Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 9 Hansard (18 August) . . Page.. 3872..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
concerns that have been raised by other members today. So I guess I am at a bit of a loss to understand the arguments put forward by both the Labor and Liberal parties and why they are opposing it.
For the information of the Minister for Environment-this is something he would have discovered if he himself had been out consulting about this particular piece of legislation-the rural lessees have been consulted and involved in the development of this legislation and it has been discussed with other organisations such as the Property Council. The Conservation Council of the South-East Region and Canberra was also involved in the development of this legislation, as have been other interested members of the community from a range of different backgrounds. This work was not done in isolation; it was done in concert with the community. I thank all of those groups for their input into this particular piece of legislation. They helped to ensure that the bill I presented was a comprehensive one that dealt with a range of different issues.
In the Canberra plan, the Chief Minister mapped out a vision of the ACT as a sustainable territory. The defeat of this bill, which is imminent, shows that his words were just empty rhetoric. The ACT already has the second worst record on land clearing of all Australian states and territories. It is disappointing that at this stage neither Labor nor Liberal is willing to call off our race to the bottom on biodiversity protection.
For the record, some recent figures on native vegetation lost are 31 per cent in the ACT, 30 per cent in New South Wales, less than one per cent in the Northern Territory, 18 per cent in Queensland, 11 per cent in South Australia, 16 per cent in Tasmania, seven per cent in Western Australia and 60 per cent in Victoria, the only state that tops us. So we look pretty bad next to the other jurisdictions, despite having so much of our land area within Namadgi National Park. I really think that we need to pay greater attention to this issue.
We have seen the steady reduction of our native bush, leaving future generations to clean up the mess. This native vegetation protection bill was aimed at stopping future loss of bush cover by requiring new plantings to replace areas cleared. I recognise the comments made by Ms Tucker on how we need to look at that in relation to some biodiversity areas that could not be replaced. That was something that I thought was covered in the legislation. I quite welcome the comments that she made and would have been quite willing to work through amendments.
The decision to defeat this bill continues the tradition of developers being able to externalise the costs of their developments on to future generations of Australians. The Assembly has proved willing to move to a polluter-pays approach for air and water pollution, but clearing the native vegetation that filters our air and water and regulates our climate is apparently a different matter.
I believe that the land clearing that took place before we understood the importance of native vegetation could be morally excused. But allowing clearing to continue unabated now that we know better is shameful. It seems obvious to me that it will be necessary to restore a substantial amount of the vegetation that we have lost now and in the near future, but the major parties in this place feel comfortable with saddling future generations with the cost of replanting or bearing the cost of what happens if we do not replant and if we do not stop unnecessarily stripping away our native vegetation.