Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 3 Hansard (23 March) . . Page.. 695 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
The Minister simply said, "This is noted but it is outside the scope of the plan". He did not even comment on it, not even provide any assurance that the Government is going to be addressing that issue, that the Government is going to be following up on it. He has not said a single thing about that.
That is a very concerning response and is an issue that I believe members should be conscious of and should pay serious attention to, simply because a vast amount of land in the ACT is managed by the Parks and Conservation Service. For the Minister to fail even to address the issue of funding for the Parks and Conservation Service is very disappointing. He can sit over there and tut-tut all he likes, but he knows and a lot of people in this Assembly know that time and time again people involved in landcare associations, people involved in assisting the Parks and Conservation Service in the management of areas like Tidbinbilla, will say quite straightforwardly to you that there are not enough funds to effectively implement a management plan. I cannot believe that this Minister does not take that issue seriously, that he just tut-tuts it away. That is an appalling response from this Minister.
Mr Speaker, there are a number of other issues in the Government's response which I believe are worth drawing attention to. One of those issues is in relation to the role of the Conservator of Flora and Fauna. Mr Speaker, it was drawn to the committee's attention during its examination that the Conservator of Flora and Fauna was the proponent for the new visitors centre at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. He was the person putting forward the development application for Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and he was the person responsible for assessing its environmental impact.
We thought, quite rightly, that a conflict of interest existed there and we made a very sensible recommendation that, where the Conservator of Flora and Fauna was the proponent of a development, he or she should not be the person asked to comment on its environmental impact. Could we be confident that the Conservator of Flora and Fauna would make an appropriate assessment if he or she was also advancing a particular proposal for the nature reserve? The committee was of the view that we could not. The Government has disagreed with the recommendation and that, also, is disappointing.
There are not many circumstances in which the Conservator of Flora and Fauna would be the proponent of a development application. But where the conservator is, surely it is prudent, to avoid any potential conflict of interest, to provide for an independent assessment to be done in place of the role performed by the Conservator of Flora and Fauna. The Government, again, simply says, "We note this, but we think that the current arrangements are fine". That, again, is not an acceptable response, because it is a failure to address the issue that the committee has raised, that is, that if there is a conflict of interest you should take steps to avoid it. They have not done that. Again, on that recommendation, which is recommendation No. 6, the Minister's response is certainly not an effective one or a responsible one.
Mr Speaker, there are a number of other issues in the Government's response. A number of them you could probably argue either way, but I have certainly sought to highlight two which are quite unsatisfactory from my point of view and from the Labor Opposition's point of view.