Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 11 Hansard (15 November) . . Page.. 3513..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
Mr Pratt and others on the other side of the house are seeking to say, "We will not worry about that. We will not worry about the discussions and negotiations. We will just legislate to exempt the application of the law in certain circumstances."That is just knee-jerk grandstanding. We have a good dialogue in place. We have a good share of information. The government has provided its legal advice to volunteers and they have come back with their own views on certain legal matters. These issues are being discussed and I think that agreement will be reached. Certainly, the most recent indications that I have had from both volunteers and the ESA have been very positive.
That is the way this matter should be addressed, through discussion and dialogue, not through the knee-jerk grandstanding position that Mr Pratt has put on the table. For all of those reasons, the government will not be supporting this bill today.
MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (12.21): Mr Speaker, those were fine words from the minister-"it is a knee-jerk response"; "it cuts across the discussion"; "his option is to change the law". The Assembly changes the law all the time. That is what the Assembly is for. Where bad law is put forward or bad law is in operation, we come back to this place and rectify it. Some days you have to change the law. Mr Corbell, in his argument, summarised it rather neatly when he said, "The FMA is to ensure that all moneys managed by the government are properly managed."He is absolutely right: the FMA is to manage government money.
Renee Leon, in a letter that she sent to the head of the VBA, actually said that the issue is how to deal with funds raised by volunteers. That is the nub of it. Is it government money? Is it appropriated by the government? No. Is it raised by the government through a fee or a charge? No. Is it a levy? No. It is money given by the community to volunteers to assist volunteers, to thank volunteers. Mr Corbell was there after 18 January 2003, as was I. He saw the stuff that came in-everything from doughnuts to watermelons, cases of beer and cash.
All donations are covered. Will volunteers now have to put the doughnuts, the watermelons, the other food and the beer into government control, into government trust accounts? This is ludicrous stuff. It is ludicrous stuff from a captured minister. He has put forward a weak case, relying on the lawyers having said so and therefore we have to do what the lawyers tell us. That is interesting because Ms Leon, in her response to the VBA, said, "I have attached a note that responds to the issues and the legal advice provided to the VBA."She went on to say, "However, rather than getting stuck in duels between lawyers, I would like to propose a solution for volunteers to consider."Their lawyers are saying, "You are wrong."The government solicitor is saying, "We are right."They are all going to stand on their digs.
That is wrong. It does not have to work like that because the community expectation is that this money will be spent by volunteers because it was given to volunteers. I suspect that members of the community do not see the volunteers as a legitimate arm of government, controlled by all the government laws and all the government bits and pieces that Mr Corbell cited. They see them as members of the community who give up their time to protect their community, and they should be considered as such.