Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 3344..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
probably be aware that we have an environment protection authority, but that is not its actual name. Its name is the Environment Management Authority. Most other jurisdictions use the name Environment Protection Authority. People understand what it means. They understand broadly what the powers and roles of such an organisation are about, and it is appropriate that we change the name. The Labor Party supports that move.
The other changes outlined in the government's amendments relate to the public notification requirements for certain classes of environmental authorisations and agreements. This is an issue that was debated at some length when the Environment Protection Bill was first passed by the Assembly back in 1997. The changes proposed by the government relate to mechanisms to change requirements for public notification, predominantly changes whereby public notification of minor authorisations and agreements will no longer be required.
At the moment the requirement is that public notification occur by way of notice in a daily newspaper. That has led to significant costs being put on the Environment Management Authority. These could be changes as minor as authorisations to conduct activities such as motor mechanic businesses, car airconditioning, refurbishments and a range of other activities such as that.
I understand that since the Environment Management Authority has been notifying everyone of these authorisations and agreements there have been only two occasions on which they have been sought out by members of the public. That is in contrast with the hundreds and hundreds of authorisations and agreements publicly notified as required under the act.
The Labor Party believes it is important that people be aware of what authorisations and agreements are entered into, particularly if they are significant or relate to a significantly controversial or potentially environmentally damaging activity or some sort of environment agreement.
For that reason, the Labor Party will be broadly supporting the government's thrust today to provide for the minister to make regulations to determine which types of notifications and agreements should not be required to be publicly notifiable. I note that that will be by way of a disallowable instrument and the Assembly will have the opportunity to properly scrutinise exactly what classes of authorisations and agreements the minister is seeking to determine do not require public notification. I think that is a satisfactory check on authorisations not publicly notified because the minister determines that they are minor.
In the longer term the Labor Party would like to see issues such as environmental authorisations and agreements all publicly available through facilities such as the government's web site so that the cost to the agency is minor but the public have access to that information.
I should stress that our support for the bill today is very much conditional on the outcome of the disallowable instrument proposed under these amendments and to be introduced by the minister at a later date. If we believe that the government is seeking too broad a range of criteria in relation to which authorisations and agreements should