climate change. That is why my motion is very important.
Mr John Williams:
Are you a sceptic? I think you are a sceptic.
Mr KERRY HICKEY:
The member for Murray-Darling asks whether I am a sceptic, like him. No, I am not a sceptic. The only sceptic I know—
Mr John Williams:
Point of order: The member for Cessnock said I am a sceptic. I believe in God and I am not a sceptic.
Order! The member for Murray-Darling will resume his seat. I ask him not to take such points of order in the future.
Mr KERRY HICKEY:
The member for Broken Hill is confusing an atheist with a sceptic. It should be made very clear to the member for Broken Hill that you can travel further than Western Australia because the world is not flat, as many members of The National Party seem to think it is.
Order! Members will cease interjecting. I remind the member for Cessnock that the member represents the electorate of Murray-Darling.
Mr KERRY HICKEY:
I apologise to the member for Murray-Darling—and at least I am man enough to do that. Listening to the scepticism of the member for Murray-Darling, the member for Lismore and the member for Tweed, and listening to the issues they have with climate change and how they do not think it is true—
Mr Andrew Stoner:
Point of order: The point of this debate is to establish which motion should be accorded priority. The member for Cessnock has strayed into debating the motion itself. I ask you to direct him to debate why his motion should be accorded priority.
Order! As members are aware, I extend a degree of latitude during these debates. However, I ask the member for Cessnock to direct his remarks to why his motion should be accorded priority.
Mr KERRY HICKEY:
The reason my motion should be accorded priority is very simple: climate change is a major issue out there in voter land, and the member for Murray-Darling should realise that. The Nationals should recognise that climate change has major impacts on communities, and particularly on farmers.
Order! Opposition members will cease interjecting.
Mr KERRY HICKEY:
The only issues The Nationals want to deal with are issues occurring inside their party room, not out in the local communities and not on the farmlands that are being affected by climate change.
Question—That the motion of the member for Ku-ring-gai be accorded priority—put.
The House divided.
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr J. D. Williams
Mr R. C. Williams
Question resolved in the negative.
Question—That the motion of the member for Cessnock be accorded priority—put and resolved in the affirmative.
|Mr Fraser||Ms Burton|
|Mr J. H. Turner||Mr Gibson|
Motion Accorded Priority
Mr KERRY HICKEY
(Cessnock) [4.00 p.m.]: I move:
That this House
(1) congratulates the Government on its efforts to tackle climate change;
(2) notes that The Nationals are at odds with their Liberal Party colleagues on climate change; and
(3) calls on the Liberal Party and The Nationals to stop infighting and back the Government's efforts to combat and tackle climate change.
There is no doubt that climate change is one of our greatest challenges, if not our greatest challenge. It is a serious issue that requires immediate action. However, The Nationals refuse to take it seriously or to reach agreement with their Liberal Party colleagues on climate change and to present a policy. Today Premier Nathan Rees opened the Sydney Responding to Climate Change in New South Wales forum, which was held as part of the Government's development of its new Climate Change Action Plan. The Government aims to ensure that our communities are ready to deal with the impact of climate change. The research released by the Premier and the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment today indicates that not only is our land becoming increasingly stressed, but biodiversity is also declining and our environmental treasures are under threat. Climate change affects our water supplies and agricultural production, which is the heart of the rural and farming communities.
These are the tangible impacts that climate change will have on our environment, our economy and, most of all, our communities. All The Nationals can do is turn on their Liberal colleagues and squabble, yet again. Who will pay the price for that? It will be our rural communities, which are our State's most vulnerable communities. It is clear that the Opposition is engaged in another internal squabble and that members opposite see climate change as a non-issue. The Nationals have been prepared to leave climate change unchecked and continue to do so. They have ignored the warning signs and refused to address the challenges ahead. While The Nationals have been bickering, the Government has been devising a plan to ensure that our communities are well placed to cope with climate change well into the future. The New South Wales Government has taken action. Our Climate Change Action Plan will set out the priorities for New South Wales in the coming years with the practical, on-the-ground involvement of communities, local councils, businesses and government agencies, including those responsible for emergency services, health and transport.
As part of the development of the action plan, the Government and the University of New South Wales have done extensive research to better understand the local impact of climate change around the State. Local communities like mine in Cessnock understand the need for intergovernmental panels on climate change to develop models that relate specifically to the New South Wales climate. This research means that we will have more precise predictions than ever before. We have been taking these predictions on the road to explain to communities the challenges ahead of them and what is likely to happen in their region in 2050. We are travelling around the State to get a better sense from locals of what they can do to fight climate change and what the Government needs to plan for their region. Forums have been held in Armidale, Grafton, Newcastle, Gosford, Dapto, Queanbeyan, Wagga Wagga, Dubbo and now Sydney. Further forums are planned for the Blue Mountains and Parramatta.
A forum was held in my electorate in Newcastle. It was revealed that the sea level would increase by up to 40 centimetres above the 1990 mean level by 2050 and by 90 centimetres by 2022. Corresponding coastal erosion is likely to result in a recession of sandy parts of the coastline. Drier winters are expected, winter rainfall is projected to increase by 10 per cent to 20 per cent in the western region, but no change is expected in the east. There will be increased rainfall in summer, spring and autumn, particularly in the far south. However, increasing evaporation is likely to result in no net change in the water balance in many areas. Days are projected to be hotter in all seasons, with daytime maximum temperatures up three degrees in winter. The largest increases are expected in winter and spring. Overnight temperatures are also predicted to increase by three degrees.
This information clearly demonstrates the need for early planning, and that is what the Rees Government is doing. This is a huge issue and we need real leadership to deal with it. New South Wales is at the forefront of the efforts being made in this area in Australia. Ours was the first government in Australia to commit to long-term emission reduction targets. Former Premier Carr and the current Premier have demonstrated real leadership on this issue. The Government is aiming to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions at 2000 levels by 2025 and to reduce them to 60 per cent below that level by 2050. The Rudd Labor Government has adopted the latter target. We will now have a Federal Government that is serious about climate change and a national emissions trading scheme.
However, The Nationals are still totally ignoring the real scientists of the world. We know where their Federal counterparts stand on climate change. While we are acting they are demanding a royal commission into the science behind climate change. This is world-class research done by leading scientists. The families of my community have one message for The Nationals: Stop fighting and sit up and pay attention to this very serious issue. It will impact on each and every one of us in a negative way, but The Nationals want to bring in Bryan Pape to argue that this is wrong. [Time expired.
Ms PRU GOWARD
(Goulburn) [4.07 p.m.]: I oppose this motion on behalf of the Opposition. If the member for Cessnock believes what he says, perhaps he will support the next motion moved by the Greens to outlaw coalmining in New South Wales. Somehow I do not think that will happen. We have a Government that continuously talks the rhetoric about climate change but when it comes to action it does nothing and is as divided as it claims others are. I remind members of former Treasurer Michael Costa's opposition to climate change policy. He was supported by the Hon. Ian Macdonald, who always carefully couches his answers to climate change questions and refers constantly to the importance of the coal industry to the New South Wales economy. Surely a Government that indulges in florid rhetoric would support the closure of coalmines. Of course it has not, because that is not really what the Government believes. The Hon. Ian Macdonald often talks about the importance of clean coal technology and the need for carbon sequestration and clean coal research. However, the Department of Environment and Climate Change has a $55 million budget, but only the CSIRO is investing—
Mr Kerry Hickey:
Point of order: My point of order is under Standing Order 76, relevance during debate. The Government is addressing what the member is putting forward about climate change and clean coal technology. It is relevant that the member tells the truth in this House.
ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Ms Alison Megarrity):
Order! That is not a point of order. The member for Goulburn is speaking within the leave of the motion. The member for Goulburn may proceed.
Ms PRU GOWARD:
I understand the CSIRO is doing the research on clean coal sequestration. The wasteful greenhouse gas abatement scheme, which is so often pointed to by the Government as its credentials on climate change, is the clearest evidence that the Government's rhetoric does not match its commitment on climate change. It also reflects the divisions within Cabinet. During the period from 1990 to 1995, for example, under Liberal governments in New South Wales, greenhouse gas emissions dropped from 160,000 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to 149,000 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, but over the national greenhouse gas inventory period, 2003 to 2006, New South Wales greenhouse gas emissions rose by the same percentage that they fell between 1990 and 1995.
Greenhouse gas emissions in the State rose from 150,000 million tonnes to 159,000, almost 160,000, million tonnes of carbon dioxide in this three-year period, an increase of 6.6 per cent over a three-year time frame when the greenhouse gas abatement scheme was supposed to be achieving the reductions that the member for Cessnock has referred to. Documents prepared for Cabinet by the Department of Environment and Climate Change, which were leaked to the Sydney Morning Herald
have stated that current projections indicate we will exceed the 2025 target by at least 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gases, and that stronger national and State strategies are needed. There is widespread recognition within the bureaucracy, within government, that its scheme has been a dismal failure, but there has been no public acknowledgement of that.
Then we get to the repeats of the repeats of government programs. For example, earlier today the Premier announced support for low-income household programs—exactly the same program that was announced by the former Premier and former Minister earlier in this term. It is the same money: $63 million for the Low Income Household Refit Program for 222,000 households. That program is really a re-announcement of what the greenhouse gas abatement scheme was supposed to be doing. The abatement certificates that companies like It's Easy Being Green were earning were from exactly those low-income household refit programs and techniques such as water and energy-saving devices and low-intensity light bulbs.
The last announcement was a re-announcement of something the greenhouse gas abatement scheme was supposed to be doing until companies such as It's Easy Being Green were driven down by the woeful mismanagement of the scheme by the New South Wales Government. We have had pathetic announcements of assistance to big business, to Australian national corporations and international corporations to do things that they were going to do anyway, and that too was using taxpayers' money. It was not really being serious about climate change but was about being able to make what the Government thought was a good news announcement but it was not seen as a good news announcement by the public.
At the same time as we have had significant increases in petrol prices and significant debate about the importance of public transport and getting cars off the roads, we have had increases in public transport fares in New South Wales. Again, that is an indication that the Government likes to talk about it but because of its own disunited approach internally, because it has a Cabinet that is so divided between those who believe it is the most important issue that this generation faces and those who are concerned about the short-term economic workings of the State, this Government has instead chosen to pursue the route of talking big and doing little.
Mr FRANK TERENZINI
(Maitland) [4.14 p.m.]: Unlike members on the other side of the House, members on this side of the House are serious about climate change. We have realised that energy efficiency is one of the lower hanging fruits on the tree that can be used to fight against climate change. Energy efficiency is one of the greatest weapons we can use. Professor Owen said efficiency of energy use can and should be used to meet the climate change targets of the New South Wales Government. One example of that is the $63 million that the Premier has brought forward to help more than 220,000 low-income families in putting out these energy efficiency kits—light globes, low-flow taps—to make sure they save up to $95 a year. That is a great saving and a great way to address climate change.
Another, of course, is the economy-wide savings target that will provide for the publication every 12 months of the State's performance for the public to see how efficiently New South Wales is using its energy. That is expected to save around 120,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year when the 200 most energy using organisations in New South Wales are made to cut their energy use. The New South Wales Government is going to make sure that government-owned buildings reduce their usage to 2000 levels and that by 2011government-owned and tenanted buildings reach a 4½ star environmental efficiency rating. The Government will ensure that 4½ star energy products are purchased and set a target of 6 per cent purchase of electricity from renewable sources.
These are concrete, solid commitments that the New South Wales Government has made, as opposed to what has come from the other side. How can members opposite concentrate on climate change when they are arguing amongst themselves, not knowing where they are going? The Nationals want to go back to the old days when they used to have some relevance—something they do not have any more. It is the classic example of analog politicians in a digital age—the old, irrelevant politicians trying to get some relevance in the community. In the past week the media has really highlighted that. Not only are members opposite fighting behind closed doors; they are fighting in public too. One of the things The Nationals dread is having that Liberal Party application form put under their noses. It is only a matter of time before that happens.
Mr DONALD PAGE
(Ballina) [4.17 p.m.]: The Opposition opposes this motion because none of the components in it could possibly be supported. The first component congratulates the Rees Government on its efforts in tackling climate change. What a joke! For more than five years the Government had a Treasurer who was a climate change sceptic, and he described Tim Flannery, the Australian of the Year and one of our leading environmental scientists, as an idiot. He was the guy who held the purse strings for the past five years. The Government's former Treasurer was a climate change sceptic and described Tim Flannery as an idiot.
Your Government established a clean energy roundtable. You met once and you made no recommendations. You do not have a public transport policy that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. You are still putting people in cars. The first part of the motion congratulates the Rees Government, which has only been in office for six weeks. How self-congratulatory can you be? Your Government does not deserve any congratulations whatsoever. The second part of the motion is about a disagreement between the Liberals and The Nationals. There is no substantive disagreement whatsoever between the Liberals and The Nationals on climate change.
ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Ms Alison Megarrity):
Order! The member for Ballina will direct his comments through the chair. The member for Cessnock will cease interjecting.
Mr DONALD PAGE:
We understand the importance of climate change; it is a global issue. It ill behoves the member to come in here and try to score some political point. Australia is a small emitter with 1.4 per cent of global emissions, but it is a big emitter per capita and we must do what we can. Last weekend at The Nationals conference Warren Truss made a speech, which probably stimulated the motion, about the emissions trading scheme. He stated:
Our scheme must be in harmony with those of our neighbours and trading partners. We should offer leadership and be ready to play our part. In government we committed to an ETS to start in 2012 and build up as other countries made similar commitments. The Coalition [Federal] in Government invested $3.5 billion in actions to address climate change. We became the first country in the world to establish a separate climate change agency in 1998—the Australian Greenhouse Gas Office. We are on track to meet existing Kyoto emissions reduction targets. We funded 6 major projects from the $500 million Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund with another $500 million towards technology to support the management of emissions from coal.
That was from the Federal Leader of The Nationals, so do not suggest we do not care about climate change!
Mr STEVE WHAN
(Monaro—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.20 p.m.]: I had the pleasure of attending a climate change forum in Queanbeyan a week or so ago and I saw the overwhelming concern in the community about those who seek to defer action to combat climate change. One thing was clear: anybody who suggested we should delay introduction of an emissions trading scheme was kidding themselves and showing a lack of understanding on climate change. The Opposition demonstrates a lack of understanding and leadership with its constant scepticism on climate change. The Opposition spokesperson, the member for Goulburn, said that the Labor Party wants to take Australia into the dark ages with the introduction of emissions trading. She is the last of John Howard's sceptics left in the Opposition. The Nationals take the cake. On the weekend, also ruling out a merger with be Liberal Party, The Nationals said they wanted also to delay the introduction of carbon trading. Will climate change wait for them to be ready? No. Sea levels will rise and climate change will impact on us.
In my electorate we will see temperatures increase during certain parts of the year. Summer storms will increase and winter rainfall will decline, and this will have a significant effect on our climate and our agricultural community. The Federal Leader of The Nationals, Mr Truss, made the flippant comment on the weekend, "We can't save the Barrier Reef or stop polar bears from drowning." The Nationals' new tourism slogan for Queensland might be, "Beautiful one day, bleached the next." That is all they care about. They do not give a damn about the impacts on Australia of climate change. We see this from The Nationals over again and unfortunately some members of the Liberal Party agree with them. Alby Schulz, The Nationals' favourite person, on his own website, noted the climate in Crookwell and Grabben Gullen, and commented as follows:
Dear me, it would seem that global warming is now bringing the ice age! Does this mean we can now expect more doomsday predictions from the "global warming" fraternity?
Alby is in league with The Nationals once again. If the member for Goulburn wants his seat, she might have to do a bit more work. The Nationals constantly show their irrelevance and we have seen it again today. The Liberal Party criticises the actions of the State Government on climate change: rainwater tank rebates, insulation, hot water systems and washing machine rebates. Indeed, recently I announced a number of grants in their electorates that will go towards tackling climate change. Locals are concerned about climate change and that was the fundamental reason Mike Kelly recently won the Federal seat of Eden-Monaro. People in that electorate want action, not The Nationals constantly sticking their heads in the sand. The member for Ballina should start listening to his constituents.
Mr KERRY HICKEY
(Cessnock) [4.23 p.m.], in reply: I was astounded to hear the member for Goulburn asserting that the Government was not delivering on clean coal technology. The plant at Cessnock is already demonstrating how to wash stone out of coal and reduce CO2
emissions by 27 per cent. Consider the climate change impact when that is multiplied throughout the world. The member for Goulburn scoffed at the idea of carbon geosequestrating. The CSIRO is considering that process at the moment, with the backing of the State Government. The Government is taking action to address carbon emissions. The member for Goulburn should think long and hard about what Government is doing before she makes such comments. The member for Maitland hit a nerve with the Nationals. His reference to "lower hanging fruits" sounded like The Nationals. That party is not going anywhere; its members are about to be replaced by Liberal Party members.
It would be great to see people such as the member for Ballina join the Liberal Party because if he does his constituents will vote him out. The Nationals are becoming irrelevant. He should stop being the tail that wags the dog; he should be the dog that wags the tail. The member for Ballina said that things were great in The Nationals; that they believed in climate change. Can anyone explain who Bryan Pape is and why he was the speaker? Why are The Nationals disputing world-leading scientists and still putting their heads in the sand? They talked about Michael Costa. We saw what happened to Michael Costa. He is gone. Yet the member for Ballina referred to Warren Truss as the pinnacle on climate change, but he said they cannot save the Great Barrier Reef, an Australian icon, or polar bears. The Nationals do not care. I am concerned about the impact of climate change on Cessnock, what it will do to jobs, families and to future generations of this great State. It is a shame that The Nationals do not care.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put.
The House divided.
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr J. D. Williams
Mr R. C. Williams
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Mr J. H. Turner
ASSENT TO BILLS
Assent to the following bills reported:
State Arms, Symbols and Emblems Amendment (Black Opal) Bill 2008
Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Amendment Bill 2008
Dividing Fences and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2008
Water Management Amendment Bill 2008
Crimes Amendment (Cognitive Impairment—Sexual Offences) Bill 2008
Succession Amendment (Family Provisions) Bill 2008
Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Enforcement Amendment (Advertising) Bill 2008
Administrative Decisions Tribunal Amendment Bill 2008
CHILDREN AND YOUNG PERSONS (CARE AND PROTECTION) AMENDMENT (BODY PIERCING AND TATTOOING) BILL 2008
Message received from the Legislative Council returning the bill without amendment.
CIVIL LIABILITY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2008
Bill received from the Legislative Council and introduced.
Agreement in Principle
Mr JOHN AQUILINA
(Riverstone—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.38 p.m.], on behalf of Mr David Campbell: I move:
That this bill be now agreed to in principle.
The bill was introduced in the other place on 22 October 2008 and the second reading speech appears at page 5 of the Hansard
proof 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 future day.
BIBLE SOCIETY NSW (CORPORATE CONVERSION) BILL 2008
Agreement in Principle
Debate resumed from 22 October 2008.
Mr GREG SMITH
(Epping) [4.39 p.m.]: The objects of the Bible Society NSW (Corporate Conversion) Bill 2008 are, inter alia, to authorise the Bible Society of New South Wales, which is currently registered as a statutory authority, to seek registration as a public company limited by guarantee under the Corporations Act 2001, and to amend the New South Wales Auxiliary of the British and Foreign Bible Society Incorporation Act 1928. The Opposition will not oppose the bill. The British and Foreign Bible Society was formed in London in 1804, with the support of William Wilberforce—the man who broke slavery after many years of crusading in the British Parliament. The film Amazing Grace
tells the story of his work and was based on the writings of one of his colleagues.
Mr Chris Hartcher:
How about a rendition?
Mr GREG SMITH:
No. The greatness of William Wilberforce spread to New Wales, where the society came into being in 1817 by charter signed by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. Christianity was the primary religion from the early British settlement in Australia and helped build the culture of the nation. Bible Society NSW has played a proud part in the colonial development of the State and continues to play a leading role in supplying scriptures to churches, groups, individuals and communities in Australia and abroad. The society has difficulties with its current status and operation as a body under a parliamentary Act. There are significant benefits for the organisation to apply for registration as a company under part 5B.1 of the Corporations Act 2001, such as being able to amend the organisation's objects and be regulated under a less cumbersome and flexible legislative regime. The Royal Blind Society and the Australian Gas Light Company have also undergone this process.
Members of Bible Society NSW have met on two occasions and have unanimously endorsed the request. The bill will enable the society to transfer and incorporate under the Corporations Act 2001, and be subject to the same rules and regulations as other incorporated organisations. This would allow for outdated objects, meeting practices and procedures to be updated in line with modern principles and practice. One of the traditions that Bible Society NSW and Christianity have brought to Parliament is prayer. Debate is underway at present to have the Lord's Prayer
removed from the opening of Federal Parliament. There is no reason why the recognition of the Aboriginal people of Australia—the original custodians of this country—and their important role in our history should result in our doing away with the Lord's Prayer
. The Lord's Prayer
is a great testament of how to live. In Australia we celebrate Christmas and Easter and enjoy holidays based on the holy days that we celebrate. In no way do we discriminate against other faiths or non-believers, but these feasts mark our tradition.
The objects of the bill of Bible Society NSW are the advancement of the Christian faith by encouraging the wider circulation and use of Holy Scriptures in every language and dialect throughout the world and cooperating with other Christian organisations or any other bible society or person for the attainment of these objects, acting as a trustee in performing and discharging the duties and functions incidental to acting as a trustee where this is incidental or conducive to the attainment of these objects, and doing such other things as are accidental or conducive to the attainment of these objects. In preparation for my contribution I looked at the website of Bible Society NSW and found a very interesting press released dated 20 October 2008 entitled "NSW prisoners pledge further support for Bibles for South African prison inmates". The press release stated:
South African Pastor Willy Dengler is no stranger to prisons or detention centres. He's a regular visitor to South Africa's toughest gaols. "South Africa has the highest crime rate in the world", he said, as he spoke to thirteen inmates today at the Kariong Juvenile Detention Centre, near Gosford on the New South Wales Central Coast. "My challenge is to try and make a difference on the inside so that when those who have committed crimes are released, they are changed people through the power of Jesus Christ", Willy said.
Willy is visiting New South Wales at the invitation of Bible Society NSW who help fund Willy's World Hope Ministries outreach into the prisons of South Africa. In particular he wanted to thank the inmates at Kariong for their recent gift which had inspired others to give.
"Everywhere I go, I tell people in churches how the inmates of a juvenile correction centre in Sydney, Australia, sent me $200 so I could buy Bibles to give to the inmates in South African prisons," Willy said. "Whilst that's not a huge amount, people are inspired that inmates in one prison wanted to help those half way across the world in another," said Willy. "It's a great way to encourage churches to consider how much they can give", he said.
After thanking the inmates for their support, Willy spoke on the story of Onesimus from the New Testament and how after running away from his master Philemon, he had met the Apostle Paul, accepted Christ and eventually returned to Philemon.
"No matter what you have done, Jesus Christ can set you free", said Willy. "Onesimus made a mistake, but eventually made something of his life by becoming a follower of Christ," he said.
Following his sermon and the presentation of certificates to those inmates who had contributed to the original donation, the inmates pledged another $165 so more Bibles could be provided for South African prisoners.
Prison Chaplain Martin Parish and Assistant Linda Strapps were instrumental in encouraging the inmates to consider supporting Willy's ministry. "Once we told them about the ministry and showed them a video of Willy's work—they were very keen to pledge their own money, provided we matched it dollar for dollar," Parish said. "I think this helped them push the total as high as they could, so I'd have to pitch in more of my own money", he said.
It is great that Bible Society NSW is able to assist in the rehabilitation of juvenile criminals. The gift of this money to purchase bibles in South Africa—a country in need of assistance in many ways and with the alleged highest crime rate in the world—will assist the South African prisoners to rehabilitate themselves to serve the community, and work in honest and decent jobs for the good of society. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr JOHN AQUILINA
(Riverstone—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.47 p.m.]: Not-for-profit organisations make an important contribution to civil society and form a significant sector of the Australian community. As the Senate Economics Committee has noted: there are as many as 700,000 not-for-profit organisations in Australia; in 1999-2000 the sector accounted for approximately 6.8 per cent of Australians in employment and contributed 3.3 per cent of Australia's gross domestic product or 4.7 per cent when the value of volunteer labour is included; and in 2003, 86 per cent of adults belonged to at least one not-for-profit association. The Government recognises the importance of not-for-profit organisations in society and supports them in numerous ways, including the www.communitybuilders.nsw
website, which helps local communities across the State share ideas on how to enhance and strengthen their community; and information disseminated by the Office of Fair Trading on how associations can incorporate under the Associations Incorporation Act 1984, which assists them once they have done so.
The bill is another example of the Government assisting a not-for-profit organisation to become more effective and efficient. The members of Bible Society NSW have determined that it is in the best interests of the society to convert from a statutory corporation to a company limited by guarantee, and the society has asked the Government to pass legislation that will enable them to do this. The members have also determined to change the official name of the society from the New South Wales Auxiliary of the British and Foreign Bible Society—which I think has been in existence since about 1927—to its current name of Bible Society NSW; and to update the objects of the society. The bill engenders all of these changes.
As previous speakers have alluded to, the Bible Society NSW has a long history. It came into being in 1817, following the formation in 1804 of the British and Foreign Bible Society in London. One needs to imagine what the colony of New South Wales was like in 1817 during the reign of Lachlan Macquarie, a devout man, and his wife, Elizabeth. As members would know, my home is in Blacktown. It is well known that Elizabeth Macquarie attempted to establish an institute in the area for the teaching of young Aboriginal children. Unfortunately, the institute did not have a long history but it is the source of the name of the suburb of Blacktown because the small village that was set up near the institute was referred to as Blacks Town. The teaching of the Bible
at the institute was a matter of prominence at the time. The establishment in 1817 of the British and Foreign Bible Society in New South Wales, following the establishment of a similar society in London in 1804, is an important relevant.
The Bible Society NSW was the first auxiliary branch of the Bible Society in the Pacific and is part of the worldwide fellowship of the United Bible Societies. I understand that approximately 135 bible societies work in more than 200 countries, and that more than one million items of scripture are distributed around the world each day by bible societies. That outstanding achievement is testimony to the hard work of, mostly, volunteers around the world who undertake to distribute a massive number of items of scripture in more than 200 countries. Since its beginnings, the Bible Society NSW has played a major role in supplying scriptures to churches, groups, individuals and communities within Australia and beyond. The key activities of the Bible Society NSW include: translating the Bible
, especially into Aboriginal and Pacific Island languages; producing, printing and distributing scriptures in Australia and beyond; raising funds to pay for the translating, publishing and distributing of the finished bibles; interacting with the community so they understand the message of the Bible
; and providing books for sale.
Specific projects of the Bible Society NSW include providing scripture materials to chaplains of hospitals, prisons, juvenile justice centres, emergency services, first-year students of theological colleagues, Mission to Seafarers and visually impaired people. Another aspect of the society's work is to provide backpacks with children's illustrated bibles, hygiene products, and pencils and books for refugee children in Thailand. The society provides bibles in more than five languages to impoverished refugees on the Thai-Burma border. The member for Epping spoke about the society's interaction with Kariong Juvenile Justice Centre and jails in South Africa. He indicated that the inmates at Kariong Juvenile Justice Centre had raised money to contribute to the purchase of bibles for prisoners in South Africa.
One of the works that the Bible Society NSW undertakes is providing bibles in 13 languages to South African prisoners. The society's work stretches across the globe. In association with Christian Surfers International, the Bible Society NSW published the first Surfers Bible
, with the second edition about to be launched. The society provides funding for the employment of a theology lecturer at Wontulp-Bi-Buya College, which offers formal theological training for indigenous people from Queensland and nearby islands. For nearly 80 years it has operated a central business district bookshop, which offers an extensive range of bibles, including in languages other than English, and a range of resource books for churches.
As these activities and projects demonstrate, the Bible Society NSW is very active in encouraging the circulation of the scriptures. The Bible Society is a significant New South Wales not-for-profit organisation and its members have determined that it is in the best interests of the society to convert to a company limited by guarantee under the Corporations Act 2001. The bill will enable the society to apply for registration under the Corporations Act 2001. I commend the large number of volunteers and hard workers of the Bible Society NSW for the work they do and I also commend those who have done this work over many years, noting that it was established in 1817. The society continued to undertake this outstanding work in its quiet but very purposeful, deliberate and effective way. I trust this legislation will enable the society to continue to do so in an effective manner. I am pleased to support the bill.
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER
(Terrigal) [4.55 p.m.]: I commend the Bible Society NSW (Corporate Conversion) Bill 2008 and I commend the work of the Bible Society NSW. As previous speakers have said, it is an old and well-respected institution in this State. It was incorporated in 1817, which is the same year that the Bank of New South Wales, now the Westpac Bank, was chartered by Governor Macquarie. The London Bible Society was formed with the support of William Wilberforce, who in 1803 wrote in his diary:
A few of us met together at Mr Hardcastle's counting house, at a later hour than suited city habits out of regard for my convenience, and yet on so dark a morning that we discussed by candle-light, while we resolved upon the establishment of the Bible Society.
The Bible Society was designed to ensure that bibles were available for all classes of English people and followed on the great work in Scotland by the Scottish Church, which laid the foundation for the system of primary education. Scotland was the first country in the world to introduce a system of primary education, simply so that children could learn to read the Bible
. With the encouragement of education in England, there was a need for the provision of bibles for working-class English people. Of course, the movement led by the founders of the Methodist church in the 1780s, John Wesley and Charles Wesley, spurred the revival of religion in England. The Bible Society was similar to other institutions formed at the same time, including the London Missionary Society, which carried out extensive evangelical work in the South Pacific. Some months ago I had the honour of sponsoring at Parliament House on behalf of the Bible Society NSW the launch of Women for the Word, a program to encourage women to read the Bible
. The program is based on a quotation from the Second Letter to Timothy 1:5:
I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice.
Women for the Word is an excellent program that encourages networks of women at home and in business communities to get together and study the Bible
regularly. Friends of mine, Justice Palmer and former President of the Court of Appeal Justice Keith Mason, are active members of the New South Wales Supreme Court's Bible Study Society. William Wilberforce, in his founding words about the society, wrote a further letter dated 1 May 1804, which is on the society's website. He said:
The Scriptures, prayer, with humble reliance on our Redeemer and on the aids of His promised Spirit—these are the sure means of progress.
As the member for Riverstone put it so well, the development of educational institutions in New South Wales, and of course throughout Australia, owes a great deal to the desire to spread the knowledge of the Bible
, and he gave the example of his own area of Blacktown and the foundation of the Evangelical Mission to the Aboriginal community there—designed, once again, to ensure that bibles were placed in the hands of all those to whom the Christian faith was being preached. And the Bible Society, like the Gideons organisation, even now continues its great work of ensuring that people have access to the Scriptures.
is the most translated work in the world; it is also the best seller in the world—there are more editions of the Bible
than any other book ever published; it has gone through more translations into contemporary languages than any other language; it has been translated from the original Hebrew and Greek texts by virtually all churches in virtually all ages; and, as a book, the King James translation of the Bible
has been one of the two great foundations of the English language. Both the King James translation of the Bible
and the works of Shakespeare are the pinnacles of the late mediaeval period in the development of English and are still regarded as the foundations of the modern English language.
The Bible Society is a group of commendable volunteers and it is an organisation that keeps burning the flame of the entire history of the development of European and Western civilisation, founded, as it is, upon the Christian faith. I commend the organisation and its work. The New South Wales Coalition supports the legislation, which is brought about at the request of the society. On behalf of the Coalition, and I am sure on behalf of all members of this Parliament of good will, I wish the Bible Society God's blessing for its future work.
Ms MARIE ANDREWS
(Gosford) [5.02 p.m.]: It gives me great pleasure to support the Bible Society NSW (Corporate Conversion) Bill 2008 and also to place on record my acknowledgement of the great work that the Bible Society NSW does within our community. The Bible Society NSW is currently established as a statutory corporation—a body corporate—and governed by the New South Wales Auxiliary of the British and Foreign Bible Society Incorporation Act 1927 (NSW). The Bible Society NSW has requested legislative amendments to authorise the transfer of incorporation of the society from a statutory corporation to a company limited by guarantee under the Corporations Act 2001. Part 5B.1 of the Corporations Act 2001 allows a body corporate to apply for registration under that Act. Such registration does not create a new legal entity or affect the body corporate's existing property, rights or obligations; rather, it allows a body corporate to seamlessly transfer its form of incorporation.
Transferring a statutory corporation is a much more efficient process than the creation of a new Corporations Act company. It does not require the transfer of all property, rights and obligations from the body corporate to the new company. It does, however, require that the application be authorised under State law. The members of the Bible Society have decided that it would be in the best interests of the society to convert from a statutory corporation to a company limited by guarantee for a number of reasons. Firstly, the 1927 Act is outdated, unduly onerous and not easy to amend. Secondly, registration as a company limited by guarantee will help the society to have a more rigorous, best practice corporate governance model. Finally, it will assist the directors of the society to more effectively fulfil their duties as directors and as fiduciaries.
The New South Wales Auxiliary of the British and Foreign Bible Society Incorporation Act 1927 sets out a number of matters, including the objects of the society; the procedures for convening general meetings; the legal name of the society; and the procedure for adopting new rules. These governance arrangements are unusual and do not allow the society to make necessary or routine changes easily or quickly. For instance, the Bible Society has advised that it took several years to change its rules in accordance with the 1927 Act. The Bible Society NSW has therefore resolved to apply to become a company registered under the Corporations Act and has requested legislation that would authorise it to do so. This bill will allow the Bible Society NSW to make such an application.
The bill also implements a number of other changes requested by the Bible Society NSW. This includes updating the objects of the society and changing its official name from the New South Wales Auxiliary of the British and Foreign Bible Society to the name it currently trades under, the Bible Society NSW. The bill also provides that once the Bible Society is registered as a public company under the Corporations Act the provisions of the New South Wales Auxiliary of the British and Foreign Bible Society Incorporation Act 1928, and any rules made under that Act, will cease to have effect. The society will be subject instead to the provisions of the Corporations Act. The bill also ensures that the transfer of the Bible Society to a Corporations Act company will not be subject to any State tax, and that the bill itself will not affect any contracts between the Bible Society and other parties.
This Parliament has previously passed similar legislation enabling statutory corporations to apply to be registered under the Corporations Act. One example is the Royal Blind Society (Corporation Conversion) Act 2003. This bill offers the same opportunity to the Bible Society NSW. I place on record my acknowledgement of the great work done by the Chaplain at Kariong Juvenile Justice Centre, Martin Parish, who happens to be the son of Kevin Parish, who is well known to me. Martin, together with members of the Bible Society, does a wonderful job. I am very pleased that my colleague the member for Epping mentioned the interaction that is taking place between Kariong Juvenile Justice Centre, which is located in my electorate of Gosford, and inmates in South African jails. It is wonderful work being done by the young juveniles within the juvenile justice centre to assist the South African inmates. I commend the bill to the House.
Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON
(Burrinjuck) [5.07 p.m.]: I also support the Bible Society NSW (Corporate Conversion) Bill 2008. I will not go over the details of the bill as other members have already done so. Suffice it to say that the purpose of the bill is to authorise the Bible Society NSW, currently registered as a statutory authority, to transfer its incorporation to a company limited by guarantee under the Corporations Act 2001. The bill will amend also the New South Wales Auxiliary of the British and Foreign Bible Society Incorporation Act 1928. The member for Epping went into quite some detail about the background of this bill. He talked about the British and Foreign Bible Society, which was formed in London in 1804, and he gave a good history of the Bible Society.
In New South Wales we are proud to be multi-denominational. In my electorate of Burrinjuck we are predominantly Christian but still very proud of the fact that there are many denominations throughout the State. We have quite a large number of churches in the electorate of Burrinjuck and quite a large number of followers of Jesus and the Bible
. I have noticed a steady increase in the number of parents I have spoken to who want their children to have some form of religion as part of their children's core education. They want perhaps just one scripture lesson a week at their children's school or they want their children to attend a Catholic or an Anglican school where religion forms part of the school's core activity.
There is a variety of reasons for that. In some cases parents may be Christians or religious, but in others it is just a matter of parents wanting their children to understand how the world works and that religion is a core part of our lives. It encompasses so many of our international activities and it affects the way in which countries interrelate. Obviously, it has been the reason behind many wars in the past, and it continues to be. It forms the basis for many countries' laws, their way of thinking and, indeed, their way of life. There is probably a multitude of reasons that parents want religion as part of their children's life, and it is particularly true in my electorate. I commend the work of the Bible Society. While doing research in preparation for this debate I noted that the society's project country for 2008 is Bolivia, which is a nation at the crossroads.
The Bible Society of Australia is hoping to raise $100,000 this year for Bolivia to provide scripture activity packs for children in poverty, new testaments and scripture music CDs for troubled young people, new testaments and scripture portions for mineworkers and their families, and a new revision of the Aymara Bible
with study notes and aids to reach the Aymara people with God's word in their heart language. The Bible Society has prepared and mailed out to churches, schools and other community groups around the country a special Bolivia project pack that invites Christians to partner with the society in helping the citizens of Bolivia in this very special year. If people want more information about the project they can go to www.biblesociety.com.au
I particularly encourage church and school groups that are interested in participating in the 2008 Bolivia project that may not have received a project pack to get one from their local Bible Society or go to the Internet and download that information. There has been an enormous increase in the number of bibles distributed. We know that it is the world's best seller. Information was released a little over a month ago indicating a 5 per cent growth in the worldwide distribution of bibles and scripture portions in 2007. That represents almost 27 million bibles. Bible societies have also distributed vast numbers of new testaments, portions and selections. The total cost of the scripture items distributed was $391 million, which indicates the importance of the society's work throughout the world. The Bible Society's 2007 Scripture Distribution Report, which was issued by the United Bible Societies, does not reveal the varied context in which scripture distribution takes place. However, the society does state:
While some Bible Societies have an extensive network of warehouses, shops and other outlets and can make regular visits to places such as hospitals and children's homes, others venture into the unknown every time they load their vehicle with a precious cargo of Scriptures. Poor infrastructure and hazards of all kinds can turn a distribution trip into a test of commitment and determination for Bible Society staff.
Furthermore, in some countries, civil conflict makes some areas completely inaccessible for years.
How true. A new bible printing facility has been opened in Nanjing in China that can print 12 million bibles a year. That is an incredible number. It cost 32 million yuan, which is about $US4.3 million. The facility has a new British-made Timson T32 press in addition to the two presses that were moved from the original Amity Printing Company plant. The new press is capable of printing 18,800 pages an hour.
Mr Barry Collier:
Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON:
Yes. Amity Printing Company is one of the largest bible printing companies in the world. It began operations in 1987, so it is still relatively new—just over 20 years old. It is a joint venture between Amity Printing Press and United Bible Societies. It is an enormous task to produce that many bibles, but the demand clearly exists. It is in our interests to pass this bill. It will enable the Bible Society to incorporate under the Corporations Act 2001 and be subject to the same rules and regulations as other incorporated organisations. It will allow for outdated meeting practices and procedures to be updated in line with the principles applying to a modern organisation, and one which is in touch with many people around the world and which is doing good things. We should facilitate this bill.
Mr MALCOLM KERR
(Cronulla) [5.14 p.m.]: I support the Bible Society NSW (Corporate Conversion) Bill 2008. It is interesting that members from both sides of the House have spoken in favour of its passage. The member for Epping gave members the history of the Bible Society and the member for Blacktown spoke about its historic association with his electorate and the connection with Lachlan Macquarie. This Parliament has been the venue for a number of Bible Society functions, and it is good that the facilities of the House can be used for such events. The Bible Society has held a number of functions at churches in my electorate, and I recently attended one at the Cronulla RSL Club. The member for Goulburn and the member for Gosford mentioned the widespread nature of the society's work. I will not outline the purposes of this bill because previous speakers have already done so. The Bible Society does good work and this bill will enable it to do it more effectively. It is good to see that the society has the support of both sides of the House in carrying out its work.
Mr GREG APLIN
(Albury) [5.16 p.m.]: I support the Bible Society NSW (Corporate Conversion) Bill 2008. The purpose of the bill is to authorise on the Bible Society of the New South Wales, which is currently registered as a statutory authority, to seek registration as a public company under the Corporations Act 2001. The bill will also amend The New South Wales Auxiliary of The British and Foreign Bible Society Incorporation Act 1928. The Bible Society of New South Wales came into being following the formation of the British and Foreign Bible Society in London in 1804. It was the first auxiliary branch of the society in the Pacific. The charter was signed by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. The London society was formed with the support of William Wilberforce, who was originally sought out for counsel and advice as an influential Christian leader. He joined those whose aim it was to form an organisation dedicated to the printing and distribution of the Bible
in foreign languages as well as in English to readers who would otherwise go without.
Along with other Christian anti-slavery advocates and social reformers of that era, such as Granville Sharp and Zachary McCauley, Wilberforce believed in making the Bible
available across society, including to the poor. The Bible Society since its beginnings has played a leading role in supplying scriptures to churches, groups, individuals and communities in Australia and beyond. The Bible Society is an organisation skilled in translation, especially of Aboriginal and Pacific Island languages, and production, printing and distribution of scriptures in Australia and beyond. This bill will allow the society to incorporate under the Corporations Act 2001 and be subject to the same rules and regulations as other incorporated organisations. Effectively, it will allow for outdated objects, meeting practices and procedures to be updated in line with modern principles. We can understand the need to do so when we refer to the 1928 incorporation Act. Clearly, the legislation needs to be updated.
On a personal note, I have worked with the Bible Society in my electorate on four occasions as master of ceremonies for a very popular hymn-fest, which has been organised by the Bible Society of New South Wales. That brings together people from all over the electorate. Some travel by coach from Holbrook for this very popular event in St Matthew's Church in Albury. As I said, on four separate occasions in the past eight years I have been asked to be master of ceremonies and lead people through the singing of hymns, both old and new, supported by the St Matthew's Church choir and the organist at that church, John Scott. It always is a most warming and memorable occasion. The singing has always been wonderful, very uplifting. I commend people such as Hamilton Smith, the organiser, and Geoff Warren, whom I have worked with over the years, for the work that is done by the Bible Society throughout New South Wales, and I commend the bill to the House.
Mr BARRY COLLIER
(Miranda—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.20 p.m.], in reply: I thank the members for Epping, Riverstone, Terrigal, Gosford, Burrinjuck, Cronulla and Albury for their heartfelt contributions to debate on this bill. It has been an extremely interesting debate on a bill that authorises the New South Wales auxiliary of the British and Foreign Bible Society to convert from a company constituted by an Act of the New South Wales Parliament into a Corporations Act company. The conversion will better meet the needs of the society and will assist it to have a more rigorous, best practice corporate governance model. The bill will also change the name of the society to the Bible Society NSW and will update the objects of the society. It is interesting to look back at the 1927 bill and its objects. It is in very different form to our bills as far as the recitals go. It reads:
Whereas a certain Voluntary Association then known as The Auxiliary Bible Society of New South Wales was established in New South Wales in the year one thousand eight hundred and seventeen the objects of the said Society being to co-operate with the British and Foreign Bible Society in promoting the distribution of the Holy Scriptures without note or comment especially in Australasia and Polynesia …
Tonight members have given a good exposition of the history of the Bible Society beginning in 1804 with the simply wonderful reformer and outstanding politician of the age—probably of the millennium in one view at least—William Wilberforce. Anyone who has seen the movie Amazing Grace
will know exactly what I mean. The member for Hornsby is nodding in agreement. The song Amazing Grace
, which is sung at meetings of the Bible Society, and was written by the former slave trader John Newton, is an inspiring part of that movie.
Members have spoken of the history of the Bible Society and the way in which bibles assist in the rehabilitation of prisoners. The member for Epping mentioned prisoners in South African jails being sent bibles from Kariong Juvenile Detention Centre. Having been in South Africa as chairman of the Legislation Review Committee and going to Johannesburg, which is the murder capital of the world, I visited Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was in custody. Having listened to a former prisoner there on the importance of reading and the way prisoners smuggled reading material between their cells in their need for an education, I can understand how important the distribution of the Bible
, the written Word, is to people in South Africa, especially in prison.
I commend Mr Martin Parish, mentioned by the member for Gosford and Chaplain of the Kariong Juvenile Detention Centre, for his work in the distribution of those bibles. I commend those involved, including the prisoners, in the distribution of the bibles. The member for Riverstone spoke of the volunteers, the not-for-profit organisations and the historic connection between Blacktown and the Bible Society. He also spoke about the publication of the Bible in 13 languages and it being distributed to those South African prisoners. As a former surfer of the 1960s, complete with board bumps, I was interested to see that the society is now publishing a Surfers Bible
. The member for Terrigal gave an interesting speech on the work of the society, as did the member for Burrinjuck, who noted the need parents are feeling for their children to have some form of religious education and at least some form of knowledge of the scriptures and the word.
I commend the member for Burrinjuck on her research. She noted that in 2007 there was a 5 per cent increase in the number of bibles being distributed—a total of some 27 million worldwide. I commend all the speakers tonight on their contributions. They show a bipartisan approach to what is an important bill and something that is very close to the hearts of many members of this Chamber. On behalf of the Government I join with all members in commending the Bible Society and its volunteers on their very important work. They have the support of all members. I commend the bill 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.
Passing of the Bill
Bill declared passed and transmitted to the Legislative Council with a message seeking its concurrence in the bill.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT AMENDMENT (LEGAL STATUS) BILL 2008
Agreement in Principle
Debate resumed from 22 October 2008.
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER
(Terrigal) [5.26 p.m.]: I appreciate the Minister providing a briefing on the bill by her staff when notice was given of the bill last week. The Coalition does not support paragraph (a) of the overview of the bill. It has no objection to paragraph (b) but, as the bill is being presented in its entirety, the New South Wales Coalition will not be voting for the bill. I emphasise that it does not object to paragraph (b). Our opposition to the bill is influenced by the concern expressed by the Local Government Association and the Shires Association of New South Wales. On 22 October 2008, the same day that the bill was introduced into Parliament, the President of the Local Government Association, Genia McCaffery, and the President of the Shires Association, Bruce Miller, issued a joint press release, which reads as follows:
SERVICES FOR COMMUNITIES AT RISK
Legislation which could have significant impact for councils and their communities is being rushed through Parliament without serious consultation with employers in the industry.
The Local Government Amendment (Legal Status) Bill 2008 seeks to remove the corporate status of councils and county councils.
"We've just seen the Bill but on first glance it looks as if it may affect our ability to apply for Federal Government funding and could risk the provision of services and facilities for NSW communities," President of the Local Government Association of NSW, Cr Genia McCaffery said.
"Local Government wants a positive working relationship with the State Government so we can jointly provide NSW communities with the services they need and want.
"But the Government is making this difficult by again pushing through unnecessary legislation without consulting the very people that will be impacted by it.
"We are mystified as to why the Government is ramming this legislation through.
"We've got a new Federal Government in Canberra, so the WorkChoices legislation is no longer the threat that it was under the Coalition."
President of the Shires Association, Cr Bruce Miller said:
"While we support clarification of the industrial jurisdiction covering councils in NSW, preliminary legal advice is that the proposed legislation does not remove uncertainty and may have a significant impact on councils outside industrial relations.
"If the objective is to exclude Local Government from federal industrial coverage then it should be done at the federal level, and we've already expressed our support to both the Prime Minister and Minister Gillard.
"Local Government employees benefit from generous and flexible employment conditions which under current arrangements will continue until 2010.
"Such significant legislation should not be hurried through without proper consideration and consultation with stakeholders.
"The Associations are seeking urgent legal advice."
The Local Government and Shires Associations made the salient point that they were not consulted, that this could cause serious problems and that the Government is ramming the legislation through. They are mystified as to why this is happening. People are entitled to query the need for the great urgency in introducing the bill. I will exculpate the present Minister, who has been in office for only six weeks. I am sure the bill had its genesis under her predecessor. The present Minister is charged with the duty of presenting that work and that Cabinet decision to the House.
Paragraph (a), which refers to decorporatisation of councils, is curious. The stated reason for the provision is that the Government wishes to ensure that local council employees do not fall under Federal industrial legislation and it is to provide "certainty" in this. It is already clear that local government is not a constitutional corporation within the sense set out in the WorkChoices legislation and as was upheld by the High Court in the challenge to that legislation by the States, including New South Wales. In a memorandum dated 5 September 2008 United Services Union stated:
On 20 August 2008 Justice Spender of the Federal Court of Australia ruled that Etheridge Shire Council in Queensland was NOT A CONSTITUTIONAL CORPORATION and COULD NOT be covered by a federal WorkChoices agreement.
The rationale for this decision is largely consistent with the view held by the USU since the introduction of WorkChoices in 2006 that the activities of councils are predominantly associated with public benefit objectives and that councils lack the essential qualities of trading corporations …
This is great news for council workers and for employees under our State Award.
According to the President of the Shires Association, the existing agreement does not expire until 2010, so there is plenty of time to evaluate the impact of the Federal Court decision that Federal legislation does not apply at all. The next point is that the present Federal Government, under Prime Minister Rudd, has indicated that it intends to repeal the WorkChoices legislation. That is to happen in 2009. There is an existing agreement that would have been preserved anyway under the Howard legislation as a continuing award that would last until 2010, but the legislation to which the United Services Union objects is going to be repealed in 2009 and the court has ruled that it would not apply in any event. It is at three levels: the existing agreement, the court decision and the Federal Government's pledge to repeal the legislation—and nobody doubts the Federal Government as it claims to have been elected on this issue—yet this bill is suddenly presented to the Parliament without any consultation with the Local Government Association or the Shires Association and is being put through the Parliament.
With all due respect to the Government officers who wrote the agreement in principle speech, the aspect that changes the corporate nature of councils goes for 2½ paragraphs with no analysis of the legislation or its impact; merely 2½ paragraphs that simply state what the legislation is claimed to achieve. This is an extraordinary step for a system that has existed for more 150 years and that first achieved legislative reform in 1906 under the Carruthers Liberal Government, the first government to pass local government legislation in this State. In 1919 there was the landmark Local Government Act and in 1993 the last Coalition Government passed the present legislation in relation to local government.
The Coalition has had, and always will have, a strong commitment to local government because it believes that local government is the level of government closest to the people and it provides those services to the community and to the people that they need most in their day-to-day lives. The situation can only be described as curious: the legislation seeks not just to decorporatise councils but to make them something else. The bill does not say that councils will not be corporations; it says councils will become "bodies politic". That is set out new section 220 (1) as follows:
A council is a body politic of the State with perpetual succession and the legal capacity and powers of an individual, both in and outside the State.
New section 220 (2) states that "a council is not a body corporate (including a corporation)". What is a "body politic"? No definition was given in the agreement in principle speech. A body politic is a concept that dates back to mediaeval times. A body politic first found its expression in the early years of mediaeval history. The definition of a body politic reads as follows:
A body politic is any group governed by any means; a government system with the word "body" used in the same sense of "body of laws" or "body of facts". Any early use occurred in Thomas Hobbes's "Leviathan," published in 1651: "Of systems subordinate, some are political and some private. Political (otherwise called bodies politic and persons in law) are those which are made by authority from the sovereign power from the Commonwealth." The metaphor linking the human anatomy to the system of government can be found in Plato's "Republic" In Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Discourse on Political Economy …
It is a very ancient concept that has not continued in English law and which is only part of the English legal history. The Government has gone back some 300 years to find a system of decorporatising councils and has seized upon a mediaeval concept and has now introduced that concept into the twenty-first century. Honourable members may be interested to note that the High Court as recently as 2007 in the case of Thomas v. Mowbray
analysed in part the concept of body politic. The High Court quoted the English statute in restraint of appeals, which honourable members will be most interested to hear. The statute in restraint of appeals—the short title is the Ecclesiastical Appeals Act 1532—was an Act of the English Parliament and is one of the key Acts that embody the Protestant reformation in English law. When the framers of the break with Rome were anxious to establish a legal basis for the King to take England out of the jurisdiction of the See of Rome, they came up with the concept of a body politic. That was discussed in the High Court decision, and the High Court quoted an extract from the Statute in Restraint of Appeals of 1532. That extract reads:
Where by divers sundry old authentic histories and chronicles, it is manifestly declared and expressed that this realm of England is an Empire, and so hath been accepted in the world, governed by one Supreme Head and King having the dignity and royal estate of the imperial Crown of the same, unto whom a body politic compact of all sorts and degrees of people divided in terms and by names of Spirituality and Temporalty, be bounden and owe to bear next to God a natural and humble obedience: he would being also institute and furnished, by the goodness and sufferance of Almighty God, with plenary, whole, and entire power, pre-eminence, authority …
According to the statute, the body politic, constituted under the King, made England a self-contained realm and it therefore was authorised to break with the See of Rome. That is English legal history. That was in 1532. Then we have various people talking in vague terms about what constitutes a nation: it is a body politic. Suddenly the clock races forward to 2008, and every council in New South Wales now relates itself back to the ancient Tudor times of the body politic. There is no other reference in our legal system to "body politic"; it is an ancient, mediaeval concept, and it has now been resurrected to suit the purposes of the United Services Union. This is not legislation brought about at the request of local government. Not a council in New South Wales has requested this legislation; indeed, not a council in New South Wales is not mystified by it. This is legislation brought about at the behest of the United Services Union.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! The shadow Minister will be heard in silence. The House will extend the same courtesy to the member for East Hills when he makes his contribution to the debate.
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER:
Let us look at what our present legal system provides with respect to legal personality. Under our present legal system, legal personality consists of two forms: first, natural persons and, second, corporations. They are the two systems known to our law. There is the Corporations Act, which governs modern corporations. Joint stock companies have now existed for some 150 years; before that time they were incorporated by Royal Charter. Natural persons have certain rights of legal expression, as do corporations. But there is no concept of bodies politic in our law. To overcome this problem, having resurrected this ancient form, the new legislation states what some of the powers of a body politic will be. The Act says, "… a body politic of the State with perpetual succession and the legal capacity and powers of an individual, both in and outside the State".
The Act is saying, "We do not know what a body politic is at law, but we are going to say that this is a body politic and we are going to give it the same legal powers of a person." Yet a body politic is not a person because, unlike a person, it cannot die. So it will have perpetual succession. So we have a hybrid—a union of the corporation, which has perpetual succession, and an individual, which has legal capacity and powers—brought about by an Act of Parliament. Parliament will, by statute, create a hybrid body—which is part corporation and part individual—and call it the body politic. It is an extraordinary step, and it is a step taken for one reason only: to satisfy the demands of the United Services Union.
This is a Government whose Premier—who has been in office for some six weeks—has promised new levels of transparency and an end to the spin, and has heard the message from the by-elections in Ryde, Cabramatta, Lakemba and Port Macquarie, and is promising a new era in New South Wales. Yet, major legislation involving local government is presented to this Parliament—not for the benefit of the State, for the benefit of the councils, for the benefit of the residents, or for the benefit of the ratepayers, but for the benefit of a single grouping, the United Services Union, which is an affiliate of the Australian Labor Party. This is a Premier whose first appointment to the Legislative Council is the Secretary of Unions New South Wales, John Robertson, a man who, according to all reports, is destined to be made a Minister by Christmas.
The United Services Union has made it clear that it wants this legislation. It has said so in its statement, part of which I read earlier and which I will complete. The union has made sure that the State Government hears its voice. The United Services Union says it is concerned about a discussion paper prepared by the Department of Local Government entitled "Workforce Relations: A Critical Component in Effective Collaboration Between Councils". The union expressed the concern that the power of councils to collaborate means that individuals employed by councils could have their employment conditions varied. The union's slogan is "USU Says 'NO' to Separate Entities". In other words, the USU does not support councils entering into arrangements among one another because it fears that this could impact upon employment conditions. The union says:
For employees in the formation of Local Government corporations can be potentially disastrous. Employees forcibly transferred to such entities would lose the security of employment and bargaining power associated with Local Government employment.
The union goes on to say:
The Department of Local Government draft Discussion Paper remains at an early stage of debate. The USU has brought our concerns to the attention of the Minister for Local Government, Paul Lynch. General Secretary Ben Kruse, together with members of the USU management, will also attend a Departmental forum on 31 July to press home the fact that the "separate entity" approach to strategic alliance is just not on!
The USU will lobby and campaign to protect members from any adverse effects of Local Government corporations. The USU will work to ensure the strategic alliances are implemented in a true spirit of positive reform.
Should you become aware that your council is considering the establishment of a separate entity, contact the USU immediately.
So the United Services Union is determined to make sure that councils cannot enter into these strategic alliances. I am sure the Minister may have something to say about that in her reply. But the USU has made its veto clear. Even more than that, the USU is determined to take the entire sphere of industrial relations outside the Federal system, and to make sure its lobbying power and dominance—which it can express through the annual conferences of the Australian Labor Party—remain in force unimpaired. To do this, the USU has compelled the Government to introduce this extraordinary legislation—legislation that, as the Local Government Association President, Genia McCaffery, says, she is mystified by. "We are mystified as to why the Government is ramming this legislation through," Genia McCaffery said.
When the Premier spoke at the local government conference last Monday he did not address this issue and I cannot recall whether the Minister for Local Government did either—no doubt she will tell me in reply. Both the Premier and the Minister covered a number of relevant subjects at the conference. However, as far as I can recall, neither of them addressed this issue. It is one of extreme importance. It is going to create not only a hybrid but also great potential for legal disputation.
No-one really knows what "body politic" is. It is in the 2½ paragraphs of the speech of the Minister and it is in four lines of the bill. It will open a whole minefield of legislation throughout the State because lawyers will argue whether these characteristics pertain to this new statutory creature. In the short term it may solve the industrial relations problem of the Rees Government, but at this stage what it will do for the powers of councils and potential litigation remains unknown and unexplored. The Government, the Premier and the Minister have certainly not addressed it. The people of New South Wales are entitled to know that their councils can function effectively without legal challenge and that the powers of councils under the Local Government Act 1993 will continue unimpaired.
The member for East Hills is no longer in the Chamber. Earlier he interjected about my alleged support for the monarchy. For the information of the member for East Hills, I have been a republican all my life and I am strongly committed to the ideal of Australia becoming a republic. It is interesting that when Ireland and India converted from a monarchy to a republic an argument was tested in court as to whether the president—who took over the role of the monarch—had the same inherent and traditional powers formerly held by the monarchy. In other words, did the reserve powers of the Crown, including the fundamental power to declare war and make peace, flow to the new office of president? It caused quite a constitutional problem in both countries. It was impossible to resolve whether this was a new institution entirely, as set out in the Constitution of those countries, or a flow-on from the traditional British monarchy. The same argument or parallel applies here.
When a body has been created and called the "body politic" is that in name or does it inherit whatever the characteristics are of what was a body politic in mediaeval times? Will it have the power to break the throne? Perhaps the member for Epping might address that in his speech. The Government has not addressed this issue. It is not an idle issue raised by me as a debating point; it is a legal issue that will arise in years to come. In the anxiety and determination of the State Government to placate the union bosses—in this case the United Services Union—it is prepared to put all of that to one side and introduce this hybrid creature called the body politic: part corporation, part individual.
Will this fool the High Court? Will the High Court say, "As you have passed the bill that is the end of it; you are a body politic. The Constitution does not give the Federal Parliament powers over body politic, therefore it cannot exercise any jurisdiction under the Constitution." Or will the High Court at some stage say, "You are a corporation, whether you admit it or not. You are acting as a corporation. You have perpetual succession and you govern in accordance with corporate models"? Will the High Court then overrule the legislation? We do not know. Sooner or later the answer to that question will be decided by the High Court. Ultimately the issue of body politic opens up not only a legal minefield but it also satisfies nothing other than an opportunity for lawyers and individuals who wish to make mischief.
We have been presented with a new legislative form for councils with no basis in the traditional legal concepts of the twenty-first century. It is a resurrection of a mediaeval concept designed not to achieve better services for ratepayers or a better result for the citizens of this State, but to satisfy the whims and desires of the United Services Union to be outside the ambit of Federal industrial power. Is there any wonder that the New South Wales Coalition is opposed to this aspect of the legislation? The Opposition does not oppose the extension of parental leave entitlements to those in an acting position for 24 months. I do not have the benefit of the advice from the Local Government and Shires Associations of New South Wales on that aspect of the bill. If it eventuates that the association does have a concern, the Opposition reserves its rights in the Legislative Council to raise that concern and advise accordingly. There was some talk that senior legal counsel's advice has been obtained.
Mrs Barbara Perry:
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER:
There was some suggestion of senior legal counsel's advice but I cannot recall by whom. It may have been by the United Services Union. If that were the case, the Opposition would appreciate seeing it. Has the advice of the Solicitor General been obtained? Has the advice of senior legal counsel been obtained? If so, what is that advice? The Opposition is entitled to see it. I realise that information is not discoverable under freedom of information legislation but it may well be discoverable under a call for papers in the Legislative Council. It might be interesting to have a look at the nature of the advice to see whether the Government is acting upon legal advice or is it some extraordinarily clever scheme to evade the power under the Corporations Act?
As I have said, the Federal Court has ruled that the corporation powers of the Commonwealth do not extend to councils in Queensland. The Queensland Parliament, as the Minister acknowledged in her agreement in principle speech, has taken legislative measures to ensure that councils in Queensland are taken outside the corporation powers. That model has not been replicated in New South Wales. The Minister stated that no reasons were given and in her words, "Queensland follows a different form to New South Wales."
The legislation has been presented to the House in such a hurry that I have not had the opportunity to look at the Queensland legislation. In the time it takes for the legislation to pass from this House to the Legislative Council the Opposition will look at what the Queensland legislation says. According to the bill councils across New South Wales are going to cease to be corporations at law. They are going to become some statutory hybrid creature: part corporation, part individual, called a body politic—an ancient concept revived solely for the purpose of giving a title to the new legal basis of local government. The Coalition will not support legislation of this extraordinary nature.
Pursuant to resolution business interrupted and set down as an order of the day for a future day.
On behalf of the House, I congratulate all new members on their election to this place. It is my great pleasure to ask the member for Lakemba to make his inaugural speech to the House.
Mr ROBERT FUROLO
(Lakemba) [6.00 p.m.]: (Inaugural Speech): I stand here today, both proud and humble, as the seventh member for Lakemba, representing the people of my community in the oldest Parliament in Australia. We all have a story, our own story, of where we have come from and why we are here. It is my pleasure to share my story with members, as well as my hopes and aspirations. I am the youngest of five children born to Antoinette and Pasquale Furolo. Both my parents were born in Egypt and, like more than 40 per cent of people living in the seat of Lakemba, my mother's family made the decision to come to Sydney to start a new life in a new country. My father, chasing love, followed shortly after. Having arrived with little more than a few pounds in their pockets my parents, like so many migrants arriving at that time, set about finding work wherever they could—in factories, on process lines—both doing whatever was necessary to get by. Of course, things were difficult and money was tight. But with the fierce determination and pride shared by thousands of other new arrivals, my parents laid the foundations of a new life.
Children arrived quickly, and to provide for their needs dad found a job as a cleaner of the new post office in Penrith. The family moved to the area and dad found more work and established a small family business. While my mother spoke English well, and about four other languages, my father's education was not as comprehensive. Yet, despite these difficulties, he more than compensated in other areas, and his qualities and traits taught me a great deal about success in life. My father was a cleaner, but he was more than just a cleaner. He was a proud cleaner. He took great satisfaction in doing his job to the best of his ability. When he had finished a big stripping and polishing job, he would look at his work with pride, knowing it was a tough job done well. Interestingly, my first brush with this place was as a young boy helping my dad clean. Dad had the contract to clean the office of the then local member for Penrith, Ron Mulock. I know my father, who passed away nine years ago, would be proud that I have gone from cleaning the office of a member of Parliament to being a member of Parliament.
My mother also was, and continues to be, an important influence in my life. Mum is the sort of person who would never accept orthodoxy without question. She taught me to be curious and questioning and to not run with the pack. I will be forever grateful for her lessons. My sister and my brothers, who are here today, also played key roles in my development. In fact, they continue to be wonderful role models in my life. They show me how to be a good citizen and a good father, and to stand up for what I believe in—and they do it all with love. As the youngest of four boys, it was not always easy. I still recall my terror and my brothers' delight at a concerted effort by them to flush me head first down the toilet. But, of course, they did it with love.
I was schooled by the Sisters of St Joseph in primary school and by the Christian Brothers in high school. My high school years at St Dominic's College and McCarthy Catholic College were very formative years. Obviously it was a great school because another member who is making his inaugural speech tonight—the member for Port Macquarie—attended the same school. The Brothers instilled in me a strong sense of social justice and the expectation that we must all work to contribute to the betterment of society. At school I also learned that you should not miss the final examination of your Higher School Certificate, for without it you cannot matriculate. Sadly, I learned that lesson a few hours too late. My hopes of attending university dashed, I set about finding jobs doing whatever I could. Over the next five or so years I worked in a range of jobs, none of them glamorous but all of them honest.
During those years I worked as an owner-driver delivering parcels around Sydney and as a sales representative selling cleaning supplies. I worked as a barman, waiter, cleaner and hotel porter and as a cook in an Italian restaurant, run by my brother Jeffrey. I sold courier services door to door and I even flipped burgers at McDonalds for a living. Some view all these jobs as beneath them. But these jobs taught me many things. They taught me about myself. They taught me how, like my father, I could take pride in doing my job well, whatever it was. They also taught me about human nature and respect for people. These jobs are not the usual path of members to this place, but I can recommend them to anyone who wants to learn about themselves and humanity. For my part, I will relish the lessons and experiences of these jobs and apply what I have learned through them to this new role.
As a young idealist with a Christian Brothers education, I was drawn to the one political party that understands the essential role of government—to foster opportunity while protecting and supporting the less advantaged—the Australian Labor Party. While living in a share-house in Canberra, a dear friend of my brother invited me to a Labor Party branch meeting in Belconnen. I moved back to Sydney and the same friend encouraged me to join the Warren branch in Marrickville. They were interesting times, and my taste for politics had been whetted. But the event that turned my life around and opened my eyes to the wonderfully rewarding world of elected representation was the suggestion of a job with a relatively unknown backbencher in State Parliament. I was immediately interested.
Despite the prospect of taking a pay cut, I contacted the member to arrange an interview. With no experience working in an office or of using computers, the young MP took a punt on me and offered me a job. My life was changed forever. Many members will be aware that the member I am referring to was the then member for Hurstville—my good friend Morris Iemma. The experiences I gained over the next five years set me on a course that has changed my life and led me here today. I publicly express my deep and sincere thanks to Morris for his positive influence, his support and his friendship. His values and commitment to the community he represented were wonderful lessons to me on what can be achieved for people. My work in the electorate office was immensely rewarding and the friendships I formed with so many people remain to this day. Morris, you changed my life, and now I hope to be the same positive influence on others that you were, and represent our community with the same dedication and compassion that you displayed. Thank you.
I am an optimist. I believe good things will happen. I see the goodness in people and in humanity. For me, the glass is always half full. As a young boy growing up, my life was charmed. I had good friends, a loving and supportive family, and an unrelenting sense that everything would always be all right. I had a powerful belief that anything was possible. I was convinced that if I believed something strongly enough I could do anything. For a short time I was even convinced I could fly. Unfortunately, the strength of my convictions was not enough to break the shackles of gravity, but the scraped knees bore testament to my optimistic nature. My sense of optimism was so strong there was also a time in my life when I just assumed I would win Lotto. Needless to say, it did not happen. But this information helps to paint a picture of my positive outlook on life. I am pleased and fortunate that this sense of excitement and optimism has carried through into my later life.
Standing here today, that part of my nature is as strong as ever. Being positive and optimistic has fuelled and been fuelled by my experiences as a councillor and Mayor of Canterbury over the last nine years. Many members will know of the energy that exists in our local communities and the warmth, generosity of spirit and goodwill of the people in our electorates. This intrinsic goodness in people is the intangible force that has driven and inspired me to keep working in public life, and it exists in abundance in the electorate of Lakemba. I have continued to learn and be inspired by the people of the community I represent, like the wonderful staff and volunteers of the Riverwood Community Centre and the Canterbury City Community Centre.
These amazing neighbourhood centres, and others like them, serve their communities well because they understand the needs of people in their local area. The volunteers—many of whom are experiencing difficulties themselves—are the threads that, woven together, make the fabric that binds my community together. Working hand in hand with the families, community groups and volunteers of my electorate are the people at the coalface of government service delivery—the people at our local councils.
My experience as a councillor and mayor have reinforced in me the critical role played by the men and women working in councils across our State. In the city of Canterbury, where more than one-third of households earn a combined income of less than $26,000 and where nearly half of all residents were born overseas, the work of a committed and compassionate council is essential. I put on the record in this, my inaugural speech, my deep respect and gratitude for the management and staff of Canterbury council from the General Manager, Jim Montague—who has headed the organisation for more than 26 years—to the directors, managers, and staff at all levels. The people who work for Canterbury council make a real and tangible difference to the lives of those living in our city.
I also acknowledge the councillors with whom I serve on Canterbury council: councillors Karl Saleh, Brian Robson, Bill Kritharas, Fadwa Kebbe, Mark Adler, Carlo Favorito, Michael Hawatt, and the newly elected councillors Linda Eisler and Ken Nam. Regardless of their political persuasion, I am pleased to say that during my time as mayor, the elected body of Canterbury council has worked together to implement some great reforms and projects for our city. One of the projects that I am most proud of and which has fundamentally changed the way our council operates is the introduction of an Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel [IHAP] at Canterbury. I drove the reform, which is now regarded by all as a significant improvement to the processes and integrity of council's development assessment system.
The IHAP provides for an independent review of all contentious development applications. The panel is able to objectively assess an application, take verbal and written submissions from applicants and objectors, review the council staff's report, and make its own independent recommendations. There are a number of benefits from this system, and a review of the IHAP's first 12 months of operation demonstrates them. Of the 65 applications only one matter—the most contentious matters considered by IHAP in its first year—was appealed to the Land and Environment Court, and the court ruled in favour of the council. Most importantly, feedback from applicants and objectors indicates a greater degree of confidence in the process, which was my objective from the start.
Of course, there are many other projects and initiatives of which I am proud. The introduction of a 15-year infrastructure renewal program has ensured Canterbury council is well placed to meet the challenges of the future and to fund the repair of all its roads, footpaths, drainage and town centres. Over the past four years more than $12 million has been invested, and there is more to come. Whether it is funding for the community building work of local libraries and capital works projects like multipurpose community centres, whether it is key environmental initiatives like a new three-bin waste system or cleaning up the Cooks River, or supporting community events and festivals like the Campsie Food Festival or the Haldon Street Festival, councils like the City of Canterbury make a real difference to people's lives. I intend to work hard in this place to be a strong voice for local government. It is facing a difficult time and many challenges. It needs champions who believe in what it can achieve. Our communities depend on us to get the relationship between Federal, State and local government right. This will be one of my priorities. [Extension of time agreed to.
The people of Lakemba—like people all over New South Wales—have dreams and hopes and aspirations. Regardless of where they were born, what language they speak at home, or what church or mosque they worship in, the people of Lakemba want the future to be a better place for all of us. They want the opportunity to share in the benefits of a cohesive society that is working together for a better today and an even better tomorrow. My duty as their representative is to work with everybody in this place to deliver on this expectation. And it is my view that the best way to build a safer, healthier and more cohesive society is through education.
If there is one portfolio area that can level the playing field for disadvantaged families and give them and their children a chance to work towards a rewarding and fulfilling career, it is education. With a better education we have a better standard of living, we are healthier, and, arguably, more fulfilled. Our educational institutions, both public and private, are our best chance of building real opportunity for families and young people in New South Wales. And for disadvantaged families—like many in the electorate of Lakemba—we must make education the State's number one priority.
I mentioned earlier that by nature I am an optimist. I hope this always remains true. However, there is one issue that I believe needs conscious effort on the part of all community and religious leaders, especially in our parliaments. Unless we are prepared to stand up on this issue, the consequences will be devastating. I speak of the need for all of us to repudiate bigotry, and cultural and religious prejudice. Nothing is more debilitating to a peaceful and harmonious existence than those who choose to exploit ignorance and promote fear based on real or perceived differences in others.
My parents, who arrived in this country with little more than a strong work ethic and hopes for a better future, experienced the scorn and resentment of those who found it easier to hate the unknown. Of course, they also met many people who welcomed them and befriended them. I doubt my parents were very much different to the waves of migrants who have come to Australia over the past 30 or 40 years. Like my parents, more recent migrants to Australia have come to build a new life for themselves and a better future for their children. Yet there still exists a fear and resentment of migrants. Yes, there is a period of adjustment—of learning the local customs and language. There is a period when new migrants want and need the security of living near others who know and understand their language and culture. But this is not a barrier to their participation in our lives, merely a period of adjustment and learning.
As leaders, as governments, as citizens, we must rise to the challenges of a society rich in diversity. We need to recognise the shared values and hopes of people, regardless of their language or cultural background. And we need to show that we respect them and welcome them. This analogy might be simplistic but it is like being at school when a new kid arrives. We can sit back and complain that they never came up to us to say hi, or we can reach out to them, acknowledge the challenges they face of settling into a new school, and offer to help them. The seat of Lakemba, like the city of Canterbury, is one of Australia's real cultural melting pots. My community is home to people from more than 150 different countries. And while there are occasionally difficulties, my community is an example of what can be achieved when new migrants are supported and welcomed. As the member for Lakemba I will be working to promote understanding and respect between all people so that our true potential as a society can be achieved.
I have many people to acknowledge and thank, and I wish to start with the two people who have had the biggest and most positive impact on my life: my daughter, Isabella, and my son, Alexander. From the moment of their births they have given me a sense of wonder and love that inspires me. They are beautiful, happy, loving and affectionate children and I am blessed to be their father. I have worked hard to be a good dad, but I have often made mistakes. And as members here will know, it is often those we love the most that suffer for our work. I thank my family for their love and for the lessons they have taught me in life—my mother, sister and my brothers, who have been my teachers, my friends and my confidantes. They have always been there and I know they always will be.
I also thank the wonderful Labor Party branch members and supporters who worked during both the council and by-election campaigns. We had hundreds of people helping out on election day and during pre-poll: they have been tireless in their efforts to support me and the Labor Party. I also thank the campaign team who worked so hard in what was a very short by-election campaign. In particular I acknowledge Brendan Cavanagh—a dynamo who has a big future—Matt Dixon, Tom Pacey, my good friend Ari Margossian, and the many young Labor activists and volunteers who delivered a solid result on 18 October. To my partner Jess: Thank you for believing in me, and thank you for understanding why I do what I do. In the words of a famous Australian who succeeded despite adversity, I love youse all.
Finally, I will read a small quote that came to me while attending the Annual General Meeting of the Campsie War Widows Guild. This group of ladies has been serving the needs of local war widows since 1946. They are wonderful ladies who have experienced true adversity and who continue to help others. Their motto, which I believe is an extract of a message from King George VI, sums up their values. It reflects a commitment to society and the common good that parliamentarians, Ministers, religious leaders, teachers, doctors, mums and dads could all aspire to. It reads:
We all belong to each other,
We all need each other,
It is in serving each other and in Sacrificing for our common good
That we are finding our true life.
I hope that I have painted a picture of who I am, of where I have come from, and of what I hope to achieve in this place. I am here as a servant of my community and the people of New South Wales. I will do my best to make a positive difference with the opportunity I now have.
It is my pleasure to invite the member for Port Macquarie to give his inaugural speech. I acknowledge his family and friends in the public gallery. I also acknowledge the presence of the Federal member for New England, the Hon. Tony Windsor, and the Federal member for Lyne, Mr Rob Oakeshott.
Mr PETER BESSELING
(Port Macquarie) [6.20 p.m.]: I acknowledge my family and friends in the gallery this evening and I appreciate their support. Dr Martin Luther King said:
The true measure of a man lies not in where he stands in moments of comfort or convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and controversy.
Fellow parliamentary colleagues and honoured guests, throughout history there have been many examples of controversies and challenges laid before both individuals and collective groups of people. They are like the challenges faced by the Besseling family in The Netherlands in the 1950s who, having lived through the Second World War like so many other families around the world during that period, focused solely on providing the best opportunities in life for their young family. In 1956 Kees and Trudy Besseling made the courageous decision to move to the other side of the world with their eight children to start a new life in a land offering so much opportunity. They did so in an era without the modern-day benefits that we all take so much for granted. They were not able to research their chosen destination on the Internet, nor download images of possible houses in which they might like to live.
They could not hire a video or DVD with information on their new country or job opportunities, or study English lessons via tape recordings. My father told me this evening that the only information they had was a book, the name of which my grandfather could not pronounce. They packed their belongings, set off by boat for Australia, and arrived with a new set of challenges that all migrant families of that era faced, such as learning a new language, providing for their families and setting off on the path of becoming successful, productive Australian citizens. Of all the challenges I have encountered and of those I have yet to face, I doubt there will be any challenge that is greater than the one that faced my grandparents and their family in those formative years in Australia. I thank them sincerely for their inspiration and example, which has had such a strong impact upon my life.
I am fortunate enough to have had the people of the Port Macquarie electorate elect me to represent them in the New South Wales Parliament. I am both humbled and encouraged by their support. I look forward with eager anticipation to dealing with the challenges that face both my community and our State, and to representing them with enthusiasm and conviction. On many occasions this Chamber has heard of the stunning beauty of the mid North Coast of New South Wales, with its dazzling coastlines that provide a bounty of local seafood and recreational activities, its majestic rivers that for so long provided the lifeblood for our indigenous Biripai communities and early settlements, the unrivalled World Heritage listed Lord Howe Island, and the hinterland areas such as Lansdowne, Johns River, Lorn and Hannam Vale with their natural beauty and ecological value to our community and the people, who are active, engaged and have a strong sense of community. Whilst many of us living in the Port Macquarie electorate consider that we live in the best place on earth, there are many challenges that face our area and it is for this reason that I stood to be elected as the member for Port Macquarie and why I stand before you this evening.
Due to the natural beauty and the social fabric of the communities in our area, we continue to see increasing population growth through the seachange phenomenon, as people continue to make lifestyle choices and move to coastal regions such as ours. With a population growth significantly higher than that of the State average and an average age of 45 years compared to the State average of 37 years, we are faced with a number of infrastructure challenges in our area ranging from health and aged care facilities to transport and energy infrastructure that will be required to service our area into the future. Like many regional and rural areas within our great State, how we deal with future health care delivery to the people in our local communities is going to be the great challenge of our time, and it is an issue that all levels of government, along with their local communities, need to address in unison.
There is no doubt that the most urgent health infrastructure need on the entire North Coast is the expansion of the Port Macquarie Base Hospital Accident and Emergency Department, which was built in the early 1990s to deal with 14,000 presentations to the facility per year. The department is now receiving 32,000 presentations per year—more than double its capacity. This has placed the staff at the hospital and the people within the Port Macquarie area at great risk and is a matter that requires urgent attention. I confirm my intention to vigorously pursue this matter with both the health Minister and the Premier as a priority for our electorate. I will also be pushing for a commitment to the long-term viability of the hospital through the Port Macquarie Base Hospital master plan, which was released in September 2006 and which includes the preferred model of a fourth pod. However, the healthcare needs of our region and, indeed, of our entire State, cannot be simply met by an ever-increasing reliance on our hospital system. I commit to working with the Government and my local communities, to encourage good health practices and better health service delivery.
In a recent report titled "Delivering health care out of hospitals" the New South Wales Auditor-General revealed some stark statistics that highlight the need to change the way we think about and provide health care to our communities. The report predicts that the implications of not developing alternative out-of-hospital care practices are severe and shows that health expenditure has increased from 14.6 per cent of the New South Wales budget in 1971-72 to around 28 per cent of the New South Wales budget in 2007-08. The report reveals that at current rates funding for health will consume the entire State budget within the next 25 years. The report also notes that out-of-hospital care can provide clinical outcomes as good as in-hospital care and can operate at around half the cost of providing the care in hospitals. This is particularly relevant to areas such as the mid North Coast, where large elderly populations can benefit from the programs and would certainly appreciate the benefits that treatment within the comfort of their own homes can bring. I am aware of a number of different programs operating within the Harrington and Laurieton areas of the electorate and I am encouraged by the positive feedback that is being provided by the community.
Whilst our beautiful area provides an environment for many and varied sporting and leisure pursuits, there are certainly opportunities to deal with childhood and adult obesity issues through an increased provision of health infrastructure, which has most commonly been left in the hands of the limited budgets of the Department of Sport and Recreation or local government. Whilst I am a firm advocate of members of our community participating in some form of social, cultural or sporting activity, I believe that we are being let down by the social health infrastructure such as footpaths and bicycle paths that encourage all members of our community to be active. We have a unique chance to provide one of the great walking tracks along the east coast of Australia, from Port Macquarie through Lake Cathie, Bonny Hills, North Haven, Laurieton and Dunbogan, all the way down through Crowdy Head and Harrington, that will provide great joy and health benefits for both visitors and locals alike. I look forward to working on this issue with my local, State and Federal colleagues to provide more safe, healthy alternatives for people to utilise in order to get around our towns and cities.
Yet another challenge that faces my community is one that often generates heated community opinion and is particular to areas that have stretches of natural coastline and access to water views. Many would argue that a history of inappropriate development has taken place in our coastal towns over the past decades and that the correct balance has not been struck between community need and developer greed. There is particular anxiety surrounding the amount of coastal and foreshore land that is held by the State, which, in the Port Macquarie electorate, amounts to the most valuable landholding available to either private enterprise or the general community. Whilst ever the future of these landholdings remains uncertain, communities will always be wary of any development options that may occur on the sites in the future and the public benefit that is traded.
One such issue confronting the people within the major population centre of the electorate is the issue surrounding plans for the Port Macquarie foreshore and in particular, an expression of interest between the Department of Lands and the lessee of the local marina. There is much public angst over a current proposal to locate a multistorey, industrial shed upon State-owned land, which has prime foreshore and river access. To date there has been little information regarding the public benefit of the proposed deal and I will be seeking a meeting with the Minister to discuss this matter at the earliest possible convenience. I also look forward to discussing with the Minister the current concerns that residents of the north shore area have with a proposed caravan park in their area.
Having recently been involved in a successful campaign to stop a diesel peaking power plant from being established in the beautiful region surrounding Kew and Herons Creek, I know that the challenge of dealing with part 3A development applications is very real in coastal communities such as ours and, for good reason, concerns a large number of constituents in our area. The recent Court of Appeal judgement surrounding the Sandon Point part 3A development application puts into jeopardy our ability to get good environmentally sustainable principles considered as part of any local development application called in by the planning Minister. This includes developments that will have long-term effects on the social and economic fabric of our region such as the Port Macquarie foreshore and Settlement City precinct plans and all future coastal development opportunities in areas from Lake Cathie down to Harrington that may be considered under this legislation in the future. How these future developments are considered is one of the challenges that I look forward to taking up during this current term in Parliament. Each of these issues is a particular challenge that I look forward to tackling on behalf of the constituents of the Port Macquarie electorate. [Extension of time agreed to.
As the populations in our town centres and urban areas continue to grow, so does the pressure for new land releases and the opportunities for good development principles. Future development areas previously identified by Port Macquarie-Hastings Council as areas 12, 13 and 14 will provide the basis for the further growth of our region into this new century. We have the opportunity to consider environmentally sustainable principles throughout the development process, from the manner in which the infrastructure that services these developments is designed to the manner in which the individual households deal with waste and energy consumption. There is an opportunity to provide services to these new developments, such as community-based renewable energy resources, that will benefit the individual householder, the broader environment and reduce the State's reliance on out-dated coal-fired electricity generation.
We must also work on demand side management to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and help reduce our impact on the environment. We have great opportunities to consider new, cost-effective, smarter solutions for the way we use and recycle our water. For years a personal bugbear of mine has been that we continue to flush clean, potable drinking water down our toilets whilst at the same time search for answers to our increasingly diminishing clean water supply. Solutions to these problems can only occur with the support of government, and I look forward to working with it to address some of these issues.
As our area looks forward to the completion of the Oxley Highway and Pacific Highway projects we are more aware than most of the impact of improved safety conditions on our roads. We look forward to the time in the near future when the entire Pacific Highway that falls within the boundaries of our electorate is dual carriageway and when the road heading north from our area will also be improved for the benefit of many in our district. Whilst these projects are certainly welcomed, the safety of highway intersections at both Coopernook and King Creek remain a concern. Whenever local traffic mixes with highway traffic, such as at the Harrington turn-off from the Pacific Highway at Coopernook or the Oxley Highway at King Creek, the safety and integrity of the intersection must be the priority for the community. I look forward to sharing these thoughts both with local Roads and Traffic Authority representatives and with the Minister.
I also look forward to supporting our local volunteer and professional emergency service personnel, through the completion of our local emergency service centre that will see ambulance, State Emergency Service [SES] and fire services co-located in the near future. With our local contingent of volunteer sea rescue at Port Macquarie, coastal patrol at Harrington and the many surf life saving clubs in between, we are well served by people within our communities who take an active role in the safety and health of all its members. We have recently seen the tragic consequences that can occur to those members of our community who risk their lives for the benefit of others, with a valued local member of the National Parks and Wildlife Service lost to our community last Sunday. My thanks and appreciation go out to all the mums, dads, sons and daughters whose roles are often taken for granted in the service of our State and who more than ever need our support to provide a better service.
Inaugural speeches are often used to thank friends, family and colleagues who have given great service during the election campaign of the new member. I sincerely thank everyone in my recent campaign from the morning coffee club strategy meetings, the people organising the pre-poll and polling booths and the array of local volunteers, family and friends who were involved. I have no doubt that the best way that I can repay their commitment is by standing here before you in Parliament and providing great representation for everyone in our electorate—whether they were part of the campaign or not; whether they voted for me or not—and working with my office staff as the conduit between government and our local people. Amongst all these challenges there will be some that are conquered, some that will grow and some that will be replaced by new challenges. I intend to accept these challenges with the faith and opportunity that have been given to me by the people of the Port Macquarie electorate and with the words of a master poet and playwright to guide me: "This above all. To thine own self be true. And it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man".
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
I extend the congratulations of the House to the member for Port Macquarie and the member for Lakemba.
MENTAL HEALTH LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (FORENSIC PROVISIONS) BILL 2008
VEXATIOUS PROCEEDINGS BILL 2008
Messages received from the Legislative Council returning the bills without amendment.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! Government business having concluded, the House will now proceed to the matter of public importance.
WATER IN REGIONAL NEW SOUTH WALES
Matter of Public Importance
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI
(Murrumbidgee—Deputy Leader of The Nationals) [6.45 p.m.]: This evening I will make a presentation on water in regional New South Wales. Mr Acting-Speaker, I know that you represent the Lismore electorate, although originally you come from Casino, so I appreciate that your constituents have their own water issues. But I note that if it does not rain for a week in Lismore they call that a drought. Things are a little more serious than that further west in New South Wales. I believe the member for Barwon will make a presentation this evening, and that he will cover the issues facing his electorate. Those too are significant.
New South Wales is facing certainly the worst drought in a generation, but perhaps our worst drought since Captain Cook first laid eyes on the continent of Australia. The drought is having dire consequences for all in western New South Wales. I have heard anecdotal reports about towns such as Bourke and Moree, suggesting that Bourke has lost some 800 residents and Moree has lost a couple of thousand, primarily because of the drought. Obviously, to some extent those losses are due to dry area impact, but the irrigation impact undoubtedly is causing the drift away from those centres.
The electorate of Murrumbidgee has had record low water allocations due to record low inflows into the Murrumbidgee system. In the former electorate of Murrumbidgee, Deniliquin and a large area on the New South Wales side of the Murray Valley had zero allocations last year and the year before. This year they were given allocations of just 2 per cent. Some, perhaps many, of those local businesses will not survive. Only last week we had media reports of 250 farmers in the Wakool district getting together and proposing that the Federal Government buy out the entire district. The Wakool-Moulamein-Barham district along the Murray is a very proud district, full of very proud people and farmers who have a proud history of contributing to the economy of New South Wales and Australia. For them to reach a point where they would talk about selling the district shows that the situation is dire indeed. If ever there were an indication of how bad things have become, that is it.
A month or so ago someone in the Coleambally district suggested that the Commonwealth Government buy out the entirety of that district. Those people are not making these suggestions to get out of farming; quite the opposite: they want to stay in farming, they love it, and they have a history of farming. Farming is in their blood. Unfortunately, the drought, and to some degree water policy, has forced them into that position. Last week this place debated fixed water charges and the unwillingness of the Government to waive those charges, which are a significant burden on irrigators. The irrigators cannot use the water allocated to them, yet they must pay the State Government charges for water they will never receive. It is the same in all the valleys of New South Wales. However, the Murrumbidgee is best placed of all those valleys, having a higher level of security. As I have said, the member for Barwon will talk about issues of concern in northern New South Wales.
I must comment about the Federal Government's involvement in the water buyback. We have heard a lot about Toorale Station at Bourke. Last week Four Corners
exposed the mistake being made by the Federal Government in spending money in an attempt to solve a problem that essentially will be unsolvable until we get rain. Ultimately, the only thing that will resolve the problems of low allocations in the lower lakes in South Australia, the problems of Menindee Lakes, the problems of wetlands and the red gum forests, as well as our riverine environment, is to have more rain. Whilst that sounds very simple, plenty of media commentators and people in decision-making positions think that the problems can be solved in some other way.
Only yesterday I was told by a person visiting South Australia that the people of that State think that all the difficulties they are experiencing with lack of access water to irrigate vines and trees are due to irrigators in the Murrumbidgee and the Murray Valley growing rice. Last year the rice crop in New South Wales was 19,000 tonnes, compared with an average rice crop of 1.2 million tonnes and a record crop of 1.7 million tonnes. That is just 1 per cent of the record rice crop of seven or eight years ago. The problem in the Murray-Darling is not the growing of rice or cotton because those are opportunistic crops that are planted when water is available. The problem now is keeping trees and vines alive; keeping alive communities such as Bourke, Moree, Warren, Deniliquin, Finley, Wakool, Moulamein and Wentworth. The tide will change. We have seen it happen over the past 100 years; we have wet and dry periods. Clearly we are going through a dry period. The great emphasis for governments at the moment, both State and Commonwealth, is to work in a bipartisan way to keep farmers on the land. We do not want a mass walk-off by farmers.
Water in country New South Wales goes beyond just irrigation and the Murray-Darling. The member for Port Macquarie in his inaugural speech spoke about the need to engage further in water recycling and the unnecessary waste of treated water because in the past we have undervalued water and failed to treat it. In Sydney and on the coast we have channelled it to the ocean. We do not treat water with enough respect and we do not value it sufficiently. The water utilities are currently under review. Ian Armstrong and others undertook such a review. Councils value their water utilities and in most cases manage them very well. In my part of the world, in the south-west, they are managed very well. Goldenfields Water is certainly managed very well. The towns and cities of Griffith, Leeton, Narrandera and communities that manage their own water treatment works do so efficiently and effectively. I am cautious about the review process and whether attempts will be made to corporatise or amalgamate some of the water utilities and deny local government the opportunity to run its own water utilities. I am concerned about the effect this will have on supply, efficiency and the finances of local councils. I hope that the response to the review is not corporatisation and amalgamation. We need to ensure that we get water policy in New South Wales exactly right.
Mr GERARD MARTIN
(Bathurst) [6.52 p.m.]: I support this matter of public importance by the member for Murrumbidgee. I point out that the New South Wales Government is driving a number of key reforms that will assist our rural communities in the current drought—a drought that is widely regarded as one of the worst in this State's history, and probably that of Australia. The New South Wales Government has delivered on our commitment that no New South Wales town will run out of water during the drought by providing assistance in many instances. In fact, New South Wales general security irrigators in the southern Murray-Darling Basin have just received their first water allocation since 2006. This has been achieved through careful management of useful rainfall in the upper Murray and Snowy catchments.
The Government's innovative Critical Water Planning Program has been extremely successful. Critical water planning stakeholder groups are involved in deciding how to share what little water is available. Allocations are reviewed monthly, with updates issued to keep the community informed. We have also been successful in negotiating with local councils to implement consistent town water supply restrictions in the New South Wales and Victorian Murray valleys. In addition to sustaining our rural water users through the current drought, the Government is leading the other basin States in implementing the $10 billion national plan for water security. We were the only State to pass the legislative changes necessary to give appropriate water management powers to the Commonwealth and the new independent Murray-Darling Basin Authority in time to meet the 1 November deadline. The New South Wales Government has also managed to secure in-principle approval from the Commonwealth for more than $1.3 billion for major water infrastructure projects such as meter upgrades and critical modernisation of infrastructure. This funding will go a long way towards helping our regional communities conserve critical water supplies.
New South Wales has made good progress towards key reforms under the National Water Initiative, and we have mostly led the other States in this work. The Government has gazetted water-sharing plans for 90 per cent of water use in New South Wales. All licences in water-sharing plan areas will be converted from Water Act 1912 licences to new Water Management Act 2000 licences. This enables water to be traded on the open market, and we are using the Internet to streamline administrative processes to make trading water easier. New South Wales has a publicly accessible water trading register on its website showing licences and volumes traded, and the price paid. New South Wales has implemented all relevant National Water Initiative actions to remove barriers to permanent interstate water trading. The New South Wales Government has embargoed many aquifers in the Murray-Darling Basin, which means that no new licences can be issued for commercial purposes.
The Government's draft flood plain harvesting policy aims to put an end to the unconstrained harvesting of floodwaters, which reduces the amount of floodwater reaching or returning to our rivers, wetlands and groundwater systems. Flood plain harvesting also erodes the reliability of the water supply to downstream users. Consultation on the draft policy is underway to ensure we get a balanced outcome that serves the needs of our rural and regional communities and the health of our rivers, wetlands and flood plains. The New South Wales Government has proposed amendments to the Water Management Act 2000 to enable more flexibility in how we share water during times of drought, to strengthen water compliance investigatory and enforcement powers, and to improve administrative processes.
I am sure that members will agree that New South Wales has made significant progress in implementing rural water reforms, but there is still work to be done and the long, hot summer ahead will bring further challenges. The Government will be working with the relevant agencies, stakeholder groups and State and Federal counterparts to ensure that work continues as a priority. All these initiatives demonstrate that the Government is committed to securing water supplies in the bush. This is a Government that cares; a Government that is willing to meet with local communities and assist them during these tough times—unlike The Nationals, who have turned their backs on the bush on some of these issues. This was particularly the case during the tenure of the former Federal Government.
These issues must be addressed, and the Government will continue its good work. We need unity in the House. Hopefully, the Opposition will overcome its divisions and work with the Government on this challenge. I note that the member for Murrumbidgee did not mention the review carried out by a former member of The Nationals, Ian Armstrong, who spoke to all councils and water utilities in New South Wales. This was an initiative of the Premier when he was Minister for Water. I come from a local government background so I know that people think initially they are being invaded and there is a hidden agenda. However, it was quite clear from day one of the Premier's initiating this process that he was seeking the best outcome for people and utilities in country New South Wales in respect of the efficient and cost-effective delivery of water and sewerage services. I am sure that through the recommendations of Ian Armstrong and his team the Premier will ensure the autonomy of local government and water utilities such as Central Tablelands Water. Most importantly, he will take on board the fact that for more than 100 years they have delivered a good, efficient service. I commend this matter of public importance to the House.
Mr KEVIN HUMPHRIES
(Barwon) [6.59 p.m.]: I acknowledge the member for Murrumbidgee for highlighting regional water and the member for Bathurst for emphasising that The Nationals once again have been summoned to help resolve water issues in regional New South Wales. If the member for Bathurst checks the Hansard
I think he will find that the member for Murrumbidgee did refer to Ian Armstrong, former member of The Nationals. It is an opportunity also to highlight some of the innovation and technology in rural New South Wales, particularly in water delivery, and the concern of the industry for water policy in general, which should be embraced by the State. Water savings in New South Wales can be achieved through working with industry and communities. By far the biggest water user in New South Wales is the agricultural sector.
Keytah station is a property west of Moree renowned for its water innovation and the more crops per drop principle, which basically means doing twice as much with half as much water. From 11 November to 14 November Andrew Parkes and the people on Keytah will be running international workshops and forums highlighting the innovation and technology being realised at the expense of the industry—certainly not the State Government support. The only support of any magnitude received to date has been from the Federal Government. On 14 November I will attend a workshop to examine unmanned aerial vehicle remote surveillance. This helps irrigators develop the best landfall for water reticulation and helps also with some vegetation and agronomic issues.
We have to fix the water shortage problem. Sydney Water leaks like a sieve and has refused to recycle water. No new water storage has been built. The Nationals and the Liberals will address that. The State Government has aborted cloud seeding and has refused to put it back on the agenda. The purchase of Toorale station was a joke. The State Government did not know what it had bought; there were no water sharing plans for the Warrego River. I have just returned from visiting Bourke where the community feels disengaged from this State Government. The Water Amendment Bill is a good idea and we will support the Government in achieving good regulation in respect to water availability and use. We have always had the benefit of an abundance of water, so we are not used to hard times. The Government must acknowledge the water issues facing the State.
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI
(Murrumbidgee—Deputy Leader of The Nationals) [7.02 p.m.], in reply: I thank the member for Bathurst and the member for Barwon for their contributions to this debate. The water shortage in New South Wales is one of the most critical issues, particularly in the middle of this terrible drought. We need to manage properly the water not just in our rivers and for production, but also for our towns and communities. Unfortunately, as we have seen for probably the past 100 years, government decisions can impact on the effect of drought and make conditions for communities even worse. Questions have been asked about the purchase of Toorale, problems in Bourke and the Commonwealth. At the end of the day we in Parliament are looking after the people—the mums, dads and their kids—the families, communities and towns. The consequences of the drought can have a devastating effect on families and communities, but some government decisions can severely impact on the people we are elected to represent. The member for Barwon spoke about the effects of government decisions on the town of Bourke.
It might be perceived as an odd statement, but the most dangerous people making decisions regarding the preservation of water for communities are those who know a little bit about water; they are unaware of the consequences being inflicted on communities by their significant decisions. I have particular concerns about the Commonwealth Government's water buyback and its timing. The situation is being reached now where people are being forced to sell their properties—I gave examples of this happening at Wakool and Coleambally. It is imperative that every government decision is made with proper consultation.
People in western New South Wales know everything there is to know about water whether it is at Bourke, out at Wentworth, down at Deniliquin or out at Leeton. These people need to be consulted before any changes are made to the water supply. That may involve dealing with the Murray-Darling Basin project, the buyback scheme or the consequences of buying properties and turning them into national parks to return all the water back to the environment, or it could involve changes to water utilities. Whatever the Government is doing with respect to supplying water to this State, it must be done with proper consultation.
The House adjourned at 7.05 p.m. until Wednesday 29 October 2008 at 10.00 a.m.