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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 8 Hansard (24 October) . . Page.. 1961 ..

Mr Humphries: Mr Speaker, I contend that my application of standing orders is absolutely according to references to relevance in the standing orders. However, I can see that Mr Berry has a very well worked out speech which he wants to deliver on the subject. In the interests of Mr Berry having his usual spray, to the amusement of all of us in this chamber, I will withdraw my point of order.

MR SPEAKER: Thank you, Mr Humphries. Let us get on with the business.

MR BERRY: It is nice to see that the Minister has agreed that we can pursue this issue. He is just in time, because I was about to move a motion to suspend so much of standing orders as would prevent me from making a speech on the environment.

MR SPEAKER: Very well. You may now proceed with your speech.

MR BERRY: Mr Speaker, just before Mr Humphries exhausted a whole lot of hot air, I was talking about the environment in the ACT and the embarrassment which was caused to the Government when neighbouring New South Wales shires decided to conduct a burning off exercise. The ACT was inundated with smoke - something which not only downgrades air quality but also affects the health of many in the community, particularly those with eye problems and respiratory problems. Those most affected, as Mrs Carnell would know, are the elderly and the young. The Minister reassured us that it would not happen again. Unfortunately, we saw either slackness from the Minister or another broken promise. Either way, it was a dreadful performance by the Minister. Smoke again filled the ACT skies and this was followed by some more lame duck excuses and more reassurances that it would not happen again.

Water quality is another issue canvassed by the report. We in the ACT are encouraged to conserve water so that we can reduce the need for further storage requirements. ACTEW Corporation spends a lot of consumer dollars providing advice on how we can conserve water and reassuring us that we have high water quality in the ACT. It was a great surprise, Mr Speaker, when the Minister floated the idea that he was about to hand over Namadgi National Park to another State or the private sector, or anybody else who might be interested. It was a suggestion out of the blue, an idea floated without any of the promised Liberal consultation; and of course there was an outcry. Rightly, people condemned the proposal. The Namadgi National Park is a beautiful park of great environmental value. It is well maintained by dedicated staff in Canberra. It is a park in which Canberrans have a sense of pride and which they wish to retain.

Namadgi is the source of our water supply, but Mr Humphries considered giving it away, not living up to his responsibility as an elected officer but handing it over to somebody else to manage. No-one in the community has any faith that an outside body would give the priority necessary to ensure that the high quality of our water supply was maintained. No-one wants to see the skill and knowledge of the dedicated staff lost. Yet, in spite of motions in support of the retention of Namadgi, we have not seen what further action the Minister has taken. On the best information, he went to the preparation of a memorandum of understanding which never saw the light of day. He backed off, and that is good news for the ACT and good news for the water supply. (Extension of time granted)

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