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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 1839 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

That is a response that says, "Well, to date there has been no diminution". That is a debatable point. But what we were concerned about was whether or not that was going to be a problem in the future; that this review of PALM was going to result in a diminution of its ability to contribute and oversight effective and socially just planning in the ACT. On those grounds alone I think the Estimates Committee and every member of this Assembly have every reason to be concerned about what exactly is going on in PALM.

Despite the Minister's reassurances in this place, I think that throughout the ACT community there is a growing feeling that Canberra is suffering a crisis in planning, that Canberra is not seeing an overall strategic vision for the city being developed by our planning body, and that decisions about planning and decisions about land allocation are not seen any more as the preserve of our planners, but instead are the preserve of the Chief Minister's Department. I made some comments last night in that regard in relation to the Office of Asset Management and its usurping of the role of effective planning in Canberra.

Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, moving along, some of the other issues that were raised during the examination of the Department of Urban Services by the Estimates Committee highlighted a number of other problems. I want to go now to some of the issues in Environment ACT. The questioning of Environment ACT I found to be particularly interesting and particularly concerning. First of all, we examined the issue of car registration, which my colleague Mr Hargreaves addressed earlier. The increases in car registration charges were billed as an environmental measure by the Government, a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. So, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, the Estimates Committee asked what was the basis of this assumption being made by the Department of Urban Services. We were informed that the ACT Government had not undertaken any analysis of the potential reduction in greenhouse gas emissions but had instead relied on work done in the United Kingdom, if I recall correctly, and a generally assumed position that smaller cars are less environmentally damaging than larger ones.

These seemed to be fairly weak grounds to come out and argue that the registration increase was an environmental measure. I think it would be pretty fair to say that that was really just an attempt to justify what was an increase in registration costs. I think most people in Canberra would have accepted the registration increase, albeit grudgingly, with a more open mind if the Government had simply come out and said, "We need you to pay a little bit more for your registration costs so that we can maintain the road network and all the other services the ACT Government has to provide". But that is not what the Government said. Instead, the Government attempted to dress it up as an environmental measure when clearly the evidence for that, and its assessment of whether or not it was going to reduce use of larger vehicles, simply was not there.

Mr Hargreaves: It was a furphy.

MR CORBELL: As my colleague Mr Hargreaves rightly points out, it was really all just a bit of a furphy.

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