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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 1812 ..

Ms Carnell: I seem to remember that in the election the Conservation Council rated us the same as them.

MR STANHOPE: Yes, and they have lived to regret it, and will for a while. The community sector has expressed heartfelt and very sincere concerns about the need for us, as a community, to ensure that we do everything possible to protect the natural environment. Therefore, I do not believe that, as an act of faith, we can leave this matter in the hands of the Government.

I think this is a commendable motion. I see absolutely no harm in it. I think it would be a very good thing for you, Minister, to take that extra step and formalise a consultative arrangement with the community. The Government's rhetoric on consultation is incredibly strong. It seems to me that here is a great opportunity for you to embrace the community and, as an act of faith, reach out and say, "Yes, we are genuine in our concern to work with you to ensure that your expectations in relation to the protection of the environment in this particular instance are met". We are talking about only one project. We are talking about only the construction of the Federal Highway from Watson to the border. We are not seeking to bind the Government to anything broader. I think it would be to your great credit, Minister, if you could reach out and make that connection with the community in relation to this project.

There are some very significant issues here. The construction of major roadways has the potential to create terrible scars across the landscape and to do very significant environmental damage. I am sure we are all aware of the trees that we are talking about. It would be an act of the most appalling vandalism for us to endanger these avenues of trees in any way. I just cannot see any reason that anybody would not support this motion.

MS TUCKER (5.40), in reply: I would like to respond to a couple of comments from the Minister. The Minister claimed that the RTA was not setting up a group for this road on the New South Wales side of the border because the impacts are not significant enough. I think I made it pretty clear in my speech that we believe that they are significant on this side of the border because this is the entrance to the nation's capital and obviously it has a different significance for us. There is also a much greater population presence in the ACT, and the people of the ACT have a very strong interest in the importance of that stretch of road.

As I walked out before, I heard Ms Carnell interject that it was a highway and that she did not agree with my proposal that the speed limit should not necessarily be 100 or 110 kilometres an hour. There are a number of development proposals in that area that I would hope the Chief Minister was aware of. They include the Starlight Drive-in development proposal. Of course Gungahlin will be coming closer to the highway, although I do not imagine there will be access from there. That is not the point. It is about what is around that part of the road. It certainly is not a highway in the middle of nowhere. I do not think Ms Carnell's argument is a very strong argument at all.

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