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The very fact of the legislation being tabled, I believe, had a positive effect. It would have a much more positive effect, Mr Speaker, if this legislation were passed by the Assembly and put in place. There will be no cost to the community from the structure of the legislation. The board would simply be convened at a time when it was necessary. The Bill is basic to democratic principles. It gives students in all schools the same right that they can expect in all other sectors of our community - the right to be treated justly and with fairness. Mr Speaker, I commend this Bill to the Assembly.
Debate (on motion by Mr Stefaniak) adjourned.
SMOKE POLLUTION - FUEL REDUCTION BURNS
MR BERRY (10.41): I move:
That this Assembly regrets the failure of the Minister for the Environment, Land and Planning, Mr Humphries, to establish a coordination arrangement with the relevant NSW authorities to reduce the impact of smoke from necessary fuel reduction burns in the South East region of NSW, despite his promise to do so on 31 March 1995.
Mr Speaker, this motion arose from smoke pollution in the Territory. I understand that there are some historical events which have given rise to the issue. The fires in New South Wales in 1994 give an added emphasis to the need to look out for fire safety, in rural areas in particular, but also in bushland areas impinging upon built-up areas, because of what occurred in Sydney. There has been a move towards reducing fuel in those areas as a means of promoting fire safety. There is an argument about whether the reduction of fuel in forest areas is the panacea for fire safety, whether it is a sound environmental practice, and so on. That is an argument that will go on.
I think there is a big question mark about burning off being the panacea for fire safety. Nevertheless, it is something that will occur, and the debate will go on between people who will support the approach of burning everything in the path - the blackened fields approach - and those who argue that there ought to be no burning off. That is an issue that has to be dealt with, but it is not the issue that I want to deal with here today. My issue is about inaction. When this occurred on 31 March, people were surprised at the density of the smoke which polluted the ACT from the fuel reduction efforts which were undertaken south of Wee Jasper. It is understood - according to newspaper reports anyway - that the fire broke through some control lines. That was quickly contained. Nevertheless, it was a fairly significant fuel reduction, or back-burn, and at the end of the day a quite dense pall of smoke descended upon the ACT. As we all know, at this time of year there are problems with the temperature inversion layer, which keeps the smoke down low and affects people more seriously as a result.
We hear the continuing complaints of people who have breathing difficulties or other maladies caused by the increased smoke in the environment. Mr Humphries, as the Minister responsible in this case, was once the Minister for Health. He would know about those problems and about the increased irritations and sensitisation due to this smoke.