31 May 2016

3rd Reading Speech

The Hon. ADAM SEARLE ( 18:15 ): The Opposition will oppose the third reading of this bill.

The Hon. Lynda Voltz: Quite right too.

The Hon. ADAM SEARLE: I acknowledge that interjection. We have tried to work with the Government and members of other parties to hold an inquiry into what we regard as the outstanding issues. Having regard to the Parliamentary Secretary’s reply speech, the questions raised by the Opposition remain unanswered. Mere assurances that the Commonwealth Government will foot the bill for whatever services New South Wales provides to Norfolk Island in the future, pursuant to some agreement that we have not seen, should not give anyone in this Chamber any great comfort. If there is a detailed agreement between the Commonwealth Government and State Government to that effect, I invite the Government to share it with the Parliament so that we can take comfort from that. The problem is that assurances given are not always able to be enforced in years to come, when all the people who sought, gave and received those assurances are no longer part of government at either level.

The situation is that the Commonwealth Government, by its own motion, can extend the content of New South Wales laws to Norfolk Island through Federal regulation. Whether we like it or not, the terms of those extended laws may engage the obligations of New South Wales institutions. Those institutions would then be obliged to provide services on and to Norfolk Island. The Commonwealth may pay for some or all of those services or may do so inadequately. The Commonwealth’s assessment of what might be a reasonable fee might not be shared by the New South Wales Treasury. We will not be able to argue the toss if the Commonwealth Government pulls the lever and requires New South Wales bodies to provide those services under Commonwealth law.

The only leverage available to New South Wales is whether to pass this legislation and the conditions upon which it does so. The contribution by the Hon. Scott Farlow reinforced the concerns of the Opposition. The problem is that the legislation does not specify the scope of the services. The Parliamentary Secretary says that the services extend to health and education at the moment. From the contributions of Government members, the underlying intent is clearly to increase the range of services over time. The cost of providing those services will increase over time. As a result, the potential risk to the New South Wales budget will increase over time. Nothing the Government has said provides any assurance that we have any levers to pull to avoid that outcome, other than whether we pass this bill and whether we place caveats on it, as we ought to. The Parliament has not taken up our suggestion to hold an inquiry into the bill to drill down into the issues and obtain a more informed picture. In those circumstances, the Opposition cannot responsibly support this bill.