Full Day Hansard Transcript (Legislative Council, 16 March 2004, Corrected Copy)

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Tuesday 16 March 2004

The President (The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann) took the chair at 2.30 p.m.

The Clerk of the Parliaments offered the Prayers.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I acknowledge that we are meeting on Eora land.

The Hon. Peter Primrose, on behalf of the Chair, tabled the report entitled "Legislation Review Digest No. 4 of 2004", dated 16 March 2004.

Ordered to be printed.

The Hon. John Hatzistergos tabled the following papers:
      Local Government Act 1993

      (a) Rylstone Shire Council Public Inquiry, dated March 2004
      (b) Liverpool City Council Public Inquiry—Primary Findings and Interim Report by Emeritus Professor Maurice Daly, BA, PhD, MIMC, dated March 2004

Ordered to be printed.

    Petition opposing any legislative changes that would violate the basic principles of marriage, received from Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile.
    CountryLink Rail Services

    Petition opposing the abolition of CountryLink rail services and their replacement with buses in rural and regional New South Wales, received from the Hon. Patricia Forsythe.
    Gaming Machine Tax

    Petition praying that the House reconsider the decision to increase poker machine tax, received from the Hon. Rick Colless.
    Freedom of Religion

    Petitions praying that the House reject legislative proposals that would detract from the exercise of freedom of religion, and retain the existing exemptions applying to religious bodies in the Anti-Discrimination Act, received from Reverend the Hon. Dr Gordon Moyes, Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile and the Hon. Henry Tsang.
    Withdrawal of Business

    Business of the House Notice of Motion No. 2 withdrawn on motion by the Hon. Peter Breen.
    Postponement of Business

    Government Business Notices of Motions Nos 1 and 2 and Orders of the Day Nos 1, 2 and 3 postponed on motion by the Hon. Tony Kelly.
    Second Reading

    Debate resumed from 10 March.

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries) [2.48 p.m.], in reply: I thank all honourable members for their contributions to the debate on this bill. The Opposition's support for this bill, including its amendment, which will be accepted by the Government, is welcome. Mention was made in this Chamber and in the other place of the meat industry levy. The levy is the only means by which livestock producers contribute to the cost of meat food safety regulation, which benefits all sectors of the meat industry. The average levy of $14 per year per producer generates around $1 million, which would otherwise have to be raised by increasing licence fees for other meat industry sectors.

    I have promised a review and it will be a genuine review. But I expect that review to focus on inequities in levy arrangements, including the possibility that the levy applies to occupiers of land who do not benefit from meat food safety regulation. Food-borne disease is a major public health issue. For a number of reasons, which I outlined in my second reading speech, the incidence of food-borne disease is on the increase in the developed world, including in Australia. The latest estimates are that the cost to this State is of the order of $765 million per year in both direct and indirect costs.

    The Government believes that the best way to tackle food-borne disease is to build an efficient and effective food regulatory system supported, where appropriate, by industry and community education. That is why the Government set up Safe Food Production NSW five years ago to integrate the raft of agencies and programs responsible for food safety in the primary produce and seafood industries. In 2002 the Government commissioned John Kerin to advise it on whether that structural integration should be extended to regulation of the retail food service and food manufacture industries.

    Mr Kerin found a strong case and overwhelming support for this step and recommended that a single independent State agency be established with through-chain responsibility for food regulation. This bill will implement that recommendation and establish the New South Wales Food Authority as Australia's first through-chain food regulation agency. The Government is very aware of the need to ensure the maximum focus on and expertise in the area of public health protection. As recommended by Mr Kerin, NSW Health will retain its complementary responsibilities for food-borne disease surveillance and investigation, nutrition policy and health promotion. A detailed protocol for the agencies' joint response to incidents of food-borne disease has been prepared and trialled ready for operations.

    Furthermore, the new authority will operate within my portfolio as an agency completely separate from NSW Agriculture. Opposition speakers in this Chamber and in the other place seemed to have some difficulty understanding this point. Let me make it perfectly clear that, like its predecessor in my portfolio, Safe Food NSW, the New South Wales Food Authority will be established under specific food regulatory legislation—in this case, the State's principal food regulation Act—based on a nationally agreed model. As a statutory body, the Food Authority will be clearly accountable for the food safety and consumer protection objects of this Act. It will receive its government funding directly from Treasury and the director-general will report directly to me, not through the Department of Agriculture.

    Nothing in this bill confers a policing role on the Department of Agriculture. Safe Food NSW has undertaken that role with respect to primary food production for the past five years and the Food Authority will assume that responsibility. Because the Food Authority will be a completely separate agency, a comprehensive memorandum of understanding will be needed between it and the Department of Agriculture to facilitate co-operative action where appropriate. A similar memorandum of understanding will be agreed with NSW Health. Let me put this issue finally to rest by quoting the opening statement of the draft memorandum on the respective roles of the two agencies in relation to food. It states:
        NSW Agriculture has primary responsibility for delivering product integrity outcomes through extension in the farming and associated post-harvest sectors.

        The Food Authority has primary responsibility for delivering food regulatory outcomes (including food safety) through-chain, including the primary production, processing, packaging, manufacturing, wholesale, distribution, retail and food service sectors.
    By establishing the Food Authority, New South Wales will bring enhanced focus to the challenges posed by globalisation, changes in production processes and new consumer trends and eating habits. I note once again that the establishment of an independent State agency with through-chain responsibility for food regulation has the overwhelming support of consumer and public health advocates, the food industry, local government, and scientific and technical experts. I commend the bill to the House.

    Motion agreed to.

    Bill read a second time.
    In Committee

    Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.

    The Hon. DUNCAN GAY (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [2.54 p.m.]: I move The Nationals amendment No. 1:

    No. 1 Page 14, schedule 1, proposed section 108, line 19. Insert ", community education" after "information".

    I spoke at length about this issue in my contribution to the second reading debate and do not intend to revisit past glories, albeit a couple of days later. The Minister, both in his contribution to the debate and when he was at the table during the debate, acknowledged the Opposition's point and has undertaken to support this amendment. I thank him for that. This amendment represents a vital step forward in community education, which is an important part of this legislation. I commend the amendment to the Committee.

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries) [2.55 p.m.]: The bill provides a number of specific functions in addition to the general functions conferred on the Food Authority by the Food Act. New section 108 (2) provides these functions. They include the current functions of Safe Food and two additional functions that address recommendations of the Kerin report. Mr Kerin recommended that industry training be provided when new regulatory requirements are rolled out. To facilitate this, new section 108 (2) (e) will allow the authority to:
        … undertake or facilitate the education and training of persons to enable them to meet the requirements of the Food Standards Code and food safety schemes
    "Persons" in this context refers not only to traditional food industry sectors but also to community-based organisations, such as the Country Women's Association. For example, the authority can provide advice to the Country Women's Association and similar organisations about allergen information that may be required by cake stalls or sausage sizzles. Community education is further addressed in new section 108 (2) (f), which confers a new function on the New South Wales Food Authority to provide advice, information and assistance to consumers on food safety and other consumer food issues.

    The Kerin report specifically recommended that the authority have a consumer information and education function. Such activities promote the overall goal of the authority of improving food safety, reducing food-borne illness and improving the general health of the community. To provide a fully integrated approach it is necessary to complement the authority's regulatory work with proactive community education and advice. The current wording of new section 108 (2) (f) is closely based on the consumer education function of the United Kingdom's Food Standards Agency. This agency has been a leading international example of how to provide community and consumer education about food handling, nutrition and emerging food issues. I invite Opposition members to log on to the Food Standards Agency web site to see the comprehensive educative activities being undertaken to promote food safety and nutrition and United Kingdom and European regulatory requirements.

    The current wording of new section 108 (2) (f) allows the New South Wales Food Authority to undertake similar activities appropriate to the New South Wales community. Of course, paragraphs (e) and (f) are interrelated and must be read as a whole. Community education is an implicit part of the two mentioned functions and is clearly addressed by the paragraphs as currently worded. Therefore, the proposed inclusion of these words is not contrary to the Government's intention. The Government has long recognised that consumer information and education helps to ensure safe food handling in the home and informed consumer choice in the marketplace, and has addressed this issue in the bill. Therefore, in the spirit of bipartisanship, the Government will accept The Nationals amendment.

    The Hon. Dr ARTHUR CHESTERFIELD-EVANS [2.57 p.m.]: We support The Nationals amendment. We believe that community education should be improved, and the amendment meets that objective. The bill is the result of the 2002 Kerin report into the New South Wales food regulatory system. One of the report's recommendations was the merger of Safe Food NSW with the food regulatory staff of NSW Health. Safe Food is under the control of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. We support the bill and the amendment.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Schedule 1 as amended agreed to.

    Schedule 2 agreed to.

    Title agreed to.

    Bill reported from Committee with an amendment and report adopted.
    Third Reading

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries) [3.00 p.m.]: I move:
        That this bill be now read a third time.
    Reverend the Hon. Dr GORDON MOYES [3.00 p.m.]: I missed the call earlier. The Christian Democratic Party supports the Food Legislation Amendment Bill. We note the overview and the objects of the bill and are pleased to support it. Like many other honourable members, as a child I can remember living in a house without refrigeration. I can remember my mother vigorously rubbing vinegar over meat that had gone off. I can remember milk that had curdled in our Weet-Bix, and unsatisfactory food handling procedures. I also remember the outbreaks of food poisoning in the area. I have had this brought home to me as a welfare leader throughout my life dealing with many impoverished people in the community.

    At some time or other I had to make decisions which are not yet accepted by most within the welfare sector, and I will use this occasion to point out the significance of safe food handling and safe food. I demanded, for example, in work at Wesley Mission over many years that we would not accept, from restaurants, licensed clubs and the like, second-hand food to give to the homeless. I must say that over the years this point of view has rarely been accepted or appreciated by restaurants and others who, perhaps facing a long weekend, did not want food left in their refrigerators to spoil and thought they would give it to the homeless. But they never realised the implications of what they were doing with food that would be used to feed the poor.

    Ever since, we have not only refused second-hand food to give to poor families but also stressed the proper sterilisation of all cutlery, plates and dishes, the training of all people including volunteers in food handling, the use of hair nets and plastic gloves and other requirements, and the positioning of infectious barriers for the safe handling of food. We often talk about safe handling and food practices, but it is important that we think not only of people who go to restaurants or buy food in shops. We should also think of the other area of life where food is made available for people who do not buy it and where food is given with generosity but without the necessary precautions.

    The bill will enable the merger of Safe Food with the food regulatory staff and resources of NSW Health, and the Christian Democratic Party is delighted with that process. The idea of a single independent State agency with responsibility for food regulation right through the food chain is extremely important. All honourable members are aware of the significance of food-borne disease and its implications in the personal lives of people, in rendering people unable to be productive at work and elsewhere, and as a cost to the economy through the medical health benefits and public hospital systems. Food-borne disease does seem to be on the increase in many countries. Australia, through its quarantine laws, has been very fortunate in being able to avoid many of the problems that have been encountered in other countries.

    However, with average Australians now eating at restaurants more often and buying more fast food, I recognise that we must tighten up our safe food handling requirements. I commend the Government for what it is doing. The Christian Democratic Party supports the bill. We also make a plea that we should think not only of restaurants and fast-food outlets but also of those people who exist on welfare and are given food by organisations. I encourage welfare organisations that frequently appeal for leftover food to be distributed to the poor to cease doing that, unless the food is handled in exactly the way that the bill requires.

    Ms SYLVIA HALE [3.05 p.m.]: What is good for the Christian Democratic Party in terms of third reading speeches is also good for the Greens. The Greens support the bill but want to express concerns about what is absent from the bill. Under the current arrangements, local councils are expected to monitor and enforce compliance with the food standards code, inspect and approve food premises, investigate complaints, and where possible conduct training for food handlers and inspectors. The bill does not propose to alter these arrangements. Indeed, the Minister's briefing note on the bill is unequivocal on this issue and states:
        The significant role of local government environmental health officers will not change as a result of the new merger. The new agency will work to strengthen the partnership between State and local government in food regulation.
    In the other House, Mr David Campbell, speaking in support of the bill, said:
        … about 340 staff in local government will undertake some food regulatory work—a full-time equivalent of about 90 people.
    Our concern is that the bill does nothing to address the burdens placed upon local councils already struggling under the current system. Indications are that the burden of food safety inspection on local government will be increased. This is yet another example of the State Government shifting costs to local government.

    The Hon. Ian Macdonald: Point of order: My understanding is that on a third reading of a bill an honourable member must debate the principles of the bill, not give a second reading speech. Clearly, the honourable member is debating aspects of the bill that should have fallen within the second reading debate. I was being somewhat indulgent, but as the honourable member is now critically canvassing issues that are more of a second reading nature she is clearly outside the ambit of a third reading of the bill.

    Ms SYLVIA HALE: To the point of order: I clearly indicated that the Greens support the bill but want to raise some of its shortcomings, namely that it further shifts costs to local government. I think those remarks are totally appropriate, more so than discursions on improper food handling processes in the 1930s.

    Reverend the Hon. Dr Gordon Moyes: I was not alive then.

    Ms SYLVIA HALE: The 1940s.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! The purpose of the third reading of a bill is not to debate the bill in detail; it is not a second opportunity for a member to deliver a second reading speech. Deputy-President Willis ruled on 4 May 1989 that the House should not be treated to a second reading debate speech on the third reading, that the prime purpose of a third reading of a bill is to ensure a last opportunity to oppose the legislation, and that the rulings of former Presidents state clearly that the debate on the third reading of a bill should be confined to that question I ask the member to confine her remarks specifically to the principle of the bill and not debate the detail of the bill.

    Ms SYLVIA HALE: As I noted earlier, the Greens support the bill, though we wish to make clear our concern that there will be a shortage of staff to perform the regulatory requirements of the current Act.

    Motion agreed to.

    Bill read a third time.
    Second Reading

    The Hon. MICHAEL COSTA (Minister for Transport Services, Minister for the Hunter, and Minister Assisting the Minister for Natural Resources (Forests)) [3.10 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.

    Leave granted.
        The purpose of this bill is to improve the safety of vulnerable young drivers by sending a clear message to the holders of learner and provisional licences that alcohol and driving simply do not mix. The bill will amend the relevant provisions of the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999 to impose a prescribed concentration of alcohol [PCA] requirement of zero on drivers who are the holders of a learners licence or a provisional licence. Under the Act, special category drivers currently are subject to the special range PCA legal limit of 0.02, which means they must have less than 0.02 grams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of their blood. Currently, a special category driver includes a learner and first-year provisional driver, as well as certain other categories of drivers such as heavy and public passenger vehicle drivers, drivers of dangerous goods vehicles, drivers who are not licensed and drivers who are under the age of 25 years and who have not held a New South Wales licence for three years. Therefore the special category driver includes the majority of provisional P2 licence holders.

        In August the Government convened the 2003 Alcohol Summit and it was a great success in identifying initiatives to deal with the problem of alcohol in our community. Acknowledging the extreme risk that alcohol poses for novice drivers regardless of age, a key summit recommendation was a reduction of the legal limit from 0.02 to zero blood alcohol for all holders of learner and provisional licences. It must be emphasised that the current legal limit of less than 0.02 blood alcohol will be retained for all other special category drivers.

        The introduction of a zero blood alcohol level for learner and provisional licence holders will send a very clear and strong message to new drivers that alcohol and driving simply do not mix. That means that those in that category simply cannot drink alcohol. In the past we have had significant success in combating drink-driving. In 1998 the Government substantially increased the penalties that apply to drink-driving offences. However, despite those increased penalties and continuing community education on the dangers of drink-driving, alcohol remains one of the major factors in the New South Wales road toll, unfortunately involving one in five of all fatalities. Alcohol was a factor in the deaths of 130 people on New South Wales roads in 2002. Most disturbingly, some 12 per cent of the drivers involved in those fatal crashes were novice drivers in their first years of driving. Alcohol is a drug that affects the central nervous system. It impairs co-ordination and concentration, while at the same time increasing confidence and risk-taking behaviour.

        All drivers who drink are at risk of crashing and injuring or killing themselves and others on the roads. Their passengers are also at great risk. However, because of their newly developing driving skills, novice drivers are even more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. Medical research has shown that the effects of alcohol are more pronounced on skills that are not highly practised. This means that the skills of novice drivers are more likely to be affected by alcohol than those of more experienced drivers. Young drivers—still learning how to control their vehicle, perceive road hazards and make safe judgments—are taking a far greater risk if there is any alcohol present in their blood.

        There is now overwhelming evidence that a blood alcohol concentration [BAC] as low as 0.02 impairs driving skills for novice drivers. Alcohol impairs some driving skills, beginning with any significant departure from zero BAC. Research has shown that young novice drivers aged 16 to 20 years with any BAC below 0.02 are eight times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than older drivers with the same BAC. It is apparent that some groups of special category drivers understand clearly that the 0.02 limit means that they cannot consume any alcohol at all before driving.

        The involvement of heavy vehicle drivers and public passenger vehicle drivers in drink-driving crashes is very small. In the past five years only three heavy vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes were drink-driving, and not one bus or taxi driver involved in fatal crashes was drink-driving. However, comment has been made from some members of the community, including some magistrates, that young people are confused by the 0.02 limit. They believe they can drink small amounts of alcohol, still be under the limit, and not have their driving impaired. Many novice drivers are unsure about exactly how much alcohol they can consume safely and still stay under the limit. This confusion may have contributed to the large numbers of novice drivers convicted of drink-driving.

        There are currently 458,685 learner and provisional licence holders in New South Wales. Last year learner and provisional licence holders committed 2,312 alcohol-related offences, despite the overwhelming majority of these people having a 0.02 blood alcohol limit. Drivers aged 17 to 20 years are overrepresented in drink-driving crashes in New South Wales. This group comprises only 6 per cent of New South Wales licence holders, but, unfortunately, represents 17 per cent of all drink-drivers who are involved in fatal crashes. The vast majority of learner and provisional licence holders fall into this 17 to 20 year age group. A zero blood alcohol limit is the most appropriate level by any standards for novice drivers.

        Their less-developed skills make novice drivers more susceptible to alcohol-impairing effects of even lower levels of alcohol, and they are more likely than older, more experienced drivers to take risks when driving. After consuming alcohol, novice drivers are likely to take even more risks. By introducing this new zero alcohol limit the Government is protecting the most vulnerable of drivers on our roads from the impairing effects of even lower levels of alcohol and subsequent trauma associated with drink-driving crashes.

        When the special range of defence for novice drivers was introduced in 1985 it was recognised that the use of medicines and other substances with a small amount of alcohol was an issue. Accordingly, the lower level of the special range of prescribed concentration of alcohol [PCA] was set at a 0.02 grams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. This still remains an issue. Therefore, a limited defence has been introduced to apply only to the new novice range of PCA. It will be a defence if the novice driver who has a PCA level of between 0.00 and 0.02 can prove to the court that the alcohol present at the time the person was alleged to have committed the offence was not caused by any consumption of an alcoholic beverage, other than for the purposes of religious observance—for example, the taking of holy Communion—or by any consumption and use of any other substance for the purpose of consuming alcohol, for example, medicines.

        To ensure that the community, and particularly young drivers, are aware of the new law the Roads and Traffic Authority will implement a communication strategy to inform all New South Wales licence holders affected by the new law that they are now subject to a zero BAC limit. Alcohol derived from foodstuffs, medicines and mouthwashes will be addressed specifically within these public information resources. In addition, new curriculum-based drink-driving resources for high schools are being developed to ensure that young people are fully informed about the law relating to alcohol and driving before they apply for a learners licence. It is very clear that there is widespread community support for a zero alcohol limit for novice drivers. The community expects that the Government will continue to act to reduce the incidence of young people drinking and driving.

        The existing penalty provisions for special category drivers will apply to the new zero alcohol limit: a maximum of 10 penalty units in the case of the first offence or 20 penalty units in the case of the second offence. Existing disqualification periods for special category drivers will also apply: for a first offence a minimum disqualification period of 3 months and an automatic disqualification period of 6 months; for a second or subsequent offence a minimum disqualification period of 6 months and an automatic disqualification period of 12 months. The recently introduced provisions dealing with interlock devices as an alternative disqualification will also be amended to include a reference to the new offence.

        Some drivers may hold an unrestricted licence for one class of vehicle, for example a car, and a provisional licence for another class of vehicle such as a motorcycle. It is the intention that the zero blood alcohol concentration limit apply only to the driving of the vehicle requiring a provisional or learners licence. The legislation proposed for New South Wales has been implemented already in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania. The zero alcohol limit will send a clear zero-tolerance message to novice drivers that no alcohol can be consumed before driving. This message must be heard and understood. It is consistent with other recent legislative changes prohibiting people from drinking alcohol while in control of a motor vehicle or riding a motorcycle. I commend the bill to the House.

    The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER [3.11 p.m.]: The Opposition agrees that there is a need for this bill, although we do have reservations about it, and therefore in Committee I will move a straightforward amendment. The main purpose of the bill is to make it an offence for the holders of learner and provisional licences to drive with any alcohol in their blood. Currently, learner and provisional licence holders are permitted to drive with a prescribed concentration of alcohol—PCA, as it is known—of 0.02 grams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. This bill will amend the Act to reduce the permissible PCA of 0.02 to zero.

    One of the subcommittees of the Alcohol Summit, which was held in this Chamber, examined the road safety aspects of alcohol use. It was presented with evidence that alcohol is indeed a significant factor in fatalities generally but particularly, unfortunately, fatalities involving young drivers. That is the motivation factor behind this legislation. Young drivers are substantially overrepresented in alcohol-related accidents. Drivers aged between 17 and 20 years represent only 6 per cent of drivers, but they are involved in 17 per cent of drink-driving fatal accidents. So it can be said that young people in that age group are three times more likely to be involved in an alcohol-related fatal crash than their older counterparts.

    Research information given to the Alcohol Summit showed that drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 years with a prescribed concentration of less than 0.02 grams of alcohol per millilitres of blood were eight times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than are older drivers with the same prescribed concentration of alcohol in their blood. Even with a low PCA, young inexperienced drivers are eight times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than their older counterparts. Last year 2,312 alcohol-related offences were committed by learner and provisional drivers. That issue needs to be addressed. There is strong medical research that shows that the effect of alcohol is more pronounced in drivers who are not highly skilled and who are inexperienced. Of course, generally, that means younger drivers. I note that legislation similar to that before the House has been introduced in other States, and that New South Wales and Western Australia are the only remaining Australian States that do not have this type of legislation.

    The bill has a number of other provisions. It deals with the consumption of foodstuffs and medicine that contain a small amount of alcohol that would, on blood analysis, yield a reading above zero. So the bill provides a defence to learner drivers or provisional drivers if they can prove to a court that the alcohol in their blood was not caused by the consumption of alcohol but by the ingestion of foodstuffs or medicines, or taken, for example, at Holy Communion. The provision of such a defence is appropriate. But we note that the onus of proof has been reversed to a presumption of guilt, rather than maintaining the presumption of innocence, which is usual in our legal system. In some circumstances it may be difficult for persons who are being questioned or prosecuted to prove their innocence. It could be argued that such a defence should not be necessary, given that generally there is a presumption of innocence. We acknowledge that these are unusual circumstances. Nevertheless, we would like some review of the operation of the Act after a period of time. That is one reason for the amendment that I have foreshadowed.

    The Opposition understands that in other States that have introduced similar legislation it has become the custom that if an arresting officer smells alcohol on the breath of an alleged offender who claims not to have been drinking alcohol, a blood test will be undertaken. If there is no smell of alcohol on the breath, despite a PCA reading of less than 0.02, some leniency is extended. The Opposition has some concerns about that type of subjective policing. The Nationals and the Liberal Party support the legislation generally. We have a long history of supporting road safety measures and putting them on the statute books of this State. Some of those have helped to reduce our State's road toll.

    One of the other shortcomings of the bill is that it does not provide for roadside tests for drugs other than alcohol. We are concerned that this particular legislation may act as an incentive for some young people to switch from the use of alcohol to the use of other drugs. If learner or provisional drivers have any alcohol whatsoever in their system, they can be charged with breaking the law. But if they drive with other drugs in their system, they will not be charged with breaking the law. We are concerned that this legislation may lead to young people feeling they are better off taking drugs rather than consuming alcohol.

    Another point that the Opposition wishes to draw to the attention of the House is the incidence of the use of marijuana by people involved in fatal car crashes. For example, there have been examinations of this particular phenomenon at a morgue in Melbourne. It was found that a high proportion of the bodies of people who had been involved in fatal car accidents had a reading of drugs other than alcohol in the blood. We note that the Victorian Government has decided to introduce the equivalent of an alcohol test to detect drugs in the blood. The technology involved in this type of saliva testing has been refined, though it is not yet perfect. We note that earlier this year the Victorian Government announced that it will conduct trials of a roadside saliva test.

    We are disappointed that the New South Wales Minister for Roads, Mr Scully, has said that here in New South Wales he would not sanction the conduct of such tests; that he would, instead, await the outcome of the Victorian trials. Researchers are currently trying to determine a reading for other substances, such as marijuana, that is the equivalent of the 0.5 reading for alcohol. Hopefully, that research will come to hand and can be translated into such tests in due course. The penalties that are to apply under this legislation are the same as those that apply to special category drivers; that is, there will be a maximum of 10 penalty points, or $1,100, in the case of a first offence, and 20 penalty points, or $2,200, in the case of a second offence.

    The same disqualification period will apply that currently applies to special category drivers who exceed the special range of prescribed concentration of alcohol, that is for a first offender a minimum disqualification period of three months and an automatic disqualification period of six months, and for a second or subsequent offences a minimum disqualification period of six months and an automatic disqualification period of 12 months. We are concerned to ensure that the bill is reviewed after a couple of years because one consequence of the legislation could be that some of the 458,000 learner and P-plate drivers could become criminals after consuming light beer.

    Although we support the passing of laws designed to protect the safety of people on the road, we must take care not to pass laws that will make criminals out of many innocent people, including young people. In Committee I will move an amendment to introduce a clause to enable a review of the effectiveness of the legislation, and to look at accident rates and determine whether they have declined. At that time I will commend the amendment. The Opposition acknowledges the need for the legislation. Statistics relating to young people involved in fatal car accidents after they have consumed alcohol indicate the need for a crackdown to protect young drivers, as well as their passengers. We support the bill with the addition of the amendment I have foreshadowed.

    Ms LEE RHIANNON [3.21 p.m.]: The Greens support the bill. We believe it will send a strong message to young people about the dangers of drinking and driving, and it may help to save lives. However, it is a pity that members of Parliament do not adopt the same type of tough-minded approach to the dangers of drinking and legislating. One day it will change, but it seems as though it will take a while. Although the Greens will support the bill, we would also like to ensure that such a tough measure is effective. I understand that the Opposition plans to move an amendment, details of which we have heard from Ms Jennifer Gardiner. I understand the amendment will call for a review of the legislation after two years. We will certainly support the amendment, and we congratulate her on bringing it forward.

    It is not only a sensible idea in this case, but it is a sensible idea in general because we must review legislation to determine how it operates in practice. Often the Government produces legislation on the run, then rushes it through the Houses, particularly towards the end of a sitting. But when errors and loopholes are discovered only the Government has the power to patch them up. If we correctly understand the amendment foreshadowed by Ms Jennifer Gardiner, parliamentarians will have the power to identify and help rectify the Government's mistakes. Review of the legislation after two years will give us another opportunity to examine further ways in which we can stop the senseless and rising death rates on our roads, particularly the deaths of so many young people.

    The Hon. Dr ARTHUR CHESTERFIELD-EVANS [3.24 p.m.]: The bill amends the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act so that all motor vehicle drivers holding either a learners or provisional licence will be subjected to blood alcohol concentrations of 0.02 grams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. It is effectively a zero limit of blood alcohol concentration for learners and provisional drivers in New South Wales. A relatively small amount of alcoholic beverage—one glass of a standard drink—will produce such a reading. A blood alcohol concentration of 0.02 will allow for the alcohol in cough medicines or the incidental ingestion of alcohol. It is interesting to note that a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02 applies to all licensed drivers in Norway and Sweden. In his second reading speech in the other place the Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Minister for Roads said that learner and provisional drivers accounted for 2,312 alcohol-related offences on the State's roads last year. Drivers aged between 17 and 20 comprised 6 per cent of licence holders but represented 17 per cent of drivers involved in fatal crashes.

    Obviously, we want to reduce this sad and tragic reality. As a surgeon who has done some work on those have been involved in motor vehicle accidents, I can assure honourable members of the harm and the trauma they can cause. Measurement of the concentration of alcohol in the blood takes several forms. Generally it is measured by breath analysis, but it can also be measured in the blood. Different jurisdictions have different thresholds for the concentration of alcohol in the blood, ranging from one milligram per millilitre, which is 0.1 grams per hundred millilitres, to zero tolerance. The International Centre for Alcohol Policies identified the United States as having the highest permissible concentration of alcohol in the blood, with some jurisdictions maintaining a limit of one milligram per millilitre.

    Nine countries have set their blood alcohol concentration level at 0.08 milligrams per millilitre, while 27 countries have set it at 0.05 milligrams per millilitre. Only Lithuania has a level of 0.04 milligrams per millilitre, while Georgia, Moldova and Turkmenistan have a level of 0.03 milligrams per millilitre. Norway and Sweden stand together at 0.02 milligrams per millilitre while Albania is alone at 0.01 milligram per millilitre. Eight countries do not permit any trace of alcohol in a driver's blood. Russia designates its standard only by the term "drunkenness". The results of a review of 112 studies concluded that certain skills required to operate any type of motorised vehicle become impaired at even modest departures from zero blood alcohol concentration. At a 0.05 blood alcohol concentration most studies reported significant impairment. By a 0.08 blood alcohol concentration 94 per cent of the studies reported impairment. Some skills are impaired significantly at a 0.01 blood alcohol concentration, although other skills do not show impairment until a 0.06 blood alcohol concentration.

    It is worth looking at the literature. The Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs in Sweden, which works for the Government as a neutral source of expertise, produces information that will inform research. It is a worthwhile precedent. New South Wales should set up or tender for institutions to develop expertise in social policy research. The results of research projects, for which they should be paid, should be available to the Government. The information should be made public and published in peer review journals. The Government could then say that it is basing its legislation on research that it commissioned which has been scrutinised by the best available expertise in the scientific field from which the research is drawn. In fairness to the Government, Tony Stewart commented in his second reading speech in the other place that there is no overwhelming evidence that a blood alcohol concentration as low as 0.02 impaired the driving skills of novice drivers.

    As a person who is very much in favour of evidence-based legislation, I think it would be a good idea for the Government to state the source and background of the information. In commissioning research on social policy issues, a factor such as blood alcohol levels will probably be the subject of a reasonable amount of worldwide literature. I support the general principle that social policy research should be carried out in a systematic fashion in accordance with questions that are being asked, and that that research should inform legislation. Fortunately this legislation is supported by the literature and, as such, the Australian Democrats support the bill.

    I emphasise the point about the value of precedents and a social policy institute, which would not only be an innovation but would also save the Government money in the long term. Such an institute would effectively transfer some of the research involved in the preparation of legislation from the public service to neutral areas of expertise, such as university departments with expertise in particular fields. I believe that would be a worthwhile change and would provide a scientific basis for legislation and import more academic rigour and independently produced information into legislation.

    Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE [3.30 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party supports the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Amendment (Alcohol) Bill, which emanates from the Alcohol Summit. The Christian Democratic Party played a major role in the Summit because of our concern about the harmful impact of alcohol on society. The bill has not been introduced in haste but has its source in a thoughtful Summit which was attended by representatives of leading organisations, medical experts and experts from universities. At the Summit I pushed for the concept of zero tolerance to apply not only to novice drivers but to drivers up to the age of 25 years. That proposal was not met with enthusiastic support.

    Figures relating to accidents indicate that drivers under the age of 25 years were certainly involved in a greater number of accidents than drivers in other age categories. Approximately 12 per cent of drivers involved in fatal accidents were novice drivers in their first years of driving. After completing a probationary driving period of up to four years some drivers feel they are indestructible and engage in dangerous or careless driving. If those drivers are under the influence of alcohol their vehicles become lethal weapons. I encourage the Government to consider extending the zero tolerance concept to other age categories as a strategy to reduce the number of accidents. After all, the primary concern of members of Parliament in passing this legislation is to reduce the number of deaths on New South Wales roads.

    For that very reason, some years ago the Christian Democratic Party supported breath testing. The concept did not meet with enthusiastic support in this House and it was a battle to have the legislation passed. From memory, my vote was crucial in the passage of that bill. Some members of the House resist innovative measures because they believe they are too extreme or interfere with civil liberties. However, in this instance I believe the Government is on the right track. Unfortunately the Government may not be able to accomplish everything at once, and that can sometimes result in a public backlash. I therefore encourage it to take a step-by-step approach in undertaking reform and to take the community with it in the implementation of this bill.

    The Government should organise a public information campaign to educate young drivers about the legislation. It is essential to the success of this legislation that all high school students and novice drivers be provided with resource materials that have been revised and reprinted to reflect the impact of the bill. The Government should undertake a young drivers education campaign. Community support and education campaigns play a vital part in the successful implementation of this type of legislation. There is no doubt that such a strategy would assist young people attending a social occasion in deciding that the driver of their vehicle should totally abstain from alcohol. It would take away some of the guessing and gambling involved in regard to young people drinking and driving.

    Young people take risks when they try to calculate the number of glasses of beer they can consume and still be in a position to drive. They try to calculate their level of intoxication. This legislation will remove that uncertainty. Some educational television campaigns have provided information as to how many glasses of beer or how much alcohol may be consumed before they reach the legal limit. Sadly, many fatal accidents involve a number of young people who have been to a party, and a combination of excessive speed and alcohol consumption. Often several young people are killed, if not the entire group. This legislation will provide that a group must exercise self-discipline and decide that a novice driver will totally abstain from drinking alcohol.

    For the majority of novice drivers the learners licence period is a minimum of six months, the provisional P1 licence period is 12 months and the provisional P2 licence period is 24 months, which makes a total probationary licence period of three years. The Opposition's foreshadowed amendment calls for a review period of two years, whereas the bill provides for a review period of five years. I believe the Opposition's proposal provides far too short a period in which to ascertain the effectiveness of the legislation. The review period should be a minimum of four years, and ideally the total period of review should be five years to enable research to concentrate on the entire novice driver period and include the first 12 months of the unrestricted licence, as well as a 12-month period within which a report can be provided to Parliament.

    Although I do not doubt the sincerity of the Opposition, a review period of two years is tantamount to suggesting that the legislation is unsound and should be considered for repeal after two years. That is a matter of great concern to me because I believe it would be a retrograde step. Nothing should be done to undermine this legislation or its permanence. The purpose of a review is simply to ascertain the effectiveness of the legislation. It is not intended to operate as a sunset clause. The Christian Democratic Party supports the bill and congratulates the Government on its initiative in bringing the bill before the House.

    The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK [3.37 p.m.]: I support all the comments made by the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner during this debate, but I add a precautionary note. The essence of my concern is that I wonder whether we are not making it too difficult for young people to obtain their drivers licence. I noted the figures cited in the Minister's second reading speech relating to the incidence of young people who are involved in alcohol-related road accidents. The Minister referred to drivers 17 to 20 years of age, who are overrepresented in drink-driving crashes, and stated:
        This group comprises only 6 per cent of New South Wales licence holders, but, unfortunately, represents 17 per cent of all drink-drivers who are involved in fatal crashes.

    Those statistics are fairly impressive, but it would be interesting to know how many of the 17 per cent of drivers who were involved in fatal crashes were licensed drivers. I suspect that a substantial number of people who are either unlicensed or are driving while disqualified are represented in that 17 per cent. There is no statistical information on how many people holding a learner drivers licence are involved in alcohol-related crashes. I do not know why there are no figures to indicate that. It would be interesting if they had been available, because they would have gone to the thrust of the bill. The available information is a little open.

    Earlier I sounded a cautionary note not to make it too hard for young people to drive legally. I did so because the range of initiatives introduced by governments over the years and their cumulative effect have been hard on some young people. When I obtained my licence the procedure was much simpler than it is today. I did not have to have a P-plate because I obtained my full drivers licence in the Australian Capital Territory. Along with many young country people I considered myself to be an experienced driver by the time I was old enough to obtain my licence; I had been driving on the farm since I was about nine years old and could drive tractors and heavy vehicles and could reverse horse trailers and similar vehicles. Young people from country areas were possibly a little too confident by the time they drove on the roads.

    These days it is much tougher for one to obtain a licence, and it is very expensive. The tests require a good knowledge and the applicant needs to obtain a high mark to pass the test. If the applicant fails, the test must be done again, at a cost of $45 each time. In addition, it is compulsory to buy the drivers manual, which costs $16. The parent of a young person will pay well over $100 in applying for the learners licence, even before facing the major test of obtaining a P-plate. Further, many families opt to pay for driving lessons, on the basis that professional tuition gives the young person more confidence and the ability to get through the test.

    That is commendable, but I point out to the Government that obtaining an L-plate is incredibly expensive. As in all matters, such high cost will impact disproportionately on disadvantaged groups. I am particularly concerned about the vulnerability of Aboriginal people in country areas: first, because of low incomes; second, because of low literacy rates; and, third, because the new punishments for unrelated matters will catch up with them when they apply for their drivers licence. I address the third matter first, which relates to the way in which the Government is now collecting fines. I emphasise that I have a strong belief that when one is fined one needs to be responsible and pay that fine. I do not wish to dilute my commitment to that belief when I point out the impacts on young people. If a young person, say 14 years of age, is arrested for shoplifting and does not pay the fine or court costs the matter goes straight to the State Debt Recovery Office, where another $50 is added.

    If those costs are not met, either for family reasons or because they are simply ignored—and very young persons think the law does not apply to them—the matter will remain in the system and nothing more will be heard about it until the person turns 17 or 18 and applies for a drivers licence. At that time the person will find himself or herself ineligible for a drivers licence until those costs have been met. Of course, the costs have inflated over time. Heaven help a young person who has incurred multiple fines. Given the cost of applying for a licence, together with the payment of any outstanding fines, many young people will simply jump in a car and drive. This is particularly common in country areas, where they will drive a car or ride a motor bike around the block and be pulled over by police. The young person may have committed an offence or may simply be spotted by a police officer who knows that he or she does not have a licence, and the young person is arrested and charged with driving whilst unlicensed.

    The young person will be taken to court and charged as an adult for that offence. Irrespective of age, driving is an adult activity. Having been charged with the offence the young person will be fined—again. For a subsequent offence he or she will be charged with the more serious offence of drive whilst disqualified, and will enter the territory of mandatory disqualification. A young person who lives in Nimbin has an extensive record of bad driving behaviour. At the age of 19 he has been disqualified from driving until he is over 50 years of age. I have heard of a 17-year-old being disqualified until he attains 32 years of age. My point is that it is impossible for those young people to obtain their drivers licence. In a community such as Nimbin, where there is no public transport—only the school bus, which the 17-year-old has been banned from as well—and only two roads, it is inevitable that he will continue to drive.

    It is also inevitable that he will be arrested by police, and more than likely that he will be engaged in a high-speed police pursuit in which he or someone else may be killed. We are all aware that that is a sad but common occurrence around the State. It is not wise to make it impossible to obtain a drivers licence and leave no pathway for the courts, police or anyone else to sit down with a troubled young person and work out a way for them to legally obtain a licence. In country areas a key to a car allows a young person to obtain an education. Macksville is a large town situated between the larger towns of Kempsey and Coffs Harbour. TAFE colleges and major services for people living in Macksville are located in Coffs Harbour. A young person without a car, without transport, who wants to go to Coffs Harbour has to use the regular bus service, at a cost of about $9 each way—an impossibility for a young person wanting to attend a TAFE course.

    A key to a car is also a key to a social life. Being active and engaged in a social life is very important. Unfortunately, accessing a social life in a country area sets up a temptation for young people that they cannot resist, and they end up joyriding and driving whilst unlicensed. Ultimately, they end up in the vicious cycle I have already described. A key to a car is also a key to getting a job. Again, unless a young person has a job it is very difficult to appear before a court and argue the need to drive in mitigation of a sentence on a charge of drive whilst disqualified. I am aware that courts sometimes do have regard to country people who have been arrested for driving whilst disqualified, and arrangements have been made to allow them to continue to drive to and from work. However, if the young person does not have job, and many young Aboriginal people do not, that person is in an impossible situation.

    We have been very hairy chested and brave in cracking down on allegedly bad drivers, but we may have inadvertently closed the door too firmly. Young country people are particularly vulnerable, and they need those keys to get on with life. In many respects—and this may be a controversial statement—it would be in the best interests of a young person who has been disqualified from applying for a licence to allow that person to serve a week or two in custody or, preferably, community service. That would enable him to put his bad record behind him and apply for a drivers licence, thus enabling him to look towards having a better life.

    The Hon. Michael Costa: The Hon. Christine Robertson supports what you are saying.

    The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK: I hasten to add that that is not the Opposition's official policy; just my thoughts.

    The Hon. Michael Costa: You two should get together and form a new party.

    The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK: I am sure the Minister would agree that some young people do not have the ability to climb out of the hole they are in. The State has completely denied them the legal means to help them get out of that hole. We have a lot of grenades out there, from which we have pulled the pins; so we should not be surprised when they go off. I add that cautionary note to this debate. This is another example of the Government cracking down on young people. That 0.02 limit was introduced in the first place in response to the implementation of the zero tolerance level. It was introduced to prevent silly things from occurring, such as someone who had taken some cough medicine, or someone who had eaten a bit of Nana's plum pudding after dinner being caught. If there is confusion amongst young people, as is claimed by the Government, it probably represents a failure on its part to communicate effectively that zero tolerance level. If that had been better understood the confusion, if it does exist, might not have existed. As I said earlier, I support the position of the Coalition in relation to this legislation, but I sound that cautionary note.

    Motion agreed to.

    Bill read a second time.
    In Committee

    Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.

    The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER [3.51 p.m.]: I move The Nationals amendment:
        Page 6, schedule 1 [12]. Insert after line 26:
            Review of amending Act
    (1) The Minister is to review the amending Act to determine whether the policy objectives of the amending Act remain valid and whether the terms of the amending Act remain appropriate for securing those objectives.

    (2) The review is to be undertaken as soon as possible after the period of 2 years from the date of assent to the amending Act.

    (3) A report on the outcome of the review is to be tabled in each House of Parliament within 12 months after the end of the period of 2 years.

    The Opposition is aware of the need for this legislation, but it is concerned about some of the provisions in it. We should allow for a settling-in period, but not too long a period, before we conduct a review as there is a possibility that young learner and provisional drivers could be caught up in accusations of criminality after consuming, for example, a solitary light beer. The bill, by reversing the onus of proof, thus casts, if you like, dark clouds over our population of young drivers. With the elimination of any leeway—which is literally zero tolerance—some young people might get the idea that they would be better off engaging in the taking of drugs other than alcohol.

    The Victorian Government will soon be implementing a trial of roadside saliva tests to determine whether there are drugs other than alcohol in the bloodstream. That is not happening in New South Wales. Depending on what those tests in Victoria reveal, we believe that they should be incorporated, if appropriate, in amended legislation. This new and dramatic regime that will apply to learner and provisional drivers should not result in them being left without a reasonably expeditious review of the legislation. I moved this amendment on behalf of the pool of learner and provisional drivers in New South Wales. I believe that two years is an appropriate period of operation of this legislation before it is reviewed. We will then be able to see what comes before the courts. Young people should not have to wait for years before this important legislation is subjected to a statutory review. I commend the amendment to the Committee.

    The Hon. MICHAEL COSTA (Minister for Transport Services) [3.55 p.m.]: The Government opposes the amendment in its current form. I move:
        That the amendment be amended by omitting "2 years" wherever occurring and inserting instead "4 years".

    In principle there is no opposition to a review of this legislation; it is sensible to conduct such a review. This Government reviews its legislation periodically. However, it is concerned that two years is not sufficient time within which to conduct a meaningful review, given that, under normal circumstances, it would take at least 3½ years to obtain appropriate driving qualifications. So we need to allow sufficient time for those who are coming through the process if we are to have a meaningful review. I do not know why the Opposition chose a period of two years. That appears to be an arbitrary figure that does not relate to the current process of obtaining a full drivers licence. The Government is sympathetic to the broad principle of a review for all the reasons that have been outlined.

    Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE [3.57 p.m.]: When I spoke earlier in the debate on the second reading I said I thought a two-year period was far too short as it would not give the scheme a chance to operate. This amendment could be interpreted as a move to repeal the legislation. We require a responsible period within which to assess and review the legislation. The Christian Democratic Party suggests that that period should be five years and we support the amendment moved by the Government to have a period of four years.

    The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER [3.58 p.m.]: I refute the suggestion that a two-year review is an attempt to repeal the legislation. That is not what Opposition members are aiming at. We are aiming for a reasonable period within which the statute will be able to be reviewed. There is no suggestion whatsoever of it being repealed.

    Pursuant to sessional orders consideration interrupted, progress reported from Committee and leave granted to sit again.


    The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER: My question is directed to the Minister for Transport Services. Does the Minister stand by the comments of RailCorp boss, Vince Graham, yesterday afternoon on Radio 2GB that the vigilance control system cannot be circumvented like the dead man's brake on Tangara trains? Can the Minister give the public an absolute assurance that, no matter what the circumstances, a driver cannot through his actions reset the vigilance system after it has been activated without complying fully with RailCorp's safety guidelines relating to this device?

    The Hon. MICHAEL COSTA: Quite clearly, as I am not technically qualified to make those sorts of assessment, I am not in a position to give the absolute assurance that the Leader of the Opposition seeks. Nor would I put myself in the position of doing that. It is a matter for people who are appropriately technically qualified. What I can do is obtain a clarifying statement from Vince Graham about the vigilance control. I am happy to do that and to return to the House with the information.

    The Hon. KAYEE GRIFFIN: My question is addressed to the Treasurer, and Minister for State Development. Will the Minister inform the House about how the Government is assisting innovative New South Wales companies?

    The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: I thank the Hon. Kayee Griffin for her question as it has been so long since I have had a question on the Australian Technology Showcase [ATS]. I can inform the House—I know this will gladden the hearts of everyone—that 43 innovative companies were recently inducted into the Government's Australian Technology Showcase, which I have pointed out previously is now not just a New South Wales program but an Australia-wide program. The 43 companies newly inducted are from New South Wales. The showcase, which is supported by the Department of State and Regional Development, promotes leading-edge Australian technologies and supports the companies behind them. Through its promotional programs the ATS is helping to bring technology to the notice of likely business partners around the world, enabling them to link with potential customers and licensees, investors and joint venturers. That helps to grow new industries, and when that happens we get new, quality jobs.

    Over the past year the Australian Technology Showcase has recruited exciting and unique technologies from industries as diverse as building, biotechnology, construction, information and communications technology, medicine and transport. Some 20 of the 43 new companies inducted into the showcase are from the information and communications technology field and eight are from the biotechnology and health care fields. Some of the companies and their technologies recently admitted to the program include the following. Metacoustics has developed acoustic emission technology that can remotely detect structural faults in structures. That is very significant new technology. VRI Biomedical has developed a bacterial strain that boosts intestinal health. Concept Express has developed a new nozzle to dispense liquids from cartridges used in the building industry, which, as I am sure honourable members appreciate, will eliminate a great deal of waste. Underwater Systems and Technology has developed the only universal underwater video camera housing that can be used on more than 90 per cent of underwater video cameras. Tier-3 has developed artificial intelligence software to detect, analyse and respond to security breaches or unusual requests or activities on organisations' networks and web sites. I am sure honourable members will agree that that is a very interesting technology with a great deal of potential. The latest 43 companies inducted into the Australian Technology Showcase bring to 373 the number of New South Wales companies represented in the 430-member program.

    The Hon. Michael Gallacher: Remember when you used to speak with a bit of colour and movement? There was passion. Not any more.

    The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: What do you mean?

    The Hon. Michael Gallacher: You used to sound like you meant it and believed it.

    The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: I do mean it. I am very proud of the Australian Technology Showcase and its New South Wales members. I can inform the House that, of the 430 members of the Australian Technology Showcase, 373 are from New South Wales. I am also pleased to inform the House that, of those 373 New South Wales members, 87 are from regional New South Wales and 54 are from greater Western Sydney. The New South Wales Government is proud to sponsor the ATS and its good work. I commend all those companies that have been inducted into the showcase. I know that I have bipartisan support in so doing because these companies are, to a very large extent, the future of the New South Wales and Australian economies.

    The Hon. DUNCAN GAY: My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. What is the Minister's justification for NSW Agriculture's decision to cut funding for the State Council of the Rural Lands Protection Boards' part-time regulatory officer from 30 June 2004? Is the Minister aware of concerns from rural lands protection boards that they will find this position increasingly difficult to fund due to their limited financial resources and increasing costs and responsibilities? Will the Minister's department continue to provide financial assistance to the Rural Lands Protection Boards State council during its forthcoming restructure or will the Minister leave individual boards to bear the increased costs by raising rates to farmers?

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is getting a little too excited about this issue.

    The Hon. Michael Gallacher: Not yet.

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: No, he is getting excited. I will take on notice his specific query about the officer in question.

    The Hon. Rick Colless: Do you know who it is?

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: There are 2,400 officers in the department. I do not know every officer.

    The Hon. Michael Egan: You should!

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: Yes, I should know every one of the 2,400 officers. I could give it a good go.

    The Hon. Michael Egan: What's more, you should know their spouses' names and their dogs' names!

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: I agree with the Leader of the Government in this place. I think I do know some spouses' names. But the Hon. Rick Colless thinks I should know the name of every officer in the department. I am sure that when he worked for the Water Board he would have had difficulty remembering more than two or three of his colleagues' names.

    The Hon. Michael Egan: We'd never heard of him.

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: We had certainly never heard of the Hon. Rick Colless. It is quite ridiculous for him to call on me to name the officers in my department. I have been working with the rural lands protection boards. A review is starting under the national competition policy, to be conducted by Geoffrey File, looking at all these issues. In due course we will put the results of the review before the House for its considered opinion.

    The Hon. DUNCAN GAY: I ask a supplementary question. In light of the Minister's answer, is it a fact that if the Minister had had the $5 million pledged by the Premier for the upgrade of the Belvoir Street Theatre he could have retained this position, not closed the Murrumbidgee College of Agriculture or Shannon Vale Field Station and conducted important aerial spraying for locusts in north-western New South Wales?

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: What a heap of nonsense! What a nonsensical question! The funding of Belvoir Street Theatre has nothing to do with any of those issues. In relation to locusts, we have the funds available and we are fighting the locusts wherever they have been reported under national protocols. Honourable members opposite have forgotten about the national protocols, or perhaps do not even understand them. Surveys are conducted wherever land-holders report locusts. When locusts band together in high densities they are sprayed from the air.

    The Hon. JOHN TINGLE: My question without notice is addressed to the Special Minister of State, representing the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that the geographic basing of the helicopter rescue service in New South Wales is under review at present? If it is, does the review include ascertaining the best locations at which helicopters should be based? At present is there a helicopter based at Newcastle, and another based at Lismore, at opposite ends of the northern Pacific Highway that is probably the country's most dangerous stretch of road? Given the accidents that are happening on this stretch of road, will the Minister consider locating a helicopter at Port Macquarie, which is, radially, almost in the centre of this stretch of road, and which has one of the State's best base hospitals and one of the State's largest supplies of specialist surgeons?

    The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: I thank the honourable member for his question and his ongoing interest and support for Port Macquarie—I am not sure exactly why that might be so. I will take his detailed question on notice, refer it to the Minister and obtain an answer as soon as possible.

    The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS: My question is directed to the Minister for Ageing. What action is the Government taking to support Seniors Week?

    The Hon. CARMEL TEBBUTT: This is Seniors Week, an extremely important week and an opportunity for the whole community to celebrate the contributions that seniors have made and continue to make. As always, many events are under way, and will run throughout the State until 21 March. This is the forty-sixth Seniors Week, and it is now a permanent fixture in the calendar of events. Seniors Week provides the opportunity to celebrate the very great contribution that more than one million older people make in our communities. It also challenges some of society's stereotypes about ageing, and invites us to think about our relationships with, and attitudes towards, older people.

    The Seniors Week theme is "The Best Time for Ages". It is designed to promote a picture of older age as a time when the majority of seniors continue to stay in touch with family, friends and the community, and to actively pursue new interests and activities. Yesterday I had the pleasure of launching Seniors Week at the Seniors Week Achievement Awards. These prestigious awards recognised individuals and community organisations for their leadership and initiative in making a significant contribution to their local community. They covered: business mentoring; community service and volunteering; education and life-long learning; environment and science; health and wellbeing; and intergenerational understanding.

    Older people have told us how important the awards are in promoting the realities of their achievements in older age. The Government is once again supporting Seniors Week by allocating $175,000 for programs and events across the State. This has enabled a total of 236 non-profit, volunteer, local government and community organisations to hold approximately 360 Seniors Week events across New South Wales. The grants not only provide the opportunity for events to be held but also help to build ongoing relationships with community organisations that support older people across the State. This year it is estimated that up to 100,000 older people will participate in Seniors Week activities across New South Wales metropolitan and regional centres.

    I am pleased that each year the quality and diversity of Seniors Week events, and the community participation in them, continue to grow. Certainly, Seniors Week is an opportunity for older people to try a range of new activities. The sub-themes for Seniors Week of learning, adventure and getting together are reflected in local events around the State, provided for by the Seniors Week grants. They include: in Bowral, computer activities for Seniors with a disability; in Mudgee, a seniors expo: in Casino, a Koori seniors get together; in Deniliquin; a concert under the stars; and in Leichhardt a multicultural fun day. They are just some of the many varied activities that will take place right across New South Wales.

    This Government is committed to securing a quality lifestyle for the growing number of older people in our community. As the numbers of our ageing population increases, it is important to recognise the social capital that is contributed by older people to the community, including their roles as part-time carers, volunteers or participants in community organisations or in so many other ways. Seniors Week and the Seniors Week Achievement Awards are examples of this Government's positive approach to older people, and of recognising their very important role in our community and our planning to meet the expectations of seniors in the future.

    The Hon. Dr PETER WONG: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. Is the Minister aware that insurers have refused cover to British farmers growing genetically modified [GM] crops, citing excessive health and contamination risks? Does the Government still maintain that GM crops are a viable option for this State? What precautions are available to protect farmers in New South Wales from compensation challenges when GM crops or GM-free crops become inadvertently contaminated?

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: Today the Deputy Leader of the Opposition placed before the House a question about liability, which is part of a resolution he has placed on notice. In answer to the Hon. Dr Peter Wong, I will canvass the issue of liability a little bit further. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said in his one-clause statement that the council had been unable to consider the issue of liability. He was quoting a letter from Professor Tim Reeves to me dated 24 February. Professor Reeves referred in that letter to a meeting in February of the Advisory Council and stated:
        The council then discussed a number of aspects arising from the presentations and the proposed trials. In general, the council believes that the final submission from the proponents, expected to reach you by end of February, will address the issues identified by council in November 2003 but there are a few matters the council wants the proponents to address more fully.

        Council has written to the proponents outlining these issues and a copy of that letter is attached for your information.
    There are then three separate letters to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has not referred. Those three separate letters are addressed to all three proponents—Bayer, Monsanto and the Australian All-Seeds Foundation—by Professor Reeves, who stated:
        The meetings with the key shareholders and proponents last week have highlighted a number of important issues that council believes require further attention in any submission for trials in 2004.
    They include a large number of points that they want addressed in any further submission. However one states:
        A detailed consideration of the adequacy of the proposed contract system and common law provisions in addressing issues of liability for participants and neighbours of participating farmers.
    The Hon. Duncan Gay: Are you going to table this?

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: I will consider that later. So around the time of the original letter to me on 24 February, Professor Reeves made it clear that liability is one of the issues that the council wishes to investigate further.

    The Hon. Duncan Gay: What about people on roadsides?

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: It is just the general issue of liability for participants and neighbours of participating farmers. This could not be clearer. The Advisory Council raised some issues with the proponents and asked them to address them in detail. The council is now considering whether those issues have been sufficiently addressed and will provide advice to me in due course. I have not sought at any point to pre-empt the advice of the Advisory Council which was a body established by this Chamber in the debate last year, and I do not seek to influence any particular outcome.

    The Hon. Duncan Gay: Will you be giving a go-ahead without that advice?

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: I will deal with the specific issues raised by the report when I receive the report. I am going to deal with those issues once the council presents a report to me, not before and certainly not in answer to a statement—

    The Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans: Are you going to approve it before the report is out?

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: I am not approving anything at any point. I am saying I am not going to second-guess the Advisory Council in this Chamber. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has insisted on trying to ram this council from its very beginning. This council is trying to consider these complex issues. The reports are very weighty and contain a lot of detail. [Time expired.]

    The Hon. Dr PETER WONG: I ask a supplementary question. In view of the concern expressed by the Advisory Council and by the Minister, will the Minister consider stopping the trial until all problems have been dealt with satisfactorily?

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: Stop the trial? There is no trial. There is no exemption order in this State for the trial proposed by the Australian Oilseeds Federation at the Monsanto and Bayer crop sites. Honourable members must get it clear in their heads that this Chamber voted for the constitution of the council. I presume the Advisory Council will put recommendations to me, in due course, about the proposal. At that time the Government and I will consider the issues.

    The Hon. Duncan Gay: Will you give an undertaking not to sign off until the liability issue is covered?

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: I am not, prior to the Advisory Council reporting, going to sign off on any particular issue. I am not like some Opposition members, certainly the leader of the green Nationals, the Hon. Duncan Gay, who constantly second-guess what the report will say and what the Advisory Council's deliberations are and constantly put a series of propositions about it prior to the Advisory Council providing a report under the terms of the legislation—legislation which was approved by this Chamber. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition might want to play games with this issue, because clearly he has formed the green Nationals, but he wants me, as Minister, to make some statements prior to the Advisory Council furnishing me with its report. I am not going to rule anything in or out prior to that report being presented to me. At that time I will make the appropriate decisions. That is the proper way that this House wanted me to act, and I am sticking to that.

    The Hon. JOHN RYAN: My question is directed to the Minister for Community Services. Why is the contract of the Director-General of the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care Services being terminated 2½ years before it is due to expire? Will the director-general receive a payment to compensate her for the early termination of her contract or for any other reason associated with the termination of her contract? How much will she receive, and how will that amount be determined?

    The Hon. CARMEL TEBBUTT: The Director-General of the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care, Ms Margaret Allison, and I have mutually agreed to end Ms Allison's contract with effect from 27 March 2004. This was announced on Friday. As I said on Friday, I thank Ms Allison for her work, which includes consolidating data from three separate entities and for establishing the Regional Structure and Business Plan for the department. With regard to the second part of the Hon. John Ryan's question, an independent body, the Statutory and Other Offices Remuneration Tribunal, will consider any application by Ms Allison for a payout.

    The Hon. JOHN RYAN: I ask a supplementary question. How is it possible that the director-general and the Minister have parted on mutually agreeable terms when a matter is to be determined by an independent tribunal—which indicates to me there is a dispute?

    The Hon. CARMEL TEBBUTT: I have already advised the House that the Statutory and Other Offices Remuneration Tribunal will consider any application by Ms Allison. The Public Sector Employment and Management Act gives Senior Executive Service officers the right to apply to the tribunal for payment on termination of their contracts. Payments can be awarded for up to a maximum of thirty-eight weeks of contract salary. The Government does not determine the level of payment. It is determined solely by the tribunal.

    The Hon. HENRY TSANG: My question is addressed to the Minister for Local Government. What is the Government's response to the Commonwealth's cost-shifting report?

    The Hon. TONY KELLY: I commend the Hon. Henry Tsang for his keen interest in local government, which continues from his years as Deputy Mayor of the City of Sydney.

    The Hon. Michael Egan: Deputy Lord Mayor.

    The Hon. TONY KELLY: Deputy Lord Mayor of the smaller City of Sydney. I thank the honourable member for this question on an extremely important issue. Again the Federal Government is trying to dupe New South Wales communities out of funding to subsidise other States. We all know the recent recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which will see New South Wales lose $376 million—the equivalent of the wages of 5,600 nurses. But it does not stop there. The Commonwealth is not content just to attack the finances of the State Government. Now it is going to attack the finances of New South Wales councils as well.

    The recent cost-shifting report completed by the Federal Government is yet another example of the ratepayers of New South Wales suffering for those in other States. It is the Federal Government's secret plan to strip New South Wales councils of $50 million a year in funding from Federal Assistance Grants [FAGs]. And, as with every move the Federal Government makes, it is country families in New South Wales who will suffer the most. Some councils in New South Wales will be crippled by any change. Some country councils rely on those grants for up to 30 per cent of their total incomes.

    Recommendation 16 of the report includes centralising the distribution of grants—cutting out the State Grants Commission, which currently distributes the Federal Assistance Grants. In particular, it will abolish the safety net of the minimum grant, which currently protects 22 councils across New South Wales. A loss like this could spell disaster for country communities that rely on 30 per cent of their income coming from the Federal Assistance Grants. These ratepayers rely on their councils for the delivery of services. Clearly, New South Wales will subsidise other States' councils once again. So not only must we subsidise other States' governments; now we will have to subsidise their councils as well. I hope The Nationals will join us in our opposition to these recommendations.

    Let me make this clear: the New South Wales Government will never support moves to strip our councils of Federal funding. Not so surprisingly, the Federal Nationals do not seem to care about the disastrous effects that this would have on country communities. I sincerely hope that the New South Wales Nationals show more backbone than they have on the Federal Grants Commission and come out against the Federal Government and reject these recommendations. Country councils in New South Wales deserve their fair share of funding, and the New South Wales Government will fight to make sure that the Commonwealth provides it.

    The Hon. PETER BREEN: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Transport Services, representing the Minister for Roads. Is the Minister aware that parliamentary inquiries in 1999, 2001 and 2002 recommended that New South Wales road tunnels should be fitted with electrostatic precipitators, based on the health risks to the local community caused by air pollution from motor vehicle traffic? Has a decision been made to trial the electrostatic precipitators in New South Wales road tunnels, and will that trial take place in the M5 East road tunnel? Will the Minister involve local community groups in monitoring the proposed trial, and will the Minister acknowledge that local community groups know more about the health risks of air pollution caused by motor vehicle traffic than the Roads and Traffic Authority?

    The Hon. MICHAEL COSTA: That very detailed question is directed to the Minister for Roads, and I will take it on notice and obtain an answer.

    The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK: My question is directed to the Treasurer. Can he provide a detailed breakdown of the $21 million spent by the Government on the purchase of land and corridors, preparation of environmental plans connected with the Austeel project, including all consultants fees, contractors fees and legal fees, given the Treasurer's 11 March undertaking to the House to provide the information, stating at the time, "I will, but I cannot at the moment" and also his statement specifically about legal fees, "I will certainly try to obtain that information"? Is the Treasurer now in a position to provide all of that requested information?

    The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: Yes, I am and I will at the end of question time.

    The Hon. PETER PRIMROSE: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture. Will the Minister update the House on the latest developments on the management of bovine Johne's disease in New South Wales?

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: I thank the Hon. Peter Primrose for asking me a question that is so important to the beef industry of this State. Because the honourable member comes from the Camden area he would know the meaning and importance of the beef and dairy industries out that way.

    The Hon. Jennifer Gardiner: Wipe the grin off your face.

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: I will wipe yours off in a minute. Honourable members would recall the recent progress made by the New South Wales sheep industry on the management of ovine Johne's disease [OJD] in New South Wales. The sheep industry had to unite to set a new direction for management of the disease. They rose to the challenge and overcame significant hurdles. They are now implementing a shift towards a risk-based trading system. The beef and dairy industries are now facing similar challenges. Together these industries have a total farm gate value of $1.7 billion. They support significant exporter markets, and they are vital to the future of rural and regional New South Wales.

    I have committed to helping to protect these industries and develop their potential, which is why I invited representatives of the New South Wales Farmers Association, the Australian Registered Breeders Association, stock and station agents, the agricultural show societies, the Milk and Dairy Products Association, the Saleyards Operators Association, SafeFood New South Wales and the Australian Association of Cattle Veterinarians—a broad range of beef and dairy industry groups—to a bovine Johne's disease [BJD] summit in Sydney on 10 March. The aim of the summit was to consult with industry and reach broad agreement on the future direction of BJD management in New South Wales.

    I am pleased to report to the House on a number of constructive outcomes from the meeting. Essentially, the summit endorsed the goals of the National Bovine Johne's Disease Program, which includes reducing the social, economic and trade impacts of BJD. Participants endorsed a shift towards risk-based trading for beef and dairy producers in New South Wales, similar to the approach taken already by the sheep industry. New South Wales producers will be encouraged to manage BJD risk through trading incentives with regulatory controls to be applied as a last resort. As has been shown with our approach to the Ovine Johne's Disease Management Program, the Government will support risk-based trading and impose severe penalties on producers who misuse animal health statements.

    The Government has already signalled its intention to increase penalties for those who try to falsify the level of risk of these statements. The overall aim of the beef and dairy industries is to achieve a low prevalence of BJD across New South Wales by 2014. I note that this will include using strategies such as an emergency response plan, and more efficient research and development. I commend the beef industry for such a constructive summit. I will update the House on future progress.

    The Hon. Dr ARTHUR CHESTERFIELD-EVANS: My question without notice is directed to the Special Minister of State, representing the Minister for Health. The Minister will be aware that breast screening is currently being advertised on buses. Is the Minister aware that a woman over 40 who recently called Royal Shore Hospital for an appointment for breast screening was told that no appointments were available until July, and that she should call back in June to make an appointment. When she suggested that this was an unreasonably long time she was told, "If it is urgent, you should get it done privately." Does the Minister think that four months is an acceptable waiting time for breast screening? If not, what is an acceptable time and what is the Minister doing to ensure that the target time is met?

    The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: On behalf of the Minister I will take the question on notice and get an answer for the honourable member as soon as possible. The honourable member referred to a specific individual and anecdote, and I suggest it would be impossible to follow up on the matter unless he provides the name of that individual to the Minister. If he were to do so, the Minister would deal with the matter confidentially. I am somewhat confused by the question as it is my understanding that such a procedure would be subject to Medicare. Therefore, I am not sure why the problem arose in the first place. I am sure the Minister will be able to provide an answer. It would be helpful if the honourable member provided the name of the individual and the date this occurred.

    The Hon. MELINDA PAVEY: My question is directed to the Minister for Community Services. Will the Minister provide to the Hastings Early Intervention Centre in Port Macquarie a list of suitable premises at comparable rents to meet her suggestion that they move to satisfy their growing requirements? If she is not able to suggest other suitable premises, will she reconsider her advice to the Hastings Early Intervention Centre that she will not fund an extension to the centre to meet occupational health and safety standards, which could be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis by funds from the Federal Government's Regional Partnership Program?

    The Hon. CARMEL TEBBUTT: I am aware that the Hastings Early Intervention Service is concerned about its accommodation requirements. Currently the program is funded by the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care [DADHC] to provide outreach to young children. In 2002-03 the department provided funds totalling $188,858. The program is also funded by the Department of Education and Training. In 2003 the organisation approached the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care requesting additional funds when it was considering extensions to, or relocation of, premises. The department was not able to meet this request, but suggested that the organisation seek professional assistance from a suitably qualified consultant to advise on how to optimise its workplace to facilitate a community-based intervention service.

    It is important for honourable members to appreciate that the department funds service providers based on a funding agreement that recognises clearly that the service provider organisation is autonomous from government. Although it receives funds from the department for service delivery, the service provider is the employer and is responsible for all employer obligations, including occupational health and safety compliance. The Hastings Early Intervention Service is doing very important work within families with a young child with a disability to try to support and assist them. But there is no doubt that in my portfolio responsibilities, as I am sure in other Minister's portfolio responsibilities, many requests for funding, however valid and important, are not able to be met from within existing resources. It is a fact of life.

    The department already provides this service with significant funding, but they have requested additional funding for capital enhancement. Unfortunately, the department has not been able to assist them. The Hon. Melinda Pavey suggested that funding may be available under the Federal Government's Regional Partnership Program. If the Federal Government is able to provide more funding for disability services, we would certainly welcome it. Currently we feel that the Federal government's contribution to the Commonwealth-State-Territory Disability Agreement [CSTDA] is very poor. We fund in the order of 70 to 80 per cent of the CSTDA, while the Commonwealth funds only 20 per cent.

    The Hon. John Ryan: So you should; they are your services.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! I call the Hon. John Ryan to order.

    The Hon. CARMEL TEBBUTT: The Opposition continues to try to perpetrate this myth that the services are those of the State. As I have said on many occasions, the CSTDA is a joint funding agreement. We would like to see more equal funding within the agreement. We do not think a 20-80 split is very fair at all. We will continue to press the Commonwealth to provide more support for disability services in New South Wales. This Government has shown support for such services. I will look into whether the organisation is eligible to receive funding under the Regional Partnership Program, which is a Federal program, and whether DADHC can do anything to assist the organisation to achieve its goal. Many calls are made on the budget, and we must manage the budget to deliver the most effective services possible.

    The Hon. TONY CATANZARITI: My question without notice is addressed to the Treasurer, and Minister for State Development. Will the Minister inform the House about new members of the Greater Western Sydney Economic Development Board?

    The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: I thank the honourable member for his question; it is an important question about a very important region of the State. I advise the House that Mr Frank Gelonesi of Fairfield was appointed Chair of the Greater Western Sydney Economic Development Board on 10 February this year. As honourable members will be aware the board is the voice of employment growth and economic development in a region that comprises 14 local government areas, including Parramatta, Penrith, Liverpool and Blacktown. Mr Gelonesi is a very hardworking local accountant who understands the issues faced by greater Western Sydney. He has worked in Fairfield for 26 years.

    In a recent speech the Premier said that in the next quarter of a century the city of Parramatta would lead the way as the centre of a dynamic region and an export-oriented region. Of course the region to which the Premier referred is Sydney's greater west. The Premier, Mr Carr, said that Parramatta, which is the capital of Sydney's greater west, would have many of the characteristics that downtown Sydney has today. The Greater Western Sydney Economic Development Board will work with the Department of State and Regional Development to help make that so. The board meets at least six times a year and is due to hold its first meeting on 10 March. Frank Gelonesi and the eight new board members will be a great asset to the region. It is important that community-spirited people are encouraged to work for the prosperity of the region. The State's 13 regional development boards give community leaders, such as Mr Gelonesi and his colleagues, this opportunity.

    As the third-largest regional economy in Australia, greater Western Sydney will generate approximately $80 billion worth of economic output by 2015. The skills and experience of the new and existing board members will help the Government to make decisions that will ensure the continued advancement of greater Western Sydney's 1.8 million people and its 110,000 businesses.

    Mr IAN COHEN: I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning, and Minister for Natural Resources whether he intends to do an exposure draft for proposed changes to the Water Management Act, or will all proposals be announced at meetings of irrigators, as was the case with the perpetual licences proposed amendments?

    The Hon. MICHAEL COSTA: I will obtain a response from the relevant Minister and advise the House.

    Mr IAN COHEN: I ask a supplementary question.

    The Hon. Duncan Gay: To elucidate that answer?

    Mr IAN COHEN: There have been many elucidations and I was expecting something a little more spectacular, but such is life. When will the Minister tell the people of New South Wales that he intends to do away with secure environmental flows in our already dying rivers and that he has thrown out the whole basis for water sharing plans, which was to guarantee water for the environment?

    The Hon. Michael Costa: Point of order: Clearly that is not a supplementary question. Not only that, it expresses an opinion, which is also clearly out of order.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind Mr Ian Cohen that supplementary questions may be asked only to elucidate the previous answer. The question was clearly out of order.

    The Hon. DAVID CLARKE: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer. Will he provide the House with exact details of what direct payments were made by the Government to Austeel, given his undertaking to the Hon. John Ryan on 11 March, "I do not know what payments have been made to Austeel but I can find out." Will he now provide this exact information?

    The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: Members of the Opposition are slow learners, are they not? They asked me for some detailed information last Thursday. I said I did not know. The Hon. Catherine Cusack asked me whether I had the information. I am able to tell her and the House that I do, and I will provide that at the conclusion of question time. In spite of all that the Hon. David Clarke sits on the Opposition's back bench, does not listen, does not ask and does not want to know, but asks his prepared question without knowing one iota about other questions that were asked during question time. Members opposite really are very slow on the uptake.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! I call the Hon. John Ryan to order for the second time.

    The Hon. IAN WEST: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Industrial Relations. Will he inform the House about the Government's latest efforts to provide expectant mothers with up-to-date information about their workplace rights and responsibilities?

    The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: I thank the honourable member for his question. The immensely popular publication of the Office of Industrial Relations, Maternity at Work, was first released in 1998. Demand has been so overwhelming that it is now into its fifth edition. Of course, with each reprint, the content of this publication is reviewed to ensure that the information it contains is up to date. For example, the fourth edition included information about the Carr Government's legislative changes for casual employees. Honourable members no doubt recall that this Government led the way in giving casual employees access to maternity leave.

    The fifth edition of Maternity at Work, which was published last week, incorporates some very important information regarding workplace safety issues for pregnant and breastfeeding women as well as the latest information to help women understand their rights at work, during and after pregnancy. In developing this latest edition, the Office of Industrial Relations liaised with the WorkCover Authority to draw on the content of the latter's comprehensive work safety publication for employers. The Pregnancy and Work Guide. Maternity at Work is a free publication from the Office of Industrial Relations and provides a step-by-step guide to maternity leave. It is written in plain English and in a question-and-answer format. It explains the rights and obligations of female employees and their employers under the New South Wales parental leave legislation. Maternity at Work has been distributed widely to workplaces, antenatal clinics in public and private hospitals, employers and unions.

    The Hon. Melinda Pavey: And is on the web?

    The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: It is also available through the web site of the Office of Industrial Relations, so the Hon. Melinda Pavey will be able to look it up. The publication explains exactly how and when employers should be notified of a pregnancy and covers topics such as employer responsibilities, health and safety in the workplace, maternity and paternity leave, part-time work, job sharing and breastfeeding at work. It also answers questions for expectant mothers including the requisite length of employment before being entitled to maternity leave, whether the length of maternity leave can be changed, whether leave can commence before a birth, and how properly to advise employers of a proposed return-two-work date. Maternity at Work also includes sample letters that women will be able to use to formally apply for maternity leave, and a list of helpful contacts for seeking advice. I commend the Office of Industrial Relations for the excellent work it has done on the latest edition of Maternity at Work. I encourage expectant mothers to seek a copy of the guide.

    Ms SYLVIA HALE: I address my question to the Minister for Local Government. On what basis did he make a decision to sack the Liverpool City Council and postpone the elections for four years until 2008? Is he aware that the report into the council is still to be finalised; that one of the Labor councillors embroiled in the Oasis scandal was standing for re-election; that a field of strong community Independents was running for election to the council, including Independent councillors who had consistently opposed the Oasis project; and that pre-polling has already commenced, and voters have begun casting their ballots?

    The Hon. TONY KELLY: I am aware that the report is only an interim report: I announced that this morning. Today I also announced the dismissal of the Liverpool City Council and appointed Gabrielle Kibble as the administrator. That follows the first report, which recommended the dismissal as part of the independent public inquiry conducted by Professor Maurie Daly, who found:
        There are too many uncertainties about the current and future status [of] Liverpool City Council's arrangements with its commercial partners to have confidence in the capacity of its governing body to resolve outstanding issues, and to establish a sound foundation for the future prosperity of the council.

    He went on to state:
        If the elected representatives currently serving on the council do not have the experience and the skills to resolve the problems facing the council, it is extremely unlikely that a newly elected council could solve these problems.

    Although some elements of the inquiry are still to be examined as I mentioned at the outset, Professor Daly found overwhelming evidence that the council is unable to resolve the difficulties. In relation to the length of time for the inquiry, I point out that the inquiry must be carried out thoroughly. As the member said when asking her question, the inquiry is not complete. The usual position with an inquiry under section 740 involving the dismissal of a council is that the inquiry may range from two to three years. In the case of the Warringah Council, I think the inquiry took two years, but generally they take between two and three years. That will apply when the inquiry is complete. This inquiry is not complete; there has to be a thorough inquiry. Dismissing a democratically elected body is not something that the Government takes lightly. We sent Professor Daly in to conduct a full and open inquiry into Liverpool City Council. He gathered evidence for four months before making his recommendation, and he will continue gathering evidence. It is expected that the inquiry will continue for a few more months. At its completion, he will make further recommendations about individuals and about the conduct of the council.

    Ms SYLVIA HALE: I ask a supplementary question. Minister, have the elections been postponed until 2008 because it is the Government's view that the stench surrounding the Oasis debacle and Labor councillors—

    The Hon. Amanda Fazio: Point of order: Clearly that was not a supplementary question, because the Minister, in his answer, did not mention the period for which the election had been postponed in the Liverpool council area. Ms Sylvia Hale is seeking elucidation of a matter that was not referred to by the Minister. Further, the last part of her so-called supplementary question, which she screamed into the microphone at the time I took my point of order, was against the standing orders relating to the asking of questions. I ask you to rule the question out of order on the grounds that it was not genuinely seeking to elucidate the answer and it was argumentative.

    The Hon. Duncan Gay: To the point of order: I clearly heard the Minister indicate a time span. The honourable member needs to pay attention. Frankly, she moved the point of order before the question was completed. Madam President, if the honourable member were permitted to compete her question, I suggest you would be able to make a proper decision in relation to it.

    The Hon. Amanda Fazio: Further to the point of order: The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is fully aware that if a question is asked in its entirety, a point of order cannot be taken on whether or not the question is in order. A point of order can be taken only during the course of the question. That is why I raised the point of order when I did. It was not because of any of the reasons the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was trying to make out. I place that on the record and ask you to take it into consideration.

    Ms SYLVIA HALE: To the point of order: I was seeking to ask the Minister to elucidate his response as to how long it would take for the stench surrounding the Oasis debacle to evaporate. I was asking the Minister whether that would take four years.

    The Hon. Michael Egan: To the point of order: The remarks of Ms Sylvia Hale clearly indicate that her question is not valid. It was an argument rather than a question. The member was not seeking information; she was trying to make a point. That is not the purpose of question time and, therefore, her further question should be ruled out of order.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! Leaving aside the question whether a period of time had been expressed by the Minister in his answer, Ms Sylvia Hale's question contained inferences, imputations and arguments and is, therefore, totally out of order.

    The Hon. GREG PEARCE: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer. What information did the Treasurer, Treasury or advisers provide to the Swedish financier of the Millennium trains to explain the contract settlement with EDI and, in particular, the categorisation of part of the Millennium train settlement of $30 million as a payment for design and development, when the payment was an advance payment for construction of the trains to assist the manufacturer meet its financing costs and was contrary to the terms of the original tender?

    The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: To the best of my knowledge and recollection I had no involvement in that matter at all.

    The Hon. DON HARWIN: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Transport Services. Has a staff roster been prepared for the South Coast line indicating that the number of rail services from Sydney to Gerringong, Berry and Bomaderry will be cut from 12 to 5 a day on weekends? Will the Minister withdraw that roster and give the commitment I sought from him on 26 February that there be no reduction in the frequency of rail services to the communities of Gerringong, Berry and Bomaderry?

    The Hon. MICHAEL COSTA: I have already answered that question. I refer to my previous answer.

    The Hon. JON JENKINS: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Justice, representing the Minister for the Environment. On page 21 of the 2002-03 annual report of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, in the section entitled "Threat Management Research" under the subheading "Pests", foxes and deer are mentioned, as are other pests such as weeds and fire. However, there is no mention of feral cats. What is the National Parks and Wildlife Service doing to ameliorate the effect of feral cats in national parks? What research is currently under way into new or improved methods of reducing the effect of feral cats?

    The Hon. John Della Bosca: Bushfires?

    The Hon. JON JENKINS: The Minister interjects that bushfires will do that; unfortunately they will not, because cats live in holes in the ground. What has the National Parks and Wildlife Service done to seek community assistance in dealing with feral cats? If the National Parks and Wildlife Service has not sought community assistance, when will it do so?

    The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS: I will take the question on notice and refer it to the Minister for the Environment. I will obtain an answer and will advise the House.

    The Hon. KAYEE GRIFFIN: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Justice. Will the Minister inform the House of the agreement signed between Wollongong City Council and the Department of Corrective Services?

    The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS: This morning the Department of Corrective Services signed a memorandum of understanding with Wollongong City Council concerning the use of community offenders on periodic detention or under community service orders. Workplace participation experience is essential for offenders to feel that they are making atonement to the community and plays a pivotal role in an offender's reintegration into society by helping them secure gainful employment upon their return. On occasion, in visiting and interacting with offenders, I have had offenders express to me their sense of pride in making amends for their wrongdoing by giving back to the community. The memorandum of understanding will formalise and extend work performed by offenders to beautify and maintain the city of Wollongong. This means that work will now also be carried out on weekends jointly by community service order offenders and a small number of detainees from the Wollongong Periodic Detention Centre at Unanderra.

    The memorandum represents a first for New South Wales and demonstrates the Government's continued commitment to breaking the cycle of repeat offending through positive community involvement and skill acquisition for offenders. The signing of the memorandum of understanding formalises an existing relationship between Wollongong council and the department's Probation and Parole and Periodic Detention Services. For the past 15 years, community service order offenders, under the supervision of the Wollongong Probation and Parole District Office, have carried out numerous clean-up and beautification projects in the Wollongong City Council area. Between Mondays and Fridays they have removed noxious weeds such as the bitou bush from Cringila Park, collected litter; planted 150 trees to help with bush regeneration, dismantled illegal shelters, removed unauthorised signs, and removed graffiti from buildings identified through Wollongong council's graffiti reporting line.

    A number of environmental awards have resulted from the work of the offenders. In 1998 and in 2002, their work earned them the "Basil and Ryan Trophy", which is the top environmental award from Wollongong City Council for contributions toward the improvement of the local environment and in every year between 1999 and 2001, they have garnered the "Rise and Shine Environmental Award" for their efforts. Offenders on periodic detention and community service will be making a positive contribution to the local community as well as acquiring valuable skills through their involvement with the memorandum of understanding projects. It is most appropriate that offenders who have taken from the community should, in serving their sentences, give back to the community in a most constructive way. Since December last year, 32 program participants have been working on Saturdays and Sundays on various projects which fall under the agreement, in two shifts of 16 each. Around New South Wales more than 700 offenders are serving their sentences in 11 periodic detention centres.

    Many community projects, such as those just mentioned, would be left undone but for periodic detainees and their supervisors. It is estimated that the work they carry out each year is worth more than $3 million to the community. I congratulate the Department of Corrective Services and Wollongong City Council on achieving this agreement; it is a real demonstration of the productivity that may be derived from periodic detainees and those on community service orders undertaking local, community-based projects.

    The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Transport Services, representing the Minister for Roads. On what date is the $30 million upgrade of Narellan Road due to start, given that that was a Government election promise 12 years ago and work has still not commenced? Will the Minister give an undertaking to the people of Camden that that upgrade will still go ahead?

    The Hon. MICHAEL COSTA: I will obtain an answer from the relevant Minister and make it available to the House.

    The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: If members have further questions, I ask that they place them on notice.

    The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: On 11 March I was asked a series of questions about Austeel Pty Ltd. I submit the following response:
        The Government has given the project our full support and always dealt with the proponents in good faith.

        Among other things the Government:

    - bought land

    - enacted a State environment protection plan specific to the site

    - undertook flood modelling, engineering studies and geotechnical investigations

    - completed studies to dredge the Hunter River South Arm
        I am advised that government expenditure on Austeel has been $21.1 million: land purchase $3.2 million; payments to Austeel $7.2 million; contracted and consulting advice including technical, financial and economic studies $4.6 million; legal fees $5.2 million; and miscellaneous items including project management fees and disbursements to Department of Commerce and environmental works $0.9 million.

        The Government has spent approximately $5.2 million in legal fees. These cover legal fees paid since the inception of the project (for example, preparation of original deed and follow up legal advice).

        A breakdown of those legal fees is as follows: Clayton Utz $0.6 million; Freehills $4.0 million; counsel $0.4 million; and government legal advisers $0.2 million.

        Under the contract with Austeel the State was obliged to commence compulsory acquisition if the purchase was not completed by 14 August 2001. Later, by agreement with Austeel, this date was extended to 31 December 2002 and later still extended by agreement to 14 February 2003.

        The Government was unable to complete the purchase by the end of 2001 because negotiations with the owner broke down.

        A compulsory acquisition process was commenced and a proposed acquisition notice was issued to the then landowner on 3 May 2002.

        The Government entered into a contract to purchase the land at Tomago for the proposed steel mill on 7 June 2002.

        The acquisition was completed on 17 February 2003 by agreement with the landowner.

        The land for the steel mill site was to be leased to Austeel for 90 years from the date that Austeel achieved financial close, and on commercial terms that provided for the Government to recover the cost of acquiring the land and the amount spent on site preparation works. Details are as follows:

        Austeel was to pay rent of the order of $5.075 million per annum for the land commencing four years and four months after the date of financial close.

        The rent was to be escalated by the Sydney consumer price index from June 2000.

        Austeel had an option to pay out its annual rent for the balance of the term by paying the Government the amount of the Government's site preparation contribution of $60 million.

        Austeel issued four separate dispute notices that were the subject of the recent arbitration process. Many of the allegations raised in these notices were subsequently withdrawn, repeated and/or reformulated in subsequent notices.

        Austeel alleged that the State was in breach of a number of obligations under the agreement. These allegations covered a range of issues, as follows:
    Colluding with BHP to derail the project.

    Failing to facilitate the progress of the project.

    Failing to make a payment to TransGrid for work carried out for the project.

    Failing to prepare and agree documents such as tenders, a project plan, a budget and draw-down schedule and other detailed documentation.

    The location and ownership of a land corridor that linked the steel mill site to the port site.

    Failing to undertake preparatory work on the sites, such as rezoning, remediation, earthworks, securing environmental approvals, geotechnical studies, and relocating roads and bridges.
        The Government provided a robust defence against all disputes.

        In order to progress the project, and for the benefit of both parties, it was agreed that the Government would make contract payments of some $7.2 million to Austeel.

        In addition to payments made to settle a commercial dispute, the Government made payments to Austeel for technical and financial studies to further the project.

        These payments commenced in July 2002 and concluded in September 2003.

    The Hon IAN MACDONALD: Earlier today the Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked me why this Government was discontinuing funding for the position of regulatory officer in the rural lands protection boards [RLPBs]. I assure the House that the Carr Government has a strong commitment to supporting rural lands protection boards in this State. In June the Government will make a further payment of nearly $1.3 million in a three-year $3.49 million enhancement program to upgrade the information technology capacity of the rural lands protection board system. This system is an important component of the animal health surveillance and reporting systems at both local and statewide levels. In addition, we give the State Council $425,000 per annum to assist in its running costs.

    The Government also provides $150,000 for laboratory submissions by district veterinarians. That is for investigating livestock diseases where the resulting information benefits the wider community and not just the individual owner. An additional $170,000 is provided to reduce laboratory charges for mortality investigations. NSW Agriculture also provided support in 2002-03 to assist the State Council in regulating matters by funding a part-time regulatory manager for the State Council. That was extended for the 2003-04 financial year. On 24 November 2003 the Director-General of Agriculture wrote to the State Council of the RLPBs stating that the existing arrangement would come to a conclusion on 30 June 2004 and, after that time, the State Council would be responsible for the funding of that position.

    It was always anticipated at the time of the last extension that the State Council would support that position into the future. No other agreement was ever made. All statutory authorities are responsible for determining how their budgets should be distributed on the basis of the priorities they face. The State Council of the Rural Lands Protection Boards is no exception. It is for council to determine whether or not funding should be so allocated. The chief executive of the State Council assures me that the State Council is currently considering how to approach this issue in the future. In fact, he has made an appointment to see me in the not too distant future. I will consider this matter in full once I have been provided with all the relevant information.

    Questions without notice concluded.
    In Committee

    Consideration resumed from an earlier hour.

    Question—That the amendment of the amendment be agreed to—put.

    The Committee divided.
    Ayes, 25
    Mr Breen
    Dr Burgmann
    Mr Burke
    Ms Burnswoods
    Mr Catanzariti
    Dr Chesterfield-Evans
    Mr Costa
    Mr Della Bosca
    Mr Egan
    Ms Griffin
    Mr Hatzistergos
    Mr Jenkins
    Mr Kelly
    Mr Macdonald
    Reverend Dr Moyes
    Reverend Nile
    Mr Obeid
    Mr Oldfield
    Ms Robertson
    Ms Tebbutt
    Mr Tingle
    Mr Tsang
    Dr Wong
      Mr Primrose
      Mr West

      Noes, 16
      Mr Clarke
      Mr Cohen
      Ms Cusack
      Mrs Forsythe
      Mr Gallacher
      Miss Gardiner
      Mr Gay
      Ms Hale
      Mr Lynn
      Ms Parker
      Mrs Pavey
      Mr Pearce
      Ms Rhiannon
      Mr Ryan
        Mr Colless
        Mr Harwin
        Question resolved in the affirmative.

        Amendment of amendment agreed to.

        Amendment as amended agreed to.

        Schedule 1 as amended agreed to.

        Schedule 2 agreed to.

        Title agreed to.

        Bill reported from Committee with an amendment and passed through remaining stages.
        Second Reading

        The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS (Minister for Justice, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Citizenship) [5.13 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.

        Leave granted.
            The Government is pleased to introduce the Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2004.

            The Bill makes a number of miscellaneous amendments to the criminal law and procedure. These amendments are designed to improve the administration of the criminal justice system.

            The first amendment contained in Schedule 1, is a consequential amendment to the Child (Protection Offenders Registration) Act 2000 to include the new filming offence as a "registrable offence" on the Child Protection Register. The creation of the new offence is dealt with by Schedule 8 of the Bill.

            Schedule 8 amends the Summary Offences Act 1989 to create two new offences of:

            "Filming for indecent purposes" and
            "Installing a device to facilitate filming for indecent purposes"

            All members of this House would be aware of a number of recent and troubling cases concerning persons using modern surveillance devices in an untoward manner.
            Because of the use of modern technology and the fact that the filming often takes place in the perpetrator’s own home, there is no relevant offence on the statute book to deal with these serious invasions of privacy for indecent purposes.

            The new offence under section 21G, "Filming for indecent purposes" will cover the situation where:
            the perpetrator films another person to provide sexual arousal or sexual gratification, where the other person:

            is in a state of undress, or is engaged in a private act, in circumstances in which a reasonable person would reasonably expect to be afforded privacy, and where the person does not consent to being filmed.

            The maximum penalty will be 100 penalty units or imprisonment for 2 years, or both.

            Filming is defined in such a way as to cover both viewing the image in "real time" or recording the image to be viewed later.

            In order to be serious enough to warrant a criminal conviction the 'state of undress'—together with the accompanying behaviour on the part of the accused—should constitute a serious invasion of privacy. The level of undress that meets the requisite degree of criminality is a matter appropriately left to the courts to determine in all the circumstances of the particular case.

            Ultimately the proof of this offence will rely heavily on the type of images or recordings made and the locations in which the cameras are set up.

            The offence is also drafted in such a way as to catch those who produce these films for themselves, or for the purpose of passing the recording on to another person.

            The new offence under section 21H of Installing a device to facilitate filming for indecent purposes will also cover the situation where a person installs a surveillance device with the intention of committing an offence under section 21G.

            Schedule 2 amends section 11 of the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 to clarify that the protections provided by the section apply to deceased child victims, and to extend the protection to the child siblings of child victims.

            Section 11(1) of the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 prohibits the publication or broadcasting of the name of any child who appears as a witness in criminal proceedings.

            This amendment closes a gap to cover situations where the victim of the offence is a deceased child, and extends that protection to include the siblings of child victims, including deceased child victims, in order to minimise the trauma to the family of the deceased.

            Schedule 3 amends the Costs in Criminal Cases Act 1967 to provide that an applicant can seek a certificate for costs in relation to a special hearing.

            Pursuant to section 2 of the Costs in Criminal Cases Act 1967, the court may grant a certificate to a defendant seeking costs.

            It is unclear as to whether this section applies to applications made in respect of a special hearing. Special hearings are trials held for defendants who have been found unfit to be tried in the normal way.

            Special hearings may be distinguished from other criminal cases because of the limited evidence that is available and because the defence advocate faces unique problems in relation to obtaining instructions. This on its own, however, should not be a bar to obtaining costs. In every other respect the matter proceeds in the same way as a normal criminal trial.

            Accordingly, this amendment allows applicants in special hearings to seek a certificate for costs when the applicant has been acquitted or where the court has not reached a verdict following a special hearing.

            Schedule 4 Items [1] and [2] amend sections 52A and 52B of the Crimes Act 1900 expanding the definition of "impact" for dangerous driving offences.

            Section 52A of the Crimes Act 1900 provides for the offence of dangerous driving occasioning death or grievous bodily harm where a vehicle is involved in an impact which causes the death or grievous bodily harm of a person.

            Section 52B is set out in similar terms, however that section concerns the offence of "dangerous navigation".

            Section 52A(5) sets out the definition of "impact." It covers many—but not all—scenarios. Dangerous driving can result in serious injury or death, even though the vehicle itself does not collide with anything. Examples of this are where a person is thrown or ejected from a vehicle or where a part of the body of the person protrudes from the vehicle and impacts with some object (including the ground).

            The Government therefore proposes amending sections 52A(5) and 52B(5) to accommodate these situations.

            It is still a defence where the death or serious injury is in no way attributable to the manner of driving.

            Schedule 4 Items [3] and [4] amend section 80A of the Crimes Act 1900 so that it has the same circumstances of aggravation and penalties as other sexual offences in the Crimes Act 1900.

            Section 80A of the Crimes Act provides that it is an offence to compel another person, by means of a threat, to engage in self-manipulation.
            The offence carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment. Unlike other sexual offences, however, section 80A only identifies one aggravating feature: if the victim is under the age of 10 years.

            It is anomalous that none of the circumstances of aggravation set out in section 61J, such as offences committed in company, or where the victim suffers from a serious physical or intellectual disability, apply to this offence.

            Accordingly, the amendment expands the circumstances of aggravation that are capable of elevating the maximum penalty for that offence to 20 years. The circumstances of aggravation reflect each of those circumstances identified in section 61J (2) of the Crimes Act 1900.

            Schedule 5 amends the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 to clarify the powers of the Sentencing Council in respect of guideline judgments.

            We know that guideline judgments can be very effective in giving the courts guidance on the appropriate factors to take into account in the exercise of their sentencing function. They foster more consistent sentencing by the courts.

            Section 100J(1)(b) will now allow the Sentencing Council to advise and consult with the Attorney, not only in relation to offences suitable for guideline judgments, but also in relation to
        • particular courts or classes of courts,
        • particular offences or classes of offences,
        • particular penalties or classes of penalties, or
        • particular classes of offenders (but not to particular offenders).

            Schedules 6 and 7 relate to consequential amendments arising out of amendments put forward last year to section 39 of the Mental Health (Criminal Procedure) Act 1990 so that, after a finding of not guilty by reason of mental illness, the Court is empowered to order a person’s detention or release on such terms and conditions as the Court considers appropriate.

            The amendment to section 7(4) of the Criminal Appeal Act 1912 simply provides the Court of Criminal Appeal with the same powers as a court now has under section 39.

            The amendments in Schedule 7 clarify that the Mental Health Review Tribunal and authorised officers have the same powers in relation to persons that are released conditionally under section 39 as they do for other forensic patients who are detained under section 39.

            In conclusion, the Bill contains a number of amendments that are necessary for the continuing development of an efficient and equitable criminal justice system in New South Wales.

            I commend the bill to the House.

        The Hon. GREG PEARCE [5.13 p.m.]: The Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill makes various miscellaneous amendments to the criminal law and procedures that are designed to improve the administration of the criminal justice system, and the Opposition does not oppose it. The bill amends several Acts, including the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act 2000, Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987, Costs in Criminal Cases Act 1967, Crimes Act 1900, Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999, Criminal Appeal Act 1912, Mental Health Act 1990, and the Summary Offences Act 1988. It is healthy to review the criminal law from time to time and to update the various Acts in force to take account of changes necessitated by the administration of law and other concerns that become apparent through legislation.

        I shall comment briefly on how the bill amends the Acts that I have mentioned. Section 11 of the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 is amended to clarify that the protections provided by that section in relation to the prohibition of the publication or broadcasting of names in criminal proceedings involving a child apply to deceased child victims. The bill also extends that protection to the child siblings of child victims. The Costs in Criminal Cases Act 1967 is amended to ensure that a certificate for the payment of a defendant's costs can be given in relation to the defendant in a special hearing, as is the case in regard to criminal proceedings generally. For those purposes special hearings are trials held for defendants who have been found unfit to be tried in the normal way.

        The Crimes Act is amended in two quite different areas. The first amendment extends the range of circumstances that can give rise to an offence of either dangerous driving or dangerous navigation occasioning death or grievous bodily harm. For example, the Act will now cover a situation where a person is thrown or ejected from a vehicle. The second amendment is in relation to the creation of separate offences of sexual assault by forced self-manipulation and sexual assault by forced self-manipulation in circumstances of aggravation as defined in relation to other sexual assaults. A consequence of this amendment is that the penalty of 20 years that currently applies if the victim is under 10 years of age will apply in future if the victim is under 16 years of age.

        The Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 is also amended in relation to guideline judgements to allow the Sentencing Council to advise and consult with the Attorney General not only in relation to offences suitable for guideline judgments but also in relation to particular courts or classes of courts, particular offences or classes of offences, particular penalties or classes of penalties, or particular classes of offenders but not individual offenders. I draw the attention of the House to the debate on this bill in the other place and particularly to the contribution by the shadow Attorney General, the honourable member for Epping, and his comments about this area of amendment in the bill.

        The Criminal Appeal Act 1912 is amended to allow the Court of Criminal Appeal to make the same order in relation to a person's detention or release after a finding of not guilty by reason of mental illness as a court can now make under section 39 of the Mental Health (Criminal Procedure) Act 1990. That technical amendment is explained a little more by the amendment to the Mental Health Act 1990, which is also made under this bill. The Mental Health Act is amended to clarify the fact that the Mental Health Review Tribunal and authorised officers have the same powers in relation to persons who are released conditionally under section 39 of the Act as they have for other forensic patients detained under that section. The bill extends those powers to those who are conditionally released.

        The Summary Offences Act 1988 is amended to create new offences. These offences are in part a response to some fairly recent media attention paid to a particular case in which an employer was prosecuted unsuccessfully for an act of indecency when he secretly filmed female flatmates in the shower. As the honourable member for Epping pointed out in the other place, this amendment also arises from an earlier report entitled "Surveillance and Interim Report" of the Law Reform Commission in December 2001. In any event, a new offence is created of filming for indecent purposes, which is defined as filming, for one's own or someone else's sexual arousal or sexual gratification, some other person who is undressed or is using the toilet or is engaged in a private sexual act in circumstances in which a reasonable person could reasonably be expected to be afforded privacy and where the person does not consent to being filmed. The other new offence is installing a device to facilitate filming for indecent purposes. The maximum penalty will be 100 penalty units or two years imprisonment for each of those offences.

        Filming is defined in such a way as to cover both viewing the image in real time or recording the image to be viewed later. As I mentioned, the Parliamentary Secretary in his second reading speech referred to recent instances of indecent filming which were not punishable by law because they took place in the perpetrator's own home. A further consequential amendment is also made to the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act 2000 to include this new filming offence as a registrable offence on the child protection register. As I indicated, the Opposition does not oppose the bill. It is important that the criminal law procedures be updated from time to time, and the bill addresses a number of important issues in that regard.

        Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE [5.21 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party supports the Criminal Legislation Amendment Bill. We congratulate the Government on responding to a number of matters that have caused great public concern. Minor amendments usually are collated into one bill. I am pleased that an amendment addresses the offence of secretly filming a person in private. In one case, police investigated and charged a person for filming a female flatmate in the shower for his own sexual gratification but he escaped being convicted because he was the owner of the house.

        Another amendment deals with the definition of impact. Sadly, it seems that young people work out new ways to kill themselves. The latest activity is called car surfing when they lie on the bonnet of a speeding car until they fall off or the car stops. Is the driver guilty of causing the accident when they are thrown off the bonnet? This new provision will make it clear that the driver of the vehicle is responsible and can be charged with the injury or death caused to the car surfer. Drivers will be responsible for causing death or injury and hopefully that will discourage car surfing and drivers allowing car surfers to use their car. The Christian Democratic Party supports the amendment that deals with mental health allowing a court to release a person either conditionally or unconditionally after a finding of not guilty by reason of mental illness.
          I am not a lawyer but I know that an offender is guilty of the offence but is found not guilty because of mental illness. Does that concept need to be reviewed? For example, a criminal who pretends to be mentally ill can go to a mental hospital for a couple of years. If a specialist determines that the criminal is no longer mentally ill he will be discharged. Because he has previously been found not guilty he does not have to go prison. I suggest that the Government consider changing the law so that an offender receives the usual sentence, perhaps 10 years for an assault, even if found to have a mental illness, but the sentence is suspended because of that illness, and upon recovery from that illness the offender serves the balance of the sentence. The Government should consider such an amendment, unless the law prevents it. In the United States of America one person, who must have studied mental health, fooled expert psychiatrists and used the law to their own advantage. I congratulate the Government on addressing these loopholes in the law. I support the bill.

          The Hon. Dr ARTHUR CHESTERFIELD-EVANS [5.26 p.m.]: I support the bill, which is omnibus legislation that tidies up a number of Acts. A fortnight ago a law forum meeting looked at ministerial discretion in the cases of persons who had committed crimes, had received a lengthy sentence, but had been found not guilty because of mental illness. The Mental Health Review Tribunal does not move hastily to find that people are mentally ill and recommend their release when the crimes committed lack the element of mens rea. The reason those persons were not released was that the recommendations of the review tribunal were not implemented by the Minister for Health.

          Obviously, the Minister for Health is conscious of the media response to the release of criminals who have committed murder. For example, recently a mentally ill person who killed a policeman was released. From a ministerial point of view, the media is very sensitive to any apparent softness on crime and to the perception that people who are mentally ill are not safe out of gaol. The Minister is under immense practical political pressure not to release people even though they have been found to have committed crimes whilst suffering a mental illness, which is often untreated.

          I have been approached by parents whose son had committed a murder. After only a few weeks of treatment his psychosis left him and he no longer heard voices in his head. He was absolutely mortified by the fact that he had killed someone. He suffered all the grief reactions of someone who had accidentally run over somebody, although he had been far more active in the killing than if he had committed manslaughter by running over somebody. He has been in gaol for three years and it looks like he will stay there a lot longer. The Mental Health Tribunal has commented that he is sane while he is taking his medication and being observed, and there is no reason for him to spend the next 27 years or so in gaol, which might be the normal sentence for such a serious crime if committed with mens rea.

          The Minister should not have this discretion, any more than the Minister has discretion regarding other decisions of tribunals. This matter should be the subject of an amendment of the Mental Health Act through this bill. I ask the Minister to comment on this issue. The bill contains fairly extensive amendments to the Mental Health Act, and I appreciate that these omnibus bills are not meant to deal with searching restructures of various pieces of legislation. However, I seek from the Minister an assurance that ministerial discretion with relation to Mental Health Tribunal determinations, and the issue of persons with mental health problems being incarcerated for committing crimes, will be looked at.

          Quasi-judicial Mental Health Tribunal processes, which involve medical input, should be implemented without ministerial discretion, so that we can remove emotion and have a sensible process, rather than a process that is responsive to political sensitivities and media hype that could influence a Minister. I had intended to move an amendment; however, its drafting has not yet been completed and the bill will have been dealt with before it is drafted. In any event, if it were drafted, the Minister might well say that it is too extensive an amendment to be dealt with in this Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill. However, I seek his assurance that this issue is being looked at as part of a broader examination of the Mental Health Act. With those comments, I support the bill.

          Ms LEE RHIANNON [5.31 p.m.]: The Greens do not oppose the bill. This is not, however, the type of legislation the Greens are waiting for from this Government. We are still waiting for a bill that delivers preventive measures, rehabilitation services, or other constructive and humanitarian approaches to justice. This bill does not offer any new ideas; but at least it does not contain any of the Government's typically draconian attacks on civil liberties.

          Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile: They are new ideas.

          Ms LEE RHIANNON: I challenge the honourable member's assertions that these are new ideas. At least there is none of the Government's ritual undermining of the discretion of our courts. The bill deals chiefly with the Sentencing Council. Sentencing has been an area in which the Government has been particularly keen to impose inflexible, impractical rules. This leaves magistrates and judges with little or no ability to take account of circumstances. Courts are left unable to deal sensitively with the many issues that arise during complex legal proceedings. The Government's preference is to churn out tough and prescriptive sentencing laws that pander to talkback shock-jocks.

          Recently I read that the Government's wrong-headed approach to sentencing was canvassed in a letter to the Law Society, which appeared in the February edition of its journal. The writer is a criminal lawyer who recently returned to practice after an absence of several years. He was shocked at the changes that the Carr Government had inflicted on the sentencing system during his absence. He related how he was called to defend a woman charged with stealing some hairdressing products from a local salon. Police picked up the woman while she was under the influence of drugs. She was pushing a shopping trolley with the stolen goods in it. The items were of such low value that the salon had not even reported the theft. Despite the minor nature of this crime, it went to the District Court. The woman received a two-year sentence, with a one-year non-parole period. The lawyer wrote of his shock at being told after the result that other judges would have given her three years. His colleagues told him, "Things aren't what they used to be." In his letter the lawyer concluded:
              A legal system that imposes a sentence of that length on someone for being in possession of a trolley full of virtually valueless items. .. is an aberration in a so-called civilised society.
          The Greens strongly support the lawyer's stance. Gaoling people for crimes of this nature does not make our society safer. I believe all honourable members of this House would agree with that. Unfortunately, for political ends, they are willing to misuse the power they have as members of Parliament and make laws that are so destructive of people's lives. What is the effect of the Government's policy of locking up people like the woman who was charged with stealing goods? It runs the risk of criminalising people who could, under a better designed system, be encouraged not to commit further criminal acts.

          This kind of policy also hits the poorest and most disadvantaged people. It is a betrayal of Labor's roots. Surely the majority of Labor members of Parliament can see that themselves. Why is it that a presumably disadvantaged woman gets a year in prison for stealing virtually nothing, while the rich get weekend detention for ripping off investors of tens of millions of dollars? The writer of the letter called on all criminal lawyers to speak out against these "abhorrent sentencing practices". The Greens join that call, and urge the Minister—who, as we all know, is a lawyer—to consider more constructive ways of reducing crime. There has to be a better way.

          The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS (Minister for Justice, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Citizenship) [5.35 p.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members for their contributions to the debate. Matters were raised by the Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans and to some extent by Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile. It is important to bear in mind that the amendments proposed by this legislation are minor, tidy-up provisions. The Government is considering reforms to the mental health law on a broader basis, and certainly will consider the comments that have been made in this debate by both honourable members in the context of the reforms that might be undertaken. I do not exactly understand the matters raised by Ms Lee Rhiannon. The stealing laws, when I last looked at them, did not have any mandatory provisions.

          To suggest that somehow the Government contaminated the court proceedings in the case referred to by the Law Society is insulting not only to the Government but also to the judicial officer who heard the case and no doubt dealt with it on its merits. It is interesting that the Greens always call for judicial discretion, but where it is exercised in circumstances that they regard as contrary to their interests they attack such discretion. That was, of course, evidenced in the recent case of the individual who received periodic detention for painting "No war" on top of the Opera House. I might add that that penalty was an act of judicial discretion certainly not mandated by any provision of law. But there were screams of abhorrence that that sentence was somehow unjust or wrong. In relation to safeguards to ensure the judicial process and the outcomes that courts deliver are transparent, those are accountable through the appeal process. I certainly reject the gratuitous comments on sentencing, often made in this debate, particularly by Ms Lee Rhiannon, that suggest otherwise.

          Motion agreed to.

          Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.

          Postponement of Business

          Government Business Order of the Day No. 7 postponed on motion by the Hon. John Hatzistergos.
          Second Reading

          The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS (Minister for Justice, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Citizenship) [5.39 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.

          Leave granted.
              Honorable members, the Lord Howe Island Act has not been significantly updated since 1981 and a number of provisions are out of date. Recent reviews of the Act and the island's administration have identified a number of areas requiring legislative reform. The Lord Howe Island Amendment Bill will address issues raised by the national competition policy review of the Act and the Independent Commission Against Corruption [ICAC] discussion paper on the Lord Howe Island Board's governance issues. It will also provide a solid foundation for the continued protection and enhancement of the environment and maintenance of services to the island community and visitors.

              The Lord Howe Island group is an outstanding World Heritage-listed area that attracts tourists from around the world to appreciate its biodiversity and great natural beauty. The island was listed under the World Heritage Convention in 1982 in recognition of its superlative natural phenomena and for its important and significant habitats for in situ conservation of biological diversity. There are 241 different species of native plants on the island, 105 of them occurring nowhere else on earth. There are more than 160 bird species, including a number of rare or endangered species such as the Lord Howe Island Woodhen.

              The Government is committed to ensuring that the Board continues to function efficiently and effectively, to promote community, economic and social wellbeing and conserve the superlative natural phenomena of the area in line with ecologically sustainable principles and its status as a World Heritage site. In line with the recommendations of the May 2000 national competition policy review of the Act and subsequent recommendations by a Government interdepartmental committee, the bill proposes the removal of the anti-competitive provisions in the Act relating to Crown ownership of kentia palm seed where it occurs on perpetual leasehold land and Board control of its harvesting and sale. In future, leaseholders will be able to dispose of seed from their perpetual leases as they choose.

              kentia palms once adorned the ballrooms and salons of Victorian England, and are still prized as indoor plants around the world. They occurred naturally only on Lord Howe Island. Although there is now an international nursery industry producing them, the palms grown on Lord Howe Island have retained a quality edge over those of competitors and there is significant market demand for island seedlings. Perpetual leaseholders will now have ownership and a financial stake in the cultivation and management of kentia palms and seeds on their leases.

              Following on from the ICAC report recommendations, the Bill proposes to adopt provisions in line with those of local government for conduct of Board members. In future, the Minister administering the Lord Howe Island Act will be able to remove an elected Islander Board member for corrupt conduct where there is a report under the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988. Appointed non-Islander members can already be removed. Other amendments provide a power to make regulations for meeting procedures, including disclosure and recording of Board members' pecuniary interests and procedures for dealing with Board members' conflicts of interest. These amendments will increase accountability and are in line with current local government administrative arrangements.

              The Bill will introduce provisions requiring the Board to make monetary payments where special leases are withdrawn or not reissued because the land is required for home sites or other public purposes. Special leases are Crown land leased for up to 10 years for agricultural uses. They are generally cleared pasture or similarly modified. The Minister, on the recommendation of the Board, currently has the power to withdraw special leases for public purposes without recompense. A review of the current Lord Howe Island regional environmental plan is under way, and is due to be completed in 2004. The review will ensure that sustainability principles are firmly enshrined in the development control process for the island, and the protection of important native vegetation systems.

              As part of the review, the most suitable sites for future development on the island will be identified, taking into account the need to protect the environment. This is likely to affect some special lease land within the settlement zone on the island. The amount of compensation will be determined by the Valuer-General, subject to any regulations under the Act, and will be appealable to the Land and Environment Court. The minimum period for the calculation of the amount of compensation will be five years. Currently there is no equivalent system to local government rating or charges on the island and no freehold land as all land is vested in the Crown. Perpetual leases provide the main tenure type for residential and commercial development.

              The Board carries out many of the functions of a local council as a deemed local government authority under the regional environmental plan. However, there are also significant differences from the mainland. In order to maintain an adequate revenue base for the island's management and services, and for equity reasons, the Bill proposes a change to the current process for determining annual rentals for perpetual leases. In its current form, the Lord Howe Island Act sets the maximum perpetual lease rental at $200 per hectare. This rental can be redetermined only every 10 years, and even then cannot be increased by more than $100 per hectare.

              The Bill will remove the rent-setting provisions from the Act and enable the Board to make regulations to set annual rentals. A regulatory impact statement will be prepared and exhibited for public comment in 2004. The regulatory impact statement will include the rental formula and component monetary amounts. Discounted rentals will continue to be available for eligible pensioners. The new time frame for redetermining annual rentals will be reduced to a minimum of three years. The setting of lease rentals will take into account advice from the Valuer-General as well as the budgetary circumstances of the Board and the island community.

              A provision for a review of the Act after five years has also been included in the Bill. The impact of the changes in rental, including any impacts on island tourism, will be considered at that time. A range of other proposals in the Bill aim to improve the operational efficiency of the Board. An infringement notice system for minor breaches of the Act or regulations will be introduced. Currently, breaches are referred to the court on the mainland as the court has not sat on Lord Howe Island since 1997. The Bill will allow penalty infringement notices for minor offences—such as littering, the unlawful removal of native flora and unlawful importation—to be issued without resort to court hearings.

              The Bill increases the maximum penalties under the Act to make them consistent with those under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. The Bill proposes a number of general amendments to bring the Act into line with legislation guiding local government, and contemporary environmental and natural resource management legislation. A contemporary charter will guide Board activities and service delivery. It promotes responsible governance, community wellbeing and environmental protection consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development. In future, employment of Board staff will be governed by the Public Sector Management Act 2002. The Board membership will be increased from five to seven, to broaden its range of expertise. A non-Islander with tourism-business experience will be appointed. The current Board majority of elected Islanders will be maintained by increasing the number from three to four. The option to appoint a non-government conservation member will also be introduced.

              The requirement to appoint at least one member from the Department of Environment and Conservation, which includes the National Parks and Wildlife Service, will be retained. The Minister is given the power to make a determination or decision in cases where Board members cannot participate in decision making due to conflicts of interest and lack of a quorum. The Minister will have the power to consult any Islander, including Board members as members of the community without regard to their role as Board members, before making a determination or decision. The Minister is also given the power to suspend or remove an elected Islander Board member in respect of whom a section 74C report from the Independent Commission Against Corruption has been received. All these measures aim to improve the public accountability, transparency and effectiveness of the Board.

              This is a timely and responsible Bill that addresses a number of recommendations from independent reviews as well as ensures that the operation of the Board is viable, accountable and in line with accepted best practice. The Bill maintains the current Islander majority on the Board. There will be public consultation on the formulation of regulations relating to compensation and annual lease rental charges. The Bill will ensure that Lord Howe Island continues to be managed in an ecologically sustainable manner and that its outstanding natural values are managed to retain their World Heritage status, and it will support the tourism economy of the island. I commend the Bill to the House.
          The Hon. DON HARWIN [5.40 p.m.]: My colleague in another place the honourable member for The Hills put on the record in an extensive, well-considered 18-page commentary the position of the Opposition. As the honourable member for The Hills indicated, the Opposition will, with the leave of the Committee, move amendments in globo. They concern one aspect of the bill, to which I will refer later. Lord Howe Island is unique. It is located some 500 kilometres off the coast of New South Wales. It was first settled in 1834 and it now has a population of around 350. Some 10 per cent of the land area has been cleared for housing. Lord Howe Island falls within the State electoral district of Port Macquarie, but it is in the Federal electoral division of Sydney.

          In 1982 Lord Howe Island was awarded a World Heritage listing for its exceptional natural beauty and unique biological diversity. The island's ecology is home to hundreds of rare species of plants and birds—such as the Lord Howe Island Woodhen—many of which are found nowhere else in the world. The Lord Howe Island group World Heritage property covers more than 145,000 hectares, most of which is comprised of marine areas of acknowledged international significance, including the world's southernmost barrier coral reef. Lord Howe Island is one of only four island groups awarded World Heritage listing. Tourism on Lord Howe Island is restricted to a maximum of 400 visitors at any given time. In the October to December quarter of 2003 visitor arrivals increased 15 per cent over the corresponding period in 2002.

          Increasing tourism has resulted in demonstrable benefit to the local community, with the establishment of tourist facilities run by new operators, together with the opening of new restaurants and cafes. Passenger numbers on all 10 flights per week from Sydney have increased and Qantaslink services from Brisbane and Coffs Harbour enjoy solid bookings. One of the most unique features indigenous to Lord Howe Island is the kentia palm, which is one of the world's most popular decorative palms. The unique climate of Lord Howe Island has resulted in a hardy and resilient plant, which thrives in the low light and dry atmospheric conditions. It is an ideal plant because it requires so little maintenance. The plant is slow growing and largely disease free.

          Traditionally, Islanders used the kentia palm to thatch the roofs of their homes. It became an important export commodity following the decline of the whaling industry. Up until the 1980s only the seeds were exported. A high-quality standard is maintained because only seeds collected from immature, naturally occurring stock are used to grow seedlings for export, as opposed to seeds cultivated from young plantation-grown plants, which were probably grown from the yield of immature plantation-grown stock. A useful comparison is the difference between real and cultured pearls. The export trade in kentia palms is a crucial part of the local economy, and has been for some time.

          Lord Howe Island grows 800 to 1,600 bushels of seed annually. By comparison, the Australian mainland grows 2,000 bushels, Norfolk Island grows 2,000 bushels and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean grows 2,000 bushels. California, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Belgium and Korea all grow kentia palm seedlings. The Lord Howe Island kentia palm has spread all around the world. Traditionally the kentia palm industry was run under the auspices of the Lord Howe Island Board. For some time concern has been expressed about the efficient operation of the board. Some people take the view that the industry on Norfolk Island, which is growing substantially more bushels of seed than Lord Howe Island, is more efficient because private growers are involved and the process has been commercialised.

          A member in another place said that Lord Howe Island is such a small place that everyone is inclined to know everyone else's business, as can sometimes be the case in small towns. Because Lord Howe Island is so small some people hold dual or multi roles, which can result in a perception of conflict of interest. The key objective of an important report by the Independent Commission Against Corruption entitled "Preserving Paradise" was to improve the governance of Lord Howe Island by strengthening the capacity of the local public authority, the Lord Howe Island Board, to operate more ethically, efficiently and effectively.

          The ICAC made a number of recommendations, the first of which was to amend the Lord Howe Island Act to enable any board member to be removed for committing a serious and substantial breach of the code of conduct. The second recommendation was to provide for the disclosure of pecuniary interests and a register of members' interests, which is something we have in this House. The third recommendation was that board members withdraw from decision-making when real or potential conflicts of interest occur. The fourth recommendation was to improve complaint-handling procedure. The ICAC noted that the instance of complaints on Lord Howe Island is about 300 times the State average. To some extent those statistics are amplified by the island's extremely small population.

          Having outlined the background matters that underpin the bill, I have to say that the Opposition will not oppose a large number of the bill's provisions, such as those relating to the removal of the board's monopoly in the gathering, collection and sale of kentia palm seeds, in line with the 2000 national competition review of the Act. The Opposition supports the provision that will allow the Minister to remove any board member for corrupt conduct. We are pleased with the establishment of a board charter that is similar to the charters of councils under the Local Government Act. We are also pleased to note that board members will be subject to the same pecuniary interests rules as those applying to local councillors.

          The Opposition supports the provisions of the bill for compensation for special leaseholders who lose their leases as a result of this legislation; the provision that transfers the rent provisions from the principal Act to the regulations and reduces the period between rent reviews from 10 years to three years; and the provision for the Act to be reviewed after five years. All of those changes are welcomed. The Opposition will oppose only one provision, and that is one that has excited considerable interest and debate on Lord Howe Island among Islanders and members of the board. The bill proposes to increase the membership of the Lord Howe Island Board from five to seven members.

          The board is currently comprised of three Islander members, one officer of the government department that is responsible for the administration of the Lord Howe Island Act 1953, and one officer of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The bill proposes to increase membership of the board to four Islander members, one person appointed to represent the interests of business and tourism, one person appointed to represent the interests of conservation, and one officer of the Department of Environment and Conservation—the government instrumentality that is responsible for the administration of the Lord Howe Island Act.

          The Opposition believes that expansion of the board is unnecessary and not among the recommendations of the Independent Commission Against Corruption [ICAC] in its report "Preserving Paradise: good governance guide for small communities—Lord Howe Island". The expansion of the board will increase the number of mainlanders on the board in direct opposition to the attitudes of Lord Howe Island residents, as expressed to the Public Accounts Committee and referred to in the ICAC report "Preserving Paradise":
              There is an innate mistrust and dislike by Islanders of any perceived interference in their lives by mainlanders, be they bureaucrats of any nature or the government members of the Board.

          The House should be aware that because of the particularities of the Lord Howe Island Act, fewer than 200 people are eligible to stand for election as the Islander members of the board. At the board's most recent election, there were only six candidates for three positions. It is possible that in the future an insufficient member of candidates will nominate for vacant board positions. The honourable member for The Hills travelled to Lord Howe Island and consulted extensively. He spoke to current members of the board and to those who stood for re-election at some stage to ascertain their views. He discovered that there is a strongly held and widespread view that expansion of the board is not necessary. People believe that it is appropriate to have three Islander members and that it would be wrong to increase that number to four. For that reason the Opposition will move an amendment at the Committee stage to deal specifically with the composition of the board. Effectively the Opposition proposes, within the framework of the bill, to change the composition of the board from four Islander members to three Islander members, and two people from the mainland instead of three. I will address that matter in greater detail at the Committee stage. In conclusion, I indicate the Opposition's support for the bill, subject to the reservations I have expressed and the amendment I have foreshadowed.

          Mr IAN COHEN [5.55 p.m.]: The Greens support this bill, which amends the Lord Howe Island Act 1953 in order to enhance the efficiency and viability of island administration and enhance the ecologically sustainable management of the island in line with its World Heritage status. Lord Howe Island is not only New South Wales' first World Heritage area, it is an area that is considered to meet three of the four criteria for inclusion of natural areas on the World Heritage List. This is because the Lord Howe Island group is a remarkable example of isolated oceanic islands, born of volcanic activity more than 2,000 metres under the sea, which boast spectacular topography and are home to numerous endemic species. Lord Howe Island is the eroded remnant of a large shield volcano which erupted from the sea floor intermittently over about 500,000 years approximately 6.5 to 7 million years ago in the late Miocene period. As a result it has sedimentary deposits of Pleistocene and Holocene ages, including cross-bedded calcarenite with intercalated soil horizons, lagoonal deposits, a single sand dune, and alluvium.

          The area contains a remarkably diverse range of ongoing geological processes and provides the only accessible outcrop of a wide range of volcanic rocks with oceanic affinities in the Tasman Sea. In fact, the entire island group has remarkable volcanic exposures not known elsewhere, with slightly weathered exposed volcanic deposits showing a great variety of upper mantle and oceanic-type basalts. For example, Balls Pyramid represents the nearly complete stage in the destruction of a volcanic island. The Lord Howe Island group is also impressive because of its high ratio of elevation to the relatively small land areas. The main island rises to 875 metres in Mount Gower while the amazing sea stack, Balls Pyramid, rises sheer to a needle peak of 552 metres above the sea.

          The Lord Howe Island group has contributed greatly to the scientific understanding of the evolution of life forms on isolated oceanic islands as its sea mounts provide excellent laboratories for examining the influence of flow on sedimentation processes and biological community dynamics. The intercalated soil horizons have also yielded important palaeontological data, with interesting fossil finds such as the shells of the land snail, placostylus, and the giant horned turtle—

          The Hon. Duncan Gay: If you cannot pronounce it, why include it?

          Mr IAN COHEN: That is a good point. So far, despite the lack of understanding displayed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I have pronounced the words correctly with just a little stumbling along the way. But I will endeavour to deliver the speech in terms that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is able to understand. At least he should acknowledge that I have been to Lord Howe Island. I visited the island when a British warship was stranded there. However, perhaps that will be a matter for discussion at another time.

          The Hon. Don Harwin: That would have brought joy to your heart.

          Mr IAN COHEN: That is an interesting concept, but it confirmed for me the fragility of the island and the amount of damage that can easily be done. The ship that had run aground on the reef just offshore was a sight to behold and was certainly not in keeping with the beauty of the island. The giant horned turtle, meiolonia platyceps, became extinct approximately 40,000 years ago. However, there is still much more that the Lord Howe Island Group [LHIG] can contribute. Lord Howe is a unique biological province and some of the most elementary ecological processes that support this unique diversity are yet to be revealed. Dive instructors have spent 10 years exploring the underwater environment of Lord Howe Island yet frequently they still discover new species. Researchers from universities and museums, both Australian and international, visit the area each year to continue inventory work and conduct surveys and experiments.

          While the freshwater crab and freshwater prawn inhabit the area, the freshwater crustacea are not well known. The LHIG also supports the southernmost true coral reef in the world and differs considerably from the northerly warm water reefs. Many of the coral communities that exist around Lord Howe are at the southern end of their range and are unique and scientifically important examples of coral habitat. The LHIG is also unique in being a transition between the algal reef and coral reef, due to fluctuations of hot and cold water around the island from the Coral Sea and the Tasman Sea, known as the Tasman Front. Those waters provide an unusual mix of temperate and tropical organisms. More than 500 fish species have been recorded in 107 families, 2.1 per cent of which are endemic to Lord Howe Island, 4 per cent are endemic to the island group and 10 per cent are endemic to the Tasman Sea region. The waters contain 51 species of wrasse, 30 of damselfish, 24 of gobies, and 24 of coralfish.

          Butterfly cod, parrot fish, painted morwong and the double header are commonly found in the lagoon. Large schools of snapper, blue knife fish and orange wrasse are seen in the area, and black cod and elegant wrasse, both of which are protected under the Fisheries Management Act 1994, are found in the waters of Lord Howe Island. Many hundreds of invertebrates also live in the surrounding waters, including 83 species of coral from 33 genera in 11 families, more than 120 species of molluscs and 65 species of echinoderms, which are sea stars and urchins, of which 70 per cent are tropical, 24 per cent temperate and 6 per cent endemic. Many of the coral species that have been recorded are extremely rare, and their communities contain a unique association of tropical species at their southern limits of distribution.

          A wide variety of seabirds, which are rare near the mainland, also roost and nest on the islands and feed on schools of surface fish and squid. At least 168 bird species have been recorded either living at or visiting the LHIG and a number of them are rare and endangered. Lord Howe Island is also the only Australian breeding site for several species of seabirds. It is, for example, one of two known breeding areas for the providence petrel, contains probably the largest breeding concentration in the world of the red-tailed tropicbird and the most southerly breeding colony of the masked booby. Many of the birds found in the LHIG are also protected under the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. With approximately 75 per cent of inshore species being tropical and 15 per cent being temperate, the fish fauna is a transition between tropical and temperate Australia. The island's marine environment holds more than 305 species of algae, 15 per cent of which are unique to the area, and more than 120 species of mollusc. The island is one of the richest localities for green macroalgae, sits at the extreme limit of many green algal species and genera and holds the world's highest latitudinal populations for genera neomeris, boodlea, valoniopsis, ventricaria and trichosolen.

          Turtles are common in summer and the lagoon is inhabited by a pair of resident green turtles—listed as vulnerable under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995—which can be seen regularly throughout the year. Rock and coral areas around the island also provide shelter and food for many species of reef fish. The waters of Lord Howe Island and Ball's Pyramid are also home to three species of conservationally significant fish: the half-banded angelfish, ballina angelfish and a species of bullseye or sweeper. The uniqueness of the landforms and biota, diversity of ecosystems, natural beauty and habitat for threatened species are, of course, reasons why the LHIG has been inscribed on the World Heritage List.

          The LHIG is also Australia's only World Heritage sea mount system and the LHIG Natural World Heritage Site includes the whole island region, including Admiralty Islands, Mutton Bird Islands, Balls Pyramid and associated coral reefs and marine areas. The LHIG also provides the only genuine coral reef sanctuary site in Australia as it is removed from the concentration of activities such as commercial fishing traffic, benthic trawl, coastal urban development and intensive agriculture that occurs within close proximity to most of the coral reef habitats on the east coast. In fact, as at 1995 there had been few major changes in the coral communities at Lord Howe Island in the prior 16 years. Lord Howe Island is the only inhabited island in the group with a permanent population of about 300 residents, most of whom are involved in providing accommodation and tours for visitors in a low-key tourist industry.

          In 1995 there were four licensed guesthouses providing full-board accommodation and 13 self-contained apartment complexes and some 300-400 tourists could be present simultaneously during the summer. To service those tourists, seven charter fishing boats operate in waters around the island, two commercial diving companies operate within the Lord Howe lagoon and local waters and there is fish-feeding on Ned's Beach. Swimming and snorkelling are also popular in the crystal waters of the marine park as Lord Howe Island is the only place in Australia where such a diversity of fish, coral, algae and associated creatures can be seen by snorkelling just a few metres from the beach. The boat trips and diving tours that operate from the island consist of charter boats trolling for game fish such as billfish, tuna and marlin and setting droplines for rosy jobfish. Glass-bottomed boats in the lagoon provide a bird's-eye view of some of the most vigorous coral growth with a wide variety of associated fish and other animals. Guided snorkel tours take small groups to a number of areas where unusual species are reliably seen. There is scuba diving to a selection of more than 50 dive sites. Annually a one-day fishing competition is held at Lord Howe Island for which prizes are awarded for the largest of any species and the catch with the greatest variety of species. However, only a few residents fish the waters commercially for island consumption as local fishers have informally regulated their fishing effort with agreements not to export catch and to supply fish only to the small resident and tourist populations.

          Unfortunately, the island paradise of Lord Howe has been swamped by corruption complaints. While only 24 complaints have been lodged in the past eight years, none of which has led to findings of corrupt conduct, the frequency of complaints and their similarity is of great concern. The level of complaints on the island is 300 times the New South Wales average! As far back as 1986 the Auditor-General and the Public Accounts Committee raised concerns about the financial management and internal controls on the island. The crux of the problem is that the island's isolation and its small community of 300 residents has led to a public administration nightmare where conflicts of interest are inevitable. As happens with many small communities, the island's small population and isolation have led to the emergence of a number of well-known associations of individuals based on family, business, church and social ties. That has led to complaints about conflicts of interest, which has led to alleged abuse and/or victimisation in the way situations are managed.

          Complaints include public officials giving business to influential people in the community even though the same service could be provided more cheaply by other local competitors or competitors further afield. Those complaints have arisen primarily because the Lord Howe Island Board, which governs the island, has no provision for declaring or dealing with pecuniary interests. This is incomprehensible in this day and age. After all, the island has all the facilities of a major town, including a hospital, school, airport, roads, wharf, supply ship and police officer. In the 1998-99 financial year the board recorded an income of $10 million before outgoings. That income was derived from the board's ownership and operation of the Gower Wilson Hospital, the airport and wharf, the regulation and control of all motor vehicles and all tourism operations and other businesses, the control and taxing of liquor sales and the operation of the $1.1 million kentia palm business.

          The board is also responsible for the management of the island's permanent park reserve. While some might argue that everybody knows everybody's business on the island, so no-one can get away with anything and they do not need us looking over their shoulders, the Lord Howe Island board has been the subject of 20 of the 29 referrals to the Independent Commission Against Corruption [ICAC]. Those 29 referrals relate to complaints about shipping services, fishing employment, air transport contracts, tenders and development control. It is clear that the island needs to toughen its measures against potential corruption to stop complaints about its shipping wars, fishing, air transport and development. It is also clear that all board members should be required to disclose and register their pecuniary and other interests, and that procedures should be adopted for dealing with conflicts of interest.

          After all, small and isolated communities have as much right as any other population group in New South Wales to expect of their public officials the highest standards of ethical conduct. Knowing that public officials are providing standards of public administration that the rest of the State is entitled to by doing their job effectively, efficiently and ethically is important for the wellbeing of the community. However, it is not just the island's residents who have an interest in ensuring that their public officials act ethically. The island's unique attributes, World Heritage listing, pristine environment, idyllic location and beautiful natural features mean that people other than those who live on the island have a justifiable interest in the way it is managed and the way in which things happen there.

          Lord Howe Island is part of New South Wales and, as such, those responsible for its governance are required to ensure that they meet the standards of probity, accountability, transparency and objectivity that are called for in the discharge of their duties as public officials. It should be—and it is—of concern to us all to ensure that a national treasure such as Lord Howe Island is managed and administered in the most efficient and effective way possible. The legislation proposes a board comprising seven people—an increase in two positions. The composition will now be: four elected Islander representatives, one appointed position to represent the tourist interests on the island, another position to represent conversation interests, and another position to represent the interests of the Department of Environment and Heritage.

          While the Greens are supportive of the composition of the board, island residents are expressing continuing concern about the need for a fourth representative on the board. In fact, it seems to entrench the very problem that led to the corruption complaints investigated by the ICAC and the high level of complaints by the board. Many phone calls and representations have been made to my office about the continuation of an Islander majority on the board. Locals want to see a balance of residents and outside interests to ensure that the board is able, fairly and evenly, to deal with issues within its charter. The Greens remain concerned about that elected fourth position. As a result of our inquiries the Government insisted that, for an island of over 350 residents, four representatives was a reasonable number on the board.

          The Government argued that the uniqueness of the community required a majority representation on the board to ensure that the best results were achieved for residents. Unfortunately for residents, there is anxiety that an Islander majority will continue the conflicts and problems that plagued the island in its recent history. The checks and balances contained in the bill and the recent scrutiny of the board's operations should provide confidence that past mistakes will not be repeated. Provisions will enable the Minister to remove any board member for corrupt conduct. Further, there is a requirement that board members must indicate any pecuniary interests that they may have. Conflicts of interest must also be declared. The Greens support this bill and will speak in Committee to the amendments that are to be moved by the Coalition.

          It is important for board members to declare their pecuniary interests. I have been to and have spent a short time at Lord Howe Island—an extremely beautiful area. Lord Howe Island is a wonderful asset to the ecology and economy of New South Wales. I have been assailed with many complaints about the nature of the board and how various developments were allowed. For example, there was controversy about the types of diesel generators that provide power on the island. The sewage treatment works were also a matter of great concern. Issues such as that are of importance on an island with limitations similar to those of Lord Howe Island, which is not able to properly dispose of its waste and needs to work on efficient closed systems.

          A lot can be done on Lord Howe Island. I hope that those who are involved in the island's upkeep continue to move toward better conservation measures for water usage, waste disposal, sewage disposal and power generation. Lord Howe Island is an extremely sensitive area. People have run that island from a distance for many years. The Greens welcome the input of other conservation interests. It is appropriate to keep a close watch on all island activities. I and other honourable members have said that this area, which is of importance to all Australians, also has international significance. The composition of its board should reflect all those interests.

          The Hon. Dr ARTHUR CHESTERFIELD-EVANS [6.16 p.m.]: The Australian Democrats support the bill. I note the input from Bruce McFadyen, a member of the board, who said that Islanders do not agree with the bill. Of the 210 people who were surveyed he received replies from 137, which is not a bad return from a population of about 400 or less. Mr McFadyen said that people who oppose this legislation are opposing the board. Generally they oppose everything except the transparency provisions that require all board members to register their conflicts of interests. However, they agree with the charter of the board.

          As my colleague Mr Ian Cohen said earlier, there have been allegations of less than transparent conduct by board members. About 12 or 13 years ago, when I had my honeymoon on Lord Howe Island—and I was not into politics at that time—a small clique, in a sense, controlled development applications. The idea of a slight increase in the number of board members seems to be a small step towards transparency. However, that might present something of a problem. Obviously there is a limit on the number of tourists and the type of accommodation. It would be nice if the character of the island was maintained and it was not simply promoted as a tourist spot. The cost of tourism could become a limiting factor and it could determine who would visit such an island paradise.

          There is excellent scuba diving in the lagoon and off the coast of the island. The foliage on the island generally and in the parks at both ends of the island is extremely beautiful. Lord Howe Island is considered to be an island paradise, so it is important that its unique character is maintained. However, that does not necessarily mean that it has to be fossilised in the control of a small number of people. The main industry on the island is tourism. A major industry on the island is the kentia palm and its seeds and seedlings. Since my visit to that island I am not sure whether non-Islanders have managed to produce seeds from kentia palms. The palms are much prized as they grow virtually anywhere, which is an advantage of indoor plants. However, it is not clear why Islanders are not able to produce seeds on that island. That is a significant industry on the island.

          The bill removes the current monopoly but I do not know whether that will impact on the board's finances. I would be interested to know whether kentia palm seeds still come only from the island and what effect any change will have on the revenue of the board. One would obviously like to think the board is as self-sustaining as possible. The Australian Democrats believe this island—which is a tourist paradise that is extremely significant environmentally, as Mr Ian Cohen pointed out—should be maintained properly. We support the bill, which will update existing arrangements and increase representation on the board. That should improve accountability on the island without introducing unreasonable, radical changes. Importantly, the board will retain majority Islander membership, which will prevent events being dictated from the mainland.

          The Hon. MELINDA PAVEY [6.21 p.m.]: The Lord Howe Island Amendment Bill amends the Lord Howe Island Act 1953 with respect to the constitution and functions of the Lord Howe Island Board, annual rents for leases and proceedings by way of penalty notice and other purposes. The Act was last amended in 1981 so this is a timely review of the work of the Lord Howe Island Board and its associated entities to ensure that they are operating to the best of their ability. I will address the role that The Nationals have played in the island's history. We have had a long association with Lord Howe Island through Rosemary Fenton, the former Miss Australia who married the Rt Hon. Ian Sinclair, the former Federal Leader of the National Party. As Miss Australia and throughout her marriage Rosemary helped to raise the profile of the island. When Ian Sinclair was a Federal Minister telephone services were provided on the island. Another National Party advocate for Lord Howe Island was a former Deputy-President of this House, Sir Adrian Solomons.

          Wendy Machin represented Lord Howe Island in Parliament from 1991 following an electoral redistribution, and she was a fine advocate for the island. The commonsense redistribution included Lord Howe Island as part of the State electorate of Port Macquarie. The island and the Port Macquarie area share a community of interests, and direct commercial flights to Lord Howe Island leave from Port Macquarie. The Lord Howe Island Board has been established for some time so its review is timely. We acknowledge the work of former board members, who were responsible for the administration of one of the most beautiful parts of this State, if not the world. The island's World Heritage listing is testament to its magnificence and international importance. We acknowledge also the 385 residents of Lord Howe Island and the contributions they have been proud to make to maintain both the island's unique environment and their special way of life. The Hon. Don Harwin will move amendments to the bill in Committee, and I await the ensuing discussion with interest.

          Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE [6.24 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party supports the Lord Howe Island Amendment Bill. The Lord Howe Island Act 1953 was last reviewed in 1981 and thus contains several outdated provisions. The provisions in this bill were prompted by the report of the Independent Commission Against Corruption following its review of the Lord Howe Island Board's administration of the island. We support those provisions, which appear to bring the board into line with normal practices in local government. In summary, the bill affords the board the status almost of a local council by introducing the requirement for full disclosure of interests by members and the maintenance of a public register of those interests. It also requires that a member withdraw from a meeting of the board if that member has pecuniary or non-pecuniary interest in any matter on which he or she should not vote. I understand that at least one current board member is prominently involved in the tourist trade on the island and this bill could preclude that person from voting on tourism issues in the future. However, that will be a matter for the chairman of the Lord Howe Island Board. We note that the main issue of controversy in this bill relates to increasing the board's membership from five to seven. Four members must be Islanders, which is an increase of one. I gather that an "Islander" is defined as someone who has lived on the island for 10 years or more.

          The Hon. Don Harwin: Continuously.

          Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE: Yes. It must be continuous residency; simply being on the island does not make one an Islander. So the definition restricts those who may be elected to the board. However, all residents, not just Islanders, vote for board members. The Government intends to appoint two additional persons to the board to increase its membership from five to seven. The Minister will appoint one person to represent the interests of business and tourism. I imagine that there is some argument in support of that appointment as the island exists mainly through tourism. However, it must be a professional appointment; the island must not be abused or exploited. I think Lord Howe residents, and particularly Islanders, should have a major say in the island's future and their desire to maintain the island's character must be recognised. The Minister will appoint a second person to the board to represent the interests of conservation. I assume that that person will not be a green fanatic or there will be problems with the other board members, who I expect would be fairly conservative.

          The Hon. John Hatzistergos: They would have the majority.

          Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE: Yes, but constant friction on the board could cause problems for the island. I think the Minister should consider carefully whom he nominates to the board to represent conservation interests. It should be a genuine conservationist, not a campaigner.

          Mr Ian Cohen: What's the difference?

          Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE: I will explain it to Mr Ian Cohen one day. It is pretty obvious. We often say that Mr Ian Cohen is one of the few genuine green members in this place. The seventh board member is to be an officer of the Department of Environment and Conservation, which will involve the department more in the island's future. However, we must continue to respect the views of island residents. A survey conducted by a board member of 200 or 300 Islanders found that they are not very happy about this bill. None of its provisions enjoy majority support. I suppose that is understandable in view of the conservative attitudes on the island.

          The fact that 61 per cent of people object to the changes to the number of board members may indicate the views of the Islanders. Other matters are objected to by 70 to 80 per cent of the residents. I note that there is no freehold land on the island and despite the island being part of the electorate of Port Macquarie it is totally different in character from the rest of the State. All land is vested in the Crown, and perpetual leases provide for mainland tenure of residential and commercial developments. Rent on these leases, rather than rates or charges, provides revenue for the management of the island and provision of services. The maximum perpetual lease rental is currently $200 per hectare. The rent can be revised only every 10 years. That is a very interesting aspect of Lord Howe Island compared to the rest of New South Wales. The Government recognises the importance of maintaining the character of this attractive tourism destination, Lord Howe Island, so that it not be spoiled by overdevelopment as has happened in Hawaii and other island tourist centres. The Christian Democratic Party supports the bill in principle.

          The Hon. JOHN TINGLE [6.31 p.m.]: Unlike the Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, I did not honeymoon on Lord Howe Island but I imagine if I had I would have had other things on my mind than discussing its political and social future. However, having said that, I support the bill because I think it is necessary to bring the Lord Howe Island Board and its general administration into line with other local administrations within the State of New South Wales, of which it is a part. I, along with other honourable members perhaps, have been receiving a lot of material from the island about this legislation. I have clear evidence that at least the vested interests on the island are very opposed to the bill. But I look forward to the Committee stage of the bill when I hope to get clarification from the Opposition about why it has chosen the increase in the number of board members as the matter on which to move an amendment.

          Mr Bruce McFadyen, who is a member of the board and is obviously opposed to the bill, conducted a survey that shows that 79 per cent of people on the island oppose the Minister making decisions if there is no quorum at a board meeting, 77 per cent oppose the introduction of land rating for leases, 76 per cent oppose reviews of the lease every three years, 67 per cent oppose a review of the Act every five years, 65 per cent oppose agreement to a change in the Act, and only 61 per cent oppose the increase in the numbers on the board. If this survey is to be believed, it appears that Islanders and the general residents of Lord Howe Island are much more widely opposed to other concerns than to the question of the increase in the numbers on the board to seven.

          I am not sure how much reliance we can place on that survey. Apparently Mr McFadyen asked 210 people to respond to it¯I gather that would include the 190 qualified Islanders and some others as well¯but only 137 responded. It would therefore seem to me, if only two-thirds of the people who were asked to respond bothered to respond, that there is not amongst the island population generally an overwhelming feeling that this is a good thing or a bad thing.

          I think it is a good thing. I really believe that the objections to the increase in the number of board members probably overlook the fact that the real Islanders will still have the majority on the board and that there is really in effect only one mainlander or outsider being added who is not a member at the present time. I sincerely want to know why the Opposition seized on that particular matter. It is clear that many of the people on the island do not support the bill, but what is not clear is how many of them are either not concerned about it or do not mind it happening. I think this legislation is good in general, and I look forward to the Committee stage.

          The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS (Minister for Justice, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Citizenship) [6.34 p.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members for their contributions in the debate. I will deal with the issues identified in the Opposition amendments more appropriately in Committee. In relation to the only issue of substance in the contribution of the Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans relating to kentia palms, I simply refer him to the comments of the Minister in his second reading speech.

          Motion agreed to.

          Bill read a second time.

          [The Deputy-President (The Hon. Tony Burke) left the chair at 6.35 p.m. The House resumed at 8.15 p.m.]
          In Committee

          Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.

          The Hon. DON HARWIN [8.15 p.m.], by leave: I move Liberal Party amendments Nos 1 to 7 in globo:

          No. 1 Page 3, schedule 1, line 16. Omit "7". Insert instead "5".

          No. 2 Page 3, schedule 1, line 17. Omit "four". Insert instead "three".
          No. 3 Page 3, schedule 1, lines 18 and 19. Omit all words on those lines.

          No. 4 Page 3, schedule 1, line 27. Omit "(b), (c) and (d)". Insert instead "(b) and (c)".

          No. 5 Page 11, schedule 1, line 27. Omit "(b), (c) or (d)". Insert instead "(b) or (c)".

          No. 6 Page 20, schedule 1, line 22. Omit "3 of the". Insert instead "the 3".

          No. 7 Page 21, schedule 1, lines 5 to 7. Omit all words on those lines.
            In my remarks on the second reading of the bill I dealt at some length with the perspective that the honourable member for The Hills, who has carriage of the bill for the Opposition, has gained regarding the wishes of the Lord Howe Islanders following his recent trip to consult the Islanders on how they felt about the legislation that is being dealt with tonight. That consultation has led the honourable member for The Hills to outline in the other place—and for me to move on his behalf—these seven amendments. The amendments have been moved in globo because one naturally follows from the other, and if any one of the amendments fails then acceptance of the others basically would make a mess of the bill.

            The main thrust of the amendments is to reduce the composition of the board from seven to five, which means that there will be three Islanders, instead of the four as proposed by the bill; and, as a result of our strong belief that Islanders should remain in the majority on the board, consequently we seek to remove one of the three ministerial appointments, that being the person referred to in new section 4 (3) (b) as "a person appointed to represent the interests of business and tourism". All of the other amendments are consequential. I commend them to the Committee.

            The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS (Minister for Justice, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Citizenship) [8.19 p.m.]: The Government opposes the amendments. Schedule [1] increases the number of board members from five to seven. The current balance of elected Islanders to members appointed by the Minister will change from three-to-two to four-to-three, with the addition of one elected Islander. The additional appointed member will be a tourism and business representative and will not be an Islander. Despite Opposition claims in the other place, the current Act does not provide for the appointment of a tourism specialist.

            During the last board elections, in February last year, six Islanders stood for election. Three were elected under the current Act. Under the amendments, a fourth Islander would also be elected. In future, only one appointed member of the board need be an officer of the Department of Environment and Conservation. The appointed member representing conservation interests need not, in future, be from the Department of Environment and Conservation, or indeed a public servant. The appointed conservation representative will not be an Islander. The revised arrangements will widen the level of expertise among board members and specifically recognise the importance of tourism to the island's economy through the appointment of a representative with tourism and business expertise. The additional elected member provides scope for broader representation of Islander community interests, including tourism operators, accommodation providers, other businesses and conservation.

            I am also advised that there would be a greater likelihood that a woman would be elected. Historically, women Islanders have rarely been elected to the board. Increasing the board may also encourage Islanders who have not previously thought of standing to seek election. By local government standards, a board of seven is a more representative size, given that the regional environmental plan deems the board to be a local government authority for development control and other local government functions. The increase would also reduce the likelihood that conflicts of interests may result in a lack of quorums at board meetings.

            Mr IAN COHEN [8.21 p.m.]: The Greens concur with the Government on this matter, though, we would have appreciated more consultation on the amendments. The removal of the Islander representative is a possible solution to concerns that had been expressed to me by residents about this position. Residents have rung and written to my office expressing grave concern that a continuing Islander majority on the board will entrench the problems with corruption and vested interests that have plagued the board in recent times. The Opposition amendment would in some way address this, but we cannot support the in globo amendments.

            Our consultation reveals widespread support in the community for the balance of advice on the board from the three appointed positions, including the tourist representative. The Greens generally support the local community, and that is exactly what we are doing. The local community has a history of problems. I note the Minister's comment on, potentially, a greater opportunity for women to be elected to the board. It is in everyone's interests to open up the board to more people, including the tourist representative. From the Green's perspective, the inability of outsiders to buy real estate on Lord Howe Island is an effective control. But for that degree of control, which I applaud, Lord Howe Island would be destroyed by rampaging tourism.

            Professional support from outside the island is beneficial. Many in this House and other elected representatives who take care of, and have an interest in, the activities of the administration of Lord Howe Island will act as an appropriate watchdog. In this case the Government is on the right track in dealing with adequate and appropriate representation on a board to oversee the future potential for low-key tourism and proper representation of the people of Lord Howe Island. Some entrenched interests have controlled it and a lot of people who have spent their lives on the island feel disempowered. The legislation is a significant step in the right direction to resolve some of those problems.

            Question—That the amendments be agreed to—put.

            The Committee divided.
            Ayes, 15
            Mr Clarke
            Ms Cusack
            Mrs Forsythe
            Mr Gallacher
            Miss Gardiner
            Mr Gay
            Mr Lynn
            Mr Oldfield
            Ms Parker
            Mrs Pavey
            Mr Pearce
            Mr Ryan
            Dr Wong
              Mr Colless
              Mr Harwin

              Noes, 26
              Mr Breen
              Dr Burgmann
              Mr Burke
              Ms Burnswoods
              Mr Catanzariti
              Dr Chesterfield-Evans
              Mr Cohen
              Mr Costa
              Mr Della Bosca
              Mr Egan
              Ms Griffin
              Ms Hale
              Mr Hatzistergos
              Mr Jenkins
              Mr Kelly
              Mr Macdonald
              Reverend Dr Moyes
              Reverend Nile
              Mr Obeid
              Ms Rhiannon
              Ms Robertson
              Ms Tebbutt
              Mr Tingle
              Mr Tsang
              Mr Primrose
              Mr West
              Question resolved in the negative.

              Amendments negatived.

              Schedule 1 agreed to.

              Title agreed to.

              Bill reported from Committee without amendment and passed through remaining stages.
              Second Reading

              The Hon. IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries) [8.33 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.

              Leave granted.
                  This Bill provides for amendments arising from reviews of the Public Lotteries Act 1996 and the New South Wales Lotteries Corporatisation Act 1996. These reviews were conducted during the course of 2002-2003 and identified a need for refinement of both Acts. The proposed amendments were developed in consultation with all key stakeholders, following the release of an issues paper during the review process.

                  The Public Lotteries Act is the principal legislation regulating the operation of public lotteries in New South Wales. The objectives of the Act are:
              • To make provision for the proper conduct of public lotteries in the public interest;

              • To minimise any harm associated with public lotteries; and

              • To ensure that revenue derived from the conduct of public lotteries is accounted for in a proper manner.

                  The New South Wales Lotteries Corporatisation Act:
              • Established the New South Wales Lotteries Corporation as a statutory, state-owned corporation;

              • sets out the objectives and functions of the Corporation; and

              • Transferred the assets, rights and liabilities of the pre-existing statutory body, New South Wales Lotteries.

                  I will briefly address the subject matter of the proposed amendments to each Act separately.

                  In regard to the Public Lotteries Act 1996, the Bill seeks to make several clarifications and create some new offences.

                  The most important new offences will prohibit the unauthorised sale and promotion of public lottery products, such as the range of products available for purchase from newsagencies, and the purchase of these lottery products on behalf of others for a fee or reward.

                  Experience has shown that unauthorised sellers of the reputable range of NSW Lotteries' products target potential overseas subscribers by means of a direct mailing campaign, or via the Internet.

                  The main problem with these operators is that their offers can be ambiguous, and even misleading. The offer can suggest that a player has a very high, almost guaranteed chance of winning millions of dollars. There are also cases where these intermediaries have failed to pass on prizes won by players. This has resulted in many dissatisfied customers. The Government receives complaints from these customers every year.

                  This situation is endangering both the commercial reputation of the New South Wales Lotteries Corporation as the lottery operator, and New South Wales' general reputation as a jurisdiction that can ensure public lotteries and other gaming activities are conducted with integrity.

                  At present, there is no explicit offence in the Act, or any other gaming-related legislation for that matter, which prohibits an unauthorised involvement in the sale of public lottery products. As such, this particular form of facilitating gambling activity is completely unregulated. The implementation of this proposal will rectify this troubling situation. Three new offences will be created. They are:
              • Unauthorised selling of entries in or subscriptions to a public lottery;

              • Unauthorised promotion or marketing of a public lottery; and

              • Person not to enter or subscribe to a public lottery on behalf of another for a fee or reward.

                  Another new offence will address fraudulent claims being made for lottery prizes. The investigation of fraudulent claims costs lottery operators both time and money, and there is no existing deterrent to the making of fraudulent claims.

                  The introduction of this offence and the attached penalty will provide a deterrent and help maintain public confidence in the integrity of public lotteries. The offence will be limited, in that it will apply to a person who lodges a claim knowing it to be materially false or misleading.

                  The review also brought to light several areas in which greater clarity was required in the legislation. In parts, the Act, as currently worded, is not sufficiently clear on a small number of basic operational matters.

                  Accordingly, the amendments will make it clear that:
              • Lottery licensees may enter into agreements to participate in national games;
                • Lottery licensees are permitted to contribute to prize payments for national lottery games;
                  • Separate prize funds are required for each public lottery licence; and
                    • Lottery agents are allowed to pay minor prizes directly to lottery subscribers.

                        Also, the Bill will extend the same right to public lottery licensees to organise and run syndicates that is currently granted to their agents.
                        The Bill will also extend the jurisdiction of the Administrative Decisions Tribunal. A person will be able to apply to the Tribunal for a review of ministerial decisions to withdraw the approval or appointment of an agent of a public lottery licensee.

                        The Bill will amend the notification requirements for a change in the circumstances of a lottery licensee.

                        Recently it became apparent that a lottery licensee may be placed in the position of unintentionally breaching certain notification requirements. This is more likely to occur where a licensee does not have total control over the changing information, and must await the advice of other parties.

                        The Bill will address this by changing the notification requirements, so that a licensee or agent is required to notify the Minister of changed circumstances, but only within 14 days of becoming aware of the change in circumstances.

                        It is important to understand that this will only apply to cases where a licensee or agent does not have direct control over the change in status. Where there is full knowledge of the changed information, the licensee or agent must notify the Minister in writing in 14 days after the change occurs.

                        I now turn to an aspect of the Bill which has generated some media attention, namely the proposed introduction of enhanced regulation-making powers within the Act to provide for the introduction of a statutory time limit on unclaimed prizes.

                        Under current circumstances, the liability for unclaimed prizes is open ended. It is estimated that, for New South Wales Lotteries alone, the exposure currently amounts to at least $115 million.

                        Furthermore, as the vast majority of unclaimed prizes are of minor value, and as few claims are received relating to lotteries drawn more than 3 years ago, the cost of maintaining open-ended verification systems for such prizes is difficult to justify.

                        It is acknowledged that the introduction of a limit of claims for lottery prizes is relevant to the Legislation Review Committee's scrutiny of Bills, as it delegates the power to introduce time limits to a regulation.

                        It is important to understand that there is no intention to arbitrarily remove the current unlimited right of public lottery subscribers to lodge their claim for winnings. It is proposed that the limit on the time for lodging prize claims will be introduced gradually, and will not be fully in place for up to 15 years from the date of commencement of the relevant regulation.

                        Hence, there will be more than adequate time for lottery subscribers to check if they have an old, potentially prize-wining lottery ticket lying around gathering dust at the bottom of a suitcase or in the back of the sock drawer, before the new limits are fully implemented.

                        So it is clear that the introduction of this limit will significantly reduce the exposure of licensees to the unclaimed prize liability, without abruptly depriving lottery subscribers of an accustomed right.

                        Finally, the Bill will introduce a number of minor miscellaneous, ancillary and consequential amendments to the Public Lotteries Act. These amendments will enhance certain definitions in the Act, and ensure that other definitions are consistent throughout the Act.

                        I now turn to amendments to the New South Wales Lotteries Corporatisation Act.

                        The amendments proposed to this Act are non-contentious and straightforward.

                        In summary, at the point in time when the New South Wales Lotteries Corporation was being established, which was in 1997, the assets, rights and liabilities of the former New South Wales Lotteries were transferred to the Corporation.

                        This process was specifically catered for in certain provisions in the Act. The transfer of these assets, rights and liabilities has long been completed, and these relevant provisions are now obsolete. It is appropriate that they be removed from the Act.


                        In conclusion, this Bill will make further improvements to the regulatory framework for the operation of public lotteries in New South Wales. I commend the Bill to the house.

                    The Hon. MELINDA PAVEY [8.34 p.m.]: I speak on behalf of the Liberal-Nationals Coalition on the Public Lotteries Legislation Amendment Bill, and at the outset I indicate that the Opposition will not oppose it. The Public Lotteries Act 1996 provides six licences held by NSW Lotteries to conduct Powerball, Instant Scratchies, Lucky Lotteries, Lotto, Lotto Strike and soccer football pools. Another licence is held by Jupiters and Club Keno to conduct keno in registered clubs and the Sydney casino. The New South Wales Lotteries Corporatisation Act 1996 provided for the New South Wales Lotteries Corporation. While conducting the statutory five-year review, the Government took the opportunity to examine its compliance with national competition policy principles.

                    The objects of the bill address issues that were raised by the statutory five-year reviews of the Public Lotteries Act and the New South Wales Lotteries Corporatisation Act 1996 that were conducted in 2002 and 2003 respectively. The reviews concluded a need to refine and clarify certain aspects of these Acts, and this bill addresses those conclusions. The proposed amendments will make clear a number of administrative matters which will result in financial savings to the New South Wales Lotteries Corporation. The bill creates new offences prohibiting the unauthorised sale and promotion of public lotteries products, entering or subscribing to public lotteries for or on behalf of another person for a fee or reward, and lodging a false claim for prizes in public lotteries. Each offence carries a maximum penalty of 100 units, which currently equates to $11,000.

                    The bill inserts new section 39A, which will enable agents to pay directly to the winners prizes not exceeding the amount prescribed by the regulation. New section 25A will confirm that the licensee must keep a separate prize fund for each game. The bill clarifies the situations in which it will be acceptable for a licensee to enter into agreements with interstate authorities to operate national lottery games. It also extends the jurisdiction of the Administrative Decisions Tribunal to examine decisions to withdraw approval or appointment of an agent of a public lottery licensee. The bill also amends the notification period for a change in circumstances of a lottery licensee. The licensee will be required to notify the Minister of a change in circumstances no later than 14 days after the licensee has become aware of the changes. This will occur only in cases when the licensee is not directly in control of the changes in circumstances.

                    The bill allows licensees to centrally organise and run syndicates with subscribers through agents' online terminals. It also amends regulations to impose a statutory time limit on unclaimed prizes, which is probably one of the more interesting aspects of the bill as it applies to occasional punters. The rationale behind the imposition of a statutory time limit stems from the financial strain of keeping the time limit open ended. At present unclaimed prizes amount to approximately $115 million, which is constituted by a huge number of small prizes. Such an extraordinary amount of money could probably build 10 public schools, but it represents many small prizes. There could be an issue relating to whether there is any public benefit to introducing a time constraint on the collection of winnings. It appears that streamlining procedures will save money and provide many administrative benefits.

                    The Legislation Review Committee examined the bill and pointed out that it will commence at the date of proclamation. The committee understands from the department that the operation of the bill is intended to commence close to the time of its assent. The committee noted that amendment of section 27 (9) will enable regulations to prescribe the time within which claims for unclaimed prizes must be made. The extension of the definition of an unclaimed prize will mean a prize that remains unclaimed by the prize winner for a period of one year after the date on which the public lottery to which the prize relates was conducted.

                    Allowing regulations to stipulate the time within which claims for an unclaimed prize can be made is a substantial delegation of legislative power as it has the potential to deprive prize winners of sizeable amounts of money. The Legislation Review Committee noted that any regulation could only affect prizes unclaimed for at least one year from the date the lottery was drawn.

                    The Minister's intention is to introduce claims time limits gradually over 15 years. The Minister's office has not included time limits in the bill but in future a regulation will allow for consultation with stakeholders. The committee understands that it is expected that eventually the time limit will be five years. The committee also considers that flexibility in statutory time limits is not desirable. Therefore, it is preferable to set such time limits as prescribed in the Act rather than by regulation. However, the committee considers that allowing time limits for unclaimed prizes is an appropriate delegation of legislative power, rather than regulation. I am guilty of having a lot of unchecked tickets in a drawer; I do not know if I have a winner.

                    The Hon. Christine Robertson: Give them to me, I will check them.

                    The Hon. MELINDA PAVEY: I might bring in those unchecked lottery tickets. The time limit is probably the major issue of public interest in the bill. It is a sensible tidy up for people such as me who put a ticket into a drawer. It has given me the incentive to go to the drawer and find out if I have a winning ticket. If I am a winner, I will tell the Hon. Christine Robertson. The Opposition will not oppose the bill.

                    Ms LEE RHIANNON [8.40 p.m.]: The Greens do not oppose the bill. We understand that there have been some concerns about setting statutory limits for the collection of prizes, which eventually will be five years. We trust that the Minister's claim to have had extensive consultation on that issue is correct; particularly as there is $115 million in unclaimed prizes. We hope that there will be a community information campaign to ensure that as much of that money as possible finds its way to the missing winners. Hopefully the Government will not see it as a quick windfall.

                    The Hon. Dr ARTHUR CHESTERFIELD-EVANS [8.41 p.m.]: Two Acts govern the conduct of lotteries in New South Wales: the Public Lotteries Act 1996 and the New South Wales Lotteries Corporatisation Act 1996. A review of those Acts took place in 2002 and a report was delivered. The review identified certain problems with clarity and enforcement of the spirit of the Acts, and this bill is an attempt to rectify those shortcomings. The main amendment is to prohibit unauthorised on-sellers of lottery tickets. Apparently there are people who sell New South Wales lottery tickets to overseas subscribers with the promise that they will win a prize. Of course, that is false and misleading, given the odds. It is also reported that unauthorised sellers do not pass on the prizes if the tickets do win.

                    The Government said that there is no enforcement procedure to stop those unauthorised sellers, and this bill will rectify that anomaly. Proposed section 37A facilitates licensing agreements for public lotteries between jurisdictions. That means that a person who purchases a Victorian Scratchie may now claim the prize money from a lottery agent in New South Wales; currently that is not the case. It is interesting that the Minister said one of the objects of this bill is to minimise any harm associated with public lotteries. I cannot quite see why that is included in the text of the bill. My view is that the best way to reduce harm is to reduce the opportunity for gambling. We should run serious campaigns to lessen gambling as it is, effectively, an opportunity to lose hard-earned capital in the short term. That means that the ageing population, a future demographic problem for Australia, is spending its money on something with a low probability of winning, instead of investing wisely for their future.

                    Any bill associated with gambling which does not address that fundamental issue neglects the most important aspect of gambling. There is no point advising people to invest in their future while at the same time running a huge advertising campaign promoting the idea of buying a lottery ticket to win enough money to solve all their problems. Of course, a lottery ticket has a low possibility of success. The bill has a narrow framework for dealing with gambling, and the Government's broader framework for reducing gambling is a failure. However, as nothing better is on offer, I support the bill.

                    Reverend the Hon. Dr GORDON MOYES [8.45 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party supports the Public Lotteries Legislation Amendment Bill and congratulates the Minister for Gaming and Racing, Mr Grant McBride, on introducing it. Over recent years we have all been subject to a lot of emails informing us that we have won vast amounts of money in overseas lotteries. If I were to collect all the millions of dollars that I have supposedly won in German and Spanish lotteries I would be almost as wealthy as if I had collected all the money promised to me from Nigeria, left to me by people who had died. Obviously there are all sorts of scams, and Minister McBride has closed an important loophole by introducing this bill. We support him in that.

                    Obviously the Christian Democratic Party does not want to extend facilities for further gambling in the light of the tremendous social consequences of gambling on individuals and families. However, we recognise that those loopholes are being closed and that will create new offences to prohibit the unauthorised sale of public lottery products. It will stop people who are engaged in scams from developing the ability to collect unclaimed prize-winning tickets. In the 1930s people at racecourses, known as emus, picked up all the discarded and unwanted tickets in the hope that they might have some luck and find one winning ticket. At present there is no specific offence in the Act, or in any gaming-related legislation, which prohibits unauthorised involvement in the sale of public lottery products.

                    We are aware that whenever these opportunities are raised some people will make the most of what is a loophole. Some media attention has focused on the enhanced regulation-making powers within the Act to provide for the introduction of a statutory time limit; this is for the sake of persons who put their unclaimed tickets in the bottom drawer. My habit throughout my life has always been to give money to people who want to sell lottery tickets, but never to take the ticket. I do not believe we should gamble just for the sake of personal gain. I am happy to support a cause with a donation and I recognise that the donation is unreceipted, but that is better than leaving a ticket at home in the bottom drawer. I encourage people to give, to donate, money to good causes rather than have a personal interest in winning a prize. You always feel better if you are not in it for what you get out of it. It is proposed that the limit will put a cap on the time in which prizes might be claimed, and we do not have a problem with that. On the whole, the Christian Democratic Party supports the bill and congratulates the Minister on closing the loopholes.

                    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries) [8.49 p.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members for their contributions to the debate.

                    Motion agreed to.

                    Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
                    Second Reading

                    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries) [8.50 p.m.]: I move:
                        That this bill be now read a second time.

                    I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.

                    Leave granted.
                        This bill introduces reforms to the regulation of the retirement village industry in New South Wales.

                        Retirement villages play an important role in the housing choices for our seniors. They enable retirees to live with people of a similar age group in a safe community environment, enjoying a range of facilities and activities. There are more than 700 retirement villages currently operating in New South Wales, accommodating around 40,000 residents. That's approximately 3 per cent of the New South Wales aged population.

                        This figure is expected to climb as the baby boomers reach retirement age and are attracted to the lifestyle offered by retirement villages. It is important the legislation keeps pace with developments in the industry and continues to provide adequate protection for consumers and clarity and certainty for village operators.

                        The Government introduced the Retirement Villages Act in 1999 following extensive consultation and a review of the regulatory environment at the time, which consisted mainly of an industry code of practice. The Act represented the most significant reform to the regulation of the industry since retirement villages first began in New South Wales in the 1950s.

                        Certain reforms to update and improve the Act are now being proposed for introduction. The main purpose of the bill is to address a number of legislative interpretations in recent judicial decisions and to bring forward the statutory review of the Act.

                        I turn now to the specific detail of the bill.

                        The bill aims to bring forward the statutory review of the Act. Currently, under section 208, a review of the Act is required to be undertaken five years from the date of assent. The Act was assented to on 3 December 1999, meaning that the review would not be scheduled at this stage until the first half of 2005.

                        Since becoming Minister I have met with a wide range of interest groups involved with the retirement village industry. Many are happy that the Act was introduced and the substantial improvements to the industry which have occurred since 1999. However, changes are now required to provide greater protection to residents and those contemplating moving into a retirement village. It is argued that there are certain unfair and inequitable practices within the industry that should be further addressed. The complexity of contracts, the standard of village management, excessive fee increases and who should be responsible for the cost of repairs are some of the more frequent issues raised by consumers.

                        All those involved in the industry agree that it would be beneficial for the review to be brought forward. Bringing the review forward would provide residents, village operators and other interested parties the opportunity to comment on the legislation as soon as possible.

                        The Government intends to amend the Act to bring forward the review to commence upon assent being given to this package of amendments. A report on the outcome of the review is to be tabled within 12 months from this date.

                        Another measure contained in the bill is designed to overcome a potential anomaly with the legislation. Within the retirement village industry there is a small number of villages that operate on a leasehold basis, where residents enter into a lease for 99 years or 199 years which is registered on the title of the property. In some villages, when the resident dies or vacates, the existing lease is surrendered and a new lease entered into with the incoming resident. However, at other villages the contract gives the resident the right to assign the remaining portion of the lease to the new resident.

                        A problem has been identified with those residents with assignable leases. Under the current legislation when a resident dies or moves out the contract of the resident is terminated. The concern is that termination of the contract may nullify assignment rights as it is argued that there is nothing left to assign.

                        Usually, under the terms of such a contract, payment to the outgoing resident or to their estate is dependent on the assignment of the lease. If the lease cannot be assigned there is a potential for residents in these situations to lose significant amounts of money. Termination of the contract also means that the resident could have their interest removed from the title of the property. This could jeopardise the important protection afforded by the registration of the resident's interest.

                        The Government is proposing to amend the legislation to clarify this issue. The amendment will make it clear that a resident who has a lease with a right to assign can continue to exercise that right. Such a contract will no longer be terminated on death or vacation of a residence but continue on until the end of the original lease. Only the outgoing resident's right to occupy the premises will terminate upon the assignment of the lease. The existing powers of the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal to terminate an assignable lease in certain situations will not be affected by this amendment.

                        The amendment does not give any greater rights to residents in respect to assignment. It does not mean that other residents who have contracts under which they have no right to assign will be able to do so.
                        This proposal has relevance to only a relatively small sector of the industry. In a practical sense leases have continued to be assigned since the Act began but there has been doubt as to the legality of this practice. The amendment the Government is now proposing will remove any uncertainty and restore the original intention of the parties when entering into an assignable lease.

                        The Government is also seeking to clarify the rights of residents who own their premises within the village to let or sublet following a decision of the Supreme Court. The court decision may jeopardise this important right.

                        Under the Act, residents who are owners are given the right to let or sublet the premises on a temporary basis for up to three years. Units in retirement villages can be difficult to sell. Being able to rent out the unit allows the former resident, or their estate, to receive rent to help pay ongoing costs until the unit is sold. This measure assists in expanding the supply of suitable and affordable rental housing for seniors.

                        However, in the Supreme Court an operator challenged the right of an estate to sublet the premises on the basis that it had not delivered up vacant possession and handed the keys back to the operator. The estate argued that returning the keys would remove its ability to provide possession to their tenant. They needed the keys in order to sublet. The court found in favour of the operator.

                        It is important to note that the court itself, in making the decision, commented that it had come to the conclusion with reluctance, as the interpretation contended for by the defendants was one that more generally accords with the policy and intent of the legislation.

                        The Government intends to amend the Act to restore the original intent of the provision. The bill will make it clear that a resident, a former resident or the estate of a deceased resident can let or sublet without first having to hand back possession to the operator.

                        The amendment will change the definition of "permanently vacated" to ensure that all residents who are owners under the Act permanently vacate upon the death of the resident or when they move out. Delivering up possession to the operator and handing back the keys will no longer be required in these circumstances.

                        This will ensure that residents who are owners, and the estates of such residents, will continue to be able to exercise their intended right to let or sublet the premises.

                        The bill addresses another issue raised by consumer groups following another judicial decision. It relates to the circumstances in which an operator may seek the consent of residents to amend the statement of approved expenditure, commonly known as the budget, agreed upon before the start of each financial year at each village.

                        Under the current Act an amendment may only be sought if unforeseen requirements for expenditure arise. This was meant to give operators some leeway if unique or exceptional circumstances arose which could not have been reasonably foreseen when the expenditure statement was being put together. For example, if the award rates for village staff change unexpectedly there may be insufficient funds in the wages budget.

                        An overly broad definition was applied in the tribunal as to what constitutes unforeseen circumstances. The tribunal found that if an individual operator simply underestimated the cost of certain items or forgot about the need for expenditure in certain areas, an amendment to the expenditure statement could be approved by the tribunal against the wishes of a resident. This was even if a prudent operator would have been reasonably expected to foresee the expenditure need. Some of the 'unforeseen' expenditure related to stockpiling parts, pay increases, extra stationery, accountancy fees and additional painting costs. The case was further compounded by the fact that the operator in question did not even seek the consent of residents to the changes first. They just spent the extra money, which created a larger budget deficit and sought the approval of the tribunal once the year was over. This is not how it is meant to be. The current legislative provisions were designed to provide residents with transparency and accountability and to curb the inclination of some operators to overspend on discretionary items.

                        The Government proposes to amend the legislation to restore the original intention of the Act of an accountable process. The bill will ensure that the consent of residents is sought for any proposed variation in an approved expenditure statement. If the residents agree with the need for the change then it can be implemented. If the residents do not consent then the operator will be required to either accept the decision or appeal to the tribunal. In considering such an application the tribunal will be able to overrule the decision of the residents only if it is satisfied that there is an urgent need for the extra expenditure and that it was not reasonably foreseeable.

                        The bill will also address a degree of uncertainty and confusion as to which residents are 'owners'. The Act distinguishes between residents who are owners and those who are non-owners in a number of key areas. Caps apply on how long ongoing charges can be levied on a non-owner and the timing of refund payments. Residents who are owners have the right to set the asking price and appoint a selling agent of their choosing.

                        It is important that the line between non-owners and owners be clear and unambiguous. To be entirely accurate such a determination would require a detailed examination of the provisions of an individual resident's contract by a legal practitioner. This is a costly and time-consuming exercise which most residents do not undertake. They often accept the view of the operator as to which category they fall into, which may not be correct. A resident who mistakenly acts as a non-owner misses out on setting the asking price and appointing an outside agent. Likewise, a resident who mistakenly acts as an owner may have their refund unnecessarily delayed by many months.

                        Most residents of retirement villages have a simple licence or rental agreement, where the operator retains ownership of all the village property. Outgoing residents of these villages commonly get back only the amount of money they paid upon entry, less certain fees and charges and without any interest. Regardless of how long they reside in the village the outgoing residents receive little or none of any capital gains. There is no justification to classify such residents as owners. The bill will remove the current definition of 'owner' in section 150 (1) and replace it with a new one. The new definition will clarify which residents are non-owners and which are owners. A resident will remain an owner if they have purchased the premises, such as in a strata scheme or company title village. If they have not, four conditions will need to be met before the resident will be considered to be an owner.
                        Firstly, the residence contract will need to be in to the form of a lease. Secondly, the lease will need to be for a period of at least 50 years or in the form of a lifetime lease. It is common within the retirement village industry for such leases to be for 99 years or 199 years. Thirdly, the lease will need to be registered on the title under the provisions of the Real Property Act 1900. Fourthly, the lease will need to contain a provision entitling the resident to 50 per cent or more of any capital gains. This percentage is a minimum standard within the leasehold sector of the industry. If any of these requirements are not met the resident will be considered not to be an owner.

                        The bill also proposes to reduce the period during which a resident who passes away or moves out remains liable to pay recurrent charges for personal services. 'Personal services' are those optional services provided to a resident on an individual basis and includes the provision of meals, laundry services and the cleaning of the resident's premises.

                        Residents of retirement villages who receive personal services commonly pay for the services as part of their overall weekly, fortnightly or monthly payment to the operator. Due to the high cost of providing personal services those who receive them pay considerably more in charges than residents of self-care units. It is not uncommon for residents receiving personal services to pay up to $2,000 per month or more. Under the current Act charges for personal services must cease no later than 28 days after the resident has died or moved out.

                        Many operators, particularly those in the not-for-profit sector, already have a practice of not billing residents who move out or pass away for personal services. These operators agree that charging residents, or the estates of deceased residents, for personal services which are no longer being supplied or received is an unfair and unjust practice. The Government agrees with this position.

                        The Government intends to amend the Act to provide that in a situation where a resident has passed away or moved out all charges for personal services cease immediately. That is, from the date the resident moves out or from when the operator is notified of the resident's death. This amendment will remove a financial burden from those residents who leave or the estates of deceased residents.

                        As Australia's five million baby boomers reach retirement age and are attracted to the lifestyle offered by retirement villages more people will be affected by this legislation. With an evolving industry it is important that we ensure our legislative framework continues to meet its aims of protecting some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

                        The Retirement Villages Amendment Bill 2004 introduces reforms to enhance protection for consumers who live in retirement villages and provide greater clarity and certainty in the legislation. The five specific changes to the Act being proposed are important reforms and will be of benefit to both operators and residents. Bringing the review forward will enable any other issues in the industry to be considered as soon as possible. I commend the bill to the House.

                    The Hon. MELINDA PAVEY [8.51 p.m.]: The Liberal-Nationals Coalition does not oppose the Retirement Villages Amendment Bill. The object of the bill is to amend the Retirement Villages Act 1999 in order to clarify the operation of that Act in relation to the assignment of residence contracts and the rights of residents or former occupants to sublet premises. It provides for circumstances in which the statement of approved expenditure in relation to a retirement village may be amended in order to authorise further expenditure. It will make it clear that any liability to pay recurrent charges for personal services, except those already provided, ceases in the case of a resident who has moved out or who has died, when the resident moves out, or when the operator of a retirement village is notified of the death of a resident.

                    It brings forward the due date for the review of the Act. The Act was originally due to be reviewed in 2005. That review is now due to commence after this amended bill has received royal assent. The bill will make various other minor changes. Currently, more than 700 retirement villages operate in New South Wales. Those villages house around 40,000 residents, or approximately 3 per cent of the New South Wales aged population. There are approximately 1.3 million aged people in New South Wales. As a resident of the State's North Coast I am aware that the establishment of retirement homes is a growing industry in that area. There are many excellent examples of retirement home living and some expected major developments in the Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Ballina and Tweed areas.

                    Many people throughout New South Wales and Australia are now deciding to retire to the North Coast. When it is no longer suitable for them to live in an apartment or a house, they are making the decision to live in the friendly atmosphere of a retirement village. That is evident throughout Sydney and in other parts of the State. On a percentage basis, retirement villages are increasing on the North Coast. There are some sensible changes in this legislation but there are also a few concerns that I will raise and that were raised by the shadow Minister for Fair Trading, Katrina Hodgkinson, in the other House.

                    As I said earlier, there are approximately 1.3 million aged persons in New South Wales. As Australia's population is ageing, that figure will continue to rise substantially in the coming years. It is vital that the New South Wales Government keep up with industry and provide protection for those people wishing to become part of the retirement village lifestyle. New sections inserted by schedule 1 [3] will amend the Act to provide that, if residents of a retirement village do not consent to the statement of approved expenditure being amended by the operator, the operator may apply to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal for an order approving the proposed amendment. That is in response to the decision of the tribunal in Dennison Investments v Beauty Point Resort Residents Committee, in which consideration was given to what constitutes "unforeseen circumstances".

                    The Minister noted that that was contrary to the object of the Act. The tribunal may approve the amendment only if there is an urgent need for further expenditure and that expenditure was reasonably foreseeable when the statement was initially approved. In some retirement villages, when a resident dies or vacates a premise the existing lease is surrendered and a new lease is entered into with the incoming resident. However, at some villages the contract gives the resident the right to assign the remaining portion of the lease to the new resident. The issue that arises is whether the termination of the contract nullifies assignment rights. If the lease cannot be assigned there is the potential for residents to lose money.

                    In interpreting the Act the Supreme Court of New South Wales held that executors of an estate did not fall within the definition of "owner" or "resident" under the Act. Therefore, the bill provides that an assignable lease does not terminate on the death or departure of a resident, but will continue until the end of the original lease. The outgoing resident's right to occupy will terminate upon assignment. The bill extends the definition of "owner" for the purposes of part 10, which deals with the vacation of premises. The bill will insert a new section to include an owner as being a person who does not own the premises but whose residence contract is in the form of a registered long-term lease. It includes a provision that entitles a resident or former occupant to at least 50 per cent of any capital gains in respect of the premises.

                    The definition of "permanently vacated" will also be amended to include someone who owns the premises or who is taken to be the resident of the premise by the operation of new section 4 (2), or who is taken to be an owner because of new section 150 (1) (b)—that is, the person vacates the premises or dies. The Legislation Review Committee, when examining this legislation, did not identify any issues arising under the Act. However, I point out that the shadow Minister has had extensive consultations and discussions with the Aged and Community Services Association [ACSA]—a body that represents the interests of members operating 386 not-for-profit retirement villages in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

                    Those retirement villages are generally operated on the basis of a loan licence tenure. Some villages operate on a combination of a loan licence and rental villages, and a small number operate on leasehold. I bring their concerns to the attention of the House. New section 117 will amend "statement of approved expenditure", and the organisation points out:
                        In the case of amendment that relates to further expenditure, the Tribunal is not to make an order under subsection

                    (3) unless the Tribunal is satisfied that:

                    (a) There is an urgent need for further expenditure, and

                    (b) The further expenditure was not reasonably foreseeable when the statement of proposed expenditure was approved under section 116.

                    The association highlights the point that providers are currently required to commence preparing the statement of proposed expenditure three months before the commencement of the financial year. That is in order to comply with the 60-day time allocation to present it to residents. The difficulty that arises is accurately forecasting costs that far in advance. That new section further aggravates the demands on operators to accurately define costs and future expenses three months before the commencement of the financial year. The ACSA is also concerned that in the unlikely event of an operator failing accurately to predict costs, and residents disagreeing to an amendment, the tribunal, on application, cannot make an order for non-urgent expenditure, even if that expenditure was reasonably foreseeable.

                    In addition, in the absence of a definition of "urgent", stakeholders may be faced with inconsistent tribunal outcomes on this matter. It is the view of the ACSA that the reference to urgent need should be removed. However, that is not the view of all stakeholders. I refer to new section 150, which deals with references to "owner" and sale of "residential premises". The ACSA is concerned that by removing existing section 150 and replacing it with proposed section 150 (1 (b), there will be a substantial effect on some operators of loan licence villages with particular contractual arrangements with residents.

                    While the ACSA understands that the intent of the bill is to clarify the meaning of "owner", it has reservations that it will not have the unintended consequences of removing benefits accorded to certain loan licence operators under new section 80. The ACSA believes that the proposed amendment will effectively mean that under new section 80 those residents will be considered to be non-owners for the purposes of part 10 of the Act. If there is no incoming resident the operator would be required to make payment to the former occupant six months after vacant possession had been granted by the outgoing resident.

                    The calculation of the refund of the incoming contribution to be paid at that time would need to take in account the capital gain figure, which cannot be known if there is no incoming resident at the expiry of six months. The ACSA would like to see that new section become part of the upcoming review of the Act. It seeks to have that issue deferred until it can obtain an input from members as to the likely number of villages that will be affected. The shadow Minister asked the Minister to raise that issue in her reply , but that issue was not adequately addressed. The ACSA points to a lack of resources and reliance on volunteers. It believes the bill is relatively onerous and is concerned about the future of affordable housing options as a result of the bill's heavy compliance requirements.

                    The Retirement Village Association [RVA] is another peak organisation that represents operators of private retirement villages in New South Wales. It, together with other organisations, was not able to have input into this amending legislation. However, the RVA has concerns similar to those of the ACSA, especially in relation to new section 150. It states:
                        Currently Section 150 (1) (b) has the effect that a resident who shares in any capital gain on the turnover of the premises is treated as the "owner".

                        It is proposed to change the definition of an "owner" to "a resident who holds a registered lease and that has the provision to share at least 50% of any capital gain". This change in definition excludes from the current definition of owner the following groups of residents
                    • Residents may have preferred to enter into any of the above arrangements having taken account of other factors such as the level of the departure fee and the amount of the incoming contribution.
                      • Those residents have entered into contracts with the operator based on their assessment of the facilities, services and financial arrangements better suited for them. They have made a choice.
                          This choice has been made based on information included in the disclosure statement made available to them under the present regulation.

                          To alter that relationship is to strip those residents of the benefits they perceived as owner at the time they entered that Village.
                      The RVA also raised questions as to the retrospectivity of the bill. New section 150 will apply to all existing contracts and the financial impact on the industry could be substantial. A representative of the Retirement Village Residents Association, Mr Neville Carnegie, also corresponded with the shadow Minister. He agrees with much of the legislation and believes there should be greater protection for residents. However, he is concerned that the onerous burden placed on operators could cause more problems than it solves.

                      It is important that the forthcoming review considers the views of all stakeholders. Our population is ageing. There are 1.3 million aged people in New South Wales and approximately 40,000 residents live in retirement villages. It is important that they receive some guarantee as to the security of their investments and their lives, which change somewhat when they enter retirement villages. We must also take account of the needs of operators and those who are willing to invest in this important industry. The necessary retirement villages and related facilities will be provided not by the Government with government money but by the private sector. We must listen to the concerns of private operators and balance their needs with those of residents and other operators. The Opposition will not oppose the bill.

                      Ms SYLVIA HALE [9.02 p.m.]: The Greens support the amendments proposed in the Retirement Villages Amendment Bill, particularly the strengthening of subleasing provisions for retirement villages and the clarification of tenancy rights for residents. Most of the bill's elements, such as the cessation of charges for services on a resident's death, are commonsense. However, they raise the question of why such fundamental issues were not addressed when the Retirement Villages Act was drafted in 1999.

                      At present people who live in retirement villages are covered by consumer protection legislation, but considerable misunderstanding and confusion surrounds tenancy agreements. The largest number of complaints to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal about retirement villages concerns budget increases and recurrent charges, followed closely by complaints about subletting. Because subletting is not covered in the Retirement Villages Act 1999, residents or the estates of deceased residents are left without legal recourse when unscrupulous operators take advantage of the lack of clarity concerning residents' rights and subletting provisions. Unfortunately, this bill does not address the issue of refunds to deceased estates or to departing occupants.

                      Problems stem primarily from the nature of the contract between the operator and the residents. Residents are generally neither the owner nor the lessee of the accommodation, and this severely limits their legal rights—particularly their right of appeal. This is especially problematic if or when residents leave the accommodation in order to avail themselves of more intensive forms of support and care. Sometimes they lose their right to the accommodation even if the move is temporary. This bill will not address some fundamental problems, but hopefully a full review of the Act will do so. For this reason, the Greens support the bill in its current form and look forward to a full review of the Act later this year.

                      Reverend the Hon. Dr GORDON MOYES [9.05 p.m.]: I speak on the Retirement Villages Amendment Bill with some trepidation as retirement villages have been very much a part of my life for 35 years. As has been said, some 40,000 people live in retirement villages across this State. Retirement villages mean a great deal to many people: They are their homes and their future. They are the only security that many people have. In Melbourne in the early 1970s I developed five large retirement villages that were the first of their type in the city at that time. Some 26 years ago I developed three other large villages, involving the expenditure of several hundred million dollars, in New South Wales.

                      I have always operated on a whole-of-life tenancy lease. This means that we will take care of people, if they so desire, for their whole lives and they will have tenancy in the place where they live on the basis of a lease. Actuarial studies that were conducted to work out the return to a person who leased a property found from the earliest days that, if up to 10 per cent was deducted for heavy maintenance in the first 10 years of the lease, at the end of that time sufficient money would be made from capital gain on the property to return the entire cost of the unit to the person who entered the unit. The trouble was that after a while building companies and private landowners developed their own businesses as investment-for-profit ventures. That is when the problems started.

                      The Retirement Villages Act, which came into force in 1999, sought to protect residents of retirement villages from abuse and exploitation. I gave evidence during the development of that legislation and there was no question about the number of organisations in business at that time that were exploiting the residents of aged care accommodation. I have always proceeded on the basis that budgets must be discussed with residents. To that end, I insisted that special budgetary meetings be held at least twice a year to allow the nearly 2,000 residents of the villages for which I was responsible to ask questions, to discuss the information, to eventually approve of and vote upon the budget and to set any maintenance fees to be charged.

                      A number of residents of retirement villages operated by the not-for-profit sector moved into those villages with no ingoing capital. Although many retirement villages are operated for profit and people pay ingoing capital ranging from $500,000 to several million dollars, not-for-profit organisations such as Wesley Mission run retirement villages some of whose residents pay no ingoing capital at all, dependent upon a means test. The bill also has to take into account that some people are not owners or do not have vested interests in a capital return, because after all they did not put any capital into the development. It is important that these for-profit people make sure that there is sufficient money left over from the weekly income of all residents after their personal needs are adequately catered for.

                      This bill, as others have mentioned, will ensure that charges for personal services cease on the date a resident moves out or when the operator has been notified of a resident's death. In order to put a not too fine a point on it, most people who go into a retirement village do so on the understanding that they will be cared for, for the rest of their lives. Most people who move out of retirement villages—except those who move within the first couple of weeks or months because obviously they are not happy in this new environment—only do so to be taken to a place for more intensive care, a nursing home or a hospital, or they actually die. When that shift is made—when a person has either left or died—there can be no justification for continuing personal and care expenses.

                      There are 386 not-for-profit villages, with a much smaller number of organisations providing that care around this State. The cost of care varies because the kind of care that is given is varied. For example, in works for which I am responsible there are probably 800 persons in self-care. They look after themselves. They get their own meals. They go out on their own shopping excursions. They participate in sporting activities and use our swimming pools, bowling greens and the like. Other people have flexi-care. They live within their own unit and are provided with some sort of help—someone comes to their unit to dress and shower them, to give them medication and to support them. Perhaps they prepare meals for them or go down the street to buy certain items for them. That type of flexi-care comes at a cost.

                      Then there are those who need quite heavy nursing care. They might require people with them at night or require 24-hour care and eventually have to move into a nursing home or hospital. In all those cases the cost of providing such care and staff is quite dramatic. Last night I attended a meeting with a number of managers who work with me in 53 villages in which we have a concern. I examined some of the issues that they are now faced with in light of this legislation and some other activities. For example, a case to decide whether nurses should receive a 15 per cent pay increase is before the appropriate court. In the villages with which I am concerned not one is prepared for a 15 per cent wage increase for its nurses at its next budget round. If such an increase is approved, the budget exercise for each of these villages will be very difficult. On such issues individual committees have to be transparent in their dealings and have good relationships with residents in order that they understand the cost of care.

                      I also point out that most of the villages are approaching an age of 20 to 25 years. In ordinary budgeting it is normal to take into account the cost of new carpeting, repainting and getting units ready for a new occupier. However, the cost of what we call heavy maintenance on villages of 20 to 30 years of age tends to become extraordinarily difficult to budget for in advance. All village members must have contracting rights. I encourage all proprietors to make sure—and this is an objective of this legislation—that every resident is able to continue his or her rights; that there is transparency in any financial transactions with residents and that they share with residents any benefits that may come their way.

                      The really vexed problem between the not-for-profit sector and the for-profit sector arises with regard to a capital increase that is found when there is a turnover of units or housing estates. That is always a problem. I have no hesitation in saying that residents on strata title arrangements have the right to share in the capital benefit and growth of their centres. However, a matter of concern in this bill for the operator of retirement villages is the assignment of leases, or the assignment of rights to other persons. People who move into retirement villages do not do so in order to have just anyone live next door to them. They want neighbours of a similar age, with a similar outlook and similar interests. It would not be reasonable for a lease to be assigned to, say, the grandchildren of a resident, which would allow those grandchildren to move into a retirement village, given that the way of life of those grandchildren—their music and general noise, for example—would be completely different to that of the elderly people who live around them.

                      There are also some other ticklish issues. For example, I remember being called as an expert witness in a case involving a Jewish organisation that had a very fine record of providing care for elderly Jewish people. In that case a number of young Palestinians applied for positions within the Jewish retirement village. Of course, they were claiming the right to be employed in that Jewish community. One can imagine the problems that would arise with Palestinians working with elderly, retired Jewish people, many of whom lived through the Holocaust. Those residents were fearful of losing peace of mind and the quiet way of life that they expected to enjoy while living in that retirement village. There have been a number of cases similar to that; people have sought to try to take advantage of the law to prove a point. By and large the Christian Democratic Party agrees with the provisions of this bill. We support the bill and look forward to monitoring its development over the ensuing year.

                      The Hon. HENRY TSANG [Parliamentary Secretary] [9.17 p.m.], in reply: I thank all honourable members for their contributions and I commend the bill to the House.

                      Motion agreed to.

                      Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.

                      The Hon. HENRY TSANG [Parliamentary Secretary] [9.17 p.m.]: I move:
                          That this House do now adjourn.
                      COMMUNITY LANGUAGES

                      The Hon. TONY BURKE [9.17 p.m.]: I have fast discovered that an occupational hazard for members of Parliament is, after turning up at an event, discovering from reading the program that we are supposed to make a speech. It happened to me on the weekend, when I was fortunate to attend the Dionysios Solonos awards, which recognise Higher School Certificate students who have excelled in both modern Greek and classical Greek studies.

                      The Hon. Henry Tsang: And it is St Patrick's Day this weekend.

                      The Hon. TONY BURKE: I acknowledge the interjection. St Patrick's Day is tomorrow. The fact that the parade is always held on a weekend does not mean St Patrick's Day is always on a weekend.

                      The Hon. John Ryan: It is week-long weekend, really, isn't it?

                      The Hon. TONY BURKE: That is right—part of the St Patrick's season.

                      The Hon. Duncan Gay: You would be one of the Irish Burkes, wouldn't you?

                      The Hon. TONY BURKE: In recognising the work of the students I referred to the myth of translation. So often we reach out for assistance to translate a word. One of the great values of the study of community languages as part of the education syllabus is that the student will be confronted with the reality that in one sense translation is a myth. For a whole range of words, ways of expressing emotions and identifying concepts, there cannot be a real translation from one language to another. I recall discussing with a Greek friend the Greek word "endaxi". He attempted different English words and phrases to try to explain its meaning, but ended up saying, "No. It just means endaxi." Similarly, at the weekend Vrasidas Karalis referred to the word "filotimo", which is used to describe an inner urge to do something, or a strong feeling, but many clumsy attempts at its translation to English show that it only really lives within the Greek language.

                      I think of my own heritage—which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Duncan Gay, was kind enough to refer to. I am proudly of Irish background. For understandable historical reasons, Gaelic as a language and its living history essentially have been lost to the Irish community in Australia. A whole set of emotions and ways of expressing oneself were simply lost to an entire community. It is important that generation after generation of many Australian communities maintain their language in a way that my community certainly did not. As an example, I was speaking only today with Dr Thai Bao, who referred to the Vietnamese word "you" and the difficulties of trying to translate its many meanings into English. It has myriad meanings in the Vietnamese language, in which it identifies a whole range of respectful relationships for which there is simply no English parallel. Also, the Fijian language has more than 150 pronouns that define quite precisely the differences in relationships between the speaker and the listener, yet there is no way to translate them in the English language.

                      So it is important to our many Australian communities that they keep going their own community language. But it is important also that Parliament recognise not only that these languages are valuable to the communities that speak them, but that those languages describe emotions and define concepts that cannot be expressed or defined by the English language. Their existence is maintained within Australian communities through keeping vital those community languages. I commend the teachers who teach community languages in the schools. I commend the students—particularly those whom I met on the weekend, who had excelled in the learning of their community language, the Greek language. In particular I congratulate the parents for their discipline in maintaining a language which is not only important to them, but which is of value to each and every one of us.

                      The Hon. RICK COLLESS [9.22 p.m.]: Tonight I advise the House of the marvellous benefits that will accrue to the beef producers of Australia following the recent agreement with the United States of America that was brokered by the Federal trade Minister, the Hon. Mark Vaile. Chapters 2 and 3 of the agreement refer to the changes in tariffs with respect to trade in agriculture between Australia and the United States of America. The agreement provides for a philosophical position that neither nation will introduce or maintain any export subsidy on any agricultural commodity destined for the other nation.

                      Goods entering the United States of America have been assigned a staging category to establish the rate at which the relevant tariffs will be eliminated under the agreement. There are five main categories established for the elimination of United States tariffs on Australian agricultural goods. The first category confirms those goods that enjoy a pre-existing zero tariff. In the second category are those goods that will benefit from immediate tariff elimination. In the third category are those goods that will have their tariffs eliminated in equal annual instalments over four years. In the fourth category are those goods that will have their tariffs eliminated in instalments over 10 years. In the fifth and final category are those goods that will have their tariffs eliminated over 18 years.

                      The agreement with the United States of America provides for the elimination over time of all United States agricultural tariffs, with two notable exceptions. Firstly, the agreement does not provide for any change to the over-quota tariffs on dairy products subject to tariff rate quota. It will, however, provide for a significant increase in the volumes of duty-free quota for those products and for the elimination of existing in-quota tariffs. The second issue of course is sugar. The agreement does not provide for any change in tariffs on sugar or sugar products. The sugar industry has a problem that goes well beyond the relationship between Australia and the United States of America. I give an example. In Florida, two brothers who run a sugar business are paid $US130 million in United States subsidies alone due to inefficiencies in that country's sugar industry. That is why Australia was unable to make any headway in negotiations regarding the sugar industry.

                      In the time remaining to me I want to focus on the beef industry. The in-quota tariffs on beef exports of US4.4¢ a kilogram will be removed immediately. That US4.4¢ per kilo, on Australia's current quota of 378,214 tonnes of boxed beef, is worth $A22.16 million to Australian beef producers. That is a huge amount of money going into the Australian beef industry, and it is calculated on the Australian dollar being valued at 75¢. That is the equivalent of $30 a head for every animal that is sold to the United States of America. That is, Australian producers will get an extra $30 a head—a lot of money in real terms. Beef exports to the United States in excess of quota currently incur a tariff of 26.4 per cent.

                      There are two other major benefits to the beef industry in Australia from this agreement. Firstly, the duty free quota increases by about 4,000 tonnes of boxed beef per year, to 448,214 tonnes by year 19. The first 25,000 tonnes of that 70,000 tonne increase will be achieved during the first five years. This extra quota is for boxed bulk beef excluding carcass beef and processed beef for particular uses by the retail consumer. After the eighteenth year there is no limit to the amount of Australian beef that can go into the United States of America, subject to a price-based safeguard that applies only to beef in excess of the 448,214 tonnes, plus a 420 tonnes increase per year after year18. The second major benefit is the removal of the 26.4 per cent tariff on over-quota beef, starting in year nine and decreasing to zero by year18. This will have the effect of completely removing all quotas and all tariffs on future exports of beef to the United States of America.

                      This is an excellent result for the beef producers and processors of Australia because it removes all current restrictions on beef exports into the United States, and the amount of beef exempt from the safeguard provisions increases by 420 tonnes per year. It will underpin the future development and security of the Australian beef industry. The Federal Minister for Trade is to be congratulated on negotiating such a good deal.

                      Ms SYLVIA HALE [9.27 p.m.]: Coffs Harbour Jetty Dune Care Group is one of the longest-running community based coastal regeneration groups in Australia. They have been working continuously for more than 20 years to successfully regenerate the dunes at Coffs Harbour. Coffs Harbour City Council has won environmental awards partly due to the excellent work of this group. Hundreds of volunteers have been involved over the years to restore a severely degraded area to a healthy dune system with littoral rainforest behind it. The project has received funding from the Federal and State governments, including the National Heritage Trust and Coast Care, indirect Federal assistance through programs to assist the unemployed, and State assistance via Corrective Services programs. In all respects this has been a showcase community environment program.

                      Local residents are now up in arms at a proposal to bulldoze the dunes and construct a new jetty foreshore area including a marina, shopping boardwalk, 112 tourist accommodation units and associated car parks. In addition to objections to destruction of the existing habitat, locals fear the development will be a white elephant, servicing visiting yachts for a few short periods each year. The figures on which the proposal has been based are also highly dubious. The proponents argue that $83 million of economic activity will be generated each year. This is based on increased revenue from commercial fishing of $32.8 million and an additional $20 million from recreational fishing. These figures are simply not credible for a port adjacent to one of the State's marine parks.

                      Between 1993 and 1999 New South Wales commercial fishing catches were in decline. Crustacean fisheries have declined by 25 per cent, mollusc fisheries by 55 per cent, and some species of fish by as much as 75 per cent. Local fishermen in Coffs Harbour are well aware of the crisis of falling stocks. The nearby Wooli Fish Co-operative has closed and the State Government has a program to buy back commercial fishing licences in and around the marine park. It would be ludicrously naive to assume that a new marina and jetty complex would result in a 64 per cent increase in fishing revenue, yet this is precisely what the proposal is based on. The Australian Labor Party received just under $5 million from developers between 1998 and 2003.

                      Against this backdrop, combined with the highly dubious figures on which the project has been officially based, it is deeply disturbing that Labor Mayor, Jenny Bonfield, has been highly supportive of development, despite strong local community opposition. To date the development process has been far from open and transparent. Survey forms have not been available publicly and the jetty dune care group, despite 20 years of work in the area, has been refused representation. In an era when governments are encouraging volunteer and civic involvement through community programs, with millions of dollars being poured into programs like Landcare and Streamwatch, Coffs Harbour City Council is proposing to undo 22 years of approved voluntary work. Council should think long and hard before siding with developers and big business rather than the community.
                      HOLI MAHOTSAV FESTIVAL

                      The Hon. AMANDA FAZIO [9.32 p.m.]: On Sunday 14 March I had the pleasure of representing the Premier at a very important festival for the Indian community, the Holi Mahotsav celebrations, held for the first time in Tumbalong Park. It is estimated that 10,000 people attended the festival, which is a celebration of the Indian community's diverse culture, as was evidenced by the range of different dance groups and other entertainers who performed at the festival. The festivities included dances from various northern Indian States, jazz, belly dancing and folk music, and a special area was cordoned off for the throwing of coloured powder and water. Holi Mahotsov, also known as Holi, is a festival that originated in northern India and celebrates friendship, colour and harmony. Holi is celebrated the day after the full moon in early March. Holi began as a harvest festival and many legends tell of its origins.

                      The most popular among these legends concerns Prince Prahlad, the god-fearing son of King Hiranyakasipu. Prahlad did not give up worshipping the god Vishnu despite the threat of persecution by his father and his aunt Holika. Holika was ordered by her brother to kill Prahlad. Holika, who was immune to death by fire, took Prahlad into a blazing furnace built for his destruction. However, Prahlad was saved by divine intervention and came out unscathed but Holika was burnt to ashes. Before Holika died, she realised the folly of her actions and begged the boy's forgiveness. As a gesture of forgiveness, Prahlad deemed that her name would be remembered at least one day in the year. Holi commemorates this event, and huge bonfires are burnt on the eve of Holi as its symbolic representation.

                      The festival is also associated with the immortal love of Krishna and Radha. The young Krishna complained to his mother, Yashoda, that Radha was very fair and he was very dark. Yashoda advised him to apply colour on Radha's face and see how her complexion would change. The Holi tradition of festival goers throwing coloured powder and water over each other stems from this legend. The colour also symbolises vitality. Participants generally wear white to display the colours that are thrown. I acknowledge the work of the Bhavan in organising the festivities. I am pleased that last year, for the first time, the Bhavan, which is one of the largest cultural organisations in the world, extended its presence to Australia.

                      The Bhavan is one of the largest non-government organisations in the world and has 115 centres in India. The Sydney centre is the first in Australia, the first in the Asia-Pacific region and the seventh international centre. The others are in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, Portugal, Mexico and South Africa. The Bhavan has its headquarters in Mumbai, India. The Bhavan, one of the largest cultural organisations in the world, aims to maintain the best of Indian traditions and at the same time meet the needs of modernity and multiculturalism through conducting educational and cultural programs worldwide. Its cultural centres around the world facilitate intercultural activities and provide a forum for the understanding of Indian culture and multiculturalism, and foster closer cultural ties among individuals, governments and cultural institutions in those countries.

                      The association states that its members and supporters include all Presidents of India, all Prime Ministers of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, C. Rajagopalachari, leaders of the freedom movement of India, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Prince Charles His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates, Swami Satchidananda, eminent businessmen like JRD Tata and G. D. Birla, and other national and international leaders. I congratulate the members and supporters of the Bhavan on making this expansion possible. Over the years the New South Wales Government has been working hard to improve links with Sydney's diverse Indian community, and with India. In August 2002 the New South Wales Government renamed the East Asia Business Advisory Council to the Asian Business Advisory Council in recognition of the importance of India. Council member Neville Roach was present at the festival.

                      Also present was the visiting finance delegation from India led by Dr Rangarajan from the Twelfth Finance Commission. His visit will help further strengthen the economic and cultural ties between New South Wales and India. On behalf of the Premier I was able to announce that this year, for the first time, the New South Wales Parliament's exterior will be lit to celebrate Deepavali, the Festival of Lights. This year's proposed festivities will enhance last year's celebration at New South Wales Parliament, which was strongly supported by Virginia Judge, the member for Strathfield. I congratulate Mr Gambir Watts, Dr Balasubramaniam and many others who are currently working on this project to make it a reality.

                      Also present were Mr Ganapathi, Consul General of India; Mr Gambir Watts, President, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Australia; Dr Balasubramaniam, Chair, Hindu Council of Australia; parliamentary colleagues Laurie Ferguson, Senator Aden Ridgeway and the member for Pittwater; and Mr Stepan Kerkyasharian, Chair, Community Relations Commission. I congratulate the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and India Tourism Sydney on organising the festivities for Holi Mahotsov.
                      DISABILITY ACCOMMODATION

                      The Hon. JOHN RYAN [9.37 p.m.]: The honourable member mentioned the event she attended at Darling Harbour to celebrate with the Indian community. On the weekend I found myself at a similar function at the opening of a Gurdwara, the temple operated by the Sikh community. Sikhism is the main religion of the people who come to Australia from the Punjab. They are distinguished largely by the wearing of turbans and the eating of communal meals. I had a wonderful time with the Sikh community. I had my hair covered by a very fetching orange scarf. I ate a wonderful communal meal with them.

                      I draw the attention of honourable members to people who live in disability facilities, such as respite care cottages and group homes. I have discovered that they do not have the same rights as people who live as tenants under the Residential Tenancy Act or, perhaps, the regulation that applies to preschools, nursing homes and other facilities where vulnerable people are housed and have their needs attended to. I do so by drawing attention to two clients who came to my office to explain what happened to them while they were in supported care.

                      The first client about whom I wish to speak is Shanta, a woman who is aged approximately 30 years. She has a severe intellectual disability, she has epilepsy, she does not have the power of speech and she has other disabilities. On the morning of 24 January 2001 she was observed by the staff of the facility in which she lived at that time to have blistered and reddened skin on her abdomen, buttocks and legs. Staff eventually arranged for her to be seen by a general practitioner, and immediately after she saw the general practitioner she was referred to the Westmead Hospital. I have seen photographs of her injuries. There is little doubt that Shanta was very badly and severely burned and that her injuries were not attended to by the people who operated the facility.

                      Another person to whom I wish to refer is a young man named Philip Bigley whose plight was brought to my attention by his parents. His problems arose from living in a group home in which he came into dispute with management and, thereafter, his parents observed, the treatment he received at the facility deteriorated significantly. His parents have shown me photographs of his room in which there were soiled bed sheets, discarded bandages that had not been cleared away, uncleared dinner plates and other things indicating that the facility in which he was living was not hygienically kept. His parents also were concerned that no-one had taken action to ensure that he received regular medication or had noticed that he had developed a horrific bedsore which ultimately resulted in his being hospitalised for several months.

                      While he was in hospital, believe it or not, the management of the facility visited him—not to see how he was, but to terminate his residential contract at his bedside while he was nearly unconscious. Both matters were investigated by the disability complaints commissioner, whose role is currently carried out by the Ombudsman. The matter concerning Mr Bigley was heard by the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal, which dismissed his complaint because, as a resident of a group home, he was not covered by the legislation conferring powers on the tribunal. People who live in group homes do not have the same protection as do other people who rent facilities. The point I briefly make to the House is that supported care facilities have virtually no regulations at all governing their operation. The only regulations covering them are building conditions that apply when the facility is originally built and a requirement that fire drills be held from time to time.

                      If preschool and nursing home facilities were conducted according to the same standards as those applying to supported care facilities, there would be a raft of regulations to determine the numbers of staff, qualifications of staff, medication procedures, first-aid and emergency procedures and hygiene requirements. There would also be requirements covering financial records so that if a dispute occurred over rent or payments, financial records could be referred to in settlement of the dispute. Moreover, as I said, there is no guarantee of tenancy for the residents of those facilities. Under the Disability Services Act, which was introduced by the previous Greiner and Fahey governments, people with disabilities were regarded as having rights that are similar to others in the community, but clearly they do not have the same rights when it comes to regulations governing facilities in which they live, the treatment they receive and the vulnerability they are exposed to because of the circumstances in which they live.

                      I believe the time has come for a discussion to take place about the appropriate level of regulations for supported care facilities such as respite cottages and group homes. Hopefully during the next few months I will be able to begin discussions with people who operate these facilities to make sure that there is appropriate regulation. Many of these facilities are controlled by the Government. [Time expired.]

                      The Hon. Dr PETER WONG [9.42 p.m.]: In the widely circulated background document that was produced by the National Competition Council on national competition policy, we are informed that in 1992 Professor Hilmer was commissioned to report on ways in which Australia could improve its competitiveness. I draw the attention of the House to the ideas inherent in a letter from the Federal Treasurer, Mr Costello, to the president of the New South Wales Liquor Stores Association, Mr Higgs. Among other things, the Federal Treasurer said that the national competition policy was "to promote competition in order to boost the Australian economy". Just exactly how does the Federal Treasurer define a boost? What exactly does this so-called boost to the economy entail? How is a boost measured? What is the cost of this boost to children and families through the impact of competition policy? What about its effect on tertiary education, on aged care, on health, food growers and employers who are forced to compete against impossible margins? In order to survive, employers pass on their losses to their employees, relegating them to poverty through uncertainty of employment—taking them from full-time to part-time employment, and then downgrading them to casual employment.

                      On the matter of the lack of availability of full-time and dependable employment as a result of these so-called economy boosting competition policies, Sydney journalist Adele Horin stated on the weekend in the Sydney Morning Herald that our poor families have to keep their children at home from school when there are school excursions because they do not have the money to send them. Therefore those children miss out on what we have come to believe are the normal experiences of Australian daily life. These children suffer as a result of their parents not being able to depend on full-time or even part-time employment—a direct result of competition policy. These children have few possessions, few clothes and few toys. They cannot connect to the Internet. Holidays are completely out of the question. Their parents often go without in order to feed their children. The basics have become luxuries. This is Australia—not some Third World backblock.

                      The New South Wales Government has managed to remove any hope by putting education way out of reach. It has put the cost of TAFE courses out of the reach of these families. They cannot better themselves through education because it is out of the question. The poverty trap is the result of this so-called boost. The gap between the rich and poor under theses economic rationalist policies is ever widening, and the New South Wales Government is failing to protect us from the socially devastating consequences of the so-called boosts of competition. This so-called boost to the Australian economy that our armchair fat cat Federal Treasurer talks about is a myth to these families. They are really suffering and the governments are telling them that the market will decide and that they have to be competitive. At what point will the governments decide that the market has decided? These people are not even players in this market—just the recipients of its paltry crumbs.

                      The market has made its decision and these people are no longer players. Families are not competitive. I believe that we need to have a major rethink about the uncritical adoption of ideas of armchair economic policy, such as those developed by the esteemed Professor Hilmer and his fundamentally crippling competition policy. We were told that the lack of competition in and among our industries was holding Australia back from prosperity and was negatively affecting our international competitiveness, so we took on board the Hilmer competition mantra which, in essence, has meant a totally deregulated economy. This is the Hilmer-isation of Australian society. This is the result of the bonuses that the Federal Government gives to the States for complying with erosive competition policies, and this is what the Premier, Mr Carr, and the New South Wales Treasurer, Mr Egan, have become addicted to, at the expense of the public interest.

                      The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK [9.47 p.m.], by leave: I am deeply honoured by this opportunity to reflect upon and give thanks for the contribution made to this Parliament by Mr Mark D'Arney, a highly valued member and colleague of the New South Wales Parliamentary Library. I thank the Government for its courtesy in arranging this opportunity. I feel that this is an occasion to give credit where it is due. I therefore begin by giving credit to Anita Gylseth, a member of the staff of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, who has initiated and arranged this unusual moment in procedure. It has been a difficult thing to do and it is a credit to her feeling for Mark D'Arney and this Parliament. We are a better place because of it. I thank the Minister and his office.

                      This is an all-too-rare moment for all of us as members to reflect soberly and truthfully upon the fact that each of us who stands here stands on the shoulders of others. There are many tall shoulders, but Mark D'Arney stood with the tallest. As a member of the staff of the Parliamentary Library, he and his colleagues chose what I regard, without qualification, as the noblest and most decent profession in our community. Any person who is surprised by such a statement is simply a person who has not thought about it. There are many things I could speak of tonight, but I think it is fair to say that Mark was most famous in the Parliament for three things, the first being his electorate profile research papers which date back to 1996. They were genuinely innovative in their methodology, and nationally acclaimed within his profession. I am sure I am not the only member who has a full set of Mark's papers at home and at work. Indeed, it is a well-travelled collection which has accompanied me and my family on holidays. Individual papers are frequently found on my bedside table.

                      Mark created the profiles by taking the raw Australian Bureau of Statistics data and cobbling together available technology, such as Microsoft Excel—which was not designed for the purpose, but then nothing ever was designed for such a purpose—to generate electoral comparisons of key demographic areas in his series of library background papers. This work was undertaken with Kate Curr, who I know, together with his colleague Melinda McIntyre, has an intense sense of the loss of Mark tonight. Mark was also famous for running the Australian Football League tipping competition. Although I was never brave enough to venture my own hand at the competition, I had complete empathy with his choice of code. I know that many people, including the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner, participated and looked forward to it each year. It was one of the too-few levellers in this Parliament in which members and staff across the parties and professions could engage and share a great Australian pastime. The tipping competition will be sorely missed. Its absence will be a keen reminder of Mark's absence.

                      Many honourable members may not be aware of what I came to realise was Mark's pseudonym—Library E-Clips. As a new member, I was fascinated by this service¯an automated email that arrived at all hours of the day and night on really interesting and useful topics. Indeed, it seemed to be reading my mind as to what I wanted to know. Nothing arrived that was not urgent, or interesting, or important. This was not at all consistent with my experience of the Internet and so I chanced my hand one Sunday afternoon and sent a reply email to Library E-Clips. I received a speedy response, from Mark D'Arney. He explained the system and my profile, and asked whether he could do anything to improve the service. That was typical of Mark's commitment to service. It was that commitment, combined with his intellect, that made him a potent talent in his chosen profession.

                      What set Mark apart, however, was the rare ability to set his own standards of professionalism and achievement. His standards, which were set in a futuristic area of library service, were without precedent and without peer. Tragically, Mark was just 36 when he passed away. He was at the forefront of a trailblazing generation. When one thinks about it, our great library tradition is steeped in history; it is an activity in conservation in many respects. Francis Bacon said:
                          Libraries are as the shrines where all the relics of the ancient saints, full of true virtue, and that without delusion or imposture, are preserved and reposed.
                      I have also heard it eloquently said, although I regret I cannot attribute it, that "When I walk into a library it is as if all history unfolds before me." Mark was a man dedicated to the great tradition of libraries, the custodians of ideas and knowledge and freedom for civilised people throughout the ages. But as a modern man he was a pioneer in his great profession, which is crossing a huge threshold from custodians of knowledge to what he called a new additional role as "online traffic cops". I refer honourable members to a paper Mark wrote in 1999 entitled "A Library's Approach to Online Government Information". Fittingly, it can be found on the Internet, and it is an important paper. It shows the sympathy and understanding he had for us, his clients, who I would have speculated might have been rather difficult customers. It did not come across that way at all in the way Mark discussed us.

                      Mark talks about how the library can now supply access to resources that never have been and never will be physically contained in the library. Mark recognised the new frontier; he embraced it, and we are all deeply in his debt for his achievements in conquering it. I emphasise that Mark was amongst the leading figures in Australia in bridging the tradition, the future, the possible and the practical. Mark was a popular member of the New South Wales parliamentary family for nearly 10 years. Today I heard stories of how he would phone the children of library staff members and pretend to be Santa Claus; it absolutely thrilled and amazed them that Santa Claus knew so much about them individually.

                      Mark had a wry and wonderful sense of humour. Mark was husband to Michelle and father to Valerie Pearl, who turns three in April. The thoughts of all members tonight are particularly with Mark's mother, father and sister. We feel deeply for the staff of the Parliamentary Library; they are at the core of what we do, and we do not thank them enough. Mark's passing is a painful moment, because I fear he may not have realised the extent of our appreciation and sense of loss at his passing. It was once said of a great man who loved his library, "Thou canst not die. Here thou art more than safe. Where every book is thy epitaph." Vale, Mark, and thank you from all of us.

                      The Hon. IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries) [9.53 p.m.]: I join with the Hon. Catherine Cusack in paying tribute to Mark D'Arney, the Parliamentary Library Systems Officer, who tragically died last week. Mark James D'Arney was born on 1 September 1967. He achieved a Master of Arts degree majoring in politics from Macquarie University and a Graduate Diploma of Applied Science with a focus on information from the University of Technology, Sydney. Mark has been in the Parliamentary Library since 1994 as the Systems Librarian. He believed he had the perfect job, never wanting to leave, as he was as close to politics as he could get without having to be involved in the cut and thrust of being a member of Parliament. Mark played a pivotal role as part of the process in developing the Parliamentary Library home page. When he was younger and a keen budding musician, he and his great mate Cameron Morley, formerly of the Parliamentary Library and now working at the State Library of New South Wales, formed their own band and named themselves Dangerbird after the Neil Young song.

                      Mark was a loyal Newtown Jets supporter. He had the luxury of his house backing onto Henson Park. At every home game, Mark and his friends, all of whom were musicians, would jump his back fence into the ground and set up their musical instruments and play the Wing's hit Jet whenever the Newtown Jets scored. For refreshments, Mark's wife, Michelle, would pass the beers over the fence. However, when Mark found out the Jets were in financial trouble he made everyone become members and pay to get in and buy their beer from the Jets. Another terrific story, as mentioned by the Hon. Catherine Cusack, was related to me by his friend and work colleague, Mark Sheehan. Mark D'Arney would ring children and pretend that he was Santa Claus calling from the North Pole and he would chat to them about what they wanted from Santa and would suss out if they had been good. The kids loved it. These are just a few of examples of what a very special person he was.

                      Mark was a passionate Sydney Swans supporter and one of the highlights of 2003 was when he and his mates were caught on film famously whooping it up after a Barry Hall goal—such a legendary footy moment made it onto The Panel, and was shown in great detail at the football show that is run at the end of each season when prizes are presented for the parliamentary footy tipping competition. Mark, Phil Dixon and Rachel Simpson took over the running of the AFL parliamentary footy tipping competition from my office in 1999. Apologies to Paul Mullins missing out on a cash reward in 1998, but the glory of his name has been etched on the perpetual trophy. From then on the competition was Internet driven, receiving tips via email, fax, phone and scribbled notes, from as far afield as Kakadu and even South Africa. Nearly 100 people, from the library and their friends, joined up.

                      Mark updated information on the custom-built footy tipping web site, with his characteristic humour, visuals, trivia and essential links. It was quite amazing to see. I suggest the aforementioned perpetual trophy, which is in the House, should be renamed in Mark's honour, and referred to hereafter as the Mark D'Arney Perpetual Memorial Trophy. I know that everyone in Parliament is feeling immense stress at Mark's passing, and I was absolutely dumbstruck when I heard the news on Thursday afternoon. Mark leaves behind his wife, Michelle, and his much-loved two-year-old daughter, Valerie Pearl, his parents, Mea and John, and sister, Kaylie. He will be greatly missed.

                      Motion agreed to.
                      The House adjourned at 9.58 p.m. until Wednesday 17 March 2004 at 11.00 a.m.