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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (31 August) . . Page.. 2646 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

this Bill. However, there were a couple of issues that I raised as additional comments during the Assembly committee's examination which were not accepted by the Government.

The first of these relates to the proposed register of contaminated lands. The majority report, as you would be well aware, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, accepted the Government's position on what information should be available through the register. In particular, it accepted that once land had been remediated it should no longer be listed on the register. I made the point then, and this remains the Labor Party's position, that there is merit in including material on the register where there is the possibility that land which, whilst understood to have been remediated and no longer contaminated according to today's standards, may still be found to be contaminated as expertise and knowledge in particular areas relating to contamination continues to improve. It is obviously one of those issues where the public's right to know, and the precautionary principle, highlight the need for open information on previously contaminated sites.

The other issue on which I made some additional comments on top of the majority report related to the provision for open standing for individuals and other groups to apply for a review of an authority decision not to make an assessment in relation to a contaminated site or in relation to remediation and audit orders. As matter of principle, the Labor Party continues to insist that every citizen should have the opportunity to question and appeal the decision of a government authority where they believe the law has been interpreted incorrectly.

This is not an issue that the Government has appropriately dealt with in relation to its Bill now before the Assembly, and it is an issue on which the Labor Party will be supporting some proposals which I understand will be moved by Ms Tucker later in the debate in relation to open standing. I also understand, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, that Ms Tucker will be moving some amendments in relation to the issue of remediated sites remaining on the register of contaminated lands, and again I should indicate up front the Labor Party's support for those proposals.

We feel it is very important that members of the community have access to information relating to what has occurred on a piece of land which they are contemplating purchasing or on which they live or which they are adjacent to. Whilst we may be as confident as we can be that land has been appropriately remediated, we can never be absolutely sure. For those reasons, when we are dealing with issues to do with potential impact on human health or damage to the environment, as the standing committee highlighted in its report, we must make sure that people have access to that information, and we must make sure that they can make an informed decision about that land. I think that is obviously an issue we need to canvass further in the debate.

Environment protection and these provisions and these amendments to the Environment Protection Act are important amendments which will ensure that we can manage contaminated sites in an appropriate way and, further, that the ACT comes into line with other jurisdictions on issues to do with the movement of controlled wastes and the national pollutant inventory. The Labor Party will be supporting the intent of the Bill overall, but obviously there will be a number of amendments we need to address later in the debate.

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