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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1993 Week 06 Hansard (Tuesday, 18 May 1993) . . Page.. 1559 ..


Debate resumed from 25 March 1993, on motion by Mr Berry:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

MRS CARNELL (Leader of the Opposition) (9.43): Madam Speaker, the Opposition will be supporting the Radiation (Amendment) Bill 1993. However, I want to make some general comments on the Bill. Madam Speaker, the question of public health legislation is one that often does not present itself in a prominent way in the Canberra community. Legislation establishing, amending and governing the use of councils and bodies to implement public health standards rarely makes the front page of the newspaper or even an item on the news, but this legislation is important. The Government has a duty to legislate to protect the health of all Canberrans.

In the case of the Radiation (Amendment) Bill, the Minister for Health has a duty to ensure wide representation of the community on the ACT Radiation Council. Ensuring that appointees from the Australian National University and the CSIRO have suitable qualifications of a scientific nature is a sensible move. I know that none of us would question the scientific knowledge of members of the council who have been appointed by the CSIRO or the ANU, but ensuring that the qualifications are required is a move as much to protect the appointees as to protect the ACT community.

The use of community representatives on public health management boards is a concept that is strongly supported by the Liberal Party. It is important to ensure that the weight of scientific knowledge is balanced by the provision of an objective assessment of community attitudes and wants. Often a scientist is playing too subjective a role to be able to balance this assessment against the scientific expertise provided by the appointees nominated by the CSIRO or the ANU.

Madam Speaker, one aspect of this Bill which does concern me is the length of time it has taken for it to be brought before this Assembly. I understand that this Bill was completed during 1991 but brought before this Assembly on only 1 April 1993. In fact I could quote from a Board of Health paper of 12 June 1991 which actually states that the Bill was ready for presentation at that stage. While this Government parades it priority legislation, it has thrown such legislation as this onto the backburner for just too long. If this Bill was completed and ready in 1991, even assuming some amendments to that draft, presenting it to the Assembly should not have taken nearly two years - that is, until April 1993.

Madam Speaker, the Radiation Council serves a valuable purpose in our community. It ensures safety and technical standards for the use of radioactive and irradiation materials. As we all know, radiation technology serves a purpose to the community in terms of health care. Equally, the control of the use of this technology remains a vital issue in terms of standards of public health. An effective council will assist that process. I commend the Bill to the house.

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