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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1997 Week 3 Hansard (9 April) . . Page.. 741..


AUDITOR-GENERAL (AMENDMENT) BILL 1997

MS TUCKER (10.54): I present the Auditor-General (Amendment) Bill 1997.

Title read by Clerk.

MS TUCKER: I move:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

I am tabling this legislation today because I am committed to coming up with practical ways of putting the principles of ecologically sustainable development into practice. A key principle of ESD is integrating economic, social and environmental goals into policies and activities, as well as ensuring that environmental assets are appropriately valued. It is for these reasons that existing economic institutions and policies are being challenged all round the world. Although change is slow in being implemented, at least now both private and public sectors are recognising that they do have to give increased attention to environmental performance as well as reporting and accountability processes.

In the private sector, there is growing awareness of the benefits of integrating environmental management systems, including auditing and accounting techniques, into business planning. Obviously, appropriate regulatory change to public economic institutions is also an important part of the process of addressing market failures and finding more sustainable solutions. Everyone in this Assembly supports the principle that economic, social and environmental issues should be integrated into planning and policy implementation. Unfortunately, very few creative ideas are put forward to make sure that that happens in practice.

Members will be aware that this legislation is the same as an amendment I put forward in 1996 to the Auditor-General Bill. This issue was debated very quickly last year, but I think it deserves to be given closer examination. At the time, the amendment was rejected by both Labor and Liberal. I think both Mrs Carnell and Mr Whitecross missed the point of why I put forward the amendment. While I am fully aware of the role of the Commissioner for the Environment, setting up environmental watchdogs, if you like, is only part of the process of implementing ecologically sustainable development. Mrs Carnell and Mr Whitecross obviously did not understand how crucial it is to get our economic institutions thinking about environmental and social issues.

I was particularly surprised by the Labor Party's rather dismissive attitude towards the legislation, because it was the Labor Party that supposedly endorsed the whole process and practice of ecologically sustainable development. I could hardly believe that Mr Whitecross stood here and said that if our economic institutions are not working we should invent other institutions. The point is that our economic institutions themselves are responsible for environmental and social harm and they must be updated.

It is the failure of economists to take on the principles of ESD that is a major cause of environmentally sustainable development not being implemented. It is the ACT Government that is so keen on saying we need a whole-of-government approach, and I would like to remind them that, unless this is to be only empty rhetoric,


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