Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 5 Hansard (25 May) . . Page.. 2145..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
the government's bill also cuts out the statutory role of expert opinion. Proposed section 9 permits a minister to override the decision of any public servant or statutory office holder. If the Conservator of Flora and Fauna decided it was not appropriate to issue a licence to kill animals, the minister could then simply grant that licence himself. If the Environment Protection Agency refuses to approve an environment protection agreement, the minister could then just do it himself. If ACTPLA refused to grant building approval, the minister could just do it.
This bill removes any need for the government to rely on any opinion except its own political opportunism. While it is probably a lesser sin confronting us today, the fact that we are even debating this bill is an extremely abnormal process. Not only is it exceptionally rare to call a meeting of the Assembly to debate a single piece of legislation but also, more importantly, barely anyone in our community has had the opportunity to read through and comment on the proposed laws before us. It was mere minutes before this debate started that the scrutiny report was presented, and it is quite a lengthy report that raises quite a number of important issues and opinions about this legislation. We have not had time to consider it. The minister has not even had time to respond to it.
This is a bad process and presents an image of a secretive government and an opposition who are colluding to change the laws of the territory without proper scrutiny. This morning the media was calling it "decision-making behind closed doors". This should not be what this Assembly is about. Good governance and good process are being thrown out the window in a race for political gain at any cost.
Finally, I put the question about why we are having this legislation, and whether or not reasonable Canberrans would be asking for it. When will we see this kind of legislation happen again? Which appeal rights will go next? Members have contributed to this debate saying that it is regrettable but in the public interest. I do not believe that is the case.
We already have the mechanisms to build this road. Yes, there are appeal rights but they are appeal rights dear to our democracy and they should not be given away for speed or expediency. Is it only infrastructure projects that will have their appeal rights removed? Is it only this project that will have its appeal rights removed? I am sure members are thinking there are many other appeal rights that they would be happy to do away with. Mr Stefaniak has been quite critical of the rights of criminals. Maybe we will see criminal appeal rights disappear as well. This sets a very dangerous precedent if we are to follow down this path.
I wish I could believe that this is the only time the Assembly will be moved to block the review of government decisions. I fear it is unlikely. Once the Assembly has gone down this path it is only a matter of time before we will see it happen again. The Democrats have always believed in adequate review mechanisms to ensure our legislation is complied with. This bill purely and simply is legislation that legitimises naked political interference in our system of government. It is a disturbing precedent and one that must be opposed.
MR CORNWELL (11.01): Mr Speaker, as Mrs Dunne has said, the Liberal opposition will be supporting this legislation. There are over 30,000 people living in Gungahlin at