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MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General and Minister for the Environment, Land and Planning) (11.28): Mr Speaker, I am speaking to Ms Horodny's amendment. The amendment raises some issues which are actually quite important. It is undoubtedly true that we need to move towards an arrangement with New South Wales. The reason is that we are, at the present time, in danger of quite dramatically diverting from New South Wales in our bushfire management practices. New South Wales has always taken the approach, particularly in the last year and a half, following the major fires in the summer of 1993-94, that back-burning is a very effective way of reducing combustible material. In that respect, they have embarked on quite a lot of it in the last 18 months or so - - -
Mr Berry: Last year; since 1994.
MR HUMPHRIES: They have done it during the last year, I understand - certainly, not just since 31 March. At the same time, we have our own task force working in the ACT to reduce combustible material in the appropriate way, and that may or may not be by back-burning. As a result of that process, we have possibly a change in direction in ACT policy, which could further emphasise the divergence between the ACT and New South Wales policies. That might be fine if we feel that we have the best practices and we want to put those practices in place and continue to use them; but it will be a problem if we find a lack of coordination between the two jurisdictions as to how they actually implement their respective policies. We must work to overcome that. That aspect of this amendment is an important issue.
Mr Moore posed the question of whether or not we would work towards more comprehensive fire management strategies covering the whole region. The answer, Mr Speaker, must be yes. Once our own process has been completed, we have to come back and work closely with New South Wales to establish that kind of arrangement. I will give that undertaking quite freely to Mr Moore and the Assembly; we will work in that direction. At this stage I can indicate that I favour - although this is not a definitive view of our proposed course of action - coming back, sometime after the McBeth task force has reported, with a ministerial statement on our strategies for dealing with both ACT bushfire management issues and coordination with New South Wales. That is the approach we ought to take, and that is the approach that I undertake to the Assembly to take. But, Mr Speaker, having indicated that those are the issues raised by Ms Horodny's amendment, I think that to pass the amendment itself - - -
Mr Berry: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I heard Mr Moore pontificating earlier about members observing the standing orders. It is a bit hard to hear Mr Humphries. Mr Moore has a very piercing voice.
MR SPEAKER: I would ask members to either keep their voices down to a whisper in the chamber or use the lobbies which have been provided for the purpose of having private discussions.
MR HUMPHRIES: I am deeply flattered that Mr Berry wants to hear what I have to say. It is most unusual.