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I attribute no mean motives to Mr Humphries in what he has been doing. As a Minister, he has an obligation to look at doing things better. He has an obligation to see how that asset can be enhanced in the public interest, without any regard for ever disposing of it. That is not his intention. Nobody from the Opposition really suggested that that was his intention. If Mr Humphries did not look at that, as other Ministers are looking at other activities of government to find a way of doing it better, doing it more cheaply and doing it at less cost to the taxpayer, he would be remiss in his duty. People would consider him to be derelict in his duty if he failed to do that. At the end of the day, when the budget is brought down, I am quite sure that the end product of this consideration will be something that is acceptable to the ACT taxpayers, the owners of Namadgi National Park, and that the people on the other side of this house may even find that they have something complimentary to say about it. To try to head off that debate, to try to prevent that consideration, Mr Speaker, is reprehensible.
MS HORODNY (4.40): As the national capital, Canberra is filled with places that symbolise its stature not only as the seat of government, with the High Court, the Parliament and the residence of the Governor-General, but also through the increasing diversity of the people of the ACT, its culture and its environment. Namadgi National Park is significant as a symbol representing Australia's natural beauty. The park contains large areas of beautiful and diverse alpine and forest wilderness. I have often been bushwalking in this wonderful national park. It is an area which faces many problems due to human use and the encroachment of feral animals and invasive plants. It provides habitats for a wide range of birds and animals, including several endangered species such as the Corroboree frog and the Superb parrot.
Namadgi also contains evidence of the rich heritage of human history in the region. This evidence suggests that the Ngunnawal people have been in this region for at least 20,000 years. The park also provides excellent recreational and educational facilities. Thousands of people make use of the educational facilities provided by the Parks and Conservation Service every year. These are services which we, as a community, can be proud of.
Any change in the way we treat the area must follow very careful consideration and debate in the community. Opening the area up to commercial pressures, whether it be through extensive contracting out of services or greater access for private commercial tour operators, must be done only if it has the support of the community, and specifically the local Aboriginal community, and must never represent any threat to the non-human inhabitants of the area.
There has been some suggestion that our desire to ensure that management of Namadgi is retained by the ACT Government is a very parochial view. I would argue that it is not. The ACT was set up as an area that would provide a national focus. Being an island in the middle of the most populous State in the country, we do have pressures to conform with the wishes of that State. However, we also have a duty to the residents of the ACT and the rest of the country to maintain our unique and separate identity at the same time as we work closely with the surrounding regions of New South Wales. As the caretakers of the national capital and as people who take seriously the responsibilities that come with that, we have a duty to ensure that the integrity of Namadgi National Park is maintained at the highest standard possible.