Thursday, 4 December 1997
The President (The Hon. Max Frederick Willis) took the chair at 11.00 a.m.
The President offered the Prayers.
JOINT SELECT COMMITTEE INTO SAFE INJECTING ROOMS
Motion by the Hon. M. R. Egan agreed to:
That the reporting date for the Joint Select Committee into Safe Injecting Rooms be extended from 23 December 1997 to 27 February 1998.
Message forwarded to the Legislative Assembly advising it of the resolution.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON LAW AND JUSTICE
The Hon. J. W. Shaw tabled the Government’s response to the interim report of the Standing Committee on Law and Justice entitled "Motor Accidents Scheme (Compulsory Third Party Insurance)" tabled on 8 April 1997.
Ordered to be printed.
Petition expressing concern at the location of methadone clinics in residential and commercial areas and the growing number of private hospitals and clinics operating as methadone clinics, and praying that relevant legislation be amended to allow methadone clinics to be located only on Department of Health or area health service property or in or immediately adjacent to a public hospital, received from the Hon. M. J. Gallacher.
CORRECTIONAL CENTRES ACT: DISALLOWANCE OF PRISONS (GENERAL) AMENDMENT
Precedence agreed to.
The Hon. I. COHEN [11.08 a.m.]: I move:
(BIOMETRIC IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM) REGULATION
That under section 41(1)(b) of the Interpretation Act 1987, this House disallows the Prisons (General) Amendment (Biometric Identification System) Regulation 1997, published in Government Gazette No. 114, dated 24 October 1997, page 8643, and tabled in this House on 11 November 1997.
I have received much information expressing extreme concern about biometric identification technology that has been introduced into New South Wales prisons. This identification system employs various technologies to record physical human characteristics and traits that uniquely identify a person. Once recorded, this audio or video image is converted into digital data, which is then associated with personal records and information details and stored in a computer database network. During the 1996 winter period the Department of Corrective Services introduced a highly questionable personal identification and electronic database system based upon fingerprints and facial photographs. Using the identical system and software used on prisoners a reader module scans the fingerprints of a visitor or worker. The scanned image is briefly held in the computer’s clipboard while a mathematical algorithm assesses multiple points of the print and converts it into a digital code.
It is immaterial that the fingerprint scan is then discarded because the department now has captured a complex code that uniquely identifies one individual in the world. At any time and place when the map that resides on each finger is matched against this code, one’s identity and all related data are confirmed and available to the viewer. The system used by the department then digitises a facial photograph, which is stored with the unique code and any other personal information entered by the operator. The system vendor, Fingerprint Technologies, provides the same software package for prisoners and visitors. The package is designed for extensive data entry and used as a fully networked offender management program with certain information windows supposedly locked out of the visitor system.
Like all data technologies, all biometric systems are designed to enable maximum remote access and sharing of information. For example at the Silverwater Metropolitan Remand and Reception
Centre the biometric database resides within the network of security and information computer systems. The Department of Corrective Services explains that it will install electronic locks to control access between databases on the network. In this modern information age, such a claim is extremely naive. Having been formerly connected with an organisation involved with security, I find such a claim to be worrying. When such a system is imposed without discrimination or special treatment, each visitor, professional or worker must present fingers for scanning to enter and leave a correctional centre. The system used by the Department of Corrective Services must sift and search through all records to find a match.
According to other vendors, this search method is illegal in countries with privacy laws. One interesting point is that legal representatives visiting prisoners have been allowed to bypass this method to avoid going through the rigours of biometric fingerprinting. As a Green I believe there are a number of reasons that our prison system should not undertake biometrics. In response to a question on notice from me in July about the costs involved, Minister Debus indicated that in excess of $650,000 had been spent. The department’s manager of operations has since indicated that the majority of gaols providing a remand function will now impose biometric fingerprinting. This expansion is known in privacy circles as functional creep. If visitors stay away from prisons and family bonds are broken, the long-term impact upon the social and financial fabric of our communities will be far more expensive.
I have received information from people who experienced the long biometric identification process during a prison visit. The prisoner was called down at the beginning of the biometric process of the visitors and by the time the process was concluded, the visitors were only allowed to spend about half an hour with their son before visiting time ended. In another situation a prisoner was moved to another prison and the visitor had to go through the biometric determination process again. It is an extremely intimidating and time-consuming process that results in people not spending very much time with their imprisoned relatives. If family bonds are important in the rehabilitation process, it is incumbent on the industry to facilitate the method to allow proper access. Those who fear having their fingerprints taken will not turn up to visit prisoners.
This is a major problem with the Aboriginal community. Aborigines feel intimidated by the gaol system. They will not be fingerprinted or tested in order to visit family members in gaol. The biometric system has the potential to impact severely on family bonds and to cause relationship breakdowns to the detriment of any opportunity for the rehabilitation of those incarcerated. Maureen Tangney of the New South Wales Privacy Committee said:
The responsibility of Corrective Services to provide adequate security must be weighed against the threat to the rights of society and the public-at-large.
The Department of Corrective Services operations division said:
Only one or two front door escapes have occurred over five to six years.
John Akister, from the Council for Civil Liberties and a former New South Wales Minister for Corrective Services, said:
Over fifty thousand law-abiding citizens who visit offenders each year will have their fingerprints, photographs and personal details permanently on record for 30 years - not including staff and workers. We know these sorts of databases are accessed by private companies and policemen for their mates.
Dr Eileen Baldry of the New South Wales School of Social Research said:
This enormously expensive and intrusive technology appears to have been introduced as a knee-jerk response to the Savvas escape - an inappropriate way to make policy with such wide-ranging implications for private citizens.
An article in the Sun-Herald on 2 November stated:
The NSW Ombudsman will shortly table a report into the Savvas escape which condemns prison officers for negligence and not following proper conduct.
If we have similar negligence and lack of conduct with the biometric fingerprinting system with checks on so many people that visit prisons regularly, the potential is there for gross misconduct that could call into question the security and privacy rights of individuals who choose to or must visit people in gaol. Another article in the Sun-Herald on 29 October stated:
Fifteen months after introduction, the Operations Manager cannot cite any instance where biometrics has uncovered a visitor or worker who has been banned from entry.
On 29 October Minister Debus confirmed that lawyers had negotiated and been granted exemption from biometric scanning after sustained refusal to submit to the process. With all the understanding of law and political power, lawyers have successfully negotiated an exemption, yet since its inception the Minister has stated that biometrics is viable security only if all entrants are properly processed through
the system. The Aboriginal Legal Service reports that indigenous women are making the difficult choice not to visit gaols rather than be scanned for fear of having their information shared with other government departments. More importantly, traditional beliefs necessitate that they leave no image or record behind when they die. They cannot risk scanning. The practice of biometric fingerprinting is at odds with the traditional values of the Aboriginal people.
The selective imposition of scanning remains inconsistent from facility to facility with subjective discretion in the hands of each prison governor and system operator. BIS was originally intended for use in maximum security gaols, but the Department of Corrective Services has announced it will now be used in all gaols with remand functions, therefore expanding to include most prisons in the system. Ironically, it will now be used in all circumstances where prisoners have not been convicted or are merely awaiting trial on minor offences. An article in the Sun-Herald of 19 October stated:
A leaked Department of Corrective Services memo reveals that prisoners have bashed other inmates after learning details of their sentences and offences through government provided computers.
The annual report on the New South Wales Ombudsman to Parliament stated:
NSW Ombudsman Irene Moss reports a "disturbing" level of unauthorised access to personal police computer files by police officers, including she and her staff. She criticised Corrective Services for a 22% increase in formal complaints and a familiar pattern of administrative bungling.
Despite the Minister’s repeated assurances, many women report that their children continue to be scanned at many correctional centres. Their records must be erased. Processing of children visiting prisoners adds to their discomfort, is very time consuming and causes major problems. If a child needs to go to the toilet the visit can be cancelled because the child has to leave the area where the visit is taking place. All sorts of restrictions are placed on people visiting prisoners. Yet time and again we hear from the authorities the importance of maintaining family bonds and regular contact to assist rehabilitation of prisoners, which is claimed to be a priority in the system.
The system and software in use by the department are designed to enable remote access and sharing of data through internal and external networks. The department is already seeking limited data exchange with the offender management system, which is fully accessed by police, courts and other government agencies. If the United States Department of Defense cannot secure gulf war computers from hackers, I doubt that protective services information will be secure. All data must be backed up and archived, either through a network connection or by the use of external drives such as tape or compact disc. Backup data is even more vulnerable to access.
A person’s coded information could be copied from the system and taken to a remote location where the vendor’s algorithm could then recreate the map of points and compare it with a person’s finger or with an existing ink or digital print image. The proprietary algorithm used by each vendor of biometrics to convert prints is based on industry identification standards, heightening the possibility that other algorithms could be used to translate stored codes in future. The system is vulnerable to manual violation by displaying screen contents or a print or a map of code points could be traced while information is displayed.
Access security can be overruled by intelligence operations and ministerial directives. There has been a year of practice and certainly this practice has not made perfect. The system has been fraught with problems since its introduction. After 15 months there can no longer be excuses about teething problems. Apart from privacy concerns, visitors contend that visits are more time consuming, frustrating and disorganised than ever. With no alternative system in place, visitors were turned away at a BIS failure at Long Bay in July. Because of scanning problems visitors were limited to 30 per two-hour period at the MRRC, the largest prison in the Asia-Pacific region, with 900 inmates. After processing, visitors complain that they can spend only half an hour with their family.
Workers from the Children of Prisoners support group report numerous problems with BIS and have been detained inside when the system has failed. Their identities have been confused with the records of others and they have seen the personal records of other visitors and staff while waiting in line. Members of the Criminal Justice Coalition have been shown the records of other visitors during demonstrations by systems operators. Fifteen months after the introduction of biometrics the regulations as tabled are simplistic, porous and reflect a lack of understanding of the vital privacy issues at stake. [Time expired.]
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [11.23 a.m.]: I support the motion moved by the Hon. I. Cohen. I too have had meetings with the Criminal Justice Coalition and others. I am concerned that many
people are being very much disadvantaged by the biometric identification system. It is clear that it is making visits much more difficult for the relatives of people in gaol, in particular indigenous people who have difficulties anyway in dealing with the justice system in that they are so often disadvantaged by the way they are treated, and have been for the last 200 years. The present system disadvantages those who are already disadvantaged, in particular indigenous people. So I am pleased that the Hon. I. Cohen has moved the motion to highlight the problems of biometric identification systems and fully support what he is trying to do on behalf of all people in society who are trying to protect the most disadvantaged - the wives and children and other relatives of prisoners.
Fifteen months after the introduction of biometrics the regulations as tabled are simplistic, porous and reflect the lack of understanding of the vital privacy issues at stake. The potential rewards for breach of the system far exceed the financial penalties and there is no provision for criminal penalties. The technical terminology used is inaccurate, making the regulations vulnerable to interpretation and abuse and making penalties difficult to enforce. They enable scanning of children at the exercise of subjective discretion by correctional officers staffing the visitor area. They enable access to visitor data by any correctional officer and do not designate specific officers with standards of training and special security clearance. They make no provision for the elimination of a person’s key code or personal information, enabling storage in perpetuity. They do not prevent the entry of subjective personal data, opinion or observation in a visitor’s record by officers or operators.
Despite assurances that biometrics was intended only for maximum security prisons, the commissioner reserves the right to authorise biometrics in all correctional centres. The regulations enable discriminatory application and do not reflect the recent exemption granted to special interests. This directly conflicts with the stated purpose for their implementation as contained within the explanatory notes of the regulations. Ironically, given the Savvas rationale, the regulations do not require compliance in order to leave a correctional centre. Both the department and the vendor have stated that the system is only 80 to 90 per cent successful at capturing and converting prints, but the regulations identify no alternative protocols. We have heard from wives who have many times had their fingerprints unsuccessfully scanned. The very long procedure has been unsuccessfully repeated again and again.
The regulations do not embrace the principles of informed consent or provide for visits in the event that biometrics conflict with a visitor’s cultural or moral beliefs, which have not been taken into consideration. The regulations do not prevent storage of data on databases or networks which are owned or controlled by agencies or departments other than corrective services. They prevent access only in cases in which corrective services could otherwise grant permission. Access to records must be logged and operators identified. Fingerprint images or maps of points must never be visible on screen and records must not be able to be printed. The system must stand alone with no external physical connections to any other system or network.
According to the Council for Civil Liberties, in Queensland biometric fingerprinting is in use on a purely voluntary basis, embracing the principles of informed consent and offering meaningful, accessible and funded alternatives. Prisoners’ fingerprints are already scanned and stored within the offender management system. It is therefore unnecessary for the fingerprints of visitors and staff to be scanned, converted and stored within the system. That is a much better system than in New South Wales. When visitors and workers leave the prison their fingers are simply scanned and compared with prisoner data. No match, no escape. In meetings with the department the Privacy Committee has suggested numerous options such as bar codes and identity cards with appropriate protocols which could meet department security concerns while minimising the risk of privacy violations. Visitor stamps with invisible ultraviolet ink could not be replicated by prisoners, could be changed periodically and would not require storage of unique personal identifications.
The system has to be reviewed. There have been a growing number of complaints to the Criminal Justice Coalition and others concerning the problems of the BIS. My concerns, those of the Criminal Justice Coalition and, in particular, of the Hon. I. Cohen should be taken into account. The Minister should reconsider the real problems being caused by the system.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [11.30 a.m.]: The Government opposes this motion for disallowance of the Prisons (General) Amendment (Biometric Identification System) Regulation 1997. Following the escape of drug dealer George Savvas in July 1996 from the visiting area of Goulburn Correctional Centre, the Department of Corrective Services was the subject of criticism about security
arrangements for visits at maximum security correctional centres. The department’s biometric identification system incorporates biometric imaging and photo imaging and uses the only available technology that can ensure that a person leaving a correctional centre is the same person who entered that centre. Biometric imaging involves scanning or reading any unique and unchanging aspect of human anatomy. The department’s biometric identification system is designed to record a photo image and fingerprint algorithm for adult visitors and staff entering and leaving maximum security correctional centres.
The system scans the fingerprint and creates a mathematical algorithm, and stores the algorithm, not the fingerprints or fingerprint image, on the computer database. The algorithm cannot be matched against actual fingerprint records held by law enforcement agencies, as the system consists of groupings of random binary numbers. The system cannot convert the fingerprint algorithm back into a photographic image - that is mathematically impossible. For the past decade the department has allocated a formal visitor identification number to every person visiting a New South Wales correctional centre. The biometric identification system will eliminate the need to allocate visitor identification numbers in correctional centres at which the system is installed. One of the uses of visitor identification numbers is to prevent banned visitors from entering correctional centres. The stored biometric algorithm will now serve this purpose.
The 1995 Prisons (General) Regulation was amended, effective from 1 November 1997, to regulate the operation of the biometric identification system. I am informed that the operation of the system can continue without a specific regulatory basis. However, prison reform and civil liberties groups opposed to the system criticise the lack of explicit regulation to provide privacy safeguards to ensure that the information recorded in a systems database will be protected from improper use or disclosure. The amendment to the regulation addresses those concerns. The amendment provides that the visitor identification database cannot be linked to any other database, and that no other agency can be granted access to the database. Additionally, the amendment requires the photo image of each visitor to be eliminated within six months of the person’s last recorded visit or as soon as possible at the request of the person.
In late August the Law Society, the Privacy Committee, the Council for Civil Liberties, Justice Action, the Ombudsman and the Legal Aid Commission were given the opportunity to comment on the amendment to the regulation, and where possible the suggestions of the organisations that chose to respond were incorporated. Most of the comments on the amendments were about ensuring there are effective sanctions against potential breaches of privacy. However, the inclusion of safeguards in the regulation, including penalties for breaches of privacy, have alleviated the majority of those concerns. The Government finds it difficult to understand why honourable members would want to disallow this regulation. The biometric identification system can operate without any regulatory basis; the whole purpose of making the regulation was to reassure groups such as the Council for Civil Liberties, Justice Action and the Privacy Committee of the safeguards preventing its abuse. I am informed that disallowing the regulation would simply remove those safeguards; it would not prevent the operation of the identification system.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [11.33 a.m.]: The Opposition supports the position taken by the Government on this regulation and will not support the motion. As the Attorney General has indicated, it was not necessary to regulate for the introduction of the system. In fact, I recall that this system or one similar to it was in place at the Junee gaol during my administration of the prisons system; and this system is an improvement on the number identification system referred to by the Attorney General. It certainly allows for more efficient administration of security. Even though the department had an identification system in place, people were illegally gaining entry to gaols as visitors. Almost every visitor week people tried to get into gaols, using false identity, in order to make contacts. There was reason to believe that people were entering gaols as couriers of illegal substances. On one occasion a prison officer who had been transferred from one prison to another recognised a banned visitor by sheer coincidence, leading to the detection of illegal substances being couriered into the gaols. An improved identification system and an improved security system are necessary -
The Hon. I. Cohen: It’s not working, though.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: It does not matter what system is in place, people will try to get around it. It is necessary to toughen up the system to make certain that it works. Gaols are security institutions, they are designed to keep the bad guys in. They have to be made to work, and the regulation is a step towards making certain that there is transparency in allowing the security system to achieve its objective. If there were concern about
privacy, the Government could ask the Privacy Committee to oversight the system. I am confident that the intention is to try to enhance the privacy aspects, and the Government has given a commitment in that regard. It is important to make certain that our prison security systems are effective.
Some people have asked why it is necessary for the system to focus on preventing the wrong people from getting into the gaols as well as on preventing inmates from getting out. One need only have asked Mr Savvas whether there is a need to identify those leaving correctional centres. People within the prison system will try to subvert it. They tried to subvert the system while they were on the outside, which is why they are now on the inside, and whilst they are inside they will continue to try to subvert the system there. Vigilance is needed, and this regulation is part of a vigilance system introduced during my administration. The system is being enhanced under this administration and will receive the support of the new administration that will take office in March 1999.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN [11.37 a.m.]: I support the Government’s opposition to this motion of disallowance. The object of the Prisons (General) Amendment (Biometric Identification System) Regulation 1997 is to provide for the operation in correctional centres of a biometric identification system. The purpose of the system is to provide, for reasons of security, for the identification of any person, including departmental staff and visitors, who enters or leaves a correctional centre. The system is designed to record a photo image and a fingerprint algorithm of each person who enters or leaves a correctional centre. Privacy safeguards are included to ensure that the information recorded in the system’s database will be protected from improper use or disclosure.
The Opposition, along with everyone else, was disturbed that someone with the record of George Savvas could quite easily walk out of a prison. I have visited several prisons and have been shown the systems they use to keep the bad people in and to prevent other bad people, who might seek to corrupt the system, from visiting. The identification of prison visitors and staff can be difficult, and the new system has been introduced to make identification more efficient and foolproof. The safeguards in the regulation are designed to ensure that the management of the system is fair and honest. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, if the regulation needs to be reviewed in the future, the Opposition will support that. At present it seems that the privacy and security safeguards in the regulation will ensure that the system is fair. The Opposition supports the Government’s opposition of this motion.
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH [11.39 a.m.]: When I first saw this regulation I was extremely concerned because, as the explanatory note states, the biometric identification system provides, for reasons of security, for the identification of any person, including departmental staff and visitors, who enters or leaves a correctional centre. Clearly, according to that explanatory note, such a system would encompass children. As honourable members would be aware, the Standing Committee on Social Issues recently conducted an inquiry into children of prisoners. During the inquiry the committee was made aware of some of the invasive procedures that have been used in the past on children visiting their parents in prison. I would be most unhappy if I were seen to condone a regulation that would allow such indignities and traumatising, invasive procedures to be inflicted upon children. However, a close look shows that proposed clause 131A(6) does not apply in respect of any person under the age of 18 years, unless:
(a) the person has previously been the subject of a direction by the Commissioner under clause 114, or
(b) the person has been convicted of an offence in relation to a previous visit by the person to a correctional centre, or
(c) the correctional officer in charge of the visiting area of the correctional centre being visited by the person is of the opinion that the person’s physical appearance is similar to an inmate of the correctional centre.
Those measures are a safeguard to protect children. However, I hope that paragraph (c) will not be used in a blanket way to inflict identification procedures on small children who happen to resemble their parents who are prisoners. In spite of the regulations’s explanatory note, in general terms children are exempt from the regulation. The only children who would not be exempt would be those who might be likely to cause some sort of security risk to a centre. However, the Hon. I. Cohen has given the Opposition very little notice of this motion; he did not give us the courtesy of discussing the matter with him or consulting on it, so it is unlikely that the Opposition will support a proposal in those circumstances. But I reiterate that my initial concerns about the regulation were allayed once I read it. The explanatory note is not entirely accurate.
The Hon. J. S. TINGLE [11.43 a.m.]: I find myself in a state of confusion about this disallowance motion, and indeed about the regulation - a confusion that began when the Hon. I. Cohen commenced his contribution by saying that as a Green he receives a lot of information about
prisons. I am not entirely sure about the relevance of such a statement. However, having listened to the contributions of the Attorney and the Leader of the Opposition I find that there is value in both arguments. There is no question that we must have a system to prevent prisoners from escaping. However, it seems to me that this regulation and the system it applies to probably go a little further than necessary in ensuring that escapes do not take place. I refer honourable members to the actual regulation, which provides for a system to ensure that each person who enters a correctional centre for the purposes of a visit, et cetera, is the same person who leaves the correctional centre after conducting that visit or carrying out those duties or activities. Surely it is sufficient to ensure that people who leave a gaol are allowed to do so, and are not people who are supposed to stay there. It seems to me that a modification of this system to cross-check the biometric algorithm of a person leaving the gaol against those of prisoners already in the gaol would surely be adequate to ensure that people who leave the gaol are entitled to do so.
Obviously, when a person goes into a gaol there is a degree of loss of civil liberties; that person loses some of the rights that he or she enjoys in the ordinary community. I agree with the concern of the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith about relatives and associates of a prisoner having to suffer the loss of some rights to the extent that they have this system imposed upon them. Obviously this disallowance motion has no chance of succeeding, as both the Government and the Opposition are opposed to it. However, if a division is called I will support it in order to express my view that the system should be reviewed to ensure that it is working, and in the manner in which it was intended to work.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [11.45 a.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party opposes the motion to disallow the Prisons (General) Amendment (Biometric Identification System) Regulation 1997. The whole purpose of this regulation is to provide for the operation in correctional centres of a biometric identification system. The purpose of the system is to provide, for reasons of security, for the identification of any person, including departmental staff and visitors, who enters or leaves a correctional centre. As honourable members would be aware, some alarming escapes from prisons have taken place with the assistance of visitors. Prior to the present system coming into force a prominent prisoner. disguised as a visitor and wearing a blond wig, simply walked out of a prison. We support any system that will make it more difficult, and hopefully impossible, for a prisoner to escape from a prison in this way. Such a system would also prevent corruption by prison officers. Under previous systems a prison officer could be bribed to look the other way. The present system, by its whole approach, prevents prison officers from co-operating in an escape.
Members have asked whether this identification system is slower. I understand that the system is even faster than previous identification systems. However, we suggest that the Government stipulate that the visitor’s time commences from the time the visitor is cleared through the identification system, so that the visitor does not lose time with the prisoner he or she is visiting. For example, if the visiting time is of one hour’s duration, the one hour should start from the time the visitor is cleared by the identification system. That is our only problem with the existing system. However, we completely support it and congratulate the Government on taking the initiative to use this new technology to make our prisons more secure.
The Hon. JANELLE SAFFIN [11.47 a.m.]: I do not support the disallowance motion but I would like to place on record some concerns about it that have been raised with my colleagues and me. I am sure that these concerns will be factored into the way in which the system is to be implemented. The New South Wales Aboriginal Women’s Legal Resource Centre wrote:
I am writing to you with the wish that you can have an impact on the biometric system that is to be introduced into correctional centres. I would like to bring to your attention the customary law for Aboriginal people regarding images of Aboriginal people after they have passed away. It is against our traditional law to have these images captured and/or visible and for that person to be called by their given name and spoken about after their death. Keeping any part of the personal record is still in their soul. We believe that by keeping that person in this world by holding on to parts of them through recorded images they cannot continue into the Dreamtime. It is a critical part of our spirituality and culture to pass into the Dreamtime. A number of Aboriginal women have told me that they will not be able to even visit a member of their family in gaol if this system is introduced. This saddens them greatly because they fear that by not being able to visit their family and friends in custody these inmates will suffer isolation and depression which may lead to their death. I hope you can make these issues known to the appropriate people to stop this invasion into our lives.
Mrs Y’s son X was a prisoner at Bathurst gaol when he was hand-picked to be placed in the Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre as one of its long-term inmates. When Mrs Y visited her son in gaol it took more than three quarters of an hour for the
officers on the gate to successfully obtain images of her thumb and forefinger prints. She was also photographed. Mrs Y’s pregnant daughter was also visiting her brother but needed to use the toilets. When her son asked the officer on duty if that was possible he was told that the visit would be terminated. Mrs Y witnessed children urinating in drains as there were no toilets in the visiting area. If someone leaves the visiting area to go to the toilet the visit is cancelled. To delay going to the toilet would be extremely difficult, particularly for a pregnant woman. The son was then moved to the Long Bay complex and when Mrs Y went to visit him she was fingerprinted and photographed once again, which took some time.
Because that section of Long Bay gaol where her son was moved was soon to be closed he was moved again. Mrs Y was just about to visit him when she received a telephone call from one of his friends inside letting her know that her son had been moved to Goulburn. As buses were not running to Goulburn, Mrs Y spent $56 on a train journey and walked about 1½ hours from the station to the gaol. On arrival she was again fingerprinted and photographed. Her son had been called to his visit more than a half an hour prior to Mrs Y being allowed through the gate. Because of that their visit was only permitted to last for the remaining half hour, instead of the usual hour. Mrs Y found that process devastating and said, "I have been fingerprinted and photographed so much I feel like a criminal." Her son has since been moved to Silverwater.
I am not saying that should not happen, but we must implement a humane and considerate system in order to retain people’s dignity. In October 1997 a woman from Wollongong waited on hold on the telephone for more than one hour at a cost of $15 to be told that there were no bookings available at the Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre. Another woman from Newcastle hung up after waiting 45 minutes on hold to book a visit to see her son at the MRRC. She then called the Prisoners Aid Association and was put on hold for another 35 minutes and still did not get through. That process is frustrating, expensive and works against families who have been told that the booking and biometric identification systems will facilitate visits. The CRC Justice Support has received complaints about the process, the lack of information and choice. There is a fear held by family members that if they speak out there might be a retribution. In July 1997 at Long Bay Correctional Centre approximately 30 families, including women and children who had travelled long distances, were sent away after waiting hours to visit their family member because the biometric identification system was not operating. I would like to ensure that those concerns are factored into the system when it is implemented.
The Hon. I. COHEN [11.52 a.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members who participated in this debate, particularly those who have criticised some of the draconian implications of this system that is being instituted. Perhaps the Minister could consider establishing a ministerial committee that would regularly report on the quality of this testing process, and thus provide reasonable oversight of it. Obviously a significant number of complaints come from the community. On a very simple note, given that we are talking about the Department of Corrective Services and not the department of prisons - even if I have laboured the issue throughout my speech - it cannot be overstated that we aim to rehabilitate. All the information from experts and the community shows that family contact and support is the most effective means to aid the rehabilitation of prisoners.
As the Hon. Janelle Saffin said, if the ability of mothers, family and friends to visit prisoners is restricted, a terrible disservice is being done to the community by diminishing the potential for rehabilitation. Support systems are needed and this system cuts directly across them. I have heard many complaints about visiting time being cut due to the process and incompetence. The visiting time for prisoners should not commence until visitors have gone through the process of identification and entry and are actually sitting down face-to-face with the prisoner, so they get their full time with the prisoner. Why not make it a rule? That may even add to the efficiency of the system. Quality contact should be given priority: it is extremely important for prisoners that human contact with visitors is maintained.
I make this plea: unfriendly machinery cannot replace responsible, reliable, friendly service by people dealing with visitors to prisons. That means more staff and more prison officers are needed to provide security at all levels. The biometric identification system is another step in the brave new world of machinery that is shown to be faulty and not able to maintain the security services it purports to maintain. Its failure rate is typical of machinery such as this. Why is the reliability of individually trained officers who facilitate a system with a human face being replaced by fingerprinting machinery and computers, which often intimidate visitors to gaols? I ask all honourable members to continue to monitor and to be aware of these types of -
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: It is cruel.
The Hon. I. COHEN: It is cruel, as the Hon. R. S. L. Jones said, in a system that needs more and more of a human face and personal contact if the overall object of rehabilitation is to be achieved.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put.
The House divided.
Mrs Arena Tellers,
Mr Cohen Mr Jones
Mr Corbett Mr Tingle
Mr Bull Mr Macdonald
Dr Burgmann Mr Manson
Ms Burnswoods Mr Moppett
Mrs Chadwick Mrs Nile
Mr Dyer Rev. Nile
Mr Egan Mr Obeid
Mrs Forsythe Dr Pezzutti
Mr Gallacher Mr Ryan
Miss Gardiner Ms Saffin
Mr Gay Mr Samios
Dr Goldsmith Mrs Sham-Ho
Mr Hannaford Mr Shaw
Mr Johnson Mr Rowland Smith
Mr Kaldis Mr Vaughan
Mr Kersten Tellers,
Ms Kirkby Mrs Isaksen
Mr Lynn Mr Jobling
Question so resolved in the negative.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR CLARENCE GOVERNMENT CAR USE
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer, representing the Premier. Is it a fact that because keeping proper records for the motor vehicle provided to the member for Clarence by the Premier would have distinguished personal use from parliamentary use, the member for Clarence has completely neglected to fill out the logbook for the vehicle? Has the lack of proper record keeping by the member for Clarence forced the Government to pay fringe benefits tax on the motor vehicle? What amount of tax has been paid on the use of the vehicle?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will refer the honourable member’s question to my colleague the Premier.
HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR CLARENCE GOVERNMENT CAR USE
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL: I address my question also to the Treasurer, representing the Premier. I refer also to the provision of a self-drive motor vehicle for the member for Clarence. Is it a fact that the Government, and not the member for Clarence, paid fringe benefits tax for the provision of his self-drive vehicle? If so, does that fact not imply a form of agreement which would constitute an office of profit under section 13 of the Constitution Act? When the Crown Solicitor prepared his three-page advice in relation to the matter, was he advised that the Government would pay the FBT liability of the member for Clarence?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will refer the question to my colleague the Premier.
Mrs LORRAINE SMITH DAMAGES CLAIM
The Hon. JANELLE SAFFIN: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations. Will the Attorney inform the House of the action taken by the Attorney General’s Department in response to a complaint made by Mrs Lorraine Smith?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The Leader of the Opposition in this Chamber has brought to the attention of the House a letter he received from a Mrs Lorraine Smith. This letter concerns the outcome of proceedings brought by me, as Attorney General, against a solicitor, Mr Robert Coshott, in the Legal Services Tribunal. Mrs Smith was the person who brought the complaint to my attention and was the main witness. The proceedings related to allegations of anonymous and threatening phone calls and other matters alleging professional misconduct. The proceedings were dismissed in the Legal Services Tribunal on 18 March 1997, when it was found that there was no evidence to support Mrs Smith’s allegations. Mrs Smith was clearly
dissatisfied with the outcome of the tribunal proceedings. She has written to me on five occasions, including a 55-page report following the tribunal’s decision. All of Mrs Smith’s letters have been responded to as promptly as possible, bearing in mind that advice was required from both the tribunal and the Crown Solicitor’s Office to ensure that the numerous issues raised were properly addressed.
I also note that very senior officers of my department have made themselves available to meet Mrs Smith and to discuss her concerns by telephone. The handling of Mrs Smith’s complaints has at all times been monitored at a senior level within my department. Mrs Smith has been previously advised that I am of the view that there is no basis for agreeing to her claim for an ex gratia payment of damages. I formed this view after carefully considering detailed advice from my department, the tribunal and the Crown Solicitor. I could not find any evidence of unsatisfactory conduct on the part of either the tribunal or the Crown Solicitor’s Office. Mrs Smith has not accepted my decision and has continued to pursue her claim for damages. My department is currently investigating further matters raised by Mrs Smith in her most recent letter. Accordingly, the Attorney General’s Department is now urgently seeking further advice from the Crown Solicitor on fresh allegations raised by her. A reply to Mrs Smith’s most recent letter will be forwarded without delay.
HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR CLARENCE GOVERNMENT CAR USE
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: My question without notice is addressed to the Treasurer, representing the Premier. What agreement was reached between the Premier and the member for Clarence with regard to petrol, tyres, repairs, insurance and general maintenance of the motor vehicle provided to the member for Clarence? What correspondence documents this agreement, or was the member for Clarence provided with a $40,000 motor vehicle with a wink and a nod?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will refer the question to my colleague the Premier.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: I ask the Treasurer, representing the Premier, a question without notice. Is it a fact that fewer than 45 per cent of the citizens of New South Wales have voted in the postal ballot for delegates to the constitutional convention? Is this poor result clear evidence that the citizens of New South Wales do not feel strongly about Australia becoming a republic? If most citizens in New South Wales felt an urgent need to make Australia a republic, would they not have rushed to vote and elect republican delegates to ensure that Australia became a republic?
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: That’s drawing a longbow.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition points out, that is drawing a longbow. I would have thought that a 45 per cent turnout for a non-compulsory postal ballot is a very high result. I do not know of too many postal ballots on any issue that have had a turnout higher than 45 per cent. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile speculates that the 45 per cent turnout could be due to the fact that people are not enthusiastic about a republic. It could well be that people are not enthusiastic about retaining the monarchy - and honourable members can interpret that in whatever way they like. I would have thought that a 45 per cent turnout indicates that those who favour a republic are enthusiastic about that, and those who favour continuation of the monarchy are enthusiastic about that.
SCHOOL AIR-COOLING PROGRAM
The Hon. J. KALDIS: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Public Works and Services. Will the Minister advise the House what progress has been made to date on the Government’s air-cooling of schools program?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I can advise the House that the air-cooling program is an annual Department of School Education program.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: It is in Badgerys Creek.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: A lot of hot air emanates in this place and we might need an air-cooling program here. The role of the Department of Public Works and Services is that of project manager on behalf of the Department of School Education. In April 1997 the Department of School Education approved a program of air cooling for more than 300 New South Wales schools currently in high heat-stress areas over the next two to three years. Funding for the new program has been increased from $2 million per annum to $5 million per annum for the next three years, and will see the hottest classrooms and schools air-cooled as the first priority. Funding of $5 million has been allocated to the 1997-98 air-cooling program and 88 schools will benefit this financial year in the expanded program.
In planning this year’s program the nature of each building, the extent of its use and the views of the school community were taken into consideration to maximise benefits to as many schools as possible. Nominated spaces in each school, rather than the whole school, will be cooled, based on consultation with local school communities. The type of air cooling to be provided depends on the location of the school. In arid areas evaporative cooling is the preferred solution. In humid areas and in demountable buildings reverse cycle airconditioning will be used to lower summer temperatures. This will also provide economical heating in winter.
The Department of School Education forwarded the program, which prioritised schools into six zones, to the Department of Public Works and Services on 26 August this year. Budget estimates were then prepared by the DPWS for each of the 300 schools and were forwarded to the DSE for approval on 3 October this year. Following approval, zones 1 and 2 have been completed, and all but five schools in zone 3 have been completed. The first 83 schools in zone 4 have been approved by the DSE for work this financial year. Work on all 88 schools is due for completion by the end of April 1998.
HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR CLARENCE GOVERNMENT CAR USE
The Hon. D. J. GAY: My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that in mid-1996 the Premier’s then chief of staff, Mr Bruce Hawker, wrote to the Assistant Director-General of the Premier’s Department, Mr Les Quinnell, directing that a motor vehicle be provided to the member for Clarence, Mr Harry Woods? What was the nature of the negotiations that led to this extraordinary memorandum being written by the Premier’s chief of staff?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will refer the question to my colleague the Premier.
TUMUT FRUIT INDUSTRY
The Hon. A. B. KELLY: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer, and Minister for State Development. Will the Minister inform the House about the expansion of the fruit industry in the Tumut area?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: In April this year, on a trip through western New South Wales, I had the pleasure of visiting a fruit orchard just outside Coonabarabran. As all honourable members are no doubt aware, that region is under threat from bushfires. Fortunately the situation seems to be improving. I have been told by the Department of Emergency Services that the fire in the Pilliga State Forest is still burning on two fronts this morning, but after a mild night it is likely to be contained today. Most honourable members would be aware that the area around Coonabarabran is beautiful. I will always remember arriving there by plane just on sunset and seeing rows of fruit trees down the hill in front of me. It was a spectacular sight.
The orchard I visited is one of four orchards that make up the major Riverina-based fruit growing company, Tumut River Orchard. The operations of Tumut River Orchard stretch across the State. The company was started in 1988 when John and Andrew Purcell planted 5,000 trees on river flats two miles downstream from Tumut. Since then the company’s growth has been tremendous. It now runs orchards not only at Coonabarabran and Tumut but at Gundagai and in Queensland as well. In total, the company has more than one million trees covering 690 hectares.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: Is that on the Purcell’s land?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The one million trees are spread over four properties. The company recently announced that it intends to expand further and to plant a new orchard which, my department informs me, will make it the largest fruit producer in the Southern Hemisphere. The orchard will be established in either Griffith or Swan Hill and will create more than 300 jobs. The company also plans to build a $5 million, world-class packing and processing plant in Tumut or Gundagai. The new plant will be a massive structure covering nearly one hectare. It will create 250 jobs and inject more than $5 million each year into the Tumut and Gundagai economies. In other words, the total investment is $10 million, creating 550 full-time jobs.
The company exports more than 500,000 trays of fruit each year to customers in the United States, Asia, Japan and Europe. While many exporters might see overseas fruit exporters as competition, Tumut River Orchard has joined forces with growers in the United States. Together, they can supply customers around the world with fresh ripe peaches all year round. Exports already comprise up to three-quarters of the company’s business and it anticipates that it will export $20 million worth of fruit by 2000.
State development is regional development, and regional development is State development. To this end, Tumut River Orchard is developing new varieties of fruit, particularly for the Asian market. Staff from the Department of State and Regional Development are in discussions with the Tumut River Orchard and will help the company with its expansion and export plans in every way possible.
HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR CLARENCE GOVERNMENT CAR USE
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer, representing the Premier. Will he table all correspondence between the State Government and the Australian Tax Office on the matter of the vehicle provided by the Premier to Mr Woods? What was the outcome of this correspondence? Why was this correspondence concealed from the Crown Solicitor when urgent advice was sought after this matter was raised in another place last Thursday? Was this a deliberate attempt to prejudice the Crown Solicitor’s advice by failing to provide instruction? Is the Premier attempting to include the Crown Solicitor in his cover-up?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will refer the honourable member’s question to my colleague the Premier.
ROYAL NORTH SHORE HOSPITAL SURGICAL FEE
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Public Works and Services, representing the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware of the scheme recently introduced by the Royal North Shore Hospital giving patients who can afford an up-front fee of $426 the right to choose their own surgeon and avoid fees for theatre and medical tests? How can a public hospital introduce this system? How can a public hospital allow wealthy patients to jump the queue? What will happen to patients who cannot pay $426? Is it not inevitable that waiting times for poorer patients will be even longer than they are at present?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I read an article in this morning’s press about the matter raised in the question asked by the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby.
The Hon. Patricia Forsythe: You must have more time now.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I assure the honourable member that I have always had time to read the newspapers - but over the last few mornings it has caused me a lot less trauma than it used to. I shall be delighted to refer the honourable member’s question to my colleague the Minister for Health and obtain a suitable response.
STATUTORY AUTHORITY CHILD PROTECTION RESPONSIBILITIES
The Hon. A. G. CORBETT: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer, representing the Premier. Is the Premier aware that the Ombudsman and the Community Services Commissioner met only yesterday afternoon to discuss for the first time proposed changes to their respective responsibilities for child protection? Which officer in the Premier’s Department or in the Cabinet Office was primarily responsible for co-ordinating consultation within the Government and the wider community regarding these changes? With whom did he or she consult? Does the Premier concede that to ensure that the best interests of children are paramount it is imperative that consultation with all relevant groups takes place in a spirit of co-operation and openness? What will the Premier do to ensure that co-operation, discussion and negotiation occur with all relevant parties involved in child protection in future?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will refer the question of the Hon. A. G. Corbett to my colleague the Premier.
HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR CLARENCE GOVERNMENT CAR USE
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General. Will he order an independent investigation into the circumstances that led to vital information on the matter of the provision of the motor vehicle to the honourable member for Clarence being concealed from the Crown Solicitor? What steps will he take to redress this clumsy attempt to involve the Crown Solicitor in the Premier’s cover-up? What steps will he take to restore confidence in the independence and efficacy of advice from the Crown Solicitor’s office?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: On the information discernible from questions asked today I would not think that there is any basis for such an inquiry. If a client asks a solicitor to advise on a question of law arising under section 13 of the Constitution Act - namely, whether the possession of a motor vehicle by an officeholder constitutes an office of profit under the Crown - I would not have thought there would be a need for him to give
correspondence or other information. It is purely a matter of constitutional law.
AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL INDUSTRIES NEWCASTLE STEELMAKING PLANT
The Hon. E. M. OBEID: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer and Minister for State Development. Will the Minister inform the House of the details of a massive new investment proposed for Newcastle, which was announced by the Premier this morning?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am pleased to inform the House that only this morning the Premier announced that Australian National Industries is considering investing $125 million in Newcastle to build a steelmaking plant, which would create more than 600 new jobs for the city.
I would have thought that members of the Opposition would have welcomed this announcement, an important announcement for Newcastle. Unfortunately, it seems that they are greeting this announcement with some disappointment, and they should be ashamed of themselves. As honourable members should be aware, ANI is one of Australia’s biggest companies, with manufacturing operations in all States and significant operations in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Poland, Chile, Malaysia and Germany. ANI’s proposal is to build a new electric arc steelmaking plant with an immediate capacity of 350,000 tonnes of steel per annum and the potential to produce up to half a million tonnes each year. It would replace ANI’s existing steelmaking facility at Waratah, where steel production is limited to half the production that would be possible at Kooragang.
The company has chosen the Newcastle site over another site in Brisbane and it will now conduct a five-month feasibility study for the steelmaking plant and an associated manufacturing operation. The new plant would make steel billet and ingot for railway wheels and steel forgings built by ANI for the domestic market. ANI anticipates that it could begin to export within its first five years. The New South Wales Government is doing all it can to encourage ANI to proceed at Kooragang Island. The Government has offered land on a 30-hectare site on the island for the project and, together with the Commonwealth - I acknowledge the Commonwealth’s co-operation and assistance in this matter - we will improve the electricity infrastructure.
I think the Hon. I. Cohen will find that this announcement will be greeted with universal applause in the Hunter and Newcastle. That electricity infrastructure would then also be available for other new industry on Kooragang Island. The new facility will be a coup for the Hunter. It will create jobs and maintain valuable local skills, developed by generations of Hunter steelworkers, in the aftermath of the closure of BHP. In the short term, the project will create 500 construction jobs, retain the 600 ANI jobs currently at Waratah and immediately create 200 new and permanent jobs. ANI foresees another 300 jobs in new steelmaking and in manufacturing products. The project would also sustain the many support and service industries that have grown around steelmaking in Newcastle. Together with the local aluminium smelters, this plant would maintain the Hunter’s pre-eminence as a centre of excellence for metals production and processing. This announcement once again shows that the Hunter Advantage Fund and other New South Wales Government initiatives are creating jobs - real jobs - in Newcastle and the Hunter.
AUSTRALIAN COAT OF ARMS
The Hon. FRANCA ARENA: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations. Has Harold Scruby of Ausflag brought to the Attorney General’s attention the fact that the British coat of arms appears in all New South Wales courts, while the Australian coat of arms appears in the superior court, the High Court of Australia? Will he ensure that the subordinate courts in New South Wales carry the same symbol as the High Court of Australia - that is, the Australian coat of arms?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: It is an odd coincidence that, as I was having a cup of tea in Macquarie Street this morning with a judicial officer, I happened to run into Mr Harold Scruby. Mr Scruby raised with me two matters which I believe are on his current agenda. One of them concerned the coat of arms. I must say I have not had time to fully assimilate and consider the arguments for and against, but I told him that I thought it was an interesting point. He promised to write to me about it so that I can more formally consider the suggestion. It is an idea well worth considering. Obviously, it will require some liaison with the courts and consideration of the costs and benefits, but I undertook to Mr Scruby, as I undertake to this House, to give the matter proper consideration.
REGIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE STRATEGIC PLAN
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Is the Treasurer aware that responsibility for creating the 1996-97 infrastructure strategic plan, a matter of the utmost importance to regional New South Wales, has been transferred to the ministry of urban infrastructure management? Does the Minister concur with the Standing Committee on Public Works report dated October 1997, which expressed concern that regional infrastructure delivery will not be addressed by this process because it is confined to urban areas of New South Wales? Does the Minister agree with the criticism expressed by the Standing Committee on Public Works that this change represents a major blow by the Carr Government to regional New South Wales?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: No, I do not. However, I will have a look at the report of the Standing Committee on Public Works.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: I ask a supplementary question. Given the Minister’s answer, will he give reasons for saying that he does not agree?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I refer the honourable member to my earlier answer.
DEPARTMENT OF TRAINING AND EDUCATION CO-ORDINATION ABOLITION
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that only 2½ years since its formation and merger with TAFE the Department of Training and Education Co-ordination has been abolished. What is the cost of this massive turnaround in government policy, and what impact will abolition of the department have on the operation of TAFE, given that it has hardly finalised its structure under the Government’s previous policy?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The announcement by the Minister for Education and Training will result in not only more effective services but also more efficient services.
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: I ask a supplementary question. Is it a fact that the restructure is the result of the failure of the Minister for Education and Training to meet the funding cuts required of his portfolio by Treasury? Is that the real reason for the abolition of DTEC?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The real reason is to ensure that services are provided not only more effectively but also more efficiently.
EARLWOOD RESERVOIR SITE REZONING
The Hon. I. COHEN: I ask the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, a question without notice. Will the Minister inform the House about the rezoning of the Sydney Water owned Earlwood reservoir site located at the junction of Glenview and Schofield avenues, Earlwood? Is the Minister aware that projected housing development on that site would involve the removal of 96 native trees? Given the Australian Labor Party’s commitment to retention of urban green space, will the Minister consider entering into a special arrangement with Canterbury City Council to assist it to acquire the land for community open space?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am not aware of the matter that has been raised by the Hon. I. Cohen, but I will refer his question to my colleague the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning and obtain a response as soon as possible.
DEPARTMENT FOR WOMEN DIRECTOR- GENERAL APPOINTMENT
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Women. Is it a fact that the current chief of staff to the Minister for Community Services, and Minister for Women, Robyn Henderson, is to be appointed as Director-General of the Department for Women? Is it also a fact that the current head, Carolyn Bloch, has not been informed? Was Ms Henderson the subject of a critical report written by Ms Helen Bauer, when she was employed in the Premier’s Department, because of the alleged interference of the ministerial office in the running of the Department of Fair Trading causing a serious impact on morale and efficiency?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I am not informed about any prospective appointment, as suggested in the honourable member’s question. I will need to refer her question to the appropriate Minister and obtain a response.
The Hon. J. R. JOHNSON: Will the Attorney General explain the aims and benefits of the Government’s new fine enforcement system?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: This initiative has bipartisan support, or I inferred from the recent debate on a bill that the system has general support. However, there has been some media misinformation about it. It is clear that fines need to be more effectively enforced. If the system of fines and penalties is to retain credibility, a substantial percentage of those fines has to be recovered. I say that because the fine is the most commonly used penal sanction in our criminal jurisdiction. In New South Wales in 1994, 56.9 per cent of persons convicted in the Local Court received a fine as the penalty for their principal offence. A survey conducted by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, BOCSAR, entitled, "Fine Default: Enforcing Fine Payment" indicated that the average value of the 87,000 fines issues by the Local Court in 1994 was $327, resulting in a total of $28.5 million due in court-imposed fines for 1994.
The vast majority of fines are, however, imposed by way of infringement notice. According to the Auditor-General’s 1994 report, in the financial year 1993-94 approximately 1.6 million infringement notices were issued for parking and traffic infringements, and a further 100,000 infringement notices were issued for infringements detected by red light and speed cameras. In addition, as honourable members know, infringement notices are also issued by councils and other organisations. The BOCSAR report also estimated that 7.7 per cent of the adult population in New South Wales, or 397,000 individuals, had at least one outstanding warrant for unpaid or unexpiated fines at the central warrant index. The total number of warrants at hand on 10 December 1995 was 707,000, which were valued at $132 million. In relation to payment of fines imposed for traffic offences, the present system of cancelling licences and registration has a high success rate.
The efficiency and effectiveness of the overall scheme is challenged, however, by the sizeable number of individuals who do not pay their fines and by the accumulated debt to the Crown in unpaid fines, which currently stands at an estimated $298 million. The Government wanted to restore the integrity of the fine as an order of the court or as an administratively imposed sanction, and that can only be done by the imposition of sanctions against non-compliance. That measure is directed not to mere revenue raising but to equity of treatment, by preventing people from avoiding the effect of the sanctions. The other side of the policy is to reduce the number of fine defaulters in custody in a very substantial way. It is a more effective enforcement system and, for humanitarian and other practical reasons, is designed to keep fine defaulters out of the prison system.
The proposed system does not rely upon imprisonment as an incentive to pay fines. Rather, it is intended that by having an efficiently managed and timely enforcement procedure in place offenders will pay their fines because they know they will not be able to slip through the enforcement net as they can at present. Under the new fine enforcement system, more offenders will be paying their fines to avoid licence suspension or registration cancellation in the first instance. That action is followed by civil enforcement and, if the person has no property, he or she must undertake community service. At that point there should be very few people who have not either paid their fines or expiated them through civil enforcement or community service.
Only a small group of fine defaulters are likely candidates for gaol if they have no property or if they wilfully fail or decline to perform the community service order. It is accepted that on occasions some people will have difficulty in paying the fines, and that people will find themselves in financial circumstances that will make payment difficult. The system will assist those people in a number of ways. Offenders issued with infringement notices will be served with both courtesy letters and fine enforcement orders before any action is taken to enforce the unpaid infringements.
Offenders with court fines will have 28 days in which to make arrangements with the court office for payment of the fines by either extending the payment period, or paying the fines by instalments. Time-to-pay arrangements may also be entered into with the State Debt Recovery Office after an unpaid fine has been referred to it for enforcement action. Payment of fines will be assisted by providing for the payment of the fine by credit card, EFTPOS, periodic debt authority, or credit slips. Telephone payment by credit card will also be available. Payment may also be made directly to the State Debt Recovery Office at any time. However, if a fine defaulter refuses to make arrangements to pay the infringement notice or court fine, enforcement sanctions will be applied.
They include suspension of driver’s licence and cancellation of vehicle registration. Those sanctions will apply to both court fines and infringement notices for traffic offences and non-traffic offences alike. Evasion of fines costs the State millions of dollars each year. Those funds could be used to
build hospitals, schools or new roads. The Fines Act provides New South Wales with an efficient and effective fine enforcement system under which the integrity of the fine is preserved and under which offenders will no longer be able to avoid the consequences of not paying their fines. The system is not heavy-handed; it is not arrogant. It is fair, and I believe it will be effective.
EASTERN CREEK RACEWAY DANCE PARTIES
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning. Why did the Minister use special planning conditions that apply to the Eastern Creek Raceway under SEPP 29 to approve a huge all-night party to be staged at the Eastern Creek Raceway from 4 p.m. on Saturday, 29 November, until 9.00 a.m. the following morning? Is the Minister aware that Blacktown police received hundreds of complaints from local residents as far away as Greystanes, and that a person was arrested for trafficking in heroin? Will the Government review the practice of approving the use of Eastern Creek Raceway for those sorts of parties?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am not familiar with the matter, so I will refer it to my colleague the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning for a detailed response.
FIREARMS BUYBACK SCHEME
The Hon. J. S. TINGLE: Is the Treasurer aware of reports that the Commonwealth Government’s facility, Australian Defence Industries, has been paid $400,000 for surplus guns already owned by the Commonwealth which it surrendered under the gun buyback? Will the Treasurer say whether New South Wales government instrumentalities, such as the Police Service, the Department of Corrective Services or the National Parks and Wildlife Service, have also surrendered firearms to the buyback? If they did so to rid themselves of surplus firearms, will the Treasurer say what amount of money was paid to the New South Wales Government by the buyback scheme?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am not aware whether New South Wales government agencies handed back firearms. I accept the honourable member’s claim that Australian Defence Industries handed back firearms and received compensation, but I point out that ADI is a commercial operation of the Commonwealth Government. Any commercial operation that disposed of assets would do so in the same way as the Hon. J. S. Tingle would as an individual citizen, and as any commercial enterprise would, whether it be publicly or privately owned. There is a distinction between commercial organisations and a core government agency. In any event, I will refer the honourable member’s question to my colleague the Minister for Police and give him any information I can.
TUGGERAH LAKES COAL EXTRACTION
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Energy. Will the Attorney General advise the House when Coal Exploration Australia will announce to the residents of the central coast the exact location of each possible extraction point being considered for coal removal from under the Tuggerah Lakes?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I shall refer the honourable member’s question to the Minister.
MINISTER FOR COMMUNITY SERVICES OFFICE STAFF
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS: I ask the Treasurer, representing the Premier, what strategy the Government has put in place to win back the Greek vote in Sydney in view of the comment made to the Premier by the former chief of staff to the former Minister for Community Services, "If you move me you will never win another Greek vote in this town again"?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: That really is a silly question. I am pleased to say that the Australian Labor Party and the Government have extensive support from all ethnic communities in New South Wales. Our strategy for increasing the already considerable vote amongst the Greek community and all other ethnic communities in New South Wales and Australia is not something that I will divulge to the Hon. J. M. Samios.
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS: I ask a supplementary question. In view of that threat, will the Premier guarantee that recurrent funding will be provided to the Estia Foundation for its respite service at Gladesville?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am not sure that that is a supplementary question. In any event, I will refer it to the appropriate Minister.
CHILDREN’S COMMISSION ESTABLISHMENT
The Hon. A. G. CORBETT: I ask the Treasurer, representing the Premier, a question without notice. Given the importance of proper consultation on child protection matters, will the Premier guarantee that the proposed Children’s
Commission will be the subject of a green paper and not merely a discussion paper?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will refer that question to the Premier.
HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR CLARENCE GOVERNMENT CAR USE
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: My question is directed to the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Regional Development, and Minister for Rural Affairs. If the member for Clarence, the Minister for Regional Development, Mr Woods - otherwise known as Harry de Wheels - is so passionate about having a white car, as seems to be the case, will the Treasurer, as the former Minister for Regional Development, consider recommending to the new Minister that while he is the Minister he drive around regional New South Wales, instead of fly, so that he can keep abreast of infrastructure development in country New South Wales and, in particular, the state of our roads?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Someone has set up the Hon. C. J. S. Lynn. He is earning a reputation for himself as a real buffoon. Honourable members can rest assured that the Hon. Harry Woods will visit many regions throughout New South Wales. He will use the appropriate means of transport on each occasion. Sometimes that will mean using a motor vehicle, sometimes that will mean flying in, and on occasions that may even mean catching a train. But if the Hon. C. J. S. Lynn expects the Minister to walk all over New South Wales, I can assure him that the Minister is too busy for that.
RAILWAY STATION WHEELCHAIR ACCESS
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE: I ask the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Transport, whether it is a fact that neither Town Hall railway station nor Wynyard railway station are wheelchair accessible? Is it also a fact that neither station is on the schedule of works prior to the Olympic or Paralympic Games? If so, will the Government review the schedule of works to ensure that at least one of the key city stations is accessible at the time of the Games?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: It is a long time since the Hon. Patricia Forsythe has asked a good question, but that was a good question. I will be pleased to refer it to the Minister for Transport.
GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS
The Hon. I. COHEN: I ask the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Transport, a question without notice. Is it true, as stated in today’s Daily Telegraph, that New South Wales has the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the world? Will the Minister for Roads stop the development of the Sydney orbital motorway network to redress this international embarrassment? Will the New South Wales Government support the Federal Government’s greenhouse strategy at Kyoto?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I have not seen the article in today’s Daily Telegraph, but I point out to the Hon. I. Cohen that New South Wales is well ahead of the other States in its efforts to meet the greenhouse challenge. It is leading the way, particularly in relation to requirements imposed on the electricity industry. I hope that in the near future the other States will follow the lead set by New South Wales, because this State is serious about playing its part in reducing the greenhouse threat.
SNOWY MOUNTAINS HYDRO-ELECTRIC AUTHORITY CORPORATISATION
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING: I ask the Treasurer whether the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority has announced a $79.4 million loss for the 1996-97 financial year? Have the accumulated losses for the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority now increased to $516 million? How can it compete on the national market, with the overcapacity of New South Wales and Victoria? In view of the above, by how many million dollars will the expected value of the privatisation of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority be reduced?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The Hon. J. H. Jobling should be aware that legislation has been passed by this Parliament, the Federal Parliament and the Victorian Parliament to corporatise the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme, and that is as far as any decisions have gone. The information which the honourable member has imparted to the House in his question highlights the need for the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme to be established on a proper commercial footing. The legislation that has been passed by the three Parliaments has not yet come into being. Before the corporatisation takes place, a water inquiry is needed. The corporatised model that has been agreed upon by the three jurisdictions will certainly give the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme the opportunity to be commercially viable in the national competitive electricity market.
ELIZABETH STREET, SYDNEY, ABORIGINAL SACRED SITE
The Hon. FRANCA ARENA: I ask the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, a question without notice. Is it a fact that in November 1996 Minister Knowles
made a permanent conservation order on the day of mourning and protest site also known as the Cyprus Hellene Club? Did he then adjoin an exemption order which allowed demolition of the building with the exception of the facade? Is it a fact that this issue has been on the agenda of the Heritage Council for five years, and for the entire duration of Mr Knowles’ term in office? Is it also a fact that during that term 24 parliamentarians from across the political spectrum have made representations on this matter, including the Treasurer, who I believe made submissions to the Heritage Council opposing development of the site? Why is Minister Knowles now pursuing the matter in the Land and Environment Court at great public expense, when it has been admitted that the controversial exemption order was legally problematic? Can this issue of historical importance not be solved amicably?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will refer the question to my colleague the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing. In her question the honourable member suggested that I made a submission opposing the development of the site.
The Hon. Franca Arena: That is what the Heritage Council informed me.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: If that is the case, the honourable member has been misinformed. According to my recollection I made representations, which I do when any constituent or organisation in New South Wales writes to me about a matter outside my portfolio. Members who make representations do not necessarily make a submission or agree with a submission; they merely make representations.
GLEN INNES DISTRICT COURT SITTINGS
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT: I address my question without notice to the Attorney General. Despite the Attorney’s assurances last week about funding, have sittings of the District Court in Glen Innes been cancelled? Is the Attorney aware that persons required to attend District Court sittings will now be required to travel up to 150 kilometres to either Inverell or Lismore? Is it true that legal aid does not fund travelling expenses? Will defendants appearing before the District Court be disadvantaged because of inadequate preparation? How many other courthouses does the Attorney intend to close? What steps will he undertake to ensure that justice is accessible to all, and the tyranny of distance does not extract disproportionate and unintended penalties?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I thank the honourable member for his well-phrased question. Each year the Chief Judge of the District Court has to determine where civil sittings of that court will take place during that year. He makes that assessment depending upon the state of the lists, the workload, and the efficient use of judicial resources. That list changes from time to time. The fact that the court will not sit at Glen Innes during 1998 does not mean that the list will not be revised in subsequent years. It is true that cases from Glen Innes will be heard at Inverell, where the court sittings have been lengthened to accommodate the work of both towns.
In deciding where and when the District Court will sit, the chief judge has regard to the caseloads of individual courts and has to weigh the practice of continuing to have short sittings in multiple locations against the benefits of aggregating work at a centralised convenient location. The chief judge has determined that it is more productive for the District Court to sit at one central venue for an extended period rather than at several venues for short periods. The court sitting arrangements for 1998 are aimed at enhancing the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of its service delivery to both metropolitan and country communities.
In saying that, I appreciate that some people in Glen Innes, including local legal practitioners or potential clients involved in litigation in the District Court, may be disappointed. Criminal sittings of the District Court will be increased by 61 weeks, from 283 weeks in 1997 to 344 weeks in 1998. Following the District Court’s significant success in reducing the civil caseload across the State, the need for civil sittings has abated somewhat. Accordingly, civil sittings of the court will be reduced from 119 weeks in 1997 to 108 weeks in 1998. That reduction should be read against the increase from 80 weeks in 1996.
I have been assured by the chief judge that allocations have been made on the basis of existing workloads, balanced with the needs of all communities across the State, and the overall view of improving the court’s efficiency and service delivery. The principal courts administrator continues to liaise with local practitioners, regional co-ordinators and registrars concerning the composition of the court’s lists and its sitting needs. The chief judge also entertains requests for special sittings to cope with specific cases on the basis of their relative merits as they arise. I assure honourable members that any representations made by local communities or by members of this House about the sittings of that court will be passed on as representations to the chief judge.
CONSERVATION PROTOCOLS FOR STATE FOREST LOGGING
The Hon. I. COHEN: I ask the Minister for Public Works and Services, representing the Minister for Forestry, how many forest compartments in New South Wales have been logged without the application of conservation protocols as agreed between State Forests and the National Parks and Wildlife Service?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I very much doubt that any Minister could answer such a question without notice. However, I shall be delighted to refer the question to my colleague and obtain a response for the Hon. I. Cohen.
GOVERNMENT HOUSE ASSETS
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: My question is addressed to the Treasurer, representing the Premier. Has an inventory been prepared of the furniture, carpets, china and other valuables at Government House? If so, will the Treasurer publish the list so that the people of New South Wales can be made aware of the historic items that are part of our State heritage? If not, will the Treasurer undertake to request the Premier to make and publish such an inventory? Finally, will the Treasurer give a commitment to this House that none of those historic items of public heritage will be sold?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will refer the honourable member’s question to the Premier. Obviously items of any significance at Government House would be kept and well looked after. The carpet has been temporarily removed from the area where honourable members are received when the Address-in-Reply is presented to the Governor.
The Hon. R. D. Dyer: The carpet was there on Saturday night.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: That is interesting. When we attended Government House to present the Address-in-Reply we were assured that the carpet would remain. Some honourable members do not like the room without the carpet; I and other honourable members prefer it without the carpet. I am told that for concerts the acoustics of the room without the carpet are first rate. It is sensible to use the carpet on appropriate occasions and remove it on non-appropriate occasions.
AUBURN TRAFFIC INFRASTRUCTURE
The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: I direct my question to the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Roads. Is the Minister aware that in Auburn, the home of the Olympics, the Auburn Chamber of Commerce is concerned that the two bridges leading to Auburn shopping centre are grossly inadequate, thus causing irreparable damage to local business and the community, as the bridges limit access to and egress from the Auburn area? With the increase in population and new residential developments taking place in Auburn, and with the Olympic Games 2000 around the corner, will the Minister listen to local people and take urgent action to improve roads and bridges in order to prevent further congestion and bottlenecks?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I was not aware that those two bridges are causing congestion. I do not know whether the bridges are the responsibility of the Roads and Traffic Authority or the local council. I will find out and convey the answer to the honourable member.
THE HONOURABLE Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI FREEDOM OF INFORMATION APPLICATION
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Is the Attorney General aware of a letter I received from the Director-General of the New South Wales Department of Industrial Relations, in response to my freedom of information application, asking me for $26,070 as a deposit prior to the release of information? Does the Attorney agree that this demand impedes my access to information which is necessary in my job as a member of Parliament and for accountability of his ministry to the taxpayers? I ask further whether it is possible to pay the deposit by instalments?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: In light of the honourable member’s medical practice I would have thought that money would not have been a significant problem. I am aware of the letter referred to, because I follow the proceedings of the House and I heard the honourable member’s adjournment speech last night. I was not aware of the matter before his speech. The department processes these matters in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act and I presume it does so in an appropriate manner. The honourable member has certain review and appeal rights under that Act and should avail himself of those rights if he is aggrieved by the letter.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: I ask a supplementary question. I am concerned about the huge cost involved. I want an assurance from the Attorney that I will be able to get my money back if the answers are unsatisfactory.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: It is axiomatic that I cannot and will not give such assurance.
NARELLAN RESPITE CARE CENTRE
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: My question is addressed to the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Community Services. What will the Government do to assist the newly established respite care centre for children at Narellan to obtain the necessary police checks for its staff to ensure that it can open on time? Additionally, given that those checks cost $30 per person and that the new centre has numerous staff, will the Government make sensible arrangements to mitigate the costs by waiving some of the charges?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I undertake to refer the honourable member’s question to the Minister for Community Services for response.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: If honourable members have further questions, I suggest they put them on notice.
Questions without notice concluded.
[The President left the chair at 1.06 p.m. The House resumed at 2.30 p.m.]
MARKETING OF PRIMARY PRODUCTS AMENDMENT (MARKETING ORDERS) BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
Declaration of urgency agreed to.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Public Works and Services) [2.33 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I am particularly pleased to propose these amendments to the order-making provisions of the Marketing of Primary Products Act. The amendments will increase the fairness of polling and reduce the emotion that can be attached to poll outcomes. They will facilitate the realisation of net public benefits which have been assessed as obtainable in competition policy reviews. The immediate beneficiary of the amendments will be the citrus industry in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. Those with any knowledge of agriculture would acknowledge that the citrus industry is most deserving of favourable consideration.
The introduction of the order-making provisions of the Marketing of Primary Products Act was an initiative of the New South Wales Labor Government in 1983. The orders provide for the establishment of statutory arrangements that generally supply marketing-related services such as promotion, market development and research. Committees established to administer orders generally do not engage in the physical marketing of commodities and do not have access to statutory powers such as vesting and compulsory acquisition. Orders are limited but renewable, subject to conditions, including a poll of growers. It was anticipated that orders would be used primarily by the horticultural industries. That expectation has proven to be correct. A few orders that have been established were allowed to lapse after their initial limited life, because they had done their job. For some approaching situations, there are moves to maintain order arrangements beyond their initial life.
Three related principles are behind the amendments that are now proposed. These principles are, first, that voting at polls relating to marketing orders will be voluntary rather than compulsory. This change will occur by way of an amendment to the Marketing of Primary Products (Polls and Elections) Regulation 1996 pursuant to the provisions of section 101 of the Marketing of Primary Products Act. However, the intention to make this change is significant to the current bill. Second, poll outcomes are to be determined with reference to the votes actually cast rather than the votes entitled to be cast. Third, in making the two previous changes there should be a requirement for a minimum voter turnout with at least 50 per cent of voters to participate in a poll, otherwise the poll is lost.
In addition, a machinery amendment is to be made to section 73 of the Marketing of Primary Products Act to provide for the transition of assets, liabilities and obligations from a committee constituted under one order to the committee, which operates under a new order. That will simplify the transfer of assets and liabilities when orders are significantly changed either by request of a marketing committee or as a result of a competition policy review. It is relevant to begin an explanation of these proposed amendments with a consideration of compulsory versus voluntary voting, even though that issue is not addressed in the amendment bill. There are three separate perspectives to this issue.
The first perspective is whether compulsion should be involved. Various representations made to the Minister for Agriculture indicate that growers do not want compulsory voting. Further, they, and I, do not want penalties to be imposed for not voting. On these grounds, voting should be voluntary. The
second perspective stems from the reasoning that compulsory voting at polls would tend to imply that, for a poll to succeed, it should be supported by an absolute majority of those entitled to vote. That is the current situation in the Marketing of Primary Products Act. By way of contrast, I simply note that polls at the highest level in this State - referenda held under the New South Wales Constitution Act - are determined by the majority of votes actually cast.
The third perspective is that the current provisions of the Marketing of Primary Products Act have the effect of counting non-votes as no votes. That situation can lead to an undesirable level of emotion being attached to a poll outcome, regardless of the outcome. Under the current provisions, voters who wish to vote no can effectively do so by not voting. Therefore, non-voters become seen as a mixture of no voters and fence-sitters who are indifferent to the outcome. By changing to a system of voluntary voting with a poll outcome determined by votes actually cast, equal pressure is placed on yes voters and no voters to cast a vote. The achievement of a system that is fair to all is the key objective of this amendment bill.
It is also relevant to note that since the Marketing of Primary Products Act was re-enacted in 1983, a national competition policy has been introduced. One of the effects of the policy is that only statutory arrangements that reach the stage of an industry vote on whether they should be established or continued will be assessed as being able to deliver a net public benefit. While there may have been a case for tough polling criteria in the Marketing of Primary Products Act in the pre-competition policy environment to prevent the establishment of schemes that might benefit only a small and select number of individuals within an industry, an opposing argument is now present.
With a net public benefit to be realised, any toughening of a polling criterion should be to favour the proposed arrangement being established or continued. Finally, with respect to the amendments now proposed, I believe it remains important for a poll to have a good voter turnout. It is not acceptable to allow the possibility of a poll on questions of establishing or continuing a statutory arrangement to be determined by a relative handful of voters. A large number of fence-sitters is no case for the establishment of a statutory arrangement. For this reason, it is proposed that a poll will not be counted, and therefore lost, unless votes are cast by at least a majority of those entitled to vote.
The amendments which are here proposed will apply to all current and future arrangements which are set up under the order-making provisions regarding the Marketing of Primary Products Act. However, I would like to comment briefly on the arrangement which will be the first beneficiary of those amendments - this arrangement is the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area Citrus Fruit Promotion Marketing Committee. This committee was constituted in 1989 and was due to reach the end of its initial life on 28 March 1997. Over the years, this committee developed a role in servicing various needs of the MIA citrus growers in fruit fly control, promotion, marketing development and quality assurance. In 1996 the industry petitioned the Minister for Agriculture for the making of a new order to continue the arrangement. The petition was supported by a large number of growers.
The proposal had to be the subject of a competition policy review, and to allow this to happen this Parliament approved an extraordinary extension to the life of the original order when it approved the Marketing of Primary Products Amendment Bill 1996. The review has since been completed. Approval has been given for a continuation of the committee. The proposal now has to go to a poll of growers. The citrus industry in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area has been doing it tough over recent years. Through the existing industry arrangements it has been trying to help itself. The proposed new order arrangement has been assessed as likely to deliver a net public benefit. The committee, which has administered the current order, has done so without any of the members receiving any remuneration for their efforts. If any industry and its arrangements deserve some encouragement, I cannot think of a more deserving example. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. J. H. Jobling.
TIMBER PLANTATIONS (HARVEST GUARANTEE) AMENDMENT BILL
The Hon. I. COHEN [2.43 p.m.], by leave: I move Greens amendments Nos 1 and 3 in globo:
No. 1 Page 6, Schedule 1. Insert after line 6:
Omit "the Director-General may". Insert instead "the Director-General must".
No. 3 Page 7, Schedule 1, lines 5 and 6. Omit "may be cancelled by the Director-General if the Director-General is satisfied". Insert instead "must be cancelled by the Director-General if".
Amendment No. 1 deals with accreditation and the power of the director-general to refuse to accredit a plantation if certain requirements have not been met, which takes us to the important issue of environment protection in the establishment and accreditation of plantations. The director-general must refuse to accredit a timber plantation if he determines that it has not been established in accordance with the requirements of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and any other relevant law; or it has been established in contravention of State environmental planning policy 46, which refers to the protection and management of native vegetation; or it contravenes any similar law dealing with native vegetation management and control, if that policy or similar law applies to the timber plantation.
As I said during the second reading debate, an example of this issue on the north coast is the joint venture plantation at Mt Pikapene, where land clearance occurred without proper environmental assessment. That resulted in the exposure of land on steep slopes adjacent to watercourses. Another landowner wanted to embark on a joint venture plantation on treed land. State Forests said it was against its policy to approve plantations for a property that already had trees on it. The landowner obtained SEPP 46 approval, cleared the land and approached State Forests, which then agreed to the joint venture. The project has been stopped as the landowner, without obtaining appropriate approval, also cleared an area of State forest under interim protection.
The intent of many landowners in these areas is to clear native vegetation, which sometimes involves reckless clearing and which affects State forests under interim protection. Even though the environment movement supports the plantation concept - the Greens have argued for it for many years - if stringent measures are not taken to ensure that proper environmental controls are in place, the establishment of plantations could lead to other problems. The former Leader of the Opposition, Bob Carr, in a pre-election letter that he wrote to me, said that no native forests would be cleared for plantation establishment. Unfortunately, that is not stipulated in the bill.
Amendments to deal with these issues have not been initiated by the Government, which is extremely disappointing. We have the potential for co-operation on this issue but, due to a lack of diligence on the part of government instrumentalities, it is causing much concern and is discrediting State Forests and the industry. It is also causing much suffering for those who are concerned about the issue. Farmers want to establish plantations, but they want to do so properly. They do not want to clear native vegetation on steep slopes near watercourses; rather, they want to establish plantations that are environmentally sustainable and productive and they want to set a new direction for people in rural areas. It is terrible that timber plantations are leading to further environmental degradation because of a lack of proper control. Amendment 3 states quite clearly that accreditation will be cancelled if proper legal requirements have not been followed. I commend Greens amendments Nos 1 and 3 to the Committee.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [2.48 p.m.]: The Opposition does not support the amendments moved by the Hon. I. Cohen, but it certainly does not disparage them. The Opposition appreciates where the Hon. I. Cohen is coming from. It is fair to say that his amendments reflect his philosophy and the stated policies of his party. The Opposition has considered the amendments seriously, but I wish to state its reasons for rejecting them. It is often said that the Greens and the National Party are natural antagonists. Mr Chairman, at times during debate you have been at pains to dispel the misconception that the National Party views any move by the green movement or by conservationists as inimical to its aims. In fact, on most occasions our views are parallel and intertwined. However, on this occasion there is a fundamental misconception in the framing of Greens amendments 1, 3 and 6 - perhaps it flavours all the Greens’ amendments - that is, that in some way the Timber Plantations (Harvest Guarantee) Amendment Bill overrides, supplants or in some way subverts environmental protection laws such as the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, the threatened species legislation and, when satisfactory legislation is prepared, native vegetation laws. This bill has nothing to do with overriding other environmental provisions and it is certainly not what one might call a chainsaw bill.
The Hon. I. Cohen: Bulldozer.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT: Or a bulldozer bill. The bill does not give an unalienable guarantee that the timber which has been grown as a crop in a plantation will be harvested. What it says is that if for environmental reasons the harvesting is prevented then compensation is payable. The process is one of accreditation, not of giving a project the environmental A1 go-ahead. That is for other agencies to take into account. This is about the director-general, under the supervision of the
Minister, recognising plantations as a crop of timber which was planted initially for the purpose of producing harvestable timber. That is recognised in this Government bill, as it was in the Don Page draft bill that the Government refused to accept, as referred to in the second reading debate.
Accreditation leads only to a guarantee of compensation if harvesting does not eventuate. To that extent I do not think it is necessary to go for the belt and braces approach by which "may" becomes "must" and everything is made mandatory upon environmental assessments. When an area of land is planted as a forestry plantation it takes a minimum of 20 years before a crop can be harvested if it is softwood and 60 years if it is hardwood. We will talk later about the softwood plantations which will be used in the Visy development. They are a monoculture of one species and they involve substantial change to the local ecosystem. Such developments are embarked on very cautiously by the owner of the land, the investor and the community.
The coalition is happy with that. In resisting these amendments I point out that all this bill provides is a guarantee at the end of the process that if the community makes a judgment that a plantation area is, for instance, now a vital area of parkland close to Tumut and there is no other area where people can go to have a picnic except in the pinus radiata plantation of the Hon. J. M. Samios, then the community must pay. I believe it is unnecessary to make this bill look as if it is yet another hurdle that the investor has to pass over before he can confidently plant the timber. For those reasons the Committee should resist the amendments. I hope that the Minister will support my remarks, because a very clear signal must be given that the Parliament of New South Wales and the people of New South Wales want to encourage potential investors in timber plantations and that we are not trying to lure them into some process which will be knocked out in the first round.
The Opposition is comfortable with all the constraints that will apply to the investments and envisages that it is possible that at a later stage a judgment may be made that it is not appropriate that a plantation should be harvested. This process, which is not an approval but an accreditation, enables compensation to be paid. It is perfectly reasonable that the director-general should be able to exercise such discretion with the limited powers provided. If the harvesting of a plantation that was designed to produce marketable timber is thwarted at some later stage then compensation should be payable.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [2.56 p.m.]: What a pleasure it is to follow the eloquence of the Hon. D. F. Moppett. The honourable member must tell me sometime how it was that after being a member of this House years ago he came to leave and then returned. If he had been here continuously over the years and had gone to the lower House he might have led the National Party. Maybe he still can; why should I say that that is in the past? The Government cannot accept amendments Nos 1 and 3, which seek to remove the discretion of the Director-General of the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning to accredit plantations where an owner or manager is in contravention of State environmental planning policy 46 or any other similar law dealing with native vegetation management. Clearly, the thrust of the Government’s policy is not to accredit plantations where these are established in contravention of native vegetation laws. However, the Government recognises that in the real world minor technical breaches do occur from time to time and that it might be unduly harsh to deny accreditation in such instances. That is why we cannot support amendments Nos 1 and 3. For example, under those amendments a person who has breached SEPP 46 in a minor way but who has undertaken remedial work and consequently has not been prosecuted would nevertheless be denied accreditation.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [2.57 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party supports the arguments by the Government and the Opposition on these amendments. It is strange that members of this House who talk about freedom and liberty and choice should seek to introduce such a dictatorial note into legislation, with mandatory requirements or "musts". The flexibility of the bill as drafted should be maintained.
The Hon. I. COHEN [2.58 p.m.]: I move Greens amendment 2:
No. 2 Page 6, Schedule 1, line 19. Omit "the Director-General is satisfied that".
This amendment is to remove the discretion of the director-general. It is important that there is a clear message that accreditation can be denied if compliance with appropriate consents and legal environmental protection conditions have not been met. The director-general’s satisfaction is not at issue here but rather that there be compliance with the law. Again, this amendment deals with the Greens' concerns about the consistent meeting of
environmental standards and safeguards, particularly with the establishment of plantations. I commend Greens amendment 2.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [2.59 p.m.]: The Government regards this amendment as distinguishable from amendments Nos 1 and 3 and sees the discretionary clause as being redundant. We accept the amendment.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [3.00 p.m.]: The Opposition also believes that this amendment is unnecessary. However, it will not press for a division.
Amendment agreed to.
The Hon. I. COHEN [3.00 p.m.]: I shall not move amendments 4 and 5 as circulated in my name. I move Greens amendment 6:
No. 6 Page 7, Schedule 1. Insert after line 34:
 Section 20 Matters to be regulated by Codes
This amendment relates to section 20 and matters to be regulated by codes. It places a clear requirement that for the purposes of protecting the environment codes must regulate the carrying out of harvesting operations on an accredited timber plantation and deal with all matters listed in section 20(2), being harvesting plans; works ancillary to harvesting operations; soil erosion and sediment control; native animals and plants; Aboriginal relics and places; post-harvest bushfire hazard reduction burning; circumstances under which compensation will be available in order to protect unique or special wildlife values, and matters relating to the provision of and entitlement to such compensation. One of the key provisions of the code is the preparation of a harvesting plan. However, there appears to be no obligation to comply with the harvesting plan. Furthermore, a harvesting plan remains a secret document, with no obligation to make the plan available to anyone other than a person authorised by the director-general.
The Timber Plantations (Harvest Guarantee) Act was initiated on the basis that it would provide encouragement for plantation establishment. Instead, the end result was legislation that appeared to have the prime intent of allowing State Forests to have large areas of native forests accredited as plantations so that they could be exempted from environmental legislation. The Greens endorse and support plantation establishment. We, too, want New South Wales to obtain its timber needs from plantations. The Greens are concerned about the how and the where of plantations - not the why. Our aims are to ensure that plantations are established on land already cleared, on sites that are environmentally and socially acceptable, and to ensure that plantations are managed in an ecologically sustainable manner. I commend the amendment to the Committee.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [3.02 p.m.]: The Government cannot accept the amendment, which would require plantation owners or managers to conform with a harvesting plan, if applicable, in addition to the harvesting code. The Government does not support the amendment as, in the Government’s view, it would unnecessarily increase the burden of regulation on plantation growers. There may well be instances in which it is entirely appropriate to depart from a harvesting plan and possibly to do so without jeopardising the environmental protections contained in the harvesting code. In all instances harvesting must comply with the code.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [3.03 p.m.]: The Opposition supports the Government in opposing this amendment. Honourable members would recall that the harvesting code basically held up the introduction of this bill. Establishment of the harvesting code was a difficult exercise and some criticism was levelled at the Government that it had been tardy in producing the code. It was important that the code be established after calm debate, in order to serve the essential purposes of the bill. The essential nature of the bill is to encourage the plantation of timber, to replace reliance on native stands. That having been worked out, it is important to make the distinction between the harvesting plans - that come into play much later down the track and can be varied, as they are the operational features - and the harvesting code.
I agree with the Hon. I. Cohen that a harvesting plan is a very important aspect of the final harvesting, but it should not hold up the accreditation process and the ultimate access to compensation of someone who has in good faith planted a plantation. Honourable members will realise that logging operations require a harvesting plan, which is worked out by people who have practical experience in the working of bulldozers, the establishment of log dumps and other daily timber harvesting operations. In the making of those plans there is a need to have regard to drainage and erosion abatement. A number of other factors also
need to be taken into account. I should hope that at that stage a harvesting plan would include the identification of certain trees that are to be retained when the rest of the plantation was harvested. This amendment is inappropriate and the Opposition opposes it.
The Hon. I. COHEN [3.06 p.m.]: I move Greens amendment 7:
Omit "may" wherever occurring in section 20(1) and (2). Insert instead "must".
No. 7 Page 8, Schedule 1. Insert after line 14:
 Section 23 Compliance with Codes
Insert ", and any applicable harvesting plan made under any such Code," after "Code" in section 23(1).
Insert after section 23(2):
(3) A copy of any harvesting plan or other plan made under a Code must be:
(a) kept at the office of the Forestry Commission nearest to the timber plantation to which the plan concerned applies, and
This amendment deals with compliance with codes and stipulates that harvesting operations on timber plantations should be carried out in accordance with any code and any applicable harvesting plan made under such code. There is a great degree of discretion as to the contents of the code. The code need not even regulate the carrying out of harvesting operations on accredited timber plantations and does not have to deal with the key matters listed in section 23(2). The contents of the code ought to be prescribed more clearly in order to ensure that the code deals comprehensively with matters that are usually regulated by key legislation such as the Threatened Species Conservation Act. The amendment also seeks to ensure that harvesting plans or other plans made under the code are available for inspection if required. This is merely an assurance that those persons who wish to check the plans may have access to them if there are concerns regarding operations - merely an open and transparent process allowing for proper community consultation. I commend this amendment to the Committee.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [3.07 p.m.]: The Government cannot accept this amendment, which would require any applicable harvesting plans to be made publicly available through the offices of State Forests. The Government considers that such a requirement would be unnecessarily onerous for harvesting on private land, which is essentially the reason for its opposition to this amendment. The Government considers that the inspection procedures being developed by the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning are adequate, appropriate and consistent with the objectives of the Act. At present under the code an accredited plantation may be inspected at any time by a plantation inspector, and the grower may be required to furnish a harvesting plan if applicable. If necessary plantations may be inspected prior to accreditation. The Government is developing a targeted audit and monitoring program that will focus on inspecting a significant proportion of accredited plantations at the harvesting stage, to ensure compliance with the code. The scope of the program is yet to be finalised, as it will depend on the take-up of accreditation and the number of plantations at the harvest stage, which is when inspection is most relevant.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [3.09 p.m.]: Harvest plans should be able to be amended. The final document should be put in place at the end of the process, not the beginning. Given that the harvesting plan could be modified at a later stage, the idea that harvesting plans would be part of the accreditation process, and particularly the idea that they should be on display for members of the public to become involved - with the sad possibility that vexatious and frivolous objections could be made - is inappropriate. The Opposition is implacably opposed to the adoption of this amendment.
Schedule as amended agreed to.
Bill reported from Committee with an amendment and passed through remaining stages.
(b) made available for inspection free of charge by any person during normal office hours.
KOORAGANG COAL TERMINAL (SPECIAL PROVISIONS) BILL
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [3.12 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
On 25 November 1996 the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning granted a development consent for the construction and operation of the Stage 3 expansion of the existing Kooragang Coal Terminal at Newcastle by Port Waratah Coal Services Limited. This bill aims to remove any doubt about the validity of that consent.
The Kooragang consent was challenged in the Land and Environment Court on 30 December last year. The Court has already heard the case. On 23 July this year the Land and Environment Court ruled that the Minister’s development consent was valid. But as often happens in these matters the Land and Environment Court’s ruling has been appealed.
At a fundamental level this bill is about jobs. The Hunter needs this expansion of the Kooragang coal terminal. The State and the nation need the Kooragang coal terminal. We, as a Parliament, have an obligation to ensure that this project proceeds.
•an increase in throughput from 41 to 77 million tonnes per annum making this the largest coal terminal in the world;
•250 direct and immediate construction jobs;
•the potential for an additional 1,800 jobs in the coal industry; and
•the potential for as many as 5,400 indirect jobs;
•the project will generate an additional $1.8 billion every year in export earnings;
•$70 million per year will flow directly from the operation of the terminal with a further $63 million per year in flow on expenditure into the region.
The project has already had to suffer twelve months of uncertainty and delay. The proponent has not begun to begin the expansion program. The Government is not prepared to allow this uncertainty to continue. This bill aims to end the delay in the construction of this important economic development initiative for the Hunter and the State. The bill will effectively terminate the proceedings presently before the Court of Appeal by confirming the validity of the Minister’s consent.
As I have said, the consent is presently subject to a challenge in the Court of Appeal.
It is worth noting the appeal is not about the environmental impact of the coal terminal operations in storing and transporting coal to ships in the Port of Newcastle. Instead the appeal relates to whether the impact of the increase in coal trains using the main northern line to deliver their coal to an expanded coal terminal should have been considered in the environmental impact statement for the project.
So, in that sense, the appeal is not about the coal terminal per se, it is about the related impact of additional rail movements throughout the surrounding region.
The appeal has been brought on notwithstanding the careful consideration given by the Land and Environment Court to the question raised by the appellant.
The court has looked at the concerns of the appellant and considered his arguments. The Court said that the environmental impact assessment of the project was valid in law, and that the development consent was, and always had been valid.
Every person who had any concerns about the nature of the environmental assessment of the project has now had an opportunity to have their concerns about the environmental assessment of the project looked at in detail through public submissions in the development assessment process and in the Land and Environment Court.
I have to advise Parliament that the proponent of the coal terminal expansion has advised the Government that it is reluctant to proceed with its expansion. This is because of uncertainty about the outcome of the appeal, and the length of time it will take for the appeal to be heard and for the Court to deliver its decision.
The bill provides this House with an opportunity to vote for jobs, to vote for investment in our economy and to show the people of the Hunter that it is serious about delivering employment opportunities in an area that needs a leg up since the closure of the steelworks was announced.
The stage 3 expansion of the terminal requires an investment of seven hundred million dollars by Port Waratah Coal Services Limited. The stage 3 expansion will increase the throughput capacity of the two coal terminals operated by Port Waratah from 66 to 102 million tonnes per annum.
This increase in capacity is needed to meet the throughput tonnages of coal for export handled by Port Waratah which are expected to increase from 60.5 million tonnes this year to 78 million tonnes in 2002. Currently the Kooragang terminal serves 22 producers and 31 mines from the Hunter Valley, the Gunnedah basin and the Ulan fields.
Port Waratah’s terminals are already operating almost at full capacity. The stage 3 expansion of the terminal is needed to meet the expected supply of export coal to be produced from this areas. Without the stage 3 expansion of Kooragang terminal the ongoing development of the export coal industry in the Hunter, and at Ulan and Gunnedah may be stifled.
If the expansion does not go ahead 250 directly related construction jobs will be lost.
Without the additional capacity to export another 36 million tonnes of coal that stage 3 would provide, the State may forgo up to $1,800 million every year in export earnings. The State will also forgo the potential for an additional 1,800 jobs in the coal industry and as many as 5,400 indirect jobs that may be created as a result of an increase on coal exports.
The failure to proceed with the expansion will mean that the Hunter region will lose $70 million per year that is expected to flow directly from the operation of the expanded terminal and a further flow on expenditure of $63 million per year.
Worse still, the failure to expand the terminal could potentially result in an annual loss to the Hunter Valley coal industry of $66 million in demurrage costs associated with ship loading outlays. Similar losses are forecast for rail demurrage charges. The Port of Newcastle will lose $50,000 per ship related to service charges.
This bill is really about providing jobs and investing in the future. It is about ensuring the medium and long term viability
of the export coal industry. It is about creating the right set of conditions for future employment growth in the Hunter and throughout the State. It is about preserving our international competitiveness in the coal industry while maintaining the highest environmental standards.
The consent for this project was issued after a comprehensive environmental assessment and is subject to 43 separate conditions which will minimise adverse environmental impacts, ensure the adoption of best management practices and technology, and provide for continuing environmental monitoring and reporting.
For example, conditions 32 to 36 provide for an annual regime of environmental auditing to be carried out by an independent auditor determined by the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning.
This audit will be provided to other regulatory agencies. The Director General of the Department can then advise the proponent of any additional requirements it must comply with. By declaring the development consent valid the bill will confirm these stringent environmental controls in place.
However, the Minister remains concerned about the environmental impacts on local communities of the increasing number of coal trains that will run along the main northern line on their way to port.
Those communities’ concerns about increased noise, dust, and vibration along the main northern line were the trigger for the Land and Environment Court challenge. In effect, the Court held that those concerns were not a significant matter for consideration in relation to the development application for the stage 3 expansion of the coal terminal.
The Government acknowledges that those residents living close to the rail corridor will be exposed to various impacts associated with the operations of the railway. Safety issues will also arise. The Government agrees that this is a significant issue for the residents along the rail corridor.
The Government believes that the increased coal train traffic on the main northern line is the result of the growth of export coal production in the Hunter Valley, and at Gunnedah and Ulan coalfields.
They are the cumulative impacts of increasing production at different mines and the opening up of new mines. These environmental impacts are also the result of the need to transport the coal to the port of Newcastle by rail. Rail is the safest, most efficient and most environmentally responsible method to deliver coal to port.
The Government has a strategy in place to ensure that a proper integrated assessment of the problems is undertaken, and appropriate solutions are found. Aware that a steady increase in rail traffic is forecast, the Government has established the Hunter Valley Railway Programs Task Force to undertake a co-ordinated whole of Government assessment of the operational environment of rail movements.
It will advise the Government on how it can best implement an integrated package of measures to avoid or reduce impacts on those communities.
It is fundamental to the success of the Task Force that the local communities along the railway line are able to voice their concerns and communicate their "on the ground" experiences to the Task Force. In order to ensure that community concerns are represented to the Task Force the minister has also established a community consultative committee which is also chaired by Mr Milton Morris.
Invitations to apply for membership of the community consultative committee have been widely advertised in local and regional media. At a community workshop at Maitland on 11 August 1997 all 24 applications for membership of the committee were accepted.
The Task Force is to deliver an initial report to the Government by the end of this month.
There are too many jobs, too much investment in the economy, too many export dollars to be earned, too many opportunities for the people of the Hunter, that may be lost if the project is further delayed. At the same time, the government is committed to an integrated approach to the anticipated environmental impacts of increased rail traffic on local communities along the rail line.
I urge all members to support the bill and I commend the bill to the House.
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE [3.12 p.m.]: The Opposition supports the hopes of Port Waratah Coal Services Limited to expand its Kooragang coal terminal and for this reason it will not oppose the Kooragang Coal Terminal (Special Provisions) Bill. However, the Opposition is underwhelmed that yet again a good project, an important project - indeed a vital project - can go forward only if the Opposition agrees to this bill. Yet again it is the Opposition that has to bail out a project in New South Wales. It is simply not good enough that the Government’s solution to dealing with third-party appeals involving major projects being in jeopardy is special project-specific legislation. The Government sees this bill as being about delivering certainty to the firm; but business wants more than project-specific responses. At the same time as honourable members are debating this bill, the Government is preparing to introduce in this House its Environmental Planning and Assessment Legislation Amendment Bill.
The Government says that that bill is about delivering certainty. But that bill will not correct this situation either. The Kooragang Coal Terminal (Special Provisions) Bill is not good legislation. It merely resolves a specific issue, without addressing the fundamental issue of how far a third-party appeal can tie up a project when the Minister has given a valid consent and that consent has been upheld in the Land and Environment Court. The Minister’s consent was actually given more than 12 months ago, and the Land and Environment Court upheld it on 23 July. At stake with this development are jobs, investment, and a more secure future for the people of Newcastle, the Hunter Valley and the coalfields in the Gunnedah-Ulan region. A moment ago the Independent Democrat, the Hon. R. S. L.
Jones, said that the Opposition would support this bill.
I am proud that the Opposition is standing up for jobs and investment in that important region, and I am also proud that the bill will provide a more secure future for the people of Newcastle. At stake are 1,800 jobs in the coal industry, 5,400 indirect jobs, and up to $1.8 billion per annum in export earnings. All of this is on hold and is at risk because of the ongoing attempt to second-guess the project with this protracted appeal process. This development proposal, as much as any development proposal, highlights the genuine competing interests that are relevant when a proposal of this magnitude is considered. No-one should or could imagine that a development on the scale of this stage three project could be undertaken without impacting on the environment. To imagine otherwise would be absurd. However, the Minister is obliged to give consent on a wide range of heads of consideration.
This proposal was given consent subject to 43 conditions. It would seem that in the minds of the objectors those conditions did not go far enough; but it is hard to believe that with such a major development it would be possible to satisfy everyone. The principal objection is not about the development on Kooragang - which, I should indicate for honourable members who are not familiar with the area, is a major industrial zone along the Hunter River. The basis of the objection is the impact of additional coal trains along the railway line from the coalfields to the port. The concerns of objectors arise out of anxiety about increased vibration, noise and dust. These are valid concerns for anyone who lives adjacent to the railway line, but at the end of the day the broader public interest has been judged to prevail.
I acknowledge that the Minister has established a community consultative committee to deal with community concerns. The committee is to be chaired by that well-known citizen of the Hunter, the Hon. Milton Morris. The establishment of the committee is a clear acknowledgment by the Minister that it is not easy to live adjacent to a major industrial transport link or to a major industrial area; but there has to be a balance. This bill clearly tips the balance in favour of the development. My colleague in the other place the honourable member for the Upper Hunter, the Deputy Leader of the National Party, made a valid suggestion: that the State Rail Authority should, as a consequence of the impact of this development, consider noise amelioration on the railway line. That is an important suggestion, especially given the efforts that have been made to improve rail noise on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. A popular book written about the region, titled Newcastle and the Hunter: the revolution of a region, edited by Brian Cogan, said of the region:
The coal of the Hunter Valley and the waters of the Port of Newcastle are inextricably bound together. Each is dependent, one upon the other. Coal is indeed the lifeblood of the port. And the 1990s have seen this relationship mature and strengthen as the result of massive restructuring to a degree that the Port of Newcastle, in combination with the facilities of Port Waratah Coal Services, now manages the largest capacity coal loading operation in the world.
The book continued:
Above all else, the relationship between the coal industry and the Port of Newcastle lies at the heart of much of Newcastle’s history, its often colourful and sometimes turbulent social and industrial development, and ultimately its underlying prosperity.
The book noted:
. . . put simply, the relationship is one of mutual dependence: without coal, Newcastle would not be Australia’s largest bulk port, and the harbour itself would not have been developed to a point where it is one of the deepest estuary ports in the world . . . without a port capable and encouraging of development, the Hunter Valley coal industry is unlikely ever to have reached its present day pre-eminence as one of the largest and most efficient sources of coal in the world.
The Kooragang coal loader is one of the great industrial achievements of this State. Despite the loss of steelmaking from the region, the development and expansion of the coal loader is one of the reasons that Newcastle can have a bright and optimistic future. All honourable members should be excited about the future of Port Waratah coal services. The Opposition strongly supports the proposed stage 3 expansion and for that reason will not oppose the legislation. But the time has come to say to the Government, "Enough is enough - Banyalla, Port Kembla, Kooragang - we simply cannot govern by specific project legislation". The Government should address the Environmental Planning and Protection Act to ensure that the integrity of planning legislation is upheld. I support the bill.
The Hon. I. COHEN [3.20 p.m.]: I oppose the Kooragang Coal Terminal (Special Provisions) Bill. I do so because of the extremely heavy-handed manner in which Minister Knowles is introducing tiresome pieces of legislation to patch up a very bad process and to steamroll people in the community who would otherwise be great supporters of the New South Wales Labor Government. That steamrollering will cost the Labor Government dearly in the long term.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: They will still vote Labor.
The Hon. I. COHEN: The Hon. D. J. Gay might be surprised, they might vote for the Greens. There has been a turnaround In the Hunter because people have not been treated decently or with respect by Labor supporters who have over the years been entrenched in positions of power. People’s attitudes are changing.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: You and your people will still vote Labor no matter what.
The Hon. I. COHEN: The Hon. D. J. Gay should not assume too much. One reason for the Greens not giving their preferences to Labor will be the approach of the Hon. Craig Knowles.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: Will you give your preferences to the National Party?
The Hon. I. COHEN: I am surprised by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile’s lack of understanding of the political process in New South Wales. The Greens can simply exhaust their preferences: they do not have to send them anywhere in this election. The actions of the Minister are disturbing for the Greens and the community as a whole. In debate on this bill in the other place Mr Phillips, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in that Chamber, said:
Here we are again, dealing with a piece of legislation to patch up, cover up and correct. The Government is unable to deliver good planning processes for the people of New South Wales that will give them certainty and, at the same time, protect community rights. This is another botched project development process, yet another piece of special validating legislation. The Government has introduced special validating legislation for the Bengalla coalmine in the Hunter, the Port Kembla copper smelter and the Kooragang coal terminal, and throughout the Minister has continued to promise that he will fix the problem and reform the planning processes.
The Minister has promised to fix many problems and reform processes since I have been a member of this House. I am extremely disappointed with the Minister’s performance and his lack of openness and integrity when dealing with matters that are of vital concern to the community. Mr Phillips continued in his speech in the other place:
This bill will override the appeal and take away the rights of a person currently before the courts.
That is a cynical exercise and a misuse of the parliamentary process. Coal transport operations within the Kooragang coal terminal and associated rail activities impact significantly on the environment. Noise and vibration are caused almost exclusively by locomotive and rolling stock movements. A significant proportion of the dust problem has similar origins. FreightCorp, the operators of coal trains working within and out of the Kooragang Island complex, have developed a comprehensive environmental management system - EMS.
The system reflects a commitment to the broader community including, in particular, the Hunter community. It also represents a very real obligation under FreightCorp’s various environmental licences. In terms of noise and vibration, FreightCorp is, with its EMS, committed to meeting - or bettering - fair and reasonable regulatory and community expectations. FreightCorp’s environmental commitment requires that operational changes involving significant increases in levels of noise and vibration proceed only after due regard is given to their impact on the community and other legitimate community concerns. In the absence of such considerations, FreightCorp’s stated commitment to the environment becomes a sham: a position of convenience.
For FreightCorp to establish a clearly defined commitment to reasonable environmental objectives, and then to have this commitment overturned perforce of political expediency with the forced passage of the Kooragang Coal Terminal (Special Provisions) Bill, poses real concerns for the efficacy of the environmental management of our overall State rail system. The expansion of Kooragang Island may well have potential economic benefits. If a true net benefit exists, then a proper and thorough review of the project will confirm such a benefit. The review will also identify the nature and extent of adverse environmental impacts, and identify strategies for the reasonable management and amelioration of impacts. In the absence of such a review yet another major infrastructure project will be ploughed through without any consideration for community concerns and in a manner contrary to the stated management objectives of one of the principal stakeholders, FreightCorp.
The proposed development may well involve net benefits. These net benefits will flow more effectively from a properly reviewed project than one pushed through with the arrogance of political expediency. It is in the community’s interest that projects such as the proposed expansion of Kooragang Island proceed after due process, demonstrating due concern for the broader community interest. This bill will deny due process, community interest and the stated position of FreightCorp. The project must not proceed without consideration being given, by way of review, to its potential impact. Such a review should be conducted promptly, professionally and independently. In the final analysis more jobs and greater economic
benefits flow from properly planned and executed projects than flow from those pushed through under a cloak of secrecy - which is the case with this project. Tim Robertson, barrister, wrote to Mr Bryce Gaudry, the member for Newcastle in the other place, in the following terms:
I have been given a copy of the Caucus briefing note for the Bill.
He declared that the briefing note contained "a blatant untruth". Mr Robertson continued:
"In July 1997, the Land and Environment Court held that although those environmental impacts [of noise and vibration from coal trains] should have been considered in the EIS, they did not invalidate the EIS, the environmental impact assessment or the Minister’s consent because they were of a minor nature."
This statement is false. The Court expressly held that the impacts were of a significant nature. It decided not to invalidate the Minister’s consent because other more direct impacts of the project had been validly assessed. It was this (legal) conclusion which is currently under challenge in the Court of Appeal . . .
This bill is a direct attack on the legal rights of the working class of the Hunter.
Mr Bell’s case was taken to vindicate the right of people to participate in major development decisions which would adversely affect their lives.
Directing his comments to Mr Gaudry, Mr Robertson continued:
. . . you know that the coal freight line now operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and that train movements will double once Stage 3 of the coal loader is completed. The measured noise levels at homes along the line significantly exceed the EPA criteria for rail noise, often after midnight.
If these considerations are so paltry as to not carry weight on the issue of jobs, why was an adverse decision not made by the court? Why is it necessary to have special legislation rammed through by the Minister, who has no consideration for the rights of the community? Mr Robertson continued:
Some of the Hunter homes along the rail line receive a higher maximum noise level than the homes at Sydenham which a Federal Labor Government decided had to be resumed because no amount of noise insulation could give those people a tolerable living environment. Unlike the airport, however, these Hunter families endure avoidable transportation noise throughout the night.
The people of the Hunter are being treated with the same lack of concern as the people in India who live along the edge of the Calcutta airport are being treated. Mr Robertson wrote further:
None of the people I represent opposed the coal loader -
and it is important that the Opposition acknowledges that -
they just wanted the same rights as the upper middle class who live adjacent to the F2 freeway to noise barriers or the residents who live adjacent to Sydney airport to noise insulation.
This is an exercise in legislative fascism of which the ALP should be ashamed. The principal beneficiary will be RTZ (the coal companies own the loader). By all means, negotiate a compromise to remove the need for legal proceedings so that the coal loader can get on with its expansion. Is it because my clients are poor that the Government has resorted to dictatorship rather than negotiation to achieve this result?
This is an indictment of the Minister, who has brutally ignored the concerns of the community. The Hon. Craig Knowles, in a news release, stated:
The expansion will provide thousands of jobs, a flow-on investment boom for the Hunter and a massive boost to Australia’s export earnings.
The Government simply cannot let an opportunity like this pass.
Will the opportunity pass if people are properly attended to and given appropriate protection so that they can live decent and comfortable lives? This is a huge development. The press release of Minister Knowles stated further:
The Stage 3 expansion of the existing Kooragang Coal Terminal by Port Waratah Coal Services Ltd will provide:
a $700 million investment to the Hunter;
This is a massive development involving considerable money, yet due process has not allowed the courts to ensure the provisions of appropriate living standards for those directly affected.
The Hon. Patricia Forsythe: We will end up a Third World economy because we will price ourselves out of the market.
The Hon. I. COHEN: The Hon. Patricia Forthright - which I am sure would have been her nickname in her years at school - says we will end up with a Third World economy. We are dealing with our own citizenry in a Third World manner, that is what I am complaining about! It is untenable
and inappropriate. They should be treated justly, given the size of the infrastructure and the development and the amount of money that will flow into the economy as a result of its operations. If we ignore these people, we will act in a Third World dictatorial way. As a Green and as a member of the community I do not support the bill.
The Hon. D. J. GAY [3.34 p.m.]: Mr President -
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: I am sure he wouldn’t worry about the battlers.
The Hon. D. J. GAY: Mr President -
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Are you concerned about the battlers? No.
The Hon. D. J. GAY: You wouldn’t know what a battler was.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Nor would you, mate.
The Hon. D. J. GAY: The Hon. R. S. L. Jones is insulated from the battlers. Indeed, he is insulated from the world as a whole. If ever there was a person in this place who would not have a clue what a battler is, it is the Hon. R. S. L. Jones. He grew up isolated in the English upper class. He has never had to battle as the people in Newcastle and rural New South Wales have had to battle. How would he know what a battler is? How dare he say that I would not know what a battler is! Now that I have silenced the parrots that are plaguing this place at the moment, I shall commence my speech.
It does not give me a great deal of pleasure to support the bill and I would rather it had not been introduced. However, as shadow minister for Hunter development and, as of yesterday, shadow minister for regional development I have an obligation to support the bill. In saying that, I agree in part with what the noisy members on the crossbench have had to say about the bill, that it will override the appeal process by taking away the rights of one particular appellant, Bob Bell, who is, I am reliably informed by my colleagues, to use the vernacular, a decent bloke. However, the time has come when one must make a decision. The Opposition would be much more supportive of the Government if the process that led to the introduction of this bill were the first display of ineptitude by the Minister and his department. But it follows close on the heels of the Bengalla coalmine project in the Hunter and the Port Kembla copper smelter proposal.
When will the Government learn to get its approval planning process in order? It should have its projects approved within the required timefame and at the same time ensure that the rights of those affected are protected. The Port Waratah coal loader is vital to Newcastle and the Hunter region. A sum of $700 million will be spent to expand the coal terminal, which will create thousands of new jobs and earn billions of export dollars for a city expecting job losses approaching 2,500. The noisy bunch on the crossbench has suggested that little is being done for the workers. I am sure the Treasurer would agree that the sad fact is that many people are not workers. It is all very well for people with north shore ideals to pursue the philosophical line, but jobs are important to people in Newcastle. Coal exports for the calendar year 1997 are currently growing at 12 per cent to 15 per cent, with a throughput of 60 million tonnes valued at approximately $2.7 billion predicted for 1997.
If stage three of the coal terminal expansion does not proceed, that will have significant implications for Newcastle. It would mean the loss of 1,800 direct and 5,400 indirect jobs; the loss of $1,800 million per annum in export earnings; the loss of a direct injection of $170 million per annum and flow-on expenditure of $63 million per annum to the Hunter regional economy - not figures that one can scoff at; the loss of a peak of approximately 250 construction jobs and an average of 150 to 200 jobs during the construction phase of the coal loader expansion; the loss to the Hunter Valley coal industry of at least $66 million per annum due to demurrage costs; and the loss of at least $50,000 per ship related to service charges associated with ships mooring in the port. Honourable members looking out from their closeted existence in pressurised planes as they fly to and from Byron Bay could not help but notice the Carrmada of more than 40 ships off Newcastle.
The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby: It used to be known as Wran’s navy.
The Hon. D. J. GAY: As the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby says, it used to be known as Wran’s navy, but it is now known as the Carrmada. The extra production and export costs will be incredible. If coal loader stage three proceeds, it will increase throughput from 41 million tonnes to 77 million tonnes per annum, making the Kooragang terminal the largest coal terminal in the world - something that New South Wales and the Hunter in particular can be proud of. The Opposition will support the bill, albeit reluctantly. I suspect that if the coalition were in government the Labor Party would not do the same thing for us, that is, put New South Wales first. It would put politics first.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [3.41 p.m.]: I oppose this bill but not for the same reasons advanced by the Hon. I. Cohen. I oppose the bill because it is retrospective legislation, and the Australian Democrats, since their inception, have always fought retrospective legislation. When the integrated development assessment bill is passed by the Parliament, with the support of the Opposition, this type of ministerial action will become commonplace; it will be unnecessary to introduce retrospective legislation to fix a problem that the Government has come across, as it has had to introduce this bill to get stage three of the coal loader terminal completed and to fulfil what the Minister wanted to do more than 12 months ago.
The Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning granted the development consent on 25 November 1996. The development consent was then subject to an unsuccessful challenge in the Land and Environment Court. The person who mounted that challenge is now appealing to the Supreme Court, and it is possible that that appeal will also be unsuccessful. Therefore, I cannot totally agree with the arguments put forward by Tim Robertson that the applicant is being denied justice. The applicant has already been to the suitable place to appeal, that is, the Land and Environment Court, and that appeal was unsuccessful. Obviously, the applicant has a right to appeal the decision. I simply wonder what will happen next. If the appeal to the Supreme Court is unsuccessful, will the applicant appeal to the High Court? The process could continue for months, and possibly years; it has continued for more than 12 months already.
Without doubt - and the Opposition has made this perfectly clear - this bill is unpleasant legislation, as it overrides legal or anticipated decisions from the courts. I believe that the bill can be opposed validly on principle, but that is not what the Opposition has decided to do; it has decided to support the bill. One point to be made is that the coal loader and the railway line feeding the coal loader have existed for many years. I agree that upgrading the coal loader will mean greater rail traffic and, therefore, greater disruption to people’s lives. If coal loader stage three proceeds, the Hunter Valley coal industry will still need to get the coal onto the wharf. If the industry cannot transport the coal by rail, it will do so by road, which would create more pollution, with the serious resultant problems - traffic problems and problems for residents living in the areas through which the roads will pass.
At present there are already too many coal trucks on the roads. Indeed, long ago in the days of the Wran Government, the Hunter Valley committee, of which I was a member representing the community, tried everything to get coal transport off the road and onto rail. As the Hon. Patricia Forsythe said, it is possible that noise alleviation could be carried out not by the Government but by the mining company. We should be working towards that. The life of Hunter coal is limited. World pressures, particularly the environmental problems being experienced on a world level, which are currently being discussed in Kyoto, will result in fewer coal-fired power stations. Australia will not have any coal-fired power stations when the old power stations are put in mothballs in the future. Coal-fired power stations will be replaced by gas-fired power stations and eventually by more environmentally friendly ways of producing electricity, either by wind power or solar power.
So export earnings from the sale of coal will be limited by world environmental standards. In the meantime, it is much better for other countries to buy Australian coal, particularly Hunter coal, which causes the least pollution, rather than buy coal from South America, Africa or China which causes more pollution and has a serious effect on global warming and atmospheric changes. The front page of today’s Australian Financial Review has an amazing photograph of a stockpile of coal in China. Talk about Third World conditions and battlers! The stockpile was being moved by women wielding shovels. It is difficult to believe that a race as innovative as the Chinese are not yet handling stockpiles of coal mechanically but are still using human labour - and human labour with shovels. It is an astonishing situation.
This is bad legislation, and I oppose it because it is retrospective. If the Opposition wants to stop this sort of legislation it should oppose the integrated development assessment bill, which will open up a pandora’s box. The Minister of the day will introduce special legislation over and over again and the Opposition will not stop it. The Opposition fights strongly for jobs and development in the Hunter region, particularly because of the special problems in the region resulting from the foreshadowed closure of the BHP steelworks. Although it may sound unpleasant, I believe that the Opposition is being somewhat hypocritical in this case. I oppose the bill.
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING [3.51 p.m.]: Let there be no doubt in anyone’s mind: I support the bill and the benefits it will bring to the Hunter.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: And to Novocastrians.
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING: Indeed. I am pro the people of the Hunter, pro them having jobs and pro-development. I shall put on record some
comments made by Robert Bell - better known as Bob - with whom I have worked and to whom a number of honourable members have referred. He is a special, honest and genuine person who is concerned about the Hunter and about jobs. He contacted me about the noise, damage and difficulties that may affect a number of homes along the line from Ulan, through Muswellbrook to Port Waratah. A number of years ago I looked at the 81- class locomotives, which make an enormous amount of noise. For example, when the trains move with empty wagons and start and stop, clashing, as it is known, occurs; if the drivers move the trains a little too roughly noise occurs - it is just bad driving - and when the trains are stopped at signals that are not correctly automated the deep throb of the diesel electric loco penetrates a long distance and, particularly at night, can be heard kilometres away. It is difficult to insulate homes against that sort of noise. It would be reasonable to assume that 500 households alongside the line will be affected by noise and vibration. Mr Bell raised a number of matters in his letter. He told me that since early February he has attempted to settle this case out of court. His letter stated:
250 directly related local construction jobs;
the potential for an extra 1,800 jobs in the coal industry;
an extra 5,400 indirect jobs;
the potential for about $1.8 billion a year in export earnings;
$70 million a year in investment directly from the expansion; and
a further flow-on expenditure of $63 million a year.
On Friday 7 November 1997, Mr Bob Martin spoke to myself and the Hon Milton Morris former Minister for Transport, and also present and listening was a journalist Mr Ian Kirkwood of the Newcastle Herald. Mr Martin assured Mr Morris and myself that an out of court settlement could be arranged, he heard my main areas of concerns put to him by Mr Morris, an agreement was made to settle, he then arranged for Wednesday 19 November 1997 to meet the relative ministers at Parliament House Sydney. All parties agreed that an "Out of Court" settlement would be a "WIN-WIN" for all parties, PWCS, the Government and all the residents. This agreement constituted a CONTRACT under the Contracts Act to my limited legal training, this has been broken by Mr Martin and the Government.
Imagine to my horror when told the arrangement was off, then on Thursday 20 November to read of the Special Provisions bill.
It would not surprise honourable members to learn that Mr Bell is extremely concerned. I am curious to know what the four points were or what arrangements were made. Mr Bell is an honest and concerned person.
The Hon. Patricia Forsythe: It sounds like the Minister spoke without approval.
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING: Yes, it may well be that the Minister spoke without approval; many things may have been spoken about. I am well aware of the 1989-90 81-class locomotive subcommittee. I have worked with Bob Bell, Bill Rufus and Elsie Nixon, concerned people who looked at expenditure and examined houses. To Mr Bell’s credit, on one occasion after examining a property he was so annoyed that the owner had lodged a compensation claim that he suggested to me that we should take him to court and lodge a criminal charge against him for attempting to defraud people. Mr Bell is that sort of a person. The effects of the newer, larger 90-class locomotives are unfortunate. Mount Pleasant is an emerging coalmine in the Upper Hunter from which coal will be transported to Port Waratah, and rightly so. Mr Bell is concerned about the details of the Mount Pleasant environmental impact statement, which states:
14.4.2 Noise and Vibration
There are a number of residences located in proximity to the rail line between Muswellbrook and Newcastle, at which existing noise levels already exceed both the EPA’s noise level criteria for new track, as described in Section 12.2.5, and the criteria for existing track, which are 5 dB(A) higher. Hence, in considering the impact of noise from rail traffic associated with the Mount Pleasant project, it is necessary to consider the change in noise impact which would occur as a result of the project, and also the cumulative impact of noise from Mount Pleasant and other proposed mines in the area. The EPA generally recommends that where existing noise levels exceed recommended limits, any increase due to additional movements should be limited to 2 dB(A).
Clearly, that has not necessarily happened. The matter was picked up by the Environment Protection Authority in a letter of November 1995, written by the head of the operations unit, Colin Halverson, to the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning. The EPA highlighted a number of aspects, about which Mr Bell is quite rightly concerned. It appears that the Government is not addressing these problems. The letter from the EPA stated:
I wish to highlight aspects of the proposal which will be of particular importance in this location:
(a) the potential for an increase in noise and/or dust nuisance, especially in the residential areas Stockton, Carrington and Mayfield, and
(b) the potential for cumulative impacts of dust and noise from this and adjoining industrial activities, and
(c) increased transportation noise (rail & truck) at residential and industrial receptors.
Expansion of the coal terminal to the extent proposed has significant environmental implications that go beyond the immediate area of Kooragang terminal. These impacts include:
(a) noise, vibration and dust emission along the entire length of the coal transportation routes, and
(b) exhaust emissions from trains and trucks.
Mr Bell took the opportunity to challenge the EIS and appeared in the Land and Environment Court
before Justice Bignold. Although the decision went against him, it is proper to put on the record the final comment in Justice Bignold’s judgment, before he set out his conclusions. Justice Bignold stated:
In the result I would hold that although the EIS wrongly omitted the material that the Regulation required it to include, the omission, though significant in itself, is not so significant in relation to the content of the EIS, and its function in the decision making processes prescribed by Part IV of the EP&A Act in respect of designated development, as to invalidate the whole of that EIS. Accordingly I hold that the EIS was a valid EIS and that the Minister, as consent authority, was legally entitled to determine the Second Respondent’s development application by granting the development consent.
In paragraph E, "Conclusions and Orders", Justice Bignold stated:
Having regard to (i) my conclusion that the EIS was a valid EIS and (ii) the Applicant’s concession that such a holding would be fatal to the appeal, it follows that the Applicant’s appeal must be dismissed.
That puts into correct perspective the basis for proceeding. There is no doubt that the stage three expansion of the Kooragang terminal will create massive investment in the Hunter. Honourable members have heard that it will involve a $700 million investment and will create 250 directly related construction jobs locally - and that is important. The expansion has the potential to add another 1,800 jobs in the coal industry. That is equally important, because it is a major industry, a major export earner for New South Wales and Australia and one of the mainstays of industry in the Hunter. The stage three expansion will create another 5,400 indirect jobs for those who service equipment, and those who supply equipment and clothing. The list is endless. This State is not in a position to throw away or hold up $1.8 billion a year in export earnings or turn down an additional $70 million a year in investment directly from the expansion, with a further flow-on of $63 million a year. One would have to live in cloud cuckoo land to believe that that was so.
Port Waratah Coal Services Ltd made very clear its reluctance to proceed with the project and expend huge sums of money unless the progress of the expansion was resolved. This House, therefore, should not hold up the project. I believe that Mr Bell has a legitimate complaint and that the Government should provide funds to ameliorate the noise problem that will result from the huge increase in freight train traffic, by way of double-glazing, insulation, bunding, muffling of the diesel locomotives or whatever means are available. The Government should, as the previous Government did, address the problems as they emerge and spend the money required to deal with the problems. The Opposition supports the bill, but calls on the Government to address Mr Bell’s problem as a matter of urgency.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [4.03 p.m.]: I most vehemently oppose the legislation. I do not believe that the court case would have held up the development for very long, in any case. It is outrageous for the Minister to introduce more retrospective legislation to validate the development application while the court case is on foot. This has happened on several occasions in the past - the Bengalla coalmine in the Hunter Valley, when the vignerons were disadvantaged and their rights were overridden; the Port Kembla copper smelter; RTZ and so on. Time and again the Minister has introduced legislation to validate controversial developments. The development of the coal loader, of course, is not controversial as such. The Hon. J. H. Jobling made the real concerns very clear and shed a few crocodile tears for Bob Bell. If the honourable member were really concerned about Bob Bell, he would do something material to assist him, perhaps by holding up the legislation until such time as the Government had negotiated with the residents and overcome their problems.
The residents do not want to stop the entire development in its tracks: they only want the Government to address their genuine concerns. I would not wish to live next to a railway line on which the number of trucks will almost double. They will rattle and bang into each other and sit there hissing away, 24 hours a day. It will be absolutely unbearable. As was said previously in this debate, the people who were most disadvantaged when the so-called third runway commenced were bought out. The homes of other people were soundproofed. What has this Minister done for the people in the Hunter? They are in the main Labor Party supporters. Possibly up to 2,000 Labor voters will be affected by this development. It will not affect coalition voters; the coalition can afford to support the legislation because it knows it will not lose any votes over it. But, of course, this development is more important than the battlers, as always - particularly to this Minister, the developers’ friend.
The Hon. Patricia Forsythe: If you knew where the coal line went, you would realise that coalition members will be affected, not Labor members. They are not Labor electorates, they are mostly coalition electorates - Upper Hunter and Maitland.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Coalition electorates! I wonder how coalition voters will react? The development might cost the coalition
votes and that would be very interesting, especially with a very tight election coming up. The caucus note on the bill provided by the Minister contains a blatant untruth. The note states:
In July 1997, the Land and Environment Court held that although those environmental impacts [of noise and vibration from coal trains] should have been considered in the EIS, they did not invalidate the EIS, the environmental impact assessment or the Minister’s consent because they were of a minor nature.
That statement is patently false. The Minister deliberately misled caucus and he would have misled the House by his statement that it was a minor matter. Like the Hon. J. H. Jobling I also have a copy of Justice Bignold’s judgment, in which he states:
The same problems are referred to in the Applicant’s written objection to the proposed development. These problems include the particular problems caused by coal trains being delayed en route to Kooragang for periods of up to 18 hours by causes which unmistakably implicate Kooragang, eg. delays for various reasons experienced at the Terminal.
The fact of these existing problems being well known in the community makes it obvious that (i) a doubling of the capacity of Kooragang to handle coal delivered from the mines in the Hunter Valley with (ii) the predicted doubling of coal train movements to and from Kooragang, by virtue of the proposed Stage 3 expansion, would be likely to significantly intensify and exacerbate the existing problems experienced by residents whose residences adjoin the Northern Railway Line.
In this respect, it is significant in my opinion that no complaint has been levelled at what is included in the EIS. The omitted material is but one (albeit a significant one) environmental impact of the proposed development. It is neither the most important impact nor the most immediate impact. By nature it is not a new impact being but a likely aggravation of a known existing adverse impact of the rail coal transport system which serves Kooragang.
Clearly the expansion is not of a minor nature, as the Minister told caucus, and the concerns are not insignificant. The Minister said in his second reading speech:
In effect, the court held that those concerns were not a significant matter for consideration in relation to the development application for the stage 3 expansion.
Those concerns are a significant matter, especially for residents living adjacent to the railway line. There are ways and means of addressing this problem, but the Minister has not dealt with it. It may be that it has not been addressed because the company, RTZ, should be addressing the problem and not the taxpayers of New South Wales. RTZ, which will benefit most from this development, should approach the residents who live along the railway line and ask what it can do to help to remove the major noise problem. Noise barriers may be needed or an additional loop line may be required for the coal trains. There must be a way of alleviating the problem for residents.
RTZ has persuaded the Minister, as other large companies have done, to pass the legislation and to ignore the problem hoping that it will go away, and hoping, I suppose, that most of the people affected are coalition voters. The coal freight line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, train movements will double on completion of stage three of the coal loader. The measured noise levels at homes along the line, often after midnight, significantly exceed Environment Protection Authority criteria for rail noise. The concerns of residents have not been addressed. The legislation will pass through this House, the development will go ahead, money will pour into the pockets of RTZ and a few dollars will go into royalties for the people of New South Wales. But what about the severely affected residents who will gain nothing? They just suffer and the value of their homes and their land decreases.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: Why don’t you introduce a private member's compensation bill?
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: The Hon. D. F. Moppett would not support it.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: My word, we would.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: The coalition would support a compensation bill for these people?
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: If they have a proper case, we would be very happy to consider it.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: The Hon. Patricia Forsythe and the Hon. J. H. Jobling would support that?
The Hon. J. H. Jobling: The previous Government made money available.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Maybe I will do exactly that: call the Opposition’s bluff, and find out if it supports compensation for these people.
The Hon. Patricia Forsythe: Don’t invoke my name; I didn’t answer you.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: The Hon. Patricia Forsythe has not said whether she would support it.
The Hon. Patricia Forsythe: That’s right.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I accept that. The Hon. D. F. Moppett would certainly give it consideration.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: Yes, I certainly would.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: And other members of the coalition would certainly give it consideration?
The Hon. J. H. Jobling: We will consider anything that comes before the House.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Maybe I will have to challenge the coalition. There is no doubt that the legislation will pass, money will flow to RTZ and some people will make lots of money, but thousands of families will lose money, lose sleep and go to hospital to get tranquillisers because of the terrible noise throughout the night. Those problems have not been addressed. Perhaps the legislation should have been amended to address the concerns of the affected residents. It is disgraceful that the Minister has, once again, stopped a court case in its tracks; he has stopped Bob Bell from getting satisfaction in his appeal; and he has stopped the residents from obtaining any redress for the severe problems they will suffer as a result of this development. It is quite disgraceful!
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [4.12 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party supports the Kooragang Coal Terminal (Special Provisions) Bill, which aims to remove any doubt that development consent granted by the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning under State environmental planning policy 34 on 25 November 1996 for the stage three expansion of the Kooragang Coal Terminal in the port of Newcastle is valid. In July 1997 the project was challenged in the Land and Environment Court. As a result, the Minister’s consent was validated. In August the applicant appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Government, on its advice, is confident that the appeal will be dismissed. In the meantime, the project is on hold. The appeal is unlikely to be heard before the end of 1998, and the terminal operator has indicated that expansion will not commence. If the bill does not go through tonight the project will be effectively sabotaged.
The proposed expansion of the terminal will increase the annual throughput capacity from 41 million tonnes to 77 million tonnes. The two existing coal terminals in Newcastle are operating at virtually full capacity and will not be able to cope with the expected increased production of export coal. Without the additional 36 million tonne annual capacity represented by this expansion, the State and the Newcastle region, particularly the Hunter Valley and the city of Newcastle, will forgo the opportunity to earn up to an extra $1,800 million in export earnings, and deliver up to 1,800 direct jobs in the coal industry and possibly up to 5,000 indirect jobs. It is estimated that the project, which has 250 construction jobs, will have a permanent additional work force of 33 after completion. The capital cost for the project is $700 million. Recently Newcastle has suffered some devastating setbacks, such as the massive reduction in the BHP work force.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted. The House continued to sit.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: When members of the Standing Committee on Law and Justice visited the BHP plant as part of its WorkCover investigation they were shown plants still in operation and could see the disappointment on the faces of the workers as they were told that the large units would be closed down. The units form part of the BHP complex and are not just sheds, but facilities that normally would represent an individual company. The other day I heard that visitors to Newcastle have been shocked to see the number of empty shops in Hunter Street. Unless the economy and jobs in the Newcastle area receive a boost that will enable Newcastle to survive and become prosperous, the city will die. The Hunter Valley will benefit from new projects. We understand that the Government is anxious about the passage of this legislation not just for its sake but also for the sake of Newcastle because it cares about the battlers in Newcastle.
If the bill is not passed the battlers will suffer tremendously. I agree with other members that the Government should initiate urgent investigations into how to reduce the environmental impact of coal train traffic on local residents, particularly those who live directly beside the main Hunter Valley railway system. A task force has been established to investigate the situation. It may be possible to have two types of rail traffic so that most of the heavy rail traffic would occur in daylight hours instead of running 24 hours a day as it does at present. Perhaps a curfew, similar to the one that operates at Mascot airport, could be imposed. However, I am not an expert in that field, and it may be that such a curfew would affect the economic viability of the operation. As the Hon. J. H. Jobling said, it may be possible to use new rolling stock on those lines to reduce the rail noise. All coal wagons should be covered so that no coal dust affects the nearby residents.
It may be possible to resume homes in areas where noise levels have been tested and found to be
excessive. However, it must be acknowledged that this railway line has been in existence as long as I can remember. People who choose to buy a house at a reasonable price because it is adjacent to a railway line must put up with the noise. Some of those people probably wish the railway line would disappear, but that is not the way the system works. Across the State people move to locations close to highways, railway lines and airports, and then consistently complain about them.
One must weigh up the economics of the situation. The land is sold cheaply because it is noisy and people do not want to live there. The Government may be able to provide noise barriers in areas where noise levels are beyond human endurance. This project is an important one, and it is vital for New South Wales to take the lead. If projects such as this are sabotaged, light industry will be handed over to other States, and New South Wales will be seen as hopeless and unable to make long-term plans for the future. The Australian Democrats and the Greens have attacked the Government, but the Government is showing leadership. The Christian Democratic Party supports the bill.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Public Works and Services) [4.21 p.m.], in reply: I thank all honourable members who have spoken during the course of the debate. The Hunter Valley railway programs task force will soon report to the Government for the purpose of advising it on how it can best implement an integrated package of measures to avoid or reduce the impacts of rail transport on the community. With those few words I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
VISY MILL FACILITATION BILL
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Public Works and Services), on behalf of the Hon. M. R. Egan [4.23 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The bill now before the House will enable Visy Industries to invest $350 Million in a world-class kraft pulp and paper Mill at Tumut.
The bill will help create more than 600 full-time positions in the South West Slopes region of the State.
The 600 jobs which are created will be long-term, sustainable ones in the softwood sector of the timber industry, thus reducing the pressure on the native forests.
In short, the Visy Mill Facilitation Bill will secure three major benefits to the people of this State: investment, jobs, and protection of the environment.
The Visy Industries kraft pulp and paper Mill is one of the largest and most exciting developments in recent times in the south west slopes.
The Visy pulp and paper Mill at Tumut will consume 600,000 tonnes per annum of soft wood material, including pulp wood, round wood and saw Mill residue.
State Forests of NSW will supply, on a commercial basis, 40% of the wood material needed by the Mill, with the remaining 60% to come from private sector timber plantations.
The raw material will be transformed, using a world-class and environmentally safe manufacturing process, into 125,000 tonnes per annum of finished industrial grade cardboard.
In terms of the number of jobs which will be generated, the project is also very large.
The Government estimates that the Mill and its associated activities will generate more than 600 jobs.
The jobs will be created in forests establishment, management, harvesting, transport, marketing and associated activities.
I should add that the Government’s employment figures are conservative.
A study in May, 1996 by the "Centre for International Economics", estimated the investment will generate more than 900 jobs across the region.
There is also a clear economic benefit of this project for the nation’s terms of trade.
The Mill will play a major import-replacement role by significantly reducing the volume of cardboard box material which is imported into Australia, thus benefiting this country’s terms of trade.
The bill before this House will deliver five requirements which are vital to secure this major project.
First, the bill will empower State Forests of NSW to enter into a timber supply contract with Visy Industries which will apply for the term of the investment, that is, for a planned 30 plus 30 years.
This will, for the purposes of the Visy pulp and paper Mill only, overcome a section of the Forestry Act which currently limits State Forests to providing timber licenses and consents for only 20 years.
Second, the bill will guarantee that State Government agencies will not adversely affect State Forests in its growing, harvesting and hauling its timber to the border of its plantations.
Third, the bill will ensure that certain sections of legislation recently before the Parliament - the Timber Plantation (Harvest Guarantee) Act and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Bill - will apply to the Visy project.
Specifically, the Visy Mill Facilitation Bill will ensure that "pre-accreditation" of softwood plantations for harvest guarantee purposes will be possible.
It will also ensure an integrated consent approach is taken by State Government agencies to the development of the Mill.
Fourth, the bill identifies the Minister responsible for State Forests as the person responsible for making changes to the State Forests-Visy timber supply contract in the future.
And finally, if State Forests were to be privatised, then the bill specifies that any liabilities to the Crown which could arise from the State Forests-Visy wood supply contract will stay with the Crown.
These five elements of the bill provide the legislative and regulatory framework to deliver the certainty needed to secure this major investment for New South Wales.
Benefits to small business
The Visy project will provide many opportunities for small and medium business in the 100 kilometre region around Tumut.
The Visy Mill will provide opportunities to farmers and other land holders to diversify into softwood production.
In addition, small and medium size firms will deliver the horticulture, wood felling, log haulage, saw milling, wood product manufacturing and related business service expertise needed for the Mill.
In other words, the Visy Mill will produce significant commercial benefits for small and medium business in and around Tumut, as well as benefits for the State as a whole.
Support for the bill by the coalition
I would like to thank the Opposition for its strong support, expressed in the other place, for the Visy Mill Facilitation Bill and for this major project.
However there are still barriers to be overcome before the investment is secured.
The major stumbling block involves the lack of Commonwealth support for the project.
Visy has made a number of representations to individual Commonwealth Ministers and to the head of Special Projects in the Prime Minister’s office, Mr Bob Mansfield for support.
For example, Visy has asked the Commonwealth to ensure that national and shire roads are upgraded and maintained to a level necessary for the transport of timber to the Visy Mill.
The amount involved is relatively small - only $5 million in new funding for shire roads, and $3 million per annum for the next 10 years to upgrade and maintain Commonwealth roads.
By comparison, the State’s Roads and Traffic Authority will contribute $6 million per annum for the coming 10 years to upgrade and maintain State roads which are essential for the project.
To date, support for roads and other Visy requests from the Commonwealth has not been forthcoming.
I urge Honorable Members opposite to talk with their colleagues in the Commonwealth government, including the Prime Minister, and urge them to actively support this project.
Concerns of the cross-benches
I am aware that there may be some cross-bench concern about the environmental impact of the Visy Mill.
The most common concern, and most damaging problem with many of the world’s pulp and paper Mills, is the damage these Mills cause because of their use of chlorine.
Damage has been caused in the past when chlorine, which is used in the bleaching process, escapes from old-style Mills into the environment.
This will not be a problem with the Visy Mill at Tumut, because the planned Visy Mill is chlorine-free.
The Visy Mill in Tumut is based on world-best technology developed by Scandinavians, which, as Honorable Members will be aware, have some of the most stringent environmental requirements in the world.
However, as is the case with any new technology, the Government will be closely scrutinising the Mill to ensure it is developed and operates with the least possible impact on the environment.
The Environment Protection Authority and other relevant agencies are working cooperatively together and with Visy to assess the impact of the project on the environment.
I can assure Honorable Members that the Environmental Impact Statement process which is currently under way for the Visy Mill will be closely monitored by the Government.
I can also assure the House that, if necessary, the Government will hold a Commission of Inquiry into the project to ensure it is developed in the most environmentally sound way.
In conclusion, the planned $350 million investment by Visy Industries in a kraft pulp and paper Mill is an unusually far-sighted and long-term investment.
The Visy Mill Facilitation Bill provides the fundamental legislative and regulatory framework required for the project.
The bill will expedite the generation of more than 600 new jobs within the 100 kilometre economic zone around Tumut.
It will help deliver confidence and other tangible benefits to small and medium enterprises in and around Tumut.
This can be done without sacrificing the environmental integrity of the region.
I finally would urge Honorable Members opposite to seek the active and positive support of the Commonwealth for this important investment.
I commend the bill to the House.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [4.23 p.m.]: The Opposition unreservedly welcomes the bill and offers its unqualified support for its passage. I welcome the news that Visy Industries Holdings Pty Ltd intends to establish a large kraft pulp and paper mill in the Tumut region. It will be a tremendous boost to the economy of that region, in which plantations have long been established and the industry has flourished. Some of the more senior members of this House will recall the intense competition for the paper mill which was eventually established in Albury. At that time, if I remember rightly, Tumut was the runner-up. One must respect commercial decisions made by companies, and in that case it was important that the mill be linked with outlets for paper products, so Albury was the winner. Steadily the plantation timber industry grew to meet the demand.
It was obvious that industry in the south-east region of New South Wales had reached a plateau, and that a new impetus was required to get the plantation industry going and to establish an intensive industry that would utilise the forest products. The Opposition is delighted that at the end of the extensive evaluation process Visy Industries Holdings decided to establish the mill at Tumut. This bill falls into the same category as the previous bill and some other bills that have caused controversy: they are one-off bills which enable special projects to be launched with a minimum of delay and interference from unnecessary planning problems.
Although it reflects on the inadequacy of our planning legislation to cope with projects of this scale and significance to the economy of the State and region, and the environment in which they are to be established, the Opposition is nevertheless satisfied that the bill does not breach any fundamental concepts of environmental protection and should be welcomed by all members of the House. The bill provides an interesting variation to State Forests practice of offering 20-year logging contracts to its customers in appropriate circumstances. In the many debates on the future of the hardwood industry the Opposition has referred to the importance of reliable long-term supply contracts. It believes 20-year contracts - 10 plus 10 years - should be the minimum, and that if confidence is to be developed in the sawmilling industry consideration should be given to extending those contracts.
In the case of the Visy mill the investment is so significant and specific in its requirement for supply that the Government proposes to grant a 30-by-30 contract - in other words 60 years - for the supply of timber. The Opposition congratulates the Government on taking such a bold step. I imagine its justification will be subject to rigorous scrutiny in the Chamber this afternoon, and in the community, but on commercial or environmental grounds the proposal is sound and can be defended. I hope that at the end of the 60-year period the contracts will be renegotiated and extended. The bill also provides for the supply by State Forests of the timber which it is contracted to supply from each of the forests. It is a great shame that State Forests has not adopted that role in the management of native forests.
Honourable members would understand the way in which licences to cut timber in native forests are granted and that logging contractors, as intermediaries supervised by State Forests, fell and harvest the timber and deliver the logs to the mills. Of course, we are not talking about supply to multiple mills. I hope the Minister for Public Works and Services is listening and talks to his colleague about my suggested arrangement, which I believe is better. What we really need, if we are to get value for the timber, is for managers of State or privatised forests to supply the logs to a central market where the person who can use the logs to the best economic advantage can bid for them, rather than have the anachronistic arrangement which now exists with native forests. After all, the people growing the timber have a vested interest in getting the most out of it. State Forests will contract to supply timber to Visy Industries over a long period and will assess what timber is suitable for harvesting and deliver it to the edge of the forest.
The Visy Mill Facilitation Bill invokes upon the project the provisions of the Timber Plantations (Harvest Guarantee) Amendment Bill, dealt with earlier today, to guarantee the security of harvest plantations developed in anticipation of growing demand at the mill. The mill is not totally dependent on State Forests and looks forward to the establishment of a large number of privately owned plantation forests to supply timber. An important provision of the bill is that the Minister for Forestry is the only Minister who can enter into new contractual arrangements; he will be a signatory. A business-like and practical arrangement will be established between this major investor in the State and the Government. I assure the company that the Opposition, when it takes over the Government benches in March 1999, will honour the letter of this bill and will ensure that its provisions are carried out. Visy Industries can rest assured that this Government initiative enjoys bipartisan support. I hope the crossbenchers will give it universal support.
It is also important to note that any debts associated with the establishment of State Forests plantations will remain with the Government in the event of privatisation of the forests. One would be naive to think that privatisation of some forest plantations is an option that the Government would not explore. Given certain essential parameters, that is not something that would shock the Opposition, should it regain government. It is important to note that the Government will not shift the responsibility of debt to the prospective owners in the event of privatisation. Earlier I mentioned that there would be a substantial sourcing of timber from the private sector. It is anticipated that up to 60 per cent of a total 750,000 tonnes per annum of timber will be required to feed this mill to enable it to produce 176,000 tonnes of kraft paper.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: It is 600,000 tonnes.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT: By way of interjection the Hon. R. S. L. Jones has corrected me; I had read about an estimate of 600,000 tonnes but in the other place the honourable member for Burrinjuck mentioned that it would be as much as 750,000 tonnes. I hope that it is at the upper end of the scale because that would signify that the project has been a great success. Unfortunately at this time we are dependent upon the importation of certain classes of wood products for paper manufacture. I hope that Visy Industries will go a long way to overcoming that gap. Kraft paper is a specialised product - it was formerly known as cardboard - on which we have become more and more dependent. It is vital for the protection of goods and is used to make boxes, to store documents, and for many other uses.
It is heart-warming to realise that this project does not depend entirely on the use of new timber plantations. The mill is able to use plantation thinnings and offcuts from other sawmilling operations. Anyone who has taken a general interest in the timber industry would hope that the Government would use every avenue possible to achieve better utilisation of each log that is felled during the harvesting program. It is important that the thinnings and offcuts are used in pulpwood production because the whole of a tree is not suitable for sawlog and timber manufacture. Thinnings and offcuts are an important component of this industry, although in this case a great deal of the plantings will be totally dedicated to the production of pulpwood.
I have some regrets for the town of Bombala and the surrounding shire. At one stage the residents had been encouraged to think that, as compensation for the decline of their access to the south-east native eucalypt forests, the Government would invest in the establishment of softwood plantations. On that basis, with the help of the Government in negotiating with a firm such as Visy, perhaps the impact on Bombala could have been cushioned by the establishment of a new pulp mill to offset the loss of employment in the sawlog industry. I regret that that has not come to pass. The Opposition hopes that the Government will renew its efforts to support the community of Bombala during the difficult times ahead.
It is a difficult time for the sheep and wool industry in many areas in the bush. It would have been marvellous if a timber plantation and timber industry could also have been developed at Bombala, but the Opposition respects Visy’s decision. The development has the potential to generate up to 900 jobs - 400 in the mill and 500 in the bush. I note that the company has plans for a second-stage development that would require up to 60,000 hectares of timber plantations to service the mill. Plantation timber, which consists of fast-growing species, involves intensive agriculture, so those 60,000 hectares would not have to be locked up for 100 years until the trees reached maturity. This capital- and labour-intensive industry has a rapid turnover.
One matter that needs to be resolved in the longer term is the supply of water. Water is essential to all the industries and to the domestic needs of the region. I am not entirely satisfied that arrangements have been put in place to ensure that adequate water is available for the long-term development of the mill. We spoke at length about the supply of water in the debate on the corporatisation of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. I hope that the Government is listening carefully to the company, the farmers and the community and will ensure adequate allocation of water from the Snowy Mountains and proper management of water storage so that the success of this project does not come at the expense of other industries in the area. The Opposition welcomes the development of the Visy mill in the Tumut area. This beautiful area of New South Wales, like so many other country areas, is looking forward to the economic boost that jobs will bring.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [4.42 p.m.]: On behalf of the Australian Democrats I support the Visy Mill Facilitation Bill. As has been pointed out, the main purpose of the bill is to facilitate the establishment and operation of a kraft pulp and paper mill in Tumut by Visy Industries.
According to a media release that was provided to me by the Hon. I. Cohen, Visy has an excellent record in environmental initiatives, especially recycling. This bill is part of the Government’s forestry restructure package, which, in part, aims to move investment and employment from the hardwood native sector of the timber industry to the softwood exotic sector. Last year the Premier signed a memorandum of understanding with Mr Richard Pratt, Chairman of Visy Industries. Visy now wants to invest $350 million in a pulp and paper mill in Tumut to operate for 30 years with a 30-year option.
I do not know how many jobs will be generated by the mill. The Hon. D. F. Moppett gave an estimate of 900 jobs. My information suggests 600 new positions in the timber, transport, manufacturing and service industries. A problem that arose - and I am sure that this will be pointed out by other speakers - was that State Forests legislation allows only for the provision of 20-year wood supply licences. State Forests has negotiated a contract to supply 40 per cent of the softwood for this pulp and paper mill and other State government agencies have made commitments to deliver in a co-ordinated way the necessary project requirements. The Hon. D. F. Moppett referred to the supply of water. I understand that commitments have been given to supply water and an agreement has been reached on planning consents and the provision of road funding for the next 10 years.
Development consents will be integrated to encourage new private sector pine plantations, which will contribute 60 per cent of the softwood for the mill. Currently the other 40 per cent will come from established plantations belonging to State Forests, some of which are ready for harvest. The fact that there is a market for softwood at this mill will encourage private investors to establish pine plantations. I am informed that it would be possible to use recycled water and to use treated human waste as fertiliser. I do not know whether that would work in Tumut but I believe it already occurs in the Tamworth area and in the north-west of the State. I am told that the use of this type of fertiliser at plantations has resulted in a much faster growth of softwood than by the use of other fertilisers that are possibly more damaging to the soil. By the use of such fertiliser, instead of waiting 20 or 25 years before the timber reaches the cutting stage for the pulp mill, the timber may be ready in 15 years.
As the Hon. D. F. Moppett pointed out, thinnings can be used for the manufacture of paper in this type of mill and it will not be necessary for all of the trees to grow to maturity. Continual thinning is carried out in a forestry operation as part of a plantation’s management methods; not every single tree is left in the ground for 50 or 60 years. I have read the amendments prepared by the Hon. I. Cohen and the Hon. R. S. L. Jones. Their concerns could be addressed in more detail at the end of the first 30 years. State Forests is permitted to provide 20-year wood supply licences and in this case that provision has only been extended by a period of 10 years. If 30 years down the track there is a gross shortage of wood, that will not inevitably mean that the government of the day will have to cut old growth forests to meet the needs of the mill.
It could be made a condition of a second 30-year licence that the mill owners are involved in the establishment of plantations on private land that is presently used for other forms of farming. If 30 years down the track there is a shortfall, it could be a condition of the licence that until the establishment of more plantations the mill will buy offshore timber. Therefore, it is unnecessary to stop this legislation at this time. I had considered preparing an amendment that would ensure that the supply was guaranteed only for 30 years and, thereafter, if sufficient plantation timber was not available timber had to be purchased from overseas. On further reflection that was unnecessary because with a market for the timber and sufficient timber for the 20-year licence period, those wishing to invest in tree farming will do so knowing that they have an outlet for their product.
Without using the fertilising method or providing sufficient water to the plantation, as I described a few minutes ago, but using conventional methods as we know them, if the plantation were started in 1998 and harvested in the predicted 30 years, which is getting towards the middle of the next century, there would be sufficient timber to meet the needs of the mill during that considerable time. This legislation has been carefully thought out. It guarantees that State Forests will fulfil its wood supply obligations. It provides also that if State Forests were to be dissolved - who can tell what will happen in 30 years time? - contract obligations by State Forests for the Visy wood supply agreement would transfer to the State. That provides some guarantee that it would be a wise $350 million investment.
The provisions of the Timber Plantations (Harvest Guarantee) Amendment Bill, which was passed earlier today, and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Bill, which is yet to be debated and will take some time, but will be passed before we break for the Christmas recess, will of course apply to this investment. Therefore I am surprised that the Environmental Defender’s Office finds it strange that
the Visy Mill Facilitation Bill will be passed before the other two bills. This is an unnecessary concern because those two bills can be proclaimed at the same time as this bill. With those remarks, I support the bill. I trust it will assist people living in Tumut and will compensate, as the Government’s forestry restructure package aimed to do, for the loss of jobs when hardwood timber logging was stopped on totally proper grounds by this Government.
The Hon. I. COHEN [4.53 p.m.]: The Visy Mill Facilitation Bill is about a project that will take advantage of a significant area of softwood plantations in Tumut to create a world-class kraft pulp and paper mill. The project will create jobs and provide long-term work in the softwood plantation industry, but it also raises reasonable concerns. Therefore, a problem arises with this legislation being rushed through. If prior notice had been given and if the community and industry had been consulted, some of the concerns about this bill might have been addressed. The project relies on wood resource security. I have little confidence in the assessment by State Forests on the process as it has proceeded. The draft environmental impact statement for the project shows, in table 5.1 under "Critical Plant Operating Parameters", that pulp log demand is 435,000 tonnes per year and sawmill residue will be 360,500 tonne per year, and indicates that supply will be available from Bombala.
My concern is that this project has not been factored into the comprehensive regional reserve assessment process for the south-east, which is now being undertaken, and I hope it will not impact upon it. I am not convinced that assessment of this proposal has been considered, particularly the Bombala aspect. I would not want the CRA process compromised. I make it clear that the Greens support the establishment of plantations but that we have concerns about the procedure. As I said during the debate on the Timber Plantations (Harvest Guarantee) Bill, the Greens believe that issues relating to establishment procedures are essential to the environmentally and socially acceptable conditions that will have to be met in order to provide continued support for this concept.
This project will involve the establishment of 30,000 hectares of plantations and will therefore be subject to the Timber Plantations (Harvest Guarantee) Regulation and code. For this reason the Greens are concerned and are not sufficiently assured that the establishment of plantations is being effected in the most ecologically sustainable manner. I covered that aspect fairly adequately in earlier debate today.
Resentment of plantation establishment by State Forests is growing rapidly in the bush; local government and farmers are holding public meetings on the issue. They are complaining about family farms being turned into plantations, declining rural populations as farms disappear, declining council rates as State Forests buy up properties, excessive use of poisons, plantations being established on inappropriate land that is too steep or is part of the rural amenity, expensive clearing of native forests for plantations, planting of monocultures of inappropriate species, pollution of gene pools and swimming holes, pollution and silting of streams, and destruction of habitat for endangered species. This is all in the name of plantations.
What is happening in rural areas? The National Party again ignores rural community concern and does nothing. Before the last election the Australian Labor Party promised me that it would not allow the continued clearing of native vegetation for plantation establishment. Despite this promise its agency, State Forests, has continued to clear vast areas of native forest for plantation. This does nothing to implement Bob Carr’s promise to stop clearing native forests for plantations. The Timber Plantations (Harvest Guarantee) Act 1995 was initiated on the basis of providing encouragement for plantation establishment. Instead, we have legislation that appears to have the prime intention of allowing State Forests to accredit large areas of native forest as plantations so it can be exempt from environmental legislation. It is clear that the Greens endorse and support plantation establishment. We also want to see plantations satisfying the need for timber.
The Greens are concerned with the how and where of plantations, not the why. Our aim is to ensure that plantations are established on already cleared land, on sites that are environmentally and socially acceptable, and that they are managed in an ecologically sustainable manner. I received reports of a community meeting that was held on 17 November at Bulga, which is a small village north-west of Taree. The meeting was organised by a local biodynamic farmer and secretary of the Bulga Land Care Group to discuss concerns about plantation establishment. Despite short notice and advertising only in a school newsletter, the meeting was attended by about 60 residents, five officers of State Forests, and the Deputy Mayor of the Greater Taree City Council, who was the chairperson. The meeting raised numerous concerns and arrived at a number of constructive suggestions.
The main issue was chemical usage as the land had recently been sprayed with Roundup. Bulga plateau is at the top of the Manning and Hastings catchment and because it is very steep country that is prone to sudden downpours of up to two inches of rain per year, the issue of chemical contamination of water was raised time and again. New South Wales Forests had refused to supply locals with copies of plantation establishment plans and the environmental assessment before the meeting but someone had obtained a copy and read out the list of chemicals. The use of Roundup was condemned but there was a promise of a "bioactive" version which supposedly would be more frog friendly. There was also active debate about the chemical simazine. New South Wales Forests said that it was safe but a local produced a paper from the United States Department of Agriculture saying that residues were toxic to cattle and sheep, which are the main agricultural activity in the area.
Downstream users asked whether there was certainty that they would not be affected by chemical contamination from the plantation if heavy rain fell immediately following chemical application. State Forests could not provide this assurance. The water monitoring process was questioned, with locals complaining that sampling usually occurs too late after the rain to detect chemical run-off. There was concern that State Forests does not pay rates on the private land it buys and that this could lead to deterioration of services to the community, coupled with increased road usage. Concerns were raised about the species being planted and the problems with monoculture agriculture leading to increasing dependence on chemicals. Concerns were also raised that local seed stock was not being used. Although State Forests gave assurances that no clonal material would be used, the seed being used was not local. People asked why local species were not being planted, and whether the trees were to be used for pulp or sawlogs.
Throughout New South Wales there is great concern about the establishment of plantations and the clearing of land. The question of water sampling was raised and it was agreed that day chemical use would be discussed at a field day. The local community is greatly concerned about these types of issues. The New South Wales Greens are obviously greatly concerned about many different aspects of the bill but generally the concerns may be summarised by saying that the bill represents a subversion of due process. It relates to yet another major development to be "facilitated" by the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing, with his usual non-existent effort at community consultation. This time the project involved compensation and therefore required more than one of his "SEPP specials" which were used to bulldoze any opposition to the Eastern Distributor and, more recently, Sydney Water’s northside sewer amplification. This SEPP process should certainly not become standard practice to escape the approvals process.
Some provisions in the bill relate to legislation that has not yet been proclaimed. Under this facilitation bill, the Government may make regulations which refer to "any specified uncommenced provisions" of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Bill 1997, which introduces integrated development assessment - IDA. It is very interesting. Even if IDA fails to win support in this place or if the bill is not proclaimed it does not matter: the Minister can make regulations as if it were operational. Any activity connected with this agreement declared a designated activity by the Minister can be regulated by a bill which is not yet proclaimed. I am astounded that this subversion of due parliamentary process has found so much support from the Opposition.
I support ecologically sustainable development. I am not anti-jobs. In fact the New South Wales Greens have a substantial social justice policy. What I do not accept is that to have jobs and development we need to destroy proper parliamentary process. The subversion of due process is not limited to parliamentary process; the bill requires that the State and its agencies will assist the company to obtain any approvals that are necessary and to ensure that such approvals are granted. Strong language. I am sure that a number of other companies statewide would be very interested in this level of assistance in granting approvals and the preferential treatment afforded to Visy. Another provision is that the agreement cannot be terminated by "external events" specified or described in the agreement. I cannot support this provision and cannot see how anyone else can until we see the agreement. External events are also referred to in the undertaking provisions: the State may become liable for compensation should future legislative changes occur. The Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing said in the other place:
If a future government were to change the rules in ways that significantly affected the commerciality of this project, then the Crown accepts it could be liable for damages. In other words, Visy or State Forests for that matter will be able to seek compensation from the Treasury if a State government in the future makes policy or other changes that frustrate the capacity of State Forests to supply wood to Visy.
This means that future changes to environmental, planning, road and development laws have to be
balanced against the effect they may have on this 60-year agreement with one company. Is this a balanced and equitable arrangement? In the opinion of the Greens the process by which resource security is to be granted to the proponents cannot be condoned. The effect of this bill is that Parliament does not know what it is consenting to in terms of the obligations, liabilities and benefits which will accrue and to whom they will accrue. As a minimum we should be able to scrutinise the agreement, which should be a schedule to the bill. We should have learned from our experience with the M2 motorway and the agreement entered into with the former Government. It included restrictions on the development of public transport. An alternative public transport system would not be in the best interests of the developers of the motorway and would impact upon their "commerciality" - but it would be in the best interests of New South Wales.
Visy has been associated with ecologically sustainable developments in Australia and other countries. It has pioneered recycling systems and reuse schemes within its processes. It is on the greener side of corporate Australia, and I do not think its operation of this mill will be an exception. However, a few specifics warrant attention. Visy has already had discussions with Tumut Shire Council, which runs a treatment works producing 1.8 megalitres a day of tertiary-treated effluent. Council has advised Visy that its treatment works are undergoing a massive $5 million upgrade and may well be large enough to take the effluent from Visy, treat it with town effluent and recycle it all back to the pulp and paper mill. This would require a pipeline to and from the proposed plant site eight kilometres away. Because of the terrain it will require two rising mains or a tunnel and pumps. If it is possible, however, an additional 2,200 megalitres per year will flow down the Tumut River. This flow will be even more crucial as industry is developed in the region. I hope that Visy paper and Tumut Shire Council persevere with their initial discussions to augment supply with a recycled waste water scheme.
A draft project description has been supplied to two State agencies, the Nature Conservation Council and the National Parks Association, and to my office. A number of solid waste streams are produced in the process including bark and wood waste, green liquor dregs, slaker grits and lime mud, purge salt cake and boiler fly ash. That waste may have a significant impact on the quality of life in Tumut. The bark and wood waste, the waste water treatment sludges and the green liquor dregs will be recycled. One could be cynical and view the burning of these wastes as power boiler fuel as incineration of toxic waste. It will certainly produce a very interesting 860 tonnes of fly ash every year which is currently proposed as a "soil amendment". I for one do not look forward to buying wholesale country produce grown in toxic fly ash. This bill means that the Government will have to assist the mill in obtaining the necessary approvals and ensure that any such approvals are granted. I am sure that the good people of Tumut will not mind sacrificing their future health and welfare for 600 jobs in rural New South Wales so this Government can be re-elected!
Visy is to be commended for using no chlorine in its processing. Kraft pulping of softwood involves pinus radiata from plantation timber and forestry trimmings. Kraft processing is designed to produce a high strength pulp. It is a chemical process using a mixture of sodium sulphide and sodium hydroxide to pulp the wood. Kraft actually means "strength" in German. The kraft process is cyclical, involving a number of processes. The first is cooking of wood chips to produce pulp. A large pressure vessel called a digester cooks the wood chips in a chemical cocktail of sodium sulphide, sodium hydroxide and a number of other salts. The mixture is heated to 120 degrees Celsius to steep the wood chips in the liquor and then the entire mixture is heated to 170 degrees Celsius for an hour or so. At the Visy plant this process will be a continuous operation, with chips and chemicals going in the top and pulp being discharged through a blow valve at the bottom. This blowing of the chips separates them into individual fibres. The liquor contains not only the chemicals I mentioned before but also a range of natural chemicals such as phenols, which are a feature of the pine softwood.
The liquor is black and has to be removed from the pulp; this process is known as brown stock washing. For the recovery and reuse of chemicals used to cook the wood, the black liquor and the washings are sent through a staged chemical recovery process that concentrates the black liquor into a 75 per cent solid to which salt cake is added. The mixture is then burnt in a reducing environment, creating sodium sulphide, which can be reused, and sodium carbonate. The lignin and hemicellulose from the chips burns in this process, creating heat and steam that are used elsewhere in the mill. The mixture is a molten smelt, which is dissolved in water to form green liquor. Visy has told me that in the recovery and reuse of heat used in the pulping process, no effluent will be disposed to the river except during periods of wet weather when the irrigated areas’ soils would be waterlogged and the evaporator process is not operating at full capacity. That is important, as effluent from this process contains a certain number of natural chemicals such
as phenols that may interact with aquatic organisms such as fish and macro invertebrates.
I believe that a firm commitment to nil discharge to the Tumut River is within the storage capacity of the site, and it is certainly consistent with the philosophy of Visy Industries. Trucking is another issue of concern. A significant number of trucks on the roads around the Tumut area will deliver woodchips to the mill site, take away the brown paper and bring back recyclable board to the mill. There will be major problems on the roads, and wear and tear will be significant. The concern of local council is that these projects do not pay the same rates as the original farming community was paying, yet increased funding will be necessary to improve the road infrastructure. The money to pay for maintenance of the roads has to come from somewhere. Residents also face noise, dust and vibration problems - big problems in certain parts of Victoria. James Johnson of the Environmental Defender’s Office, who has advised my office on this bill, has an amount of concern with it. He wrote to me:
The Minister for Planning, in the Second Reading speech for the Bill, described in broad terms the nature of the proposed mill, describing its process as "world class and environmentally safe". We are unaware if an environmental impact statement has been prepared for the project. We of course make no assessment of the complex factors which must be considered in assessing whether the project itself ought to be supported.
Under the integrated development assessment legislation, the environmental impact statement may not be necessary, which is of concern to the conservation movement and to the Green Party. Mr Johnson also stated:
In our opinion, the process by which resource security is to be granted to the proponents cannot be condoned. The Bill means that Parliament cannot know what it is consenting to in terms of the obligations, liabilities and benefits which will accrue and to whom they will accrue. As a minimum, Parliament ought to be able to scrutinise the agreement, which should be a schedule to the Bill. Our concern is heightened when regard is had to the terms of the agreement entered into in secret by the former government in relation to the M2. These included restrictions on the development of public transport. While a competing public transport might impact on the "commerciality" of the M2, this is not the only or the greatest economic, social or environmental consideration.
The Term of the Agreement
The government is asking Parliament to lock in future generations to guaranteeing supply of softwood to a single company for 60 years, because this is said to be necessary to ensure that investment is committed to the project.
The Bill prevails over s.27(A) of the Forestry Act, which provides that a timber licence may only be granted for a term of greater than 5 years with the consent of the Minister and in any event may not exceed 20 years.
In this case the term is 60 years. Mr Johnson’s letter continued:
The restrictions included in s.27A(2) on the period for which a timber licence may be issued perform a crucial function. Economic, social and environmental priorities and considerations change with time. The limits provide a protection for future generations, recognising that today’s decisionmakers are not the holders of all knowledge and that they will have moved from their positions of responsibility by the time their chickens come home to roost.
It is generally acknowledged that over a long period of time, the Forestry Commission overstated and overcommitted the supply of the timber resource from the State’s forests. The impacts of forestry on soil, water quality and species were unrecognised or ignored.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: You’ve been saying that for long enough in the hope that we might believe it. You know that’s not true.
The Hon. I. COHEN: I am glad that you will believe me, because I will keep saying this for as long as I am in Parliament. Of course, these are not my words, this is a letter from Mr James Johnson of the Environmental Defender’s Office. He continued:
Indeed over the years we have seen evidence that knowledge of these impacts was deliberately suppressed.
Far from viewing this history as a reason for "removing sovereign risk", past experience demonstrates that an extremely cautious approach should be taken to giving commitments which extend over such long time periods.
Guarantees of Performance, Liabilities remaining with Crown
These are commercial matters which will be dealt with in the Agreement. We again note that Parliament may wish to scrutinise the terms of this agreement to ensure the people of NSW are adequately protected.
Early Application of Legislation.
If time is of the essence, and if Parliament passes the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and Timber Plantation Act amendments, you may consider that it is appropriate to allow these Acts to apply to a project under consideration now.
Transfer of Consent Powers
Designated activities are defined very broadly in s.3 to include
(i) activities to which the agreement relates
(ii) activities declared to be connected with the agreement or the proposed mill
Again, without seeing the agreement it is not possible to describe the range of matters for which the Minister will become the consent authority. There is potentially a large shift of power, especially regionally, from local government to the
State. The power to gain consent power by declaration in the gazette is not subject to review. We suggest at a minimum that s.3 be amended to delete references to ss3(2).
At my office’s request it met with a representative from Visy to bring to the attention of Visy some of the Greens’ concerns regarding this project. I hope that Richard Pratt and his company will consider continued communication with my office and the conservation movement. Mr Pratt has a good reputation for his efforts in the recycling business. Proper consultation and access to the best available information are needed for a long-term project. I feel confident that ongoing communication with the environment movement would offer Visy relevant opportunities to deliver good environmental outcomes. If this project does not proceed cautiously on some of the issues raised, it could well be disastrous.
In Committee I shall move an amendment to provide that the Auditor-General oversee any agreement entered into between the Government and Visy. I hope that honourable members will support that amendment. I have grave concerns about this bill. I understand the bona fides of the company, but I would like the opportunity for further communication. This bill opens a pandora’s box. Other companies that may not have the same environmental concern as Visy may wish to enter into similar agreements with the State Government, overriding proper planning processes to establish long-term major industries that could have massive impact on local communities and rural ecology and riverine ecology.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [5.19 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party supports the Visy Mill Facilitation Bill 1997, the object of which is to facilitate the establishment and operation of a kraft pulp and paper mill at or near Tumut in southern New South Wales by Visy Industries Holdings Pty Ltd. As other members have said, restrictions on the timber industry in the south-east of the State have had an effect on the provision of jobs in that area. The bill realises the Government’s hopes - at the time discussions took place about those restrictions - that new jobs would be created. Back in 1996 the Government signed a memorandum of understanding with Richard Pratt, the chairman of Visy Industries. I do not know whether the Government knew at that point that it would get so far down the track with this project, but I imagine it did. We understand that Visy Industries will now invest up to $350 million in a pulp and paper mill in Tumut, to operate for 30 years with a 30-year option, which will generate 600 new positions in the timber, transport, manufacturing and service industries. Some members have been critical of the lengthy time span involved in establishing the plant. But the reality that must be faced in these modern times is that companies spend a huge amount of money setting up modern plants. The plant must be designed for the 1990s and, indeed, for 2000 and beyond. Such large investment dictates that the plant must be as modern as possible. No-one will invest in an operation that may have to be terminated in 20 years time or sooner. Visy must plan for the future by offsetting guarantees that the plant can operate for a minimum of 30 years with a 30-year option.
The mill will create 600 new jobs; some members have said it will create even more jobs, and that is another plus for the project. State Forests will supply 40 per cent of the softwood for the pulp and paper mill. Other State Government agencies have made commitments to co-ordinate delivery of project requirements such as water, planning consents, provision of road funding for the next 10 years, and so on. New private sector pine plantations will contribute 60 per cent of the softwood for the mill. This very modern mill will be established to process plantation pine in an area where job creation is sorely needed. The project will create employment and will also promote decentralisation, which our party feels strongly about. For those reasons we support the project and give it about 10 out of 10.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [5.23 p.m.]: I support the Visy Mill Facilitation Bill. For many years now I have recommended that the timber produced in our plantations should be upgraded and used in this country rather than exported to Japan and then shipped back here as lightweight coated paper and cardboard. That practice has always seemed absolute nonsense. Much less pressure would have been placed on our forests if jobs had been created through upgrading the value of the timber, rather than simply shipping logs overseas. I always thought that a poor way of doing business. When Harris-Daishowa (Australia) Pty Ltd first got its contract in 1969 -
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: It was part of their contract.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Part of that company’s contract was to build a mill, but it never did build it. It got away with that under successive governments. It has ripped out half the forests down there and we have nothing to show for it.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: They couldn’t get approval before.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Of course the company could have got approval. The proposed
mill will not use chlorine for bleaching. The mill will produce unbleached kraft pulp and paper using softwood. Each year New South Wales imports a lot of paper made from softwood - around 300,000 tonnes of lightweight coated paper, a valuable commodity. This mill, which should have been built some 20 years ago, will use each year about 600,000 tonnes of softwood material and produce 125,000 tonnes of finished industrial-grade card. I hope that this will be the first of a number of mills to use plantation softwood. We should now consider establishment of another pulp and paper mill producing lightweight coated paper and eventually art paper. Around 600 jobs will be created by this $350 million investment, and that is to be welcomed. Jobs created through adding value to our timber and its use will relieve the pressure of maintaining jobs linked to the extraction of natural rural resources. It is a nonsense to knock down the forests and export jobs overseas, and for that reason I am pleased to support this development.
The environmental impact statement, which I received only a few hours ago, clearly shows that the company is going to some lengths to ensure that pollution is kept to a minimum. A number of chemicals will be used by the mill, including calcium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide and calcium carbonate, which are fairly common materials. H2SO4, or sulfuric acid, will also be used in some of the mill’s processes. I am sure that the company will ensure that that chemical is totally neutralisd. We would not want that chemical to go into our rivers, would we? A number of interesting proposals have been made about the use of by-products. The company will sell off for use as raw materials in other processes some of the by-products that previously might have been dumped in tips. For example, terpenes will be decanted into a storage tank in Visy’s chemical manufacturing operations and sold for use as a raw material.
I understand that all of the available terpenes will be processed in New Zealand. So what might be regarded as a by-product will become an export commodity. The company seems to have been very careful to ensure that all of its waste products will be either reused or disposed of in a way that is environmentally acceptable. I have a slight problem with the legislation itself. I understand that the legislation needs to be facilitated, but there are some extraordinary aspects to it. The bill attempts to validate legislation that has not yet been passed. The Government is trying to ensure that legislation which has not yet been passed in this House becomes valid by means of this legislation. Clause 14(1) of the bill provides in part:
amending Act means the Act, if enacted, resulting from the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Bill 1997 introduced into the Legislative Assembly on 15 October 1997, and includes any amendments made to that Bill -
which may happen either tonight or tomorrow night -
before enactment, and also includes any amendments made to that Act after enactment.
In a sense, the Government is trying to pre-empt the passing of legislation, which is extraordinary. Naturally, if the legislation is not passed, that exercise becomes useless. I am a little concerned about the contract, in that down the track there may be claims for compensation. At the committee stage I will propose an amendment to enable the contract to be reviewed by either House of Parliament, by way of regulation, to ensure that down the track New South Wales will not be up for a huge amount of compensation. It is fair enough to allow Parliament to ensure that the supply agreement is not such that it cannot be fulfilled. I imagine that the Government would not be going ahead with this proposal if it were not possible. It should be borne in mind that this State has very large areas of softwood forests, planted many years ago, which are coming to maturity.
As I have said in this House so many times during the past decade, if eucalypt plantations had been established at the same time as softwood plantations, we would never have had squabbles about which compartment to log in our very last old-growth forests, and we would still have magnificent cathedral trees that should never have been lost. Similarly, jobs would not have been lost. However, the Visy company has a vision of providing jobs, which I welcome. I hope that the environmental impact statement, when properly studied, will hold up, and that the mill will not be a source of pollution in our air, land or waterways. If these jobs are created, we can start using our softwood resources.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Public Works and Services) [5.30 p.m.], in reply: I thank all honourable members who have contributed to this debate. For the record I must correct the flaws in the media release entitled "Pulping of Due Process" issued by the Hon. I. Cohen on Tuesday, 2 December. The errors contained in that media release were also repeated in the House this afternoon.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: Pulp fiction.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: As the Hon. D. F. Moppett says, in a very apposite interjection, it was pulp fiction. The Visy Mill Facilitation Bill, the Hon. I. Cohen claims, will allow Visy Industries to bypass normal planning and policy arrangements. Quite simply, that is untrue. The Visy bill does not hinder public participation, limit or predetermine any environmental outcomes, or override planning regulations. Visy is still required to go through all normal planning and environmental processes. All the bill does with regard to planning and environmental regulations is ensure that the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning considers the necessary approvals and consents in a co-ordinated fashion. The honourable member must be aware that a co-ordinated approach to approvals and consents does not undermine due process: it is not an either/or option. This Government has a proud record of doing both, that is, strengthening environmental planning processes whilst simultaneously improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government administration. I can assure the Hon. I. Cohen that the environmental impact statement process which is currently underway for the Visy mill will be monitored by the Government to ensure that the best possible environmental standards are met. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [5.33 p.m.], by leave: I move amendments Nos 1 and 2 in globo as circulated in my name:
No. 1 Page 2, clause 3, line 28. After "Act" insert "or the disallowance of an agreement under section 18".
No. 2 Page 9. Insert after line 15:
18 Agreements to be tabled and disallowable
(1) The Minister is to cause a copy of the timber supply agreement referred to in the definition of Agreement in section 3(1) to be laid before each House of Parliament within 14 sitting days of the House after:
(a) the agreement is made, or
(b) the commencement of this section, whichever is the later.
(2) The Minister is to cause a copy of each agreement amending or replacing that timber supply agreement to be laid before each House of Parliament within 14 sitting days of the House after the amending or replacement agreement is made.
(3) Either House of Parliament may pass a resolution disallowing any such agreement, but only if notice of the resolution was given within 15 sitting days of the House after the agreement was laid before it.
(4) On the passing of such a resolution disallowing an agreement, the agreement ceases to have effect. This subsection has effect despite section 8.
These amendments will allow agreements to be tabled and to be disallowed if a majority in either House so chooses. However, I do not imagine that would occur as the bill ensures that any timber supply agreement can not be disallowed. This is a preventative measure to a certain extent, as I am certain that neither House would want to disallow. I am also sure that the Minister would not wish to sign a timber supply agreement that can be disallowed. However, it is a good idea to insert these amendments in the bill to avoid the possibility of significant compensation down the track if any serious mistakes are made in the timber supply agreement.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Public Works and Services) [5.34 p.m.]: The amendments put to the Committee by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones are unacceptable to the Government. The honourable member’s proposal, if agreed to, would make the State Forests Visy wood supply contract a public document. That would be unacceptable to State Forests and to Visy because of detailed commercial-in-confidence pricing and other terms and conditions contained in the contract. If that information became publicly available it would also undermine State Forests’ capacity to negotiate its future wood supply contracts with other companies. Any suggestion that such commercial contracts could be tabled in Parliament would frighten other major businesses which may wish to enter into contracts with the Government. For those short reasons the Government does not accept these amendments.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [5.35 p.m.]: The Opposition does not support the amendments either. The Hon. R. S. L. Jones was eloquent in advancing a self-defeating argument. Although he supports the bill, he wants to create by way of amendments a circumstance that would scuttle it. The honourable
member would have done better to have spoken out against a bill which basically enables the Visy pulp mill project to go ahead. In my view his amendments run counter to the spirit of the bill.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [5.36 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party also opposes these amendments. They would sabotage the project, the company would cancel all its financial arrangements instantly, and there would not be a mill at Tumut. If the amendments are passed that would be the result, whether or not that is the intention.
Part agreed to.
The Hon. I. COHEN [5.37 p.m.], by leave: I move Greens amendments Nos 1, 2 and 3 in globo:
(5) Disallowance of an amending or replacement agreement has the effect of restoring the previous agreement as from the date of disallowance, unless the parties otherwise agree.
No. 1 Page 4. After line 1, insert:
6 Auditor-General to be consulted
(1) No agreement referred to in the definition of Agreement in section 3(1) is to be made unless:
(a) a draft of the proposed agreement has been referred to the Auditor-General, and
(b) the Auditor-General has furnished a report to the Minister about the proposed agreement, and
(c) the Minister has furnished a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the terms of the Auditor-General’s report and reporting on the Government’s response to the concerns (if any) of the Auditor-General as set out in the Auditor-General’s report.
(2) The provisions of the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983 relating to the presentation of reports to the Legislative Assembly apply to a report of the Minister under this section, as if references in those provisions to the Legislative Assembly extended to the Legislative Council and to the Auditor-General extended to the Minister.
No. 2 Page 4, clause 7, line 14. Omit "11". Insert instead "12".
No. 3 Page 8, clause 16, line 27. Omit "14". Insert instead "15".
My main concern is to involve the Auditor-General in overseeing any agreement of consequence in the development of the Visy mill. The role of the Auditor-General must be viewed by all the parties as of relevance in relation to a commercial development of such a size. Given the restrictions proposed on the level of transparency, in particular in the amendments put forward by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones, it might be reasonable to ask the Government to agree to the Auditor-General overseeing this significant process in this State so that it is beyond any level of complaint from any sector. I commend Greens amendments Nos 1, 2 and 3 to the House.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Public Works and Services) [5.38 p.m.]: The Government opposes the amendments moved by the Hon. I. Cohen. The proposal, which is not acceptable either to State Forests or to Visy, would be a time- consuming exercise if accepted. Delays to the project and the uncertainty that would create in the minds of United States financiers of the project would seriously jeopardise the likelihood of the investment proceeding. State Forests has used its normal administrative practices to negotiate the wood supply agreement with Visy. If this House were to request the Auditor-General to assess the efficiency, effectiveness and economy of State Forests negotiating practices and procedures, it could utilise the usual procedures to make such a request; but that is a separate matter from the provisions of the bill.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [5.39 p.m.]: The Opposition opposes the amendments, which seem unnecessary riders that in many ways would act as significant impediments - given the extensive agreement reached between the Government and the company - and seriously jeopardise the agreement. All honourable members respect the role of the Auditor-General in the regulation of public affairs. However, I can see no valid reason why he should be involved in this part of the process.
Part agreed to.
Bill reported from Committee without amendment and passed through remaining stages.
MARKETING OF PRIMARY PRODUCTS AMENDMENT (MARKETING ORDERS) BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [5.43 p.m.]: The Opposition has much pleasure in supporting the bill. As it is simple I will not waste the time of the House with a
lengthy speech. The bill will enable polls relating to marketing orders, which were established under the Marketing of Primary Products Act in New South Wales, to be varied. Honourable members would be aware that marketing orders are established to assist smaller growers seeking some semblance of organisation. This measure will assist groups of producers, such as Riverina citrus producers, to collectively market or promote their products. The bill simplifies the method by which a poll will determine the future of, for example, the Riverina Citrus Marketing board and other industry groups. The legislation will ease the criteria that has been in place since the Act was introduced in 1983 and will streamline the process. At present a majority of all eligible voting members is required, but problems can arise when sufficient members abstain from voting. This measure will enable 50 per cent of eligible voters to constitute a majority.
The bill also contains a machinery amendment to assist the extension of one marketing order to another. The citrus industry in New South Wales, located predominantly in the Riverina and in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, has been through very difficult times. Over the past couple of years the protection afforded that industry has been reduced from 35 per cent to 5 per cent. The industry is struggling to compete with imports, particularly frozen orange juice from Brazil. The industry needs all the help it can get and this provision will assist citrus growers, particularly in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and the Riverina, by relaxing the criteria for conducting a poll. The Opposition supports the bill and wishes the citrus industry well. It looks forward to assisting the industry wherever possible.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Public Works and Services) [5.47 p.m.], in reply: I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for his support for the bill, and I commend it to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
FISHERIES MANAGEMENT AMENDMENT BILL
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services) [5.50 p.m.], by leave: I move Government amendments Nos 1 to 9 in globo:
No. 1 Page 3, Schedule 1, line 11. Insert ", including the conservation of biological diversity" after "ecologically sustainable development".
No. 2 Page 3, Schedule 1. Insert after line 20:
biological diversity means the diversity of life and is made up of the following 3 components:
(a) genetic diversity - the variety of genes (or units of heredity) in any population,
(b) species diversity - the variety of species,
(c) ecosystem diversity - the variety of communities or ecosystems.
No. 3 Page 11, Schedule 1 (proposed section 220D(1)), line 8. Omit "The Governor may, by proclamation". Insert instead "The Minister may, by order".
No. 4 Page 11, Schedule 1 (proposed section 220D(2)), line 19. Omit "The Governor may, by proclamation". Insert instead "The Minister may, by order".
No. 5 Page 11, Schedule 1 (proposed section 220D(4)), line 29. Omit "A proclamation". Insert instead "An order".
No. 6 Page 11, Schedule 1 (proposed section 220D(4)), line 31. Omit "proclamation". Insert instead "order".
No. 7 Page 13, Schedule 1 (proposed section 220F(2)), line 5. Omit "viable population". Insert instead "reproducing population".
No. 8 Page 13, Schedule 1 (proposed section 220F(3)), lines 17 and 18. Omit "recognisable type of ecological community that is likely to become extinct". Insert instead "type of ecological community that is likely to become extinct".
No. 9 Page 14, Schedule 1 (proposed section 220F (6)), lines 9-11. Omit all words on those lines.
Amendment No. 1 amends the objectives of the bill to make it explicit that the legislation aims to conserve biological diversity. Amendment 2 incorporates the same definition of "biological diversity" as appears in the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. Amendments 3 to 6 inclusive provide for the Minister, rather than the Governor, to amend the schedules to the Act, and to do so by way of an order rather than by way of proclamation. Amendment 7 amends the eligibility criteria for listing populations as endangered. Amendment 8 relates to the listing of ecological communities as endangered. Amendment 9 provides for the listing of threatening processes as key threatening processes along the lines negotiated with key environmental groups.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [5.52 p.m.]: The Opposition opposes these amendments. I must say at the outset that they reek of Hobson’s choice. The Government has moved these amendments not because there was an oversight in drafting the bill but because it has reached a compromise with the significant environmental elements to which the Minister for Public Works and Services referred and, more particularly, with crossbench members, whose votes are necessary for the Government to get what it regards as more important measures in the bill passed by the Committee. However, I want to give a logical and consistent explanation for the coalition’s opposition to these amendments, some of which are relatively inconsequential.
Although the Opposition does not object to the amendments being moved in globo, they relate to different matters. First, Government amendments Nos 1 and 2 incorporate the concepts of biological diversity and ecologically sustainable development in the objectives of the bill. That is not appropriate because fisheries management is about management of the commercial fishing industry. The preservation of biological diversity should be defined in terms that would warm the heart of someone as committed to that movement as the Hon. I. Cohen. The concepts are important but they should be dealt with in marine parks legislation. It is not appropriate for the objectives of this bill to be considered in such detail in the bill; it is sufficient merely to refer to ecologically sustainable development.
The objectives of the bill relate to genetic diversity, which is the variety of genes or the units of heredity in any population, as well as species and ecosystem diversity. If the Government is fair dinkum about the bill, the objectives will be taken into account in a myriad of important commercial decisions about the regulation of commercial fishing. However, the objectives will be honoured more in the breach than in observance. Amendments 3, 4, 5 and 6 are merely matters of semantics and not of great consequence. The Opposition particularly opposes amendment 8, for much the same reasons as it opposes amendments Nos 1 and 2.
I understand that amendment 9 will remove from the original bill as drafted the discretion of the Minister for Fisheries to avoid listing a threatened species when an abatement plan is in place. That is an unnecessary curtailment of the Minister’s powers. The Opposition would like to think that the Minister for Fisheries is committed to balancing conservation needs with the vital fishing industry. If a substantial and effective abatement plan is in place when the Minister is considering a proposed listing it would be appropriate for him to use his discretion to decline the proposed listing.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [5.57 p.m.]: I support the remarks of my colleague the Hon. D. F. Moppett. Clearly, the Government has done a deal with crossbench members, as no amendments from the Greens, the Australian Democrats, the Hon. R. S. L. Jones, the Hon. A. G. Corbett or the Hon. Franca Arena have been circulated. However, the Government has not done a deal with the Opposition -
The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby: No deal has been done with the Australian Democrats.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: I take that back; I withdraw my statement. The Government has not made a deal with fishermen. The Minister has simply hung them out to dry for a protracted period. Can my colleague the Hon. I. Cohen tell my why the Greens have not proposed any amendments to the bill, given all the stirring speeches and all the words that the Standing Committee on State Development heard from those who appeared before it? As I have said before, the committee’s fisheries inquiry, which was solid and was undertaken with enormous enthusiasm, took place over about 18 months. Not one person who gave evidence to the committee supported the Minister. Even the recreational fishers who appeared before the committee had problems with the Minister, and the environmental groups universally condemned him.
The Minister has not done a single thing right. He certainly has not talked to people in the commercial fishing industry. However, there is a great deal of talking taking place behind closed doors on the first part of the bill, and the fishing industry has been excluded. Undoubtedly, some trade-offs are involved. The Hon. E. M. Obeid is looking askance at me. Can the Minister indicate whether, as a result of negotiations, any environmental groups have been funded to ensure support for the Minister’s legislation? Honourable members can bet their boots that -
The Hon. E. M. Obeid: Are you accusing the Greens?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: No, I am not talking about the Greens. I am taking about the Minister buying off environmental groups, to whom the Greens, the Hon. R. S. L. Jones and many others, including those on our side of the House, look for advice. On this occasion they did not come
near us. Bob Martin has done a divide and conquer job to get what he wanted: a bit of a pay-off here, a bit of a pay-off there. His aim is to ensure that the recreational fishing industry - the industry that provides tackle, et cetera - and recreational fishers, some of whom have been loud in his ear, benefit from this legislation. The whole process behind the introduction of this bill is appalling. The amendments are a simple pay-off and are against the best interests of the bill in its original form. I will listen with considerable interest to the contributions of our so-called independent crossbench friends to the debate on these amendments.
Amendments agreed to.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [6.02 p.m.], by leave: I move Opposition amendments Nos 1 and 2 in globo:
No. 1 Page 15, Schedule 1 (proposed section 220I(4)), line 10:
Insert "frivolous, mischievous or" before "vexatious".
No. 2 Page 15, Schedule 1 (proposed section 220J(3)(c)), line 30:
In the second reading debate I referred to the difficulties that I believe will be experienced in attempting to achieve the objects of the bill in relation to the protection of threatened species. I illustrated the differences between the identification of terrestrial threatened species and the problems involved in the identification of potential harm to a marine creature such as a fish or an octopus that may have been declared to be a threatened species. My arguments applied equally to damage to critical habitat. The Opposition seeks to strengthen the provisions of the bill so that the damage for which one would be liable for prosecution must be done consciously and malevolently. The word "vexatious" is used in the bill and the Opposition believes that word has too narrow a meaning. The Opposition believes that in both instances where the word "vexatious" is used it should be complemented by the words "frivolous" and "mischievous", so that the bill will read, "frivolous, mischievous or vexatious".
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [6.04 p.m.]: These amendments make two minor changes relating to frivolous and mischievous nominations. The Government considers them to be unnecessary and does not support them.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [ 6.04 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party sympathises with the intention behind the addition of the words "frivolous" and "mischievous". They seem to be terms that the Government should be able to accept. I understand that there are problems with amendments to the bill. We have been advised that if the bill is amended there is a strong possibility it will be withdrawn.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [6.05 p.m.], by leave: I move Government amendments 10 to 14 in globo:
Insert "frivolous, mischievous or" before "vexatious".
No. 10 Page 17, Schedule 1 (proposed section 220M), lines 24-37 on page 17 and lines 1-11 on page 18. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:
220M Decision by Minister or Committee on listing
(1) The Minister must, as soon as practicable (and in any event within 2 months) after receiving a recommendation by the Fisheries Scientific Committee for the amendment of Schedule 4, 5 or 6:
(a) accept the recommendation, or
(b) refer the recommendation back to the Committee for further consideration.
(2) The Minister may only refer a matter back to the Committee for reasons of a scientific nature provided to the Committee. In the case of a nomination, the Committee is to notify the person who made the nomination that the matter has been referred back to the Committee and of the Minister’s reasons for doing so.
(3) If the recommendation is referred back to the Committee for further consideration:
(a) the Committee may decide to proceed with the recommendation, to change the recommendation or not to proceed with the recommendation, and
(b) the Committee is to make that decision within 3 months, and
(c) the Minister cannot refer the matter back to the Committee again after it has made that decision.
(4 ) The Minister must make an order to give effect to a recommendation of the Committee:
(a) immediately after the Minister accepts the recommendation under subsection (1)(a), or
(b) if the matter has been referred back to the Committee for further consideration,
immediately after the Minister is notified of the Committee’s decision (unless the Committee decides not to proceed with the matter).
No. 11 Page 18, Schedule 1 (proposed section 220N(2)), line 27. Insert "(including sections 220H and 220I)" after "this Subdivision".
No. 12 Page 18, Schedule 1 (proposed section 220N(2)), line 27. Insert ", except that the Minister is not entitled to refer a recommendation for a provisional listing back to the Committee under section 220M(1)(b)" after "recommendation".
No. 13 Page 18, Schedule 1 (proposed section 220N(3)), line 28. Omit "A proclamation". Insert instead "An order".
No. 14 Page 19, Schedule 1 (proposed section 220O(2)), lines 8-12. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:
Amendment 10 provides that the Fisheries Scientific Committee will make the final decision on whether the schedules should be changed, but only after the Minister has been consulted and given the opportunity to comment. Amendments 11 and 12 provide for the Fisheries Scientific Committee to amend the schedules for a period of 12 months for emergency listings without reference to the Minister. Amendment 13 provides for the Minister to amend the schedules by order rather than the Governor amending them by proclamation. Amendment 14 provides for the Minister to give reasons if he rejects any recommendation of the Fisheries Scientific Committee to use other measures to protect species not eligible to be listed as threatened.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [6.06 p.m.]: The Opposition clearly realises that these amendments have been proposed by other than Government members, and that they have been accepted and advanced by the Government as its amendments. The amendments do not improve the bill. They seek to make the Fisheries Scientific Committee -
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Independent.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT: - the sole arbiter. Honourable members can see where the amendments have come from. I do not believe the word "independent" is appropriate for the purpose of the amendment. The Fisheries Scientific Committee would be independent in any event; it would not be a scientific committee if it were not. The important point is that the Minister is in charge of a significant resource, and he must balance the need in the community for the food resource against conservation measures, which are also important. The Opposition believes that at the end of the day the Minister must make the final decision. I do not believe any Minister - even the present Minister, in whom I have not a great deal of confidence - would be so reckless as to fly in the face of the advice of the Fisheries Scientific Committee. The Minister may have good and valid reasons for believing that the committee has made a decision in isolation from the responsibilities he is required to discharge on behalf of the Government and the people of New South Wales. Despite our general Opposition to the bill, its original layout is better than that proposed by the amendments.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [6.08 p.m.]: The Hon. D. F. Moppett does not realise that the Threatened Species Conservation Act provides that the scientific committee is independent. If the bill had been passed in its previous form it would have been inconsistent with the Act. The idea is to have identical provisions in each Act. The amendments have been moved so that the bill will be consistent with the Act. Notwithstanding the amendments, the Minister will still be able to send a recommendation back to the scientific committee after obtaining scientific advice as to whether it is a good idea to recommend a species for nomination.
I do not believe there is a problem. In any event Ministers do not want to have to make those decisions, whether they relate to terrestrial mammals or sea creatures, because they always finish up losing. Regardless of whether the Ministers list or do not list, they get the stick. It is a lose-lose situation for the Minister who makes the decision. It is far better for the Minister to have the decision made separately. That is why the Greiner Government set up the pricing tribunal to make decisions about the price of electricity and water. Governments always get into trouble for that, so the Greiner Government set up an independent tribunal to make those decisions. Likewise, under this bill there will be an independent scientific committee to make scientific decisions. I am sure it will not cause any problems.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [6.10 p.m.]: I appreciate that the Hon. R. S. L. Jones is attempting to make out that the scientific committee will be independent. The honourable member obviously hopes the scientific committee will make its decision and give advice to the Minister on the basis of research and knowledge. One of the recommendations of the Standing Committee on State Development about research was that the Director of Fisheries be advised of research results,
but not hold power of veto over publication of those results. The background to that recommendation is the well-recognised interference by Dr Glaister in the publication of research documents.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: An ad hominem attack!
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: The Hon. I. Cohen will tell the Hon. R. S. L. Jones that the standing committee had direct evidence about that. That is why it made the extraordinary recommendation that the Director of Fisheries be advised of research results, but not hold power of veto over publication of those results. In other words, if the Director of Fisheries does not like the research, he withholds it and does not permit publication. He holds the power of publication. Dr Glaister said in evidence:
(2) The Minister is to give the Committee the reasons for any rejection of such a recommendation of the Committee.
I would agree that science needs to be independent. I do not know whether I would agree that it is unhealthy that I take an interest because, as I say, I am responsible to the Minister for the administration of New South Wales Fisheries. An important part of our work is that involved in research, so I see it as entirely consistent to take an interest in the output of the research section.
That sounds fair, but the Hon. R. S. L. Jones should have heard the Hon. I. Cohen grilling Dr Glaister. He should also read the statements of Professor Kearney, the director of research, about Dr Glaister’s interference and about his wanting changes before publication. The Hon. R. S. L. Jones seems pleased to have convinced the Government that the same rules should apply to fisheries as apply to the furry animals legislation. That would have been fairly obvious to the Government at the time it drew up the legislation and threw it in front of an unsuspecting fishing industry. The Government would have been acutely aware of the threatened species legislation and that a committee had given a great deal of consideration to the Act.
The Government would have been aware of the difficulties it had experienced in getting that legislation through Parliament. The Government would have wanted to do the same in this bill as it did in relation to the threatened species legislation. But it did not do the same thing because it wanted the first part of the bill to be a come-on to ensure that at the end of the day the Independents supported the nasty part of the bill relating to commercial managed fisheries. That is at the back of the bill. The Government gave the Independents something at the beginning of the bill, knowing that they would want furry animal type legislation with a scientific committee. The Government also knew it had the ace in the hole, that is, Dr Glaister having control of the output of fisheries research. The Government knew all of that. The Independents fell right into an obvious trap.
On the trip to Newcastle during the standing committee’s inquiry into development in the Hunter region I said as much to the Hon. I. Cohen. At that stage I had seen the bill and he had not. I told him that the beginning of the bill was a come-on and the end of it was a take. The Independents have taken the bait. I will bet any money that the Treasurer will not reply when I ask again whether any money has been transferred to the Nature Conservation Council to support staffing of that council as a result of the negotiations that led to the bill.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [6.14 p.m.]: The answer to the very specific question, which was offensive and does not deserve an answer, is no. It was a very grubby suggestion from a very grubby man.
Amendments agreed to.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [6.15 p.m.], by leave: I move Opposition amendments 3 and 4 in globo:
No. 3 Page 26, Schedule 1 (proposed section 220ZC(1)), line 30. Omit "by an act". Insert instead "by a deliberate or negligent act".
No. 4 Page 27, Schedule 1 (proposed section 220ZD), line 15. Omit "by an act". Insert instead "by a deliberate or negligent act".
A considerable portion of the remarks about frivolous and mischievous nominations that I addressed to amendments 1 and 2 apply also to these amendments. I remind honourable members that the Opposition wanted to avoid frivolous, mischievous or vexatious nominations of threatened species. In relation to the protection of those species and their habitats, the Opposition wants to ensure that prosecutions will follow only a deliberate, wilful, malicious or negligent act. The amendments seek to insert the words "by a deliberate or negligent act" in place of the words "by an act". The Opposition considers the amendments to be reasonable and hopes the Government will support them.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [6.17 p.m.]: Unfortunately, the Government will not support the amendments, which it regards as unnecessary.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [6.17 p.m.], by leave: I move Government amendments 15 and 16 in globo:
No. 15 Page 60, Schedule 1. Insert after line 6:
Trout cod .. .. Maccullochella macquariensis
Eastern freshwater cod .. .. Maccullochella ikei
Oxleyan pigmy perch .. .. Nannoperca oxleyana
No. 16 Page 60, Schedule 1. Insert after line 10:
These amendments will amend the schedule to the Act to list three species, namely, the trout cod, the eastern freshwater cod and the Oxleyan pigmy perch, as endangered; and one species, namely, the honey blue-eye, as vulnerable.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [6.18 p.m.]: The Opposition’s only concern is that the amendments will make some entries in what is an otherwise empty schedule. The Opposition assumes that the advice of the scientific committee, which is now totally independent, will basically be writ. Four species have been selected in these two amendments. The Opposition is not overwrought about that because it acknowledges that those species have been widely referred to as being endangered or threatened and require urgent action. It may be appropriate to deal with that aspect at this stage, but the Opposition anticipated that those species would have been entered on the schedule by way of regulation, after consideration of the scientific committee’s reasons for seeking their protection. Although members of the Opposition view with some concern the nomination of species without any scientific backing - merely on the suggestion, I would imagine, of certain members of the House - we are satisfied that the nominations are genuine and sincere and we will use our voices to record our opposition.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [6.20 p.m.]: My colleague the Hon. D. F. Moppett, a most generous man, accepts that trout cod, eastern freshwater cod and pygmy perch are endangered species and that the honey blue-eye is a vulnerable species. These fish species, which were included on the endangered list without reference to the scientific committee, were part and parcel of discussions which were held behind closed doors. I do not doubt for a moment that the eastern freshwater cod is in need of protection; it has that protection at the moment. People are prohibited from catching that fish. I do not believe that some off-the-top-of-the-head species should be included without reference to the scientific committee. These provisions were included in the legislation just to give people a warm inner glow. They could not wait for the regulations.
Amendments agreed to.
Schedule as amended agreed to.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [6.22 p.m.]: I move Government amendment 17:
Honey blue-eye .. .. Pseudomugil mellis
No. 17 Pages 68-74, Schedule 2. Omit "commercial managed fishery" and "commercial managed fisheries" wherever occurring. Insert instead "managed commercial fishery" and "managed commercial fisheries" respectively.
This amendment will replace the words "commercial managed fisheries" with the words "managed commercial fisheries".
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT: [6.22 p.m.]: The Opposition might wistfully say, as Juliet did, "What’s in a name?" It is not, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" because the commercial managed fisheries proposal stinks. It is hard to find a strong and logically complete argument to defeat the transposition of words. I am sure that this amendment has not come from the department or the Minister; this is simply a rewording of the title of this new category of fisheries to satisfy outside interest groups that have brought pressure to bear on the Government.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [6.23 p.m.]: This amendment will insert into the Fisheries Management Act the words "commercial managed fisheries". Apart from a small section in the existing Act this is the first reference to restricted fisheries and to the research to be carried out in relation to those fisheries. This provision in the bill will change the nature and the management of fisheries in New South Wales. No-one who appeared before the standing committee that inquired into fish management and resource allocation in New South Wales said, "Let’s have restricted fisheries." No-one, apart from the Director of Fisheries and Mr Dunn, his adviser, supported restricted fisheries as a means of managing commercial fisheries in New South Wales. None of the scientific people or the experts from the CSIRO supported the proposition.
This big, unheralded, unwanted, unloved and most unnecessary change will occur against all the advice from the commercial fishing industry, against all the advice from the experts, and against the Government’s advertised stance - trumpeted to the world at an international conference sponsored by the Cabinet Office and opened by Roger Wilkins. The Treasurer is right if he thinks I am not being generous. The Minister for Fisheries has gone out of his way to get what he wants, regardless of what anybody else wants, and he has implemented his ideas about how to manage commercial fisheries in a sustainable way. I hope that the Hon. I. Cohen speaks to this amendment because he, the Hon. J. R. Johnson and the Hon. E. M. Obeid know that everything I have said is perfectly true.
Will the Treasurer explain to me why Bob Martin - not the Premier or the Treasurer, because they were part of the Government on whose behalf the statement was released - tried to remove a former Director of Fisheries from a speakers’ list? The Director of Fisheries was told in no uncertain terms that the Government was moving towards managed commercial fisheries, but he spoke in the most glowing terms about share-managed fisheries as being the way for the future. He knew how to get around fishermen who were used to regulations relating to knot tying, the size of nets and the size of boats and, having sold them the idea, they enthusiastically accepted what he said. When the Minister threatened to introduce commercial managed fisheries, fishermen reacted violently. The Minister and Dr Glaister could drum up no support for that proposal. Witnesses from coastal areas who appeared before the standing committee did not support the proposal.
The committee embarked on a most arduous series of journeys - 12 in all - and visited major coastal and inland fishing sites. People who appeared before the committee at those locations said much the same thing about restricted fisheries and the need for share-managed fisheries. These legislative changes will not settle the industry or give it the certainty and security it needs and it will not give people in the street the fish they want to eat. These changes will only continue the struggle and the fight between commercial and recreational fishers. The environment, the very thing that the Hon. I. Cohen and I sought desperately to protect throughout this process, will be at risk. If the environment is not protected there will be no fish or fish breeding grounds. In the Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong areas recreational fishers catch 70 per cent of the allowable catch.
Each time there is a push for more recreational fishing the Minister moves commercial fishermen to one side, without any compensation being paid. As a result, commercial fishermen catch more fish in the areas in which they are allowed to fish and, ultimately, the fish that end up on people’s tables, or in the markets, are smaller, more expensive and are becoming scarcer. The whole idea of this schedule is abhorrent to me. There is no evidence of support for this proposal from the fishing community; only Dr Glaister and the Minister support it. The Government has threatened to withdraw this bill, including that part which relates to threatened species, if any amendments are made to it. As the Hon. Patricia Forsythe said, that sort of blackmail by right-wing thugs is beyond the pale. Not once did the Minister consult with the fishing industry, Dr Young, or the CSIRO about whether the legislation would deliver sustainable fisheries and provide some certainty about resource allocation.
The Standing Committee on State Development recommended that the Resource and Conservation Association Council, or RACAC, should follow the process it followed in balancing the needs of future generations for forests versus harvesting timber. The RACAC process, a fair and reasonable process, will result in a win-win situation for all. Schedule 2 to the bill will ensure continued fighting, struggling and strife as the Minister continues to announce fishery closures in the Government Gazette. I cannot wish him well in his endeavours, because I do not believe he has the right idea and he is doomed to fail.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [6.31 p.m.]: I am grateful to the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti for voicing his dismay - which I share - at the operation of schedule 2. Whilst the Opposition believes that the introduction of the new concept of commercial managed fisheries is a manoeuvre by the Minister to avoid the requirements under the Act to advance to share-managed fisheries, it has decided not to oppose the schedule or move that it be deleted. Rather, it will concentrate on modifying the provisions that apply to commercial managed fisheries, which occupy the bulk of the commercial fishing industry, by introducing compensation provisions.
The Minister has pushed out the old restricted fisheries, introduced managed commercial fisheries, and given consideration to maintaining sustainable yields. If further Opposition amendments are agreed to, management advisory committees will have an opportunity to complete reports. If the process which
the Minister is determined to push through is adopted, the Opposition wants to add a vital provision for compensation in specific circumstances. The Opposition will not fire its last gun on this schedule but will fight with all its energy to add the provisions which apply to share-managed fisheries to the new managed commercial fisheries, which is what they will be called if the amendment is passed.
Amendment agreed to.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [6.34 p.m.], by leave: I move Opposition amendments 5 and 7 in globo:
No. 5 Page 71, Schedule 2 (proposed section 101D), lines 1 and 2. Omit "not" wherever occurring.
No. 7 Page 71, Schedule 2 (proposed section 101D). Insert after line 6:
I have already referred to the Opposition’s grave concerns about the thrust of the bill. These amendments represent its best endeavours to make it at least moderately acceptable to the fishing industry. Discussions were held with me in an endeavour to separate amendment 5 from amendment 7, but an examination of them will show that they are closely linked. Amendment 5 will remove the word "not" in regard to compensation, and amendment 7 will introduce a system of compensation following the removal of the obstacle referred to in amendment 5.
The amendments go to the very heart of the Opposition’s approach to the management of fisheries, a matter referred to in the Fisheries Management Act. Many honourable members have referred to the process of consultation, the way in which the industry adopted the concept of share-managed fisheries, and the way in which the Premier extolled the virtues of this Act as the model upon which similar industry reforms could be based. The creation of property rights is essential. Whenever that approach has been taken to the preservation of natural resources which are being exploited in the public domain better conservation has resulted.
When people consider not only their immediate interests but their future interests, and perhaps the interests of future generations, they make decisions which might otherwise have to be imposed by way of regulatory legislation. For example, the total allowable catch for lobsters harvested along the New South Wales coast has been drastically reduced - or, more appropriately, decimated. The 100 tonnes of lobster being taken annually along the coast is probably about one-tenth of what it was prior to the declaration of share-managed fisheries and the setting of a total allowable catch. I am reliably informed that that fishery is recovering and that in a few years the restriction may be lifted and we will be able to enjoy New South Wales lobsters, rather than those imported from Tasmania or Western Australia.
In the absence of aquaculture, about which the Hon. Virginia Chadwick spoke so eloquently yesterday, our resources will have to be managed carefully. In some cases the setting of a total allowable catch will not be enough; a fishery may have to be closed. In that case compensation should be paid. Amendment 7, which was drafted with the assistance of the Parliamentary Counsel, provides for payment of compensation in such a case. The Opposition is determined to have the amendment adopted, and will call on the Committee to divide when a vote is taken.
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING [6.40 p.m.]: I support the comments of my colleague the Hon. D. F. Moppett in relation to amendments 5 and 7. Compensation is critical to the industry; it should be paid in certain circumstances. I am concerned at the attitude taken by the Minister and some of the people in his department towards a number of honourable members. A letter written to honourable members by Ken Long, senior policy adviser, stated:
(2) Compensation payable under this section is payable to persons who had entitlements to take fish in the fishery when it ceased to be a managed commercial fishery and is payable according to the market value of those entitlements. Section 44 applies to that compensation in the same way as it applies to compensation payable under that section on a fishery ceasing to be a share management fishery.
I understand that the Opposition is proposing to move 12 amendments. Three of those - amendments 5, 6 and 7 - relate to the payment of compensation . . .
2. that if any of these amendments is passed, the Government will withdraw the Bill.
On whose authority did Mr Long write this letter on the letterhead of the Minister for Mineral Resources, and Minister for Fisheries? This letter, without doubt, is a straight-out threat to members of the Committee. This outrageous letter, in effect, states, "Do what we tell you or we will withdraw the bill." Was this letter written on the Minister’s directive or the senior adviser’s directive, or did the senior adviser act on the directive of the Minister? It would
be interesting to establish the truth. It would be outrageous if we left in the relevant provision in the bill the words "compensation is not payable". A lot of honourable members are sick and tired of being badgered, threatened and told what to do. That is not good for the industry. That part of proposed section 101D which reads "compensation not payable" should be amended to read "compensation is payable". The passage of this amendment tonight will prevent the badgering tactics of the senior adviser to which I referred earlier, which is nothing more than a naked threat and an act of thuggery.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [6.43 p.m.]: The Government opposes the amendments. I refer first to the comments by the Hon. J. H. Jobling. If legislation is amended in an unacceptable way it simply means that the Government of the day cannot responsibly proceed with it. I am not an expert on this legislation - I am simply representing the Minister for Fisheries. I am assured that Opposition amendments 5 and 7 will amend the legislation in such a way that it would make it impossible for the Government to proceed with it.
The Hon. J. H. Jobling: For the Minister to say that at the table is fair, but it should not be received in writing, by way of threat.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The Minister and his advisers are entitled, and have a duty, to point out to honourable members the consequences of certain amendments being carried. The correspondence to which the Hon. J. H. Jobling referred simply points out that this amendment would make the legislation completely unacceptable to the Government. I am advised that these amendments are unworkable.
The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby: It is what the committee wanted.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am not sure about that.
The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby: I will read it into Hansard.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am not sure whether the same recommendation is reflected in the amendment, but the fact that it is recommended by a committee does not mean that it automatically becomes the law of the land. Very often committees come up with recommendations that, after consideration, prove to be unworkable. I am advised that the effect of this amendment would be that there could never be any move to share-managed fisheries. I have been advised that the Minister has agreed, and has given an assurance to Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile following representations from him, that the question of compensation will be referred to the Minister’s Advisory Council on Commercial Fishing for its advice and that the Minister has agreed to give that advice serious consideration.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [6.46 p.m.]: I support the amendments moved by the Opposition. The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti said that he believed a deal had been done with crossbench members. I assure the honourable member and the House that the only conversation I have had with Minister Martin’s office concerned the letter referred to and partly read onto the record by the Hon. J. H. Jobling. I agree with the Hon. J. H. Jobling that that letter, which was delivered to my office at about 3 o’clock this afternoon, is a direct threat. It is couched in threatening terms and is a bullying tactic and I certainly do not intend to take any notice of it. I have received a lot of correspondence about this legislation, particularly from ProFish NSW. As soon as I received letters from that organisation I rang its office and spoke to its representative. The first letter I received from ProFish stated:
The organised fishermen of New South Wales have some serious reservations about the Fisheries Management Amendment Bill . . .
The industry has been keen to have the Fisheries Management Act implemented in full, especially in regard to share management. We are deeply concerned about the proposed commercial managed fishery provisions of the Bill as we believe that it further complicates fisheries management and further entrenches the use of restricted fisheries (commercial managed fisheries are a rebadged restricted fisheries) as an archaic form of fisheries management.
It is crystal clear and well known that Minister Martin does not want share-managed fisheries, which is what the industry wants. The industry does not want to remain as a restricted or commercial fishery; it wants to be a share-managed fishery. The Minister is constantly putting industry off by saying, "We will have a share-managed fishery in the future". When in the future will we have it? It is highly unlikely that we will get share-managed fisheries before the end of the century, and possibly not in the first 10 years of the next century. Today I received another letter from ProFish NSW dated 4 September, which stated:
I am writing to seek your support Amendment 7 of the Fisheries Management Bill 1997 which provides for compensation for commercial fishermen displaced from their fishing activities for non-biological reasons.
The House should be aware that commercial fishermen will not seek, and have never sought,
compensation if a fishing area has to be closed for biological reasons. It is not in their interests to do so because to continue to fish in such an area would destroy their livelihood. If fish stocks are being depleted, commercial fishers would not want to continue depleting that stock, because they would end up without an industry. As the Hon. D. F. Moppett said about lobster stocks, the fishers want the ability to have closure of a fishery if scientific evidence proves that fish stock in that area is being seriously depleted. The letter continued:
You would be aware that competition and conflict between the commercial and recreational fishing sectors is at an all time high. The recreational sector has called for massive commercial fishing closures (almost all State waters) and, if this occurs then serious economic losses to the State, severe hardship for fishing families and rural towns, and loss of fresh seafood to the people will result.
It does not make any sense that recreational fishers get everything they want from this Government and commercial fishers do not. The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti quoted at length from the recommendations of the Standing Committee on State Development Report on Fisheries Management and Resource Allocation in New South Wales. I point out for the benefit of Government members that recommendation 32 was a unanimous recommendation of that committee. It was not a recommendation of Opposition members or crossbench members with Government members dissenting. The Government members considered that it was a reasonable recommendation. Recommendation 32 states:
That the Fisheries Management Act 1994 be amended to provide for the provision of adjustment assistance and/or the payment of compensation to commercial fishers who either are excluded from their fishery as a result of a resource allocation decision (eg marine park) or wish to surrender their endorsement. Specific compensation and structural adjustment packages should be determined by RACAC.
That recommendation is perfectly reasonable. Why should fisherpeople be discriminated against? The restructuring package in the timber industry provided for compensation. A public servant who is retrenched - and there have been wholesale redundancies in the Department of Agriculture - receives a redundancy payment. Why should fisherpeople not get compensation as public servants and as people in the timber industry do? If a mining company takes land for an open-cut mine, the land-holder will be paid compensation. I object to the gross discrimination against fisherpeople; it is totally wrong. The letter from ProFish continued:
To leave fishermen with nothing is archaic in social justice terms.
It further pointed out:
An obligation for compensation will reduce the incentive for the department to close fisheries and cause hardship in a frivolous and politically motivated manner.
The letter finally stated:
This is an important issue for the commercial fishing sector who risk their lives to supply seafood to the community and have been subjected to some exceptionally difficult times in the past two years.
I believe that statement is true. In a conversation this afternoon I received information that this compensation might cost between $30 million and $40 million. People may ask where the Government will get the money from. The Government can get the money from Star City Casino, from the TAB float, and from the sale of other pieces of government real estate. That money should be used for a socially useful purpose: to avoid discrimination against fisherpeople. I cannot understand why the Minister for Fisheries is so adamantly opposed to share-managed fisheries. Why is he so determined to squeeze out commercial fisherpeople and leave them with nothing? The effects of the bill will impact on the people of this State. The amount of imported fish for sale here is amazing. As can be seen in any large supermarket, Australia imports fish from Kenya, South Africa, Norway and Scotland. Why do we spend good Australian dollars on imported fish and put our own fisherpeople out of work?
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick made an extremely important contribution to this debate. The honourable member said if our fishing stocks are being depleted in the estuaries or the sea, then we have the opportunity to breed fish in an aquaculture industry. The establishment of such a new industry would provide employment and assist in preventing the depletion of fish stocks in estuaries and in the sea. Yet, as the Hon. Virginia Chadwick sensibly pointed out, the bill says absolutely nothing about aquaculture. Aquaculture has been completely ignored by the Minister, as if it were a form of food production that did not exist. It seems to me that the Minister does not even know how to manage his own portfolio.
Honourable members are all very tired, and I am particularly tired this week for reasons that honourable members will understand, but I will not be stood over by any Minister. I object when it is said that a deal has been done because other crossbench members have allowed a Minister’s threats to influence their decisions. I have no knowledge of any deal. Nevertheless I can assure the Committee that I was more determined than ever
to support this amendment after I received the Minister’s letter. If I had not received such a letter I may have been more inclined to support a reasoned statement by the Attorney General who handled the passage of the legislation in this House. However, the minute I received that letter my mind was firmly made up. I support the amendment. Whether it succeeds or fails, I am delighted that we will divide the Committee so that our support for the amendments will be on the public record.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [6.58 p.m.]: I want to make a few supplementary comments. The Standing Committee on State Development's Report on Fisheries Management and Resource Allocation stated in chapter 4, "Implementation of the Act":
After considering the voluminous evidence before it, the Standing Committee believes share management to be the appropriate fisheries management outcome for New South Wales.
That was not a statement that came from a few members on this side of the House or from the Hon. I. Cohen. All four Government members on the committee agreed with it. Why was that statement made? The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby has stolen most of my thunder because she has correctly identified that the principal issues are certainty and sustainability. The Carr Government supported that in 1995, but the Minister did not. The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby has been careful in her consideration of the legislation. She drew attention to recommendation 32 of the report, that the Fisheries Management Act be amended to provide for the provision of adjustment assistance and/or the payment of compensation under circumstances other than those already in the Act.
When the committee visited other fisheries, which was always worthwhile doing, it learned that it is sometimes necessary to diminish the activities of fishers and to reduce the amount of fisheries twice: the first when the Government takes action to exclude fishers, which is akin to excluding people from cutting down trees and thereby having to pay compensation; and the second when, in the interests of shared management, too many people are engaged in the game. When the northern prawn trawl in Western Australia found itself in that position it instituted a buyout scheme funded by the industry.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: Remember the abalone.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: It was much the same. In Western Australia the co-operative gave some of the fishermen a loan of $2 million or $3 million and they bought out some of their colleagues so that the industry would be sustainable. Thereafter the market would have no new entrants unless existing fishers sold out. The share-managed fishery bill proposed that people would have access on the basis of their share and catch, but could become more viable and use technology to catch more efficiently, but the same amount would be caught and shared by fewer people. There are instances under the administration of the former Government and the administration of the present Government when compensation has been payable. For example, this week the privatisation of the TAB will result in the racing industry receiving compensation, and that will be much more than $30 million or $40 million.
The egg industry was highly regulated. The previous Government bit the bullet in the interests of the people of New South Wales and the supply of fresh eggs. Those egg industry licenses were the subject of a buyout, and New South Wales now has free trade in eggs. Fishing in New South Wales should be a $1 billion industry, as my colleague the Hon. Virginia Chadwick said last evening, if fish could be bred by aquaculture. Fisheries already generate a large amount of money through tourism, and commercial fisheries also produce about $250 million a year. It is probably more when one takes abalone fishing into account.
Over a period of four or five years $30 million or $40 million that might be paid once to buy security and tenure is nothing compared to the amounts involved in the examples I have given. However, the way the Minister for Fisheries is mismanaging the State’s fishery, New South Wales will have no fishery, no $200 million and people will go to other States where fisheries are well managed. This Minister introduced share management into the abalone industry because that procedure was already well down the track. But even then he got it wrong and some people were disadvantaged. His mates got the advantage; those who came clamouring and said they would support him. I withdraw any statements I made about the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby making deals with the Government. I meant the Independents. Obviously, the Hon. J. S. Tingle takes umbrage also and I apologise desperately to him. I remind honourable members that these amendments are to a principal Act. They are most inappropriate because they are contrary to the whole purpose of the bill.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: They are Government amendments.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Yes. The Fisheries Management Amendment Bill amends the Act. Inserting these amendments into the Fisheries Management Act is like putting chalk into cheese: they are diametrically opposed. It is like putting hot coffee into ice-cream. The bill and the Act cannot mix because their principles are diametrically opposed.
Revered the Hon. F. J. Nile: Like oil and water.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Like oil and water.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: Inimical.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: They are inimical. The Hon. E. M. Obeid understands precisely what I mean. The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby and Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile each drew attention to recommendation 32, and to recommendation 33, which stated:
That a Fishing Industry Structural Adjustment unit . . . be established to determine, in consultation with RACAC and affected shareholders, individual structural adjustment packages . . .
The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby acutely pointed out that this is what this issue is all about. The Commonwealth Act is a share-managed fisheries Act. The Commonwealth has paid out large amounts of compensation over time to ensure the viability of the fishery, but it also bought out fishers in areas that were being overfished, for example, in the gemfish industry, to ensure the viability of that fishery and other resources for the people of Australia. The Minister has a completely different mechanism for managing fisheries to that used by the Commonwealth. His proposal is an absolute nonsense. I join with the Hon. D. F. Moppett in promoting this amendment and opposing the Government’s mean-minded and destructive attitude to New South Wales fisheries.
[The Chairman left the chair at 7.06 p.m. The Committee resumed at 8.15 p.m.]
The Hon. I. COHEN [8.15 p.m.]: I support Opposition amendments 5 and 7. I am concerned about the letter sent to me by Ken Long, senior policy adviser to Minister Martin. These amendments are most important. The Government has managed - for want of a better word - the bulk of commercial fisheries in New South Wales through the misuse of a small section of the Fisheries Management Act which deals with restricted fisheries. The Minister has acted in this extraordinary way so that the State can avoid paying compensation to fishers who may lose their commercial viability through the continual mismanagement of the State’s commercial fisheries.
Today my office was contacted and told that the Nature Conservation Council had informed the Minister’s office that I was considering supporting these amendments. That is true, because everything the New South Wales Greens have heard this year on New South Wales Fisheries points to the erosion of the confidence of commercial fishers in the continuation of their industry. I was a member of the Standing Committee on State Development, which looked at the fishing industry and came up with a number of clear recommendations for the proper management and conservation of fisheries throughout New South Wales and a sensibly balanced industry. I cannot now change my position just because the Minister has sent me a threatening letter, like some sort of Mafioso thug, saying that if any of the amendments are passed the Government will withdraw the bill.
The Hon. R. D. Dyer: On a point of order. I take exception to the statement just made by the Hon. I. Cohen describing the Minister as some mafioso thug. It clearly must be unparliamentary and I ask that it be withdrawn.
The Hon. I. COHEN: On the point of order. I had publicly indicated on a number of occasions in this Chamber that if I had any sense of integrity I would have to oppose the Government’s proposals. For the Minister to send me a letter at this late stage and not have any other communication with me on this matter that I -
The CHAIRMAN: The member will speak to the point of order.
The Hon. I. COHEN: I feel that that is a reasonable assessment of this Minister.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: On the point of order. As I heard it, the Hon. I. Cohen did not suggest that either the Minister or his officer was a mafioso thug but that he had in the letter used the sort of language that was more appropriate to the tactics of somebody who might be described as a mafioso thug.
The Hon. I. COHEN: Further to the point of order. I appreciate the supportive comment by the Hon. D. F. Moppett. The Minister did not treat me in the way that I would expect to be treated as a member of Parliament in dealing with impending legislation such as this. I consider that the Minister
has acted in the way I described. I am not saying that he is a member of the Mafia; I am saying that in the context -
The CHAIRMAN: Order! Did the honourable member say "like a mafioso thug" or "as a mafioso thug"?
The Hon. I. COHEN: If I said "as", I would be happy to change it to "like", as I understand it to be a simile. But in my assessment of the matter that was the only inaccurate word.
The CHAIRMAN: Order! The honourable member would, I am sure, acknowledge that to call a Minister of the Crown a mafioso thug is certainly unparliamentary. If the honourable member did that, I ask him to withdraw.
The Hon. I. COHEN: Perhaps I need to seek further clarification from you in regard to how one may describe the way a person has acted. I have witnessed this attitude a number of times over a period of months when dealing with this Minister.
The CHAIRMAN: Order! The honourable member is getting perilously close to canvassing my ruling. Despite the gallant attempt by the Hon. D. F. Moppett to defend the Hon. I. Cohen, reference was made to the Minister acting as a mafioso thug. I ask the member to withdraw the reference.
The Hon. I. COHEN: I withdraw. I always strive to act co-operatively with other members of this august institution. While my relationship with some members of this Chamber and the ministry may be strained at times, I have a great deal of respect for the majority of members of this Parliament. I am extremely concerned, however, about the position in which I now find myself. It is untenable that I should have to compromise my environmental credibility to respect another platform of the Greens, that of social justice. In my naivety I had thought that often this Chamber amends legislation, which is then returned to the other place for its further consideration. I did not think that acceptance of an amendment would mean that a bill was automatically thrown out the window because of a threat that it has to be "all or nothing". This Chamber is the House of Review and part of its function is to consider amendments to legislation. Amendments have been moved that I regard as reasonable. They are in keeping with recent history for me of an in-depth investigation of the fishing industry and I support them.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: Otherwise it would be government by decree.
The Hon. I. COHEN: Exactly. Instead of embarking on a sensible industry restructure package, as was done with the forestry industry, as recommended in the report of the Standing Committee on State Development, the Minister has continually tried to subvert the intent of his legislation and delay giving commercial fishers property rights, and a vested interest in protecting the resource, namely, the fish and the fish habitat. The members of the committee - including myself as a Green - believe that share management will ultimately protect the aquatic environment in a way that has not been possible under open access. The Hon. D. F. Moppett has spoken about the restriction of access in the lobster industry. When commercial fishers have undertaken to be part of the share-management process, everything has worked well.
As I have said, my office was informed that if this amendment was supported and agreed to, the Minister’s office had been instructed to pull the bill. I still say that is a threat. The threatened species mirror legislation was a pre-election promise of the Labor Party. The threatened species legislation is not a recent initiative; the Labor Party stated before the election that it would introduce such legislation. Now at this last moment the Government, the Minister or the Minister’s senior policy adviser - because the Minister is not prepared to sign this letter - has said that, despite the fact that the legislation was a pre-election promise and has been touted by the Government for a long time, the legislation is somehow conditional. It has taken the Government 2½ years to introduce this legislation and now the Government threatens not to implement it.
I refuse to be a threatened species. As far as I am concerned, Minister Martin can go fishing. The fishing industry of this State is entitled to compensation or at least a decent industry restructuring package not unlike the forestry industry package. I do not know how other crossbenchers feel about this amendment or the extraordinary threat of the Minister, but certainly I support this amendment. I shall support it because I believe it to be fair and appropriate. I judge each piece of legislation and amendment on the merits. The letter to which I have referred is not helpful and the Minister - whatever faction of politics he may belong to and whatever way it is appropriate to describe him - should be sacked. It is as simple as that.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [8.30 p.m.]: Compensation is a serious matter. In the past I have had meetings with commercial fishermen who over the last two years have been pleased to co-operate
with the Government, albeit with some reluctance, in the implementation of an inbuilt system of compensation. At those meetings the fishermen were not certain about what form the compensation should take or how it would operate. They suggested a system, among others, whereby all commercial fishermen would contribute to a compensation fund that would be topped up by the Government - at a ratio of 75:25 or 50:50 respectively - to assist those who needed compensation. I forwarded those constructive suggestions to the Minister for his consideration. I am disappointed that those suggestions have not been considered by the Government and that the bill contains a blanket statement that no compensation will be provided. This amendment seeks to change that. Proposed section 101D provides:
Compensation is not payable by or on behalf of the State because a fishery ceases to be a commercial managed fishery at the end of the period for which it was declared to be a commercial managed fishery or at any time during that period.
The Opposition seeks to remove the word "not" where appearing in that proposed section so as to provide the opportunity for compensation to be factored into the legislation. The amendment provides in part that:
Compensation payable under this section is payable to persons who had entitlements to take fish in the fishery when it ceased to be a commercial managed fishery and is payable according to the market value of those entitlements. Section 44 applies to that compensation in the same way as it applies to compensation payable under that section on a fishery ceasing to be a share management fishery.
I have received a number of letters from ProFish NSW on this issue. In one such letter, dated 4 December, the secretary of the organisation, Graeme Hillyard, made reference to recommendation 32 of the Standing Committee on State Development’s Report on Fisheries Management and Resource Allocation in New South Wales, which recommended a specific form of compensation. Recommendation 32 states:
That the Fisheries Management Act 1994 be amended to provide for the provision of adjustment assistance and/or the payment of compensation to commercial fishers who either are excluded from their fishery as a result of a resource allocation decision (eg marine park or wish to surrender their endorsement. Specific compensation and structural adjustment packages should be determined by RACAC.
Mr Hillyard referred also to the provision of adjustment assistance to the forest industry, which from memory was $60 million - an amount matched by the Federal Government, giving a total of $120 million. The same has happened in other areas. The inclusion of a provision of no compensation seems a harsh reaction. The Minister’s advisers have suggested in discussions that there is a basic error in the amendment. Even though obviously the bill provides that no compensation will be provided, the advisers question the wording of the amendment. They have said to me that if the bill is passed in its present form, it could mean that compensation will be paid to every commercial fisherman who transfers to a share-managed fishery. If the amendment is passed tonight, the Government could propose an amendment to that amendment to remedy the error, if indeed there is an error in the amendment.
I do not know whether the Opposition agrees that there is a problem with the amendment. One approach to this dilemma would be for the Government to come back with an amendment to the amendment to remove any suggestion of the payment of compensation to all commercial fishermen who go into the share-managed fisheries scheme. That obviously is not the intention of the Opposition; it certainly is not mine. Earlier the Leader of the Government said he had been advised by the Minister that the Government supports the intent of the Opposition’s amendment, that fishers should not be disenfranchised from fisheries without compensation. However, I realise that this amendment may not achieve that goal. Therefore, I seek an assurance from the Minister that he will refer this matter to the Advisory Council on Commercial Fishing for advice and that he will give careful consideration to that advice.
The Leader of the Government gave a shorthand response to that request earlier. The realists among us might say that such an assurance counts for nothing: the Minister could say that he has given careful consideration to the matter but has decided not to accept the advice. We would then be back at first base. The answer may be to add the word "genuine" to the assurance, so that the Minister would undertake to give careful and genuine consideration to the advice. I have received a number of letters from the Minister relating to this bill, as no doubt other members have. One passage of one of those letters in particular has caused some offence to the crossbench. It states:
2. that if any of these amendments is passed, the Government will withdraw the Bill.
This is the adviser speaking on behalf of the Minister. The letter continues:
Clearly the implications of withdrawing the Bill are very serious, particularly as the Bill contains important protection for threatened species.
If we do anything that results in the bill being withdrawn, threatened species will lose their
protection, and we will be roundly criticised. Only minutes ago I received yet another letter from the Minister’s senior policy adviser, because the Minister is -
The Hon. R. D. Dyer: - at Nelson Bay Baptist Church.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: The Minister for Public Works and Services knows as much as I know. The Minister’s senior policy adviser wrote:
The Minister is at this very moment attending a Cross Roads function at the Nelson Bay Baptist Church. Should you feel it necessary to discuss this with him, you may contact him at the Presbytery of Rev. Gordon Deverill. . .
The adviser repeated the Minister’s statement:
The Minister asked me to stress that the Opposition’s amendment, as presently worded, would mean that managed commercial fisheries could not progress to share management without full compensation being paid.
That is the point I was making earlier about the Minister’s verbal advice. The letter continues:
This would produce an unworkable and bizarre result, and would place an unacceptable obligation on the Government. As a consequence, the Government would not be in a position to progress any managed commercial fishery to share management, knowing that full compensation was payable, and that they might then be eligible for double-dip compensation under share management.
There are obviously different interpretations of the amendments. That is the legal advice received by the Government. Will the Government accept the amendments or seek to defer their consideration until it drafts an amendment of its own to cover the situation?
The Hon. J. H. Jobling: The Government can do it in the Legislative Assembly after the bill is sent from the Legislative Council.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: Yes, it can, unless it has made a policy decision that no matter what is said or done no compensation will be paid, in which case it may only be delaying the inevitable to ask the Government to bring back an amendment to the amendments. I thank the Government advisers for taking the time to present this material to me. I will certainly take it on board. Will the Minister for Public Works and Services give the assurance that I have sought, and then we can see how the bill progresses with the amendments?
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Public Works and Services) [8.41 p.m.]: I listened with care to the remarks of Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile regarding the amendment. My advice from the Minister’s advisers is to the effect that any proposal to amend the compensation component is unacceptable to the Government. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile correctly cited a passage from a letter written to him this evening by Mr Ken Long, the Minister’s senior policy adviser, in which the Government’s rationale for not accepting the Opposition amendment is set out. I do not think any good purpose will be served by my reading it onto the record again. As the Minister’s adviser said in his letter the amendments proposed before the Committee would produce an unworkable and bizarre result and would place an unacceptable obligation on the Government.
Earlier my colleague the Treasurer gave a form of undertaking to the effect that the Minister for Fisheries has agreed to refer these amendments to his advisory council on commercial fishing for its advice and to give such advice serious consideration. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile asked whether I could restate that commitment or undertaking, and I do that. The honourable member said that he would like the Minister to give the proposals genuine consideration. The existing formulation as articulated by the Treasurer is that the Minister would give the advice serious consideration. I cannot go inside the mind of another Minister but I am not at all reluctant to say that the Minister would give the advice both serious and genuine consideration.
The Hon. J. H. Jobling: At the end of the day that is meaningless.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I do not believe that serious or genuine consideration is meaningless at all. Those words have ordinary and well understood meanings. I put it to the Committee that the Minister will give serious and genuine consideration to the amendments and will obtain advice from the advisory council on commercial fishing.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: What about your personal undertaking?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I will not be giving personal consideration to the matter. It is a matter outside my administration, as the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti well understands. However, having known the Hon. Bob Martin for many years it is my belief that he will give both serious and genuine consideration to the matter.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [8.45 p.m.]: We have spent some little time on the Tammany-Hall tactics that have been employed in this debate. I do not want to dwell on the letter that has been quoted
on a number of occasions already, but I remind honourable members that this is not the first time that threats have been made about what will happen if Opposition’s amendments, or denial of regulations, were carried by this Chamber. We were told that the world was going to fall in and that an armada of fishing boats was going to descend upon New South Wales and plunder our fishing stocks if we did not get the regulations proclaiming restricted fisheries through. The Minister then exercised his usual prerogative and his predilection to duck and weave more effectively than a hare running through a labyrinth chased by a hungry fox -
The Hon. R. D. Dyer: On a point of order. I hesitate to interrupt such colourful use of language; it is quite entertaining. However, I put it to the Committee and to you, Mr Chairman, that the honourable member is sketching in some detail now that may well be the background to this matter of commercial fisheries. With respect, we are considering particular amendments dealing with the question of compensation, and past events by way of general background, while relevant to a second reading contribution, are not relevant to consideration of specific amendments dealing with compensation.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: On the point of order. The avoidance of compensation is the central reason why the Minister has moved to restricted fisheries rather than to share-managed fisheries. Anything that the Hon. D. F. Moppett says about fisheries in general or fisheries in particular is relevant to this amendment.
The CHAIRMAN: Order! Although the Hon. D. F. Moppett was close to getting away from the subject of the amendment, at this time he is still in order. No point of order is involved.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT: I also listened with interest to what Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile had to say. I know that other honourable members, including the Hon. J. S. Tingle, are concerned about the advice offered by departmental advisers, that it will be open for the fishing industry to make unreasonable and unsustainable claims on Treasury. This amendment is not an attempt to make an appropriation on the Treasury to pay compensation to a designated group of people in the fishing industry. The Opposition’s amendment attempts to give some symmetry to a newly created division within fisheries management of commercially managed fisheries, so that it has some parallel to share-managed fisheries. I do not have to labour the point about the desirability of share-managed fisheries. It is the Opposition’s intention that these amendments will give fishermen some of the qualities of share-managed fisheries that they would enjoy if the Minister were honest, open and prepared to address the concerns of the industry.
The Opposition seeks to co-operate with the Minister so that in extreme circumstances provisions will be available for access to the type of compensation and fairness that is available under share-managed fisheries. Fishermen will ensure that no compensation is payable because no fishery will be closed down. The Hon. I. Cohen has pledged his support for the amendments because he realises that they are designed essentially to prevent the payment of compensation. The preservation of fish stocks will allow the fishing industry to continue viable and equitable operations.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER [8.50 p.m.]: I want to challenge the word of the Minister for Fisheries in respect of giving serious consideration to a request from this Chamber. I remind the Committee that in the last week of the 1996 sittings the Chamber was debating the Fisheries Management Advisory Bill. The scenario was exactly the same, with Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile asking the Hon. R. D. Dyer, representing Mr Martin, the Minister for Fisheries, for undertakings. The Fisheries Management Amendment (Advisory Bodies) Bill was forwarded to the Standing Committee on State Development.
The Opposition was under the impression that the bill would not be proclaimed until such time as that committee had deliberated on the legislation and the House had considered its report. However, the bill was proclaimed before the committee could consider it. Certain regulations were not even prepared for consideration by the Standing Committee on State Development, let alone by the fishing industry. Therefore, the committee had to issue an interim report saying basically that the House had been dudded and that the advice that the Hon. R. D. Dyer gave Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile did not hold over Christmas. I remind this Committee of those events, with the Hon. R. D. Dyer representing Mr Martin, whose word counts for absolutely nothing.
Question - That the amendments be agreed to - put.
The Committee divided.
Mrs Arena Rev. Nile
Mr Bull Dr Pezzutti
Mrs Chadwick Mr Ryan
Mr Cohen Mr Samios
Mrs Forsythe Mrs Sham-Ho
Miss Gardiner Mr Rowland Smith
Dr Goldsmith Mr Tingle
Mr Hannaford Mr Willis
Mr Kersten Tellers,
Ms Kirkby Mr Jobling
Mrs Nile Mr Moppett
Dr Burgmann Mr Primrose
Mr Corbett Ms Saffin
Mr Dyer Mr Shaw
Mr Johnson Mrs Symonds
Mr Jones Mr Vaughan
Mr Kelly Tellers,
Mr Macdonald Mrs Isaksen
Mr Obeid Mr Manson
Mr Gallacher Ms Burnswoods
Mr Lynn Mr Egan
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendments agreed to.
Progress reported from Committee and leave granted to sit again.
HEALTH SERVICES BILL
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [9.03 p.m.]: I move:
Page 6, clause 10. Insert at the end of line 29:
(iii) to develop strategies to facilitate community involvement in the planning of those services and to report on the implementation of those strategies in annual reports and to the Minister,
The amendment is self-evident. I believe that it is supported by a number of honourable members as well as the Minister. The Opposition’s aim in moving this amendment is to ensure that there is community consultation and community involvement in the planning of health services, and that area health services provide an annual report to the Minister on strategies and the results of those strategies. If the Minister wants reports other than an annual report he has the power to direct area health services to provide further reports from time to time. Communities should be more involved in their health services. The amendment provides for to-and-fro communication on implementation of the Minister’s health policy. The Minister will be able to receive feedback on how the policy is working and on whether appropriate health services are being provided in a timely and reasonable fashion. He will also be able to inform communities about problems with the provision of health services and to explain the policy arrangements to be implemented. With those few words I commend the amendment to the Committee.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Public Works and Services) [9.05 p.m.]: The Government does not support this amendment. The importance of community involvement in health service planning and development, and the Government’s commitment to it, is reflected in the bill, which re-enacts existing provisions of the area health services legislation concerning community consultation and involvement in the planning and development of area health services. These functions have been expanded to acknowledge that other organisations in addition to the Department of Health may have an interest in and contribution to make to planning undertaken at a local level. The bill recognises the responsibility of areas to consult and co-operate with their local health professionals.
The Government is actively exploring strategies that might be used to facilitate community involvement in health. To this end, the Department of Health commissioned a health consumers project, which was managed by the New South Wales Council of Social Service - commonly known as NCOSS - to conduct a structured consultation with consumer and community organisations on the issue. The report of that project is now to hand and will provide a valuable resource to the department and areas in developing appropriate strategies for community involvement. The model performance agreement for area health services includes obligations on areas for community participation. Inclusion of this model provision in the area performance agreements will result in increased accountability within the health system in terms of community consultation and annual reporting on and evaluation of that accountability in accordance with clause 126 of the bill. Accordingly, the Government
is of the view that the bill already has adequate mechanisms for community consultation.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [9.07 p.m.]: I am a member of the Temora healthy shires committee. I believe that that committee is to be replicated in all local government areas of New South Wales. The Temora committee is chaired by the chief executive officer of the local shire council. For almost six months the committee has been promised a briefing by Department of Health advisers on the Minister’s views and intentions for the delivery of health care not in the Temora region but in the Temora shire. Time and time again that meeting has been postponed because the Minister’s advisers have not been able to attend, for whatever reason.
The first couple of times the meeting was postponed the committee thought that there was probably a good reason for the postponement. However, I believe - I do not know what my fellow members on that committee believe - that there is no intention to consult us. The Minister will simply tell us what will happen. As I pointed out in my contribution to the second reading debate, this bill is retrospective legislation as it ratifies what the Minister has already done. The Minister established these expanded area health regions without the approval of the Parliament. The expanded regions were introduced at the beginning of this year. It is now December and honourable members are debating legislation to ratify the Minister’s actions in January and February.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: Without any authority.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: Yes, without any authority. I do not accept this retrospective legislation, which is unfortunate for the Minister for Public Works and Services because I know that he is only acting on advice given to him by the advisers of his colleague the Minister for Health. He has no control over what the Minister for Health decides to do. The Opposition’s amendment is simple. It states:
to develop strategies to facilitate community involvement in the planning of those services and to report on the implementation of those strategies in annual reports and to the Minister,
The amendment does not bind the Government; it just says that people who need health care and who use health care services, and who pay for them through their Medicare levy or, if they are wealthy, through private health insurance, should have a medium through which they can have an involvement in the delivery of health services in their local area. The community has no control. People should have a forum through which they can explain to the Minister variations in health services in their area, why they may not be satisfactory and why they should be improved. The Government will not accept the amendment. I am beginning to believe that the Government has gone mad - everything is to be done by ministerial fiat, and anything that destroys ministerial fiat has to be shot down. For example, earlier today ministerial fiat was shot down by a threatening letter. I fully support the Opposition’s amendment. I do not understand why the Government will not accept it.
Amendment agreed to.
Chapter agreed to.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [9.12 p.m.]: I move Australian Democrats amendment No. 1:
No. 1 Page 13, clause 26(2), lines 25-27. Omit all words on those lines.
(2) Of the persons appointed by the Minister:
(a) 1 is to be a person who the Minister is satisfied will represent the interests of the local councils whose local government areas are included in the area of the area health service, and
(b) 1 is to be a medical practitioner who the Minister is satisfied will represent the interests of the medical practitioners that practise in the area of the area health service, and
(c) 1 is to be a registered nurse who the Minister is satisfied will represent the interests of the nurses that work in the area of the area health service, and
I refer honourable members to clause 26, which states:
(d) 1 is to be a person elected in the manner prescribed by regulations under clause 2 of Schedule 5.
(1) An area health board is to consist of the following persons:
(a) the chief executive officer of the area health service (who holds office as an ex officio member),
(b) persons (not being less than 8 or more than 11) appointed by the Minister.
The board is to be controlled by the Minister: he will choose the membership of the board. My amendment asks that the board comprise members who represent the medical and health professionals of the area and local government. I believe that this is important. I am not suggesting that the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the Nurses Association or any professional association should select candidates for membership of the board. The bill provides for the Minister to appoint between eight and 11 people to a board. I am merely asking that three of the eight be representative of medical and health professionals and of the local community. The Minister will obviously select people whom he believes will be sympathetic to his philosophy of health management in this State. My amendment provides for a broader cross-section of the community.
The Minister has introduced legislation that made changes to the area health boards. As a result, one chief executive officer has resigned, probably because he was not prepared to lose his integrity by diminishing health services to meet the budgetary constraints forced on him; one officer has been removed by the Minister; and the chair of the Greater Murray regional health board resigned before the legislation was introduced and before the Minister’s management plan had been in place for nine months. She did not believe that it would work and she was not prepared to attempt to carry out something that she knew was impossible, even though the Minister had appointed her to that position.
There have been teething problems with this legislation. In many cases the expanded area health boards are far too large to work and geographically they are unwieldy. At the very least, the people involved in the delivery of health care - that is, the health professionals - should have representation on the board. I am aware that the Opposition will not support my amendment, and I do not intend to divide the Committee. However, it is proper that I place my concerns firmly on the record. The Minister goes around the country saying that he wants community involvement in the provision of health care, but when we try to involve the community he backs off and says that he will not consider it. I commend my amendment to the Committee. It would be ridiculous for me to call for a division if the Opposition is not prepared to support it. My amendment is not unreasonable as it leaves the power in the hands of the Minister. I am suggesting that three people on a board of eight or 11 should represent health professionals and the wider community.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Public Works and Services) [9.19 p.m.]: The Government believes that the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby misunderstands the nature of corporate governance and the duties of board members to act in the interests of the area health service for the benefit of the community as a whole and not to represent particular sectional interests. I intend to deal with each part of the honourable member’s amendment in turn. The first proposal would insert a new clause 26(2)(a) to provide for a member of the board to represent local council interests. This amendment is not only contrary to the general legal responsibility that board members have to act in the interests of the area and not to represent sectional interests, but would also be entirely impractical to implement.
Each area health service covers a number of local government areas. If a person were chosen from one particular local government area it might well be viewed as a bias towards that local government area at the expense of others. Furthermore, clause 10(f)(iii) of the bill places a responsibility on area health services to consult and co-operate with organisations, including local authorities, concerned with the promotion, protection and maintenance of health. This is the right and proper place in the bill for the relationship between area health services and local government to be reflected. I deal now with the proposal to insert new paragraphs (b) and (c) into clause 26(2). Paragraph (b) provides that a member of the board be a medical practitioner representing the interests of local doctors. This amendment treats the medical profession more favourably than other health professional groups, such as physiotherapists, pharmacists and psychologists, who also practise in an area. The Government is not prepared to put medical practitioners in a more privileged position.
The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby has sought to assuage the concerns of the nursing profession by adding paragraph (c) to clause 26(2), which provides that a registered nurse be appointed to the board to represent the interests of nurses. This latest formulation does not rectify the flaws in the Democrats amendment. Firstly, the nursing profession comprises not only registered nurses but also enrolled nurses, and the latter receive no recognition under the Democrats amendment. Secondly, all the amendment does is place part of another profession in a more privileged position than other health professionals. There are already strong and effective mechanisms in place to ensure proper
liaison and communication with health professionals practising in an area. Firstly, registered doctors and nurses employed by area health services have the same rights as other health care workers to stand for election as the staff member of the area board.
Secondly, under the model by-laws for area health services, medical staff council representatives have the right to attend board meetings. Thirdly, clause 10(f)(ii) of the bill places upon area health services the responsibility of consulting and co-operating with all health professionals practising in the relevant area. This provision is not restricted to the medical profession or to registered nurses, but extends to all health professionals providing care to the local community. The Government is not prepared to put certain health professionals in a more privileged position than other health professionals, or to value the input of one professional group more than another. The Government is not prepared to depart from the well-established principles of corporate governance that board members have a duty to act in the interests of the area health service for the benefit of the community as a whole and do not have some statutory obligation to represent external sectional interests.
It is for this very reason, similar to the position that pertains currently under the Area Health Services Act, that the staff elected member provided for in clause 26(2) of the bill is in no way designated under the bill to "represent" the interests of staff. The honourable member misunderstands the board’s role. It is not one of direct representation of the community or particular sections of the community, but of discharging its duties and functions in the interests of the community as a whole. If the amendment proceeded, it would place certain board members in a position of conflict between their fiduciary duty to act in the interests of the area health service and the obligation envisaged by the amendment to represent a particular sectional interest, be it local councils, or local doctors or nurses. Furthermore, the amendment fails to address how this conflict should be resolved. The amendment, in the Government’s view, is fundamentally flawed and for the reasons I have outlined is not supported.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [9.24 p.m.]: I can understand that the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby was concerned about this issue when she read the bill because she had had the experience of the board of the New South Wales Cancer Council and the Minister’s decision to appoint to that board a whole range of people with no experience of treatment of patients with cancer. That board’s rapid demise meant that the Minister had to remove the unionists and others and start again. The Opposition sympathises with the intent of the amendment, which seeks to ensure that the decisions of members of the board are tempered with the tradition of caring for the community; and that board members should not be trying to keep the Minister happy or do what is fashionable, but should also have some idea of what is going on in the system.
My colleague the shadow minister, the honourable member for North Shore, and I have had discussions with a number of people, including members of the Australian Medical Association. That association did not support the suggestion that the board should include a medical officer to represent the views of medical practitioners. Surprise, surprise, the AMA agrees with the Government that the function of area health service boards and board members is to focus on the care of the community. Members of such boards should not be people who are there to push a particular barrow. The Opposition also had discussions with Debbie Picone from the college of nursing. The Opposition sought the views of both organisations concerned with the honourable member’s amendment about the suggestion that a clinical person might be appointed by the Minister - a dentist, pharmacist, physiotherapist, podiatrist, medical practitioner or registered or enrolled nurse - in other words, someone from the broad grouping of clinical practitioners.
On one of the few occasions that officers of the department have been keen to speak to me and to Mrs Skinner, they made it clear that, as a matter of principle, the Minister would always appoint a doctor to the board and that he confidently expects that the representative elected to the board by the staff will be a nurse. The nurses have the numbers and that is how it generally pans out. The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby will get her wish, according to the Minister and the department, but it will not be the role of members to represent the sectional interests from which they have been drawn: their role will be to represent the whole community. The person elected could be a paramedic or a radiographer, but it will be a person who is well known and respected; someone who moves around the hospital and is widely approachable.
The Minister will have to choose the appointees very carefully, because if a board does not have credibility in the community it will lose its ability to do what needs to be done. I trust that people of stature will be appointed who will ask the appropriate questions, and that the medical staff council representative who generally attends
meetings of the board will give appropriate reassurances and draw people in so that there is a co-operative arrangement not only between the medical practitioners, the visiting medical officers and staff representatives, but with the wider community as well. That is why the Opposition moved an earlier amendment, which was strongly supported by the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby. Although we understand the reason for the amendment, on this occasion the Opposition cannot support it.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [9.29 p.m.]: I would like to make a few comments in response to the Minister. If I recollect correctly, he said that my amendment was fundamentally flawed. I believe the Minister’s reasoning is fundamentally flawed. The area in which I live is covered by the Greater Murray Area Health Service. In order to meet the needs of Treasury - not the needs of community health, not the needs of patients, but the needs of Treasury - that service has refused to allow specialist practitioners to continue to provide an obstetric and gynaecology service in Albury. That service has been outsourced and obstetric and gynaecological patients in Albury will now have to go to Wodonga. The Greater Murray Area Health Service is setting up a contract with the Victorian Government.
The specialist obstetricians and gynaecologists who have offered their services in Albury have been abandoned. That is not in the best interests of community health and it is certainly not in the best interests of women, particularly pregnant women, because it is documented that Victoria has the highest intervention rate of surgical procedures in child birth of any country in the western world. It is higher than Canada and it is higher than anywhere else in the world where western medicine is practised. The service has been abandoned purely for financial reasons. It will relieve the area health board of a financial obligation that it no longer wishes to carry because it is vastly in debt. The area health board has been told that it has to come in close to budget, if not under budget, and that it will not get any further funding.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: But it works both ways: a lot of Victorians go to the Albury Base Hospital.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: The same thing happens in Coolangatta: they come into New South Wales.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: It is not the same. The women of Albury are losing a very successful service because the area health board has taken it away from them. They will not be able to go to the Albury Base Hospital because no obstetric beds will be available. They no longer have the choice. I do not know about Coolangatta because I do not know what the choices are in the north of New South Wales, but in Albury on the Murray River women will no longer have the choice. This is one of the reasons I believe my amendment is important. I fully appreciate what the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti has said - what he placed on the record is what he has said to me privately - but I do not believe that the method the Minister is using to set up area health boards reflects the needs and wishes of the community.
I make that comment specifically as a member of General Purpose Standing Committee No. 2 that is inquiring into health services in this State. An increasing amount of correspondence has been received by that committee, particularly correspondence concerning delivery of health service in the south of the State under the control of the Greater Murray Area Health Service. More letters come in from that area than from any other part of New South Wales. The community is desperately concerned about the closure of its hospitals and the loss of services. Under this legislation the only people who will be able to represent the community are those appointed by the Minister. Do we honestly believe that he will appoint anybody who does not follow his belief and his philosophy? Of course we should not. I will not push my amendment because I do not have the numbers. It is the way the Minister is trying to set this up that is fundamentally flawed, not my amendment.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [9.34 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party sympathises with the amendment moved by the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby for reasons similar to those she has outlined. We are on record as opposing what has become a centralised, bureaucratic approach to the health system, with a dramatic move away from local hospitals, local hospital boards, volunteer workers and people who were motivated and involved with their local hospitals. Of course, this has happened over a number of years, and both sides of politics have been involved in that change. It seems that governments do not realise the community interest in local hospitals. Unfortunately, much of that interest has dried up because we now have a bureaucratic machine overseeing the area health services.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: You can’t go back to that.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: There should have been some compromise to maintain local interest and involvement, but now that is completely lost. This amendment seeks to address that situation by ensuring that someone from the local council, someone who is a local doctor, or someone who is a registered nurse is on the board, although, as the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti said, it is usual for a registered nurse to be the elected representative, so two nurses might end up on the board. Although I believe that the principle is correct, the wording of the amendment may be wrong. It is not as though those on the board are like union members representing the Australian Medical Association -
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: You have voted against that on numerous occasions.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: I know, and that is what I am saying. That is the way the amendment has been drafted. I believe the wording of the amendment probably goes beyond what the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby had in mind. We support the amendment in principle.
Chapter agreed to.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [9.39 p.m.], by leave: I move Australian Democrats amendments 2 and 3 in globo:
No. 2 Page 46, clause 71, line 9. Omit "destitute people". Insert instead "persons unable to pay".
No. 3 Page 46, clause 71 , line 11. Omit "destitute".
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: Tell us why you are doing it.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti has asked me to say why I am doing it. I would have thought that was crystal clear. The bill contains the words "destitute people". In law, one would have to prove if one was destitute, which is totally different from not having the means to pay. Fortunately, very few people are totally destitute but many thousands are unable to pay.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Public Works and Services) [9.40 p.m.], by leave: I seek to amend the amendments by moving Government amendments Nos 1 and 2 as circulated in globo:
No. 1 That amendment No. 2 be amended by omitting "unable to pay" and by inserting instead "without means".
No. 2 That amendment No. 3 be amended by omitting "Omit "destitute"." and by inserting instead "Omit "destitute person". Insert instead "person without means".".
There are some technical legal concerns with the amendments proposed by the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby. Firstly, as the honourable member said, the terms "destitute" and "unable to pay" are not synonymous. The term "unable to pay" is broader than "destitute", which means bereft of means. Hence, the Democrats amendment actually broadens the circumstances under which a hospital must treat a person without payment. Secondly, the provisions concerning destitute persons re-enact existing provisions of the Public Hospitals Act. These and similar provisions in other jurisdictions have been the subject of case law with regard to the status of hospitals as firstly, public hospitals, and secondly, public benevolent institutions for the purposes of exemptions under Commonwealth taxation legislation. Courts consider that hospitals, in providing relief from sickness and treating destitute persons, assume a public benevolent role.
Furthermore, the requirement under the Public Hospitals Act that third schedule institutions receive destitute persons without payment was one relevant factor in concluding that such institutions were public hospitals for the purposes of Commonwealth taxation legislation. Clause 71 of the bill has taken a cautious legal position in re-enacting provisions that have supported public hospital and public benevolent status in the past. To reflect the honourable member’s concern about the term "destitute person", it is proposed to substitute the term "person without means" rather than to remove the term altogether. The substituted term will not alter the existing intention of clause 71 and is consistent with the wording of clauses 70(1) and 73.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [9.42 p.m.]: The Opposition is perfectly happy with the Minister’s explanation and his amendment to the sensitive amendment moved by the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby, which the Opposition supports.
Amendments of amendments agreed to.
Amendments as amended agreed to.
Chapter as amended agreed to.
Bill reported from Committee with amendments and passed through remaining stages.
CASINO CONTROL AMENDMENT BILL
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council), on behalf of the Hon. R. D. Dyer [9.46 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The Casino Control Amendment Bill 1997 will amend the Casino Control Act 1992 for the following main purposes:
1. to increase the maximum term of a casino employee’s licence from 1 year to 3 years;
2. to extend existing cost recovery principles to persons seeking to acquire a significant interest in the casino business conducted under a casino licence; and
3. to extend the area over which an exclusion order can be given at the direction of the Commissioner of Police.
The first of these objects is intended to enhance the operational effectiveness of the government authorities responsible for the control and regulation of operations at the Sydney casino.
The Casino Control Act requires that persons employed or working in the casino in any capacity related to gaming or security, and persons holding supervisory or managerial positions, be licensed by the Casino Control Authority, a statutory body constituted by the Act.
A licence which the authority has granted to persons performing any of these functions in the casino remains in force for 12 months or until the occurrence of a range of events such as termination of employment, surrender of the licence or cancellation of the licence.
The Government has accepted that the burden of conducting renewals every 12 months is a waste of public resources, and an unreasonable imposition on a casino operator and on licensed employees.
Thus, the bill replaces the existing reference to 12 months with a reference to 3 years.
This adopts the position which is consistent with the position in other Australian jurisdictions, none of which subject casino employees to a process of annual licence renewals.
By moving to a 3 year renewal period, resources can be devoted by government agencies to target selected individuals or groups of individuals, where it is considered appropriate.
The existing licensing process contains safeguards which ensure that there would be no lowering of licensing standards or any increased risk with the ongoing suitability of licensed employees. For example, existing requirements for licensees to notify the authority of any changes in their circumstances (such as the emergence of bankruptcy or relevant legal proceedings) will remain in force as will arrangements with the NSW Police Service pursuant to which the authority is notified when any licensed casino employee comes to adverse notice.
Moreover, the powers presently available to the authority and the Director of Casino Surveillance - a statutory position which reports to the authority on licence applications - to at any time investigate a licensee will remain, as will the existing power to take disciplinary action against a licensee at any time.
The bill includes a transitional provision which states that, when this particular amendment comes into force, current licensed casino employees will derive the benefit of the 3 year extension.
The second purpose of the bill is to permit the reasonable costs of the Casino Control Authority and the Director of Casino Surveillance, in investigating a major incoming party to the casino business, to be recovered from the casino operator or from the proposed new interests in the casino business.
Although section 16 of the Act requires original applicants for a casino licence to meet the reasonable costs incurred by the authority and the director in investigating a licence application, this provision is not available when investigating whether a person or entity who later seeks to acquire or manage the casino business is suitable.
As a result, the Government is placed in a significant adverse financial position.
If the authority and the director do not have the financial capacity to properly investigate a major change involving a person or organisation becoming associated with the casino business, the authority might not be able to guarantee that the casino will remain free from criminal influence and exploitation, or that gaming will be conducted honestly.
The Government has determined that the Consolidated Fund should not have to bear the cost of supporting investigations in market-driven circumstances where one set of commercial parties proposes to replace another.
The third proposal in the bill relates to the basis on which a person may be excluded from the casino. Under section 81 of the Casino Control Act, the Commissioner of Police may direct a casino operator to issue an exclusion order to a person patronising the casino.
Strictly, a "casino" means only that area defined by the Casino Control Authority as the location for the conduct of gaming. In this strict sense, "casino" does not include substantial parts of the permanent casino complex such as restaurants, bars, theatres, forecourts and public thoroughfares.
It would be unacceptable if the casino operator, regulatory agencies and the police were impotent to readily address the conduct of undesirable activities in areas including those that I have mentioned.
The bill addresses this situation by authorising regulations to be made which would prescribe additional areas to be part of the "casino" (termed the casino precinct), and thus empower the Commissioner of Police to direct the casino operator to issue an exclusion order covering some or all of the casino precinct, as well as the "casino" itself.
It is intended that the precise area or areas which are contemplated as being subject to the commissioner’s widened power would be determined through consultation.
This bill also includes two minor amendments, which are essentially of a statute law nature.
The first of these addresses references in the Casino Control Act to "slot machines". The bill will replace the few references to "slot machines" which are found in section 8 of the Act with the expression "gaming machines". This will achieve consistency with terminology applicable to machine gaming facilities in clubs and hotels. After all, casino gaming machines are no different to the machines installed in clubs and hotels in New South Wales.
The bill will also make clear the circumstances in which the appointment of a person as a deputy member of the Casino Control Authority becomes vacant. A deputy member is a person who is appointed by the Minister responsible for the Casino Control Act to act in the place of a member of the authority, when the member is absent.
The bill states that a vacancy in the office of deputy member would arise in the case of death; completion of a term of office; resignation; bankruptcy; becoming a mentally incapacitated person; or being convicted of an offence punishable by at least 12 months’ imprisonment.
These circumstances are exactly the same as those that already apply to the appointment of authority members.
I commend the bill to the House.
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [9.47 p.m.]: The Opposition has some concerns about one part of the bill, which I will deal with in detail, and will move amendments in Committee. The Opposition will not oppose the second reading of the bill. The first part of the legislation will increase the maximum term of casino employees’ licences from one to three years, which will obviously make the Casino Control Authority more efficient. To date it has had a poor record regarding probity checks and contracting of casino employees. That has been compounded by the permanent casino having to check additional staff in recent months, and that situation will continue. The provision in the bill will improve the efficiency of the Casino Control Authority in processing applications.
As I said, the CCA has a poor record. The Casino Control Act was designed on the assumption that everyone is either guilty of an offence or has a dubious background or past, unless it can be proved otherwise. I imagine probity checking is designed to assist the functioning of the casino operation, and is therefore important. The average time taken to process probity checks has been extraordinary, and has resulted in unnecessary delays. I have received representations from one employee, who was messed around for a long time. He applied on 20 August this year to be a security guard and for a special employee licence from the Casino Control Authority. After 12 weeks he received a response in which he was informed that four weeks was the normal processing time. This dragged on.
We cannot expect people to apply for employment at the casino and not be engaged for 12 weeks while the CCA probes their background - that is totally unacceptable. The person I mentioned became frustrated at what he deemed to be innocuous questioning and unnecessary delays. The average time for processing a security officer’s licence should be a matter of weeks. Of course, the Government's amendment will improve employees’ conditions by increasing the maximum term of a casino employee’s licence from one year to three years. It is true that the casino is losing a lot of good people because of the probity checking process and unnecessary delays. One wonders whether there are too many licence categories and whether it would be more sensible for the CCA to focus on important operating issues than spending time on probity checks.
The Hon. M. R. Kersten: They should have a much more serious look at that.
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL: Absolutely. It is deplorable and I hope that the Opposition’s amendment will improve that situation. The Opposition has considerable concern about the second object of the bill: to extend the principle of cost recovery in connection with certain investigations under the Act. The Opposition will oppose that in Committee. The Opposition believes that the bill is essentially asking any potential buyer of the casino to write an open cheque for the Casino Control Authority to run any investigation as long and as detailed as it likes and to run up whatever inordinate costs it likes at the expense of either the casino or the potential buyer.
It is the responsibility of the Casino Control Authority to investigate people who want to buy the casino. Therefore it is its responsibility to pay for the investigation, which will in turn ensure that the investigation is conducted in the most efficient and timely manner. One can only envisage that with this measure added to the Casino Control Act the casino will be able to run all sorts of extraneous inquiries, and run up expenses involving outside bodies, contractors and consultants. That would have a negative impact on the investment climate of New South Wales, something we should try to avoid. Extending the cost recovery of investigation inquiries opens the door for the casino or the bidder
to be responsible for unlimited costs at the discretion of the Casino Control Authority - for example, costs associated with any takeover, whether it is hostile or not.
The Opposition believes that the Casino Control Authority has an adequate budget - approximately $4 million a year - and plenty of staff to realistically discharge its responsibility without recovering costs from parties making applications. One wonders what all those staff are doing apart from probity checks? The CCA can charge as much as it likes and attribute the charge to either the casino or the outside party - which compounds the costs. The directors of the Casino Control Authority are extremely well rewarded - from $47,500 to $52,500, with the chairman receiving considerably more. This is all an added expense to the CCA. Overseas trips have been taken by board members, which, I guess, were study tours.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: They were not looking at the flowers.
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL: They may have been looking at the flowers, I do not know, because I do not have the benefit of their reports. The Casino Control Authority really needs a good going over. I do not believe that it is an effective organisation and it is time that the Minister took the bit between his teeth and examined its efficiency and what it is actually doing. Of course, the authority reports to Parliament and it is difficult for the Minister for Gaming and Racing to have much say in what goes on, but I believe there is a challenge for him to get in and do something about it.
In the estimates committees I asked a series of questions about the authority’s functions and about some of the overseas trips that were taken. On the limited information I have received I learnt that the trips were of doubtful benefit to the authority or the board members. I challenged the Minister to do something about this, and more than six months ago the Minister agreed to hold an inquiry into gaming in New South Wales. One of the inquiry’s terms of reference should have been the Casino Control Authority. The Opposition is still waiting for that inquiry to be held. I ask the Minister for Public Works and Services to note that Opposition members are becoming impatient, and I remind him that access of poker machines to hotels was conditional on a gaming inquiry.
Quite clearly if we are to have a gaming inquiry it should look into the Casino Control Authority. I have no doubt that if the authority is discharging its duties and responsibilities, its budget and staff are adequate to meet most normal investigations without the necessity for a legislative blank cheque to investigate anyone bold enough to put in a bid for the casino licence. I add that a precedent was set with the bid by Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd - PBL - for Show Boat Incorporated’s management contract at the Sydney Harbour Casino. The CCA was accused of refusing to allow PBL access to documents that were necessary for due diligence and demanded a $500,000 payment to process probity checks into the company. On 15 April 1997 the CCA asked for an additional $500,000 to continue its probity checks into the company. I do not know what it intended to do with that money, but I would have thought that that request was right over the top. On 5 May this year the Sydney Morning Herald reported:
Tensions between Mr Kerry Packer’s Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd (PBL) and the NSW Casino Control Authority (CCA) came to a head on April 15 when the authority asked for $500,000 to continue its probity checks into the company . . .
By mid-April, PBL had paid the CCA $96,000 for initial probity checks. By then there was another major problem: PBL was unable to get its hands on information relating to recent changes to the management and financing of the casino. To get seven key documents it needed to sign a confidentiality agreement drafted by the CCA, but this was also bogged down, with lawyers growing more and more irritable over the detail . . .
In April, the CCA said it wanted a further $500,000 to complete probity checks: $200,000 upfront and a bank guarantee for the rest.
It was reported in the Sun-Herald that:
. . . (PBL) chairman Brian Powers blamed interference from the Casino Control Authority (CCA) for the withdrawal [of the bid], he conceded the bid "could have hampered PBL’s ability to achieve other key strategic initiatives under consideration" . . .
The lapse was because:
. . . the CCA’s refusals to allow Showboat to show it crucial documents "effectively killed the proposed deal" . . .
Despite a stinging attack on the CCA, which Mr Powers said had demanded a $500,000 fee to reveal Showboat’s documents, Mr Packer’s withdrawal will fuel rumours . . .
Mr Powers said "there is absolutely no statutory authority for the CCA demanding a payment prior to processing the confidentiality agreement".
Therein lies the reason for the extension of cost recovery. The investigation that PBL was put through in its bid was outrageous. The probe into its financial interests in casinos around the world was far in excess of investigations of other companies.
Quite clearly the Casino Control Authority undertook some sort of exercise to prove itself. It certainly has not proven itself in my eyes, and it should be closely examined. A new cost recovery section has been added, but there is no reason for it. As I said, the CCA has sufficient funds within its large budget, and it has plenty of staff to discharge its responsibilities, including the examination of any future bidders for the casino licence.
It is not in the public interest to charge for these investigations, and they will inhibit competition. Businesses will be reluctant to enter into negotiations because of the lack of information about budgetary implications associated with the conduct of such investigations and inquiries. Therefore, the overall running of the casino may be jeopardised because of the impediments associated with cost recovery. Thirdly, the bill will extend the area of the casino in connection with which exclusion orders can be made at the direction of the Commissioner of Police. That is obviously a sensible amendment because it is difficult to define the casino. Its precincts include much more than just the gaming floor. Numerous entertainment venues, restaurants, bars and even shopping arcades are all part of the general casino precincts. So the amendment is necessary to allow the police to make exclusion orders that cover areas beyond the actual gaming floor.
Fourthly, the bill makes amendments to adjust the terminology used in the provision of the Act relating to slot machines, and to specify the circumstances in which a deputy or an appointed member of the Casino Control Authority ceases to hold office. I want to comment on the membership of the CCA board. Honourable members will be aware that it was deemed appropriate that a committee of angels be set up to undertake selection interviews for the filling of vacant positions on the board of the CCA. That committee of angels, which was headed by Mr Gerry Gleeson, advertised the positions and then held selection panel interviews. That method of selection gave every indication, even to those partially interested, that the process was performed correctly and was above board.
However, I wish to refer to a few matters that have occurred recently. One in particular concerns the Minister’s failure to advertise the position that became vacant after the resignation of Mr Richard Dixon-Hughes from the board. The Minister’s appointment of the new board member was contrary to the procedure recommended by the Department of Gaming and Racing. I know that the Act states that the Minister has the power to appoint the board of directors of the CCA. But under freedom of information the Opposition has ascertained that, regardless of that part of the Act, the Director-General’s advice to the Minister was to appoint a part-time member following advertisement and evaluation by a selection panel.
The person who filled the vacancy left by Mr Richard Dixon-Hughes was not appointed after advertisement of the position and a selection panel interview. The Opposition believes that the person was appointed by the Minister. If that appointee had previously been interviewed and evaluated by the committee of angels selection panel following the March 1996 advertisement, why was that process not void, given the time between March 1996 and the appointment of that person to the position 18 months later on 22 September 1997? There is a serious issue regarding the procedure for filling vacancies on the CCA board, which has been confirmed in the Ombudsman’s report. That report advised that any vacancies should at least be filled using public service methods and selection processes.
Clearly, a vacancy was filled by the Minister contrary to the advice of senior public servants and contrary to the advice of the director-general of his department. The Opposition will be demanding answers on this issue, not necessarily in this debate but in time. It is a matter of process and probity. We want to know if the vacancy was filled following advertisements and an interview selection. So far as we are aware, there have not been any advertisements since March 1996. If due process was followed in this case, we want to know who was on the interview selection panel, where was the position advertised, how many applicants there were and who were they, and who took up the previous part-time position as deputy member? We will be demanding answers to those questions as caretakers of the process of these appointments in New South Wales.
Another matter of concern is how long it took to conduct a probity check on the new appointee. Probity checks on casino employees have been known to take up to six months. When was a probity check made on this successful applicant? How fast was the probity check undertaken on that individual? These matters raise serious issues about the whole of the CCA and about the Minister’s involvement in the filling of this vacancy. The Opposition will not back down until it gets some answers to these questions. I commend the Minister for Gaming and Racing to have a good look at the CCA. The gaming inquiry that was promised to the Parliament more than six months ago should inquire into some of these issues and try to come up with a better and more effective way of overseeing and
monitoring the casino operation. The Opposition will move an amendment in Committee to delete the cost recovery section because, as I said, it is inappropriate. We believe that the casino is more than sufficiently well-funded and well-resourced to carry out all the activities and inquiries for which it is responsible. Despite those remarks, we will not oppose the bill, although in Committee we will seek to delete the cost recovery section.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [10.09 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party supports the Casino Control Amendment Bill, but expresses its surprise at the amendment proposed by the Opposition. It is hypocritical of the Opposition to say that it does not oppose the bill but proposes an amendment to remove the main part of it. The long title states:
An Act to amend the Casino Control Act 1992 in relation to the term of casino employees’ licences -
which is relatively minor, and -
the recovery of the cost of certain investigations and inquiries . . .
The Opposition wishes to delete that significant measure in the bill. If any organisation or persons seem to have money, it is a casino or those who wish to run a casino. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was speaking I remembered that for the opening night of the Star City casino $20 million was spent on fireworks, the appearance of Diana Ross and Tom Jones, and all the trimmings. I understand $40 million was spent in Victoria for the opening night of the Crown Casino. The Opposition says that the taxpayer should pay for investigations into the background of people who want to be involved in the casino or in changes to the control of the casino. When a casino was initially proposed for New South Wales I strongly opposed it and I consistently opposed the establishment of casinos during the years of the Wran and the Greiner governments. My party was betrayed when the Greiner Government did a complete switch by breaking its promise and proceeding with a casino.
We all know the casino is a money-making operation. If the question is whether the cost of investigations should be met by the taxpayer or the organisation seeking a casino licence, or seeking to be involved in the casino, or wanting to change the casino ownership, I lean towards that responsibility being placed on the organisation. One factor put forward to try to reduce public concern was that there would be quite significant security checks. Everyone knows that as a moth is attracted to candlelight, organised crime is attracted to casinos. We have always heard reports of organised crime having infiltrated Queensland casinos. Certainly we have heard similar rumours about the American company Show Boat and other companies. Obviously those involved in organised crime are never upfront, but they may have penetrated behind the scenes. For that reason fairly lengthy and complex investigations are needed, and they will be costly.
As I have said in earlier debates, investigators would have to travel to the United States of America to investigate these companies. It cannot be done by correspondence. American police could not be asked because the inquiry could be conducted by a corrupt officer. Honest detectives would have to travel to the United States to conduct inquiries, and the taxpayer should not have to pay for their airfares. There is much I could say about corruption of casinos. I am not saying that the Star City casino is corrupt, but unless constant checking and double-checking is carried out of those involved in a casino, eventually through complacency we will learn of a change in ownership. I was surprised at the Deputy Leader of the Opposition crying and weeping over the problems with Publishing and Broadcasting Limited, whose owner, Kerry Packer, is known to walk away after losing $10 million to $15 million at gambling in one night. I do not believe he would be at an economic disadvantage if he had to pay the costs of an investigation.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: They fooled him around for months and months.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: The Deputy Leader of the Opposition says they fooled him around, but two companies were involved in commercial competition, and PBL was trying to knock the other one out. The taxpayer should not have to pay for the battle of one company trying to discredit another in order to get the licence. Removing that part of the bill is not a straightforward proposition. I believe it should remain. It contains a number of qualifying words. "Reasonable costs" are referred to in proposed section 35A(2), so the authority is not being given a blank cheque.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: The authority makes the decision.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: I know, but it refers to "reasonable costs". The Auditor-General could check that. That section concludes with, "unless the Authority determines otherwise in a particular case". There may be some reason for the
authority to bear some of the costs, but this section does not say that it is automatic; it contains qualifications. It is not intended to be a blank cheque to make money - which in my opinion the Casino Control Authority has. In general, the bill will increase the maximum term of a casino employee’s licence from one year to three years. It seems appropriate not to renew licences every year, but spot checks should be conducted each year.
The bill will also extend the principles of cost recovery, which have been discussed and whose retention we support. It will also extend the area in connection with which exclusion orders relating to the casino can be given at the direction of the Commissioner of Police. A number of people have already been prohibited from being on the casino premises, and obviously some clarification is needed on what constitutes the casino’s area. Is it just the gaming rooms or is it the entire complex? It is a difficult question when, as with the Star City casino, there is a massive development with of course a gaming area but also a lyric theatre and restaurants and a large international hotel. Where, for example, is the line drawn between the casino precincts and the hotel?
In the second reading speech the Minister said that the precise area or areas contemplated as being subject to the commissioner’s widened power would be determined through consultation. The question may not be easily resolved. There has been much publicity about a patron who was involved in a two-up game and who the casino owners thought was involved in some illegal activity. He was taken into the custody of the security officers. The casino was criticised for the handling of that person and it had to pay $60,000 in damages. After reading the reports I understand that the patron was held for one hour awaiting the arrival of the police. Why did the police take an hour to get to the casino? Once a person has been placed under, I suppose, citizen’s arrest, he is detained in the offices of the casino authority.
The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby: Pinned down on the floor by two strongarms.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: The problem is that two men were trying to restrain an angry patron for an hour. Obviously much tension builds up in an hour and they would be physically restraining him, probably sitting on him, and he would be saying he wanted to go. I do not know whether the police were advised immediately or whether there was a breakdown in communication, but the police should respond rapidly. I expect the casino would not normally call police, but when it does, the police should respond promptly. Perhaps the Government could inquire into the reason for the long delay that resulted in further aggravation of the situation. The Christian Democratic Party supports the Casino Control Amendment Bill and does not support the foreshadowed Opposition amendment.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [10.19 p.m.]: I make it clear again that I oppose, as did Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile, the establishment of Star City casino. I still believe that the casino will be disastrous for the people of Sydney. It will create more social problems than we already have. We know that serious criminal activities occurred and loan sharks and other criminal elements operated in the vicinity of the temporary casino. In principle, I am opposed to the extension of gambling outlets, for what I believe are perfectly sensible reasons. But if we are to regulate a gambling outlet such as a casino I believe the Casino Control Amendment Bill is a reasonable means of doing that.
The main purposes of the bill are to increase the maximum term of a casino employee’s licence to three years, to extend the existing cost-recovery principles to persons seeking to acquire a significant interest in a casino business conducted under a casino licence, and to extend the area in which an exclusion order by the Commissioner of Police can operate. To deal with the first purpose, under the Casino Control Act 1992 casino employees working in any capacity related to gaming or security, supervisors or managers, must be licensed and the licence must be renewed every 12 months. I am informed that this has proved to be an administrative nightmare not only for employees but also for the casino and the Government. This amendment will change the term to three years.
The Casino Control Authority and the Director of Casino Surveillance have to investigate any incoming party to the casino business to test their probity. At present there is no mechanism to recover costs associated with such investigations. This is why the Government has introduced the amendment providing for cost recovery. As Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile has said, it is essential, if we are to have a casino, to ensure that it can remain as free from criminal influence and exploitation as possible. This should be the case at least on the management side of the gaming table even if some of the people who are gambling are involved in criminal activities. I welcome the amendment. I find it very strange that the Opposition is so concerned about it. In the briefing note prepared by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for the benefits of the crossbenchers he said:
. . . the overall running of the casino may be jeopardised due to the impediments associated with the recovery of cost.
But I would have thought that a person trying to get hold of an interest in a casino would be able to claim as a business expense any money spent for that purpose. If it is a business expense, it is a tax deduction. I do not see how that would put people off. There are thousands of other things that they will have to do to carry out their business and all of those things bear their own cost. As Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile said, the taxpayers of New South Wales should not have to bear this cost. In relation to the exclusion order, under section 81 of the Casino Control Act the Commissioner of Police may direct a casino operator to issue an exclusion order to a person patronising the casino. At present a "casino" means only the gaming areas; it does not mean the casino in general. Therefore a person excluded could still have someone place bets for him or for her while he or she was still on the casino premises but not actually at the gaming tables. I went to the preview of Star City to which many members of Parliament were invited just over a week ago and I now know how the casino is laid out. There are bars for the serving of liquor near all the gaming areas and it would be possible for a person who had been excluded from the tables to sit in a bar legitimately, because one can go to a bar or a restaurant without going to the tables. Somebody could place bets on behalf of a person who was the subject of an exclusion order. Therefore an exclusion order would be a nonsense and would not have any effect.
The amendment to section 81 made by schedule 1 will enable regulations to be made prescribing additional areas as forming the casino precinct and thus will empower the Commissioner of Police to direct that an exclusion order will apply to areas such as restaurants, bars, theatres, forecourts and public thoroughfares as well as to the gaming area. That is perfectly proper because if people are found to be so undesirable that they must be excluded from the gaming area, surely they should be excluded from the whole of the premises. The remaining amendments clarify the terms of appointment of a deputy member of the Casino Control Authority. They also replace the term "slot machine" with the expression "gaming machine". They are not slot machines or poker machines anymore; they are true gaming machines.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: They are gambling machines.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: Yes, they are gambling machines. That is also a reasonable amendment which cannot be faltered. The events that have come to light recently involving gangs and standover tactics at the casino serve only to illustrate my point, that there are too many negatives associated with the operation of any casino. The Sydney casino, Star City as it is now known, in a very brief time has become a place where there are highly undesirable people, and it will impact heavily on the rising incidence of crime in this city. That has been the experience in every city in the world where a casino has been established. It has happened at Long Island and in Las Vegas. It is inevitable.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: And London.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: Yes. They tried as hard as they could to keep the criminal element out and they failed.
The Hon. R. B. Rowland Smith: In London? There you have to be a member of a club.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: It has still not prevented criminal elements. The honourable member knows that very well. Mrs Thatcher did her level best to achieve casinos in London that were free from criminals and it did not work. I am afraid that I cannot support the Opposition’s amendment. I do not think that the bill will solve the problem but perhaps the stricter control that it envisages is a step in the right direction. So I support the bill but I repeat that I do not support the extension of casinos or gambling outlets.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [10.29 p.m.]: The three main purposes of the bill are to increase the maximum term of a casino employee’s licence from one to three years, to extend existing cost-recovery principles to persons seeking to acquire a significant interest in a casino business conducted under a casino licence, and to extend the area in which an exclusion order by the Commissioner of Police can operate. These are reasonable amendments and I support the legislation, but I put on record concerns that I share with other members and the Council of Social Service of New South Wales regarding the growing dependence of the community and the Government on gambling as a source of revenue, and the potential impacts of privatisation of the gambling industry.
Gambling in New South Wales is very big business and is growing all the time. The other day we saw the obscene spectacle of $20 million being frittered away in just one night on the opening of the Star City casino. How much better could that money have been spent on community services, health or education? In 1995-96 the New South
Wales gambling turnover was nearly $32 billion - bigger than the State budget - with gambling profits in excess of $3.75 billion. In the first six months of 1997 net revenues for the Sydney Harbour Casino alone have been totalled at $202.6 million - an 11 per cent increase over the same period in 1996 - with more than $1 million per day being earned from its gaming area.
In a report issued recently by the casino, Dick Warburton, Chairman of Sydney Harbour Casino Holdings Ltd, spoke enthusiastically about the amount of money paid to the New South Wales Government. The report, however, was silent on how the casino was faring on other key issues such as: assessing the impact of its services on low-income and vulnerable groups in the community; managing problem gamblers; minimising gambling-related crime; ensuring that the rights of gambling consumers are respected and complaints are addressed effectively; assessing any economic impacts of its operations on other retail, hospitality or tourist businesses; and assessing any social impacts on the Pyrmont community. The real tragedy is that the Government is becoming hooked, like a drug addict, on gambling revenues. The more the Government gets, the more it will support gambling. That distorts the economy away from more productive areas, away from sectors such as health and education and into this non-productive part of the economy.
At present gaming taxes comprise some 10.8 per cent of total New South Wales revenues, and they are growing in total size and as a proportion of State revenues. In the past six months, as Dick Warburton reported so enthusiastically, the casino paid $43 million to the Government. The casino’s total payments to the State now exceed $500 million, which is approximately equivalent to this year’s State deficit. Gaming revenues are used to fund health-care services, schools and community services. It is important to remember, however, the problems caused by gambling itself. I speak of the relationship between growth in gambling activities and growth in social problems and costs. A paper published in August 1997 by the Council of Social Service of New South Wales entitled "NSW Casino Control Authority Section 31 Investigation Public Interest Forum" states:
Street had noted in 1991 that, "both racing and registered clubs contribute to the social harm caused by gambling. It is logical that a further gambling activity such as casino gambling will increase the level of gambling activity, and in consequence, increase the level of social harm. It is difficult, if not impossible, to predict the extent of these increases."
There are several negative impacts on individuals and families which gambling activities have been documented to cause. These effects are not wholly associated with the problem gambler. They include:
•unemployment, poverty and income insecurity;
Gambling itself causes problems that are not addressed adequately. One problem is that the ease with which gambling revenues can be obtained takes the focus off fundamental Commonwealth-State fiscal reform and progressive tax reform. Another is that it is highly likely that gambling is regressive in impact in that lower-income people spend more of their disposable income than higher-income people on the principal gambling revenue earners of gaming machines and racing. The costs of problem gambling are much broader than the scope of services funded through the Casino Benefit Fund, and those costs have to be met within other government program budgets that are already struggling to meet client demand for other social needs. As we know, there is never enough money to go around for the battlers in our society who need help from government.
It is a constant problem for government to be able to provide services for those who need it most. Some Ministers are attacked again and again for not being able to supply those services, and they have to take responsibility for the lack of funds while funds are being directed into other areas. That is another tragedy. Such reliance on gaming revenue also leaves the Government open to excursions of undue influence by owners and managers of gambling activities. There is a potential for anticompetitive arrangements to emerge in the gambling industry as a result of increased private ownership. The ownership and management of gambling activities continues to be privatised in this State. Today, for example, legislation passed through this House to allow the privatisation of the TAB.
While private ownership itself may not be problematic, increasing private ownership poses a very real problem. There is potential for the ownership of key New South Wales gambling resources to be concentrated in the hands of a few people. The problems that concentrated ownership have brought to other industries, such as the news media, are well documented. Negative impacts such as price collusion, excessive profit taking and related features of market domination flow over just as easily to consumers and the community through gambling as they do through the media. There is need for us as a community, and particularly as law makers, to be very cautious about encouraging any
further gambling. I agree with Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile and the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby that we should do everything we can now to start winding back on gambling. I for one would be happy to see the Star City casino close because sufficient people, having come to their senses, stopped going there and wasting their money.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Public Works and Services) [10.37 p.m.], in reply: I thank all honourable members who have spoken in this debate and I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
•damage to mental health;
•family breakdown, including a rise in the incidence of domestic violence;
•employment problems; and
•gambling related crime.
Schedule 1 and long title
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [10.38 p.m.], by leave: I move Opposition amendments Nos 1 and 2 in globo:
No. 1 Pages 3 and 4, Schedule 1, proposed section 35A, line 15 on page 3 to line 18 on page 4. Omit all words on those lines.
No. 2 Long title. Omit "the recovery of the cost of certain investigations and inquiries,".
These amendments effectively remove proposed new section 35A regarding the cost of investigations into potential applicants for partial control or control of the casino licence and other associated matters. In my contribution to the second reading debate I outlined reasons for the Opposition’s concerns about this provision. This is all about writing an open cheque to the Casino Control Authority to run an investigation as long as it wants and as detailed as it likes. At the end of the day the proponent, or the casino, has no alternative. The CCA can award against either the casino or the proponent any amount of money that it deems to be sufficient to cover its costs, and there is no accountability on those costs at all. Costs may include travelling expenses for trips overseas or outside the State, and are payable by either the casino operator or a person who is willing to become a close associate of the casino operator or to take over the licence of the casino.
I do not believe that demonstrates good commercial practice in New South Wales. I do not believe it is in the public interest, because business would be reluctant to enter into negotiations with blank cheques for the Casino Control Authority. I would have thought that if the Government had wanted to recover some costs it could have been a bit more specific in proposed new section 35A by allowing cost recovery at the instigation of a third party and indicating what is fair and reasonable. There is no doubt in my mind that the Casino Control Authority will make a welter out of this, as it did with PBL and its application for the licence - it drove them right out of the park - by demanding considerable amounts of money upfront prior to investigations beginning and prior to various documents being made available to it.
The CCA demanded payments just to process probity checks and when it demanded access to documents. To be realistic - and I have heard the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby and Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile - why would the CCA want that sort of money upfront to access documents? If that is cost recovery, it is drawing a longbow on what anyone would regard as fair and reasonable costs associated with any activity regarding a bid for or a takeover of the casino licence. The PBL exercise has demonstrated that the CCA is going well beyond recovering costs and is seeking to make quite handsome financial rewards out of PBL on this occasion. The CCA has indicated to all and sundry that their form under this proposed new section in the legislation will be willy-nilly to drive any commercial activity in relation to the casino out of this State and into some other State. I commend the amendment to the Committee as a sensible move to protect business interests that may well want to do business in this State, especially with the casino.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [10.43 p.m.]: On behalf of the Christian Democratic Party I express our objections to these amendments. It seems strange for the Opposition to actually argue that the Casino Control Authority is basically corrupt, that it is going to rip people off and do all these bad things.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: Who said that?
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: That is what you are saying.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: No, I did not. You withdraw that. I did not say it is corrupt. I have never said it is corrupt.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: Well, you -
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: On a point of order. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile has said that the Opposition said the Casino Control Authority is corrupt. I ask him to withdraw that.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: I withdraw the word "corrupt". But the member might explain what he meant by his words. He made very strong allegations against the Casino Control Authority.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: Yes, that’s right, but I did not say it is corrupt. You had better be careful what you say in this Parliament on the record.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: You said it is doing things which are not correct. You made allegations against the Casino Control Authority that it is going to exploit this legislation and take the money away from these operators, who will go elsewhere. I would think a casino authority would be honest -
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: That’s not corruption.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: Well, you are certainly implying it.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: No, I am not implying it.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: You are. If it is an honest organisation, it simply charges the proper costs. I do not know whether the fear you have is justified, given that the CCA, one of our most honest organisations, is supposed to control gambling and prevent organised crime. How can the CCA be under any suspicion that it is going to rip off the system? All I am saying is that I think that is quite a serious implication. All I was going to do was to ask the Government, to satisfy the honourable member, to say that the Auditor-General will have a blank cheque to consider any of the charges made by the Casino Control Authority.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [10.45 p.m.]: The Government also opposes the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to effectively delete proposed section 35A of the Casino Control Act. I would like to take up the point made by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile. It is true that the Auditor-General could comment on the charges of any government agency if it seems that they are out of kilter with the costs that the organisation incurs. Proposed section 35A will enable the reasonable costs of the Casino Control Authority, together with the reasonable costs of the Director of Casino Surveillance in the Department of Gaming and Racing, to be recovered, where recovery is considered justifiable, from a party that seeks to acquire a significant stake in a licensed casino business, or from the existing casino operator where the acquiring party is the casino operator.
Clearly, under the legislation the Casino Control Authority has an obligation to ensure that organisations who are to have a considerable stake or are seeking a considerable stake are of good repute. The Casino Control Authority should conduct a thorough investigation - as thorough as it considers necessary. Obviously, it seems to me to be an unfair imposition on the taxpayers of New South Wales if an interest in a casino is to be transferred from an existing holder of that interest to someone else. Why should taxpayers have to bear that burden? That is a commercial decision between the various stakeholders in the casino. Clearly, that cost should be borne by the person seeking a significant stake in the business; it should not be a burden on the taxpayer. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition seemed to think that if the Casino Control Authority or the Director of Casino Surveillance had the power to recover these costs it would encourage long, drawn-out investigations. I suppose one could look at the other side of the coin.
If the Casino Control Authority or the Department of Gaming and Racing have to foot the cost out of their own revenue, the likelihood is that the investigation could well be much less thorough than it should be. Indeed, such an inquiry could even end up being cheap and nasty. Honourable members should not for a moment assume that the Casino Control Authority or the Department of Gaming and Racing can knock on the door of the Treasurer and say, "We need an extra million dollars supplementation this year because we have got to do this." There are always competing priorities. If I give such entities an extra million dollars, or an extra half million dollars, or $250,000 or $100,000, to conduct an inquiry, that money will have to come out of a school somewhere, or out of a hospital somewhere, or out of some community service that the Government provides. It is fair and reasonable that those seeking to acquire a significant stake in a casino should be required to pay whatever reasonable costs are incurred in the investigations to establish their probity and suitability for the business.
Question - That the amendments be agreed to - put.
The Committee divided.
Mrs Arena Dr Pezzutti
Mr Bull Mr Ryan
Mrs Chadwick Mr Samios
Mrs Forsythe Mrs Sham-Ho
Miss Gardiner Mr Rowland Smith
Dr Goldsmith Tellers,
Mr Hannaford Mr Jobling
Mr Kersten Mr Moppett
Dr Burgmann Mrs Nile
Mr Cohen Rev. Nile
Mr Corbett Mr Obeid
Mr Dyer Mr Primrose
Mr Egan Ms Saffin
Mr Johnson Mrs Symonds
Mr Jones Mr Tingle
Mr Kaldis Mr Vaughan
Mr Kelly Tellers,
Ms Kirkby Mrs Isaksen
Mr Macdonald Mr Manson
Mr Gallacher Ms Burnswoods
Mr Lynn Mr Shaw
Question so resolved in the negative.
Schedule and long title agreed to.
Bill reported from Committee without amendment and passed through remaining stages.
LIQUOR AND REGISTERED CLUBS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (No 2)
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council), on behalf of the Hon. R. D. Dyer [11.00 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The bill now before the House amends the Liquor Act and the Registered Clubs Act in three main ways.
First, it removes the existing liquor business franchise fee system from those Acts.
Second, it replaces the existing licensing scheme that allows non-profit organisations to sell liquor at functions with a new scheme.
And third, the bill makes a number of miscellaneous amendments to the Liquor Act and the Registered Clubs Act designed to improve and modernise the operation of the licensing laws.
Honourable members will recall that a Liquor and Registered Clubs Legislation Amendment Bill 1997 was considered by this Parliament earlier this year. Unfortunately, that bill was not able to be fully considered by the Parliament at the time.
Since then, the liquor business franchise fee system operated by the States and Territories of Australia for decades has undergone unparalleled transformation. I will refer to this in more detail shortly.
Because of those changes, it has been necessary to redraft certain provisions in the original bill relating to function licences, as well as remove some of the miscellaneous provisions which are no longer necessary.
This new version of the bill contains the redrafted function provisions, and the remaining miscellaneous amendments in that bill, along with some additional matters. And as I have mentioned, it also contains amendments that are necessary because of the recent, and significant, changes to liquor licence fee collection arrangements.
On 5 August this year, the High Court of Australia held the New South Wales tobacco business franchise fee to be invalid. Following that decision, the New South Wales Government, along with the governments of other States and Territories, decided to cease the collection of business franchise fees for petroleum, tobacco and liquor from 6 August 1997.
Arrangements were made at that time for the Commonwealth to collect the revenue on liquor which would have been collected by the States and Territories, by means of a 15% increase in the wholesale sales tax rate. The Commonwealth then returns those funds to each of the States and Territories where the sale took place.
However, as the New South Wales legislation which provides for ad valorem liquor licence fees was not specifically rendered invalid by the High Court, it is arguable that the relevant provisions would continue to apply until repealed.
In view of the Government’s decision to discontinue the collection of these fees under the State legislation because of the doubt created by the High Court’s decision, it is necessary to repeal relevant provisions of the Liquor Act and the Registered Clubs Act. The bill now before the House achieves that. It fulfills an undertaking given by the Government to the community after the High Court decision.
There are a number of specific provisions that need to be removed from the Liquor Act and the Registered Clubs Act in this process. They include provisions relating to the definition of liquor licence and club registration fees, the liability to pay those fees and certain exemptions, the penalty for late payment, and the process for licence fee assessment and reassessment.
Provisions requiring the keeping of liquor purchases and sales records, and the lodgement of statutory declarations of liquor purchases and sales, are also being removed for most liquor licensees and for all clubs. This will benefit the liquor industry significantly - as it will vastly reduce the amount of records required to be kept by licensees and clubs. And they will no longer have to complete annual declarations of liquor purchases - a process that was time consuming and difficult for some.
Every affected licensee and club will probably welcome the removal of these requirements, as it is fair to say that they were often seen as excessive "red tape". Now that they are being removed from the Acts, I am sure that many licensees and clubs will feel relieved.
The bill does contain new provisions relating to the keeping of certain essential liquor related records, especially for wholesalers and producers. Under the bill, the details of these will be prescribed in the regulation at a later time. However, it is likely that the liquor laws will only require most licensees to keep the usual records that they keep for accounting and taxation purposes.
These new record keeping provisions are needed to support the liquor subsidy scheme that has been introduced as part of the safety net arrangements following the High Court’s decision.
The liquor subsidy scheme is needed because the additional 15% wholesale sales tax I have referred to must be imposed at uniform national rates under the constitution, and hence cannot take account of different rates and exemptions previously imposed through State liquor licence fees.
The New South Wales Government has decided to retain major exemptions that previously existed in the liquor licence fee system. To achieve this, subsidies are being paid to wholesalers and brewers in respect of low alcohol beer and wine. Vignerons may also apply for subsidies on their cellar door sales - which are limited to 45 litres per sale by the Liquor Act - and on liquor provided through wine tastings at vignerons’ premises.
By ensuring that these subsidies are paid in advance of the requirement to pay Commonwealth sales tax, wholesalers, brewers and vignerons need not pass the additional sales tax on to their customers in respect of these products. Therefore, there should be no rise in the price paid by the public.
Under the agreement reached between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories, there is to be a review of the Commonwealth safety net scheme - which includes these subsidy arrangements - within six months of its commencement.
For this reason, it is not appropriate to enshrine the specific details of the subsidy scheme in the liquor legislation at this time.
However, claims made under the subsidy scheme must be able to be audited through reference to records kept by licensees. The new record keeping requirements will assist the Government to verify claims to ensure the integrity of the scheme.
With the removal of the liquor business franchise fee system, there is presently no means of ensuring that the information held on the department’s database in respect of licence fees is regularly updated. Further, the continued existence of a liquor licence involves significant regulatory costs, and it is important to establish a mechanism to ensure that those regulatory costs can be met on a user-pays basis.
Therefore, the bill contains provisions which establish an annual licence fee system, and provides a regulation-making power for setting fees and due dates. This will ensure that all ten thousand licensees and registered clubs make regular contact with the department, and will allow records to be regularly updated.
The final amount of the fees will be settled after the appropriate consultation has taken place. However, I want to make it clear that the new system will be based around a flat rate administrative fee payable for an authority to carry on a business - a principle which is recognised in the High Court’s judgment.
As I mentioned earlier, this bill also includes amendments to the function licence provisions of the Liquor Act, and those amendments will be familiar to honourable members as they were previously considered by this House.
The function licence amendments have been changed to take account of the liquor licence fee changes I have just described. For the benefit of members, I will now refer to those amendments again.
Function licences allow liquor to be sold for consumption at community functions. These licences are granted to bona fide non-profit organisations.
They are an important category of liquor licence because they allow a wide range of community events throughout the State to be licensed. This is especially so in country New South Wales.
Function licences are also important to many charitable organisations - whose functions serve the purposes of fellowship and public awareness, as well as raising funds for worthwhile causes in our community.
There are some 800 permanent function licences across New South Wales, and thousands of temporary function licences are granted each year. A wide variety of community associations have these licences - including surf life saving clubs, sporting clubs, various ethnic and community clubs, social clubs, musical societies, charitable associations - to name just a few. I would add that even political parties figure in the list of associations that make use of these licences.
The range of functions run by these associations is diverse, and includes concerts, dinners, musical productions, food fairs, sporting events, charity functions, conferences, choral festivals and the like.
The reason that I mention all of those examples is to demonstrate just how important these licences are across the community. This is particularly so in regional and rural parts of New South Wales - where there isn’t the same variety of recreational and entertainment venues as in metropolitan areas.
Although significant numbers of these functions are held each year, the amount of liquor sold by function licensees is relatively small. Liquor purchases made by function licensees represent less than ½ of one percent of all liquor purchases made by licensees and clubs in New South Wales.
Another distinguishing feature of function licences and the associations that use them is their reliance on volunteers and
assistance from their local communities. The Government, in bringing forward these legislative changes, has been particularly mindful of that. We want to achieve sensible controls, at the same time ensuring that the associations using these licences are not disadvantaged - or burdened with excessive and unnecessary regulations.
The Government, since coming to office in 1995, has been concerned about reports of abuse of the law in relation to function licences. One of the special problem areas seems to be responsible serving, and the need for function licensees to be aware of - and to comply with - obligations not to serve minors, and not to serve intoxicated people.
Another reason for giving attention to these licences is that the government is now requiring all liquor licensees to become more responsible in the service of liquor - as a result of our harm minimisation policies and programs. The obligations for licensees to serve liquor responsibly do not only apply to hotels, clubs, liquor stores and restaurants, and it is important that all licensees - including function licensees - recognise that.
The function licence provisions in this bill have come about after a comprehensive review and consultative process, which involved the liquor industry and representatives from some of the organisations that use function licences.
The amendments replace the existing licensing scheme for functions with a new scheme that will provide for two different classes of function licence.
The first, a permanent function licence, is for those associations that hold more than three functions per year. This permanent licence will operate largely as other liquor licences do.
A significant new feature of this licence is the ability to apply for a limited number of additional social functions, so that liquor can be served at more informal "social" occasions - subject to appropriate controls.
This is one of the measures the Government is proposing to ensure that function licensees can realistically operate within the law. It recognises that many associations already have regular social functions - such as the small "get-togethers" that many surf life saving clubs have following their formal weekend activities.
These social functions need to be recognised in the law, and they need to be subject to proper control and supervision. That is why they have been included in this bill. I will say more about the controls applying to social functions later.
The second class of licence provided for in the bill is a temporary function licence, which can be granted to an association for up to three functions in a year. This licence will be subject to much the same controls as the permanent licence, with appropriate changes which recognise its temporary nature.
Honourable members may note that in the bill that was previously considered by this House, it was proposed that, in the future, temporary function licensees be required to purchase their liquor from retail outlets. This provision was included to ensure that state licence fees were paid on liquor sold through temporary function licences.
Of course, with the changes to licence fees that I referred to earlier, that is no longer an issue. Therefore, this new version of the bill proposes that temporary function licensees be able to continue purchasing their liquor from wholesalers.
The bill that was previously considered by this House also contained a third class of licence - known as a special function licence. The need for a special class of function licence arose because of concerns about licence fees not being paid on liquor sold at larger one off events. However, with the changes to liquor licence fees, those concerns are no longer relevant, and the bill has been amended accordingly.
The proposed new scheme for function licences represents a more sensible approach to regulating functions. It provides a scheme that recognises the wide variety and nature of licensed functions, the nature of the associations running the functions, and the high degree of input by volunteers.
The bill sets out very clearly - for the first time - the requirements applying to all function licences. They include controls which will ensure that the police and local councils have sufficient time to consider an application so that the court can take account of any concerns they may have. As well, police will have adequate time to allocate crowd control or other resources to the function - an issue which was raised by police in the review.
Other controls will assist police and special inspectors with enforcement of the law, and it will be a requirement that the licensee, or a properly nominated person, must be present at all times while liquor is being sold or supplied.
The bill also includes a range of new conditions - dealing with matters such as the sale of liquor in opened containers only.
As I have said, permanent function licensees will be permitted to apply to the court to hold additional social functions under the authority of the licence - provided certain conditions are complied with. These conditions are also set out clearly in the bill and include the following features:
•all social functions will be subject to objections by the police and local council, and must be approved by the licensing court;
•the number of social functions that can be approved will be limited to a maximum of 52 in any one year, and not more than two functions during any period of seven days, with provision for the court to specify lower limits;
•as well, social functions can be no longer than 3 hours in duration, and can only be held between the hours of midday and 10 pm;
•the police, the Director of Liquor and Gaming, and the local council will be able to apply to the court for revocation of an approval for social functions at any time;
•social functions will be for association members and their guests only - not the general public - and liquor may only be sold to association members and their guests. Opening a "hotel bar" and selling liquor to the general public is not on;
•and finally, the responsible service and harm minimisation provisions of the liquor laws will, of course, apply.
It is stressed that any approval to conduct social functions will be a privilege which must be exercised in a responsible manner. Where a function licensee does not comply strictly with the requirements of the law, action can be taken to have
the social functions approval revoked. That is a message I expect all licensees to heed.
The bill also introduces new complaint and disciplinary measures for function licences. This is significant because, for the first time, disciplinary action will be available to the court where a non-proprietary association has not exercised proper control and supervision over its licensed functions.
I want to say for the record that the Government gave special consideration to introducing a licence renewal scheme for permanent function licences - as a means of ensuring that licences were conducted lawfully and responsibly. While such a scheme has not been incorporated in the bill - for a number of practical reasons - the Government will consider introducing a renewal scheme if repeated abuses of function licences come to notice.
I would also like to put on the record the concerns about the bill that have been raised with the Government by the Australian Hotels Association. The association was represented in the review of function licences, and therefore was given full opportunity to be part of the review process.
I can say that the bill has been drafted as far as practicably and reasonably possible to address the issues raised by the association, and the association has advised that it supports most of the provisions in the bill. However, I am very aware that the association is opposed to the social function proposals in the bill.
While the Government is always prepared to consider any matters raised by the association, in this case the Government is pursuing the social-function changes in the interests of the non-profit and charitable associations that operate these licences. The Government also wants to achieve sensible and reasonable laws that are supported by the large number of people in the community that benefit from social functions.
For the time being, the Government is satisfied that the measures in the bill - including the specific controls that will apply to social functions, along with the new complaint provisions - will provide the necessary impetus to ensure functions are conducted lawfully and responsibly.
These measures also complement the new harm minimisation and enforcement measures implemented last year. Function licensees are already subject to the range of responsible serving and other measures introduced with those amendments. As well, the situation with function licensees is being considered in the program of mandatory responsible service training now being developed by the gaming and racing portfolio in conjunction with the liquor industry.
In conclusion, the total package of amendments to the function licence provisions of the Liquor Act will ensure that the sale of liquor at functions is properly regulated. The package will also ensure that liquor is served and consumed responsibly at licensed functions - consistent with the Government’s harm minimisation programs.
It is necessary to ensure that these licences continue to be available to bona fide non-profit organisations, as they do fulfil an important need in the community. But they must also be required to operate responsibly, with sensible controls requiring proper supervision over the supply of liquor. This bill will achieve that.
I would like to speak briefly about the other miscellaneous amendments in this bill. As I previously said, honourable members will recognise many of these provisions from the bill that was considered by the Parliament earlier this year.
The provisions have been amended - once again - to take account of the licence fee changes. At the same time, a number of additional amendments have been included in the bill.
One of the principal miscellaneous amendments affects wine bar licensees. The bill will amend the Liquor Act to allow these licensees to sell spirits - in addition to wine and beer - for consumption on their premises. This is a viability measure for the handful of remaining wine bars left in New South Wales.
The Government, in taking this amendment forward on behalf of the Wine Licensees Association, acknowledges that the former coalition Government granted these same wine bars the "beer" concession several years ago. No new licences of this type are issued - and the Government can see no harm in advancing this small concession to the few remaining licencees.
The bill also contains a number of other miscellaneous amendments, as well as statute law and administrative amendments to the Liquor Act and the Registered Clubs Act. For example, the amendments will clarify and improve the operation of provisions which allow minors who are apprentices or trainees to be in hotel and club premises.
These miscellaneous amendments principally relate to matters brought forward by the Liquor Administration Board, government officers and others who regularly deal with the liquor laws. The Liquor Act and the Registered Clubs Act are subject to constant scrutiny and application - and as a result various administrative and machinery matters come forward on a regular basis.
This is an important bill for the liquor industry, as it helps to clarify the fee and record keeping requirements following the High Court’s recent decision. It provides a degree of certainty in what is still a confusing situation for many in the liquor and registered clubs industries.
The bill is also important as it makes significant changes to function licences, an area of the liquor laws which I think it is fair to say has been neglected for long enough.
I commend the bill to the House.
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [11.00 p.m.]: The Opposition opposes the main section of the bill that will remain after the Committee stage. The Government plans to withdraw the section of the bill dealing with a new licence fee. The Opposition had intended to oppose that section of the bill also, but as the Government now intends to withdraw it I need only address the other main section of the bill, which deals with changes to function licences. The history of those changes has been extraordinary. They have been before the House since last May and were scheduled to be dealt with at the conclusion of last session. They were then scheduled to be dealt with earlier this session, but the bill was withdrawn by the Minister because of licence fee changes following
the decision of the High Court. The bill that is now before the House involves a rewrite of the function licence changes as well as other changes brought about by the High Court decision.
The Opposition supports the changes that are necessary to dispense with the arrangements in the old Act for the collection of licence fees. In August the High Court ruled that certain State taxes were invalid. Since that date the Commonwealth has been collecting on behalf of the State liquor licence fees and a number of other franchise fees. The Opposition supports the amendments in the bill that remove from the principal Act the sections relating to liquor licence fees under the old regime. The Opposition believes that the new licence fee that has now been withdrawn would have effectively reintroduced into the legislation the licence fee that the High Court declared invalid. Little information was provided by the Government about the extent of the licence fee, why it was being introduced and whether it was for administration purposes. At the end of the day there were so many unanswered questions that the Government realised that there were problems with the licence fee and was persuaded by the liquor industry to remove it from the bill.
The industry was united in its opposition to the fee. The Liquor Industry Council discussed the proposal at one of its meetings. The Australian Hotels Association also discussed this proposal. The Registered Clubs Association, the Liquor Stores Association of New South Wales and the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association of New South Wales all wrote to me expressing their amazement that the Government could be so cheeky as to reintroduce a licence fee that had been ruled invalid by the High Court. The only precedent for the reintroduction of the licence fee is a determination by the High Court 20 years ago relating to a Victorian hotel, the name of which escapes me. The High Court determined that the government of the day could set an administrative fee up to 6 per cent. The court deemed that the licence fee would be used for administrative purposes and was not a State tax. Most people would realise that once a new licence fee is introduced, no matter how small, it soon becomes a new tax and eventually grows willy-nilly in each budget until it becomes an important element of the State budget.
Everyone in the liquor industry was nervous about the introduction of the new fee - not for what it might be used for as an administrative charge but because of what it might become after one or two years of various Treasurers seeking ways to generate revenue for their budgets. The Government has now decided it is no longer needed. It could not confirm the need for the fee with the liquor industry. Administration fees are no longer necessary as the Commonwealth is collecting taxes on behalf of the States. One wonders how employees in certain parts of the Department of Gaming and Racing will be able to secure their future following the withdrawal of the proposed new fee and the introduction by government of the central monitoring system for poker machines and other changes to reduce the costs of the department and to streamline its collection operations.
I have no doubt that the Government has had second thoughts about the proposed fee; it could not be justified. I would be interested to hear in Committee why the tax is to be withdrawn from the legislation, having been supported by Cabinet and the Cabinet Office. It seems to me that the department probably thought it was a good idea at the time as a number of staff had less work to do because the Commonwealth is now collecting the tax. I imagine that the licence fee was suggested to keep everyone employed and to generate more funds for the department and the Government. In a few years the fee would have been increased little by little and become a State tax which, incidentally, had been invalidated by the High Court. As I have said, I am pleased the Government intends to withdraw that part of the legislation.
For more than 12 months the coalition has been consistently up-front and vocal about its opposition to that part of the bill dealing with the provision of 52 extra social licences. The Minister is closely involved with surf-lifesaving clubs. He has been lobbied to such an extent that the provision of these additional licences became something of an obsession with him. The Minister did not look at the matter as dispassionately as he should when he considered what was good for the community, existing licensed operators and the ongoing operations of surf-lifesaving clubs and other sporting clubs or charitable organisations. At present clubs are able to hold 26 fundraising social functions each year. In addition they can apply for special temporary licences for special functions. I would have thought that would have been adequate for most organisations. The seasonal activities of most sporting organisations usually have a span of approximately six months. A football club is a good example. A football club could hold a function every week after the game and still only hold 26 functions a year. The additional 52 function licences will allow the clubs to hold 78 functions for members and guests. That is clearly excessive. One can only imagine how clubs will ascertain whether persons are members or guests under the provisions of the bill.
The Opposition does not believe that increasing the number of social functions that clubs may hold each year is in the best interests of anyone. I have received considerable correspondence from a number or organisations, including surf-lifesaving clubs. Some of these organisations are registered clubs and are exercising their right to hold social functions whenever they like. If surf clubs want to become more than simply surf clubs and hold regular functions, the appropriate and proper way to do so is to apply for a registered club licence and make use of the mechanisms that licence provides. The bill is a backdoor method of legitimising the holding of more social functions each year by smaller clubs.
The bill raises a number of issues. First, a number of licensed premises already exist in the vicinity of surf clubs. I shall concentrate on surf clubs because they seem to be the most vocal group lobbying the Minister about these changes. Football clubs, tennis clubs, croquet clubs and other clubs that want to provide alcohol after their games have not expressed support for these changes. Such socialising seems to be peculiar to surf clubs. At Freshwater, the Harbord Beach Hotel is in close proximity to the beach, Harbord Diggers club is just up on the cliff, and Dee Why RSL is another 500 metres beyond. If surf clubs want to hold regular functions all these premises are available to them.
In this financial year Harbord Beach Hotel has donated $8,000 to its local surf club. Many other clubs, including Harbord Diggers, have been equally generous. Harbord Diggers has donated $119,480 to 21 surf clubs in the northern beaches area. Many licensed clubs along the coast strongly support surf-lifesaving clubs. Harbord Beach Hotel and Harbord Diggers have given new boats to Freshwater Surf-lifesaving Club this financial year. However, surf- lifesaving clubs want to set up in opposition to these generous establishments which look after their local communities and people in the area. I could give examples ad nauseam of the support given to surf- lifesaving clubs by registered clubs and hotels.
Harbord Beach Hotel regularly holds functions on behalf of the surf-lifesaving club in the area, and the hotel owner is the patron of the surf-lifesaving club. The hotel is committed to donating $8,000 to South Curl Curl Surf-Lifesaving Club this year. Over the years the hotel has donated a great deal of equipment. It initiated sponsorship for Freshwater Surf-Lifesaving Club through Carlton and United Breweries and sponsorship for South Curl Curl Surf-Lifesaving Club through Tooheys and Sky Channel. As I said, the hotel regularly holds functions to raise funds for the Freshwater Surf-Lifesaving Club. These are examples of the strong support given to surf-lifesaving clubs by registered clubs and venues.
I know that the Minister, if he were here, would say that this bill simply legitimises coldies. I have heard stories about coldies. The Minister uses the word "coldies" to refer to events held for members and guests to raise funds for lifesaving clubs. I would not call such events coldies. I understand coldies to mean having a cold beer straight from the fridge after coming from the beach or off a boat on a hot day. If this bill legitimises that, the Minister is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It is not necessary to legitimise people having a cold beer after a day on the beach. I do not think Government members, staff in the department, members of the Police Service or anyone in the Parliament would want to stop someone from throwing $2 or whatever in an ice-cream container and taking a beer from the fridge after a day on the beach.
If police want to stop people from doing that I will take action in this Chamber - I hope with the support of the Government - to ensure that that does not happen. This bill is not about legitimising that practice; it is about holding social functions along the lines of registered club functions. In the current circumstances the number of functions available to clubs, including surf-lifesaving clubs, under a social functions licence is sufficient to meet the needs of those clubs. In conclusion, I shall quote the newest Minister in New South Wales, the Hon. Harry Woods. Honourable members know that Harry is a former publican. His views probably support the position taken by the Australian Hotels Association. An article in the September issue of Hotel News stated:
Country hoteliers ‘fed up’ with inroads into the industry
Ramifications of the proposed Function Licence Act would be disastrous for country hoteliers already ‘fed-up’ with the inroads being made into their industry.
These concerns and many others were expressed to the local member for Clarence, the Hon. Harry Woods, who attended the meeting held at the Commercial Hotel, Ulmarra on June 22.
The member answered many questions and agreed that the proposed legislation could create a proliferation of drinking with no check on underage club members.
He said it would also be very difficult to police. He said that he was hopeful -
this is a doozey -
that the State Upper House would see these defects.
A Labor Minister is hoping that the Legislative Council will reject his Government’s amendments because he believes they are irresponsible. I rest my case.
The Hon. FRANCA ARENA [11.17 p.m.]: I understand what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is saying. However, I have a different view. I support the legislation. I am fortunate to live in one of the better areas in Sydney, the northern beaches. I have had many dealings with surf clubs in the area, whether it be Harbord, Curl Curl, Collaroy or other clubs up to Palm Beach. These clubs have lobbied me on this bill. I use the word "lobbied" in a good way because the clubs have put their case to me. I believe this bill will legalise what is already happening. Under this bill surf club members will be able to socialise more than they do at present. Honourable members must remember that surf-lifesavers voluntarily patrol our beaches. The surf clubs have assured me that they support local hotels. They do not purchase alcohol from wholesalers; they generally purchase it from local hotels.
Many families are involved in the community service provided by surf-lifesavers. Most life-savers are sporting people and promote alcohol-free beaches. Generally, it is important for them to partake in social drinking as it involves adult family members. I have been assured that surf clubs do not open their bars until all patrols are finished. For the many reasons provided by the surf clubs, I support the bill. The honourable member for Pittwater, John Brogden, is a good friend of mine. He is a wonderful person. He is most talented and has a bright future ahead of him. I hope that one day he will be Prime Minister of Australia. He spoke in favour of the legislation. Like me, he lives in the area and he knows a lot about the surf clubs. I refer to Hansard of Wednesday, 26 November, in which he said:
I hope the Minister can guarantee that the bill will include a provision to ensure that clubs that breach the regulations will be dealt with swiftly and severely.
To which the Minister for Gaming and Racing interjected:
They will lose their licence - it is as simple as that.
Surf clubs do an excellent job patrolling our beaches. When the beach is closed their members should have the opportunity to have a drink with their families without breaking the law. The bill legalises a practice that already exists.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [11.21 p.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members for their contributions to the debate.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
Schedules 1, 2 and 4
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [11.23 p.m.], by leave: I move Government amendments Nos 1 to 10 in globo:
No. 1 Page 3, Schedule 1 and , lines 6-12. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:
 Section 4(1), definitions of "licence fee" and "licensing period"
No. 2 Page 4, Schedule 1. Insert after line 13:
 Section 36 Restrictions on liquor licence applications
Omit "otherwise than for non-payment of the licence fee" from section 36(7).
No. 3 Page 5, Schedule 1, line 5. Omit "Licence fees and duty".
No. 4 Page 5, Schedule 1-, lines 7-26. Omit all words on those lines.
 Part 5, Divisions 1 and 2
No. 5 Page 6, Schedule 1-, lines 1-12. Omit all words on those lines.
No. 6 Page 32, Schedule 4 and , lines 6-12. Omit all words on those lines.
 Section 4(1), definitions of "registration fee" and "registration period"
No. 7 Pages 32 and 33, Schedule 4, lines 16-21 on page 32 and lines 1-9 on page 33. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:
No. 8 Page 33, Schedule 4, line 11. Omit all words on that line.
Omit section 16(3) and (4).
No. 9 Page 33, Schedule 4-, lines 14-25. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:
No. 10 Page 34, Schedule 4 and , lines 1-5. Omit all words on those lines.
The bill contains provisions that were intended to establish a new annual fee system for all liquor licences and certificates of registration. The fee, which was to be based on a standard administrative charge, would have gone some way towards meeting the regulatory costs of the liquor licensing regime. The details of the new fee system were proposed to be prescribed in the liquor and registered clubs regulations following consultation with the liquor industry. However, the Government acknowledges that these provisions have caused concern in the industry, especially in relation to the uncertain level of the fees. Therefore, a decision has been taken to remove the fee provisions from the bill, and these amendments will achieve that. No ongoing fee will be paid by licensees. However, the Government reserves the right to revisit this issue in the future after appropriate consultation with the industry.
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [11.25 p.m.]: The Opposition supports these amendments because it foreshadowed amendments in the same terms. The Opposition believes that the tax would be iniquitous and unnecessary. If the Government thinks it will be able to negotiate with the industry and implement a tax in the future it is in for a surprise. The industry is vehemently opposed to the implementation of the new licence fee. It might be a licence fee for administration purposes today, but it may be a tax tomorrow. I do not think anyone in the industry trusts governments of any persuasion with respect to such a tax. The Opposition supports the deletion of all clauses that relate to the new tax.
Amendments agreed to.
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [11.26 p.m.], by leave: I move Opposition amendments Nos 1 to 7 in globo:
No. 1 Page 8, Schedule 2, lines 8 to 18. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:
function means any dinner, ball, convention, seminar, sporting event, exhibition, performance, trade fair or other fair, fete or carnival, or any similar event or activity, that is conducted for public amusement or entertainment.
No. 2 Page 12, Schedule 2, lines 20 to 23. Omit all words on those lines.
No. 3 Pages 15 and 16, Schedule 2, proposed section 51A(2)-(4), line 31 on page 15 to line 4 on page 16. Omit all words on those lines.
No. 4 Page 16, Schedule 2, proposed section 51A(5), line 5. Omit "general".
No. 5 Page 16, Schedule 2, proposed section 51A(7) and (8), lines 17 to 29. Omit all words on those lines.
No. 6 Page 17, Schedule 2, proposed section 51A(10) and (11), lines 10 to 33. Omit all words on those lines.
No. 7 Page 18, Schedule 2, proposed section 51A(15), lines 9 to 11. Omit all words on those lines.
As I mentioned during the second reading debate, the Opposition does not believe that any club or organisation needs another 52 occasions on which to operate a liquor bar to raise funds for charitable organisations. This proposal makes a mockery of the Government’s harm minimisation and responsible service of alcohol legislation. Minors are encouraged to drink in sports clubs, such as surf clubs. Surf clubs are frequented by little nippers and family members, and that is the way it should stay. The Opposition is opposed to the proposal to increase the number of social functions by 52 a year. Under the permanent function licence arrangements non-proprietary associations, such as tennis clubs and football clubs, can hold a function every fortnight, and seasonal sporting clubs can hold a function every week.
This legislation provides for an extra 52 social function licences - of three hours duration between noon and 10.00 p.m. - which goes well beyond legitimising members such as tennis players, surf patrol members and cricketers having a drink after their chosen sporting activities. Clubs and hotels are extraordinarily generous to sporting clubs, especially surf clubs, and they are entitled to expect patronage and support in return. Country hoteliers, in particular, are fed up with the inroads being made into their industry - as, I am sure, are city hoteliers. Governments of all political persuasions have added competition to what used to be their market. A lot of hotels are struggling under increased competition - be it from the registered club
movement, which has been in place for more than 40 years, liquor stores, licensed restaurants, liquor being available in motels and night clubs. Hotels have had their market share eroded and any extension of licences to charitable sporting clubs will further erode it. They tolerate potential loss of business all the time and they would be vehemently opposed to the additional loss of business to these clubs every week. If sports clubs wish to operate like a hotel or a registered club, they should be prepared to pay the fee and seek a licence, as many surf clubs and sporting clubs have done.
As honourable members would be aware, a number of sporting organisations have taken that further step and are now licensed premises under the auspices of registered clubs. In his comments in another place, and also in a letter to the Australian Hotels Association, the Minister claimed that his concerns about functions being held at clubs led to a lengthy and comprehensive review by the Government of the functions licence provisions in the liquor law; and that the changes to function licences in the Liquor and Registered Clubs Amendment Bill arose out of that review. That is simply not true. The review was undertaken during an 18-month period and an extensive report was presented to the Government. Not once during the review or in the final report is the social function licence discussed. Indeed, no-one had ever heard of the concept until the draft legislation appeared in February this year.
That goes to cement my earlier remarks in the debate that this appears to be something that the Minister holds dear as a personal ambition but certainly on no occasion has it come out of a function licence review. For the Minister to say otherwise is completely misleading the Parliament, the Australian Hotels Association and anyone else he has written to about this matter. This provision will allow licences for some organisations up to twice a week for 52 weeks a year. The Opposition believes that is not necessary because the 26-week permanent function licence adequately covers the needs of seasonal sporting clubs. Any expansion will compromise the Government’s most recent changes to liquor legislation, including responsible service of alcohol and harm minimisation. Clubs and organisations that require all-year trading should apply for a normal club licence and not jeopardise those hotels and clubs in their area that have paid a high price to obtain a liquor licence. I conclude by quoting the comments of the Minister for Regional Development, and Minister for Rural Affairs. He said that it would be very difficult to police and that he was hopeful that the State upper House would see these defects.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [11.32 p.m.]: The Government is opposed to these amendments. I am staggered that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, a very sensible man, should have moved such unworthy amendments. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition seems to have it in for surf clubs. I know he is from the bush and has probably never been to a surf club in his life but, as a Cronulla boy who has seen the great work of the four surf clubs along the Cronulla beach front during the past 49 years, I believe this is surely a modest concession for the law to make. Already surf clubs and other small organisations are permitted to hold up to 26 functions a year with a licence, for fundraising purposes.
The additional 52 functions are for members of the club and their guests, but not for the general public. In other words, a surf club member may invite his or her partner to have a drink on Sunday afternoon. It is not as though these functions can be held all night. They must be held between the specified hours of midday and 10.00 p.m., and a limit of three hours has been imposed. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is trying to deprive surf club members of the benefit of once a week having a drink after they have spent a day protecting lives on the beach. That is all that is being asked for. Members can invite members of the general public to only 26 functions each year, but even if it were 78 functions a year it would amount to only 1½ functions each week.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: They should get a licence. A number of surf clubs have a licence.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Does the honourable member want to turn them into licensed clubs?
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: A lot of them are licensed.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: What a contradiction! The honourable member said that the problem with the Government’s proposal is that it will create needless competition for existing hotels and clubs. Now he is suggesting that all these small surf clubs, tennis clubs or croquet clubs should become fully-fledged licensed clubs. They do not want to do that: they want to have a day on the beach or playing croquet, and be able to have a beer afterwards. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition does not want them to have a beer afterwards. He wants them to have to get in the car and go up to the hotel or club a mile or two miles away. How ridiculous!
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: They can walk across the road to the pub.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The honourable member said that they can walk across the road. Once there were two hotels at Cronulla. One closed and a block of units now occupies that site and the other hotel is about to close. Instead of being "Northy’s" as we know it, it is about to become a super-duper five-star hotel. Cronulla beach surf-lifesavers will have nowhere to go for a drink after a day on the beach. They would have to be ex-servicemen or members of the Cronulla RSL - in which case they could not just wander up from the beach to the club in their thongs, swimming trunks and T-shirt; they would have to get dressed to go into the club, as everyone does. The other alternative would be to get into the car and drive to the Cronulla-Sutherland Leagues Club five or six kilometres away. Again they would have to wear shoes and be properly dressed; they could not go in beach gear. I cannot work out why these bushies have this set against surf clubs. Will the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner explain it to me? What is it about National Party people? Why do they hate surf clubs, which do a fabulous job?
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: They do not have surf clubs at Bourke or Broken Hill.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: They do not have surf clubs at Bourke and Broken Hill, that is true, but surely the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues are big enough to understand that this State consists of a lot more than the areas they were raised in. If he would like to come to Cronulla beach one day I will teach him to swim and I will take him into the Cronulla surf club, North Cronulla surf club, Elouera surf club or Wanda surf club and I am sure they will shout him a beer. The Government opposes the amendment.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [11.37 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party is in a real dilemma. Our choice is that no liquor be served in surf clubs. I am not an expert on surf clubs, obviously, or on the amount of alcohol consumed there but the Government has argued that liquor is being consumed in surf clubs and that it has been a regular event for the past 50 years. That is what the Government has claimed, but we require a response from the Surf Life Saving Association. The Minister stated that he has had discussions with the chief executive officer of the Surf Life Saving Association and that the decision was reached in co-operation with that association.
In supporting this proposition the association believes it will introduce some regulation or control over a situation that already exists. At present, people are drinking in those surf clubs without restriction and no controls are imposed on them. This amendment to the legislation states that the police, the director of liquor and gaming and the local council will be able to apply for revocation of an approval for additional social functions at any time; that liquor may be sold only to association members and their guests; and that opening a bar and selling liquor to the general public will not be permitted.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: How would you know?
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: If they are drinking at the moment, no-one knows anything. If they are consuming liquor, they are doing so illegally. The Minister said in his second reading speech that the Government is merely bringing appropriate controls to something which a great many members of the community have been doing for the past 50 years. The consumption of liquor in surf-lifesaving clubs has not been controlled by the law, although it should be. The Minister claims that any approval to conduct social functions will be a privilege that must be exercised in a responsible manner. If a function licensee does not comply strictly with the requirements of the law, action will be taken to have the approval revoked, or the licensee will lose the licence. We have received a lot of letters from the Australian Hotels Association and other bodies who are upset about the legislation. They claim, rightly or wrongly, that the legislation will take consumers away from hotels and clubs. But if people have been drinking in surf-lifesaving clubs for 50 years, this legislation should not have an effect on the turnover of hotels and registered clubs.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that if all surf lifesaving clubs were registered clubs, functions would not be restricted to three hours between midday and 10.00 p.m; functions could be held for 24 hours a day. I am sure it is not the intention of the National Party that surf lifesaving clubs have unlimited access to alcohol, as registered clubs do. Three hours of trading is certainly a lot better than 24 hours. We would like a bill passed that does not allow the sale of alcoholic beverages in surf lifesaving clubs. But, apparently, this bill will legalise a situation that already exists. It will not lead to an increased consumption of alcohol; it will control it. We are not experts on how many people
in surf lifesaving clubs consume alcohol. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition indicated, there has not been an adequate inquiry on which to base our considered opinions in the House.
The Hon. J. S. TINGLE [11.41 p.m.]: I intend to seek clarification from the Treasurer on a matter I am confused about. We seem to have two different issues. One is the concerns expressed by groups like the AHA and the registered clubs about the impact that surf-lifesaving clubs and other social clubs are likely to have if such clubs are allowed to hold the increased number of functions that a permanent licence would provide, although, as Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile said, three hours a night under harm minimisation laws would suggest that the operation of surf-lifesaving clubs and social clubs would be much smaller than the operation of hotels and registered clubs. Will this legislation affect the operation of commercial groups? The other issue is the desirability of the level of functions that clubs ought to be allowed to have.
We have been presented with a picture of beer cans rampant upon the golden sands and drunken surf club members falling about in all directions if they are allowed to have this extra number of functions a year. I therefore ask the Treasurer to clarify whether a club which has a permanent function licence with a limit of 52 functions per year will automatically be able to hold those 52 functions, or will it have to apply to a court? If so, would the court set the number of functions that that club could have in any year? In other words, is it an automatic, definite, increase of 52 functions a year for social clubs, or will surf-lifesaving clubs still be subject to controls of a court that will set those numbers? The second issue is absolutely central.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [11.43 p.m.]: I am advised that clubs would have to apply to the court for each separate licence.
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [11.43 p.m.]: A number of issues have been raised in this debate. It would be very difficult for surf lifesaving clubs to obtain registered club licences. It would depend on what other outlets and licensed clubs were in the area. Some surf- lifesaving clubs are registered clubs, such as at Coffs Harbour and at a number of other locations along the coast. Surf-lifesaving clubs have the ability to become fully registered if they so desire, but that does not mean they would be open for 24 hours a day. A number of bowling clubs and golf clubs are not open for 24 hours a day. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile would know that if one goes to a bowling club in a country town on the south coast one is normally asked to leave between 9 o’clock and 10 o’clock because that is when the club closes, and it might not reopen until 4 o’clock the next afternoon.
Licensing laws allow registered clubs to remain open for 24 hours, but it is highly unlikely that that would occur in these circumstances. It has already been proved that surf lifesaving clubs that want extended trading hours should be able to have them. Responsible service is what the Committee should be considering. Police presence is also a serious issue. The police appear to have their present resources fully utilised in enforcing existing arrangements at approved licenced premises and for function licence holders. It is therefore questionable whether the police would be able to enforce the much more complicated proposed new arrangement for additional and ad hoc social functions. One can imagine police officers turning up to a surf-lifesaving club following a complaint and finding things going pretty well.
They then have to establish what hours the club is supposed to be open. Individual clubs could have different hours and could be operating outside those hours. Unless police officers walk around with a book full of registered hours under which these clubs operate to determine whether they are operating in accordance with their licences, they will not have a clue. A substantial number of juniors, many in the 14- to 18-year-old bracket, are involved in surf-lifesaving clubs, tennis clubs and many other sporting clubs. My son was involved in a surf- lifesaving club and, as a junior, he was very much a part of that club. The issue, of course, is mates servings mates. It is unlikely in those circumstances that responsible service would be enforced with the same vigour that paid staff in clubs and hotels enforce it because their jobs depend on it.
It is unlikely that appropriate training courses will be undertaken. These are some of the issues that revolve around responsible service. One can imagine rocking up to the door of a surf-lifesaving club - such as Tamarama, where my son was a lifesaver - with hardly anyone at the door to ascertain whether one was a bona fide guest or a member. If one were to walk in behind a group of members or bona fide guests, no-one would mind. However, if one were to walk into a registered club, one would be checked by three or four who would have to determine whether one was a member. The whole approach is extremely formal and that approach should be adopted when function licences are granted. Surf-lifesaving clubs might, with the very best of intentions, want to operate like
registered clubs for three hours a night, have social functions and make a bit of money. However, we cannot expect the bar operations to be well supervised and well run.
The Minister mentioned in the Committee stage that this legislation will legitimise what is already occurring. This legislation is the Government’s way of trying to prevent surf club members from coming off the beach and having the beer that they deserve because they have been out on the beach all day. It is a sorry day if this legislation will enable Richard Face’s squad to close them down and put them in court. I am sure that that is not what the Minister wants. This legislation is not about legitimising coldies; it is about legitimising social functions - functions attended by many people and which make a lot of money. It is a clear fact of life that if people do not attend those functions no money is made. I commend the Opposition’s amendments to the Committee.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [11.49 p.m.]: Notwithstanding the Government’s opposition to the amendments, for the reasons I outlined earlier the Government recognises that it does not have the numbers and therefore will not take up the time of the Committee.
Amendments agreed to.
Schedules as amended agreed to.
Bill reported from Committee with amendments and passed through remaining stages.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [11.52 p.m.]: I move:
That this House do now adjourn.
PARLIAMENTARY ALLEGATIONS BY THE HONOURABLE FRANCA ARENA
The Hon. FRANCA ARENA [11.52 p.m.]: Tonight I ask the community of New South Wales to judge me and to judge the Carr Labor Government on the witch-hunt it is conducting against me. One wonders why Commissioner Ryan’s report was delivered so quickly. I hope he was not put under any pressure from the Minister for Police - perish the thought! Mr Whelan would never do anything like that! After all, even Commissioner Ryan said, on page 3 of his report:
I intend to establish a strike force made up of CPEA investigators led by a Detective Superintendent and working within the CPEA to commence investigations into those allegations which can be pursued at this stage and which are not already part of current police inquiries . . .
Investigations of this nature are generally quite protracted and I do not expect, given the information already supplied in the documents, to achieve results quickly. The inquiries will be pursued expeditiously but it would be false to assume that results could be immediately obtained. This, of course, will not please those who are seeking immediate results.
Who is looking for immediate results, so they can throw me out? You have got something coming. You are going to be punished so much by the community about what you are doing to me that you will rue the day you have taken me on. That is all I want to say. The report continues:
As mentioned above, much of the information provided in the documents is uncorroborated and will no doubt be difficult to verify in the absence of other supportive evidence.
I am not a detective. I did not get information from the community and go out and investigate it. I cannot do that. I am not a policeman; I am not a detective. There was enough serious material for me to raise my concerns in this Parliament. I want to repeat over and over again that it was my duty to raise concerns in the House. I also raise the following points in the commissioner’s report:
Following the conclusion of the Police Royal Commission and the report handed down, a proportion of material provided to and investigated by the Royal Commission was handed over to the police.
A proportion of material! Where is the other material? Where is this important material from the Wood royal commission? Who has got it? Where has it been put? These are questions that I want to know the answers to; the community wants to know the answers. Why is Mr Wood sitting on the material? Is it in the Premier’s Department, as was said at the Nader commission? I do not know. The community wants to know. After the expensive Nader inquiry, which in due time will be judged for what it was - and I am glad that these two top academics will be into this whole issue, because we will see who will have egg on their faces when this whole matter has been examined by independent people. I am now requested to go to the privileges committee, which has hired two lawyers: Mr Bernard Gross, QC, and Mr Peter Catanzariti from the small firm called Clayton Utz to assist Mr Gross. This must be costing the taxpayers of New South Wales a packet. All of the expenses are put onto the taxpayer.
As far as my legal representation is concerned, I will apply to the privileges committee for financial assistance as I am unable to meet all the financial bills that have been sent to me. I ask my parliamentary colleagues on all sides of the House for some old-fashioned justice. This committee will have a Queen's Counsel and a lawyer, but they are asking me to go there without anybody. I thought that at the privileges committee I was going to be judged by my peers and I was going to go before the committee without any legal advice or assistance. I was going to be interrogated by them and would have given my answers to the best of my knowledge and in all truthfulness. The committee could have examined my documents; this would all have been done by my peers.
Now the committee is to have a QC and a lawyer. Why? Why do they have to do that? I want to know whether I am going to be given some legal assistance. Am I going to be denied that? As time is short, I will resume my contribution to the adjournment debate tomorrow night. I have been denied the additional staff that every crossbencher has. Mr President, you told me in your letter dated today that I should apply to the Treasurer. The Treasurer said I should apply to you, because you have the finances. I do not know who is doing this, but tonight I told the Minister’s adviser that I can only do so much research on bills. The bills that I do not know much about and cannot get advice on I will vote against. I am not going to be taken for a ride by this Government, which is intent on punishing me. But they are only punishing themselves; they are short-sighted miseryguts, to use an old Australian colloquialism. They are the most mean-spirited people I have ever met. [Time expired.]
BYRON SHIRE COUNCIL INQUIRY
The Hon. D. J. GAY [11.57 p.m.]: I call upon the Carr Labor Government to immediately establish a full and open public inquiry to decide whether Byron Shire Council should be replaced by an administrator. In the interim, the Government must urgently appoint a planning administrator with full support and funding by the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning. Since becoming the shadow minister for local government last year I have received a large volume of correspondence from constituents expressing the grave concerns of ratepayers about the state of the council. Most of this correspondence has been referred to the Minister for Local Government, but there has been no action from that do-nothing Minister.
Time will not allow me to discuss every issue that has been brought to my attention, but I will raise a few. It is hard to believe that at the end of the twentieth century water quality has been seriously compromised by outdated sewerage arrangements which are unable to meet the demands put on the system. Byron Shire Council is primarily responsible for this failure. Recommendations to solve the current environmental problems have been offered to the council by the Assistant Director of the Department of Planning, but the council has delayed the solution by forming a committee to look into the issue. This summer Byron will have to face the reality of a sewerage system unable to cope during peak periods.
Byron Shire Council has imposed a moratorium on development. By doing this the council has shown no consideration for its ratepayers, who, having borrowed money to develop a site, now find that the development has been stopped. These ratepayers have been put under severe financial strain and face the prospect of mortgagee foreclosure because of the action of the council. As at August 1997 council had a backlog of over 200 development applications and some 23 cases lodged with the Land and Environment Court.
There is no precedent in New South Wales for the refusal of a building approval because a council was unable to provide a service. Byron Shire Council is the first. The role of the general manager in Byron Shire Council has been controversial. The council, after mediation, dismissed its general manager in August 1996. Many ratepayers are of the view that some councillors did not enter into the mediation process with the general manager in good faith. The general manager was dismissed on the pretext of irreconcilable differences with six new councillors, one of whom had just been elected in a by-election. The search for a replacement general manager has been very unorthodox in its time frame. Byron Shire Council has only recently replaced its general manager, who was dismissed more than 16 months ago. During that time the council has lost most of its senior management and highly trained and experienced staff.
The financial position of Byron Shire Council is another major concern. It is reported that the council has loan borrowings of more than $8.1 million and a spiralling accumulated deficit of almost $7 million. However, the council has been granted increases in rate variations up to 23.2 per cent on top of the minimum rate increase of 7.8 per cent in March 1995. The special variation granted in 1996 was conditional on council containing its legal expenses, reducing its administrative costs and improving its budgetary performance. Even with those requirements, the council cannot meet any of its financial obligations. That alone should
necessitate a public inquiry. Ratepayers are concerned at the deteriorating level of services now being provided by the council. Many constituents have related the story of the design of the platypus logo by a council committee. Byron Shire Council is government by committee. The council has at least 74 committees and organisations - even a Byron Shire Council logo committee!
Local community confidence in the council is, and has been for a very long time, at a very low ebb. I have been told that the political reality may be that the delay in action is because the Minister for Local Government is following instructions from a Minister in this House, the Hon. M. R. Egan, not to interfere in the affairs of Byron Shire Council. That is so that the Carr Labor Government can continue to benefit from the support of its mates, the Hon. I. Cohen and the Hon. R. S. L. Jones, who vote for Government legislation. That may explain the inconsistent behaviour of the Minister for Local Government towards Maitland and Kyogle councils. It is time for the Minister for Local Government to take action against this council and call for a full and open public inquiry.
PIG MEAT IMPORTATION
The Hon. A. B. KELLY [12.02 a.m.]: I wish to speak tonight on the great pork debate. The recent Federal decision to allow the import of processed Canadian pork and uncooked Danish pig meat could mean the end for many New South Wales pig producers. Under the increased pressure from imports, 1,000 pig producers in New South Wales will be looking for ways to cut costs in order to survive the flow of imported products set to flood the Australian market in 1998. Unfortunately, these producers were already pushed to the edge of cost-cutting measures when Canadian pig meat was introduced. It is not simply a matter of becoming more efficient. Many producers are left with no option but to cut staff. Given the current climate, selling out from the pig industry is not an option because no-one is prepared to buy in such an uncertain environment.
In an unprecedented movement, market prices have actually fallen in the lead-up to Christmas. That is a cruel blow to most producers, who rely on Christmas sales to show a profit. Imports are already more than 1,000 tonnes per month and prices are falling steadily. By allowing the unimpeded import of premium market cooked and processed products, the Federal Government is taking jobs from regional processors and giving them to off-shore producers with no regard to the impact on our communities. Denmark places tariffs ranging from $US350 per tonne to $US3,500 per tonne on Australian meat. But Denmark now has free access into Australia and does not even have to pay the various promotional levies to encourage meat sales that all Australian producers are required to pay. These imports can flood into Australia virtually unimpeded. It is significant to note that under the Uruguay round of trade discussions the Federal Government is allowed to place tariffs of 12.5 per cent to 20 per cent on imported pork. But the Government refuses to exercise that right, leaving Australian pork producers and the people they employ at an enormous comparative disadvantage.
The banality of pursuing a level playing field in the current climate of agricultural trade seems entirely lost on Mr Anderson. However, it is not lost on the President of the New South Wales Farmers Association, Ian Donges, who, on behalf of producers, stated, "The Federal Government has a long way to go to give the Australian meat export industry anything like a level playing field for trade." A $10 million compensation package was arrived at based on the prospect of Danish imports. Then the new Canadian imports were announced, much to the surprise of the Pork Council, and no commensurate increase in the adjustment package was even considered. That $10 million over three years will not even make a dent in the enormous losses faced by many producers. A 10¢ drop in the price of pig meat resulting from the import decision would lead to industry losses of more than $10 million in a single week in a single State. What are pork producers supposed to do with this package?
The New South Wales Farmers Association represents more than 1,000 pig producers, yet it is still being refused a position on the Federal Government’s board that was formed to negotiate the details of the package. Significantly, most of the producers represented by the association are small to medium-size businesses while the board membership consists of only the largest industry players. The average producer has been effectively denied a voice in the adjustment process. It follows that the already meagre package will go to those who need it least while small producers are forced off the land - all in the name of economic rationalism! The Chairman of the New South Wales Farmers Pork Producers Committee responded strongly to the import decision and warned that it could cost John Anderson his blue-ribbon National Party seat in north-west New South Wales. It seems to be a sentiment shared by many of the Minister’s traditional grassroots supporters.
After Anderson’s decision that science was a key factor in pig meat imports, the Pork Council of Australia called for the immediate suspension of
imports from Canada. It has been revealed that Australia’s import protocol may not be sufficient to prevent the import of pig disease, which is spreading throughout Canada and the United States of America. The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service - AQIS - admitted to a Senate estimates committee hearing that it could not give an assurance that cooking requirements in the current protocol were sufficient to destroy porcine circovirus, which has been said to cause up to 50 per cent mortality in young pigs in infected herds in Canada and the United States.
An independent report produced by the Pig Research and Development Corporation found that there is a possibility that the disease is carried in pork products. The corporation could not be sure that the current protocols denatured the virus. John Anderson announced in the Land that the import decision would be science based. If he cannot see the equity and employment issues at stake, I challenge him to stand by his word and suspend pork imports on the basis of the pig corporation’s findings.
HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR THE ENTRANCE AND THE ELDERLY
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER [12.07 a.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House yet another example of gross hypocrisy by a member of this Government. In early November the member for The Entrance, Grant McBride, took great delight in announcing that he had organised a petition, the purpose of which, in his words, was "to let the Federal Government know that the elderly people on the central coast are upset and disappointed by the proposed new nursing home fee". This comment was made by Mr McBride at a time when he knew the Federal Government had reconsidered its position on nursing home fees. Mr McBride went on to speak about the effect nursing home fees would have on the very same elderly who survived the Great Depression and who fought for our country through World War II.
All the while Mr McBride knew that the Federal Government had reversed its decision. Such issues are very distressing and confusing for the elderly, and when the honourable member for The Entrance says, "I appeal to the elderly on the coast, contact my office immediately" and, "This is your chance to have your voice heard", many would be fooled into believing that he was a man who was prepared to lift himself above politics to look after all residents on the central coast. One did not have to wait long to learn what the member for The Entrance really thinks about the elderly. He showed his true colours one week later. In announcing a one-off grant to the Laycock Street Theatre in Gosford Mr McBride said of the central coast, "We are no longer simply a retirement village for Sydney." This comment was from a man whose constituency continues to grow with people aged over 65 years. In fact, approximately one in five persons living in The Entrance electorate is aged over 65 years. For many of these people, the central coast was home well before retirement.
Mr McBride need only get up early one morning and travel to nearby Tuggerah railway station to see how many people over 45 years of age travel every day by train or car to Sydney. These people, who travel up to four hours a day, some even longer, to keep their jobs and remain residents of the central coast, are not what the member for The Entrance suggest they are: blow-in retirees from Sydney. It is the view of the Liberal Party that if people wish to retire from Sydney to the central coast we will welcome them with open arms. They bring with them those qualities we in the Liberal Party welcome, such as commitment to community service. They take pride, as we locals do, in saying that they come from the central coast, and they contribute to the financial future of our community. The member also alleged that there had been massive growth in the number of young people in his area. Between 1991 and 1996 the total number of residents under the age of 24 years in his electorate dropped by 1 per cent. The number of those aged 25 years to 49 years also dropped by 1 per cent in the same period. Not only is the member for The Entrance ageist, he is also wrong.
What is most remarkable about the member for The Entrance is his ability to change appearance when dealing with different groups. When he wants to confuse the elderly so as to score cheap political points he whips up the aged by telling them he is their friend. When he wants to score points with young people he sticks the slipper into the elderly. Is it any wonder that the elderly are so disappointed with the member for The Entrance? G. Healy, the publicity officer of the Retirement Village Residents Association central coast sub-branch, stated in the Central Coast Express Advocate on 21 November, "Shame on you Grant McBride!"
I have found it very interesting watching the member for The Entrance on these issues as well as others and I have raised by observations in this Chamber recently. I am continually amazed at the way he so effectively changes his position on any issue so as to placate the needs of the group he is addressing, whilst at the same time maintaining such a straight face. In his speech on the Address-in-Reply to the Governor’s Speech he spoke at length about four-wheel drive vehicles. I have no doubt that
he considers himself as having the ability to step over potholes and to reverse his direction quickly in rough conditions. Grant McBride may view himself as a Toyota Landcruiser; it is just a shame that the people of The Entrance see him as a Daihatsu Charade.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion by the Hon. M. R. Egan agreed to:
That this House at its rising today do adjourn until Friday, 5 December 1997, at 10.00 a.m.
House adjourned at 12.13 a.m., Friday.