Monday, 29 June 1998
The House met at 11.00 a.m.
PRESIDENT OF THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
The CLERK: The duty devolves upon me of announcing the receipt of the following communication from His Excellency the Governor advising that the office of President of the Legislative Council has become vacant through the resignation under section 22G of the Constitution Act 1902 of the Hon. Max Frederick Willis:
Mr John Evans,
Clerk of the Parliaments and
Clerk of the Legislative Council,
SYDNEY NSW 2000
I have to inform you that The Honourable Max Willis MLC, the President of the Legislative Council, called on me this afternoon and tendered his resignation as President of the Legislative Council with effect from 9 a.m. on Monday 29 June 1998.
I accepted his resignation.
The Honourable Gordon Samuels AC
AFFIRMATION OF ALLEGIANCE
The CLERK: I announce the receipt of the following communication from His Excellency the Governor informing the House that Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans has made an affirmation of allegiance before the Governor:
Mr John Evans
Clerk of the Parliaments and
Clerk of the Legislative Council,
SYDNEY NSW 2000
I hereby transmit to the Legislative Council the affirmation of allegiance taken before me on the 29th day of June 1998, by Doctor the Honourable Arthur Chesterfield-Evans in accordance with Section 12 of the Constitution Act.
The Hon. Dr A. Chesterfield-Evans signed the roll.
[The Clerk left the chair at 11.05 a.m. The House resumed at 2.30 p.m.]
PRESIDENT OF THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
The Clerk of the Parliaments, pursuant to the provisions of section 22G of the Constitution Act 1902, called for nominations for the office of President.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [2.34 p.m.]: I propose to the House and move:
That the Hon. Helen Sham-Ho do take the chair of this House as President.
The House meets today to elect a member of our Council to one of the highest parliamentary offices in the land, that of President of this Chamber. This is always a great responsibility, but never more so than now. In recent times we have heard again the first erratic beats of a drum calling Australians to a divisive form of politics we hoped had long ago been abandoned in our community. The political institutions of this country, including this House, must declare themselves against this dull, thudding intolerance. In electing a new President of this House honourable members have a tremendous opportunity to send a message to the world. The message is a simple one: Australia’s political institutions, like all but a handful of Australians, are tolerant and decent. Hard work, family values, respect for elders and respect for learning are qualities that I, and all the members of this House, locate at the heart of the Australian community. They should not be demeaned; they should not be shunted to the periphery.
The Hon. Helen Sham-Ho embodies those values in full. That is why the Government has
nominated her for the office of President. The Hon. Helen Sham-Ho, like one in four people in our community, was born overseas. She came to Australia in 1961. She holds tertiary qualifications in arts, social work and law. She spent years working for the community before seeking election to public office. She was elected to this House in 1988 and has served with distinction on the Standing Committee on Law and Justice and on the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics. Her work on the Standing Committee on Social Issues deserves special mention. The decision she has taken today is a brave one, no doubt the toughest of her political career. The Government supports her wholeheartedly.
The Hon. M. F. WILLIS [2.37 p.m.]: It is appropriate that I make some comments at the commencement of these proceedings. I take this opportunity to address the House. At the outset I congratulate the first nominee, and the other members who I understand will be nominated for the office of President. That is an honour in itself. But it is an even greater honour and privilege to serve as President. That has been my lot for the past seven years. During that time I have applied all of what talent I have to that high office and to the protection, preservation and enhancement of this honourable House against all comers, without fear or favour. It appears, however, that by virtue of the events of last Thursday evening I have failed you, and have placed you now in a difficult position of filling the office of President.
For this I profusely apologise, and I beg your forgiveness. You should all know me well enough to know that I would never consciously do anything to bring this place into ill repute. My time in this House has occupied almost half of my life, and I am proud of my service to the community through my membership. To say I am embarrassed is an understatement, and I am deeply regretful for the trouble that I have caused you and for the distress and harassment that I have brought down upon my family. I am grateful to the large number of friends and other members of this place who have given me support and encouragement at this trying time. I also thank my wife and my family for their love and support in the face of harassment and stress. As to the specific task now before you, I make no further comment.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [2.39 p.m.]: I propose to the House and move:
That the Hon. Virginia Chadwick do take the chair of this House as President.
This House has been well served by presidents of outstanding ability and outstanding leadership qualities, and I include among them my colleague the Hon. M. F. Willis. I propose the Hon. Virginia Chadwick for the position of President of the Legislative Council because I believe she possesses the qualities demanded by the House of those who aspire to that position. Virginia Anne Chadwick was born and bred in Newcastle, and still lives at Lake Macquarie. She was educated at Newcastle Girls High School and the University of Newcastle. She taught English and modern history in Newcastle and in London, and has taught in the TAFE sector.
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick has been a longstanding member of the Liberal Party and was a member of its State executive. During that time she was an adviser on ethnic affairs to the leader and to the State President of the Liberal Party. For several years she was a trustee of the Ethnic Communities Council of New South Wales, and is still a member of that council. She was elected to the Legislative Council in 1978. During her early time in this House she was shadow minister for ethnic affairs, shadow minister for Aboriginal affairs, shadow minister for consumer affairs, shadow minister for youth and community services and, finally, shadow minister for education. She subsequently became the Minister for Education. She has also served as Opposition Whip.
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick has served as Minister for Family and Community Services, Minister Assisting the Premier on ageing, youth affairs and the Hunter, Minister for School Education and Youth Affairs, Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs and Minister for Tourism. As I have said, the House requires that its President be of outstanding ability and possess outstanding leadership qualities in this Chamber, in the community and in the administration of the whole of the Parliament. I commend my nomination of the Hon. Virginia Chadwick to honourable members. I am sure she will continue the great example set by past presidents of the Legislative Council.
The CLERK: Does any other honourable member wish to speak to the motion that the Hon. Virginia Chadwick do take the Chair of this House as President? Are there any further nominations for the office of President?
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [2.43 p.m.]: I propose to the House and move:
That the Hon. Bryan Vaughan do take the chair of this House as President.
All members of the Legislative Council are well aware of the Hon. B. H. Vaughan’s outstanding credentials as a member of this House and this Parliament. He would make an excellent President. I decided to nominate the honourable member for the office of President to give members of the Australian Labor Party the opportunity to vote for one of their members. As the Australian Labor Party has one of the largest representations in this House - indeed, its members occupy the Government benches - it is important that they have that opportunity. I apologise to the Hon. B. H. Vaughan for not informing him of my intention to nominate him. However, to have done so might have led some members to think that I had done a deal with the Labor Party.
The CLERK: Does any other honourable member wish to speak to the motion that the Hon. B. H. Vaughan do take the Chair of this House as President? Are there any further nominations for the Office of President?
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [2.44 p.m.]: I propose to the House and move:
That the Hon. Max Willis do take the chair of this House as President.
Last Thursday there was a great deal of tension because of the motion to remove Justice Vince Bruce from the bench of the Supreme Court. Also on that day the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby resigned after 17 years service in this House. Her farewell function was held in the President’s dining room that night. Obviously, the Hon. M. F. Willis as President at that time was not totally in control of the situation during debate on the motion relating to Justice Bruce. However, I believe that it is a wild exaggeration to say that he was "drunk as a lord", as was stated on the front page of the Daily Telegraph. Honourable members know that the Daily Telegraph thrives on sensationalism and is conducting an aggressive campaign against this House and its members, seeking its abolition.
During a discussion with the Hon. M. F. Willis on Friday afternoon, in which I asked about what had happened on Thursday night last, he said that he had been chairing the farewell function for the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby, that he had been drinking wine at the function and that he was extremely weary, if not exhausted, when he returned to the House to preside over the vote about Justice Bruce. After my conversation with the honourable member I issued a media release - by choice and not as a result of a request by the honourable member - saying that this House should sort out its own affairs. In the media release I suggested that the Hon. M. F. Willis should apologise to the House and to the public for his behaviour on Thursday night, and that the House should then decide what action, if any, to take about his future as President. Members of this House should decide who is appointed to the office of President, not the media - and certainly not the Daily Telegraph.
In my press release I suggested that the Hon. M. F. Willis should apologise. He has made a sincere apology to the House today for his behaviour on Thursday night. I suggested further that his apology should be accepted and that he should withdraw his resignation. However, I have been advised that the honourable member cannot withdraw his resignation as it has been accepted by the Governor, and the only way to redress this matter is to renominate him for the office of President.
All members know that I am one of the strongest opponents in this House of alcohol and the abuse of alcohol, and I know that other members have similar views. Members know that I have requested the Parliament to supply non-alcoholic wines at all my functions. Many other members have non-alcoholic wines supplied at their functions and drink non-alcoholic wines with their meals, and I am pleased about that.
On this occasion I believe the House should show compassion and mercy, and reinstate the Hon. M. F. Willis as President. If he is re-elected as President today, he would be able to conclude his time as a member of this House, including his time as President, in March 1999. Instead of leaving this House with the sense of shame he now feels, he could leave this House in March 1999 with a sense of pride after serving as a member of this House for more than 29 years, including seven years as President. Some members may criticise me for nominating the Hon. M. F. Willis as President but I am conscious that none of us is perfect. I am certainly not perfect. We all know that the only perfect person was Jesus Christ.
I do not believe that members have had sufficient time to decide who should succeed the Hon. M. F. Willis in the important position of President. In many ways the position of President is most arduous. As Presiding Officers the President and the Speaker of the other place are virtually managing directors of the Parliament. The Hon. M. F. Willis carried out that role in an exceptional manner.
I have been lobbied all day, right up to this moment, to vote in a certain way for a replacement for the Hon. M. F. Willis. Rushed decisions are not in the best interests of this House. I acknowledge that when an office is vacated, nominations should be called for the position. Obviously this House cannot function without a legally elected President. I suggested further that the Hon. D. J. Gay, who is Chairman of Committees, act as President, but there is no constitutional provision for that. At least acceptance of my motion will give the House the opportunity to restore the status quo. In March 1999 the re-elected and newly elected members can decide who should fill the prestigious position of President of the New South Wales Legislative Council. Finally, I should like to make it clear that my nomination of the Hon. M. F. Willis is in no way intended as criticism, either directly or indirectly, of any of the other nominees.
The CLERK: Does any other honourable member wish to speak to the motion that the Hon. M. F. Willis do take the chair of this House as President? Are there any further nominations for the office of President? There being no further nominations, I invite the four candidates to address the House.
The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO [2.51 p.m.]: I submit myself to the will of the House.
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK [2.51 p.m.]: I wish to express to all honourable members my deep sense of honour at having been nominated for this position. I submit myself to the will of the House.
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN [2.52 p.m.]: I do wish the Leader of the National Party had told me first, because then I could have done something about the numbers.
The Hon. M. F. WILLIS [2.52 p.m.]: I made my comments at the beginning, and I said I would make no further comment.
The CLERK: There being four nominations, in accordance with section 22G of the Constitution Act 1902 a ballot will now be held. Before proceeding to the ballot, the bells will be rung for five minutes. I ask the media present in the Chamber to respect the privacy of members during the conduct of the ballot and not focus their cameras closely on them while they are voting.
[The bells were rung and the doors were locked.]
The Hon. M. R. Egan: On a point of order. Mr Clerk, I advise you and other members of the House that the Hon. P. T. Primrose has been paired from 12.45 p.m. today. That pair was confirmed as early as this morning. The Opposition has now indicated that that pair will not be honoured. The Opposition says that is because we are about to engage in a secret ballot. It is very easy to organise a pair. If one member on the Government side is absent, another member on the Opposition side absents himself or herself from the Chamber to honour the pair. I want the Parliament to be aware of this dishonourable act by the Opposition.
The Hon. J. P. Hannaford: On the point of order. The vote is a free, secret ballot, it is not a trade union ballot in which members are expected to attend in pairs so that each can check how the other votes. I acknowledge that a pair was granted for general business, but not for a free, secret ballot for members to express their individual view on the election of the President of this House. Pairs are given between parties to allow that if a vote is taken on policy matters there is not an imbalance. This is not a vote on a policy matter but a ballot in which members may make individual decisions.
One of the Government members is absent and the Government would like a member of the Opposition not to participate in this ballot. I have no idea how individual members of the Opposition will vote. The logical consequence of the Treasurer’s argument is that I would have had to ask the Hon. P. T. Primrose how he would vote, and then try to find a member who intended to vote contrary to him. That is the ludicrous suggestion of the Leader of the Government, and it is the approach that the Labor Party takes to most of these types of issues.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: To suit the convenience of the House I suggest that you do now leave the chair and cause the bells to be rung at 8.00 p.m.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: On the point of order. Originally the vote for the President was to take place today at 11.00 a.m. The question is whether the pair was to apply at 11.00 a.m. or at 2.45 p.m., when it would have been expected that the House would be dealing with Government business and when a pair would have been legitimate. However, the vote was postponed from 11.00 a.m. and I imagine that the pair is not now valid.
The Hon. J. H. Jobling: On the point of order. As Opposition Whip it is my job to grant
pairs, and I did so quite willingly in advance, knowing that the Hon. Peter Primrose had to attend for a university examination. The pair was granted from 12.45 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. The House was scheduled to sit at eleven clock, when it was anticipated the member would have been present in the House to consider the matter before it; and there was no problem about granting a pair for the afternoon.
In the event, the Government chose - and I emphasise that it was the Government that chose - to meet briefly at 11.00 a.m. to swear in a new member and then to adjourn the sitting of the House from 11.00 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. It is the Government’s problem because it was fully aware of what was happening. If the Government had conducted business as was expected, it clearly would have had the pair that I granted for the hours mentioned. The Government had the opportunity to discuss the matter with the Opposition and/or to attempt to bring the Hon. P. T. Primrose back. I make this explanation so that honourable members are perfectly aware of the time for which the pair was granted and that the Government chose to alter the sitting schedule of the House.
The Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith: On the point of order. I am unaware of any standing or sessional order that deals with pairs. Pairs are a party-political matter, and in my view this is not a matter on which the Government can argue. I would be delighted if the Leader of the Government would point out where in the standing orders or sessional orders there is reference to pairs.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: On the point of order. As I understand the standing orders, a division cannot be interrupted for an adjournment of the House; and I suggest that the same would apply with a ballot. An adjournment could be granted at the conclusion of the ballot. If there is more than one ballot, the Government could seek to adjourn the subsequent ballots until a later hour of the sitting.
The CLERK: The sessional orders of the House provide for the recording of pairs for members who are absent from divisions, but the standing orders do not officially recognise pairs; they provide that members must be present in the House to record their vote in a division. The bells have been rung and the doors have been locked, so I cannot now leave the chair; the House must proceed with the conduct of the ballot. When the ballot is completed and the doors are unlocked, I could entertain a suggestion that I leave the chair until a later hour.
The CLERK: The House will now proceed to a ballot. I will call members to the table in alphabetical order and give them a ballot paper. At the table members are requested to write upon their paper the name of the candidate for whom they wish to vote and then deposit the paper in the ballot box provided. The candidates are the Hon. Helen Sham-Ho, the Hon. Virginia Chadwick, the Hon. B. H. Vaughan and the Hon. M. F. Willis.
[The ballot was conducted.]
Declaration of Ballot
The Clerk announced the result of the ballot: the Hon. Virginia Chadwick, 21; the Hon. Helen Sham-Ho, 19; the Hon. M. F. Willis, 1; the Hon. B. H. Vaughan, 0.
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick was declared elected President of the Legislative Council.
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick was then taken out of her place by the Hon. J. P. Hannaford and escorted to the chair.
The President (The Hon. Virginia Chadwick), standing on the upper step, said: I convey to all honourable members my thanks and assure them of my deep consciousness of the honour that this House has conferred upon me in choosing me as an independent and impartial President. I express my profound thanks and gratitude to all of those members who have supported me. A little earlier in the day events reminded me of Andy Warhol. However, that having been said, I express my thanks and gratitude to my colleagues who offered me such friendship and support. I say to all honourable members that I appreciate the honour bestowed on me and I realise also the absolute necessity and duty to follow previous Presidents, two of whom are in the Chamber, as examples of the impartiality of the Chair.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [3.28 p.m.]: Madam President, it will not come as any surprise to you to learn that I did not vote for you. Nevertheless, on my behalf and that of the Government, I offer you my sincerest congratulations on your election to the very high office of President of the Legislative Council. I have
no doubt that you will undertake the duties of President with great distinction, impartiality and independence. I wish you well in the work you will undertake on behalf of this House for the remainder of this Parliament. Who knows, you might reconsider your decision not to recontest election to this House. We will wait and see. For the time that you spend as President, I wish you the very best. I assure you that the Government will do its utmost to make your job as easy as possible.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [3.29 p.m.]: Madam President, on behalf of the coalition I congratulate you on your election to this high office. You are the first female to be elected to a Presiding Officer’s position in the New South Wales Parliament. It is a laudable achievement for a person who has accomplished many firsts and a most appropriate next step in a challenging and outstanding career. When nominating you I indicated that the attributes required of a President are outstanding integrity, ability and leadership - attributes which you possess. You have the complete support and loyalty of the Opposition and, to a person, we congratulate you on your election.
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN [3.30 p.m.]: Madam President, I congratulate you heartily. You will remember about 16 years ago I predicted that you would be the first woman Premier of this State - and you disappointed me badly when that opportunity arose. You will be a great asset as the Chair of this House. I am very sorry that the old Scot’s boy did not record a vote for me, but that is the sort of thing one would expect from an old Scot’s boy.
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [3.30 p.m.]: On behalf of my National Party colleagues I extend very warm wishes to you and congratulations upon your election to the office of President. As many members have said, it is an extremely important and difficult role. Having worked as your subordinate for four years, I can assure everyone that you are as tough as old boot leather when you want to be - and I mean that in the kindest sense, Madam President. You will do an outstanding job. You proved during your many years as a Minister that you are an excellent administrator, which is an important part of the President’s duties. Parliament is a large organisation, and we have the utmost confidence in your management abilities. Congratulations, and we wish you all the best for the future.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [3.31 p.m.]: On behalf of the Christian Democratic Party I am pleased to congratulate you on your election to the office of President. We know that you will provide excellent leadership as President of the Legislative Council. I was pleased to hear the statement by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition about your toughness. A tough President is needed to lead us and to protect this House from those who wish to abolish, undermine or discredit it. We know that you will perform that leadership role like Joan of Arc.
The Hon. R. B. ROWLAND SMITH [3.32 p.m.]: Madam President, you will recall back in 1978 when the first popular election for membership of the Legislative Council was held, you headed the ticket and I was number two. I said then that it was the first time I had had a woman on top of me. We have come a long way since then and it has been a great pleasure to have known you and to have worked with you, especially in 1988 when we were both in the ministry. I am sure you will do an outstanding job; you will have the great support of all members of this House in the performance of your duties. The best of luck to you in the future.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN [3.33 p.m.]: Madam President, I too would like to congratulate you. I am thrilled that after many years we at last have a woman President. I was looking forward to the vote today because no matter what happened, we were going to get a woman President. I am very happy, and on behalf of all the women in the Chamber I wish you well.
The Hon. D. J. GAY [3.33 p.m.]: Madam President, I wish you well in your role and as Deputy-President I look forward to working with you. I echo the comments of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The role of President is not merely as a figurehead of this House. Parliament is a multimillion dollar industry and, as such, needs to be run properly by a good administrator. I believe that you will add honour to the position and to this House and will fulfil your role as an administrator very capably.
The Hon. FRANCA ARENA [3.34 p.m.]: Madam President, I congratulate you most warmly. I am sure that not only your family and all the members of this House are proud of you today but also and especially the people of Newcastle, whom you have always represented most ably. I remember meeting you more than 20 years ago at a meeting of the women’s committee of the Ethnic Communities Council when you were already showing a great interest in the welfare of groups who in those days were very much disadvantaged. Congratulations on attaining your new position. I know that you will be an excellent President.
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE [3.35 p.m.]: I would like to offer you, Madam President, my congratulations on your election today as President of the Legislative Council. As the person in this Chamber who has known you the longest - you have been my role model and mentor since I was a teenager - I feel enormous pride in your election to the office of President. I know that you will bring your sound judgment and enormous integrity to the position and that the House will be proud of the way you carry out your functions during the coming months. I am sorry that you will not be seeking re-election as a member of this House next year, because you have much to contribute to public life in New South Wales and Australia for many years to come. I offer you my congratulations, and I am sure I speak on behalf of all the people of Newcastle when I say how absolutely delightful it is that you have broken the hold of the north coast on the presidency of the Legislative Council.
The Hon. J. R. JOHNSON [3.36 p.m.]: Madam President, as a former Presiding Officer I offer you my warmest congratulations and remind you that you have high traditions to uphold. For the first time in 32 years no son or daughter of the Tweed occupies that chair. The position passes to a new generation, and to a very gracious lady. Your dress today is magnificent, and it will be my constant plea that no other raiment adorn you. We know you as you are today; please come as you are. I offer my congratulations and wish you very well in the future.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [3.37 p.m.]: I join with the Hon. J. R. Johnson in saying that it is a sad day for the north coast when that region does not provide the President of this Chamber. However, a person of your background, Madam President, from the Hunter and with some experience in rural matters, will be of enormous benefit, and you will add a certain lustre to this House. I regret that this vote today had to be taken. I put on the record my strong admiration for the Hon. M. F. Willis, and for the Hon. J. R. Johnson who was President when I first came to this House. On a more serious note, I will not know what to say when interjecting now that you will no longer be sitting behind me. If I am in the wrong, I expect to be reprimanded in the same way that I was reprimanded by the Hon. M. F. Willis. I plead for some leniency and beg your indulgence that I not be the whipping boy to demonstrate your toughness early in your presidency.
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING [3.38 p.m.]: Madam President, I offer my most sincere and hearty congratulations. A daughter of the Hunter has done well today. I am sure there will be much rejoicing and celebrating by all the people of that area. I have known you of long; you are strong- and fair-minded and singularly determined. The House will be extraordinarily well served during your presidency. We have done well in this House today. My congratulations go to you.
The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO [3.39 p.m.]: Madam President, I congratulate you most sincerely in the spirit of democracy. You are a most gracious person and you know very well that I respect you highly. I have no doubt you will contribute to this House with the same distinction as the former presidents the Hon. M. F. Willis and the Hon. J. R. Johnson. I have sought your advice before, and just now I was your challenger. If anyone deserves the position, you do. Your election has brought enormous glory to all women, and I want you to know that I challenged you in the spirit of democracy. I am sure it means more to you to be challenged and to succeed than to have the position handed to you on a platter. I wish you well. I hope you will be impartial and independent, as all former Presidents have been. I wish you success and congratulate you. I am sure you will bring the same distinction to this House as was brought to it by former Presidents.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [3.41 p.m.]: With all that is going on here today there seems to be only one word that adequately expresses how I feel - Yes! Congratulations on a wonderful win. There can be no more deserving occupant of the chair.
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN: [3.42 p.m.]: Speaking as the member of this House who comes from further west in the State than anyone else, I can say only one thing to you, and that is: yeah, good on you, mate.
The Hon. M. F. WILLIS [3.42 p.m.]: Madam President, it gives me very great pleasure to congratulate you on your election. You and I go back a long way in this Chamber. I will never forget the day of Liberal Party preselection when you were first made a candidate for election to this place - that day of knock-down, drag-out brawls and blood on the floor. But we got you selected. Since then you have been a very distinguished honourable member. You are deserving of this high honour. In many ways you are a poacher turned gamekeeper. You will know exactly what I am talking about in your first question time.
According to your statement your tenure in office will be short. I have no doubt, however, that
you will carry the task through with great distinction. I advise you now, as my predecessor advised me privately, that you will spend a great deal of your time defending this place and upholding its responsibilities, its privileges, its rights, its role and its functions, about which I am absolutely convinced and which I have been dedicated to preserve. As the great English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson put it:
"The old order changeth, yielding place to the new,
It would not have been appropriate for me to have been placed again in the chair, because it is timely that the old order changes and yields a place to the new. I hope honourable members realise that a member has no alternative but to submit to the ballot once he or she is nominated for this position. Madam President, it is not surprising that you won. Once again, congratulations.
The PRESIDENT: I thank all honourable members for their very kind remarks and reassure them again of my absolute determination to bring respect, honour and impartiality to the role of President. I particularly thank the Hon. M. F. Willis for his very kind comments. I do that in no way seeking to detract from the comments and good wishes of other honourable members. Those who know me well will realise I have never contemplated or sought this position. It is a matter of deep regret to me that the events of the past few days unfolded. I intend to do my level best to uphold the standards that have been set by my two predecessors in the Chamber, the Hon. M. F. Willis and the Hon. J. R. Johnson.
The Deputy-President (The Hon. D. J. Gay) offered the Prayers.
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world." . . .
If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of.
PRESENTATION OF PRESIDENT
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [3.46 p.m.]: I inform the House that I have ascertained it to be the pleasure of His Excellency the Governor to receive the Legislative Council at Government House at 5.15 p.m. tomorrow to present its President to His Excellency.
ASSENT TO BILLS
Assent to the following bills reported:
Gas Pipelines Access (New South Wales) Bill
Judges’ Pensions Amendment Bill
Periodic Detention of Prisoners Amendment Bill
State Revenue Legislation Amendment Bill
Agricultural Industry Services Bill
Coastal Protection Amendment Bill
Aboriginal Housing Bill
STANDING COMMITTEE ON PARLIAMENTARY PRIVILEGE AND ETHICS
The Clerk reported the receipt, according to resolution of the House dated 12 November 1997, of the report "Report on Inquiry into the Conduct of the Honourable Franca Arena MLC" dated June 1998.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Postponement of Business
Motion by the Hon. M. R. Egan agreed to:
That matter of privilege order of the day No. 1 be postponed until Wednesday, 1 July.
DRUG MISUSE AND TRAFFICKING AMENDMENT (ONGOING DEALING) BILL
Debate resumed from 24 June.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [3.53 p.m.]: The Drug Misuse and Trafficking Amendment (Ongoing Dealing) Bill is part of the Government’s strategy to crack down on those who supply drugs. The bill creates a new indictable offence of supplying a prohibited drug on an ongoing basis. Some members were critical of the bill and spoke about how drugs affect users, but their comments were not relevant to the debate. The object of the bill is to amend the Act to create a new indictable offence of supplying prohibited drugs on an ongoing basis. I acknowledge that some drug traffickers may indeed be drug addicts who use drug sale proceeds to purchase more drugs or who make an arrangement with a supplier. There are various levels of suppliers - street dealers, main suppliers, and the Mr Bigs of the drug trade. Street dealers may also be users who use drug income to purchase their own drugs or who have drugs supplied to them as part of a deal.
However, the purpose of the bill is to address ongoing dealing by suppliers. Police have been frustrated by sophisticated techniques used by suppliers that enable them to be caught with only a small quantity of drugs in their possession, a minor
non-indictable offence that does not attract a heavy penalty. However, the next day they are back on the streets in Kings Cross, Cabramatta, Fairfield, Hurstville, Bankstown and elsewhere in the State, dealing in drugs. Drug pushers have moved to regional towns such as Dubbo and Wagga Wagga. The bill provides that a person who is identified as pushing drugs on three or more occasions will be subjected to a heavier penalty for that indictable offence. New section 25A, under the heading "Offence of supplying drugs on an ongoing basis", states:
A person who, on 3 or more separate occasions during any period of 30 consecutive days, supplies a prohibited drug (other than cannabis) for financial or material reward is guilty of an offence.
Maximum penalty: 3,500 penalty units or imprisonment for 20 years, or both.
The formula sets a figure of $100 for each penalty unit. Some honourable members have been critical of the legislation and have suggested that the penalties are too high and should be reduced or abolished. The offence does attract a maximum penalty. It has been suggested that the legislation is draconian and that a young boy or girl who is caught supplying, even though dealing in small quantities, will go to gaol for 20 years. However, the judge hearing the evidence will take into account the age of the offenders and the circumstances of the case. I would be surprised if, except in the most serious case, any person supplying drugs were imprisoned for 20 years. For some time the public has regarded sentencing for drug offences as being far too lenient. In serious cases, such as murder, judges often impose a penalty far below the maximum available.
In my view, and in the view of the community, judges often impose a low penalty in drug dealing or supplying cases and do not impose a penalty closer to the maximum available penalty. I hope the Attorney General will indicate to judges that when Parliament sets maximum penalties it means business and expects judges to take note of them. However, a 20-year penalty should not be imposed on everyone - it depends on the factors involved. However, judges should note that it is the will of the Parliament that the supplying of drugs should be treated most seriously. This bill will send that message to judges. I am concerned about two areas of the bill. I foreshadow that I will move amendments at the Committee stage.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General. Is it a fact that according to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research pressure on the court system is increasing with more cases coming to trial in all jurisdictions, particularly in the Local and District Courts? Is it also a fact that 30 per cent of cases in the District Court actually go to trial on the date scheduled with the rest being adjourned? What steps will the Attorney take to alleviate the increasing pressure on the court system, given that the Government’s efforts to date have been unsuccessful?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The Government’s efforts to date in relation to the court system have been very successful, and the system is working well. There are pressures in the criminal law lists, but that is because more matters are being brought to trial and being brought to trial more quickly. The Government’s reforms of the committal system have expedited the criminal law lists in the District Court.
The Hon. J. P. Hannaford: Did you say they are coming on more quickly?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: Yes, cases are coming through the process more quickly. The committal system has been reformed and, therefore, the delays that used to occur, caused by witnesses being cross-examined up hill and down dale before magistrates, have been largely eliminated, except in special circumstances. Understandably, the criminal law lists in the District Court have been subjected to some pressures as cases are coming more rapidly to trial. The District Court is coping reasonably well with that additional load which is combined, as I said, with the additional number of charges that have been prosecuted by police.
In the civil jurisdiction of the District Court the backlog has been largely removed. In the Common Law Division of the Supreme Court there has been a spill over to the District Court because of initiatives taken by the Government. I am proud and pleased with the restructuring of the court system that the Government has effected by its positive steps. I do not believe there is any room for criticism, as implied in the question, about the Government taking tangible steps to deal with backlogs in the court system.
INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANISATION CONVENTIONS
The Hon. A. B. MANSON: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading. Could the Minister inform the House of the declaration of fundamental principles and rights at work recently ratified by members of the International Labour Organisation? What are the implications of the declaration for workers in the New South Wales industrial relations system?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I commend the Hon. A. B. Manson for his keen interest in workers’ rights. The principles recently enunciated by the International Labour Organisation are of importance for State and Federal jurisdictions. I am aware that at the June conference 174 ILO members adopted a new legally binding declaration of fundamental principles and rights at work and committed countries to guarantee principles such as freedom of association, workers’ rights to join trade unions, rights to bargain collectively over pay and conditions, equal pay for women workers, freedom from discrimination at work, effective elimination of child labour, and elimination of forced labour.
Most of those principles have already been incorporated in the State’s legislation and are reinforced by the relevant ILO conventions which Australia has ratified. Unlike the Federal Government, the New South Wales Government is committed to honouring its ILO and other international obligations. The Government recognises the importance of the principles concerning freedom of association and the like. The Government enshrined those principles in the drafting of the Industrial Relations Act 1996. This is in clear contrast to the actions of the Federal Government. The Workplace Relations Act guarantees freedom of association, but the Federal Government’s policies and procedures demonstrate otherwise.
The principle of equal remuneration for work of comparable value for women workers is embodied in the objects of the Industrial Relations Act. The ministerial reference into pay equity, currently before the Industrial Relations Commission, is the most significant event in the history of the struggle for pay equity since 1972, when the principle of equal pay for work of equal value was established. Similarly, the objects of the Industrial Relations Act provide for the prevention and elimination of discrimination in the workplace. In addition, the Industrial Relations Commission is required to take account of the principles of anti-discrimination legislation.
In its true sense child labour does not exist in Australia. For example, the exploitation of child workers in carpet weaving, crop harvesting and the like, as is common in some countries, does not occur in Australia. However, New South Wales is currently in the process of convening an interdepartmental working group with representatives from the Department of Community Services, the Department of Industrial Relations and the WorkCover Authority to review children’s employment. The working group will take into consideration ILO Convention No. 138, which deals with the minimum age for admission to employment. New South Wales does not make use of forced or compulsory labour and the Government endeavours to comply with all ILO conventions ratified by Australia. That is the antithesis of the stance taken by the Federal Government.
TOTALIZATOR AGENCY BOARD PRIVATISATION
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL: I address my question to the Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council. How can the Treasurer guarantee that the huge profit the Government has made in interest on TAB investors’ money will go, as he claims, on improving hospital facilities and funding of up to 30 more ambulance officers? Is it not a fact that the money will simply go into the Government’s overall budget and that this is just a ploy to distract the public from the fact that the Government has made a profit on investors’ money and is not returning the profits to them?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Quite the contrary! The Appropriation Bill, which appropriates a certain amount of money to the health portfolio, is currently before the House. I have undertaken that the amount of interest which the Government will earn on the cheques that have been lodged for TAB shares will be added to that appropriation.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: Will that be in the legislation?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: No, it will be by a decision of the Treasurer supplemented to the -
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: An enhancement?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Not so much an enhancement, but a supplementation for the purposes which the honourable member has read about. The Government anticipates that that will be between $4 million and $5 million.
HERITAGE STONEWORK PROGRAM
The Hon. J. KALDIS: I address my question to the Minister for Public Works and Services. The Minister would be aware of the House’s ongoing interest in the Government’s stonework program, and the search for high-quality sandstone to restore Sydney’s historic buildings. Will the Minister tell the House of the results of the most recent tenders for the supply of sandstone for buildings such as the State Library and the Australian Museum?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I thank the Hon. J. Kaldis for his continuing interest in the Government’s sandstone program. The supply of high-quality sandstone suitable for the restoration of Sydney’s heritage buildings has been of ongoing concern for the Department of Public Works and Services. Apart from the initial cost, the two key issues in purchasing sandstone are colour matching and durability. Sydney yellowblock sandstone weathers to a uniform warm buff colour and should last at least 100 years with minimum maintenance. The specification of the Department of Public Works and Services sets a very high standard not only for durability based on physical strength and resistance to salt attack but also for appearance based on colour and texture, and the absence of visible faults.
Two stone supply tenders were called in January this year and closed in February. One tender was for a small amount of stone to complete repairs to the Australian Museum. The second tender was to provide a general long-term supply for other projects including the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the State Library. The same four firms submitted bids for both tenders. In both cases the lowest tender came from a Western Australian supplier, the second lowest from an agent for a European supplier, the third lowest from a New South Wales source, and the highest from a Queensland supplier. Stone samples provided by each of the tenderers were tested. I am advised that although all were of interest they fell short of the department’s specification for heritage-compatible material, except for those provided by the highest tenderer.
The highest tenderer offered a stone of an appropriate quality but the price was considered too high. Consistent with the New South Wales Government’s codes of practice and tendering, departmental officers conducted subsequent negotiations with the highest tenderer, with the approval of the Department of Public Works and Services board of advice and reference. I am pleased to advise the House that these negotiations were very successful. The end result is a price substantially below the initial offer and equal to the second-lowest non-conforming original tender. A contract has now been let for a three-year supply of high-quality stone, with an option for a further two-year supply based on the renegotiated price. Prices are for stone delivered to the Department of Public Works and Services stoneyard at Alexandria.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: I don’t think that Moses took as long to hand down tablets of stone as you are.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: Well, I am producing more tablets than Moses did. The contract to which I have referred will provide a stockpile of material and ensure the orderly restoration of heritage buildings in this State. The Department of Public Works and Services is optimistic in its search for additional sources of suitable stone to further increase the range of colours and textures available to match the diverse range, age and condition of Sydney’s sandstone buildings.
CHILDREN’S COMMISSION LEGISLATION
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE: I address my question to the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Community Services. Why has the Government not introduced the Children’s Commission draft legislation? When will the legislation be introduced? Will the Government give a commitment that in view of the public interest in this legislation the community will have ample time to be consulted on the legislation before it is debated in the Parliament?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I undertake to refer this question to the relevant Minister and obtain a reply.
COURT REPORTING TECHNOLOGY
The Hon. A. B. KELLY: Will the Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading inform the House about the initiatives that are under way or being planned to introduce modern court reporting technology into New South Wales courts?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The reporting services branch of the Attorney General’s Department has made great strides in introducing modern technology in court reporting. It should be recognised that in this regard New South Wales is coming from a low technological base. Indeed, it was not so long ago that our Local Courts recorded all their proceedings on a typewriter. Those days are behind us. The reporting services branch is taking advantage of the latest court reporting hardware and
software, which means that it can now utilise advanced text-retrieval techniques searching for relevant passages in evidence and editing draft transcript.
The branch is now providing transcripts on computer disk and is developing a computerised system for the electronic ordering and provision of transcripts. This will be used to expand the electronic transcripts database and will be made available online to the judiciary and other clients such as the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Legal Aid Commission. The continued conversion of pen-based court reporting to computer-aided transcription has been as much about reskilling experienced reporters as about technological change. A structured skills transition program is in place and is being carefully implemented in close consultation with employee representatives.
CHILDREN’S CARE AND PROTECTION LEGISLATION
The Hon. I. COHEN: I ask a question of the Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council, representing the Premier, Minister for the Arts, and Minister for Ethnic Affairs. When will the Government proceed with the revised children’s care and protection legislation in this Parliament subsequent to the review headed by Professor Parkinson which recommended reform? If the Government has decided not to proceed with this legislative reform, could the Premier explain that course of action in light of being condemned for failing to deliver responsible and needed reforms to the children’s care and protection system in the term of this Government?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am not too sure whether this question comes under the Premier’s portfolio, but I shall refer it to either the Premier or the appropriate Minister.
COMPUTER MILLENNIUM BUG
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS: My question without notice is addressed to the Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council. In light of information that a number of companies have revised upwards their cost assessment for the millennium bug, has Treasury revised its budget assessment on the cost of the Y2K compliance in the public sector? If so, when was that budget revised and by what amount?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Honourable members will recall that the consolidated financial statements, which were tabled some weeks ago, contained a note to the accounts that some $300 million was likely to be spent by agencies in tackling the millennium computer bug. That, of course, is expenditure within the information technology budgets of various agencies. If various agencies need supplementation of funds, that would be a matter that would come to my attention in due course. I assure the House that the Government is taking every reasonable step to ensure that agencies, whether they be departments within the budget sector or statutory authorities and State-owned enterprises outside of the budget sector, take all reasonable steps not only to assess the risks of the millennium bug but also to ensure that those risks are addressed properly and adequately.
GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY GUIDELINES
The Hon. E. M. OBEID: My question is addressed to the Minister for Public Works and Services. The Minister would recall the sudden interest shown in question time last week by the Hon. J. H. Jobling in the issue of intellectual property. Further to the Minister’s answer of last week, would he outline what steps the Government has taken to ensure that tenderers are aware of the intellectual property guidelines?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I thank the Hon. E. M. Obeid for the interest he is showing in this issue. Last week the Opposition asked whether the New South Wales Government had met the challenge of intellectual property rights in capital works for the private sector. The questioners seemed to be attempting to suggest that there was some secret about the Government’s requirements in this regard. Clearly, this view is incorrect and reflects perhaps a failure of coalition members to take the time to read the various publications that outline intellectual property rights.
For the benefit of members opposite I draw attention to the following publicly available material. The New South Wales Government’s capital project procurement manual includes the consultant conditions of engagement which are the basis of a contract between a consultant and a New South Wales Government agency. Clause 7 of those conditions gives ownership of intellectual property developed in the engagement to the government agency. The Department of Public Works and Services has several manuals and publications which reinforce the Government’s requirements for government ownership of intellectual property created during the course of a contract. These include clause 13 of the general conditions of
contract for construction works. The general conditions of contract are included in every contract for more than $0.5 million for construction works when some design is to be carried out by the contractor.
Paragraph 6.13 of the Department of Public Works and Services contracts manual contains a detailed explanation of intellectual property and the manner in which it is treated by the department. An information circular, PD1157, was issued in 1994 which clarified the department’s requirements relating to intellectual property. So far I have mentioned only the Government’s rights. I now turn to the consultant’s rights. Intellectual property owned by a consultant and brought into an assignment for government remains the property of the consultant. This arrangement is specified in several of the publications I have mentioned and is clearly specified in the New South Wales Government code of tendering for the construction industry.
As I advised the Hon. J. H. Jobling during question time last week, the Carr Government remains strongly committed to protecting all intellectual property of unsuccessful proponents for privately funded infrastructure proposals. That commitment is outlined in the infrastructure partnerships implementation guidelines issued by the Department of Public Works and Services. The various publications relating to different instances in which consultants are employed by government agencies are all consistent, in that intellectual property created by a consultant undertaking an assignment for the New South Wales Government belongs to the New South Wales Government. I emphasise that this approach is consistent with all other State and Commonwealth jurisdictions, including Queensland, which the honourable member raised as having met the challenge on intellectual property rights.
CONSERVATORIUM OF MUSIC
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: I direct my question without notice to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations, representing the Minister for Education and Training. Is it a fact that recent redevelopment work around the Conservatorium of Music on Macquarie Street has unearthed a road built during the early settlement of Sydney which is of great Australian historical value? Will this discovery delay the project to redevelop the Conservatorium of Music? If so, what will be the length of the delay and when will the project resume? Will the Government seek to incorporate this early convict-made road into the redeveloped site as part of the history of New South Wales?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I will respond to the question asked by the Hon. Elaine Nile if I may, as it is appropriate that I, as Minister for Public Works and Services, should answer a question relating to the current status of the Conservatorium of Music project. The Conservatorium of Music project is the direct responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Education and Training, the Hon. John Aquilina. However, the role of the Department of Public Works and Services is that of project manager. For the benefit of honourable members, I will provide a brief chronology of events at the site. When the project was announced, my department established a project management team, which continues to work closely with the private sector construction manager and the design development and documentation consultant team.
Early in 1997 a conservation management plan for the precinct, buildings and landscaped setting was submitted to the Heritage Council of New South Wales. Subsequently, in November last year, that conservation management plan was submitted to the Heritage Council as part of the development application. A statement of environmental effects, an associated zoning plan, and a statement of heritage impact were also submitted. It is a requirement of the Carr Government that projects of this nature be subject also to an archaeological investigation to determine the location and best means of preservation of artefacts unearthed at the site. The archaeological consultant team approved by the Heritage Council of New South Wales started work at the site in May this year.
In the course of the investigation a section of brickworks was uncovered which may once have been part of a convict-built road dating back to the 1820s. On discovering this section of road, the Department of Public Works and Services notified the Heritage Council, which delegated an advisory committee to examine the discovery and make a draft recommendation to the full council. The committee inspected the site on 23 June and 26 June, which the Hon. Elaine Nile will appreciate was very recently indeed, and made a confidential recommendation to the Heritage Council concerning the future of the brickworks.
One interesting point to arise from the investigation is that the section of road may not in fact be part of a road running to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, but a connecting access way for carriages that may have run from the Conservatorium stables to the first Government House. I am advised that the Heritage Council has met today and deferred a final determination on the future of the brickworks until a further archaeological investigation is conducted.
Following this further investigation, the Heritage Council will issue its determination for the site. It is inappropriate to speculate further on this development until the Heritage Council, as the appropriate expert body, has had the opportunity to make the details of its findings known.
NEWCASTLE CITY COUNCIL ADMINISTRATION
The Hon. D. J. GAY: My question is directed to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations, representing the Minister for Local Government. Is the Minister for Local Government aware that the situation at Newcastle City Council has deteriorated even further, with the deputy mayor of the council now resigning and labelling the council dysfunctional, another councillor is away sick, and a third is too frightened to attend council meetings because of the factional warfare? When will the Minister intervene and order a long overdue inquiry into what is going on at Newcastle City Council and in the Labor Party factions?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I will take the question asked by the Hon. D. J. Gay on notice and refer it to the Minister for Local Government.
BUREAU OF CRIME STATISTICS AND RESEARCH
The Hon. CARMEL TEBBUTT: I congratulate you, Madam President, on your appointment to the office of President.
The PRESIDENT: I thank the Hon. Carmel Tebbutt for her remarks.
The Hon. CARMEL TEBBUTT: My question without notice is addressed to the Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading. Will the Attorney inform the House about the achievements of the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research in the last year?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The role of the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research is to ensure that the information necessary for developing crime prevention measures and measures for improving the New South Wales criminal justice system is available and accessible to policy makers and administrators. To this end, the bureau conducts research, maintains databases, monitors trends, and provides information on crime and justice in New South Wales. By the end of 1997-98 the bureau will have released nine publications, including four statistical reports, three research reports, and two bulletins. The bureau’s four programs resulted in the following findings, which have been documented in the published reports and bulletins.
The first finding was that apprehended violence orders are effective in reducing aggressive, intimidating and harassing behaviour on the part of those against whom the orders are made. The benefits persist for at least six months after the orders are granted and are present even for those who remain in contact with the person against whom the order is made. This was the first empirical study of the effectiveness of AVOs. The second finding was that the introduction of majority verdicts in New South Wales would save less than 2 per cent of the time currently spent on criminal matters in the District Court and the Supreme Court. The third finding was that child neglect is a major pathway to juvenile involvement in crime.
Social and economic disadvantage disrupts the parenting process. That disruption leads to parental neglect of children, which in turn leads to the children’s involvement in crime. That means that unless strong social supports are in place the children of poor single-parent families are at particular risk of becoming involved in crime. It is estimated that an additional 256 juveniles can be expected to become involved in crime for each 1,000 additional neglected children. The bureau’s report argues that policies designed to reduce the level of economic stress or to attenuate its effects, and early intervention programs designed to reduce the risk of child neglect, have an important role to play in long-term crime prevention.
As the House will be aware, the Standing Committee on Law and Justice recently accepted a reference to explore those issues further. I look forward to the committee’s investigation of and report on those difficult issues. The final finding was that there are certain areas in inner Sydney where assaults and robberies tend to cluster, for example, near licensed premises and railway stations in popular night-time entertainment areas. Crime mapping is a valuable tool for allocating police resources efficiently. One of the bureau’s most important functions is the dissemination of impartial and statistically sound information on the criminal justice system to the public and the media. In particular, regular reporting on crime rates and the performance of the court system fulfils a valuable public accountability role and enhances the community’s understanding of issues relating to criminal justice.
The bureau’s information service was improved by four major achievements during 1997-98. Firstly, the format of the statistical report "Key Trends in
Crime and Justice" was redesigned to make the report more useful as a reference document. Trend information is now concisely summarised at the start of each section, summary tabulations of annual data are provided in addition to the graphs of trend data, and the recorded crime data are supplemented with summary information from crime victim surveys. Secondly, the bureau launched its Internet web site, which provides summary statistical information on recorded crime and criminal court appearances.
In addition, the site has a full list of bureau publications, brief summaries of the contents of recently released reports and copies of recent press releases. Thirdly, tabulations showing offences and penalties for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people convicted in New South Wales Local Courts will be reported for the first time in the annual "Criminal Courts Statistics" report for 1997. Finally, the bulletin summarising recent crime trends based on victimisation rate estimates from New South Wales crime victim surveys is to be published before the end of this financial year.
REMAND PRISONER NUMBERS
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I ask the Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading, representing the Minister for Corrective Services, whether the prison remand population has risen from some 800 to 1,100 in the past couple of years. Has this led to increased stress, distress and violence in prisons? What is causing this huge increase, and what can be done about it?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I understand that the remand population has increased during recent years. I cannot affirm precisely the statistics quoted by the honourable member, but I believe that bail has been harder to get in New South Wales. It is true that more people have been charged, that police have pursued more offenders, and that more people have been sent to trial in recent years. So I accept the general premise of the honourable member’s question. In relation to the details, statistical and otherwise, I shall refer the question to the Minister for Corrective Services and obtain a response.
CENTRAL COAST POLICE DISTRICT COMMANDS
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Police. Is the Minister aware of the 15 recorded armed hold-ups that took place between 14 May and 24 June this year in the Brisbane Water and Tuggerah police command areas? Given that these two commands are now joining forces to address the spiralling rates of armed hold-ups on the central coast, will the Government now concede that it was a mistake to split the central coast into two separate police regions? Will the Government make a commitment that the merging of these regions will be considered as a priority?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I shall refer the detail of the honourable member’s question to the Minister for Police and obtain a reply.
TOTALIZATOR AGENCY BOARD PRIVATISATION
The Hon. A. B. MANSON: My question without notice is addressed to the Treasurer, and Minister for State Development. What are the latest comments from financial analysts about the sale of the New South Wales TAB?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am sure honourable members will have seen the article in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald by the respected financial analyst Paul Clitheroe, who wrote that the sale of the New South Wales TAB had been an unmitigated success. Under a headline that read "Everyone a winner with TAB float" Mr Clitheroe said:
Taxpayers got full value from the sale and long-term investors, who are the backbone of the stock market, have got a very nice start.
Few would disagree with that. As the House is aware, the stock debuted on the Australian Stock Exchange at $2.05. I am told that this afternoon it was trading at about $2.40. That is an increase of 17 per cent for the 750,000 or so mums and dads who put their faith and their money in this float. Mr Clitheroe also said that he understood it was the role of the Opposition "to oppose pretty much everything the Government does". However, he pointed out that the Opposition’s argument that small investors would make a loss if they paid normal brokerage on the sale of the 257 shares they received was nothing short of inane.
Mr Clitheroe said that out in the real world - a place where the Opposition should spend a little more time, I might add - typical TAB investors have no intention of selling their newly acquired stock. The argument the Opposition mounts is valid only if one is happy to have the speculator, someone who wants to make a quick profit at the expense of the rest of the community, win out. But because the shares were priced at the right level, they have increased at a steady rate, not at the roller-coaster pace of some other recently listed stocks. Mr
Clitheroe went on to say that speculators who missed out on a quick buck would hardly raise wails of anguish among New South Wales voters. And he is right. The only place one will find sympathy for these speculators is on the benches opposite.
Mr DOMINIC BLAKE CITIZEN ARREST
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: Madam President, I congratulate you on your appointment, which is a great step towards restoring the dignity of this House.
The PRESIDENT: I thank the Hon. C. J. S. Lynn. I take his remarks to mean that he will never interject again.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: I will be on my best behaviour, as always. My question is addressed to the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Police. Is the Minister aware of the serious harassment and distress caused to Mr Dominic Blake after he made a citizen’s arrest of a 12-year-old vandal throwing rocks at his window, as reported in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph? Will the Minister order a full investigation into the incident to determine why the police did not interview any other people, apart from the 12-year-old boy, who were near the scene of the citizen’s arrest in February last year? Will the Minister also investigate and report on what action the police have taken to interview the person who led the vicious raid on Mr Blake’s house?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I read the same newspaper report yesterday as the honourable member. I undertake to take up the matter with the Minister for Police and to obtain a response from him.
WORKERS COMPENSATION COMPLIANCE
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN: I direct my question without notice to the Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading. Bearing in mind that WorkCover conducted a blitz on workers compensation compliance following an amnesty last year, can the Attorney General tell the House of the ongoing results of that blitz?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: Following the blitz on workers compensation compliance which began in November 1996, WorkCover inspectors have to date referred 512 matters for prosecution, with, I understand, more to follow. The first prosecution as a result of the blitz was heard on 16 June 1997. During the past 12 months an average of 10 blitz prosecutions a month have been heard in the courts. These prosecutions under the Workers Compensation Act have been for non-insurance and avoided premiums, the penalty for which is $20,000; recovery of unpaid insurance premiums at double the premium under section 156; and refusal to supply wage records for calculation of unpaid premium under section 174.
There is provision in the Act for imprisonment for up to six months for uninsured employers, including directors of uninsured corporations. This is an additional penalty option in appropriate cases. The results to date are 128 successful prosecutions and a total of $544,255 premiums recovered. Those prosecuted include Sock Shop Australia Pty Ltd after a WorkCover inspector visited its shop in the Queen Victoria building in Sydney during the blitz. The matter was heard in the Chief Industrial Magistrate’s Court on 26 May. The defendant pleaded guilty to not having in force a workers compensation policy for the period 1 July 1994 to 15 May 1997, during which time it was known to have employed at least 24 workers. The Industrial Magistrate took into account that the defendant had immediately taken out a policy, and ordered a conviction and fine in the sum of $1,200 plus costs.
A further order was made to pay WorkCover the sum of $46,089 pursuant to section 156(2) of the Act for double the avoided premium. Not having a workers compensation policy can be a very expensive way to run a business. I assure the House that the Government will maintain pressure on employers who fail in their responsibility to have a workers compensation policy, thus prejudicing employers who do the right thing and take out the requisite insurance policy. This type of default costs the community, and it is appropriate for WorkCover to be vigilant in enforcing the legal requirements to ensure that workers compensation is in place.
WIRRA WARRA STATION CORRECTIONAL CENTRE
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN: I address my question to the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Corrective Services. Is it a fact that the correctional centre proposed to be located at Wirra Warra station near the village of Enngonia in far western New South Wales has been bitterly opposed by the residents of the area because the road is not an all-weather road and is closed during times of heavy rain and flood? When Wirra Warra becomes totally isolated because of flood it would be virtually impossible for local police to attend any incident, should the need arise. As at least two neighbours will have to travel through Wirra Warra during wet
weather, what rights will they have to drive through and walk sheep through that property?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The question is of considerable detail and specificity so I will refer it to the Minister for Corrective Services and obtain a response.
TOBACCO EDUCATION EXPENDITURE
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: I add my congratulations on your election to the esteemed office of President.
The PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: I ask the Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council, representing the Premier, Minister for the Arts, and Minister for Ethnic Affairs, whether recent reports show a rise in children experimenting with tobacco products. Is it a fact that per capita the New South Wales Government spends far less on anti-tobacco education programs than it did five years ago? In light of the Government’s announcements of pro-family policies, what action does the Government intend to take to reverse the fall in funding for tobacco education programs to improve non-smoking rates, especially among our children?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will refer the question to my colleague the Premier for a detailed reply.
AGRICULTURAL SECTOR ASSISTANCE
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: I add my congratulations to you on your rather stunning victory this afternoon.
The PRESIDENT: Thank you.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: My question is addressed to the Treasurer. What role is the New South Wales Government playing in the development of the New South Wales agricultural sector?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Eating fresh fruit and vegetables is not only good for you, it also makes a very significant contribution to the New South Wales economy by supporting our local agricultural industries and creating jobs. New South Wales vegetable production is currently worth around $300 million each year and is one of our fastest-growing rural industries. The Government recently launched a number of initiatives to further promote and develop the horticultural industry. Nine centres of excellence will be established throughout New South Wales, specialising in research, alternative farming and education programs. Recently the Premier opened one of those centres at the Yanco Agricultural Institute to develop sustainable rice and horticultural production.
Over the next two years the New South Wales and Commonwealth governments will spend more than $2 million to build a new vegetable industry research and training centre at the Yanco Agricultural Institute. The Government has also recently embarked on a $5 million campaign aimed at promoting fresh regional produce in Sydney. The first of five annual $1 million grants will be given to Sydney Markets Limited to encourage families to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables grown in New South Wales. Sydney Markets is the State’s major distribution centre for fresh fruit and vegetables. The markets were privatised in 1997 and thousands of local business people became shareholders.
About 433,000 tonnes of vegetables and 537,000 tonnes of fruit go through the markets each year. The annual turnover is $1.5 billion. The markets employ more than 5,000 people. The Government’s fruit and vegetable campaign centres on fresh ideas to promote versatility, flavour and easy preparation of each season’s fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as Schools for 2000, a program that has seen the establishment of a fruit and vegetable Internet site for schoolchildren. The Government’s commitment to the promotion of the New South Wales fruit and vegetable industries is good news for New South Wales agriculture and has the potential to create hundreds of new jobs across the State.
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: I add my congratulations, Madam President. I am delighted not just for you, but for the lustre you will bring to this House.
The PRESIDENT: Thank you.
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: I ask the Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading, representing the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, and Minister for Women whether he is aware of allegations in a recent newspaper article in the Sydney Morning Herald that social workers in New South Wales are "encouraging young girls of 14, 15 and 16 to keep their babies when they are
incapable of taking care of themselves, let alone a baby", and, further, that in very many cases this "resulted in babies being taken into care as children at risk".
Is the Minister also aware that one such social worker is alleged to have boasted, "I have never lost one yet," apparently referring to her record of dissuading women from giving up their babies for adoption? The Minister would no doubt be aware of the social issues inquiry in 1989 into accessing adoption information, which reported on and acknowledged the pain of unmarried mothers being forced years ago to relinquish babies against their will. Is it now government policy to swing to the other extreme and force women and girls to keep babies, regardless of what is in the best interests of the child or the mother?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I shall refer that question to the Minister for Community Services and obtain a response.
MOREE PRISONER ESCORTS
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: I also add my congratulations to you on your election to the office of President of the Legislative Council, and wish you well in that role.
The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Jenny.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: My question is directed to the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Corrective Services and the Minister for Police. I refer to an undertaking given to the people of Moree by the Commissioner of Police, Mr Ryan, to aid the demands of local police by providing corrective services personnel to escort prisoners to and from court hearings in that town. Does the Government intend to honour that commitment by the Commissioner of Police as a way of addressing the law and order resource difficulties at Moree? If so, when will this occur?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I shall refer the honourable member’s question to the Minister for Corrective Services and to the Minister for Police.
ELECTRICITY GENERATOR CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSION
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I ask the Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading whether electricity generated in Victoria produces 1.76 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent compared to the New South Wales production of 0.854 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each megawatt hour of electricity generated. Does data from TransGrid show that during the 10-month period from August 1997 to May 1998 New South Wales imported 2.5 million megawatt hours of electricity, which equates to 812,000 extra tonnes of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases?
What can be done to pressure the Federal and State governments to incorporate carbon dioxide generated into the national market price, set up a carbon dioxide emissions contract in the scheme among New South Wales electricity retailers, regulate for emission targets for electricity retailers and penalise them for every tonne of carbon dioxide they cause to be generated over and above their per capita target?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I regret that I do not have the answer to the question readily to hand, but I will refer it to the Minister and obtain a response.
MACQUARIE AREA HEALTH SERVICE
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Public Works and Services, representing the Minister for Health. The attention of the Minister for Health has been drawn to the withdrawal of funding by the Macquarie Area Health Service that provided for a full-time community nurse at Quambone. What arrangements have been put in place to provide adequate and comprehensive services from outside Quambone to meet the health needs of this village and district, which is so important to me?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I must confess that I am unaware of the funding provided for the community nurse at Quambone. However, I shall find out from my colleague the Minister for Health and convey the information to the member.
PERSONAL COMPUTER SUPPLY COMPANIES
The Hon. J. R. JOHNSON: My question without notice is to the Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading. Can the Minister inform the House about progress on government action to protect New South Wales consumers from shonky personal computer supply companies?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I would proffer the view that the personal computer retail industry is an important industry to New South Wales for two reasons. First, it is clear to all of us that computers are the way of the future and will expand
dramatically during the next decade or so. Second, a personal computer has become a common acquisition for families living in New South Wales. Children doing their Higher School Certificate or studying tertiary education need access to computers, and it is vital that there be consumer protection. It is unfortunate that a minority of retailers, mostly those who sell own-brand computers, are not fair traders. They hurt both consumers and the reputable members of their industry.
As honourable members would know, earlier this month I announced an inquiry into the industry. I asked the State’s independent watchdog, the Fair Trading Advisory Council, to look at the widespread consumer problems with personal computer sellers. The council is looking at problems such as suppliers who demand unreasonably large deposits or full prepayment for computers and computer components; failure to supply computer products that have been paid for; the sale of faulty computer hardware and software; failure to address consumer complaints; suppliers who go out of business and cannot honour their warranty obligations; and companies who go into liquidation, only to reappear soon after with the same directors in a similar business - the so-called Phoenix company phenomenon.
The council will also take into account the results of a three-day consumer hotline organised by the department earlier this month. More than 700 consumers phoned in about their experiences with the retail computer industry. The results of the phone survey are currently being correlated and analysed. I have been given some preliminary information which shows that the average deposit paid for a computer is between $650 and $1,000, that most problems involve faulty goods and non-delivery of goods, that most retailers do not repair reported faults, and that most of the complaints are from first-time buyers, many of whom are on a relatively low income.
The Fair Trading Advisory Council has now shifted to the consultation phase of the inquiry, and a series of stakeholder meetings are under way. Submissions to the inquiry from interested parties are welcome, and will be received through the Department of Fair Trading up until 24 July. The Department of Fair Trading continues to monitor and act on complaints within the industry. Ten days ago a computer company, CNN Promotions Pty Ltd, ceased trading after my department investigated yet another computer deal that was too good to be true. Prompt action by the Department of Fair Trading meant that far fewer consumers were affected in this case. A provisional liquidator has been appointed to wind up the company’s affairs.
The preliminary findings of the inquiries’ consumer phone-in show that people on relatively low incomes are losing large amounts of money because of unscrupulous practices in this industry. The House can be assured of my determination to protect those consumers. I have asked the Fair Trading Advisory Council to report back to me with its recommendations by the end of August, and in the meantime my department will continue its investigation of consumer complaints about computer supply companies.
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE: My question without notice is to the Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading, representing the Minister for Community Services. I refer to an article in the Illawarra Mercury of 28 May 1998 about a 76-year-old woman who is caring for her 52-year-old son with Down’s syndrome and early onset dementia. Is the Home Care Service restricting the hours of respite services to people such as that woman to a maximum of 28 hours per month? If so, what advice has the Home Care Service given that woman about the care of her son? What criteria does the Home Care Service consider when giving exemptions to that maximum?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I shall refer that question to the Minister for Community Services and obtain a response for the honourable member.
TELSTRA BUSINESSWOMEN AWARDS
The Hon. JANELLE SAFFIN: Madam President, I take this opportunity to extend to you my sincere and warm congratulations upon your election to the esteemed office of President. My question without notice is to the Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council. How does the Government recognise the success of women in the business community?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: My Parliamentary Secretary, Sandra Nori, was recently a key speaker at the 1998 New South Wales Telstra Businesswomen Award ceremony and, from what she told me, the standard of entries was exceptionally high. The Telstra Businesswomen Awards are now in their fourth year. They recognise, encourage and reward women for their
contributions to the business community. The contribution women make to business throughout Australia has never been more significant. Women now make up 40 per cent of the State’s business community and play a leading role in 60 per cent of our small businesses. By 2010 more than 50 per cent of all small businesses will be owned and operated by women.
With such a deep pool of talent, the competition in each of the four category awards was tough. Mary Foley, General Manager, Diagnostic Services, Mayne Nickless Ltd, was chosen as the New South Wales Telstra businesswoman of the year. Ms Foley had earlier won the award for a private sector business with more than 100 employees. She was instrumental in establishing Health Care of Australia, a subsidiary of Mayne Nickless, as the largest provider of pathology services in Australia. Nancy Knudsen emerged as the winner of the Westpac business owner award for her outstanding work in developing her travel and tourism company, Knudsen Enterprises.
Marianne Hammerton, General Manager of the Home Care Service of New South Wales, won the MobileNet corporate and government award. Ms Hammerton manages more than 5,000 staff who care for more than 45,000 members of our community. Faye McGuigan, export director of Brian McGuigan wines, won the AusIndustry award for a business with fewer than 100 employees. Ms McGuigan has managed to establish 12 international export markets and has expanded export sales to an impressive $8 million per year. I am sure that this House will join me in congratulating these women and wishing them the best of luck when they represent New South Wales at the national awards on 14 July.
LIDCOMBE LIQUID WASTE TREATMENT PLANT
The Hon. I. COHEN: I ask the Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council why the fact that Lidcombe waste treatment plant may expose Olympic athletes to toxic odours elicits a quick response from this Government while residents have had to live with these odours for years? Does the 20-metre chimneystack reduce emissions, or does it merely increase the area over which these volatile organic compounds may spread?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will refer the Hon. I. Cohen’s question to the appropriate Minister for a detailed response.
AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY ECONOMIC POLICY
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: Does the Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council recall his promise in his 1995 election manifesto "Labor’s Economic Development Policy" that there would be no growth in expenditure beyond an adjustment for inflation? How does he explain the massive increase in outlays of 20.6 per cent in this year’s budget when the Reserve Bank of Australia estimated inflation to have increased by only 7.2 per cent between March 1995 and March 1999? How does he account for this obvious broken promise?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: It is apparent that the New South Wales community has wanted and demanded considerably better services than those that were provided by the previous Government. Indeed, in some areas the New South Wales Government has had to fill the void left by the Commonwealth Government’s lack of funding. Health is a perfect example. Despite the increasing community need for health and hospital facilities, the State Government has been required to increase its spending by some 37 per cent because the Federal Government has increased its funding by only 12 per cent, notwithstanding the ageing of the population, notwithstanding the advances in medical technology and drug treatments which, whilst they add to our quality of life, are extraordinarily expensive, and notwithstanding the fall-off in private health insurance.
The Government, I think quite responsibly, has responded to that by making more money available. The Government makes no apology for the fact that it has improved the services available to the people of New South Wales not only in health but in education, community services and every other area of government activity.
If members have further questions I suggest they place them on notice.
POLICE SERVICE STAFF REPORTS REVIEW
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: On 21 May 1998 Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile asked me a question about police officers who have been victims of the alleged corrupt conduct of other officers. The Minister for Police has provided the following answer:
All members of this House will be aware of the findings of the Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service and the steps taken by this Government and the New South Wales Police Service in responding to the commission’s
report and cleansing the service of corruption. This Government has a deep commitment to eliminating every last trace of impropriety and corruption from the service and protecting the public and honest police officers from unprofessional and dishonest officers. The Government would welcome the honourable member providing the commissioners of the New South Wales Police Service or the Police Integrity Commission with any evidence he may have in respect of police officers whose careers may have been adversely affected by serving under, or being victimised by, senior police officers. I would also encourage any individual officers who feel they have been discriminated against in this way to come forward with any complaint they may have. The service’s response to any officer who has been disadvantaged in such a manner would obviously depend on the circumstances of their individual case.
The Government has mechanisms in place to protect police officers who have the courage to come forward and report the unprofessional or corrupt conduct of fellow officers. As recommended by the royal commission, the New South Wales Police Service continues to support and promote the internal witness support unit, which assists officers who report alleged unprofessional or corrupt conduct within the service. In September 1996 I launched the service’s internal witness support policy, which outlines the service’s commitment to protecting those courageous officers who do their duty by fighting corruption in their midst. The internal witness review committee has been established to resolve special problems experienced by internal witnesses and the Internal Witness Advisory Council provides advice on the development and maintenance of the internal witness support policy and program. The Police Service Regulation 1990, Police Integrity Commission Act 1996, Protected Disclosures Act 1994 and Witness Protection Act 1995 all provide legislative protection to honest officers who report corruption or unprofessional conduct within the service.
Questions without notice concluded.
DRUG MISUSE AND TRAFFICKING AMENDMENT (ONGOING DEALING) BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [5.04 p.m.]: I referred earlier to some of the criticisms made, mainly by members on the crossbenches who seemed to be speaking about users rather than suppliers of drugs. All honourable members want to assist young people who are using drugs and who are drug addicts, by providing rehabilitation programs. We strongly support the Salvation Army and Teen Challenge rehabilitation programs, which have achieved high rates of success in helping young people abstain from drug taking, rather than the harm minimisation programs which encourage young people to switch from heroin to methadone. I said earlier that it now appears that the methadone program is being abused by some members of the medical profession who are making a great deal of profit out of it. The Government must monitor this program carefully to ensure that it is not being abused.
The naltrexone program, which was successfully launched in Israel and trialled in Western Australia, is now being trialled in New South Wales. We look forward to some positive results. I hope there is no attempt by those who are pro-drugs and who appear to be soft on drugs to criticise this program. They favour the decriminalisation and legalisation of drugs and heroin trials. I will not mention the names of those persons but I trust that the Government will ensure they do not have too great an influence on government policy or on the trials, as that could affect the results of those trials. Evidence must not be distorted in any way because of the prejudice of those persons. We support any programs which encourage young people to stop taking drugs.
One of the criticisms of this bill is that often governments seem to be dealing piecemeal with the drug problem. I accept as a valid criticism that this bill deals only with one part of the drug problem. The Government should implement a full-scale drug policy to deal with matters relating to the supply of drugs, penalties for dealers and traffickers, and rehabilitation programs. All legislation dealing with drugs should be brought under one umbrella. What happens to drug addicts in prison? What programs have been implemented to help them get off drugs while they are in prison? I foreshadow that I will move two amendments in Committee. My first proposed amendment is in the following terms:
Page 3, schedule 1, proposed section 25A(1), lines 9 and 10. Omit "during any period of 30 consecutive days".
I received a copy of a letter from the Minister for Police, the Hon. Paul Whelan, to the Attorney General which refers to the views expressed by Acting Superintendent Hungerford, Chief of Staff to the Commander of Crime Agencies. She claims - I believe this statement to be factual - that the Police Service wishes to retain the 30-day time limit as it believes that that would provide efficiency in its operations. Why be so strict about the 30-day time limit? What are the advantages if we retain that 30-day time limit? Members of the Police Service have said that they are happy to work on that basis; that that is part of the operational aspects of modern policing. But it seems to me to be a bit artificial.
Many people thought it meant that there would be some charge and/or conviction for each of the offences relating to the selling of drugs. It is quite clear that three cases of dealing or supplying will be observed by the police before any charge may be
laid. They are conducting an intelligence operation rather than convicting drug dealers or suppliers or taking any other action. Some honourable members have expressed concern about how that evidence will be used in court to prove that a person was found either dealing in or supplying drugs on three occasions. That issue most likely would involve the police videotaping dealers, obtaining witnesses or obtaining other evidence of drug dealing. We do not oppose that process. We questioned the reason for restricting the period within which the offences were to be committed to 30 days. If someone committed three offences in 40 days, he or she should be treated the same under this legislation.
The Government has argued to maintain the 30-day limit, but it is not a critical argument. The police can say, "Someone has supplied drugs three times in 40 days but under this legislation we cannot act against them." Though the police say they are happy in principle with proposed legislation, the bill will contain a built-in restriction on police carrying out their role. The Christian Democratic Party will move amendments 2 and 3 in globo, to omit the words "other than cannabis". We want the law to be consistent relating to drugs, whether they be cocaine, heroin, marijuana, or other drugs. Much evidence points to the seriousness of marijuana use and its impact on young people. It is regarded still as a gateway drug. No-one would argue that everyone who uses marijuana goes on to use heroin.
The Hon. I. Cohen: Everyone?
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: No-one would argue that; I have never suggested to the contrary. The ratio that has been established is that one in seven people move on to other drugs. In principle the evidence shows a percentage of marijuana users move on to other drugs. Even if it is only one person in a million, it is still of concern. Some honourable members are prepared to accept that it is not a large number and it does not matter. It matters to me. Once the move is made to more addictive drugs, the problem becomes extreme and our attempts to try to get people off drugs is hindered. I shall conclude by referring to the successful Swedish drug policy model that New South Wales should copy.
The new book Drug Precipice, by joint editors Athol Moffitt, John Malouf and Craig Thompson, spells out the Swedish model. The authors have knowledge of the chemical and illegal sides of drugs and have put together an impressive book that I recommend to all honourable members. On pages 78 to 81 the authors spell out what they call the successful Swedish model, which I support. In 1965 Sweden made all the mistakes that some members of the crossbench now advocate. They adopted soft policies on drugs and treated drug abuse as a health matter and not a legal issue. Patients were nominated a drug and the required dose, but in two years the amount of drugs prescribed increased by 300 per cent.
The Hon. J. H. Jobling: They greatly regretted what they did.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: I am sure the Hon. J. H. Jobling, who was involved in the debate about shooting galleries, has investigated these matters thoroughly and can contribute his knowledge to this debate. The path Sweden followed proved to be a disaster. Australia, certainly New South Wales, should not follow that direction. By the mid-1970s the use of heroin and its associated mortality had increased greatly and pressure for liberal policies on drugs eased when experts acknowledged the failure of the process. This gave way to the emphasis that society had a duty to clamp down on individual abusers and all forms of trafficking.
Sweden’s high-level government inquiry brought about change from 1977 to 1978. Sweden adopted a national policy that aimed at making its society drug free, which is the policy of the Christian Democratic Party. Over the next 15 years the new policies adopted by Sweden brought about many changes and achieved a dramatic transformation. Statistics on drug use in Australia, for example of marijuana, show an increase of 5 per cent, from 20 per cent to 25 per cent of the population, but in Sweden the percentage dropped to between 3 per cent and 5 per cent, which equates to less than one in 20 young people using drugs.
The equivalent figures for New South Wales would be one in four, and in South Australia, with its decriminalisation policy, one in two people. I acknowledge that the Government is not following that same path, but my comments are in response to those of other speakers earlier in the debate. Drug Precipice has the evidence that supports this successful program and I urge all honourable members to read it. For those reasons, the Christian Democratic Party wants references to marijuana, or cannabis, kept in the bill. Of course, the Government argues that other legislation covers offences involving marijuana, but the false message may be given that somehow we tolerate marijuana use.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: The penalty is 20 years gaol.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: As I said earlier, the maximum penalty that can be imposed is 20 years imprisonment. I am sure that a young
person caught dealing in a small quantity would not go to gaol for 20 years. People convicted of murder sometimes are imprisoned for only five or six years. It is merely a red herring to suggest that a young person would be sentenced to 20 years gaol for dealing in small quantities. The New South Wales judiciary would use its commonsense in imposing sentences of imprisonment. The maximum penalty will not be imposed on everyone who falls under the umbrella of this legislation. The legislation recommends a maximum penalty that I am sure judges will use as a guide when taking into account all circumstances, including the person’s age and other factors relevant to the drug-dealing offence. We support the bill and the amendments to be moved in Committee.
The PRESIDENT: Before giving the call to the Hon. Dr A. Chesterfield-Evans, I remind honourable members that this is his first speech. I ask honourable members to extend to him the usual courtesies.
The Hon. Dr A. CHESTERFIELD-EVANS [5.16 p.m.]: Honourable members, ladies and gentlemen: I should like first to congratulate you, Madam President, on your election as President of the Legislative Council. I hope that the friendly relationship we have maintained over some years will continue. I thank the Australian Democrats for electing me as their representative in this Parliament. I am proud of our policies, which are formulated by our membership and give substance to our values. Those policies are about a society that gives a fair go to all and are ecologically sustainable in the long term. We want to be inclusive of all in society and to examine all issues, as did my predecessor the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby. For this broad experience I expect to draw on the institutional memory of her capable staff, whom I have inherited.
I am an occupational health physician. I started life at the right schools, which taught me a healthy distrust of the elite, of whom some put their own ease ahead of the good of those for whom they are theoretically responsible. That lesson has stood me in good stead. I studied medicine and first went into surgery as that seemed to give the most rapid results. But in surgery I was fighting at the last ditch. Tobacco-caused disease especially horrified me, where heroic surgery was undertaken to try to save broken human beings whose lungs, hearts, arteries and bodies were wrecked by smoking.
At that time corner stores were principally recognised by their livery of tobacco advertising. I remember telling an old fellow whose leg I had amputated that if he did not stop smoking he would lose the other leg. He said to me, "All you doctors go on about smoking. If it was as bad as you said it was, why hasn’t the Government done anything?" He assumed that governments would act in the interests of the whole community rather than vested interests, if it were necessary. He died early, arguably due to his faith in governments! I recognise that prevention is better than cure and that the environment in which one lives and makes decisions determines the quality of life for the average citizen.
I tried to talk representatives of political parties into acting on tobacco-caused disease. Disillusioned with the result of this effort, I took up a spray can with the BUGA UP group, which stood for Billboard Utilising Graffitists Against Unhealthy Promotions. BUGA UP had a model of advertising as one-way communication which worked to maximise the profits of advertisers with no regard for the social consequences of their actions. Tobacco advertising is now banned, but I doubt this would have happened if I had tried to achieve that result through conventional political process. The Democrats eventually introduced this legislation.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: The Christian Democratic Party introduced it.
The Hon. Dr A. CHESTERFIELD-EVANS: Thank you, that is correct. The tobacco industry, though more discredited than ever, has stopped efforts to achieve unpolluted indoor air, and the current New South Wales Government has even cut the Quit campaign to a level of 25¢ per person per year - an appalling record. That is despite the fact that marketing through movies and rock videos has made children’s recruitment to smoking rise alarmingly since 1994. The welfare of narrow vested interests overriding the welfare of the many is a problem for preventive health, but it is a problem for all government policy and decisions and an area that I will work to change.
A single health insurer, Medicare, can use its market power to keep costs down and to set preventive priorities. That gives people freedom from the fear of health costs which bedevils the United States of America. Despite the backing of President Clinton the USA was unable to bring in a universal health insurance scheme such as Australia’s Medicare because of the health lobby. Medicare in Australia is under grave threat as the Federal Government favours the private system. Federal-State bickering in health is causing part of the damage to the framework of public health because decisions are made on the basis of how costs will shift rather than what is the optimum way to organise the health system.
Governments are elected to provide leadership, services and support to the people, but they seem to have a crisis of confidence. The concept of the common good is under threat. Governments are scared to collect taxes, and they shed responsibility for functions so that they will not have to. "User pays," they cry. Those who cannot pay are neglected and stigmatised, but they will not disappear from the streets as easily as they disappear from economic models. The harvest of social misery from the new meanness of spirit that passes as economic rationalism must be curbed.
It is not possible to deny the laws of economics, particularly with a world market and extreme ease of capital movements. By the same token, these factors should not be an excuse for callously failing to take action for the needs of our own citizens. Governments must be loyal to all Australians, not to narrow sectional interests. They should not boast about surpluses that are achieved by creating misery in the least politically powerful. They must consider a genuine progress indicator as well as gross domestic product. Governments should not let the tobacco companies set the rules on indoor air quality, foreign woodchippers set our foreign policy, the bus lobby set transport policy in western Sydney and the private health providers set our health policy.
As the world becomes global we need powerful and legitimate advocates in the world market. Our governments must fulfil this role. They gain legitimacy from the fact that they are elected and because the decisions they make are understood and approved by the people. If they abdicate this role as an advocate and leader all Australians will be poorer. Yet there is ample evidence that this is what is happening. The sale of public assets should not occur merely because governments are incapable of managing efficiently or are short of cash. No-one sells their home to pay off their bankcard debt. They know that renting the house back will cost more than interest, otherwise buyers would not buy. What they save in interest they will pay in rent to the new owners.
It must be recognised that privatisation is a transfer of assets that the Government does not own but holds in trust for the population. The transfer is from the population to the shareholders. The interests of the two groups are not the same. The costs and benefits from this transfer need to be openly discussed, and not merely with employees. There can clearly be benefits for the population from increased competition, but replacing public monopolies with private ones is a risky policy. A government that cannot manage something that it owns is likely to have even more trouble with something that it does not.
The Government wants to make money by taxing businesses, but its introduction of casinos and advertising for gambling has been quite irresponsible. The gambling tax is significantly related to the taxpayer’s degree of gambling addiction rather than income. The Government is letting others persuade people to make the wrong decisions so that they can profit. Yet the Government does not want to acknowledge or accept the welfare and crime consequences of those wrong decisions. The increased concentration of wealth has led to a growing disparity in society. This inequality is growing unchecked and is leading us further from the just, equitable and sustainable future the Democrats want for Australia. Worse than that, it will lead to an increasingly Dickensian existence for those at the bottom of society, and anger and resentment will make our streets unsafe and our politics more extreme.
From 1945 to 1960 there was full employment, defined as the number of registered unemployed being less than the number of jobs advertised. In 1966 unemployment was 1.6 per cent; it is now 8 per cent or 9 per cent. We cannot merely stigmatise unemployed people. It is a problem for all of us and most of all for those who seek to govern. Some market analysts talk of levels of unemployment as desirable, presumably because that keeps a perfect market in the area of unskilled labour, and reduces wage pressure in consequence. Yet many industries have a small number of companies, which allows for supernormal profits. Governments should be the legitimate allies of the people in trying to balance the necessity for reasonable social equity with the need for Australian business to be internationally competitive.
I am not anti-business. Money and profits need to be made. The New South Wales Government cannot stand like Canute and try to stop a world tide. In the end the driver of history is technological change, and those who use it to advantage within the limits of the environment will be the long-term winners. No political or economic figure this century has had the influence over our lives that Edison had with electricity, the Wright brothers with aviation, Einstein with nuclear energy or the inventors of computers. The most important current manifestation of technological change is globalisation. That has had its effect both in terms of the reduced cost of transport relative to the cost of production and in the mobility of capital. Governments must co-operate with industries better. We can be smarter. Governments do not have to play favourites or pick
winners to help. Often trends are obvious and merely need to be followed.
Renewable energy is inevitable. We have much gas, yet we import oil. Solar and geothermal power offer great possibilities. Governments must encourage these developments so that our industries can become large enough to compete globally. Working for a better future sometimes means standing up to vested interests. A decent life for all our citizens will not necessarily be achieved through the market, yet is a real social asset which reduces everyone’s costs. Social welfare is cheap insurance for us all. There is no point in beggaring our population to postpone the day when we will either have to be smarter or poorer.
Australia’s successes are not always recognised. Our AIDS policy has arguably been the best in the world. When the epidemic struck it was acknowledged that receptive sex and sharing syringes were the major routes of transmission. The unpleasant facts were faced. The issue was not swept under the carpet. It was assumed that sex would remain popular and that drug addicts would continue to use syringes. So education on condoms and replacing or at least cleaning needles was provided. We now have much less AIDS and much lower costs than nations which prudishly advised people not to have sex and to "Just say no" to drugs.
The lesson is here. Facts must be faced and a preventive, long-term view taken. Ten years ago in the USA cocaine sold for $US60,000 a kilogram. Today, after spending billions of dollars on the war against drugs - $US30 billion in 1995 alone - a kilo of cocaine costs $US20,000. Prohibition did not work for alcohol and it is not working for other drugs. Silly rhetoric based on unrealistic behaviour patterns must be discarded. Australians should be told the facts and asked to use their considerable courage and resources to find solutions. We need to know if treating the problem of drugs as a social and medical one will work better than treating it as a criminal one. We need a heroin trial now and a sensible public debate. Naturally I believe the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Amendment (Ongoing Dealing) Act is taking the wrong approach.
The Australian Democrats stand for honesty, accountability and transparency in government. We believe this gives the best chance for public scrutiny and debate. The best solutions are achieved when people are involved in the decision-making process. The Democrats have furthered this and are largely responsible for the parliamentary committee system at both Federal and State levels that lets everyone have an input into major decisions. We want greater emphasis on the common good. We believe in a fair go. This means equality of opportunity and a preventive approach to social policy that helps those less fortunate, rather than hollow and mean-spirited rhetoric about self-help that often becomes victim blaming, makes one look for scapegoats, and provides fertile ground for racism.
What is valuable cannot always be measured. I want to speak of the bond between people, an intangible and unmeasurable entity that is the glue that holds society together. The bonds to another human being give the reason for living. The social capital of relationships between people is much undervalued and this is mostly the case when people’s relationships are tenuous. A fragile de facto relationship is a "family" and may be even more important for the children of it than a stable, traditional extended family is for children who have many role models and much support. Support is needed for those families that are most vulnerable and for relationships that are most marginalised.
The effects of alcohol, gambling or inherited poor role concepts will visit their misery on the next generation if preventive social action is not taken. Increasingly the school is becoming the social work department and the child-minding centre while it is being squeezed for resources. The whole of society is responsible for the production of the next generation, not merely those who have custody of them at a point of time. Efforts in family support will make for social harmony, just as surely as ignoring social problems will lead to social misery. Those who are critical of welfare or affirmative action need to ponder the cost of the alternative.
If children cannot be helped they become school truants, then teenage gang members, and finally adult gaol inmates. Sexual assaults in prison are said to affect one quarter of all inmates. Reform gets harder and harder. The answer is not more punishment in the university of crime. It is not a question of whether we can afford support and education for our children; we cannot afford ignorance and bitterness in our adults. We must be sceptical of trickle-down models of economic behaviour. We do not want gated suburbs as social inequity grows in a sea of fine rhetoric. We do not want a situation where a legal system wins dubious precedents for a few individuals but where whole populations are disfranchised by economic and social forces. Yet this is the way Australia is going and this is why the simplistic solutions of One Nation are getting a sympathetic hearing amongst the rural unemployed.
The Industrial Revolution in Britain created social dislocation and made many people poor, particularly in rural areas. People turned to crime to survive and many were transported to Australia for minor misdemeanours. The convicts, when given a new start, did very well and their descendants are some of the most respected people in Australia. We must look to our historical models rather than moralistic hysteria to solve the social problems of unemployment and drugs that are leading to crime. We must be clear what we are talking about with unemployment. We are not talking about a shortage of jobs; a huge number of things need doing and people need help. We do not have a market mechanism to pay them. So, the problem is not a lack of jobs, it is a lack of money within a definition of priorities.
New solutions are needed. There are three stages of knowledge: those who know, those who do not know, and those who do not know that they do not know. Sadly, many of our political leaders are in the third stage but confuse it with the first. A less charitable explanation is that they are in the second stage but lie about it. I do not have all the answers for New South Wales, but if one does not have an answer it is better to admit this and define the problems as clearly as possible. Then a real effort must be made for the population to help in the debate. This requires an actual commitment to open information: policies and reports available on the Internet; departments producing options in user-friendly formats; encouragement of involvement from schools and public groups, and full use of the committee system of Parliament. Open and transparent government allows intelligent discussion of problems and a feeling of success as solutions are found.
Unfortunately, the New South Wales Environmental Planning and Assessment Act is quite the other way. Decisions will be made by a small elite that lobbyists are likely to influence more than ever. In order to encourage openness in public administration I will introduce as my first private member's bill the Protected Disclosures Amendment Bill. This legislation will, if passed by this Parliament, protect whistleblowers from retribution and detrimental action when reporting maladministration, gross incompetence or corruption. The other bill I will follow through is the De Facto Relationships Amendment Bill. This is a vital moral issue. It is about the right to plan and make a will for a partner irrespective of the partner’s sex. It is about strengthening relationships between people. It is not about the narrow view wherein morality is equated with telling people how not to conduct their sex lives.
The fiasco of planning is seen at east Circular Quay. Since the Prime Minister has declined to pay the large cost of redressing the folly, it will remain a monument to the lack of planning in Sydney. We must save our harbour foreshores from the tenant developers of the Department of Defence, and improve the solutions at Walsh Bay and the Conservatorium. The most cursory glance at the Australian dollar shows a long-term trend of falling against the US dollar since the 1890s. Yet our governments bicker and blame the other parties. The perception is that politicians are fiddling while Rome burns, are not telling the truth, and are looking after themselves as the country’s problems fester due to a lack of intelligent discussion.
In the republican debate it is necessary to redevelop and redefine Australia’s government. It may be better to have two levels of government, Federal and local. But there are a few points I would like to make. Firstly, Australia’s constitution was a compromise as the States did not want to give up their powers and there was an overwhelming necessity to have a single national government. It is simply not enough to abolish arms or functions of government to save money. We should not strive for cheap government; we should strive for good government. Despite all the convenient rhetoric about government getting in the way of business, countries with smaller governments do not necessarily do better in the long term. Governments without the resources to make good decisions will not help their countries.
Lately there has been discussion of abolishing this House. Queensland has no upper House and does not seem conspicuously better off without it. Upper House members cannot be held to ransom by pressure groups as are some members of the lower House who represent marginal seats. The Democrats want a wider discussion of the functions of government and a policy of re-empowering the people. The rise of Hanson has occurred because some people distrust politicians and want solutions. She seems aware of the problems and appears to want action on these problems more than the old parties do. Her solutions are simplistic, intolerant and dangerous, but her rise is a symptom of the lack of honest discussion of problems and the dearth of solutions. The country has a leadership vacuum, as Hugh MacKay has pointed out. Politicians are perceived as not knowing what to do in the face of global changes and not willing to admit their ignorance and ask for help. Having raised the Hanson issue, I feel it is necessary to debunk her nonsense. My predecessor, Lis Kirkby, noted that Hanson has stated:
I am fed up to the back teeth with the inequalities that are being promoted by the Government and paid for by the taxpayer under the assumption that Aborigines are the most disadvantaged people in Australia.
A few facts will give the lie to the Hanson nonsense that Aborigines are not disadvantaged. The death rate for Aboriginal children is three to five times higher than that for white children. Aboriginal women are 10 times more likely to die in childbirth. There is a shortage of schools in remote areas, and 5.1 per cent of indigenous children will not go to school at all, as opposed to 0.9 per cent of non-indigenous children. Only 33 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children complete year 12, as opposed to the national average of 77 per cent. Aboriginal people are 17.3 times more likely to be arrested and 16.5 times more likely to die in custody than non-Aboriginal Australians. An affirmative action program is needed. Disadvantaged groups need help. If Aboriginal people can retain their pride, their leaders and some identity as a race, that will help us all in the process of achieving equality of opportunity in Australia.
The winner-takes-all mentality, where humankind takes the whole planet and destroys other species, needs a more holistic and long-term view. Such a view was implied in the Aboriginal concepts of interdependence with the land, and is more compatible with a conservationist position. The idea of support for the community rather than an emphasis on individual rights is certainly compatible with ideas of the importance of the common good. And the idea of reconciliation should be eminently compatible with the Australian idea of a fair go. The Democrats are committed to the process of dialogue that the Wik decision started and not its watering down at either a Federal or State level.
I am concerned about the abuse of power - both government power and personal power. It is the infliction of the will of one person on another. Consistent with this, the Democrats favour gun control. Guns give the owner the power to kill another human being with a movement of one finger. There are many ways of killing another person, but few as certain as guns. Farmers need guns to control feral animals. Others want to use guns as a sport. I am not against this right per se, but gun availability leads to use. It is true that few gun owners cause any harm.
However, there must be one law for all and if guns are available, some who lack self-control will be dangerous. So the many suffer for the few. But most Australians do not own guns and they risk their lives if unstable people have access to guns. It is not possible to sort out who is dangerous with a gun and who is not. Certainly as a doctor who has to decide who is fit to drive, I am aware of the personal danger of taking a privilege from people in this society. I am reluctantly forced to conclude that guns should be available as needed and of the type that are needed. If some must modify their sport so that society can be safe, that is a price we should all ask be paid.
In terms of conservation, the polluter takes short-term personal benefit for long-term diffuse harm. This must not happen and the Environment Protection Authority must be adequately resourced to keep control of this problem. But at times the habits and practices of many in society are causing environmental degradation. We are all using too much energy and making too much greenhouse gas. Some people are using too much water and affecting salinity of the land. It is necessary to have leadership and to put in place policies that address this. It is not enough to merely take symbolic actions.
I have been struck by the fact that whenever I have written a press release as a doctor on a medical matter, such as tobacco or health insurance, the media have treated me with some respect. However, when I speak as a politician I am immediately suspect. The irony is not lost on me that on the day I get the title "the honourable" I am regarded by the public as dishonourable. What will our society look like 20 years after the Olympics? Where is the 2020 vision? I want the Democrats to be a major force shaping that society. The old assumption that the government of the day would control both Houses is now gone, and that has been our success.
Parliament is no longer a rubber stamp. The Democrats have been a big part of that. But it is also part of the growing awareness that there is more to life than the old adage, "In the end it has to be one of the old parties." The old parties’ share of the total vote is declining, as was shown so graphically in Queensland recently. The Democrats are going to continue to try to keep politicians honest. We will continue to put in the ideas that governments eventually become brave enough to implement, a decade or so later. But more than that we will move forward to take our place as a major force in Australian political life. Finally, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak early in my parliamentary career.
The Hon. J. S. TINGLE [5.44 p.m.]: I shall speak briefly to the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Amendment (Ongoing Dealing) Bill. I congratulate the Hon. Dr. A. Chesterfield-Evans on his opening contribution in this House, even though there were
one or two elements with which I found it hard to agree. However, I shall not go into that. I was not going to speak on the bill, but having listened to the debate so far I felt I should make some comments. I am worried about some provisions of the bill, including whether cannabis should be included in it, the 30-day three-time loser provision and other provisions. However, I intend to leave the dissection of those measures to others who know more about them.
I express concern at the underlying theme in this bill, which expresses more concern about the rights of dealers than we should be prepared to tolerate. Why should we be worried about drug dealers and consider reduction in penalties for trafficking in drugs? Dealers know what the punishment will be if they are caught. They take the risk and, as far as I am concerned, they can cop the punishment. They go to gaol and take the chance of being bashed or raped, as the Hon. R. S. L. Jones has reminded us so many times. No-one condones that behaviour but after all it is gaol, not a holiday camp. Anybody who wants to avoid the perils and traumas of gaol should avoid going to gaol and the way to do that is not to break the law.
Dealing is about taking chances and, as with everyone, dealers are the masters and mistresses of their own destinies. We must take responsibility for our own actions. People who break the law create their own jeopardy and they must be prepared to live with it. With this bill - and all others - we should be concerned with the victims. Members of Parliament are paid to look after them, not to look after the dealers, the criminals or the people who break the laws that we make. Our job is to legislate to protect our children from being preyed on by these vultures of society who come in for the kill when their victims are weak.
So what if they have to put up with hell when they go to gaol. They introduce a large proportion of their victims to a life of hell; a downhill spiral of dependence and self-destruction. And what about the secondary victims, the ordinary members of society who are totally unattached to the drug scene but whose homes and lives are invaded and whose hard-earned money and possessions are stolen to feed drug habits? We have been told that without this legislation more drug addicts might commit further home invasions and more people, including the elderly - as is the trend these days - might be robbed and mugged.
However, do we back away from that simply because we have been, in effect, threatened with what the response will be if we do not pass the bill. People are committing crimes to feed habits knowingly introduced by these parasites, the pushers of marijuana, heroin and ecstasy, for their own financial gain or drug dependence. Not content to be alone in their misery they willingly get others hooked so that they, too, are forced to lead similar non-productive, antisocial, destructive lives. Drug use and dependence are like a cancer in our society. They take hold, grow rapidly, and destroy lives.
One commendable effect of this bill - and perhaps the only one - is to try to distinguish between the very blurred lines that divide the dealer from the user. I fully support whatever efforts are made to salvage the users. Other honourable members may not have had to stand in the emergency ward of a hospital, as I have, holding the hand of somebody very close and dear to them suffering a massive overdose of heroin, watching that life slip away as the drug took hold and the efforts of the medical teams seemed to fail. That is the most traumatic experience people can suffer, because they feel so helpless. When in that position, watching that person’s life flicker, one could cheerfully get hold of the dealers and do something drastic to them.
I do not believe it is possible to be too hard on dealers, whether they be small or large - whether it be marijuana, heroin or anything else they push - because in the end it is either them or us. Nothing is more absurd than the suggestion that a dealer’s activities can be excused because he is undertaking to feed his habit. Worse still is the ludicrous suggestion that a non-using dealer is somehow more respectable.
I will not stand by and watch our children, our families and our society be destroyed to any degree. Some of my colleagues say, "A little doesn’t matter", to which I reply, "Rubbish!" One cannot be a little bit pregnant or a little bit corrupt, and we cannot turn a blind eye to the little parts of the drug problem. Its tentacles reach into all our lives and create various degrees of heartbreak and habit. We have to give police the power to deal with drug dealers and equip courts with the power to be tough on them. We must assure society that politicians will do all they can to deal with this insidious disease. We should increase penalties, not reduce them. It is far too late for compassion - we still have a war on our hands. There is no room for compromise; that would be surrender. There can be no surrender: we must win this war. I oppose the bill.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading) [5.50 p.m.], in reply: I thank
honourable members for their contributions to the debate. I congratulate the Hon. Dr A. Chesterfield-Evans on his inaugural speech in the House. Obviously he will be a formidable member of the House and, whether we agree or disagree with his points of view, he will be an articulate spokesperson for the Australian Democrats and for the opinions he will propound. His speech was forceful, covered many issues and was delivered with admirable succinctness. I welcome him to the House. In many ways his speech was an object lesson for all of us.
I now correct one misapprehension which seems to be held by the Opposition about the way in which the new offence proposed by the bill will operate. The Government has been at pains to rebut this misconception throughout the course of the debate. The Hon. M. J. Gallacher has suggested that a person has to be convicted of three offences within 30 days and thus a dealer who has been caught twice could contract out his work to avoid a penalty for the new offence. Clearly, if this were the case the offence would have difficulties in its practical application. However, that is not the case. The offence is made out when a person supplies a prohibited drug for reward on three occasions within 30 days.
As the Government has repeatedly said, there is no suggestion that police would use that power to arrest suspects on one or two occasions, thus allowing the suspects to wait out the relevant time frame. Rather, it is expected that police will gather information on three or more occasions through surveillance and undercover work and only then arrest the suspect. Some concern has been expressed, particularly by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones and the Hon. A. G. Corbett, about the issue of entrapment. The Government dealt with entrapment in the Law Enforcement (Controlled Operations) Act 1997. That legislation carefully controls the circumstances in which police engage in what would otherwise be an unlawful course of action. Operations may be undertaken only when the dictates of crime fighting demand that course of action.
Furthermore, the legislation specifically sets out that an operation must not be authorised if it induces or encourages another person to engage in criminal activity or conduct of a kind that the other person could not reasonably be expected to engage in unless so induced or encouraged. In short, the legislation does not allow for entrapment. If police choose to operate outside the framework of this legislation they run the usual risks. These include a range of sanctions such as tortious actions and more importantly from a law enforcement perspective the charges being dismissed by a court. The bill amounts to a competent and carefully considered improvement to drug laws. The bill has attracted much attention and has taken its current form after a long and extensive consultative process.
The bill proffers a valuable and new response to the growing problem of small-scale yet systematic drug dealing in New South Wales. The bill does not provide for reduction of penalties for drug dealers, as seems to have been suggested. That is a complete misreading of the proposition. The bill creates a new offence with higher penalties. The bill toughens the Government’s response to drug dealing and provides a new weapon in the armoury of police against those who persistently engage in the commercial supply of hard drugs without restrictive emphasis on the quantities supplied on each occasion. The bill steps up the campaign against dealers where it matters - on the streets - and facilitates the apprehension, arrest and incarceration of such dealers. The bill thus forms a central plank in the Government’s commitment to make the streets of New South Wales safer for the people. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
STATUTE LAW (MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS) BILL
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [5.56 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 Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill continues the well-established statute law revision program that commenced in 1984. The statute law revision program is recognised by all members as a cost effective and efficient method of dealing with amendments of the kind included in the bill. The form of the bill is similar to that of previous bills in the statute law revision program. Schedule 1 contains policy changes of a minor and non-controversial nature that the Minister responsible for the legislation to be amended considers to be too inconsequential to warrant the introduction of a separate amending bill. The schedule contains amendments to 21 Acts. I will mention some of them to give honourable members an indication of the kind of amendments included in the schedule.
The amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 facilitate the implementation of the integrated development scheme, proposed to commence on 1 July 1998. The amendments for the most part address procedural matters in connection with development assessment and the certification of development, including the issue of complying development certificates and construction certificates. The amendments also add to regulation making powers. The bill makes a number of minor amendments to the Health Services Act 1997, including an amendment to save a determination made under the Public Hospitals Act 1929, which is subject to repeal. The relevant determination deals with the terms and conditions of work, and remuneration, of sessional visiting medical officers. Under the proposed amendment, the existing determination will be preserved, and will apply to all visiting medical officers, including those that provide services through practice companies.
The bill also amends the State Sports Centre Trust Act 1984 so as to empower the State Sports Centre Trust to grant a lease of part of the trust land, for a term of up to 41 years, for the purposes of a tennis centre and related facilities. At present, the term of such a lease cannot be more than 25 years. The last schedule 1 amendments that I will mention are the amendments to the Transport Administration Act 1988. The amendments provide for access to the New South Wales rail network to be granted to persons who contract with accredited rail operators, as well as to accredited rail operators. Because of the words used in the Act, at present a New South Wales access regime may only grant such access to an accredited rail operator.
The amendments also provide for access to be granted to a prescribed corporation proposed to be established, under an agreement between the Commonwealth and States, to provide interstate rail access. Schedule 2 deals with matters of pure statute law revision consisting of minor technical changes to legislation that the Parliamentary Counsel considers are appropriate for inclusion in the bill. Examples of amendments in schedule 2 are those omitting unnecessary material and those updating references to repealed Acts. Schedule 3 transfers savings, transitional and other provisions of possible ongoing effect from certain amending Acts to the relevant principal Acts. The transfer of such provisions permits the repeal of the amending Acts concerned because their other provisions have been incorporated in reprints or are spent. Those repeals mean that the obsolete legislation concerned need not be included in any database of New South Wales legislation in force.
Schedule 4 contains repeals. It repeals three categories of Acts: those that are no longer of practical utility, those whose amendments have been incorporated in reprints or that amend repealed Acts, those amending Acts that were enacted at least 20 years ago and those with savings and transitional provisions of ongoing effect that have been transferred to the relevant principal Act. Schedule 5 contains provisions dealing with the effect of amendments on amending Acts, savings clauses for the repealed Acts and a power to make regulations for transitional matters, if necessary, with the usual safeguards to protect the rights of citizens.
The various amendments are explained in detail in explanatory notes set out beneath the amendments to each of the Acts concerned. Rather than repeat the information contained in those notes, I invite honourable members to examine the various amendments and accompanying explanatory material and, if any concern or need for clarification arises, to approach me regarding the matter. If necessary, I will arrange for government officers to provide additional information on the matters raised. If any particular matter of concern cannot be resolved and is likely to delay the passage of the bill, the Government is prepared to consider withdrawing the matter from the bill. I commend the bill to the House.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [5.57 p.m.]: The coalition does not oppose the bill, which is a procedural mechanism to allow non-controversial bills to be brought before the House. The bill deals with a miscellaneous array of amendments to legislation, and enables the amendments to be dealt with in an efficient and effective way. These amendments are efficient and effective and are not controversial. It is the practice of the Minister that if an amendment is controversial, and indicated by a member to be controversial, it is withdrawn. The Opposition does not identify any amendments as such and, therefore, does not oppose the bill.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [5.58 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party supports the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. The bill contains amendments in five schedules. Schedule 1 contains amendments to 22 Acts. Minor changes include 60 amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 which will help implement the new integrated development scheme to start on 1 July 1998, and which have been brought forward by the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning. Obviously there is some urgency with this bill in view of the deadline of 1 July 1998.
The schedule contains an amendment to the Native Vegetation Conservation Act 1997 to correct a drafting error, which will ensure that all land acquired for the purpose of establishing a State forest is excluded from the operation of the Act. The schedule contains amendments to the Health Services Act 1997 and the State Sports Centre Trust Act 1984. Finally the schedule contains a minor amendment to the Transport Administration Act 1988 in relation to the New South Wales rail access regime. The Christian Democratic Party supports the bill.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [6.01 p.m.], in reply: I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
[The President left the chair at 6.02 p.m. The House resumed at 7.30 p.m.]
ELECTION OF PRESIDENT OF THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
The Hon. A. G. CORBETT, by leave: Madam President, it has come to my attention that the story is circulating that the reason for the delay in your election this morning was caused by my missing a train. The delay was caused in part by me attending to my de facto wife, who was ill with a migraine and incapacitated in bed. This meant that I exclusively had to take over responsibility of waking up, bathing and taking her son to school by 9.00 a.m. I caught the 9.13 a.m. train, which arrived at Central at about 11.23 a.m. At approximately 9.10 a.m. I rang my office, and my staff informed the Government and, I believe, the Opposition that I would be delayed. To care for my wife and her child before attending to my parliamentary duties was a choice I freely made, and I would do it again if need be.
PARLIAMENTARY REMUNERATION AMENDMENT BILL
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [7.34 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 main purpose of this bill is to ensure that an independent tribunal makes final and binding determinations about a full range of parliamentary entitlements at arm's length from the beneficiaries. Honourable members will be aware that the current system is a mess. It is complex, confusing, and obscure. It leaves members at risk of making mistakes which may lead to very serious consequences. This bill will usher in a new regime where a single independent body can make determinations covering both allowances and other entitlements and can set down clear rules for the application of its determinations. Members of Parliament hold a unique position. They are not self-employed or the employees of others. They hold a position of public trust to which they are elected. It is the voters who judge their performance and who may remove their representatives at periodic elections.
The role and duties of a member of Parliament must be assessed with an eye to the long history of such a position, the privileges that attach to that position, and more recent changes in the parliamentary system, such as the role of political parties, the role of committees and greater community expectations of representation in an age of vastly improved communications and transportation. The remuneration and entitlements of members of Parliament must reflect these factors, which do not arise in the case of ordinary employment. That is why it is appropriate that a specialist body, the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal, deal with parliamentary remuneration and entitlements, rather than a general body. Long gone are the days when it was argued that members of Parliament should not receive a salary. It is now recognised that Parliament should not be the exclusive domain of those with an independent income, but should be open to rich and poor alike.
Members of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly were first given pay entitlements in 1889. This payment was described as an "allowance" but soon effectively became an annual salary. However, it was not until 1966 that the remuneration paid to members of Parliament was described in legislation as a "salary". The historical absence of a clear distinction between salary and allowances has its legacy today. Confusion persists in the minds of members of the public as to what amount is received by members of Parliament as their salary, and what other amounts are paid to cover the "business costs" of members of Parliament. This bill makes it clear that the basic salary of a member of Parliament and the additional salary of a recognised office holder, is paid as personal income for the performance of their parliamentary duties. The bill does not otherwise deal with the salaries of members of Parliament and recognised office holders, which will remain to be calculated by the existing method.
Since the nineteenth century the role of members of Parliament has changed from that of part-time legislators to full-time representatives of the people. Members are not only expected to perform their legislative duties in the Parliament, but are also expected to represent their constituents and serve the State as a whole by listening to the concerns of the people, attending functions and meetings, making representations on behalf of people, investigating and resolving problems, developing policies and, where possible, implementing them. To perform these functions efficiently, members must be able to communicate, travel and have access to office facilities, staff and research facilities. These costs are similar to those involved in running a business. It is these costs that are covered by the additional allowances and entitlements which will be set by the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal.
The bill makes it clear in new subsection 2A(d) and subsection 10(1) that additional allowances and entitlements are to be provided for the purpose of facilitating the efficient performance of the parliamentary duties of members or recognised office holders. As I noted at the beginning, this bill does more than merely clarify the existing distinction between salary and allowances or entitlements. It brings under the one umbrella of the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal a range of existing allowances that had been developed on an ad hoc basis by different bodies and authorities. It will provide for a single independent and final authority on parliamentary entitlements, and will allow the creation of a single clear set of rules for the application of these entitlements. Honourable members will be well aware that the current "system", if it can even be labelled such, for the administration of members’ entitlements, is a complex matrix of rules which range from the pedantic to the Delphic. The Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal, in its most recent report of May 1998, expressed concern at the "byzantine complexity" of the current rules.
It also noted that entitlements had been accumulated in such an ad hoc manner that "there is no readily discernible logical pattern that might give logical unity of underlying purpose to the accumulation." The tribunal considered that such a situation may give rise to misconceived claims, conceptual
confusion, practical misunderstandings and suspicions in the public mind that there is insufficient transparency and accountability in the handling of parliamentary entitlements. This bill is intended to clear away the confusion and misunderstandings by creating one authoritative source for the determination of parliamentary entitlements and one set of clear rules for their application. The Government intends that a new determination and a new set of rules be established as a priority. Members cannot be expected to continue to operate in an environment of ongoing uncertainty as to the appropriateness of their actions. This is particularly important now that the Legislative Assembly has adopted a code of conduct which gives the Independent Commission Against Corruption jurisdiction to consider such matters as whether a member has applied public resources according to any guidelines or rules about the use of those resources.
Accordingly, the bill provides that the tribunal is to make an initial determination based upon its new jurisdiction by 1 December 1998, which is to take effect on and from 1 January 1999. Another aspect of the current system which has been a source of confusion is the extent to which political party activity falls within the duties of a member of Parliament. The development of political parties in the twentieth century and their vital role in policy making and the initiation of legislative proposals means that they now play a significant role in the parliamentary process. This is recognised in the code of conduct adopted by the Legislative Assembly. This has also been recognised at the Commonwealth level. The Australian Taxation Office, in its assessment of the duties of members of Parliament for the purpose of establishing deductibility of expenses, has ruled that attendance at parliamentary party meetings and annual party conventions forms part of the duties which attach to members of Parliament.
The Commonwealth’s Remuneration Tribunal, in its "1997 Decisions and Reports" accepted the view "that meetings of parliamentary political parties and the national conferences of political parties are an intrinsic part of the parliamentary process." The remuneration tribunal therefore decided to provide for travel allowance to apply to attendance at meetings of a parliamentary political party, its executive and its committees and the national conference of a political party, up to a maximum amount. The bill clarifies the meaning of "parliamentary duties" by providing that they are duties that attach to the office of the member or recognised office holder, and include participation in the activities of recognised political parties. Under the current system, the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal can make determinations about allowances and recommendations about the provisions of services, equipment or facilities. These recommendations could be accepted, rejected, implemented in part, or implemented with amendment.
This situation has given rise to two problems. The first, as noted above, is the confusion arising from the different sources of entitlements and the rules for their application, which may be based on no more than a letter or discussion. The second problem is a perception that the Government is unduly interfering with parliamentary remuneration. This bill resolves these problems by allowing the tribunal to make determinations on all matters, including services, equipment and facilities. More importantly, it underlines the Government’s commitment to ensuring that an independent body can make final determinations on matters concerning the entitlements of members. This removes any perception of conflict of interest and is consistent with the Government’s recent efforts to ensure that members cannot change their superannuation benefits without the approval of the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal.
This bill removes any control by members over their own entitlements and grants it to a judicial officer who has experience in the fixing of wages and entitlements. The determinations of the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal will have an impact upon the finances of the State. It is important that they be fiscally responsible. Accordingly, it is essential that the tribunal be given accurate costings of the financial impact of any proposal before it makes its determination. Proposed subsection 13(5) provides that before making a determination, the tribunal is required to seek the written advice of the Secretary of the Treasury as to the financial implications of the determination. For the sake of transparency and accountability, the provision also requires a copy of this advice to be annexed to the determination. In the course of the administration of parliamentary entitlements, issues often arise as to the interpretation of the rules and conditions placed upon the use of those entitlements.
Proposed section 17A provides an avenue for the Presiding Officers of the Parliament to request the tribunal to give a ruling on the interpretation or application of a determination. This will allow any controversy or dispute to be dealt with authoritatively. As with the determinations of the tribunal, such a ruling could not be challenged or reviewed in any legal proceedings. While it is intended that this bill should allow the tribunal to make determinations on additional entitlements of members and recognised office holders, it is not intended that the Parliamentary Remuneration Act be an exclusive code. Ministers, for example, will still be able to use departmental services and facilities and have their travel paid for out of departmental budgets. Members will still be able to travel overseas with the support of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. There may also be matters relating to offices and facilities within Parliament House which remain within the jurisdiction of the presiding officers. This Act is not intended to exclude such support for members and Ministers.
The final major change made by this bill is to the composition of the tribunal itself. Under the current law, the Chief Justice appoints a judge or retired judge to hold office as the tribunal for a period not exceeding three years. The present incumbent is Justice Sully. The honourable member for Manly has previously suggested that the Industrial Relations Commission should determine the entitlements of members of Parliament as it does for other workers. While the Government considers that a specialist tribunal is more suited to the unique circumstances of members of Parliament, the Government accepts that the skills of the Industrial Relations Commission in assessing entitlements and conditions of employment could be appropriately employed in the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal.
Accordingly, in the future, when a vacancy arises, the President of the Industrial Relations Commission will appoint a judicial member of the commission as the tribunal. The bill includes a transitional provision which will allow Justice Sully to complete his term as commissioner. The Government recognises and appreciates Justice Sully’s contribution to the reform of the Parliamentary Remuneration Act and his commitment to completing a new and thorough review of parliamentary entitlements by the end of the year. This bill is further evidence of the commitment of the Government to reform the system of parliamentary entitlements by making it clear, transparent, accountable, and most importantly, independent of the Parliament and the Government. I commend the bill to the House.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [7.34 p.m.]: The Opposition does not
oppose the Parliamentary Remuneration Amendment Bill. Earlier this year when the Government introduced legislative changes following the public outcry about superannuation changes I indicated that the coalition advocated amendment of the legislation in order that the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal might address all aspects of pay and entitlements of members of Parliament without political interference. I indicated that, whilst Opposition members did not oppose the changes to the superannuation legislation, an element of political interference was also present in superannuation in that a change to the legislation would require a government reference to the tribunal, a report from the tribunal and then a government decision to proceed. For both remuneration and superannuation, therefore, the Premier would need to make a political judgment, and to that extent political interference remained.
The Government did not change that situation in this bill. By and large, this bill does not deal with superannuation but with other entitlements of members of Parliament. The bill does not alter the position in relation to the basic salary of a member of the New South Wales Parliament, which is to be the basic salary of a member of the House of Representatives less $500. I understand that amongst the press gallery there is a view that as a result of this bill the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal will be able to deal at large with the basic salary. That is not correct, as the position in relation to the basic salary will not be changed. The salary of recognised office holders is determined by the Parliamentary Remuneration Act, and this bill does not alter the salary of recognised office holders. The salary and expense allowances of recognised office holders, which are contained in schedule 1, also will not be altered.
There are significant variations between the New South Wales and Federal positions as regards additional salaries and expense allowances. For instance, under Federal legislation the second column of schedule 1, which provides the proportion of additional salary that is to go to expense allowance, has been removed and embodied in the Federal equivalent of the first schedule. However, this bill does not address schedule 1 to the original Act. It would have been timely for the Government to have given the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal the role of reviewing schedule 1 to allow for submissions both in relation to additional salaries and expense allowances and in relation to taking that out of the political arena in the long term. The Government has not done that. At some time the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal will need to have a role in relation to schedule 1, so that clear anomalies in the schedule can be addressed without political interference.
The bill inserts a new section 9, which clearly sets out the functions of the tribunal. New section 10 sets out new general provisions for determinations of additional entitlements. It must be recognised that under the structure of the Act there are basic salaries, salaries and expense allowances of office holders, allowances of members - regarded as the traditional electorate allowances - and various additional entitlements. As I understand it the amended Act will allow the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal to review annually, without political interference, electorate allowances and all the other entitlements of members.
The amended Act will also allow that review to be carried out having regard to the various duties carried out by members. The bill makes it clear that basic salaries will constitute personal income for the performance of parliamentary duties. There are to be statutory additional salaries, which will be regarded as the personal income for office holders for the carrying out of their parliamentary duties. There are to be statutory expense allowances for the purposes of facilitating the efficient performance of parliamentary duties of those recognised office holders, and there are to be additional allowances and other entitlements for the purpose of facilitating the efficient performance of parliamentary duties by members or recognised office holders.
The legislation makes it clear that included within members’ parliamentary duties are the political activities of members of recognised parties. Members of the tribunal have had difficulty with that subject. That was acknowledged by the Independent Commission Against Corruption in its recent report, which seemed to suggest that there was a difference between members performing parliamentary duties and members performing political duties. It is not possible, in fact, to draw any such distinction. From the day a member is elected to Parliament that member performs both parliamentary and political duties. In a sense, those duties are part and parcel of a member’s obligations to the whole of the community. This legislation makes it clear that there is to be no distinction between parliamentary and political duties.
However, two aspects of this legislation still need to be addressed. I have asked the Government privately to address those aspects and I now do so publicly. During the past five or seven years a number of determinations have been made by the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal in which the tribunal has recommended a system of trade-offs, in
other words, that members be permitted to trade off their income in return for services that would assist them in carrying out their duties. For example, one item is providing members of the New South Wales Parliament, particularly members representing rural electorates, with the same benefit enjoyed by Federal members in relation to the leasing of vehicles.
If my recollection is correct, the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal has addressed that issue on three separate occasions. Legal advice indicates that that benefit cannot be provided because the contract that such a trade-off would entail would potentially give rise to an office of profit under the Crown. That would be a breach of the Constitution Act, and it would therefore be necessary to amend that Constitution Act. That issue needs to be addressed. The public and private sectors are now generally aware that a salary package can be accompanied by income trade-offs.
If the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal recommends such income trade-offs, the Constitution Act should contain no restriction on the implementation of that recommendation. I ask the Government to review that matter. If it was intended that the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal be given total powers in relation to these matters, those powers should not be fettered, particularly as the tribunal has on at least three occasions sought legislative change to achieve that.
Section 12(3) also needs to be addressed. As I have said, my understanding is that under the amended structure of the Act entitlements will be reviewed annually. If the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal determines to change entitlements, that determination will take effect immediately. Section 12 allows the Premier, as the responsible Minister, to direct the tribunal to make a special determination in regard to additional entitlements at any time during the year. Under section 12, the Premier, having asked for a determination by the tribunal, may still veto that determination. The Premier is able to do that because subsection (3) provides that special determination is to be made at such time as may be directed by the Minister. I have no difficulty with that. However, the subsection also provides that the determination will have effect from such time as the Premier as the responsible Minister directs.
If the tribunal makes a determination and the Premier decides that it is not politically opportune to proceed with it, he will never issue the necessary direction under subsection (3), and the tribunal’s determination will never have effect. As I understand it, that is not the Government’s intention. It is intended that all political interference be removed and that the determinations of the tribunal will have effect. I believe that the Government should consider replacing the word "Minister" with the word "tribunal", in section 12(3) of the Act, so that the tribunal will be able to give the necessary direction as to when its determination will have effect. That is consistent with the direction and philosophy of the bill.
If that is done, the Government, with the support of the coalition, will have fulfilled its commitment. The Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal, an independent tribunal, will determine the allowances and entitlements of members. That is subject to the qualification I referred to earlier, that is, that there will still be an element of political interference in that the government of the day will be required to make any decision to alter schedule 1 and, therefore, the matter must come before the Parliament. It would have been desirable to have a clause in the bill allowing the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal to make such changes to schedule 1 as it considered appropriate having regard to submissions made to it. That would have ensured that all aspects of this legislation were dealt with independently. With those comments I indicate that the Opposition does not oppose the bill.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
SUPERANNUATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [7.49 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 Superannuation Legislation Amendment Bill 1998 introduces a number of miscellaneous amendments to the New South Wales public sector superannuation statutes that have been agreed with the Labor Council of New South Wales, for the purposes of removing longstanding anomalies from some provisions and making some important improvements. Most of the proposed changes have been the subject of close examination by a consultative committee set up under the auspices of the Director-General of the Premier’s Department and the Treasury to consult with the Labor Council and the superannuation trustees on appropriate changes in these
important employee benefit provisions. Their cost has been the subject of report by the Treasury and confined to an acceptable, modest level, and the proposals have sought to address, appropriately, issues of inequity in entitlements.
I will outline in brief detail the various elements of the legislation for the benefit of members, in their order of appearance in the bill. In the First State Superannuation Act 1992 amendments were made by the Superannuation Legislation Further Amendment Act 1997 in relation to the provision of benefits on financial hardship and compassionate grounds, where the scheme member had not become entitled to payout. This benefit payout was made available in the New South Wales public sector schemes only to those who had a preserved benefit in a scheme. In First State Super (the FSS scheme), this amendment inadvertently took away an existing right, for in that scheme continuing members already had access to payout on financial hardship and compassionate grounds. The purpose of the present amendment is to correct the error and restore the rights of continuing members. To cover the intervening period since commencement of the 1997 amendment the Government had arranged for the making of a transitional and savings regulation. But it will now be necessary also to ensure that newly joined members since the amendment have rights to claim benefit payouts covering the intervening period.
Major amendments are being made by this proposed legislation to aid the implementation of part-time work in the police force. The proposed amendments are being made to the Police Superannuation Scheme, PSS, under the Police Regulation (Superannuation) Act 1906. Introduction of part-time provisions will create improved access by police to flexible work practices by enabling part-time employees to contribute at proportional rates and by amending the leave- without-pay provisions already in the Act. This would put police on an employment footing comparable with other sectors of public employment. In PSS, which has a strictly service-based benefit structure, the approach adopted for a benefit apportionment is based on "equivalent full-time service". This is similar to the approach adopted for the State Authorities Superannuation Scheme, SASS, which also provides coverage for police.
Issues associated with scheme equity in relation to the treatment of leave without pay, LWOP, have also been addressed in the context of the amendments for part-time work in the PSS, using the approach proposed for part-time work. In SASS no distinction is made between part-time work and part-time LWOP. It is proposed, therefore, in PSS to concurrently amend LWOP provisions so that part-time LWOP is treated in the same manner for part-time employment, as is currently the case in SASS. The actual amendments to introduce provisions for part-time work in PSS will pro-rate contributions by the use of a salary ratio, and will pro-rate benefits by converting length of service to ‘equivalent full time service’ using formulae inserted into provisions for benefits. As I have said, no distinction is to be made between part-time work and part-time LWOP. The various formulae enable adjustment of entitlements to correctly reflect the member’s actual and potential service at the time of exit. These new provisions represent a very important improvement in superannuation scheme design for police, which will enable better career planning and more flexible working arrangements particularly for women police.
A simple amendment is made at the request of the Labor Council in the State Authorities Superannuation Scheme (SASS). This relates to improved provisions for continuity of service in the scheme on changing employers. SASS provides contributors with rights to continue scheme membership as long as they resume employment with a scheme employer before the end of the next month after leaving. This will occur provided the contributor does not apply for a benefit from the scheme, and allows the contributor between four and eight weeks in which to be re-employed with membership continuity. For example, if the employee ceased employment on 31 January, he or she would only be able to continue in the scheme if re-employed before 28 February. This compares unfavourably with State Superannuation Fund, SSF, provisions which allow a break of up to three months.
At the request of the Labor Council, it is proposed that the contributor be allowed a break in service of up to three calendar months, if a benefit has not been applied for. Thus, if the contributor ceased employment on 10 January, he or she would have until 9 April to be re-employed and elect to resume contributions. Employer contributions for the intervening contribution periods - using the example I quoted, from 31 January to 30 April - would be made by the employer with whom the contributor resumed employment. This would bring the provisions for SASS in line with those for SSF.
In this bill there are a number of amendments made at the request of the Labor Council to remove anomalies in the State Superannuation Fund, SSF, which was closed to new members in 1985. I will deal with each in turn. In the SSF the benefit from the scheme on withdrawal, dismissal or discharge consists of a refund of contributions to which is added interest where service exceeds five years, and a supplement plus interest where service exceeds 10 years. The interest rates applying before 1 July 1990 were set statutory rates which were usually exceeded by the actual fund earning rate. The rates are: before 1 July 1972, 3.5 per cent per annum; and from that date to 30 June 1990, 4.5 per cent per annum. The rate applied from 1 July 1990, in accordance with Commonwealth regulations, is set having regard to the actual fund earning rate.
At the request of the Labor Council, it is proposed to improve benefits by replacing the statutory interest rates from 1 July 1972 with rates set having regard to fund earning rates. The Government Actuary has advised that the resulting benefit could be larger than the retirement benefit for some long-serving members. This is not intended and would encourage, in some cases, premature terminations of employment. As a result, the Premier’s Department has proposed that a cap be applied to the extent of the possible benefit increase. The improved withdrawal benefit will not be allowed to exceed the lump-sum benefit applicable on early or normal retirement, in each individual case. If the improved withdrawal benefit were not capped in this way, the retirement benefit would be increased - in a scheme which was closed because of its high costs. It should be noted that the proposed capping does not eliminate this effect but serves to reduce the associated financial incentives for premature resignations.
At the request of the Labor Council it is proposed that the discount rate used in the scheme’s retrenchment formula - to account for the early payment of the accrued benefit - be reduced. From the Labor Council’s perspective, this benefit in the SSF for those offered voluntary redundancy compares unfavourably with the benefits being paid to SASS members, sometimes with less service. While SASS members have generally made higher contributions to achieve the higher benefits being paid, this is causing SSF employees to refuse redundancy offers and exercise their right to redeployment. Employers with significant numbers of these excess employees can face industrial and financial difficulties as a result.
The triennial actuarial valuations of the scheme for 1987, 1991 and 1994 recommended a 1 per cent reduction in this discount factor from 8 per cent to 7 per cent per year. Case studies showed that an appropriate discount rate of 4 per cent, which was subsequently agreed by the consultative committee, should be adopted, and is put in place by these proposed amendments. The Labor Council also recommended a change in the provisions in SSF for commutation of pension for pensioners who had exited the scheme before 1 July 1985. Commutation is the technical term in superannuation for the conversion of a pension to a lump-sum payment which exhausts the pension rights. Since 1 July 1985, an anomaly was created by giving new SSF pensioners the right to exchange all or some of their pension rights for a lump sum at age 60. This right will shortly also be available at age 55 for women who elected to retire at that age, on proclamation of commencement of antidiscrimination amendments following their recent passage through Parliament.
However, for those whose pensions commenced before 1 July 1985, only part of the pension could be commuted. Single pensioners must retain a minimum of $20 pension per fortnight and all subsequent CPI increases. Married pensioners must retain a minimum of $34 pension per fortnight and all subsequent CPI increases. As well, any part of the pension relating to abandoned units cannot be commuted. It is proposed that SSF pensioners whose pensions commenced before 1 July 1985 be subject to the same provisions as those whose pensions commenced after 1 July 1985. This would flow on to any reversionary spouse benefits so that spouse benefits could be fully commuted to a lump sum as well.
In terms of these proposals all pre-1 July 1985 breakdown pensioners who subsequently reach age 60 - or 55, if applicable - after the commencement of the amendment would be allowed six months to commute all of their pensions. All pre-1 July 1985 pensioners, breakdown and retirement, who have already commuted all but the amount not allowed under the Act as it currently stands, will have a limited time - six months - from the commencement date to commute the remaining pension. The factor to be used for commutation will be that applicable to their age at the time the new commutation takes effect. This proposal is expected to generate initial cash-flow requirements of approximately $111 million in the first year but generate substantial long-term savings. Particular reference is made to the potential financial impact on individual employers of this proposal in my later comments on the cost of these proposals.
The last amendment that I want to speak about is made at my request to the Superannuation Administration Act 1996, which comes within my ministerial responsibility. The proposed amendment relates to the powers of the FSS Trustee Corporation to appoint external funds managers for the superannuation funds under its administration, and were sought by the trustee corporation. Under the Public Authorities (Financial Arrangements) Act 1987, the trustee, which is a scheduled body under that Act, must have the approval of the Treasurer for any proposed funds manager appointment. My departmental officers have recommended that this requirement be dispensed with in the case of the FSS Trustee Corporation. This recommendation was made having in mind the arm’s length relationship to the Government of the trustee, its level of expertise in funds management, and the impediment to the decision-making powers and performance of the trustee represented by the need to seek approval for every change in funds manager. Other requirements of the Public Authorities (Financial Arrangements) Act will continue to apply to the trustee.
I wish now to undertake a brief examination of the cost consequences for the amendments proposed. The Treasury was closely consulted on the cost consequences of the proposals and provided a cost analysis. In the view of my officers, the package provided either procedural changes to the structure of the State public sector superannuation schemes with no significant costs, or changes to alter the timing of payment, form of payment, or rate of growth of some retirement benefits. These latter changes would result in some significant costs to be borne from the employer reserves within the schemes. Overall, this analysis recognised that there is a net advantage to be gained by bringing payment of relatively few long-term benefits forward in time, thus reducing long-term accrual of those benefits and creating very large savings in debt-raising costs which would otherwise be deferred. In relation to the specific proposals where significant additional costs or cash flows will be incurred, Treasury officers commented as follows:
The proposal to improve interest earning provisions for the SSF withdrawal benefit, when taken with the capping of the benefit, is expected to result in an increase in the unfunded liabilities of no more than $60 million in net present value terms.
The proposed improvement in the retrenchment benefit in the SSF by reducing the discount factor from 8 per cent to 4 per cent would cost $45 million per 10,000 redundancies, in net present value terms. These costs are based on the assumption that the profile of retrenched members would approach that of existing contributors.
Commutation of residual pensions in the SSF emerging before 1 July 1985 is estimated to result in savings of the order of $200 million in net present value terms in relation to those pensioners turning 60 after commencement of the legislation. An additional saving could be expected for those who have already turned 60 and elect to commute their compulsory residual pensions.
However, the new provisions would also bring forward future cash flows. As of 31 December 1997, there were 5,929 retirement pensioners or their spouses over the age of 60 in receipt of residual pensions after their commutation. Making assumptions about the rate of commutation applied and the number of pensioners who would take up the fresh offer to commute, the immediate cash-flow impact of this proposal would be $147.6 million. In addition, there is the staggered cash flow associated with the 75 pre-1 July 1985 pensioners who will turn 60, or 55 for certain female contributors, after commencement of the amendment. The combined cash-flow effect in the first year could, therefore, be around $150 million, less the pensions paid, which brings about an additional $111 million to be drawn from scheme reserves.
By way of general comment, my officers stated that the total package of measures is expected to result in a net saving over the life of the State Superannuation Fund. This saving will be reflected as reduced unfunded superannuation liabilities reported at 30 June 1999. However, attention needs also to be focused on whether the cash flows that the proposals generate in the first one to three years can be supported by the existing reserves in the affected scheme without requiring additional funding by employers beyond their existing funding plans. The conclusion reached with regard to employers generally was that the increased cash flows generated by the package of proposals could be met from existing employer reserves.
This package of amendments consists of, principally, a number of measures requested by, and agreed to with, the Labor Council, to redress significant anomalies in the closed public sector employee superannuation schemes. In this regard the Government has welcomed the valuable opportunity of close consultation with the Labor Council and its representatives. The present measures will be beneficial to many scheme members and former members, by reducing and relieving inequities that, no doubt, have acted as a constant irritant for them over many years. The amendments to provide for part-time employment in the police superannuation scheme represent, as I have remarked already, a significant improvement, allowing the scheme adequately to provide for modern employment conditions. I feel that many serving police who are members of the scheme will welcome these improvements. I commend the bill to the House.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [7.49 p.m.]: The coalition will not oppose this bill. As the Minister said in his second reading speech, the objects of the bill are to enable additional persons to receive a benefit on compassionate grounds or on grounds of severe hardship under the First State Superannuation Scheme; to recognise, for the purposes of contributions and benefits under the Police Superannuation Scheme, police officers who work part time; to extend the maximum period after leaving employment within which a person may resume employment with an employer and resume contributions under the State Authorities Superannuation Scheme; to remove the requirement placed on the FSS Trustee Corporation to obtain the Treasurer’s approval to the appointment of a funds manager; to enable certain pensions under the State Superannuation Scheme to be commuted, and to improve withdrawal and retrenchment benefits under that scheme; and to make consequential amendments and necessary provisions of a savings and transitional nature.
Clearly, anomalies have arisen from earlier changes aimed at bringing the cost of superannuation under control. The Government has said that these amendments will deal with those anomalies. I note that the Minister said in his second reading speech that the proposal is expected to generate initial cash-flow requirements of approximately $111 million in the first year but to generate substantial long-term savings. However, the Minister has not given a clear statement of what will be the total cost to Treasury of these changes. The Minister said later in his second reading speech that the combined cash-flow effect in the first year could be about $150 million, less the pensions paid. Again, it is not clear what will be the impact on Treasury of these changes. The Opposition has made a commitment to try to bring under control the burgeoning cost of the many State superannuation schemes. Indeed, when I was Minister for Industrial Relations I initiated changes to bring that burgeoning cost under control. That area of superannuation administration now falls under the control of the Treasurer.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: No, it has always come under the Premier. I have responsibility as the shareholder for the statutory-owned corporations.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: Under the coalition Government the Minister for Industrial Relations had that responsibility. The Treasurer indicates that under this administration the Premier has that responsibility. However, the Treasurer will have to bear the financial burden of any changes to State superannuation legislation. It would have been beneficial to the Parliament to know the long-term cost of these changes. The long-term cost burden of superannuation has reduced significantly, and these provisions will lessen the controls that are in place. I recognise the need to change the police superannuation scheme because many police officers will be allowed to engage in permanent part-time work.
Under the coalition’s policy proposals, retired police officers will be encouraged to engage in permanent part-time work so that their significant skills are not lost. Clearly, that will have a cost impact under this proposal, and the extent of that impact needs to be understood. As I have said, the Opposition does not object to the policy approach in this legislation, but the community should have some understanding of the annual cost of these changes and of the impact upon those schemes, which until now have been closed but which effectively will be partially reopened under this legislation.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [7.56 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party supports this bill, which covers a number of persons involved in superannuation. The bill will enable additional persons to receive a benefit on compassionate grounds or on grounds of severe hardship under the First State Superannuation Scheme; it will recognise for the purposes of contributions and benefits under the Police Superannuation Scheme police officers who work part time; and it will extend the maximum period after leaving employment within which a person may resume employment with an employer and resume contributions under the State Authorities Superannuation Scheme. There are also other positive provisions that amend various public sector superannuation Acts.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
LEGAL PROFESSION AMENDMENT (COSTS ASSESSMENT) BILL
The Hon. A. G. CORBETT [8.00 p.m.]: I seek leave to move A Better Future for our Children amendments Nos 1, 2 and 3 in globo.
The CHAIRMAN: As the Opposition intends to move amendments to the amendments to be moved by the Hon. A. G. Corbett, it may be easier for the Committee to deal with them individually.
The Hon. A. G. CORBETT [8.01 p.m.]: I move A Better Future for our Children amendment No. 1:
No. 1 Page 3, schedule 1. Insert after line 10:
Insert after section 175:
175A Obligation to disclose that costs in motor vehicle accident matters are regulated
(1) A barrister or solicitor who is retained on behalf of a client in a motor vehicle accident matter must, if there is a regulation in force under section 196(1) (a1), disclose to the client in accordance with this Division:
(a) that the regulation fixes the fair and reasonable costs for legal services provided in a motor vehicle accident matter, and
(b) that, in the absence of a conditional costs agreement with the client, the barrister or solicitor is not entitled to be paid or recover for a legal service an amount that exceeds the fair and reasonable cost fixed for the service by the regulation.
The Opposition’s proposed amendments provide that any regulation of costs will not have effect if the client and the legal practitioner enter into a costs agreement. Having given consideration to the principles involved in costs agreements, I support the proposal and therefore will propose certain modifications of it. Legal costs associated with motor accident matters should be regulated. By granting the Attorney General regulation making power in respect of these costs, a cap would be put on them. However, specialist practitioners in the field of motor accident injuries who have considerable skill and expertise should be able to enter into certain types of costs agreements with their clients.
In coming to this view I have been made aware of the arguments of the Law Society with respect to costs agreements. The society is of the view that the existing Act offers adequate protection for clients, that legal services should be provided in an open market, and that costs agreements at variance with regulated costs operate successfully in the Federal and Family courts. I am supportive of the thrust of these arguments, but I am mindful to ensure that an appropriate balance is struck between the interests of clients, the legal profession and the legitimate objective of putting a brake on costs associated with motor accident matters. As an underlying principle I accept the value of regulating such costs. However, I want to provide flexibility to recognise that some legal practitioners may merit fees in excess of that provided by the regulation.
Such costs should, however, be permitted only if the client agrees following a full disclosure of all relevant matters, and only if payment of the agreed costs is conditional on the successful outcome of the matter. I propose this and other amendments to establish both these preconditions. Clients in motor vehicle accident matters should only be required to pay higher costs than those provided for in the regulations if their solicitor or barrister is confident of successfully pursuing their matters. The services of the solicitor or barrister are worth a premium over and above the regulated costs only if the matter is subsequently concluded successfully. Conditional costs agreements are already provided for in the Legal Profession Act.
Section 186(1) provides that a costs agreement may be made with payment of a barrister’s or solicitor’s costs contingent upon successful outcome of the legal outcome. The client may want to enter into an arrangement that provides for high fees in order to secure the talents of a particularly skilful or experienced advocate. Such an arrangement will only protect the client if he or she agrees to the high costs and if payment of those costs is made contingent on a win for the client. The Legal Profession Act already provides for the disclosures a barrister or solicitor must make before a valid costs
agreement can be entered into. Section 175 of the Act provides that the legal profession must disclose the amount of the costs, the basis for calculating costs, the billing arrangements, the client’s right to see the bill of costs and the client’s right in relation to a review of costs.
These safeguards, in combination with the existence of the Legal Services Commissioner, are satisfactory. The obvious shortcoming is that they do not explicitly require the disclosure of any other legal provisions that have a bearing on this matter. I want to provide an additional safeguard for the client, and that is the substance of amendment No. 1. It will create new section 175A to immediately follow the existing disclosure requirements. New section 175A will provide that a barrister or solicitor retained in a motor vehicle accident must advise the client of the existence of a regulation covering costs in such matters.
If there is such a regulation the barrister or solicitor cannot charge any more than the amount provided for by the regulations, unless a conditional costs agreement is entered into between the client and the solicitor or barrister. Such a conditional costs agreement can be entered into only after the solicitor or barrister has made the disclosure required by this section, as well as the other disclosures provided for by the Act. In the event of a dispute over the costs, a failure to disclose the existence of the regulation before arriving at a conditional costs agreement will result in costs being limited to the amount established by the regulation.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading) [8.06 p.m.]: I agree with the Hon. A. G. Corbett that there is a case for some measure of regulation of legal fees in motor accident litigation. Obviously, a regulation made pursuant to the regulation-making power would be made only after due consultation with the legal profession and other interested groups. So long as I am Attorney General I give the undertaking that there will be appropriate consultation with interest groups before any regulation is made. This House reserves its rights and powers to disallow any regulation if it is unreasonable, unacceptable, or inappropriate in the public interest. We are really talking about a regulation making power, and nothing in the legislation abrogates the power or the right of this House to disallow an inappropriate regulation.
The Government will accept amendment No. 1 of the Hon. A. G. Corbett, which provides that if a regulation is made to set fair and reasonable costs in motor accident proceedings, there is an obligation upon a barrister or solicitor to disclose that fact to the client. This part of the amendment simply confirms the operation of the existing disclosure requirements. I note that the amendment to introduce new section 175A(1)(b) will apply only if the member’s second amendment is also carried. The effect would be to require a barrister or solicitor to disclose that he or she is not entitled to be paid an amount that exceeds the regulated costs unless there is in place a conditional costs agreement. There are cost pressures on the motor accidents scheme, one of which is legal fees, and it is reasonable that the Parliament enact a provision that enables Executive Government to constrain those legal costs subject only to the powers of both Houses of Parliament to disallow the regulation.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [8.08 p.m.]: I note that the Government will agree to the amendment of the Hon. A. G. Corbett, which by and large emanates from detailed submissions by both the Law Society and the Bar Association in the strongest possible terms. However, there is a departure from the submissions received from the Bar Association and the Law Society and from the amendment advocated by the Hon. A. G. Corbett. For that reason I move Opposition amendment No. 1:
(2) The disclosure must be made before the barrister or solicitor enters into any conditional costs agreement with the client.
No. 1 That the amendment be amended by omitting "conditional" wherever occurring from proposed section 175A.
The amendment of the Hon. A. G. Corbett will have the potential to increase costs rather than reduce them. The current structure of the Legal Profession Act is to recognise that solicitors must inform their clients as to the costs. Under the structure of the legislation introduced by me as Attorney General, the concept of providing advanced information for clients is aimed at generating competition between legal service providers.
The legislation then provides for costs agreements; that is, in order to identify reasonable costs the party and the solicitor should enter into an agreement. The third concept is for a costs uplift, that is, the solicitor and the client enter into a conditional costs agreement. It is only when a conditional costs agreement has been entered into that the solicitor can uplift the fees by a potential 25 per cent. That is commonly known as a no-win, no-fee arrangement. Such arrangements are really conditional costs agreements.
The amendment of the Hon. A. G. Corbett provides for a regulation to fix fair and reasonable costs. Fair and reasonable costs are departed from if the parties have a conditional costs agreement. The
consequence will be for all practitioners to be told that they should enter into conditional costs agreements, not ordinary costs agreements, because the regulations will not have to be complied with. That would mean that clients would potentially have to meet a 25 per cent uplift in fees, that is, in their own liabilities. I acknowledge that the effect of the amendment of the Hon. A. G. Corbett is to require notification or disclosure to clients before they enter into these agreements.
We know that in third party matters clients are told there are regulated costs. However, provided the parties enter into a no-win no-fee arrangement, the client will face a 25 per cent uplift. That is a benefit that will encourage more people to enter into no-win no-fee agreements. The Opposition’s proposal is that the term "conditional" be deleted from the legislation. That will make it clear that clients will be informed upfront that there are regulations as to what are fair and reasonable costs. One can enter into either a costs agreement or a conditional costs agreement and that will encourage more competition in the marketplace and will have the potential to reduce the costs people will pay out of their own pockets.
As between the insurance company and the client fair and reasonable costs will be paid. With a conditional costs agreement the money comes directly out of the plaintiff’s pocket - that is where the 25 per cent uplift comes from - not out of the insurer’s pocket. The amendment of the Hon. A. G. Corbett will encourage more money to be taken out of the plaintiff’s own pockets, which should not be encouraged. The Opposition’s amendment is supported by all professional bodies in this field, who understand the long-term implications of the amendment moved by the Hon. A. G. Corbett. Therefore I urge the Committee to agree to the amendment of the Hon. A. G. Corbett as amended by my amendment.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading) [8.13 p.m.]: The Government opposes the amendment moved by the Opposition to the amendment moved by the Hon. A. G. Corbett amendment. The Opposition’s amendment would fundamentally undermine the concept of regulating legal fees in motor accident cases. The removal of the word "conditional" would allow a solicitor or a barrister to enter into a costs agreement with a client, requiring the client to pay in excess of the amount set by the regulation.
Obviously it would become universal to have a costs agreement, and any regulation would be rendered nugatory; any regulation would be undermined by what would become a consistent, indeed universal, practice of having a costs agreement that could - and one assumes would - set fees over and above the fees prescribed by the regulation as being fair and reasonable. One might be accused of being an old-fashioned regulator in this area, but anecdotal and empirical material shows that legal costs have blossomed in the motor accident litigation field post deregulation.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: They have grown like a mushroom.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I believe the costs have. In a sense I am not critical of legal practitioners who, with deregulation, can charge what the market will bear. The question is whether we should move back to a more regulatory regime in that sphere of litigation, as has happened with workers compensation which is regulated. In workers compensation there are cost fees. This Government turned back the clock in respect of workers compensation by reducing legal fees by 10 per cent by way of regulation. The decision was a little controversial but lawyers have lived with it and continue to do the work and continue to thrive. It has not been the end of civilisation as we know it.
Maybe any Government, whether Labor or coalition, needs a bit of power to incrementally turn back that regulatory regime of motor accident fees and determine that legal costs ought to be constrained to one effect. The Government is of the view that the Opposition amendment of the amendment has the distinct potential to undermine the effectiveness of any regulation which may have to be made in relation to legal costs for motor accident matters and would do so in a way that would be quite unfair. It would be unfair because if a regulation were made it would restrict the amount that a successful plaintiff may recover in party-party costs but would not limit the amount that persons have to pay to their lawyers if they have entered a costs agreement.
In other words, the Opposition amendment would enable lawyers for the plaintiffs to take money out of the verdict without restraint, even though the Executive Government advising the Governor had enacted a scale of fair and reasonable costs in motor accident litigation. By way of illustration, Mrs A may be hurt in a motor accident; she is not at fault and she consults a solicitor to bring proceedings to recover compensation for her injuries. She signs a costs agreement with her solicitor. The matter is not able to be settled and goes to court where Mrs A is awarded a sum of money to compensate her for her injuries and has costs awarded in her favour.
The effect of the Opposition amendment would be that Mrs A would recover on the costs award the
amount of her legal costs calculated in accordance with the regulations. That is what she would get from the respondent, that is the insurance company: costs in accordance with the regulations. However, the plaintiff will have to pay the fees of her solicitor and barrister in accordance with the costs agreement, which can reasonably be expected to be significantly higher than the regulated amount. If a regulation has to be made because of significant increases in legal costs - and I have indicated earlier that any Attorney General would only make such a regulation after appropriate consultation - the effect of the Opposition amendment would be to make the plaintiff, the person injured in a motor accident, pay for those increases while protecting the lawyers.
In 1993 when considering the Legal Profession Reform Act I supported the then Government’s amendment in relation to party-party legal costs. Those amendments were brought before the House by the then Attorney General, who now moves this amendment to the amendment. I supported the changes to the costs indemnity rule to provide that a successful litigant should recover party-party costs on the same basis as that person is required to pay his or her own legal advisers. I agreed with the then Attorney General who said that the system for assessing party-party costs was unfair as it penalised the successful litigant. It would seem now that this amendment will reintroduce the potential for that unfairness.
I note that the unfairness does not apply to the amendment proposed by the Hon. A. G. Corbett which will apply only to an amount above the rate provided by any regulation where it is by way of a conditional costs agreement that limits the amount above the fair and reasonable costs to a 25 per cent uplift. In short, I oppose the Opposition amendment to the amendment, but support the amendment moved by the Hon. A. G. Corbett.
Question - That Opposition amendment No. 1 of amendment be agreed to - put.
The Committee divided.
Mrs Arena Rev. Nile
Mr Bull Dr Pezzutti
Mrs Chadwick Mr Ryan
Mrs Forsythe Mr Samios
Mr Gallacher Mr Rowland Smith
Miss Gardiner Mr Tingle
Dr Goldsmith Mr Willis
Mr Kersten Tellers,
Mr Lynn Mr Jobling
Mrs Nile Mr Moppett
Dr Burgmann Mr Macdonald
Ms Burnswoods Mr Obeid
Dr Chesterfield-Evans Mr Primrose
Mr Cohen Ms Saffin
Mr Corbett Mrs Sham-Ho
Mr Dyer Mr Shaw
Mr Egan Ms Tebbutt
Mr Johnson Mr Vaughan
Mr Jones Tellers,
Mr Kaldis Mrs Isaksen
Mr Kelly Mr Manson
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of amendment negatived.
Amendment agreed to.
The Hon. A. G. CORBETT [8.17 p.m.]: I move A Better Future for our Children amendment 2:
No. 2 Page 3, schedule 1. Insert after line 14:
 Section 196(3) and (4)
Insert after section 196(2):
(3) Subsection (2) does not apply in respect of any costs payable to a barrister or solicitor under a conditional costs agreement with a client that relates to legal services provided in a motor vehicle accident matter if:
(a) before entering into the agreement, the barrister or solicitor made any disclosure required to be made under section 175A, and
(b) the agreement complies with Division 3.
(4) Before a regulation is made under subsection (1) (a1), the Attorney General is required to ensure that:
(a) a copy of the proposed regulation is forwarded to the Law and Justice Standing Committee of the Legislative Council, and
The second amendment provides two qualifications to the regulation making process. The first relates to the capacity to enter into conditional costs agreements, which I have already addressed. The second qualification to the regulation making power provides that the Attorney General must forward a proposed regulation to the Standing Committee on Law and Justice for consideration prior to making
the regulation. This incorporates the amendment first proposed by the Opposition. Parliamentary Counsel drafted my amendments relating to conditional costs agreements and the disclosure obligation in such a way that they incorporate the rental proposals of the Opposition.
While I support the Opposition’s proposal relating to the Standing Committee on Law and Justice, I leave it to the Leader of the Opposition to provide a more substantial justification for this aspect of the amendment. However, I agree with the proposal that preparation of the regulation covering motor vehicle accidents should await the completion of the inquiry of the Standing Committee on Law and Justice into motor vehicle accidents.
I accept completely the Attorney General’s assurances that he will not make a regulation under the bill, if he were to make a regulation at all, until such time as the committee has completed its inquiry. I do not, however, believe it is precipitous or presumptuous to establish in principle a connection between this regulation making power and a requirement for review during its preparation. The Standing Committee on Law and Justice may take time to complete the inquiry, so this amendment will bind a future Attorney General who may not act upon the assurances given by the current Attorney. There is no inconsistency between accepting the Attorney’s word and providing for it in legislative form.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading) [8.29 p.m.]: The Government accepts this amendment. It provides that if a regulation were made to fix fair and reasonable costs in motor accident matters, a barrister or solicitor may charge above the amount set by the regulation where it is in accordance with the conditional costs agreement made in accordance with the conditional costs agreement provisions of the Legal Profession Act. Those provisions allow legal practitioners by agreement to charge an uplift of 25 per cent on fair and reasonable costs when that is agreed between the legal practitioner and the client, which complies with the requirements of the Act.
Whilst accepting the amendment, I signal a note of caution. I share the concern expressed by the Leader of the Opposition that it might be appropriate in many motor accident cases, perhaps in the bulk of them, for a legal practitioner to seek a conditional costs agreement because very often liability will not be an issue. The only issue might be quantum of damages. In those circumstances I would deem it inappropriate for the 25 per cent uplift, or some amount less than 25 per cent, to be embodied in a costs agreement. When solicitors and barristers acting for a plaintiff know they will secure a verdict because they know that negligence is not likely to be opposed, it seems inappropriate to have a costs agreement embodying that percentage uplift component.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [8.31 p.m.]: The Committee has agreed to the amendment relating to the obligation to disclose additional costs agreements in motor vehicle accident matters. This present amendment relates to passing regulations under section 196, which will be amended by item  of schedule 1 to the bill. The amendment proposes, in effect, to fetter the application of the regulation-making power so that section 196(3), which allows for the recovery of costs for a legal service, will provide that the costs payable to a barrister or solicitor under a conditional costs agreement that relates to a motor vehicle accident matter cannot be recovered unless there is an agreement with a client relating to that conditional costs arrangement.
For the reasons I outlined in my original argument, I propose that there be in place the ability to regulate costs and that such costs apply between the insurance company and the plaintiff. The Government advocates that process because it wants to reduce or control insurance premiums. However, the client should be able to be informed by any solicitor and to enter into an informed arrangement on how much costs they will pay. Provided the client knows the costs are regulated, the client should be able to say, "Having regard to competition, I will either pay less or more and if it is a no win no fee arrangement, I will enter into that." That was the purpose of the original Legal Practitioners Act.
That process has worked because costs under that competitive arrangement have decreased. We know also that competition did not work in the days of regulated costs. The Government wants to return to regulated arrangements to undermine the competition that has brought costs down or contained them. For that reason I shall move for the omission of the word "conditional" from proposed section 196(3) as circulated by the Hon. A. G. Corbett. The second part of the amendment by the Hon. A. G. Corbett, to which I agree, as does the Government, seeks to entrench in the legislation a role for the Standing Committee on Law and Justice. As I said in my contribution to the second reading debate, this is a new direction.
The Hon. J. W. Shaw: It is unusual.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: It is unusual, but again it is innovative and provides a role for parliamentary committees that might be examined more extensively in an environment of more open government. The Government will prepare a regulation and provide it to the law and justice committee with full details of the consultation process for determination on whether to review the regulation before it is costed. The law and justice committee has developed a significant body of expertise in motor accidents litigation. Obviously, minor amendments can be implemented in an omnibus arrangement or examined by the committee during its usual fortnightly or monthly meetings to determine whether they warrant further investigation. The Chamber is being used in a new role to provide a mechanism by which the public will have a much greater say in the making of regulations rather than in their disallowance.
As I said during the second reading debate, in Canberra the practice has developed of circulating draft regulations to the Parliament. Members of Parliament make submissions on regulations before they are gazetted. From information I have received from Canberra, this practice has resulted in enhanced community participation in the regulation-making procedure, and better regulations are being achieved. The practice will the bane of bureaucrats and it might be the bane of Ministers, but who cares? If the community has better access to and better understanding of regulations, public confidence in the parliamentary process will be enhanced. It is a novel approach that I advocated, and the Hon. A. G. Corbett has picked up. The coalition is happy to support it. Accordingly, I move:
(b) the Committee is given a reasonable opportunity to review the proposed regulation.
No. 2 Omit "conditional" from proposed section 196(3).
No. 3 Insert "costs" before "agreement" wherever occurring in proposed section 196(3)(a) and (b).
No. 4 Omit "any disclosure" from proposed section 196(3)(a). Insert instead "the disclosure".
I understand there is no controversy about amendments 3 and 4, which are a tidying of the section. Because they are agreed to by the Government, I will ask that my three amendments be dealt with seriatim. I intend that the House should divide on amendment 2, which then allows the Government to indicate its agreement to amendments 3 and 4 without the need for a division.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading) [8.40 p.m.]: In our view amendment 2 is not exactly consequential in the procedural sense but is consistent with the earlier vote taken by the Committee. To maintain consistency in the legislation the Committee should vote against that amendment.
The CHAIRMAN: Order! The Hon. A. G. Corbett has moved amendment 2, to which the Leader of the Opposition has moved Opposition amendments 2, 3 and 4. In accordance with the request that the amendments of the Opposition be dealt with seriatim, the first question is, That Opposition amendment 2 to amendment 2 of the Hon. A. G. Corbett be agreed to.
The Committee divided.
Mrs Arena Rev. Nile
Mr Bull Dr Pezzutti
Mrs Chadwick Mr Ryan
Mrs Forsythe Mr Samios
Mr Gallacher Mrs Sham-Ho
Miss Gardiner Mr Rowland Smith
Dr Goldsmith Mr Tingle
Mr Hannaford Mr Willis
Mr Kersten Tellers,
Mr Lynn Mr Jobling
Mrs Nile Mr Moppett
Dr Burgmann Mr Macdonald
Ms Burnswoods Mr Obeid
Dr Chesterfield-Evans Mr Primrose
Mr Cohen Ms Saffin
Mr Corbett Mr Shaw
Mr Dyer Ms Tebbutt
Mr Egan Mr Vaughan
Mr Jones Tellers,
Mr Kaldis Mrs Isaksen
Mr Kelly Mr Manson
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Opposition amendment 2 of amendment agreed to.
Opposition amendment 3 of amendment agreed to.
Opposition amendment 4 of amendment agreed to.
Amendment as amended agreed to.
The Hon. A. G. CORBETT [8.50 p.m.]: I move A Better Future for Our Children amendment 3:
No. 3 Page 11, schedule 1, line 24. Omit all words on that line. Insert instead:
Insert after section 208O(2):
(3) An assessment of costs fixed by regulation under section 196 (1) (a1) is to be made in accordance with that regulation, unless:
(a) the disputed costs are the subject of a conditional costs agreement that complies with division 3, and
In amendment No. 1 I established the principle that conditional costs agreements may override the regulations. My third amendment deals specifically with the regulation making power. It qualifies the power granted to the Attorney General by allowing a valid conditional costs agreement to override the regulation. Of course, following on from the first amendment, such an agreement can only follow the full disclosure of relevant matters, including the disclosure of the existence of the regulation.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [8.50 p.m.]: The coalition agrees with the amendment moved by the Hon. A. G. Corbett, subject to changes that are identical to changes already passed by the Committee - that is, Opposition amendments 2, 3 and 4. Opposition amendments 5, 6 and 7 are contingent upon the Committee having previously passed the amendments to new section 196(3). Therefore, by leave, I move the following amendments in globo:
(b) before entering into that agreement, the barrister or solicitor made any disclosure required to be made under section 175A.
No. 5 Omit "conditional" from proposed section 208O(3)(a).
No. 6 Insert "costs" before "agreement" in proposed section 208O(3)(b).
No. 7 Omit "any disclosure" from proposed section 208O(3)(b). Insert instead "the disclosure".
I ask that these amendments be dealt with seriatim. I understand that the Government opposes amendment 5, which removes the concept of conditional costs agreements and inserts the concept of conditional agreement. This amendment is consequential upon the amendments already passed by the Committee and, in view of the Government’s opposition to it, I shall call a division to maintain consistency. Amendments 6 and 7 are minor drafting changes. As they are not controversial, I understand that the Government will accept them.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading) [8.53 p.m.]: It is fair to say that the Committee has made some inconsistent decisions in its votes on this matter. It should be appreciated that if one accedes to the Opposition’s argument that any costs agreement can override a fair and reasonable legal fee prescribed by regulation, it is really open slather and is undermining the whole purpose and object of the regulation making power. There is no doubt that one of the cost drivers in the compulsory third party scheme - the green slip scheme - is legal costs.
The Executive Government would like a regulation making power to enable it to prescribe fair and reasonable legal fees. If honourable members find that regulation to be unfair, unacceptable, excessive or undertaken without due consultation, they can disallow it. That is all the Government is seeking. Opposition amendment 5 would fundamentally undermine the purpose of the amendment of the law that the Government is seeking and it would be inconsistent with an earlier decision of the Committee. Therefore, I urge the Committee to oppose the amendment.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [8.54 p.m.]: It is more than poetic licence for the Attorney General to suggest that Opposition amendment 5 completely undermines the regulation making power. It does not. As between an insurance company and a plaintiff, there will be regulated costs. Payment of costs from an insurance company to a successful plaintiff will apply in accordance with those regulated costs. However, a plaintiff - or an insurance company, if it wants to - will be able to enter into an agreement with the solicitors as to the costs that ought to be paid.
The plaintiff and the defendant, having entered into an agreement on an informed basis, will pay costs in accordance with that agreement. They will recover costs from the other party under the regulated fee arrangements. If there are to be conditional costs, the agreement will be freely entered into between the parties. It could be an agreement entered into by the plaintiff or by the defendant.
I would be interested to see whether insurance companies ever decide to take on conditional costs agreements with their solicitors. I doubt it. It would be interesting to see the advice being given by defendant insurance solicitors to their clients. I do
not think we will see it in our day, but some of the more adventurous, innovative insurance companies might be prepared to embrace it. That is what could occur under my proposal. As I said, if the parties openly want to enter into an agreement to pay costs different to the regulated costs, so be it. It will come out of their pockets. According to the amendment of the Hon. A. G. Corbett, which the Committee has agreed to, before they enter into an agreement they have to be told about the regulated costs. In the case of motor accident premiums and the liability of the insurance company if it is an unsuccessful litigant, costs will be covered by the regulation, which is the Government’s objective.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading) [8.57 p.m.]: The Leader of the Opposition’s submission is eloquent in its indication that the people who will pay these costs over and above the prescribed fair and reasonable fees will be the plaintiffs. In other words, the added costs pursuant to a costs agreement will come out of the verdicts. The plaintiffs will suffer if Opposition amendment 5 is carried. There will be added fees and the cost impost will add to the compulsory third party system.
Question - That Opposition amendment 5 of the amendment be agreed to - put.
The Committee divided.
Mrs Arena Rev. Nile
Mr Bull Dr Pezzutti
Mrs Chadwick Mr Ryan
Mrs Forsythe Mr Samios
Mr Gallacher Mrs Sham-Ho
Miss Gardiner Mr Rowland Smith
Dr Goldsmith Mr Tingle
Mr Hannaford Mr Willis
Mr Kersten Tellers,
Mr Lynn Mr Jobling
Mrs Nile Mr Moppett
Dr Burgmann Mr Macdonald
Ms Burnswoods Mr Obeid
Dr Chesterfield-Evans Mr Primrose
Mr Cohen Ms Saffin
Mr Corbett Mr Shaw
Mr Dyer Ms Tebbutt
Mr Egan Mr Vaughan
Mr Jones Tellers,
Mr Kaldis Mrs Isaksen
Mr Kelly Mr Manson
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Opposition amendment 5 of amendment agreed to.
Opposition amendment 6 of amendment agreed to.
Opposition amendment 7 of amendment agreed to.
Amendment as amended agreed to.
Bill reported from Committee with amendments and passed through remaining stages.
ENVIRONMENTAL TRUST BILL
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading) [9.08 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
This bill deals with the operations of the environmental trusts. Specifically, it seeks to secure the future of the trusts’ programs by replacing Sydney Water’s trade waste charges with a standing appropriation from the Consolidated Fund as the principal source of revenue for the scheme. The bill also sets out a range of other changes to the operations of the trusts, foremost among which is the amalgamation of the three existing trusts - the Environmental Restoration and Rehabilitation Trust, the Environmental Research Trust and the Environmental Education Trust - into a single trust able to perform all of the functions of the existing bodies. These changes will establish a framework within which the new trust can determine allocations of funds according to the environmental priorities of the day and not, as is currently the case, according to how much money is available in each individual trust.
This is an important package of reforms. It concerns the long-term viability of the programs that have been run under the environmental trusts scheme since it commenced eight years ago. When the three trusts were set up in 1990, the Government of the day had support from the Opposition for the initiative. Notwithstanding that broad support, the then Opposition raised a number of important issues about the proposed trusts. Not least among these was the philosophy of funding the trusts from trade waste charges. These issues were relevant then - even more so now. Since coming to office, the Carr
Government has spearheaded an unprecedented level of reform in the area of environmental policy.
I seek leave to have the remainder of the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
One hugely significant initiative, among the many, has been the introduction of a scheme for load-based licensing. When this Parliament enacted legislation to establish the load-based licensing scheme it created an important financial incentive for industry to care for the environment. Also, the inequities in the existing system of licensing will be removed by these reforms. The Government believes that the commencement of the load-based licensing scheme later this year will raise legitimate questions about the present system of trade waste charges imposed by Sydney Water on its customers.
This bill is needed to ensure that the environmental trusts scheme can continue to function properly regardless of the outcome of any future review of Sydney Water Corporation’s trade waste charges. I stress the word "future" here. The Government’s intention in introducing this bill is to say two things: the environmental trust scheme is important and its future funding should be secured and the present source of revenue for the scheme may change in the future as a result of recent reforms. What is being proposed does not pre-empt the outcome of any review. It simply ensures that the trusts will continue irrespective of when, in the near future, a review trade waste charges occurs, or what its outcome is.
The bill provides for the replacement of trade waste charges at any time up to, and including, the 2000-2001 financial year. Another of the Carr Government’s initiatives with relevance to the trusts scheme is the Contaminated Land Management Act. That Act clearly applies the polluter-pays principle to the issue of the remediation of contaminated land. When the environmental trusts were established, no such mechanism was available and, hence, a disproportionately large amount of the trusts’ revenue was committed to achieving environmental restoration and rehabilitation. The capacity to adequately fund environmental research and environmental education was greatly diminished because of this feature of the original scheme.
The Government believes that as a consequence of its contaminated land reforms, the time has come to allow greater flexibility in the operation of the trusts. This bill is needed to ensure that this flexibility is built into the scheme and that scarce resources can be applied to whatever activity will achieve the best environmental outcome. In essence, the Government believes that the environmental trusts scheme needs to be preserved, but in a form that recognises the changes in environment protection since they were established.
Rather than three separate trusts, one is proposed. A single trust will be able to perform all the functions of the three existing trusts, but will provide a forum for informed discussion about which activities - rehabilitation, research or education - should be accorded the highest priority in a given year. A single trust will also be administratively more efficient than the present system. Each year this single trust will receive from the Consolidated Fund an amount of $13.5 million indexed. This represents the same level of funding as presently provided to the trusts through Sydney Water’s trade waste charges.
Minimum allocations for each of the areas of environmental rehabilitation, research and education are established by the bill - $1 million, $0.5 million and $0.5 million respectively. Amendments introduced to the bill in the other place ensure that these amounts are available for community groups. This represents approximately 15 per cent of the total amount that can be distributed in any given year. The balance will be available to organisations within the public and private sectors according to the trust’s priorities that year.
A specific allocation for community groups follows the precedent established by the Forestry Restructuring and Nature Conservation Act and recognises that community groups have far less certainty regarding funding than do other sectors involved in carrying out environmental projects. Guaranteeing minimum levels of funding for community groups will provide a framework for better planning in this sector and, therefore, better linkages to programs being run in other sectors. The proposed membership of the new trust deals with the issues raised by the then Opposition in debate on the original trust bills eight years ago. The concern expressed at that time was that these bodies were, perhaps, a little top-heavy with Ministers.
Under the proposals in this bill, the Minister for the Environment will chair the trust, with four other members drawn respectively from the Treasury, the Environment Protection Authority, the environmental community and local government. The inclusion of local government demonstrates, yet again, the Carr Government’s commitment to partnership with local government in environment protection. Some concern has been expressed in the other place about the absence of industry representation on the new trust. The Government believes that industry input to the trust’s programs and processes is critical. However, we feel that this is best achieved by ensuring that industry expertise is employed in the assessment of applications to the trust.
I might remind honourable members that industry was represented on only two of the three existing trusts - and only the manufacturing industry at that. Under the model proposed in this bill, technical committees will be formed that ensure that expertise from any relevant sector - be it primary industry, secondary industry, small business, local government, the research community or the environmental community - is brought to bear on the assessment of applications. The new trust will continue to have each application to it assessed by technical committees. This will ensure that appropriate expertise is brought to the review of all applications and that trust decisions continue to be based on merit.
To further improve the transparency of the trust’s grants decisions, the bill requires that the trust determine a grants program for each financial year and that this program set out the priorities for funding, amounts available in each program area and the limits on individual grants. This is an important improvement. Many community groups seeking funds from this type of scheme put heart and soul into the preparation of applications. The Environmental Trust must ensure that it does not encourage wasted effort on applications that have little chance of succeeding because they relate to areas of low priority for the allocation of funds.
Improving the transparency of the trust’s decisions will further enhance the good reputation of the scheme in the New South Wales community. One extremely important program run by the Environmental Restoration and Rehabilitation Trust has been the emergency pollution clean-up program. The provisions for this in existing legislation confine the use of trust funds to situations where immediate action needs to be
taken in relation to serious pollution. The Government believes that this important program must continue, but be broadened. Local government has, over a long time, made representations about trust funds being available for use in some circumstance relating to the clean-up of orphan wastes.
The Government accepts that there are some occasions where clean up of these wastes should not impose an additional burden on councils. The bill allows for the trust to expend funds on this activity. This will be done in accordance with guidelines that the trust will develop. The Forestry Restructuring and Nature Conservation Act limits the activities of the environmental trusts until the end of the 1999-2000 financial year. This Act will continue to apply to the modified trust scheme proposed in this bill. Overall, the Forestry Restructuring and Nature Conservation Act provides for the expenditure of approximately $130 million on three programs: forest industry restructuring, nature conservation and other high priority environmental projects prescribed in the Act. These programs are proceeding.
However, the question of getting the right balance between conservation interests and productive interests in the forests is a complex one. The issues involved are subject to intense scientific review and consultation with affected stakeholders. This needs to happen but takes considerable time. Distribution of funding for forest industry restructuring is necessarily linked to this process. For this reason, the Government believes that the period for which trust moneys may be used to reimburse the Consolidated Fund for forest industry restructuring should be extended. The bill moves the sunset for this from 30 June 2000 to 30 June 2001.
The Government also wishes to amend schedule 1 of this Act to allow for the inclusion of three additional programs relating to nature conservation and forestry. These projects are detailed in the bill and demonstrate the Government’s continued commitment to improve the management of the State’s forested areas as well as acquiring additional national parks and effectively resourcing their management. In summary, these proposals ensure the long-term viability of the programs that have been run by the environmental trusts. The bill achieves this through securing a revenue base that is independent of any future changes to Sydney Water’s trade waste charges.
The move to a single trust will ensure a more efficient and more responsive structure for this important program - a single trust will have a very real capacity to be responsive to the environmental needs of the day. I am pleased that the Opposition has, in the other place, indicated that it does not oppose this bill. The programs of the trusts have made a significant contribution to the environment of New South Wales. The Government wishes to see that contribution continue long into the future. I commend the bill to the House.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [9.10 p.m.]: I commence my speech by joining with other members in congratulating the President on her appointment and on the beginning of a new era. The Opposition does not oppose the Environmental Trust Bill, which amalgamates three existing trusts - the Environmental Restoration and Rehabilitation Trust, the Environmental Research Trust and the Environmental Education Trust - into a single trust. That trust will receive an appropriation from the Consolidated Fund rather than derive its income from Sydney Water’s trade waste charges, as was formerly the case. This bill is, I suppose, the final stroke in dismantling what was essentially the dream of a great former Liberal Party Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Tim Moore. He intended those trusts to grow and to accrue a capital amount of roughly $400 million. From the interest on that capital, which could have been as much as $30 million a year, annual funding would not have been inhibited by taxation and the normal ebbs and flows of the political system.
The trusts would have been a guaranteed source of funding for environmental restoration, environmental education and environmental research. It is difficult for governments to find funding for those three environmental areas and the trusts were to provide a wonderful, innovative opportunity for each of those objectives to receive an annual appropriation. Innovation is certainly a necessary part of protecting the environment but funding would have been available to meet those objectives without the need for recourse to the Consolidated Fund, upon which there is an enormous call. When the Government took office it decided to raid the capital fund for the purpose of restructuring the forest industry.
As worthy a goal as that may have been, when that happened the dream that was part of the vision of the Hon. Tim Moore was essentially destroyed, because the fund no longer had any capital which might earn any substantial interest. The second matter of importance is that the source of income for Mr Moore’s vision has gone, because Sydney Water, like other private and public organisations, will be subjected to the Government’s new regime of load-based licensing. With the implementation of that regime, the only available measure for funding is appropriation from the Consolidated Fund. The Opposition regrets that the vision of the Hon. Tim Moore has, through this bill, finally been dismantled.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: It has not. That is rubbish.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: It has been dismantled in the sense that the Treasurer will have to agree to appropriate funding for these environmental purposes rather than the trusts receiving a guaranteed level of funding which in no way relates to normal funding for hospitals, schools, et cetera. When this bill was debated in the other place the Opposition expressed a number of concerns about it and about the Government’s new regime of load-based licensing. Of particular concern to the Opposition was the fact that the new trust was to include representatives from the Environment
Protection Authority, appointed by the Government, but was not to include industry representation.
On behalf of the Opposition I welcome the amendment to be moved by the Government that will give industry representation on the board that will control the trust fund. The Opposition was also concerned about the extension of time for the restructuring of the forest industry, which was funded by the trust, until the end of the 2000-01 financial year. The Opposition sought an assurance from the Government that the funds to be used in the restructuring of the forest industry would pay not only for redundancies but also for investment in job creation. Redundancy takes someone out of the work force, whereas the Government was hoping that the timber industry would provide opportunities for people to find a continuing source of employment.
The Opposition also expressed concerns relating to schedule 2.1, which allows funds to be provided for additional environmental activities, including a comprehensive assessment of forested land and the acquisition and subsequent management of land for national parks and other categories of dedicated or reserve land. This year’s budget indicated that $11 million was to be spent from the trust to establish new national parks. The Opposition asked the Minister for details of that at the recent estimates committee hearing. She was not prepared to give a specific answer and said that tomorrow is another day. One presumes from the use of those words that the Minister will make one or more announcements at another time.
Those announcements will be closely scrutinised by the Opposition, particularly the level to which the community will be consulted should new national parks be created. The coalition has some concerns about the load-based licensing scheme, which is to come into effect from September this year. Our best documented source of concern was a survey carried out by the Australian Chamber of Manufactures, which found that 55 businesses representing 177 sites and employing 24,277 people would face significant increases in the administrative fees that will be charged under the load-based licensing scheme. The average cost of the fees was determined to be a staggering $469,000, which did not include a potential 103 per cent increase in monitoring costs. The revenue raised under that regime will be 10 times more than the revenue raised from a similar load-based licensing tax in Victoria. The Opposition supports the concept of load-based licensing but does not support what might well become simply another method of taking enormous amounts of revenue out of businesses that are productively employing people across the State.
The Opposition accepts that a scheme of load-based licensing will give many companies an incentive to reduce their pollution of the environment. That is a good and worthy objective. The Opposition does not want this scheme to become a revenue raising activity by the Government. Recently the Premier gave assurances that the new pollution laws will not be introduced if they result in any job losses. That is a fairly broad commitment and there is no real way of measuring the depth of it and how it might apply. The Opposition will take at face value that the Premier means what he says, but it would be remiss of me not to express extreme concern about how load-based licensing might impact on industries such as intense agricultural and chemical industries and so on.
The Opposition certainly did not intend a large revenue take, and the scheme ought not be another excuse to simply take revenue from businesses and close them down - unless, of course, they were engaged in irresponsible levels of environmental pollution. In most instances it has not been my experience that productive industries deliberately pollute the environment. Many industries are making their best efforts to reduce the level of pollutants they discharge into the environment, if for no other reason than it is not only bad public relations and a bad way of marketing their product but is also wasteful of their raw materials. Companies do not want to waste their raw materials and they seek means of re-using water and re-using the chemicals that they might otherwise discharge.
There is little doubt that the coalition’s introduction of the trade waste policy had a dramatic impact on the amount of waste discharged into water. If the load-based licensing scheme improves the position, the coalition will have no problem with that. However, if it is just another excuse to tax business then the coalition will have enormous concerns and will voice them. Having made clear my position, I point out that the coalition does not oppose the bill. There are parts of the bill that are to be regretted in some respects. Amendments will be discussed at the Committee stage.
The Hon. I. COHEN [9.21 p.m.]: The Greens support the Government’s intention of providing for the continued funding of the environmental trusts by a yearly allocation from consolidated revenue. The original funding stream for the environmental trusts dried up with the commencement of the Protection
of the Environment Operations Act 1997. The environmental trust program has been successful in implementing community-driven projects relating to rehabilitation, restoration, and research and education, and it is a good idea to combine the three elements of the environmental trust programs into the one comprehensive environmental trust program.
There is a concern that although there is approximately $2 million worth of minimum expenditure from the trust fund in the form of grants - $1 million in restoration and rehabilitation grants, $0.5 million in research grants and $0.5 million in education funding - there are no clear guidelines for the remainder of the expenditure. An environmental trust is required to publish its grant program in accordance with the Act. This program for grants includes priority areas for funding, the amounts available for grants in different program areas and the limits on the sizes of individual grants. If for any reason there is a need to change the published policies, priorities or limits, the environmental trust is required to publish a new program.
Should the trust wish to carry out expenditure outside of the published programs it could, theoretically, do this by regulation, in which case it would be subject to the scrutiny of the House. However, it is unlikely that this would eventuate. The bill in its present form does not expressly allow for land acquisition for national parks and nature reserves. This is a fundamental limb by which the environmental trust can effect its major objectives, especially the restoration and rehabilitation objectives. Yarrahappini is one successful land acquisition grant from the environmental trust fund for the purposes of restoration and rehabilitation. This important wetland in mid New South Wales was drained by floodplain management works by previous governments.
The coastal wetland suffered a complex degradation of its environment and large-scale replacement of its extensive tidal ecosystem by a freshwater melaleuca-dominated system. The drainage of the coastal wetland profited a number of landholders who proceeded to graze the old coastal wetlands. The damage was not limited to the adjacent coastal lands. Acid sulphate soil was exposed by the drainage of the wetland, and subsequently the estuary suffered pulses of acid drainage after every rain event. So not only was the ecology of the wetland destroyed, but large sections of the estuary were adversely impacted by acid sulphate drainage.
That situation is mirrored in a number of estuaries along the coast of New South Wales. A significant coastal wetland that has been compromised in this way is Hexham Swamp, which has long been promised rehabilitation - by Bob Carr in a previous incarnation as Minister for Planning and Environment, by Kim Yeadon in his previous incarnation as Minister for Land and Water Conservation, and by the Minister for Fisheries as recently as this month. The Greens cannot comprehend that despite the long and consistent commitment of this Government to the rehabilitation and restoration of Hexham Swamp no-one seems to be able to deliver.
Much of the Hexham swampland is a nature reserve - which requires management plans - and some needs to be acquired from dairy farmers who have profited from the windfall extension of their grazing lands for the past 30 years. That delay is costing the New South Wales environment an extensive wetland which was larger and more diverse than the adjacent Kooragang Island wetland. Those two wetlands in conjunction drove the rich coastal resource that was once the heritage of the Hunter estuary. The Government is merely required to act upon its long-stated commitment to the restoration of Hexham Swamp. For the first time there is a possibility of Federal funding for rehabilitation, upon evidence of the State Government financially supporting the project. Now is the time to act.
The Greens are strong supporters of community representation on the technical review committee, and are glad to know that the Minister in her second reading speech in the other House made a firm commitment to the use of relevant experts on the technical review committees. It would be appropriate to widen the membership of the committees to include community representatives. The Greens recognise the need to extend the deadlines for payments to be made from the Forestry Restructuring and Nature Conservation Act 1995 until 10 June 2001. There are elements of this process that remain undecided and there needs to be a mechanism by which funding can be made available beyond the original deadlines in the Act.
I certainly hope, though, that this does not mean that the Government is not going to deliver on its promised forest restructuring program before the next State election. Behind the scope of this bill the Greens are concerned about a number of issues in relation to expenditure under the Forestry Restructuring and Nature Conservation Act. In 1995
forestry restructuring had as its imperative transparency and accountability from the environmental trusts. I hope that the Government will recognise the importance of the continuation of such transparency and accountability from the trusts or from wherever finances are gained, in order to ensure proper public accountability.
The Government should be seen to be doing that which the trusts were set up to do, augmenting finances to undertake promised projects in the environmental area. It is absolutely essential to have full transparency and proper accountability, so that the people of New South Wales are clearly aware of where money from the trusts goes in restoring the environment and projects for the benefit of all people of New South Wales, creating ecological sustainability in perpetuity.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [9.27 p.m.]: Three trusts - the Environmental Restoration and Rehabilitation Trust, the Environmental Research Trust and the Environmental Education Trust - are currently funded by Sydney Water trade waste charges. However, the trade waste charges are soon to be replaced by charges levied by the new load-based licensing system, the funds from which will go directly to consolidated revenue. This bill will therefore replace those charges as the principal source of revenue for the trusts with a minimum standing yearly appropriation of $13.5 million from the Consolidated Fund. The bill also amalgamates the three existing environmental trusts into a single trust without a limit on how much can be spent on each area.
At present only 10 per cent of the funds can be spent on education, 10 per cent on research and 80 per cent on rehabilitation and restoration. The bill will, however, set minimum allocations for each of the trusts’ program areas of $1 million, $0.5 million, and $0.5 million respectively, which will be made available for community grants. The first major external review of Australia’s environmental performance, by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, has found that Australia’s current funding for and measures aimed at environmental protection will not halt or reverse the degradation of our land and water resources.
The OECD has also found that Australia’s environmental problems are continuing to grow, albeit at a slower rate than in the past, and warns that improvements are needed in key areas such as fauna and flora conservation. A recently released World Wide Fund for Nature report has also revealed that Australian Commonwealth, State and Territory governments have an appalling track record on wetland conservation and are failing to meet their international obligations. While nine Australian governments have wetlands policies, none has a plan for implementation and most wetlands are not actively managed for conservation. Most of the 698 sites identified as being of national importance are not, for example, protected by conservation reserves or programs. In fact, only five million hectares of more than 24 million hectares of nationally important wetlands are conserved. That is extraordinary.
On a State level, New South Wales has one of the poorest natural reserve systems in the world, according to the 1997 New South Wales state of the environment report, and ranks ahead of only Turkey. This disgraceful situation must be changed urgently. Despite large additions to the national parks system in recent times - more than 500,000 hectares have been added to the reserve system since the last state of the environment report - New South Wales still has poor representation. In fact, only 5.6 per cent of this State is protected in reserves. The Australian State average is 7.7 per cent, while the OECD average is 9.1 per cent.
Not only does New South Wales have a poor percentage of protected area, but its reserves, which are concentrated in steeper, less fertile country, also suffer from uneven representation. While some bioregions are highly protected, the level of protection offered to other regions is inadequate. For example, more than 90 per cent of the Australian alps is protected, but only 10 per cent of our coastal regions and 2.5 per cent of our western regions are protected. Clearly we need to focus on the coastal and western regions to achieve a more even representation within our reserve system. I note that articles in today’s Daily Telegraph give examples of the value of our arid western regions.
I note also the report in the media about the addition of 100,000 hectares to the Mungo National Park. Some extremely important areas have now been added to that national park, thanks to both the Federal and State governments. In an article in today’s Daily Telegraph entitled "The living desert" Simon Benson talks about an extraordinary number of species being found in the arid western plains. On the surface it would appear that these areas are somewhat barren and devoid of wildlife, but they are in fact very rich in wildlife and are potentially great tourist resources. In his article Simon Benson wrote:
A major study, the first of its kind of the entire Mallee region of south-west NSW, has uncovered 230 species of animals - some of which have never before been found in NSW . . .
More than 50 species of reptiles, 25 mammals, 13 species of bats, four frogs and 154 bird types were found in the 300 sq km region west of the Darling River.
A new species, the western pygmy possum, was also discovered, and the second only sighting of the mallee worm lizard was recorded.
The Hon. M. R. Kersten: They found about three species of lizards, didn’t they?
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Yes, I think so. They found a number, anyway. The article continues:
A total of 93 species of mammal have been recorded in western NSW in the past 200 years, of which 25 have become extinct.
That is quite disgraceful. The article continues:
Some of the other species found in the survey included bolam’s mice, pied honeyeaters, little pied bats, pink cockatoos and mallee fowl.
These magnificent areas, which do not necessarily look rich at first glance, but are, need to be better represented in our reserve system; they are grossly unrepresented now, especially considering that this Government has promised to conserve representative examples of all significant ecosystems by the year 2000 and that these regions represent the most poorly conserved bioregions in the State. It is significant to note that although these regions are so valuable they are also relatively cheap to acquire. Some land-holders are quite happy to sell, as long they are able to get a reasonable price. The Government could acquire hundreds of thousands of hectares of extremely valuable and significantly underrepresented land in far western New South Wales for a relatively small cost.
Both the coastal and western areas contain highly important ecosystems, such as low-lying swamps and small sand dunes with high species diversity and unique flora and fauna; extensive channel country wilderness in arid environments; flood plains, salt lakes, lunettes, dunefields, and rocky ranges rich in fauna, rare plants and archaeological sites, alluvial plains with adjoining low sandy and sedimentary ridges; dunefields dominated by steep parallel dunes and mallee country; rugged and undulating ranges covered in bluebush and saltbush; alluvial, colluvial and ancient metamorphic rock communities; and near-nature open forest and woodland. These areas are magnificent and unique to Australia and they need urgent protection.
I point out to the people of western New South Wales and the Hon. M. R. Kersten - who has the desire to become their representative but who may not, thanks to Pauline Hanson - that when these areas are acquired they will provide jobs. The Hon. M. R. Kersten is obviously interested in jobs, particularly in the Broken Hill area, and is fighting for more jobs. The acquisition of these regions by the National Parks and Wildlife Service with the money available from the polluters - it is a nice idea to make the polluters pay for new national parks - will provide jobs in tourism. We must explore the tourist potential of these magnificent areas much more than it is currently being explored, in an effort to create long-term, ecologically sustainable jobs in those areas.
Many more people should visit these magnificent areas, and I am sure the Hon. M. R. Kersten would be happy to show them around. Who knows what will happen in the next nine months. He may be able to take them around in his capacity as the local member. We do not know yet; we will just have to wait and see what happens. Western New South Wales has been somewhat neglected by all governments. It is now time to bring it up to the OECD level of around 9 per cent to 10 per cent, and to ensure that money from the trust funds is used to protect that area of valuable land. I think that money will be very well spent indeed.
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS [9.36 p.m.]: I support the Environmental Trust Bill and point out, as other honourable members have, that the bill is being introduced in the context of two of the Government’s major achievements: the development and extension of the national parks estate, which is one of the Government’s proudest achievements since coming to office in 1995, and the forestry restructuring that the Government has embarked on. As honourable members would be aware, the capital that was in the environment trusts has been used to fund that process. This bill looks towards the future, so that when the forestry restructuring process has been completed we can return to ordinary programs under the trust. This is an important bill, and I understand that amendments to it will be moved in Committee. However, I do not think they will significantly change the bill.
One of the valuable elements of the bill is the way in which it is designed to strengthen the partnership between the State Government and local government in protecting the environment. In so many fields - for example, stormwater and waste collection - the need for that partnership has recently
become more and more apparent. Introducing local government participation and the expertise of its many officers into the work of the trust will help to protect the environment and achieve the results that we all seek.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [9.38 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party supports the Environmental Trust Bill, which deals with the operation of the Environmental Trust. Specifically, the bill seeks to secure the future of the trust programs by replacing Sydney Water’s trade waste charges with a standard appropriation from the Consolidated Fund as the principal source of revenue for the scheme. The bill also sets out a range of other changes to the operations of the trust, foremost among which is the amalgamation of the three existing trusts - the Environmental Restoration and Rehabilitation Trust, the Environmental Research Trust and the Environmental Education Trust. The three trusts will be combined into one trust that will perform all the functions of the existing three bodies. These changes will establish a framework within which the new trust can determine allocations of funds according to the environmental priorities of the day and not, as is currently the case, according to how much money is available in each trust.
There is always a problem with the allocation of money. Honourable members would well remember the controversy with the former Federal Labor Government and former Minister Kelly’s use of a whiteboard. Accusations are now being made that the coalition Government is doing the same thing with federation grants in an endeavour to ensure that the grants are allocated according to the value and priority of the project, rather than to assist a member to secure re-election. Governments on both sides of politics seem to be tempted to do that.
It must be noted - and this is relevant because of the criticism directed at the coalition - that former Minister for the Environment the Hon. Tim Moore introduced the legislation establishing the three trusts. As honourable members know, he was forward looking in relation to not only environmental issues but also issues relating to the management of the Parliament. He spent a great deal of time formulating solutions to various problems and he made a significant contribution as a coalition Minister. In his second reading speech the Hon. Tim Moore said:
The purpose of the legislation to create three environmental trust funds - the Environmental Restoration and Rehabilitation Trust, the Environmental Research Trust and the Environmental Education Trust - is to build a substantial long-term capital base for community investment in environmental projects that would not otherwise be met with normal government funding at a Commonwealth, State or local government level.
He hoped that the trust funds would grow to a long-term capital base with a total of $425 million by 2000. Unfortunately, for various reasons that did not happen. As honourable members know, the Labor Government expended $130 million on three projects pursuant to an arrangement under the Forestry Restructuring and Nature Conservation Act. Further, a large amount of money - $60 million, I think - was transferred from the trust funds to restructure the timber industry, on which we were briefed at the time and which we supported.
At that time we shared the concern of many people about the impact of restructuring the forest industry on timber workers and their families, and we considered that the transfer of funds was justified. Apparently, much of the moneys transferred from the trusts has been used to pay out people as they leave the industry without any real prospect of permanent jobs. More effort should have been made, and could still be made, to create employment opportunities in the areas where timber workers were living. As other honourable members have said, the coalition Government’s legislation to establish the three trusts was innovative. We note that the three trusts will be combined and will have five members: the Minister, who will be the chairperson of the trust; the secretary of the Treasury; the Director-General of the Environment Protection Authority; a person appointed by the Minister from a panel of three persons nominated by the Nature Conservation Council; and a person appointed by the Minister from a panel of three persons nominated by the Local Government and Shires Associations.
We support the appointment of a representative of the Local Government and Shires Associations and a community representative who has a demonstrated concern about the environment, but in principle we consider that it is better not to tie that representation to a particular organisation such as the Nature Conservation Council, even though it is a representative body.
Concern has been expressed about changes to the method of raising funds by Sydney Water trade waste charges. Those charges were the principal source of revenue for the environmental trusts but new sources of income must be identified because they are no longer available. Apparently, the Government plans to introduce the polluter pays concept with a load-based licensing scheme. That method seems attractive on the surface but complaints have been made about assessing charges
based on the potential pollution that could occur. We have been advised about complaints by the pig industry, for example, that this method of assessing charges could result in a dramatic increase in fees when the industry is already concerned about the importation of pig meat. Apparently, piggeries and other agricultural industries face fee increases of the magnitude of 1,000 per cent. Combined with the importation of pig meat, the industry will find it difficult to carry such increases, and they could be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back.
The Prime Minister gave an assurance that the impact of imported pig meat would be reviewed but when it came to the crunch he said there was nothing he could do except to subsidise the pig industry with a grant of $120 million. That seems to be not a long-term solution but a stopgap measure. In a memorandum the Chief Executive of the Pig Industry Council, Mr John G. Beevers, said that the council had been advised of the increase in charges for intensive industries such as the pig industry. Notwithstanding the brief consultation period, Mr Beevers feels strongly not only that the basis of the charging is flawed, but that the industry is being singularly identified as an easy target on which to impose what is effectively a new tax.
Mr Beevers said also that many other countries have responded to the call for the imposition of charges on polluters by levying these charges in direct relation to the volume of pollutant discharged. However, the State Government has introduced a method of charging based on the live weight of the pigs, not on the volume discharged. That is unfair and does not provide any incentive to reduce the output of the pollutant.
It seems that this method of charging will also be applied to other agricultural industries such as sheep rearing and stud breeding, and it could even have an impact on the chicken industry. I ask the Government to seriously review the proposed method of assessing charges for polluters; and I suggest that they should be in direct relation to the volume of pollutant discharged. That seems to be the obvious way of assessing charges.
We should be dealing with how much pollutant material is discharged into the system, not the number of pigs and how much they weigh. I urge the Government, particularly the Attorney General, to take up this matter with the Minister for the Environment in the other place to consider whether, unintentionally, a heavy burden has been added to the agricultural industry, which already has to deal with imported pig and chicken meat. We must do all we can to maintain our agricultural industries, while dealing with pollution at the same time. We support the bill.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading) [9.50 p.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members for their contributions to the debate and their general support for the bill. By replacing Sydney Water Corporation’s trade waste charges with a standing appropriation from the Consolidated Fund the Government is ensuring the future of the trusts without pre-empting the outcome of any review of these charges. By creating a single trust able to respond to the environmental priorities of the day the Government is not abandoning the original trusts scheme but improving it. Greater flexibility will mean better targeting of scarce public resources. The new trust membership will ensure that key stakeholders are around the decision-making table, for the first time properly including local government in the scheme.
Technical committees consisting of members with expertise in relevant fields will ensure that the existing merit-based approach to awarding grants is carried forward into the new scheme. The Government is improving the transparency of decision making in the scheme and at the same time ensuring that prospective applicants are given better guidance as to the trusts, priorities and processes. Amendments to the Forestry Restructuring and Nature Conservation Act recognise the complexity of the issues involved in restructuring the forest industry. Allowing more time for these processes to occur provides benefits to all stakeholders. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [9.53 p.m.]: I move amendment No. 1 as circulated in my name:
No. 1 Page 4, clause 7. Insert after line 14:
The amendment seeks to explicitly detail a fourth key objective for the trust. Since the original trust Acts in 1990 there has been a major expansion in funds and programs for environmental restoration and rehabilitation, including the National Heritage
Trust of the Commonwealth Government. Although still a very worthy and necessary objective for the trust, the increased focus on land care through our programs creates room for the expansion of the trust’s objectives to include the acquisition of key strategic lands for the national parks estate. The Treasury allocation for purchase of land by the National Parks and Wildlife Service has remained static at a mere $2 million a year for many years, when in fact $20 million a year would be required for the purchase of critical private lands to give New South Wales a truly world-class, comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system.
For instance, the Government has budgeted more than $14 million this year for the acquisition of just one part of environmentally critical land at Jervis Bay just to begin to make the much-vaunted Jervis Bay National Park an environmentally sustainable reserve. Other extremely high conservation value land at Jervis Bay, with its marvellous wildlife value, superb bushland and vital catchment protection for Lake Wollumboolla, faces the chop for more red-brick suburban housing because the Government lacks the necessary funds of approximately $30 million to purchase it. This situation is repeated up and down our precious coastal strip before we even consider the desperate conservation needs of the reserve system in far western New South Wales.
In case after case private land-holders, including many farmers and graziers, have approached the National Parks and Wildlife Service to purchase their high conservation value properties, only to be told there are no funds and no likelihood of purchase, given the enormous priority list and the low annual funding for land purchase. Time after time we see missed opportunities with perfectly willing, indeed imploring, vendors to purchase key lands for better management and critical expansion for linkage of national parks land, including national parks and nature reserves. My amendment will provide more opportunity to ameliorate the problem and provide a clear objective for the trust.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading) [9.55 p.m.]: The Government accepts the amendment.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [9.56 p.m.]: The Opposition also accepts the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading) [9.56 p.m.]: I move the Government amendment as circulated:
(d) to fund the acquisition of land for national parks and other categories of dedicated and reserved land for the national parks estate.
Page 4, clause 9. Insert after line 26:
(2) Each Technical Review Committee is to include at least one representative of community groups and at least one representative of industry.
The Government has taken on board the concept of the amendment circulated by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones, that is, accepting the need to guarantee community group representation on technical committees. But the Government has taken the view that industry representation should also be guaranteed on each of these committees. Therefore we contend that our amendment is preferable.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [9.57 p.m.]: I referred to this foreshadowed amendment in my contribution to the debate on the bill. The Opposition supports the amendment. It agrees with the inclusion of community representatives, particularly industry representatives, on the technical review committees.
Amendment agreed to.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [9.58 p.m.]: My amendment 2 is now redundant, so I will not move it.
Part as amended agreed to.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [9.58 p.m.], by leave: I move amendments 3 and 4 as circulated in my name in globo:
No. 3 Page 6, clause 12. Insert after line 11:
(d) grants to acquire land for national parks and other categories of dedicated and reserved land for the national parks estate - $4.5 million.
No. 4 Page 6, clause 12. Insert before line 12:
(2) The trust is to ensure that the total amount of grants for each of the following areas during a financial year is not greater than the amount specified in respect of that area:
(a) grants to promote research - $2.7 million,
Amendment 3 seeks to provide an appropriate level of minimum annual funding to the additional objective outlined in my first amendment. The provision of a minimum figure would be consistent with the minimum funding provisions proposed by
the Government for the initial three objectives of the trust, that is, education, research, and rehabilitation and restoration. I consider the original approach to the 1990 trust bills by the then Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Tim Moore, to provide maximum expenditure for education and research objectives of the trusts, should also be reflected in this bill, which is what amendment 4 seeks to achieve.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [9.59 p.m.]: I am not opposed to the principle of funding the acquisition of land for national parks, as has already been agreed. However, this amendment attempts to allocate an amount of $4.5 million, which seems very much out of proportion to the other amounts listed in clause 12 - $1 million for rehabilitation, $500,000 for research and $500,000 for environmental education. Where does the $4.5 million come from?
Second, in the past when I have tried to bring in bills to subsidise various industries such as the Letona canning industry I have been told by the Clerks that members cannot seek to insert an amendment that deals with expenditure, the allocation of money. I do not know whether the Committee of this House can insert amendments to legislation which deal with expenditure or whether that can be done only in the lower House. Where does the $4.5 million in the amendments proposed by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones come from? Does this House have the power to direct the Treasurer how to spend money?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading) [10.01 p.m.]: In one sense, whether the constitutional validity of the amendments is sustainable might be academic because the Government does not accept the amendments. I take the point raised by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile that there are some question marks over the validity of the amendments. The Government’s attitude is that part of the underpinning philosophy of this legislation is to enable the trust to allocate resources according to the environmental priority of the day.
The Government accepted amendments in the Legislative Assembly to guarantee funding for community groups. That seemed to be appropriate, given the need for greater certainty of funding in that sector. However, the Government wishes to ensure that the trust has the greatest possible autonomy in the allocation of the balance of its funds each year. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile also asked me about the source of a particular sum of money about which I will gather information during the Committee stages. To meet the honourable member’s purposes, it may be sufficient to say that the Government does not accept these amendments.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [10.02 p.m.]: The Opposition also opposes the amendments, by and large on the principle that appropriations from the Consolidated Fund are part of the budget process. In the past it has not been the practice of the Opposition, particularly without the agreement of the Government, to make specific appropriations from the Consolidated Fund, guaranteed budget after budget, without any specific intervention or consideration by the Government in its budget. For example, if the Government were to alter the practice, it would be necessary when dealing with the appropriation bills to introduce an amendment to the Environmental Trust Bill to suspend it for a year or two.
In the view of the Opposition these funds come from the Consolidated Fund, and in the past the principle of having legislation which continuously appropriates from the Consolidated Fund has not been followed. The original purpose of the environmental trusts was that they would spend interest raised on the capital sum which gradually accumulated. On the basis of that principle the Opposition opposes the amendment. The second point I make is that amendment 3 moved by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones would grant an annual appropriation of $4.5 million to acquire land.
It is obviously quite possible for the Government, which almost every year spends $2 million on national park acquisitions, to simply delete that amount from its other Consolidated Fund appropriations. To some extent it would be possible, even if it were part of the law, to undermine the provision simply by other administrative arrangements available to the Government in the budget. It is largely a symbolic gesture rather than a substantial one.
The Opposition has some sympathy with the fact that there are national parks, particularly in the western parts of New South Wales, which need to be acquired. The coalition hopes to be in government after March at which time it will simply appropriate the necessary expenditure from the Consolidated Fund. That is where these funds are intended to come from. For those reasons the Opposition does not support amendment 3. Amendment 4 of the Hon. R. S. L. Jones largely deals with the same principle, and for that reason the Opposition will not support it either.
Part agreed to.
Schedule 2 and Title
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [10.06 p.m.]: I move amendment 5 circulated in my name:
(b) grants to promote environmental education - $1.35 million.
No. 5 Page 19, schedule 2.1. Insert after line 9:
Insert after section 6(2):
The Environmental Trust Fund should not be used to pay for the development of a management tool, an accurate timber resource inventory, which is not already available in New South Wales only through the negligence and incompetence of the former Forestry Commission of New South Wales, now restructured as State Forests. My amendment seeks to achieve that.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading) [10.07 p.m.]: The Government cannot accept this amendment. The Government says that the Forestry Restructuring and Nature Conservation Act sets out the necessary limitations and accountability mechanisms that relate to forest industry restructuring expenditure.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [10.07 p.m.], by leave: I move amendments 6, 7 and 8 circulated in my name in globo:
(3) No amount is to be paid from the Fund under this Act after the commencement of this subsection in respect of expenditure for timber inventory or timber resource calculation unless already incurred before that commencement as part of comprehensive regional assessments.
No. 6 Page 19, schedule 2.1. Insert before line 10:
 Section 7 Sunset on payments
Omit "30 June 1999" from section 7 (a).
Insert instead "30 June 2001".
No. 7 Page 19, schedule 2.1. Insert after line 12:
Omit "30 June 2000" from section 7 (c).
Insert instead "30 June 2001".
Amendment 6 extends the sunset date for expenditure of trust funds on nature conservation provided for in the Forestry Restructuring and Nature Conservation Act 1995. Procedural work involved in that extensive program of acquisition and initial management expenses of additional national parks is clearly more complex and time consuming than initially contemplated by the Government. In those circumstances I consider it desirable to extend the sunset date for funding of this program until 30 June 2001.
Amendment 7 extends the sunset date for expenditure on a number of additional conservation commitments by the Government as detailed in schedule 1 to this bill. As some of these commitments are related to or consequent upon decisions made on the forestry industry restructuring expenditure of trust funds, I consider it highly desirable that there be a complementary amendment to the sunset date for the additional commitments of expenditure to 30 June 2001. Amendment 8 reflects the broader objectives of the bill canvassed in my first amendment.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading) [10.10 p.m.]: The Government accepts these amendments.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [10.11 p.m.]: The Opposition is aware of the numbers in this Chamber and acknowledges that the Government accepts these amendments. The one reservation the Opposition has relates to the extension of the deadlines outlined in amendment 6, which deals with the forest restructuring program. The Opposition is of the view that that lets the Government off the hook to some extent. The Labor Party promised before the election that this process would be finished but now it will not be. I note the reservation expressed by the Hon. I. Cohen. However, there is no reason for the Opposition to oppose these amendments when the Government has accepted them.
Amendments agreed to.
Schedule 2 and title as amended agreed to.
Bill reported from Committee with amendments, including an amended title, and passed through remaining stages.
Insert "and to fund land acquisition for the national parks estate" after "education".
ROAD IMPROVEMENT (SPECIAL FUNDING) AMENDMENT BILL
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [10.13 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The purpose of the bill before the House is to amend the Road Improvement (Special Funding) Act 1989 to provide for the continuation of special funding for the 3 x 3 program. On 5 August 1997 the High Court handed down a decision on two challenges to the State’s franchise fees on tobacco, effectively stopping the States levying the fees. Following this decision the New South Wales Government suspended the collection of fuel franchise licence fees and the issuing of licences in New South Wales. The Commonwealth Government has imposed a fuel excise surcharge of 8.1¢ per litre on petrol and diesel fuel as an interim measure to maintain fuel fee revenue to the States.
The 3 x 3 program is authorised by the Road Improvement (Special Funding) Act 1989, which provides that the 3 x 3 component of fuel franchise licence fees is subject to a statutory trust for the funding of road improvement, road safety and road related public transport infrastructure. At the time of the High Court decision, this component, known as the 3 x 3 levy, represented 44.5 per cent of the total business licence fee. Certain of the activities to which 3 x 3 funds can be applied are not authorised by any other legislation. Consequently the Government will not be able to continue to fully honour its commitments under the 3 x 3 program. In particular, payments connected with the public transport infrastructure program and payments to councils for works on local roads which have been paid for from 3 x 3 funds will be unable to continue.
In order to address this issue the proposed amending legislation provides for a fixed percentage of revenue available to the State from the Commonwealth excise surcharge to be subject to the statutory trust for the purpose of funding the 3 x 3 program. The percentage adopted, 44.5 per cent, represents the proportion of State fuel franchise fees allocated to the 3 x 3 program under the existing legislation, as referred to earlier. Since its inception the 3 x 3 program has had a very high level of support and acceptance in the community. Its discontinuance would have adverse impacts on business and employment which would be particularly noticed in rural areas where a significant part of local employment and business opportunities are generated by expenditure on roads by both the RTA and local government.
In addition, failure to continue the maintenance and development of the rural road network at existing levels would adversely impact on transport and tourism in these areas. Failure to continue the 3 x 3 program would also adversely impact on the provision of road-related transport infrastructure at the interface of roads and public transport. If it were not for the High Court decision, the special funding arrangements for the 3 x 3 program under the existing legislation would have continued until 31 August 1999. In view of the importance of this program to New South Wales and to rural communities in particular, the amending legislation allows for its continuation beyond that date. I commend the bill to the House.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER [10.14 p.m.]: The Opposition does not oppose the Road Improvement (Special Funding) Amendment Bill. The object of this bill is to continue the operation of the 3 x 3 road funding program - a National Party initiative when it was elected to Government at the 1988 election. The National Party ensured that the new tax was hypothecated to road expenditure, and that proposal had wide support throughout rural and regional New South Wales. Under the program there was a 3¢ per litre levy over three years and, over the years, there have been alterations to the scheme. It is now about 4¢ a litre over four years and that has been achieved on a bipartisan basis.
The Opposition notes that the committee appointed to be the trustees of the program, in effect, for the fund, is to remain unchanged, according to discussions which have taken place between the shadow minister for roads and Deputy Leader of the National Party, the Hon. George Souris, and the Minister for Roads, Mr Scully. The Opposition welcomes this advice. The bill has been triggered by the High Court decision invalidating business franchise licence fees and allows for an annual standing appropriation to be made out of the Consolidated Fund for road funding improvement, road safety and related public transport infrastructure authorised by the 3 x 3 program. A percentage of the petroleum business franchise licence fees was previously used to fund the program. The gap caused by the High Court decision needs to be filled now.
The amount appropriated is equal to 44.5 per cent of the revenue collected by the Commonwealth and paid to the State as revenue replacement payments for petroleum business franchise licence fees, less subsidies paid by the State under the scheme to match interstate petroleum prices in certain border areas and those relating to the off-road diesel scheme. The National Party will undoubtedly revisit the question of the ratio used by the Carr Government to divide funds under the old 3 x 3 program between rural and metropolitan areas. We believe that ratio should be 60:40 rural and metropolitan, as it was under the previous Government. In the wake of the High Court decision we do not oppose the bill, which seeks to rectify the problem caused by the High Court decision and allocate 44.5 per cent of the 3 x 3 road funding program which applied prior to the High Court judgment being handed down.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [10.17 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party supports the Road Improvement (Special Funding) Amendment Bill. The 3 x 3 program was introduced by the previous Government to provide a dedicated source of funding for road improvements. The program was well-supported by the community, especially in rural and regional areas because all the revenue raised was hypothecated directly to a statutory trust for expenditure on road projects. Because the High
Court decision on 5 August 1997 outlawed business franchise fees and removed the dedicated funding source for the 3 x 3 program, the State fuel franchise fees have now been replaced by the Commonwealth levy, which is rebated to the State.
This bill will ensure the continuation of the 3 x 3 program by directly allocating a proportion of the fuel revenue received from Commonwealth proportionate to the amount previously raised through the 3 x 3 levy to the 3 x 3 statutory trust. This will allow the continuation of the 3 x 3 program and importantly allow the funding of a range of projects which cannot be funded by the Roads and Traffic Authority, which include public transport infrastructure improvements and funding for local government for works on local roads. I am sure all honourable members agree that funding should be made available for that priority area. The Christian Democratic Party supports the bill but wants the Government to ensure that funding will be used for the purposes for which it is allocated.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [10.18 p.m.], in reply: I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
Motion by the Hon. M. R. Egan agreed to:
That this House at its rising today do adjourn until Tuesday, 30 June 1998 at 11.00 a.m.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [10.20 p.m.]: I move:
That this House do now adjourn.
INNER WEST MEDIA COVERAGE
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [10.20 p.m.]: I congratulate you, Madam President, on your election to the office of President of the Legislative Council. I bring to the attention of honourable members recent articles in the Glebe and Inner Western Weekly. Local rags provide a fascinating insight into what is happening in the community. Recently the Bunyip column stated:
Lone cop . . . Constable Ken Howe pointed out recently in a community newsletter that he wasn’t supposed to go to all the incidents which occur in Pyrmont and Ultimo. "As a single unit I can only attend to certain incidents, and certainly not incidents where officer safety could be in jeopardy." . . . Despite this limitation Constable Howe does urge the community to report all crimes.
So much for inner west policing! I am sure the Hon. Carmel Tebbutt will be interested in the next article. George Scoullis, vice-president of Marrickville Chamber of Commerce, wrote to the newspaper terribly concerned that members of Marrickville community cannot go to the local shops because the council has reneged on a deal. His letter stated:
Last year the council voted to allocate $180,000 to renovate the Victoria Rd carpark. Council then expended several thousand dollars on architect’s plans.
A few months later, Councillors Morgans, Cotter, Tadros, and Shanahan -
the Labor Party -
at the Technical Services Committee meeting, cancelled the renovation.
So much for that! The Labor Party probably spent the money on no aircraft noise propaganda. Next is an article under the headline "Playground a ‘health hazard’". It appears that Optus erected a telecommunications tower and grave concerns were expressed about the safety of the children in the nearby school. Where was the local member? He was not representing the business community or the shoppers, and certainly not representing the kids. Another article related to blue-green algae and the safety of people swimming in it. Where was the local member and Minister for Health? He was not representing the community! Under the heading "Secret files ‘no surprise’" another article stated:
Prominent Inner West third runway protesters were not surprised by revelations that the former police Special Branch had kept files on their activities . . .
Another interesting item for honourable members, as disclosed by my colleague the Hon. M. J. Gallacher, is that police now keep files on all of us. The next two articles are the best. The first is an article under the headline "ALP gives water police a home", which stated:
The move of the NSW Water Police to Cameron’s Cove in Balmain is virtually assured after Labor-aligned members of Leichhardt Council used their numbers to approve the scheme on June 9.
The decision has angered many East Balmain residents and went through despite a plea by local senior left-wing ALP figure Tom Uren.
However, the plan may be "sweetened" by conditions which would ameliorate the new building . . .
Tom Uren commented in that article that the area was light industrial and the local people wanted open space. However, Australian Labor Party members of Leichhardt Municipal Council voted against the proposal. What did the council do next? On the next page under the heading "Battle for future of old depot" an article stated:
Leichhardt Council will seek a meeting with State and Federal government authorities with the aim of taking over the old Hereford St Army depot in Glebe [for a park].
The council wants open space for all land it acquires for nothing, but when it gets the land it approves light industrial projects such as relocating the water police. The next interesting feature is a half-page advertisement for Marrickville council’s communications and then the best feature, a one-page advertisement in the Glebe and Inner Western Weekly placed at a cost of $2,500 by the cash-strapped Leichhardt council! The full-page advertisement has a picture of Mayor Kris Cruden and a message in large type, which I thought was for the benefit of pensioners. But there was no information, only a lovely message. The only information, in another article, was:
Leichhardt Council’s aged services centre at 184 Glebe Point Rd will be refurbished with a combined State and Federal Government grant of $469,500.
The good news about community services funding rated a tiny 1½ inches. The remainder of the article was merely general comment. The matters highlighted in the Glebe and Inner Western Weekly articles were a disgrace. [Time expired.]
THE HONOURABLE MAX WILLIS
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH [10.25 p.m.]: I pay tribute to a man who has given exemplary service to this House. Some honourable members referred to that service in the debate following your election, Madam President - as indeed you did. I did not raise this matter then because it was you who deserved the accolades. However, the Hon. M. F. Willis has been a member of this Chamber for 28 years, during which time he has contributed materially to the development of the Legislative Council as a House of review and to the professionalism and effectiveness of every member of this Chamber.
Among his many achievements the Hon. M. F. Willis was a former Leader of the Opposition in this House. However, it is his major contributions to the effectiveness of the upper House that I wish to draw to the attention of honourable members, given that a number of our colleagues have entered the House relatively recently. He was a fundamental force in the establishment of the system of parliamentary standing committees. A number of members contributed to that process, but it was the Greiner Government in 1988 that established the first two standing committees - the Standing Committee on Social Issues and the Standing Committee on State Development. The Hon. M. F. Willis, together with the Hon. Ted Pickering, was a prime contributor to that achievement.
I am informed that the Hon. M. F. Willis also played a considerable part in the drafting of the sessional orders that govern the operation of the standing committees, including a requirement that government report back to Parliament within six months of the tabling of a report. That requirement ensures that reports from those committees cannot be ignored, as so often happens with reports to governments of all persuasions. The Government is accountable to the people of New South Wales. Because of the effectiveness of those sessional orders, the operation of the standing committee system has been remarkably successful. The Hon. M. F. Willis chaired the first inquiry of the social issues committee, which related to access to adoption information. That committee’s report has made an enormous difference to the lives of many people in this State.
The role of the upper House expanded considerably with the establishment and ongoing development of the committee system and enhanced the Chamber’s function as a House of review. It gave the community far greater input into many aspects of the legislative process through the committee’s investigations, consultations and public hearings. At this time, in the development of democratic systems around the world, more attention should be given to community input into the legislative process.
As President the Hon. M. F. Willis made further contributions to the effectiveness of this House. For the first time in history, under his presidency each member of the upper House gained a full-time staff officer. That increased our efficiency enormously. At last there was someone to mind the office while we were out performing electoral duties. Moreover, President Willis found the funds for this considerable expense from within the Legislative Council’s own budget, without additional funding, as I recall. President Willis also found the funds to provide members with properly equipped computerised offices, and later to upgrade
those resources. All of those changes helped to put the Legislative Council on the professional footing that had previously been difficult to maintain without staff or resources.
I have referred to only a few achievements of the Hon. M. F. Willis, but I want to place on the record that he has been an excellent President, and every member of this Chamber has reason to be grateful to him. For me he has been friend, mentor and on occasion confessor, and a man who exemplified political honesty and integrity. When the Hon. M. F. Willis gave you his word you knew you would not be let down. When he retires before the next State election he will be a great loss both to this House and to the political process. His are difficult shoes to fill. Madam President, I am delighted that you are the candidate elected to fill them. If anyone can follow in the great tradition exemplified by the Hon. M. F. Willis, you can.
The PRESIDENT: Thank you.
The Hon. A. G. CORBETT [10.29 p.m.]: Madam President, I congratulate you on your appointment.
The PRESIDENT: Thank you.
The Hon. A. G. CORBETT: I acknowledge the distinguished long service of the Hon. M. F. Willis. I also congratulate the Hon. Carmel Tebbutt and the Hon. Dr A. Chesterfield-Evans on their first speeches in this House. I refer honourable members to a system of medicine called homoeopathy, which has a vast potential to provide inexpensive and effective health care to the people of New South Wales, especially children.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: It does not work - that’s the trouble. It is dangerous as well.
The Hon. A. G. CORBETT: I did not expect to give this speech without copping some flak from those who believe they represent the Australian Medical Association, but I do not intend to get into a debate. I suspect that, due to the time limit, this speech will be spread over two or three adjournment debates.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: On a point of order. The Hon. A. G. Corbett just said that I represent the AMA in this Chamber. I find that offensive and narrowing. I would like it withdrawn.
The Hon. A. G. CORBETT: It was said in jest, and I thought the honourable member might have accepted it in that spirit. However, if the honourable member is offended, I shall withdraw it. Homoeopathy is a system of medicine which should not be confused with other so-called traditional and complementary therapies, though it shares a similar energetic basis with acupuncture. The origins of the profession of homoeopathy are intertwined with those of orthodox medicine, although its approach to health and disease is very different from that of orthodox medicine. The central principle on which it is based is that likes can be cured by likes.
This principle has been discovered and utilised by various people throughout history, but the founder of homoeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, was the first to construct a coherent system of medicine around it. As mentioned, homoeopathy is based on the principle that likes can be cured by likes. This means that the symptoms in a sick person can be cured by giving a substance which would cause similar symptoms in a healthy person. A good example is the homoeopathic prescription of allium sepa - or red onion - a substance known for its ability to produce watery eyes and a runny nose to treat hayfever, a condition with similar symptoms.
The symptoms displayed by a sick person are usually not produced by the disease; they are produced by the body in an attempt to fight the disease. An example of this is seen in influenza. This condition, as all honourable members know, often involves fever, in which the body’s temperature is raised, thus inhibiting virus reproduction and increasing the rate of activity of the immune response in general. It also involves mucus production, which is the body’s way of protecting its internal surfaces and trapping and eliminating pathogens. It can be seen, therefore, that any drug or herb which works by opposing these symptoms actually impedes the body in its attempts to fight off invaders and heal itself.
Because it uses the principle of treatment by similars rather than opposites, homoeopathy works with the body’s healing efforts, not against them. This is why it is called homoeopathy - homoios is Greek for similar and pathos is Greek for suffering, so homoeopathy literally translated means similar suffering. Orthodox medicine tends to treat disease with substances that oppose or divert the body’s efforts at healing. This explains why homoeopathic physicians have historically called orthodox medical doctors allopaths. Allos is Greek for other, so allopathy literally translated means other suffering.
Homoeopathy treats the person rather than the disease. It recognises that the human body has enormous potential to heal itself and seeks to work with the body in its endeavours. It also recognises
that sometimes the body fails in its efforts to heal itself, sometimes because it does not have the necessary vitality and sometimes because it gets stuck in a non-productive pattern of response, as in migraine, asthma, neurosis or allergy. Homoeopathy seeks to nudge the body’s defence systems into action, giving medicines which trigger off the appropriate healing response in the body. One major and important difference between the action of homoeopathic medicines and that of orthodox drugs or herbs is in the duration of action.
Drugs and herbs tend to have a duration of action - that is, they have a temporary effect only. For example, if one suffers from chronic headaches, one might take paracetamol or white willow bark.
These substances will suppress the pain for a couple of hours and then wear off, at which time they have to be taken again. Homoeopathic medicines are different because they trigger off one’s own homoeostatic balancing mechanism. They tend to create permanent shifts in one’s body state, which means that it is usually necessary to take a homoeopathic medicine only once or a small number of times to create a permanent change. I am running out of time, but I will take every opportunity to raise this important issue in future adjournment debates.
Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at 10.34 p.m. until Tuesday, 30 June 1998, at 11.00 a.m.