Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 4 Hansard (2 May) . . Page.. 1027..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
I think this is a good bill. It follows a coordinated approach and it addresses the ACT weed strategy, which was developed back in 1996, to coordinate government and community activity. Of course, it also embraces nationally agreed principles of relevant ministerial councils, of which the ACT is a member. The opposition, therefore, will be supporting the bill.
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (12.02): Mr Speaker, I support this bill which strengthens provisions in the current Pest Plants and Animals Act with regard to weeds. We have been advocates for many years of the need for a strong legislative framework to control pest plants and animals and these amendments are positive steps.
This bill does two main things. It makes it an offence to import a prohibited pest plant from interstate or even matter contaminated with a prohibited pest plant. Also, it redefines the definition of "propagate"to include the process of planting. I do not believe this amendment bill is contentious in any way and I am pleased to support it.
I note that it has been 10 years since the ACT weed strategy—which is a 10-year plan—was agreed to in 1996. The Greens support a review of the effectiveness of the ACT weeds strategy and the ACT weed control program. The ACT has progressed considerably on the weed front in the last 10 years but a review would provide an opportunity to assess where we are and what more needs to be done. It is also important to remember that legislation is just one part of managing weeds and we still need to do many other things that are part of our ACT weed strategy.
The importance of this legislation is highlighted by the findings of a CSIRO report commissioned last year by the World Wide Fund Australia. The report found that 40 per cent of the most damaging weeds to farmers have escaped from Australian gardens. According to the WWF, garden plants make up 94 per cent of the 27,000 introduced plant species in Australia and are by far the biggest source of weeds, totalling 70 per cent of Australia's combined agricultural, noxious and natural ecosystem weeds. They contribute to the $4 billion annual cost of weeds to agriculture. Other findings of the report show that nurseries are still selling 33 per cent of the emerging weeds for grazing industries, 20 per cent of the weeds impacting on rare or threatened native plant species, 25 per cent of the weeds of national significance and 25 per cent of the invasive plants on the world's worst invasive alien species list.
In the context of pest plants, I like the precautionary element of the WA legislation which assumes that plants are guilty until proven innocent. The report also argues that, with the exception of Western Australia, it is possible to legally import a vast number of plants without any form of risk assessment. The report uses the example of bear-skin fescue, an ornamental tussock grass that went on sale to a major wholesale nursery in Victoria last November although it has the potential to become a grazing and environmental weed. In contrast, in Western Australia its import was subject to a risk assessment under plant quarantine laws. The risk assessment confirmed its potential to invade south-western Australia, most of Victoria, the New South Wales tablelands and north-east Tasmania. Consequently, bear-skin fescue is now a prohibited import in Western Australia. That is a quarantine issue but it does highlight how we may still be creating new weed problems. So this amendment may go some way to helping resolve this problem.