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MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General and Minister for the Environment, Land and Planning) (12.02), in reply: Mr Speaker, I must say that I am absolutely flabbergasted that this kind of debate should be taking place at the moment in the ACT Assembly.

Mr Berry: You would not understand it.

MR HUMPHRIES: No, it is I who understands and you who do not understand what is going on here. Despite what Mr Berry has had to say here, the previous Government did not intend to enact an urban tree preservation scheme when it passed the Nature Conservation (Amendment) Bill late last year, and there are a number of pieces of evidence to point to that. First of all, Mr Wood, in introducing the Bill, did not announce that he was about to do that. I really would have thought that, if the Government was about to embark on a major change in ACT environment protection laws, namely, an urban tree preservation scheme, it would announce that it was going to do that. Does Mr Wood confess to having put in place a major preservation arrangement without telling people?

Mr Moore: And then putting in his policy, “We will do this later.”?

MR HUMPHRIES: That is the second thing. If the previous Government believed that it had put in place a tree preservation scheme, why did it announce in the election earlier this year, “We will do it in the future.”? The fact is that you did not do it; you did not intend to do it. The fact that it appears there is an oversight in the drafting of the legislation. That is the fact.

Mr Berry: Rubbish!

MR HUMPHRIES: Let me ask the question, then: Why was it not announced? Why did you not go out and tell people that they were now going to do this? Indeed, why did Mr Wood's department not instruct its officers at the shop counters to start to issue licences for urban trees?

Mr Berry: Regulations; do the regulations then.

MR HUMPHRIES: The regulations were not required. The law had passed. The law was there. All it required was someone to start to issue the licences. It did not happen under your Government. Under the Labor Government there was no issuing of licences for urban trees. Anyone who asked for such a licence would have been told, “There is no need for an urban tree licence to cut down an urban tree”.

This Bill was tabled in August, almost a month ago. It explained clearly that the Government intended to correct an oversight. The morning on which the Bill is to be debated you come forward with an amendment and claim that you want to reject the Bill and effectively enact an urban tree preservation program.

Mr Berry: Of course, you have never done that!

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