1990 Cabinet papers

The Liberal-National Party Coalition Government under Nick Greiner proceeded with its wide-ranging program of transformation in 1990. Effective, transformative management of the public sector and the economy remained the bedrock of Greiner’s approach.

Acknowledgement: The text below contains excerpts from the essay, DRIVEN BY ASPIRATIONS FOR REFORM - Release of the 1990 NSW Cabinet Papers by Dr David Clune, OAM as well as links to the relevant Cabinet Papers.

The New Agenda

Private Prisons

A major initiative was the State’s first private prison. As well as according with the Government’s ideological commitment to privatisation, a cost-effective solution had to be found to relieve prison overcrowding. Another attraction for the Government was that the militant prison officers’ union (the Prison Officers' Vocational Branch of the Public Service Association) would be excluded from a private prison. Given the crisis-ridden history of the public correctional system, the Government could credibly argue that private management would be an improvement.

Related Cabinet Documents

  • Prison Management and Development: 10 April Minute 90-36 NRS 12082_15_24 pp 1-247
  • Proposal to Introduce Legislation for an Offender Home Detention Programme: 4 December Minute 90-206 NRS 12082_15_65 p 98 (withdrawn 8 February 1991)
  • Proposed Amendment of the Prisons Act Relating to Private Prison Management: 13 November Minute 90-229 NRS 12082_15_85 pp 231-379
  • Prisons (Contract Management) Amendment Bill, 1990: 20 November Minute 90-323 NRS 12082_15_90 pp 30-60

Commercialisation of the State Lotteries Office

Cabinet approved the commercialisation of the State Lotteries Office on 7 August. Cabinet Office commented that the proposal accorded with the Government's

"commercial objectives for establishing this type of trading enterprise and the current proposal is directed at the removal of out-moded management practices which have essentially restricted the Office's operations. Achievement of pronounced efficiency improvements and greater operational flexibility in such key areas as marketing and product development are the intended goals of the new Board structure..."

Related Cabinet Documents

  • Commercialisation of the State Lotteries Office: 7 August Minute 90-156 NRS 12082_15_46 pp 1-40


Education Reform Bill

The centrepiece of Terry Metherell’s reform program was the Education Reform Act. It enshrined in legislation many of the changes he had already made administratively. The legislation was largely based on the recommendations of an inquiry conducted by former Liberal Senator and Education Minister, Sir John Carrick. It also incorporated curriculum requirements set out in the Government's November 1989 White Paper, ‘Excellence and Equity’. Draft legislation was tabled in Parliament at that time. Wide-ranging consultations followed, leading to modifications to the Bill.

Related Cabinet Documents

  • Education Reform Bill: 20 March Minute 90-57 NRS 12082_15_18 pp 84-156

Establishment of TAFECOM

When introducing the Technical and Further Education Commission Bill in the Legislative Council in November, Virginia Chadwick said that the consultation process had led to significant changes to the legislation. The feedback received

"drew attention to the need to correct the perception that the new TAFE would be focussing its efforts almost exclusively on commercial ventures and servicing the needs of industry. Important as these areas are, this bill before the house embodies the Government's commitment to maintaining the diversity of TAFE's education and training responsibilities..." [1]

[1] NSW Parliamentary Debates, 29 November 1990.

Related Cabinet Documents

  • Proposed legislation to establish TAFECOM: 15 May Minute 90-117 NRS 12082_15_35 pp 2-93

Industrial Relations

Reform of industrial relations was an important part of the Greiner agenda. Suzanne Jamieson has noted that the Greiner and Fahey Governments ‘took a generally market-oriented approach to managing industrial relations in NSW but they were not alone in doing this. There seemed to be a tide of market liberal reform that was sweeping all governments along’.[2]

[2] S Jamieson, ‘Industrial relations’ in M Laffin and M Painter eds, Reform and Reversal: lessons from the Coalition Government in NSW 1988-1995, Macmillan, 1995, p152.

Related Cabinet Documents

  • Proposed legislation to restate and reform the law relating to industrial relations in NSW: 3 May Minute 90-104 NRS 12082_15_30 pp 120-205
  • Industrial Relations Bill 1990, Industrial Court Bill, 1990: 15 May Minute 90-125 NRS 12082_15_34 pp 183-264
  • Industrial Arbitration Voluntary Unionism Amendment Bill, 1990: 30 November Minute 90-300 NRS 12082_15_85 pp 117-141
  • Industrial Arbitration (Enterprise Agreements) Amendment Bill, 1990: 20 November Minute 90-313 NRS 12082_15_89 pp 251-301

Parliamentary and Electoral Reform

To strengthen its electoral position, the outgoing Labor Government had increased the size of the Legislative Assembly by ten to 109. The consequent redistribution resulted in electoral boundaries more favourable to the ALP. Under the existing legislation, a redistribution could only take place after two elections. However, if the Government honoured its election commitment to return the size of the Assembly to 99, a redistribution would follow which would provide an opportunity to redress the Coalition’s disadvantage. If the upper house refused to pass the bill, under the deadlock provisions in the Constitution Act 1902, the Government could submit it to a referendum.

Related Cabinet Documents

  • Proposed Parliamentary Reform: 20 February Minute 90-14 NRS 12082_15_11 pp 35-74
  • ​Constitution (Legislative Council) Amendment Bill 1990: 26 February Minute 90-24 NRS 12082_15_12 pp 82-138
  • Proposed Amendment of the Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Act, 1912 and the Constitution Act, 1902: 23 October Minute 90-246 NRS 12082_15_76 pp 1-129
  • Constitution and Parliamentary Electorates and Elections (Amendment) Bill, 1990: 20 November Minute 90-320 NRS 12082_15_90 pp 259-365

Environment and Planning

Coastal Policy

Coastal protection was a key challenge for the Government. Greiner’s ‘new environmentalism’ had to be reconciled with pressure for more development and the negative economic impact of conservation measures. The views of progressive Liberals, such as Environment Minister Tim Moore, and those of pro-development Nationals had to be accommodated.

Related Cabinet Documents

  • Solitary Islands Marine Reserve Coffs Harbour area North Coast: 13 February Minute 90-11. NRS 12082_15_14 Withdrawn
  • Coastline Management Manual: 7 August Minute 90-144 NRS 12082_15_47 pp 1-315
  • Draft of NSW Coastal Policy: 7 August Minute 90-145 NRS 12082_15_46 pp 47-352
  • Proposed Amendment of the Coastal Protection Act, 1979: 29 October Minute 90-177 NRS 12082_15_58 p 70
  • Proposed Amendment of the Coastal Protection Act, 1979: 1 November Minute 90-247 NRS 12082_15_78 pp 64-135
  • Amendments to the National Parks and Wildlife Act and the Crown Lands Act: 11 September Minute 90-178 NRS 12082_15_57 pp 78-96

Water resources - Water Board Pricing

Environment Minister Tim Moore put a submission to Cabinet for a major restructuring of the Sydney Water Board’s pricing structure, including an 8.3% increase in water, sewerage and drainage charges. After twice being deferred because of its complex and controversial nature, a revised Minute was considered and approved on 29 April. Cabinet had already approved an $80 environmental levy for a five-year period from 1 July 1989 and increased trade waste charges from 1 January 1990.

Related Cabinet Documents

  • Water Board Urban Development Charges: 23 February Minute 90-20 NRS-12082_15_18 p 36 withdrawn 8 February 1991
  • Water Board Water, Sewerage and Drainage Pricing: 23 February Minute 90-21 NRS 12082_15_12 p 46
  • Water Board Water, Sewerage and Drainage Pricing: 19 March Minute 90-28 NRS 12082_15_18 pp 180-313
  • Water Board Water, Sewerage and Drainage Pricing: 29 March Minute 90-44 NRS 12082_15_18 pp 188-310

Proposal for Northern Extension to Washpool Wilderness

In 1982, the Wran Labor Government decided to protect large areas of rainforest in northern NSW. Most of the Washpool forest near Grafton became a national park but forestry operations were permitted in the remaining northern third. In 1990, the Forestry Commission announced its intention to log the area, resulting in protests by the environment movement. In a Cabinet Minute dated 3 September, Moore argued that there was a substantial case for preservation of the northern Washpool forest.

Related Cabinet Documents

  • Proposal for Northern Extension to Washpool Wilderness 4 September Minute 90-187 NRS 12082_15_55 pp 173-264
  • Proposed World Heritage Properties Act: 30 March Minute 90-29 NRS 12082_15_19 p 214
  • Community Wilderness Nominations under the Wilderness Act, 1987: 14 August Minute 90-155 NRS 12082_15_50 pp 14-71
  • Release of Discussion Paper on Endangered Species Legislation Option: Withdrawn 8 February 1991 Minute 90-231 NRS 12082_15_98 p 68

Establishment of Environment Protection Authority

A significant reform was the establishment of the Environment Protection Authority (EPA). Moore’s aim was to create a comprehensive, integrated agency that would co-ordinate environmental protection, regulation, rehabilitation, enforcement and education. He presented a discussion paper to Cabinet in May, which was followed by a public discussion paper in July.

Related Cabinet Documents

  • Proposal to Establish the Environment Protection Authority for New South Wales: 11 December Minute 90-310 NRS 12082_15_99 pp 2-39
  • Pulp Mill Environmental (Pollution Control) Guidelines: 27 February Minute 90-12 NRS-12082_15_12 pp 162-275
  • Proposed Legislation Relating to Environmentally Contaminated Sites: Withdrawn 8 February 1991 Minute 90-159 NRS 12082_15_53 p 66
  • Proposal to Amend the Environmental Offences and Penalties Act, 1989: 16 October Minute 90-172 NRS 12082_15_71 pp 5-266
  • Proposal to Amend the Environmental Offences and Penalties Act, 1989: 2 November Minute 90-257 NRS 12082_15_79 pp 224-298
  • Proposal to Amend the Environmental Offences and Penalties Act, 1989: 20 November 1990 Minute 90-311 NRS 12082_15_88 pp 143-172

Social issues

Further Regulation of the Fencing of Private Swimming Pools

Community concern over the drowning of young children in private swimming pools continued to be an issue. In December 1989, Cabinet agreed to make isolation fencing of new pools mandatory. A summit of stakeholders subsequently recommended that compulsory isolation fencing be extended to existing pools.

Related Cabinet Documents

  • Proposed legislation to further regulate the fencing of private swimming pools: 3 May Minute 90-70 NRS 12082_15_30 pp 207-378
  • Swimming Pool Bill, 1990: 15 May Minute 90-131 NRS 12082_15_35 pp 200-225

Adult Access to Adoption Information

On 9 June 1988, the Government established two Legislative Council Standing Committees, State Development and Social Issues. The first reference the Government gave to the Social Issues Committee was the contentious issue of allowing adopted persons the right to access their original birth records once they turned 18. Although the membership crossed the ideological spectrum, from Labor left to Fred Nile, it produced a unanimous report in favour.[3]

[3] For the background see D Clune, Keeping the Executive Honest: the modern Legislative Council committee system, Legislative Council of NSW, History Monograph No 1, 2013.

Related Cabinet Documents

  • Proposed legislation on adult access to adoption information: 3 July Minute 90-85 NRS 12082_15_41 pp 2-360
  • Adoption Information Bill: 21 August Minute 90-166 NRS 12082_15_51 pp 35-96

Abolition of Compulsory Retirement

In a pioneering move to combat what is now known as ‘ageism’, Cabinet agreed to make it unlawful for a person to be compulsorily retired on the basis of age. Greiner’s Minute said the legislation would: give employers greater access to a range of skills that might otherwise be lost by retirement at an arbitrary age barrier, counter the effects of a shrinking labour force, and lessen the dependence of older people on government support. It would also promote ‘the self-esteem of older workers who face poverty and the loss of dignity associated with compulsory retirement when they are still quite capable of making valuable contributions in the workplace’.

Related Cabinet Documents

  • Proposed Legislation to abolish Compulsory Retirement: 1 November Minute 90-236 NRS12082_15_77 pp 234-371
  • Anti-Discrimination (Compulsory Retirement) Amendment Bill, 1990: 22 November Minute 90-314 NRS 12082_15_91 pp 201-230

Amendments to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983

Greiner originally wanted to repeal the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 and ‘mainstream’ Aboriginal services by placing them in the relevant department. An Aboriginal Affairs and Land Rights Commission would replace the Aboriginal Land Council and subsume the Office of Aboriginal Affairs in the Premier’s Department as a transitional move. However, aware of the sensitivity and complexity of the subject Greiner decided to consult and listen. The Aboriginal Land Council and other groups vigorously protested against the proposals.

In 1989, the Government commissioned the former head of the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Charles Perkins, to prepare a report on the proposed changes. Perkins rejected the repeal of the 1983 Act, mainstreaming, and the creation of an Aboriginal Affairs Commission, and made a number of suggestions for reform.

Related Cabinet Documents

  • Amendments to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983: 3 April Minute 90-71 NRS 12082_15_21 pp 301-366

The cabinet year in review

'Driven by Aspirations for Reform' essay by Dr David Clune

List of NSW cabinet decisions