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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 12 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 3988..


MR WOOD (3.55): Mr Speaker, this is a local problem in which I have had some involvement. The speeches today have clarified the position for me. There was an approach made to the Planning and Environment Committee that was doomed to failure, and I want to put it into perspective for those citizens of Chisholm who thought there would be a clear hearing of their case and whose expectations subsequently could not be met. They perceive that they have a problem - there is a problem - and they will carry on that case. I ask that, if this does come to the attention of the Government, as Mr De Domenico indicates it has, the response to the people of Chisholm not be that the Planning and Environment Committee has considered this, therefore no further examination is needed. That should not be the answer. In fact, that would be the wrong answer, because the Planning and Environment Committee chose not to go down that path. So there is a matter that remains open and needing consideration. This Assembly, the Government, this member, indicated that consideration still needs to be given, and I believe that the matter is not yet closed.

There is one other point I would make. All the procedures say that this can be used for a community facility. If it was going to be used for a correctional facility, as it could have been, there would have been, I am sure, much wider consultation. The community tells me that they would accept a church on that site, but they had not expected so large a church. It is a very large building, and I have said this to all concerned. Some of these rules were laid down in my time, so let me acknowledge that in the administration of the plan perhaps greater thought should have been given by those administering it to whether, while a church is appropriate for this site, the size of the church is also appropriate for this site. That consideration needs to be given. The matter, I am sure, will properly be explored further by members of this Assembly. Let us look at some of those issues.

MR DE DOMENICO (Minister for Urban Services) (3.59): Very quickly, Mr Speaker, as Mr Wood said, it is a matter that has been brought to the attention of the Government, mainly because, as Mr Wood, Mr Kaine, Mr Whitecross and Mr Osborne would realise, it is in the Brindabella electorate. It would be politically nice to be able to say to everybody in your electorate that you happen to agree with them at the time they want you to do something. Unfortunately, life is not as easy as that. I know exactly where this proposed church is. I think people ought to acknowledge the rights of the pastor and his community, not just the rights and aspirations of the people who happen to live in Chisholm. As Mr Wood and others have said, if the group that made the application has followed the law to the letter, they have rights as well. As Mr Kaine and others have said, if Ms Horodny, or somebody else in this place, does not agree with what the law says, she has every right to put forward amendments to try to change that law.

I agree with Mr Wood that the problem is not going to go away; nor should the answer be: Because the committee decided not to look into the problem and because people have done the right thing, shut up and go away. That is not the way to handle it. It is all about perceptions, Ms Horodny; but perceptions also let me know that, no matter what decision any government makes at any time, some people will agree with it and some people will not agree with it. As long as we can stand up in this place and say that the process has been followed to the letter, we can stand pretty tall - if you are taller than I am - and say that we have carried out our role as legislators to make sure that the letter of the law is adhered to.


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