Sunday 31 March 2013

75% of people oppose privatising the "Poles & Wires" - O'Farrell should rule it out today

Premier Barry O’Farrell should listen to the 75 per cent of people who oppose privatising the State’s poles and wires because it would send electricity bills soaring – and rule it out today.

A new Neilson poll has found 75 per cent of people surveyed oppose the further privatisation of electricity in NSW, because it would increase household electricity prices across the State.

This comes on top of revelations families will be hit with even higher energy prices this year because the O'Farrell Government is sneakily gouging a record $1.153 billion in electricity dividends from household bills.

This is yet another broken promise from the O'Farrell Government – who previously promised to drive down energy bills by freezing dividend levels.

With 75 per cent of people telling Barry O’Farrell they don’t want the further privatisation of NSW’s electricity assets because it will increase prices, he should rule it today.

Selling off the poles and wires would send energy bills soaring for families who are already struggling with the rising cost of living.In South Australia, electricity prices rose by more than 30 per cent after their electricity poles and wires were privatised.

Electricity bills have already risen by almost $600 in the two years since Mr O’Farrell came to office and privatising electricity will only make things worse.

If the Premier and Treasurer have any understanding of the pressure rising electricity bills are having on NSW families, they will categorically rule out selling the poles and wires today.

The O’Farrell Government is gouging a record $1.153 billion in dividends from the electricity bills of NSW households this year, in a deliberate move which will only cause more pain for families.

The O'Farrell Government's willingness to increase electricity bills and extract record dividends from families already struggling with the rising cost of living shows they just don't understand the pressure NSW households are already under.

Sunday 17 March 2013

Tempe High School Visit

Home this year to over 920 students, Tempe High School is literally bursting at its seams. Originally designed to accommodate 500 students, the school’s successful programs and demographic changes have placed increased demands on the school and resulted in massive growth in student numbers.

This week I met with Principal, Socrates Dassalklis, and P&C President, Tanya Burrows and toured the school. With student ensembles rehearsing on balconies and in cramped corridors, there is an urgent need for the school to have designated creative arts and performance spaces as well as a larger school hall.
P & C Presiden Tanya Burrows, Ron Hoenig MP, Principal Socrates Dassalkis

Shadow Minister Guy Zangari visits Sydney Multicultural Centre at Daceyville

Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Guy Zangari MP, joined me on a visit to Sydney Multicultural Community Services at Daceyville. Covering six local government areas across the eastern suburbs and beyond, SMCS provides a wide range of services to people from over 60 different nationalities. Guy and I met with Rosa Loria, Director, who highlighted two issues currently affecting many of her clients: 
  • the increasing rate of diabetes amongst many elderly clients and across many ethnic backgrounds; and
  • the difficulty to meet ever increasing costs of medications.
 Shadow Minister Guy Zangari MP Rosa Loria and Ron Hoenig MP

International Women's Day at The Deli Women & Children’s Centre, Eastlakes

For over 30 years, The Deli Women & Children’s Centre at 72 Maloney Street Eastlakes has provided a valuable service to our community. Women, children and families, particularly those affected by domestic violence, access a range of support services provided by the Centre including counselling, education, advocacy and children’s services. 

Last week I celebrated International Women’s Day at the Centre and spent an enjoyable morning with Director, Vicki Johnston, and talking to staff members. I watched young children enjoying a supported playgroup session and had the opportunity of speaking to many women who access services provided by The Deli Centre.
Ron Hoenig with Vicki Johnston and staff at "The Deli"

A free press is essential as are ethical standards of journalism

Much is being debated about the Commonwealth government's proposed media reforms. As I observed in parliament on the 12 March 2013 that "a free press is the cornerstone of democracy." I also observed that "the only real protection society has is that the published reports of journalists are respected and trusted and that their profession is constantly enhanced. Public interest requires adherence to ethical standards."

If those principles are correct then I don't understand why all the controversy. Even under the Commonwealth's proposal a media owner can use his media to express his opinion. 

However, having enforceable ethical standards apply to the profession of journalism enhances respect and public trust of what they publish. This is society's ultimate protection against oppression and to ensure freedom.

My speech given below is a minor example of the consequences of a young journalist trying to get an exclusive at the expense of ethics.

Page: 18369

Mr RON HOENIG (Heffron) [12.10 p.m.]: On 3 March 2013 the Sunday Telegraph, in a so-called exclusive by Taylor Auerbach, published an article entitled, "MP's son in Facebook racist rant". Taylor Auerbach is a school friend of my eldest 22-year-old son from Mount Sinai College in Maroubra—they have been friends since they were four years old. Taylor Auerbach, together with a number of former school friends, has kept in touch with my son since school and, at times, they communicate with each other via social media. My eldest son, thinking he was communicating privately—although in my view inappropriately—with his friends, one of those friends being Taylor Auerbach, and published his remarks. It goes without saying that none of his other friends' inappropriate remarks were published because they are not children of members of Parliament. My eldest son has been counselled. Comments of that nature, even in jest, are not acceptable. Both my sons have been warned in the past about being careful of what they place on social networking sites, even though they might believe it to be a private communication. It is not; nothing is totally private.

I have cross-examined police officers about private communications that they have had on social media that have been obtained by criminals. Taylor Auerbach should understand that "ratting out your mate" to try to get a personal advantage for yourself is not the Australian way. It is certainly not the Jewish way and not the values he was taught at Mount Sinai College. It goes without saying that he and my son are no longer "friends". Members of Parliament know that when they seek public office they will be subject to criticism in the popular press and from other avenues, including their political opponents. Being criticised is part of our job. However, the children of members of Parliament, even adult children, do not sign up for that. This place can be tough, but attacks on our families have always been out of bounds.

Those articles were followed up by the same tabloid with criticism of me that was substantially inaccurate, asserting falsely that I was, and I quote, "forced" to make a disclosure on a parliamentary return when the slightest inquiry would have revealed that it was completely voluntary. There were some other comments I allegedly made at an Australian Labor Party branch meeting that were portrayed as some type of revelation. Again, a quick check would show that my views have been published openly and repeatedly for some time, have been consistent with legal principles and views shared by many in the judiciary and the legal profession. When I signed up for public office I acknowledge that I also signed up for that type of criticism. But being criticised will not deter me from doing what I consider to be right along with standing up for principle, even when it is not popular to do so. I have done this for most of my working life as a public defender whilst representing people charged with the most heinous of crimes, and I have also done so as a mayor. I do not intend to stop now.

A free press is the cornerstone of democracy. The profession of journalism is essential to hold the three arms of government to account. It is more important now, as the shadows of falling circulation and advertising revenues loom large, and with journalists losing their jobs. But the role of a free press is not to fight to increase circulation and revenues by adopting more and more techniques of an irresponsible popular press. Sex and scandal sell only in the short term. The responsibility of a journalist is a grave one. The only real protection society has is that the published reports of journalists are respected and trusted and that their profession is constantly enhanced. Public interest requires adherence to ethical standards. Taylor Auerbach needs a lesson in ethics.

Whilst my eldest son has learnt his lesson, all young people and young adults should also learn from his experience. There are no private communications on social networking sites, even if you intend it to be so. Future employment and career prospects may well be hindered, as future employers may access private comments made years earlier. In this modern electronic era, it is not just the children of members of Parliament who should be cautioned: everybody should be.

Sunday 3 March 2013

Second Sydney Airport - Decision required now.

Whilst the need for a second Sydney Airport for Sydney has been a debate occurring for 40 years, the state has now reached a stage where there is a unique opportunity for a decision to be made if the O'Farrell government shows some leadership, goodwill and political courage. 

I grew up in the shadows of aircraft landing and taking off from the east-west runway at a time when only propeller-driven aircraft flew into or out of Sydney airport. I witnessed the arrival of jets, particularly 707 jets, that roared overhead and basically ensured that it was impossible to speak on the telephone or listen to television. The house shook as they flew aeroplanes flew overhead. I witnessed construction of the second north-south runway and the dredging of historic Botany Bay. I witnessed the second Sydney airport site selection study during the term of the Fraser Government. When the Fraser Government tried to build a third runway at the Sydney Kingsford-Smith Airport, it was blocked by the New South Wales Wran Government. 

I witnessed the election of the Hawke Government with its promise to build a second airport for Sydney. That promise was made approximately 10 years after the Whitlam Government announced that Galston would be the site of Sydney's second airport. I witnessed the Hawke Government acquiring land and preparing for a second Sydney airport. I witnessed probably many separate site selection studies and every report indicating a desperate need for Sydney to have a second airport within the Sydney Basin because nowhere in the world is there an airport the size of Sydney airport that is so constrained by a shortage of land vis-à-vis the volume of aircraft using it, let alone an airport that is blocked into a corner by Port Botany, thereby making land transportation of passengers freight almost impossible. That is something that the Minister for Roads and Ports is about to discover when he attempts to use limited funds—approximately $10 billion—to resolve an unsolvable problem. 

I witnessed the Hawke Government break its promise and override the Transport Minister and Aviation Minister and instead of a second airport it  built a third runway at Sydney airport. I was among the 10,000 people who blockaded the Sydney airport as a result of aircraft noise that was impacting upon the people of the Heffron electorate. I sat with Sir Maurice Byers in the High Court of Australia to try to stop construction of the third runway because I knew it would impact so adversely upon so many people.

The reason that construction of a second Sydney airport did not proceed in the eighties, and by government prior to and after the Hawke Government is that the vested interests, which included the aviation industry, were not on board. If you speak to former Ministers they will tell you of the influence of Sir Peter Abeles of Ansett. I experienced Qantas being able to stop any type of aviation policy development in this country for the short-term benefit of ensuring that Qantas and Ansett did not have to compete in a newly deregulated market. I heard first hand about the then Department of Aviation making decisions ensuring that new entrants, such as Compass, effectively were sent broke as they tried to compete with major airlines. 

A very significant stage now has been reached in the history of aviation. For the first time ever vested interests are actually on board: For example, the head of Infrastructure NSW will tell anyone who will listen about the need for a second Sydney airport. The Chief Executive of Qantas— where was Qantas 20 years ago?—is desperate for a second Sydney airport. Even the chief executive officer of Sydney airport  recognises the need for a second Sydney airport. 

The people of western Sydney know that approximately 240,000 jobs are generated by Kingsford Smith Airport and that enormous growth in jobs will be associated with a new airport. They know that governments do not really have the funds to develop the required infrastructure to service the area without construction of a massive infrastructure project, such as a second Sydney airport, in western Sydney. New South Wales is in a position to benefit from a unique opportunity.

I do not know whether the Badgerys Creek site is right. I do not know what development has occurred around Badgerys Creek. I do not know whether or not the site will be Wilton, which is being advocated by the Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, or whether that is the right site. But I do know that a second Sydney airport has been required for more than 40 years. 

I also know that the New South Wales Government alone will never be able to fund the necessary infrastructure to provide for the ever-increasing population density of western Sydney. But what will have a significant effect and bring benefit to the western Sydney population will be the right decision being made in respect of the location of the second Sydney airport. 

I urge the O'Farrell Government to co-operate with the Federal Government. It is too late to play politics. If that occurs this State's aviation needs will be in crisis, as will be the infrastructure so needed in Western Sydney. We are in a unique position to achieve something for New South Wales.

Seniors Week 2012 "Live Life!"

Senior's Week will take place from Sunday 17 March to Sunday 24th March this year and I am encouraging local seniors to get involved. This year's theme is "Live Life!" and over 900 free or discounted events have been organised around the state. 

Events include the popular seniors' concerts, walks, comedy shows, computer classes and exhibitions as well as many other events. There really is something for everyone. 

Senior’s Week recognises the active and vital contribution that our seniors play in our communities and it’s a chance to show our appreciation as well. 

The week’s events are open for people over 60 and also for people over 50 who have a lifelong disability. Each year, over 30,000 seniors attend the Premier’s Seniors Week Gala Concerts will be held at the Sydney Entertainment Centre on Monday 18 March 2012 and Tuesday 19 March. 

Ita Buttrose is one of the 12 esteemed seniors from across NSW who have been named as NSW Seniors Ambassadors. The Ambassadors will be speaking at a number of events during the week. 

For more information, please see