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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 1811 ..

MR KAINE (5.33): My colleague Ms Tucker will perhaps be a little disappointed when I say that I will not be supporting this motion. The reason that I will not be supporting it is that I would expect the Government in today's climate, in 1990s politics, to do what this motion calls upon them to do as a matter of course - that is, to make sure that in upgrading the Federal Highway as much of the existing natural environment as possible is preserved. I listened to the Minister carefully, and he said that the Government would do that. In fact, he repeated himself. He said, "Where possible, we will preserve as many trees as possible". Those were his words. That is some sort of assurance, but I am not sure that it goes far enough. I think it is incumbent upon the Minister to make sure that when the planning for this highway upgrade is completed it does ensure that the trees that were planted there as part of the environment many years ago are retained. That is a simple enough request. I do not believe that the imperatives of highway alignment and the like are such that they need to plough right through the middle of a grove of trees that was planted there 40, 50 and 60 years ago.

I would like an assurance from the Minister, not because Ms Tucker imposes an obligation on him or because this Assembly chooses to do so, that he will ensure that those trees that are the concern of Ms Tucker remain there. I hope that what the Minister said reflects his own thinking on this subject and that he did not merely read a speech prepared somewhere by some anonymous public servant; that he did not come in here and regurgitate something which he does not really subscribe to. I will give him credit by assuming that he delivered a speech which he subscribes to and the concepts of which he believes in. So I accept his assurance that the Government will do the things that Ms Tucker, through this motion, is seeking to have the Government do.

As I said at the beginning, I think it would be normal to expect of government in 1998-99 that the existing environment would be preserved to the maximum extent possible. If there was any less commitment from the Government than that, first of all, I would be disappointed; but, secondly, I would say that it is unacceptable. Because I have the expectation that the Minister and the Government will meet the reasonable expectations of the community on this matter, I choose not to place an artificial constraint on them by requiring them to do so. I would expect them to do it as a matter of course.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (5.37): I do not wish to appear cynical. I do not have quite the same degree of faith as Mr Kaine. I agree with everything that Mr Kaine said, but I do not think that we can leave it to faith. Those of us who are particularly concerned about the environment and appreciate the incredible value of the avenues of trees on the approaches to Canberra need to ensure that those trees are protected. We cannot, as Mr Kaine did, simply trust and hope.

Mr Kaine: I am perhaps more trusting than you.

MR STANHOPE: Perhaps you are on this issue, Mr Kaine. I would like to be able to endorse your sentiments absolutely, but I just do not have your level of faith. I do not think the community does either. I do not think the Conservation Council does. I do not think ACT for Trees does. I think they have very serious concerns about the commitment of this Government to retaining that significant part of our heritage which is contained in those avenues.

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