Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 5 Hansard (4 May) . . Page.. 1717..
MRS DUNNE (continuing):
now decided, as a concession, to do this by disallowable instrument. On the surface, Mr Speaker, that looks to be quite fair, open and accountable. But just imagine: the Assembly sits this week and then does not sit for another five weeks. If these amendments are agreed to, the Minister for Environment could go out on the day after the Assembly rises on Friday and make a whole lot of disallowable instruments to allow people to carry out destructive activity in Canberra Nature Park, in Namadgi National Park or in Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. He could make such regulations, which could come into effect the day after.
After the current sittings, this Assembly will not sit for five weeks. There are many instances during the life of an Assembly where there is a five or six-week hiatus-for example, over the Christmas period. Destructive work could be carried out before the Assembly had an opportunity to scrutinise what the Minister for Environment is doing. And that, Mr Speaker, is bad law, and that is law that we in the opposition are not prepared to accept. We in the opposition consider the Nature Conservation Act to be a very important piece of legislation, which is why we are supporting the amendments to make it tougher, to increase the penalties, and to make people who carry out destructive activity really pay the price.
The government is in a difficult position over Gungahlin Drive. Save the Ridge has now taken the conservator to the AAT because she has had the audacity to issue licences for destructive behaviour. So the government is saying, "Look, we'll solve that problem. We won't make it necessary for people to have licences so people can't appeal against it."There is always more than one way to skin a cat and this is a very bloody, gruesome and messy way to do so.
Really, the government should be looking at good law to support their projects that are important to the territory rather than putting together this cobbled approach which will mean we will have bad law not just for this project but for projects into the future. It will mean that we will have abuses and we will have destruction of our native fauna and flora. There will be the removal of rocks, sand and gravel and all of these sorts of things. We will have a much degraded environment as a result of this very poor piece of drafting.
The Liberal opposition heartily supports the intent of the Environmental Legislation Amendment Bill and heartily supports the government's amendments 1 and 2 because they strengthen the legislation. However, I seek your ruling, Mr Speaker, on whether the government's proposed amendments 3 and 4 are in fact counter to the spirit of the legislation that we are debating today and amendments 1 and 2. All of the proposals relating to this legislation are about issuing people with licences to do particular things in particular circumstances and making those licences stringent. But amendments 3 and 4 that the government proposes to move today are in fact counter to that. They are about making sure that people do not need licences to undertake destructive activities, and I think that this Assembly should consider whether it is appropriate for us to even debate them.
MR SPEAKER: Mrs Dunne, I cannot find any reference in the standing orders to the question of amendments being counter to the spirit of other amendments. It is a matter of amendments being relevant, and in this case they are relevant.