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The environment is of special concern to me, as it is to most young people and, indeed, to responsible citizens of all ages. I am acutely aware of the need to come up with practical solutions to environmental problems which make it easier for individuals to be good custodians of the environment. Whether we are talking of waste minimisation or water conservation or energy saving, the need for practical solutions is vitally important for us, living as we do in Australia's largest inland city, a city which, like all cities, is so complex that it can seem impossible for individuals to make a difference.
A particular environmental passion of mine is the need to develop pride in our indigenous plants and wildlife. We call Canberra the bush capital, yet our landscaping policies continue to favour exotic trees over native ones and our ACT tourist promotion focuses on the celebration not of our native environment but of the exotic environment we have established here. While I too enjoy the beauty that exotic trees and plants bring to our city in spring and autumn, we must develop greater pride in the beauty we can create with Australian plants as well. With this beauty, we will also discover landscaping that is better adapted to our dry climate and more sympathetic to native birds and other fauna.
Mr Speaker, self-government continues to arouse hostility in the ACT. This hostility is reflected in open opposition and cynicism about the ACT Legislative Assembly and the ACT Government and in other expressions of dissatisfaction. The ACT community has been understandably cautious about embracing this gift of self-government from the Federal Government. Their caution about Federal governments bearing gifts is perhaps justified, given the experience of dramatic and reduced Federal funding over the last six years. The resentment of some that self-government was imposed without a vote of the community is also understandable, but we cannot dwell in the past. The ACT's funding is now close to State levels. There can be no return to the funding levels of the past. The responsibility for managing our own affairs, which the Federal Parliament has given to us, will not be taken away again.
As a community we have grown up. In the last six years we have taken our first steps of freedom and autonomy. The apron strings have been cut. There is no way back. Instead, we must embrace the possibilities of the future. I know that members of this Assembly have grappled with these possibilities. But this is not just a matter for politicians; it is a matter for all citizens of Canberra. There must be a partnership, a genuine one, not one in which we join with our friends while ignoring those who question us or offer alternatives. It is not good enough for us in this Assembly to disappear into this building and work away. We must be in touch with the people we represent. Nor is it good enough for the community to sit in judgment on this Assembly from afar. We must work together in partnership to create a better Canberra for all of us.
This does not mean that we will always agree. As a Labor member not a part of the current Government, I will criticise where it is necessary. I was elected to represent Labor voters and they must be my priority - their aspirations, their concerns. But my courage and my compassion cannot be contained or restricted by narrowly defined partisan politics. We must all in this community have the grace and the generosity to step